PBS is such a treasure. This video shows why tech, when done right, not only shows how reality works but also how it benefits society when placed in the hands of researchers who know how to use it's power in imaginative ways. Exquisite, powerful, very cool, this is a must see. Enjoy.
Tuesday, June 26, 2012
Dailmation comes through with the mother of heads up display with clips from T1 through 3 showing how the T800 viewed the world. The Verge has a good piece on Project Glass, Google's effort to build the first viable wearable computer, something also written about in BRT in a post titled, Minority Report, Circa 2012
This is a must see video. The title links you to the transcript of Bill Moyers interviewing Matt Taibbi and Yves Smith. The only thing missing is the connect to the Fed, the engine enabling the banksters
to steal our money with impunity.
to steal our money with impunity.
Sunday, June 24, 2012
The belief that the Earth was flat was typical of ancient cosmologies until about the 4th century BC, when the Ancient Greek philosophers proposed the idea that the Earth was a sphere, or at least rounded in shape. Aristotle was one of the first thinkers to propose a spherical Earth in 330 BC. By the early Middle Ages, it was widespread knowledge throughout Europe that the Earth was a sphere.
The ability of some people to ignore reality continues to amaze, particularly when it comes to politicians whose ability to deny and pander to the ignorant knows no bounds. To whit.
State senators in North Carolina passed a measure Tuesday in open defiance of the laws of nature, making it illegal to take into account events such as melting polar ice caps when forecasting the rate of ocean level rise along the state’s 300 miles of vulnerable, tourist-saturated coast. (HB 819)
But the hubris of such a bid will likely have disastrous consequences for those living along the coast in the decades ahead. While North Carolina prepares for a sea level rise of a little over half a foot by the century’s end, Maine is getting ready for a wall of water at least 78 inches high. Delaware is planning for a 58-inch rise while Louisiana mounts a defense against a 39-inch one.
Virginia senators answer the call as well.
Virginia has commissioned a study to examine coastal flooding, but only after references to climate change were removed
A day after the North Carolina state senate passed a bill requiring science on rising sea levels to be ignored, Virginia lawmakers allowed a study on its coastline to begin on the state's dime only after all references to climate change or global warming were removed from its funding proposal.
As written in Common Dreams, the threat to modernity and common sense is gathering steam, something akin to what happened in the French Revolution when the Reign of Terror condemned thousands to death in order to insure that the revolution would "succeed" no matter the cost.
We are witnessing an epochal shift in our socio-political world. We are de-evolving, hurtling headlong into a past that was defined by serfs and lords; by necromancy and superstition; by policies based on fiat, not facts.
Much of what has made the modern world in general, and the United States in particular, a free and prosperous society comes directly from insights that arose during the Enlightenment.
First, Francis Bacon’s Novo Organum Scientiarum (The New Instrument of Science) introduced a new way of understanding the world, in which empiricism, facts and … well … reality … defined what was real. It essentially outlined the scientific method: observation and data collection, formulation of hypotheses, experiments designed to test hypotheses and elevation of these hypotheses to theories when data consistently supported them. It was and is a system based on skepticism, and a relentless and methodical search for truth.
It brought us advances and untold wealth and health. From one-horse carts to automobiles to airplanes. From leaches and phrenology to penicillin and monoclonal antibodies.
Saturday, June 23, 2012
Brian Greene's The Hidden Reality rocks. Elegantly written, Greenes uses deep physics to explain how reality may work at the ultimate level in a fashion accessible to non math guys like me. In the book, he describes gravity as "the ulitimate free lunch" as gravity can always go to a lower energy state, (potential transformed into kinetic) which brings up an interesting question this non technical physics buff has had in the back of his mind for quite some time.
Question: If gravity is the ultimate free lunch, could it give rise to the quantum as gravity, by dropping to a lower energy state vis a vis wormhole evaporation (repulsive gravity?), could drive the multiverse through the mechanism of John Wheeler's Quantum Foam a theoretical construct of space-time consisting of minuscule black holes winking in and out of existence, forever powering a reality far vaster and more complex then anyone can imagine.
Gravity, according to M-Theory, is a closed string, able to move at will through all dimensions of the multiverse without a care in the world.
Another intriguing and far better researched conjecture then yours truly's is the notion posited by National Geographic in an excellent article titled Is Dark Energy really Repulsive Gravity?It's worth considering don't you think?
Friday, June 22, 2012
Being a firm believer in the quantum and the interconnectedness of things, the Physorg post titledFoundational Concept of Ecology Tested by Experiment peaked this writer's interest as it focuses on the role of invasives in a given environment, a subject delved into at great length for many years by a close friend.
The scientists were able to track the effect of the loosestrife flowers across four trophic levels, or levels in the food web, and two ecosystems, the terrestrial and the aquatic ones.
The links worked as follows: Wetlands with abundant flowers attracted more pollinating insects; the insects in turn attracted more of the carnivorous dragonflies; the well-nourished dragonflies laid more eggs in the central ponds; the voracious dragonfly larvae that hatched from the eggs altered the diversity of the zooplankton communities in the ponds.
In an unexpected turn, flowering loosestrife actually increased zooplankton species richness, perhaps, speculates Smith, because they preferentially ate a dominant zooplankton species, releasing others from competition.
"To be honest," Smith says, "although the increase in zooplankton diversity is interesting and surprising, I don't think that specific detail matters too much. Nor, is the point simply that purple loosestrife might be affecting aquatic ecosystems, although that is important from a management perspective.
"What matters is that we showed the interconnections are actually strong enough to transmit disturbances through and across webs. We pushed on one link and something four links away in another ecosystem moved."
When looking at this, it makes eminent sense as the quantum is connected, where everything is linked to everything else, where probabilities rule along with black swans and, most importantly, why biodiversity must be preserved at all costs if we are to remain a viable species in an increasingly polluted and over populated planet.
Addendum: Elementary school kids did the experiments while researchers tagged along, finding out nature always surprises, without question. :)
Dragonfly larva, a predator supreme
Tuesday, June 19, 2012
Ah, another book to read, this time one on Ignorance, How It Drives Science, a work who's title reminds me of Beginner's Mind, the Zen approach of maintaining openness when dealing with the attainment of knowledge, something society needs to do if it is to survive the next 50 - 100 years, a time frame, yours truly thinks, is the most perilous humanity will ever face.
Many people think of science as a deliberate process that is driven by the gradual accumulation of facts. Legions of smart scientists labor to piece together the evidence supporting their discoveries, hypotheses, inventions and progress itself.
But according to Stuart Firestein, a professor of neuroscience at Columbia University, this view is fallacious. Working scientists don’t get bogged down in factual swamps, he says, because they don’t care all that much for facts. Facts are not what science is all about. It’s only when the facts fail that scientists really put on their thinking caps.
In this sense, ignorance is not stupidity. Rather, it is a particular condition of knowledge: the absence of fact, understanding, insight or clarity about something. It is a case where data don’t exist, or more commonly, where the existing data don’t make sense.
The book comes at an important time. Today’s most vociferous scientific controversies turn on different interpretations of facts — about climate change, about contraception, about evolution. When politics are injected, the shouting grows louder, the thinking muddier. Uncertainty is a dirty word.
Dr. Firestein, by contrast, celebrates a tolerance for uncertainty, the pleasures of scientific mystery and the cultivation of doubt. If more people embraced the seductive appeal of uncertainty, he says, it might take some acrimony out of our public debates.
The quantum rules, to ignore it is the expression of true ignorance, the province of intolerance, religionnationalism and fear, characteristics all too common in today's fractured world.
Monday, June 18, 2012
Wednesday, June 13, 2012
I've always liked crows. Noisy, inquisitive, sly and above all else, irreverant and smart, these brazen denizens of the woods and fields never fail to make their presence known when a mob of them settle on one or two trees and proceed to "talk" to one another ad nauseum. Seems they also have a wicked sense of humor to go along with all the other traits listed in this post.
But “Gifts of the Crow,” by John N. Marzluff and Tony Angell, includes a description of one behavior that even Aesop never imagined.
“On Kinkazan Island in northern Japan,” the authors write, “jungle crows pick up deer feces — dry pellets of dung — and deftly wedge them in the deer’s ears.”
I checked the notes at the back of the book, and this account comes from another book, written in Japanese. So I can’t give any more information on this astonishing claim, other than to say that Dr. Marzluff, of the University of Washington, and Mr. Angell, an artist and observer of birds, think that the crows do it in the spirit of fun.
Years ago, BRT did a blurb on Alex, a grey parrot brilliant beyond words, something echoed here and in another book titled. Bird Sense.
He has many intriguing findings to deliver about the many senses of birds, including their magnetic sense, still not completely understood. They have talents humans do not. They can use each eye independently. They can fly with one eye closed and half of their brain asleep and still navigate better than a human driver texting in traffic.
Dr. Birkhead also has some good stories to tell of work in the field, some of which, inevitably, involve bird sex. One effort to determine by observation in the wild whether the male buffalo weaver bird, which spends long stretches copulating, was experiencing orgasms led him to lament that “witnessing copulations was tough.”
The notion of primates and cetaceans having a monopoly on true intelligence is fallacious beyond words as seen by quotes such as these. A question yours truly asks from time to time is; What would have happened if the meteor that wiped out the dinosaurs had not hit earth given the inherent smarts of theropods, the ancestors of birds.
Interesting question don't you think?
Cuttlefish, Squid & Octopus also qualify as entities possessing extreme intelligence as well. :)
The reason for this post centers on David Brin's concept of Uplift or the idea of more advanced civilizations uplifting those more primitive, an idea Ridley Scott must have known about when making Prometheus, a subject yours truly will briefly touch upon at the end of this article.
"I introduce a future universe in which no species has ever reached for the stars without the guidance of a patron -- except perhaps mankind. Did some mysterious race begin the uplift of humanity aeons ago? And if so, why did they abandon us?" - David Brin
Sounds like Prometheus doesn't it? Something creationists mistakenly try to bring into their fold with the notion of intelligent design while Scott was really talking about a radical version of uplift using nantotech, biotech and a sense of sacrifice on the part of a much older civilization in creating an offspring of itself on a far away world called earth.
In spite of this tech's rather harsh criticism on why the crew almost deserved to be sliced and diced by the aforementioned nanotech/biotech lifeforms, the film's really entertaining but the potential of having it become remarkable was sadly lost unlike that of Scott's prior SF work as seen by Blade Runner and Alien, flicks able to stand the test of time without question.
Needless to say, Prometheus II could be spellbinding as no prequel sensibility is involved but rather a push into origins and the unknown at a level rarely seen save for 2001, the greatest SF movie of all time in this author's humble opinion.
Saturday, June 09, 2012
We all know indirectly about phase transitions when we see a pond freezing over. The day before, 50% of the surface of the water is ice free. The next day, ice covers the whole pond. Symmetry breaking of the same order is being predicted for the earth when the 50% tipping point of the earth being used by man becomes the point of no return regarding how life will cope in a world forever changed by us.
The authors note that studies of small-scale ecosystems show that once 50-90 percent of an area has been altered, the entire ecosystem tips irreversibly into a state far different from the original, in terms of the mix of plant and animal species and their interactions. This situation typically is accompanied by species extinctions and a loss of biodiversity.
Currently, to support a population of 7 billion people, about 43 percent of Earth's land surface has been converted to agricultural or urban use, with roads cutting through much of the remainder. The population is expected to rise to 9 billion by 2045; at that rate, current trends suggest that half Earth's land surface will be disturbed by 2025. To Barnosky, this is disturbingly close to a global tipping point.
As man approaches this phase transition, warning signs continually pop up telling us we better change our ways or else. Consider another Phys.org piece titled Arctic ice melt sets stage for cold winter, something yours truly experienced first hand in 2010 in CT or the Winter From Hell fame. To whit.
Negative Arctic Oscillation conditions are associated with higher pressure in the Arctic and a weakened polar vortex (yellow arrows). A weakened jet stream (black arrows) is characterized by larger-amplitude meanders in its trajectory and a reduction in the wave speed of those meanders.
A diminished latitudinal pressure gradient is linked to a weakening of the winds associated with the polar vortex and jet stream. Since the polar vortex normally retains the cold Arctic air masses up above the Arctic Circle, its weakening allows the cold air to invade lower latitudes.
With these wide swings in weather gradients happening more often and with greater intensity, CT lucked out in 2011 while Europe froze, something akin to runaway blowback or the law of unforeseen consequences writ large. The question to ask now is, when does the Northeast get hit again?
No one knows, do one. - Fats Waller
Friday, June 08, 2012
While watching NASA's very cool take on the Venis Transit, one tends to forget the enormous sizes of the the two players in this very rare celestial event. Something to consider without question.
Monday, June 04, 2012
Needless complexity, in any endeavor, leads to disaster. - Robert E.
A blog I follow closely is Charles Smith's Of Two Minds, a treasure trove of common sense regarding finance and how the system should be changed. In his last post, Income Tax Solution: Apply Social Security Taxes to the Super-Wealthy, complexification writ large is part of why we are in such desperate trouble regarding all things economic.
In terms of our response to financial crisis, compare our financial-sector fix of 1933, the Glass-Steagall Act (37 pages of legislation) and the current Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (2,319 pages of legislation). Does anyone seriously think these 2,300 pages of legislation and the thousands of pages of regulations the bill spawns will 'fix" what's actually wrong with America's financial sector?
We all know the current tax code is a complexity moat benefiting the super-wealthy financiers and the tax and accounting industries that live off the 5,296 pages of mind-boggling complexity. The total package of tax regulations and explanations weighs in around 70,000 pages, and attempting to comply with all this feeds one of the nation's largest industries, the equivalent of 3.8 million full-time workers toiling year-round on tax-related tasks.
What we pay to DO our taxes goes beyond imagining...
If we look up the United States GDP for 1995 and do the math, 2 to 5 percent of $7.3 trillion is quite staggering: between 146 and 365 billion dollars have been spent just filing taxes in 1995. That year, the total amount of tax collected was $1.135 trillion3. This means that in 1995, it cost between 12% and 32% of tax revenue to pay the taxes.
This calculation is confirmed by economics author Bruce Bartlett, who in a 2005 article, arrived at a figure "between $240 billion and $600 billion every year". If we assume the 12%-32% range has remained constant, in 2007 the amount of tax filing overhead was between $312 billion and $832 billion.
Everything should be as simple as it is, but not simpler. - Einstein
Saturday, June 02, 2012
In the menagerie of Craig Venter’s imagination, tiny bugs will save the world. They will be custom bugs, designer bugs — bugs that only Venter can create. He will mix them up in his private laboratory from bits and pieces of DNA, and then he will release them into the air and the water, into smokestacks and oil spills, hospitals and factories and your house.
Each of the bugs will have a mission. Some will be designed to devour things, like pollution. Others will generate food and fuel. There will be bugs to fight global warming, bugs to clean up toxic waste, bugs to manufacture medicine and diagnose disease, and they will all be driven to complete these tasks by the very fibers of their synthetic DNA.
While reading Craig Venter’s Bugs Might Save the World piece in the NY Times Magazine, blowback or the law of unforeseen consequences kept repeating itself like a mantra, slowly ruminating in my mind, reminding me of the word assume, as this article assumes this biotech is a good thing while just mentioning, in passing, the possibilities of catastrophe but not really looking at just how problematic Ventner's endeavor truly is.
Consider the impact of invasive species like the Cane Toad, the Gypsy Moth, Kudzu, the Brown Tree Snake and the Burmese Python, (We won't mention GMO Corn and the problems it's beginning to cause.) plaques innocently unleashed, in part, to make the world a better place but with end results being anything but yet there's more. The more begins with the fact all of these invasives are macro organisms, able to be seen and touched without issue, with their physical connect to the environment able to be understood without too much of a problem. The bugs Ventner's creating are microbial, which means their connect to the environment will happen at a far more intimate and complex level, where the interaction at cellular level of a vast number of micro organisms, artificial and natural + radiation (sun/earth/space) + man-made chemicals, goes beyond calculation, thus opening a very wide door to...
Henry Wu: You're implying that a group composed entirely of female animals will... breed?
Dr. Ian Malcolm: No, I'm, I'm simply saying that life, uh... finds a way. - Jurassic Park
In titling this post Whether Prometheus?, the naming seems apt as man is venturing into an area beyond his comprehension as the quantum is a seething sea of probabilities, where uncertainty dominates with no real cause and effect paradigm in play, something totally alien to the everyday macro/classical world where decoherence gives us a sense of stability while underneath it all, indetrmancy rules, for without it, nothing could exist in the multiverse of forever.
Seen below are some of the macro invasives raising hell with the environment.
Addendum: Last but not least, fluorocarbons and their impact on the ozone layer was never predicted even though, in almost every instance, fluorocarbons are inert.