Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Fastest

Oh and another fascinating thing i read/heard about somewhere recently... the "speed of light" (otherwise known as "c") is the fastest thing there is.... except it's not. Light can travel at all speeds... recently it has been slowed down so much that it actually stopped. (Amazing- those Bose-Einstein condensates- imagine outrunning a beam of light!). Anyway - the fastest that ANYTHING can travel (including information) is "c". There's nothing particularly special about photons in this regard.... er.. i think.... i need to go back to university and do a physics degree.

Dark Black Hole?

This is not really a blog post- more a question. Those who peruse the blog will know i have no real grasp of physics but at least i am interested in these deep questions.

I'm also fascinated by how extraordinary things can become mundane: Antimatter? Big Deal! it's got the wrong charge- otherwise almost the same as ordinary stuff. Black Holes? boring - there's one in the middle of every galaxy. Wave-particle duality? Meh! When you don't look, it's a wave- when you look it's a particle. Easy. Like Alice in Wonderland, you really can "Believe six impossible things before breakfast.".

The hip cool stuff now is dark matter and dark energy .. and i was wondering ... can you get a black hole forming from the gravitational collapse of dark matter? Presumably, it doesn't interact strongly enough with gravity to form dark matter planets, stars, galaxies.. but is this just because the universe is only 14.7 billion years old? Given enough time, wouldn't it start to clump like non-dark matter?


Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Large Hadron Collider Explained

Ernst Haekel

I never knew Haeckel was an artist. I heard about him in 1st year med school embryology. His dictum "Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny" has been generally discredited but there is obviously more than a grain of truth in it. Natural Selection never goes "back to the drawing board". Mutations accumulate, leading to modification and extensions of existing embryonal pathways. This is why a human embryo and a mouse embryo look pretty similar at an early stage.

Ontogeny seems to be forgotten in talk of "artificial intelligence". According to Kevin Kelly and Ray Kurzweil, when the complexity of the web matches the complextity of the human brain in 2040, AI will automatically ensue- but I think this "brain" will remsemble an embryonic one prior to any darwinian pruning. (see Neural Darwinism). An 8 month old baby has twice the number of synapses as an adolescent. We are born with brains - not minds.

Image:Haeckel Chaetopoda.jpg

German gallery of Haekel's creepy crawlies.

Tips on Parenting Twins : Pick a Favourite!

Short, informative video about parenting twins. Here's how i found it- as an example of how the internet is an amazing thing... in fact it is THE most amazing thing. In 10,000 years it will still be seen as a pivotal event in human history (i'm sure).

a) iGoogle RSS feed reader

b) Boing Boing link

c)Article "Mom, Dad, I'm Into Steampunk: an imaginary monologue" from McSweeny's

d) Linked to McSweeney's as already fan of Dave Eggers since reading novel "A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius".. and an even bigger fan since watching his Ted Prize Talk. Have been tempted to buy a real copy of the beautifully produced McSweeney's but have resisted as now only read non-fiction and trashy SF.

e) Read about "Wolphin" - his quarterly DVD magazine of short films.

Found the thing about the Twins.


Thursday, July 24, 2008

Mirror Stuff

Your head is twice as close as it appears in a mirror. Does that make sense? New York Times "Science" article on the subject here.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Lavay Smith and her Red Hot Skillet Lickers

Even if the neo-swing music isn't great (which it is) - you've got to love the name of the band! Plus she is quite sexy... she's done a great version of "Blue Skies".

Great Talk by Paul Ehrlich

No- not THAT Paul Ehrlich (who invented immunology) the OTHER one. Great (but long as always) talk from the Long Now Foundation from a slightly kooky anti-population guru. Surprisingly funny and entertaining given that it is essentially a litany of environmental fuck-ups.

Paul Ehrlich

Guess what he looks like now! eeeek!


click here to find out!

Monday, July 21, 2008


Nostalgia: comes from Greek nostos "homeward journey, return home" and algosnostos originally referring to the journey of Odysseus and the heroes from Troy.

Nostalgia: the word Nostalgia is like a grammar lesson: you find the present tense, but the past perfect!

Nostalgia: describes a longing for the past, often in idealized form. Nostalgia may or may not also be known as homesickness. The exact meaning changed over time and today nostalgia isn't what it used to be.

Woeful not Baleful

Christian Bale, Christian Bale, Christian Bale... tsk tsk tsk. What the fuck were you doing in that WOEFUL film dressed up with little pointy black ears? Shame on you. What happened to artistic integrity? Once you were the thinking heterosexual man's man. (Never as good as Sean Penn but still good). Even Nolan's 1st Batman was better - everybody loves a kung-fu training montage -but this? This? Do i have some sort of low "emotional intelligence"? I could not for the life of me understand the motivations behind any of these characters who all seemed in need of urgent psychotherapy. The only good bit- some plot-neutral game theory : "The Prisoner's Dilemma" with bombs and boats. Don't go and see this film. See Primer instead.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Spelling Bee Interview Gone Wrong: Why Home Schooling is BAD!

This could not be funnier if it were scripted. The poor, desperate interviewer trying vainly to keep the conversation flowing. Why DIDN'T he have his regular tuna sandwich? What DID his mother say when he won? It gets funnier every time.

Musical Noodlings

Recently been getting in to spirituals and gospel music ... Mahalia Jackson, "The Five (Original) Blind Boys of Alabama"- not those pretenders to the throne- " the 7 myopic black guys from Mississippi" . . I'm particularly fond of ye olde-testamente songs - like
"Go Down Moses (Let My People Go)" - this version by Louis Armstrong. Cute cartoon.

Also recently discovered the amazing "stride" pianist Willie "The Lion" Smith (1897-1973) . Actually his real name was William Herny Joseph Bonaparte Bertholoff. He was a Jewish-African-American musician from New York. (or should that be Jewish-American--African-American?). From the fantastic NPR podcast "Jazz Profiles" from June - (Never have i heard Yiddish sung like that!)

Just discovered the tune "Elijah Rock"... amazing and unusual harmonies, rhythms.

cool clocks

nixie tube, nixie clock, B-5025, nixie shop

A) The Nixie Clock - made of Nixie tubes. Not quite "Steampunk"- but getting close- digital numeric displays don't get much older. I'm fascinated by the Steampunk movement - i guess it's a nostalgia for the past's view of the future (as seen from the vantage point Victorian England). Perhaps there is a general class of similar ideas - the view of future year X as seen at the time of Y. How did the Babylonians imagine the year 1000AD? How do we envisage the year 3000 ? "Punk-Something-yet-to-be-named". I'm off to watch the "League of Extraordinary Gentlemen".

B) LED Clock from Jonas Damon available from Areaware.