Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Sunday, February 26, 2012

youtube for the day/Terence Tao: The Cosmic Distance Ladder, UCLA

As Terence Tao shows in this speach, mathematics is how humanity solves the universe.  This idea can be generalized to making those technologies possible that he points out in the lecture.  I'm sure he knows this!

I like this speach because he points out that mathematics is invented to deal with things we can't do directly.  We didn't figure out the solar system by building a space rocket first and rocketing off to space, look back and notice the planets go around the sun instead of the other way around.  This is part of what I'm saying on this blog.

astro picture for the day/ latest Hubble on one of its biggest hits - Eta Carinae(future supernova star)

What we see is the remains of an outburst of this supergiant star(it dwarfs our star; that's hard to imagine enough; it's even more difficult to imagine this star going completely kaplewee!) from 1843. 

They say this is an even more detailed image; i'm not sure I can tell how much better detailed this is over the previous images actually.  It's still a stunning sight though.

"The well known nebula  in Andromeda, and the great spiral in Canes Venatici are among the more remarkable of those giving a continuous spectrum; and as a general rule, the emissions of all such nebulae as present the appearance of star-clusters grown misty through excessive distance, are of the same kind. It would, however, be eminently rash to conclude thence that they are really aggregations of such sun-like bodies. The improbability of such an inference has been greatly enhanced by the occurrence, at an interval of a quarter of a century, of stellar outbursts in two of them. For it is practically certain that, however, distant the nebulae, the stars were equally remote; hence, if the constituent particles of the former be suns, the incomparably vaster orbs by which their feeble light was well-nigh obliterated must, as was argued by Mr Proctor, have been on a scale of magnitude such as the imagination recoils from contemplating." - Agnes Mary Clerke 1893

Friday, February 24, 2012

Democracy is about freeing people's minds

Thorium nuclear fission material solves the fission problem(nuclear fusion is right around the corner). India is about to get a thorium nuclear fission reactor going(within the year or so).

That being said, I certainly don't like the idea of confining all of humanity on earth forever. It seems to me that people's thinking are culturaly conditioned; it's a bit like the way most people learn language as they grow up; do they really know the technicalities of their language they use every day? Most never do. For those people, learning a new language is often a hard frustrating experience. It's similar to learning how to think! People think when their cultures tell them to. Space expansion(like the great expansion of humanity from Europe to the Americas) expands and frees the mind; or, at least, I hope that's the case.

One underrated power of democracy is that it frees people from having to think in social conditioned ways, even if they get voted out.  It's not so much the voting of people in and out(that can serve a good function; but, it's often a lot of back and forth pluses and minuses).  Well, perhaps the American's system of checks and balances is what really makes it work.  Americans complain about the system getting bogged down; but, really, that's what's its for; to make sure nobody has absolute power.

I point out the democracy thing here because some people want to think that Democracy is about solving problems(even physics problems!  See Timothy Ferris's "The Science of Liberty").   As already stated, the democratic solution is always a back and forth minuses and pluses of voting in and out different viewpoints.  What's really made democracy special is as an indirect way of freeing people's minds. 

Saturday, February 18, 2012

thought for the day/ significance of stones for the beginnings of mankind

It took me almost all day to remember a thought I had this morning while hiking down the canyon next to my house.  Mostly the birds inspired me.  There's the age old arguement that language allows mankind to pass down knowledge that otherwise has to get relearned(I must have been thinking about that one, something, whether a squirrel or some smaller bird, that I saw an eagle nail in the bushes.  I watched this hawk eat something for awhile; i then moved around and the Hawk decided I must be trying to take its kill and it finaly flew away.) 

Everybody figures that the first stone tools must have allowed the Australopithacines a technological advantage.  But, what if those stones grouped together(that's how anthropologists find them) represent things. Or, that they were used to represent things.  Used to mark places foragers have been to before.  Used to represent terretorial boundaries(there's a Genesis chapter about this actualy; i should edit this later after finding it). 

These stones could have been invaluable communications millions of years ago before our intelligence developed the vocals for 'vocal language.'

But, here could be the real kicker!  If these stones were used for communication(a primitive language) millions of years ago; and, they could have been used for mathematics; then, language and mathematics could be as intertwined as I suggested somewhere on this blog much earlier(yep, this blog has gotten to big even for me!)

Sunday, February 12, 2012

youtube for the day/ best mars history video I've seen

Just a farely good science video of Mars.  It even admits it's theory of Mars magnetic field getting erased due to an asteroid may be false!


I posted below about how the Greeks went the wrong way mathematicaly by geometrizing everything.  Here, with Mars, we see another example - is the finding of life the real reason to go to Mars?  See, people are disappointed that people like the President of the United States has cut mars missions because we could use that money better somewhere else.  They're saying that we need to find life on mars to support human settlement of space.  Does this make sense?  This is much like the debate one whether to go to space with robots and keep everyone here on earth, or do we actually settle humans; and, this is similar to the Greeks choice of geometrizing algebra and getting stuck intellectually, spiritually, and end up having irrationalist argue against real intellectual activity of doing science and mathematics.  Don't think so?  Here's just one example I found recently!

"4:16 Lest ye corrupt yourselves, and make you a graven image, the similitude of any figure, the likeness of male or female,
4:17 The likeness of any beast that is on the earth, the likeness of any winged fowl that flieth in the air,
4:18 The likeness of any thing that creepeth on the ground, the likeness of any fish that is in the waters beneath the earth:
4:19 And lest thou lift up thine eyes unto heaven, and when thou seest the sun, and the moon, and the stars, even all the host of heaven, shouldest be driven to worship them, and serve them, which the LORD thy God hath divided unto all nations under the whole heaven."  Dueteronomy chapter 4;

Further on we see those who wrote the old testament say that God is a jealous god.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

astro picture for the day

Nasa Hubble Space Telescope image

I stopped posting astro images because I lost track of which ones I've posted; and  I just didn't feel like trying to look through them all and then find one I havn't posted!  But, there's always been this one I wanted to put up.  Finaly, obviously, I've gotten around to finding it!

Note, I've edited my Mars Direct post about two or three posts down from this.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

youtube for the day/ ESO ALMA

The ability for humans to see the universe in other light started with Maxwell's electromagnetic theory for sure.  Everybody's heard of radar and radio.  Maybe they still think it's neat; maybe they don't(Arthur C Clark, in his 2001, makes a character remark how radio is one of those technologies that people don't think is science fictional anymore).  The ability to study the universe in infrared, radio, x-ray has been one of the biggest exciting astronomical developments since certainly the 1960s after the Apollo program.  Still, the millimeter wavelength has been a little bit neglected . . . till now.

ALMA is just one exciting ESO astronomical telescope project going on down there in South America.  They have a four optical wavelength telescope, linked by interferometry(kind of like what they did with radio telescopes back in the 1980s dark ages with the large radio array in New Mexico; at one time, science thought doing that kind of interferometry with wavelengths other than radio was impossible; just like engineers thought going beyond the speed of sound for aircraft was impossible; but, then, somebody found an arch that could accomplish it; this is what I mean and why I stress the analogy between mathematical concepts and arches; just like the arch allows architects to build with stone what they could not with a crossbeam, mathematical concepts and the technologies allowed by those concepts allow us to do what was not possible before).  Recent astronomy news is that ESO has just recently accomplished linking those four, each 8 meter in diameter telescopes, telescopes interferometrically.  So, we should see some exciting astronomy from ESO's VLT(very large telescope; four large 8 meter telescopes linked interferometrically) and  . . . ALMA!

I just found this ESO youtube channel and subscribed to it!  The astronomy of the next year might be as exciting as the official CERN Large Hadron Collider official finding of the Higgs!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Robert Zubrin's Mars Direct documentary

The arguement on whether to go to space or not is an interesting one.  It's similar to whether we should just send robots out to space or make human settlement somewhere in space. Today, people laugh at the thought of the flat earth.  Will people tomorrow laugh at whether we thought going to space was the answer to everything?  Or, developing nano-manufacturing?  Should we pray to god, or figure out the universe scientifically?

Another example comes from the history of mathematics.  The Greek seem to have gotten lot's of mathematics from the Babylonians(pythagorean theorem . . . although not proved in near generality as the Greeks did . . . and lots of other pieces of mathematics but not quite proved;pythagorean triplets, quadratic equation, all angles in a semi-circle are right angles . . . the Greeks attribute this in full to Thales . . . ; well, maybe this isn't that much mathematics).  The Greeks chose to geometrize the little algebra they learned from the Babylonians instead of developing an adequate number system(the Greeks even came up with a geometric real number system from Eudoxus; this was preserved in Euclid's Elements book five).  This made for a cumbersome mathematics that couldn't see past the third dimension(or third degree equations; Archimedes solved at least one cubic using conics).  Pretty soon, there was no new mathematics to discover and people turned to creating one religion(one ring to rule them all) christianity.  One church father Tertullian said, "what does Athens have to do with Jerusalem?"

I feel like there's something here that I don't have an abstract description of yet.  It reminds me a little bit of how you could read a book after it being a long time, and you notice details and meaning in it that you didn't pick up before.

Part of what I've tried to push here on this blog is that the general viewpoint is desirable; and that mathematics is the most general viewpoint.  I know that Eric Drexler has clearly gone over to nanomanufacturing as the most general technological development and the only practical way to space(a desirable but not a necessary goal).  Robert Zubrin has said that nanomanufacturing is "unobtaineaum", and we should settle mars now.  Meanwhile, the global warming is heating up(there's been a recent calculation by the way that if you raise everybody to a wealthy state of being, you'd raise the temperature of the earth's atmosphere by three degrees - an arguement for space expansion as a necessary part of the human adventure so to speak). Tick tock, tick tock - what's right; what's wrong!?

Well, I still say going to space in important for freeing the mind from any social group that has decided to not question anymore.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

nanotech picture for the day/ zinc protein to make dna-nanotech functional

DNA-nanotech has been advancing(and now rna nanotech as well) rapidly; but, dna is more for self-organisation than performing say chemical reactions.  Now, dna-nanotech is getting functional.

There's been nano-motors created, that if they can just string them up(dna-nanotech?), we could see some nano-manufacturing get going.  However that may be, with this, dna-nanotech will probably be able to do much before other nano-manufacturing happens(there's different pathways towards nano-manufacturing; soft bio nanotechnology like dna-nanotechnology, and harder nanotechnology like stm, scanning tunneling microscopes,).

youtube for the day/ Palomar Telescope

The Mount Wilson observatory actually came before the Palomar telescope.  The Mount Wilson is where Hubble first determined the distance to the Andromeda galaxy(our closest major galaxy and gravitationaly bound with us as well!  Actually, the Milky Way and Andromeda will someday collide and eventually become one system; sorry for those who know this).  Hubble then found the galactic redshifts.  The Palomar Telescope was suppose to take us to the edge of the observable universe.  Well, we were wrong about that; we hoped the Hubble space telescope would, and now the James Webb; well, what of it?!

Anyways, the Palomar telescope is kind of the first fully functional astronomer telescope.  It didn't have to worry about the weather quite like the Mount Wilson mirror.  The Palomar telescopes mirrors were made out of a different material that doesn't change shapes due to temperature all that much.  The the telescope was so big, it needed 'arches' of metal to keep it up and in the right position.  The Palomar telescope was considered the biggest you could make telescopes for that last reason.  Nobody thought we could support a bigger telescope; then came segmented mirrors of Keck . . . ;  The Palomar telescope also had lots of sophisticated electronics(for its time).  When you realize this was being built in the 1930s, and completed in the 1940s(due to world war 2), you realize how technologically advanced this telescope was for its time.

I've been to Mount Palomar telescope many times.  As you go there, you think, "Oh, it's not that big."  You think that all the way till your standing right next to it; i mean literaly nose to wall and look up; that's when you realize no single man could have built this; this was a Pyramid; a pyramid of science!  A functional temple, arch!