In this article four fundamental principles are presented: relativity, uncertainty, incompleteness and undecidability. They were studied by, respectively, Albert Einstein, Werner Heisenberg, Kurt GÃƒÂ¶del and Alan Turing. …
Relativity says that there is no privileged, “objective” viewpoint for certain observations. … Now, if things move relative to each other, then obviously their positions at a given time are also measured relative to each other. …
Werner Heisenberg showed that if we built a machine to tell us with high precision were an electron is, this machine could not also tell us the speed of the electron. If we want to measure its speed without altering it we can use a different light but then we wouldn’t know where it is. At atomic scale, no instrument can tell us at the same time exactly where a particle is and exactly at what speed it is moving. …
If this system is complete, then anything that is true is provable. Similarly, anything false is provable false. Kurt GÃƒÂ¶del got the intuition that traditional mathematical logic was not complete, and devoted several years to try to find one thing, a single thing that was inside the mathematics but outside the reach of logic. … GÃƒÂ¶del’s incompleteness means that the classical mathematical logic deductive system, and actually any logical system consistent and expressive enough, is not complete, has “holes” full of expressions that are not logically true nor false. …
Turing’s halting problem is one of the problems that fall in to the category of undecidable problems. It says that it is not possible to write a program to decide if other program is correctly written, in the sense that it will never hang. This creates a limit to the verification of all programs, as all the attempts of building actual computers, usable in practice and different from Turing machines have been proved to be equivalent in power and limitations to the basic Turing machine.
A Japanese psychiatric counselor has recited pi to 83,431 decimal places from memory, breaking his own personal best of 54,000 digits and setting an unofficial world record, a media report said Saturday.
Akira Haraguchi, 59, had begun his attempt to recall the value of pi – a mathematical value that has an infinite number of decimal places – at a public hall in Chiba city, east of Tokyo, on Friday morning and appeared to give up by noon after only reaching 16,000 decimal places, the Tokyo Shimbun said on its Web site.
But a determined Haraguchi started anew and had broken his old record on Friday evening, about 11 hours after first sitting down to his task, the paper said. …
Pi, usually given as an abbreviated 3.14, is the ratio of the circumference to the diameter of a circle. The number has fascinated and confounded mathematicians for centuries.
Aided by a supercomputer, a University of Tokyo mathematician set the world record for figuring out pi to 1.24 trillion decimal places in 2002.
From BBC News’ “Europe’s chill linked to disease“:
Europe’s “Little Ice Age” may have been triggered by the 14th Century Black Death plague, according to a new study.
Pollen and leaf data support the idea that millions of trees sprang up on abandoned farmland, soaking up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
This would have had the effect of cooling the climate, a team from Utrecht University, Netherlands, says.
The Little Ice Age was a period of some 300 years when Europe experienced a dip in average temperatures. …
“Between AD 1200 to 1300, we see a decrease in stomata and a sharp rise in atmospheric carbon dioxide, due to deforestation we think,” says Dr van Hoof, whose findings are published in the journal Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology.
But after AD 1350, the team found the pattern reversed, suggesting that atmospheric carbon dioxide fell, perhaps due to reforestation following the plague.
The researchers think that this drop in carbon dioxide levels could help to explain a cooling in the climate over the following centuries.
From “Stone Age tribe kills fishermen“:
ONE of the world’s last Stone Age tribes has murdered two fishermen whose boat drifted on to a desert island in the Indian Ocean.
The Sentinelese, thought to number between 50 and 200, have rebuffed all contact with the modern world, firing a shower of arrows at anyone who comes within range.
They are believed to be the last pre-Neolithic tribe in the world to remain isolated and appear to have survived the 2004 Asian tsunami. …
Fellow fishermen said they dropped anchor for the night on January 25 but fell into a deep sleep, probably helped by large amounts of alcohol. During the night their anchor, a rock tied to a rope, failed to hold their open-topped boat against the currents and they drifted towards the island.
“As day broke, fellow fishermen say they tried to shout at the men and warn them they were in danger,” said Samir Acharya, the head of the Society for Andaman and Nicobar Ecology, an environmental organisation. “However they did not respond – they were probably drunk – and the boat drifted into the shallows where they were attacked and killed.”
The Indian coast guard tried to recover the bodies using a helicopter but was met by a hail of arrows.
Photographs shot from the helicopter show the near-naked tribesmen rushing to fire. But the downdraught from its rotors exposed the two fishermen buried in shallow graves and not roasted and eaten, as local rumour suggested. …
Environmental groups urged the authorities to leave the bodies and respect the five-kilometre exclusion zone thrown around the island. In the 1980s and early 1990s many Sentinelese were killed in skirmishes with armed salvage operators who visited the island after a shipwreck. Since then the tribesmen have remained virtually undisturbed.
From New Scientist‘s “Parasites brainwash grasshoppers into death dive“:
A parasitic worm that makes the grasshopper it invades jump into water and commit suicide does so by chemically influencing its brain, a study of the insectsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ proteins reveal.
The parasitic Nematomorph hairworm (Spinochordodes tellinii) develops inside land-dwelling grasshoppers and crickets until the time comes for the worm to transform into an aquatic adult. Somehow mature hairworms brainwash their hosts into behaving in way they never usually would Ã¢â‚¬â€œ causing them to seek out and plunge into water.
Once in the water the mature hairworms Ã¢â‚¬â€œ which are three to four times longer that their hosts when extended Ã¢â‚¬â€œ emerge and swim away to find a mate, leaving their host dead or dying in the water. …
Now Biron and his colleagues have shown that the worm brainwashes the grasshopper by producing proteins which directly and indirectly affect the grasshopperÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s central nervous system.
From Giampaolo Garzarelli’s Open Source Software and the Economics of Organization:
Whenever organizational forms present rapid change because of their strong ties to technology, public policy issues are always thornier than usual. Indeed, historically, it seems that every time that there’s the development of a new technology or production process, the government has to intervene in some fashion to regulate it or to extract rents from it. This point is well- encapsulated in the well-known catch-phrase attributed to Faraday. After Faraday was asked by a politician the purpose of his recently discovered principle of magnetic induction in 1831, he replied: “Sir, I do not know what it is good for. However, of one thing I am quite certain, some day you will tax it”.
A teleportation machine would be like a fax machine, except that it would work on 3-dimensional objects as well as documents, it would produce an exact copy rather than an approximate facsimile, and it would destroy the original in the process of scanning it. A few science fiction writers consider teleporters that preserve the original, and the plot gets complicated when the original and teleported versions of the same person meet; but the more common kind of teleporter destroys the original, functioning as a super transportation device, not as a perfect replicator of souls and bodies.
From John Shirley:
Immortality? Maybe. There’s one company …: “There’s that UCSF scientist who keeps cropping up with roundworms. Now and then you hear something new about her and her program: Cynthia Kenyon. She’s started a company called Elixir. She’s working on ways to tweak a gene called daf-2 which controls how well cells repair themselves over time. This gene gets shut off somehow–she’s trying to turn it back on, I take it…She did it in roundworms first. Now she’s done it in mice, vastly extending their lifespans. Daf-2 apparently controls a host of proteins and hormones that repair cells, eliminate free radicals, destroy bacteria and so on. All this may be far more complex in humans than in animals though…
If it works, chances are that it’ll be so expensive that it won’t appreciably add to overpopulation. Only a few people will be able to afford it. The rich will become semi-immortal. The poor may be kept in ignorance about how this is done, lest revolution demand everyone gets relative immortality. This partial suppression of the relevant biotech can be justified, perhaps: not only for reasons of space and sufficient resources in an overpopulated Earth, but for reasons of encouraging genetic diversity–mortality is motivation for reproducing. The human race seems to need death…
Researchers at Harvard University have found evidence that the retina actively seeks novel features in the visual environment, dynamically adjusting its processing in order to seek the unusual while ignoring the commonplace. …
“Apparently our thirst for novelty begins in the eye itself,” says Markus Meister, the Jeff C. Tarr Professor of Molecular and Cellular Biology in Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences. “Our eyes report the visual world to the brain, but not very faithfully. Instead, the retina creates a cartoonist’s sketch of the visual scene, highlighting key features while suppressing the less interesting regions.”
These findings provide evidence that the ultimate goal of the visual system is not simply to construct internally an exact reproduction of the external world, Meister and his colleagues write in Nature. Rather, the system seeks to extract from the onslaught of raw visual information the few bits of data that are relevant to behavior. This entails the discarding of signals that are less useful, and dynamic retinal adaptation provides a means of stripping from the visual stream predictable and therefore less newsworthy signals.
Kluver-Bucy Syndrome: Damage to the front of the temporal lobe and the amygdala just below it can result in the strange condition called Kluver-Bucy Syndrome. Classically, the person will try to put anything to hand into their mouths and typically attempt to have sexual intercourse with it. A classic example is of the unfortunate chap arrested whilst attempting to have sex with the pavement. …
Capgras’ Syndrome: … The Capgras’ patient will typically identify people close to them as being imposters – identical in every possible way, but identical replicas. Classically, the patient will accept living with these imposters but will secretly “know” that they are not the people they claim to be. …
Cotard’s Syndrome: … this syndrome is characterized by the patient believing that he is dead, a walking corpse. This “delusion” is usually expanded to the degree that the patient might claim that he can smell his own rotting flesh and feel worms crawling through his skin (a recurring experience of people chronically deprived of sleep or suffering amphetamine/cocaine psychosis). …
Fregoli Syndrome: This is an extraordinary experience where the person misidentifies another person as someone who clearly he is not. Indeed, he may begin to see the same person everywhere he looks …
Alien Hand Syndrome: Probably a version of “left hemi-neglect”, brain damage in the right place can disconnect the left hand (controlled by the right, unconscious cerebral hemisphere) leaving the left hand without conscious control and the person at the mercy of the unconscious whims of the right hemisphere.
Let us now examine nanotechnology, and assess the hurdles it must overcome before it becomes a society-transforming revolution. In our view there are four major issues:
Feasibility: can we do what we claim we can do, or is it as fantastic as the Nanobot?
Secondly, economic value: does it change the economy in any way? Does it open new sources of wealth?
Third, safety: is it safe, or does it create new dangers we don’t yet know how to handle?
And finally, necessity: do we really need to do it? And have we a choice about it?
These are the major questions all new sciences should face, and nanotechnology is no different.
Etymologically, the word ‘science’ just means knowledge, and in pre-modern Europe, when most people would have framed their understanding according to a religious doctrine, questing after new knowledge about the created world could be rather suspect. Things understood according to the word of God were revealed to you, and the work of creation was revealed to your senses. Any form of knowledge that had to be earnestly sought after was by definition, hidden. A landmark study of magnetism, published in 1600 by Queen Elizabeth’s physician, William Gilbert, begins with a statement about "the discovery of secret things and the investigation of hidden causes."
Gilbert’s book was to become one of the foundation texts of the new science of electricity a century later, but writing in 1600, he was aware of the need to argue the case for why ‘things formerly hid in deplorable darkness’ must be brought to the knowledge of mankind.
In Gilbert’s time, seeking forms of knowledge that might enable you to perform operations with material objects and substances carried the implication that you were interfering with the divine work of creation.
From Richard J. Norton’s “Feral cities – The New Strategic Environment” (Naval War College Review: Autumn, 2003):
Imagine a great metropolis covering hundreds of square miles. Once a vital component in a national economy, this sprawling urban environment is now a vast collection of blighted buildings, an immense petri dish of both ancient and new diseases, a territory where the rule of law has long been replaced by near anarchy in which the only security available is that which is attained through brute power. Such cities have been routinely imagined in apocalyptic movies and in certain science-fiction genres, where they are often portrayed as gigantic versions of T. S. Eliot’s Rat’s Alley. Yet this city would still be globally connected. It would possess at least a modicum of commercial linkages, and some of its inhabitants would have access to the world’s most modern communication and computing technologies. It would, in effect, be a feral city.
The putative “feral city” is (or would be) a metropolis with a population of more than a million people in a state the government of which has lost the ability to maintain the rule of law within the city’s boundaries yet remains a functioning actor in the greater international system.
In a feral city social services are all but nonexistent, and the vast majority of the city’s occupants have no access to even the most basic health or security assistance. There is no social safety net. Human security is for the most part a matter of individual initiative. Yet a feral city does not descend into complete, random chaos. Some elements, be they criminals, armed resistance groups, clans, tribes, or neighborhood associations, exert various degrees of control over portions of the city. Intercity, city-state, and even international commercial transactions occur, but corruption, avarice, and violence are their hallmarks. A feral city experiences massive levels of disease and creates enough pollution to qualify as an international environmental disaster zone. Most feral cities would suffer from massive urban hypertrophy, covering vast expanses of land. The city’s structures range from once-great buildings symbolic of state power to the meanest shantytowns and slums. Yet even under these conditions, these cities continue to grow, and the majority of occupants do not voluntarily leave.
Feral cities would exert an almost magnetic influence on terrorist organizations. Such megalopolises will provide exceptionally safe havens for armed resistance groups, especially those having cultural affinity with at least one sizable segment of the city’s population. The efficacy and portability of the most modern computing and communication systems allow the activities of a worldwide terrorist, criminal, or predatory and corrupt commercial network to be coordinated and directed with equipment easily obtained on the open market and packed into a minivan. The vast size of a feral city, with its buildings, other structures, and subterranean spaces, would offer nearly perfect protection from overhead sensors, whether satellites or unmanned aerial vehicles. The city’s population represents for such entities a ready source of recruits and a built-in intelligence network. Collecting human intelligence against them in this environment is likely to be a daunting task. Should the city contain airport or seaport facilities, such an organization would be able to import and export a variety of items. The feral city environment will actually make it easier for an armed resistance group that does not already have connections with criminal organizations to make them. The linkage between such groups, once thought to be rather unlikely, is now so commonplace as to elicit no comment.
Time, along with matter and space is a constituent part of our universe. Time cannot exist without matter and space. So it makes no sense to talk about a time before our universe came into existence. …
To begin with, what does the fact that there is no absolute time say about God? If one accepts that God has created the universe, through the Big Bang or some other means, then he must have created time in the process.
So God is not constrained by time, and God is not carried along in time as we are. God simply is. …
It follows that God is not waiting to find out what the future holds. For God, it is already present. You might imagine God as seeing the whole of creation, beginning, middle and end, all laid out before him. Rather like the pictures on the wall of an ancient tomb, or perhaps like the frames of a movie film. …
At first glance, God’s knowledge of the future might suggest predestination. But that does not take into account that we ourselves are moving through time. …
But having made that choice, you will not be able to go back and change it. It will have been swept away in time to become an immutable fact. And similarly for all our lives, our free choices are turned into unchangeable facts by the passage of time. … Does that mean that it was predestined? Certainly not. It simply means that our free will, within time, exists alongside God’s foreknowledge, outside of time.
The common understanding of eternity is of time simply going on and on forever. But as science now indicates, time can only exist as long as space and matter, that is our universe, exists. And since science also indicates that the universe is finite (that is, it had a beginning some time ago and will come to an end one way or another sometime in the future), our time, and hence our eternity are finite also. …
We need to think of an afterlife that involves a transfer of consciousness into a timeless state that is linked in some way to God’s being.
In 1543, [Robert] Record published The Ground of Arts, the first ever maths book in English, which ran through over fifty editions … Until 1557, mathematicians had finished off a calculation by laboriously writing out the words, is equal to, which was sometimes abbreviated to AE or OE from the Latin word for equal, aequalis. But Record had a better idea, why not use a symbol, he said, to avoid, as he put it, the tedious repetition of these words he proposed the use of a pair of parallel lines. Using this simple device that we now call the equals sign released an enormous logjam in the efficient handling of numbers and the implications extended far beyond pure maths.
[Dr. Fritz] Haber [inventor of modern gas warfare] was a very patriotic German and so when the war began he looked for ways to assist the military effort. His first major critic was his childhood sweetheart and wife, Clara. She was a talented chemist herself. She was appalled at the use of science to kill people. A few days after the first use of gas, she used his army pistol to commit suicide.
This did not deter Haber. He went off to supervise the use of gas warfare on the Eastern front and he left others to handle her funeral arrangements.
When the war ended in 1918, Haber donned a disguise and fled temporarily into Switzerland. The use of gas warfare had been so controversial that he was afraid that he would be tried by the Allies as a war criminal. About 1.3 million people had been wounded by gas, with 91,000 being killed.
From “The Invention of Modern Gas Warfare“, at Ockham’s Razor:
One of Haber’s [Dr. Fritz Haber, inventor of gas warfare] victims was a British soldier named Fred Cayley. He was gassed in 1917. He had poor health for the rest of his life and he had to visit a doctor every week until his death in 1981. The coroner recorded that Cayley had been ‘killed by the King’s enemies’. This is the statement that would have appeared on his death certificate if he had been killed outright 64 years earlier. As far as the coroner was concerned, Cayley was as good as dead back in 1917, it was simply that he did not get buried until 1981.
From Ask Yahoo!’s “Why does scratching an itch make it stop?”
So why does scratching seem to help, at least temporarily? … the general theory is that scratching provides a “counterirritation” that distracts the brain from the original itch.