Before the Big Bang
out of my depth, but I thought this comment was intriguing: "The paper as published, along with a longer follow up paper, looks to my untrained eye a nearly complete quantum gravitation theory, which is an exciting prospect in itself. However, as with all physical theories, we will await for experimental support before popping the cork." Here's some more on loop quantum gravity
, spin networks
, the big bang
One piece of paper.
"It was an experiment to see how long it could last. Draw a comic, rub it off, and draw another over the top. Once it had finished, a second experiment was started on another piece of paper. Current data - one piece of paper can survive an average of 65 cartoons being drawn on it" [via mefi projects
Incompletely, but still... Here's the Nature paper
(PDF). Here's the video (direct link to QT). Oh, and we can print organs
now. O brave new world! (via
is a smart and funny hard sci-fi comic about some aliens and robots and an anthropomorphic wolf. It's been going steadily since 1998.
Searchable Ornithological Research Archive
a site containing back issues of avian journals dating back to 1884. Some highlights: The landing forces of domestic pigeons
, [pdf] an 1889 comparison of bird brains
Bird flu update: "At this moment, birds that travel flyways in Asia, where most bird flu cases have been found, are mingling with birds that fly through North America." Officials in Kansas
warn it will arrive this fall, as those birds fly south for the winter on North American migration pathways
. The Onion jokingly predicts the government's response
Jesus walked on the
So sayeth... um... well, this guy at Florida State. Doron Nof
has released a paper
positing that when Jesus walked on the water in Galilee, he was actually walking on a patch of floating ice. What's interesting about science like this to me is that it both validates and invalidates scripture, since if Jesus was walking on ice... no miracle (although, it's a miracle he didn't slip and fall, har har har). But if Jesus was walking on ice, then at least he historically existed, which is still an open question
at least in some quarters
. In case you think you recognize Mr. Nof's name, you may be remembering his work explaining that the parting of the Red Sea was totally possible
(flash video link).
The Future of the Web
A fascinating, breathless hour-long talk (+Q&A) recently given by Sir Tim
(mp3 & mp4, no transcript available). For the lazy, this recent interview
covers much the same ground. [more inside]
Prayer as placebo.
Prayers offered by strangers had no effect on the recovery of people
who were undergoing heart surgery, a large and long-awaited study has found. And patients who knew they were being prayed for
had a higher rate of post-operative complications
like abnormal heart rhythms, perhaps because of the expectations the prayers created
, the researchers suggested.
Extreme laziness may have a medical basis,
say a group of Australian scientists, describing a new condition called motivational deficiency disorder (MoDeD). The condition may cost the Australian economy $1.7bn a year. Could the new drug Indolebant help sufferers leave their couches? Or is this just disease mongering
The night's event
featured speakers Daniel C. Dennett, Matt Ridley, Sir John Krebs, Ian McEwan, and -- the man himself -- Richard Dawkins. It was, as you might suspect (based on the title), an event celebrating the thirtieth anniversary of Dawkins' seminal work
If you didn't get a chance to attend, you can still read the full transcript or stream/download the audio of it in MP3 format (many thanks to Helena Cronin, founder/director of Darwin@LSE
, for hosting the file).
Thanks to 3QD
for the link.
A direct detection of a brown dwarf
only 12.7 light years away (practically next door in interstellar terms)
adds another substellar object to the list of those relatively close by. While not quite the closest such object yet detected,
it’s notable for being pinpointed with a combination of ground-based adaptive optics
and Simultaneous Differential Imaging,
a special set of filters designed to subtract out starlight while leaving the light from substellar objects. This could be an important milestone in the ongoing quest to directly detect extrasolar planets,
as opposed to finding their traces indirectly via methods such as stellar wobble or gravitational microlensing.
Direct detection, among other things, makes it much easier to analyze planetary atmospheres for traces of life.
An object that could be as small as 9 Jupiter masses, less than 13 light years away, is a heck of a good step forward, especially considering that the very first indirect detections of extrasolar planets weren't made until the 1990’s,
and I recall serious arguments being made in the 1980’s that they did not, in fact, exist.
The happiness poll results are in
and to no one's surprise, rich people are happier than poor people. Also, Republicans are happier than Democrats
As the Pentagon ousts plans to turn insects into cyber war machines
you'd be forgiven for asking the question: Where does the real digital end
and the faked life begin?
Are we simulating life synthetically
? or just speeding up
an entirely natural process
? Technologically engineered life is here to stay
. Its not far fetched to speculate
may become all there is.
The National Maritime Museum, Greenwich
has some excellent online collections related to maritime history and technology, including telescopes
, marine chronometers
, and a whole lot more. Some stuff I've been looking at: John Harrison's chronometers
(described in Dava Sobel's book Longitude
), polyhedral sundials
, and pocket globes
: Anatomical Basis of Facial Expression Learning Tool. See how all the different muscles in your face work. Flash interface; via Drawn!
"To dream of eating pancakes, denotes that you will have excellent success in all enterprises undertaken at this time." "To dream of lard, signifies a rise in fortune will soon gratify you." "Dairy is a good dream both to the married and unmarried." "To dream of seeing your thigh smooth and white, denotes unusual good luck and pleasure." "To dream of noodles, denotes an abnormal appetite and desires. There is little good in this dream." "To dream of seeing a marmot, denotes that sly enemies are approaching you in the shape of fair women."
-- What's in a Dream?
A Scientific and Practical Interpretation of Dreams
by Gustavus Hindman Miller, published in 1901.
Where Science Meets Fiction
"Explore the wide variety of inventions and ideas of science fiction writers - over 975 are available on Technovelgy (that's tek-novel-gee!)." Science fiction inventions become reality. Sort of.
The Z Machine
"At first, we were disbelieving," said project leader Chris Deeney. "We repeated the experiment many times to make sure we had a true result."
Scientists set record
ever temperature record - 2 billion degrees Kelvin, or 3.6 billion degrees Fahrenheit, at one point the machine produced more energy than was put it. But they're not sure how, possibly fusion
. High-res photo
, higher-res photo
Prof. Daniel Dennett's
(New York University, Philosophy) new book Breaking the Spell
appears to have frightened its NYT book review
er, Leon Wieseltier
(The New Republic, Literary Editor). Wieselter claims "The question of the place of science in human life is not a scientific question. It is a philosophical question", and promptly proceeds to demonstrate that he himself knows nothing about philosophy. Dennett responds
Prof. Brian Leiter
(University of Texas, Philosophy) responds
that "'The view that science can explain all human conditions and expressions, mental as well as physical' is not a 'superstition' but a reasonable methodological posture to adopt based on the actual evidence, that is, based on the actual expanding success of the sciences . . . during the last hundred years."
b l o g
and serious reviews
These images remind us never to underestimate our opponent.
-- The science behind the art
(.pdf). Fractal art by way of bacteria growin' in a petri dish. A few more images here
Does smoking have health benefits?
Some argue yes, but is it enough to stop the masses from making this seed bearing plant
the root of all evil? If we feel it wise to keep the young from smoking is it OK to outright lie
if the end justifies the means?
Ground-based astronomy could be impossible in 40 years because of pollution from aircraft exhaust trails and climate change, an expert says.
The Six Thousand:
6000 [well, at least twenty or so right now] intriguing people you want to meet online before you die, edited by Cliff Pickover
. My fave right now? Asya Schween
Piero Scaruffi is a normal person.
Like so many others, he ponders knowledge
, and art
from time to time. When he travels
, he takes pictures
. Just like everyone else. Sure, he has his thoughts about politics
and world affairs, who doesn't? And when he's done with all of this he just wants to rock
. Exactly like you. See?
American Chemical Society Feb. 2006
"As the federal government cuts back on funding for research, scientists are now forced to rely more and more on financial assistance from corporations; this raises troubling questions about whether the results from these studies will be impartial and objective or favorable to the companies that paid for them."
“The whole scientific enterprise is being distorted by these corporate interests ...”
Take One Museum
on BBC Four is the Russian Ark
of documentaries as expert Paul Rose
looks around a museum, with the help of some tour guides in one take over a thirty minute period. I caught the tail end of the Royal Navy Submarine Museum episode
and he seemed like a man of great enthusiasm. Much like New York's Museum of Modern Art
's podcast official
, an audio podcast version of the show is available so that a visitor to the actual museum can cover the same ground with the aid of their mp3 player. Excellently, it's the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester
next week so I'll definitely be going there again soon to see what this is like.
A monstrous discovery
suggests that viruses, long regarded as lowly evolutionary latecomers, may have been the precursors of all life on Earth.
"We haven't even begun to scratch the surface. The numbers are mind-boggling. If you put every virus particle on Earth together in a row, they would form a line 10 million light-years long. People, even most biologists, don't have a clue. The general public thinks genetic diversity is us and birds and plants and animals and that viruses are just HIV and the flu. But most of the genetic material on this planet is viruses. No question about it. They and their ability to interact with organisms and move genetic material around are the major players in driving speciation, in determining how organisms even become what they are."
7000 frames per second
Newscientist article, with links to the movies.
"Atmospheric 'sprites' captured in explosive detail
... by researchers using an ultra-high-speed camera.
"The best images yet of the flashes – which resemble a giant undulating jellyfish with its tentacles falling from a halo of light – have allowed the team to pick apart their structure and mechanics. "
Music history rendered on a London Tube Map
They say: "Could we chart the branches and connections of 100 years of music using the London Underground map? Dorian Lynskey explains how a box of coloured crayons and lot of swearing helped." I say: Look also at the comments in the accompanying thread, which features trolling, snarkiness and repetition, beginning with "Why did you do this? What is the point? Wouldn't you have been better off doing something else? Sometimes you media people really worry me." The Guardian are introducing commenter registration on their new blog
Test your knowledge of philosophy with the 2006 IAP Philosophy Trivia Quiz
! This quiz is extremely hard, so you might want to take a break at the Cognitive Science Cafe
Science is better:
An enormous scientific study has conclusively demonstrated that "diet had no effect" on rates of women getting cancer or heart disease. Because the study investigated the efficacy of overall low fat diets
, rather than the more recently developed hypothesis that saturated fats are the only pernicious kind
, some leading medical researchers accept these findings but still think there MAY be a direct link between certain diets and major health problems in women, but (and here's the money shot) "if they did a study like that and it was negative, then I'd have to give up my cherished hypotheses for data." Now that, my friends, is a heartwarming example of one of the pinnacles of human creativity, the scientific method, which is under so much attack these days. . .
First it was announced
that an Oregon State University
graduate student was publishing a story in the journal Science
. titled, "Post-Wildfire Logging Hinders Regeneration and Increases Fire Risk
," which undercut Bush administration-backed arguments for post-wildfire logging. A week later it was made public
that nine professors in the College of Forestry
(which gets 10% of its funding from a logging tax) lobbied the journal not to publish the article. Among them was John Sessions
, lead author of a report that pressed the U.S. Forest Service to expand salvage logging. After attention was brought to the professors' attempts to keep the article from being published, many worried about the university's reputation regarding academic freedom
, if not the state of academic freedom throughout the academic world. However if it wasn't difficult enough to just worry about your own professors standing in the way of getting your data published, you also have to worry about the government pulling your funding
if your data doesn't match the data they want to see.
"The Bureau of Land Management
acknowledged Monday that it asked OSU if the three-year study led by graduate student Daniel Donato and published last month in the journal Science violated provisions of a $300,000 federal fire research grant that prohibits using any of the funds to lobby Congress and requires that a BLM scientist be consulted before the research is published."
"It's totally without precedent as far as I can recollect
," said Jerry Franklin, a professor at the University of Washington who has studied Northwest forests for decades. "It says, 'If we don't like what you're saying, we'll cut off your money.' "
(1886-1965) was a German thinker
who came to America
in 1933 after losing his job
for opposing the national socialism movement.
Tillich was at once a protestant theologian
and an existentialist philosopher
who attempted to intellectualize religion
and bring it to contemporary audiences in the age of science
. His brilliant writings
would typically weave together biblical passages with discussions of philosophy and science. In this most famous work, The Courage to Be
, Tillich laid out his case
of how man can resolve the existential crisis of facing non-being
. In echoes of Soren Kierkegaard
, Tillich attempted to explain how man could resolve the fear of nothingness with the Courage to Be in the face of Non-being
. Throughout his life, Tillich's ultimate concern
was to try to help man understand
the real value
by divorcing the concepts from the myths
and the religious and social dogmas
which cramp the mind of modern man
Engineering Perfect Americans
Were your immigrant ancestors considered genetically predisposed to become criminals? Were your mixed-ethnic ancestors thought to be polluting the nation's 'germ-plasm'? The Image Archive on the American Eugenics Movement presents a well-put-together online exhibit/walkthrough of this disturbing vein in American history.
Bush administration tries to silence NASA's chief climate expert
James Hansen from granting interviews about global warming. Meanwhile, a new study by Australian researchers confirms that global sea levels are rising
, and may make island nations like Tuvalu
and the Maldives
uninhabitable by the end of the century. [via RawStory]
Breaking the Science-Atheism Bond.
"When I was growing up in Belfast, Northern Ireland, during the 1960s, I came to the view that God was an infantile illusion, suitable for the elderly, the intellectually feeble, and the fraudulently religious."