To Avoid the Multiverse, Physicists Propose a Symmetry of Scales | Simons Foundation

No-Scale Universe

To Avoid the Multiverse, Physicists Propose a Symmetry of Scales | Simons Foundation

A great article on how the lack of supersymmetry particles at CERN is forcing physicists to look at new ways of looking at the universe. Exciting new thoughts of how we all work.

How I Wish Journalist Would Present Science

I love John Oliver and his fair and balanced coverage. Here he does science like I wish all journalists would do it, more or less:

The Supremes Pick By Political Cognition

How judicial appointments can affect the perceptions of cases was shown in this article:

For Justices, Free Speech Often Means ‘Speech I Agree With

In short it does matter what justices are chosen for the Supreme Court.

Super Model (of The Universe)

Very well done computer simulation of the evolution of a part of the universe:

Out of This World! Virtual Universe Looks Like the Real Thing

Every 5th Star

600px-Milky_Way_Galaxy

Artist conception of the Milky Way as viewed from some distance away.

New research, based on the recently defunct Kepler Telescope, estimates there are 40 billion planets in our Milky Way galaxy that are habitable. Habitable is defined as about earth sized and in the habitable zone, where water can be a liquid.

The New York Time’s has one of the better articles on this. Check it out here: Planet Search Suggests Many Are Earth-like.

If you ask me where I feel closest to God, it’s looking at the night sky. Awe and Amazement. The two emotions I think are most appropriate when thinking about the infinite. Now there is something to add to this feeling. These numbers suggest that on average, every fifth star I see has a planet that can support life processes. That is it’s warm enough for liquid water, and the right size to hold an atmosphere but not be crushingly big.

Don’t let your imagination run too fast just yet. That could easily mean nothing more than single cell organizes. After all there is the Fermi Paradox that should caution anyway from leaping too far ahead.

Men Slow Down For Sex

An LA Times article entitled Walk this way: Men slow down when sex is at stake is interesting science but slowing down for sex isn’t the surprise. It’s that men speed up with other men!

The Most Amazing Sun Video I’ve Ever Seen

Check it out. This is the most amazing video I’ve ever seen of the sun. Be sure to check the size of the Earth compared to the size of the flare at 1:20.

Lowering Voting Age to Six

I just ran across this study in Scientific American, May 5th, 2009 entitled “The Look of a Winner”. The study had Swiss children aged 5 to 13 playing a game based on Odysseus’ voyage from Troy back to Ithaca. At the end of the game they were asked to pick their captain to lead them from two images. Unbeknownst to the children they were two rival candidates from the French parliamentary elections. The researchers found that the Swiss children’s choice of captain, based solely on the pictures, was the person more likely to win the French election. Further, five year old judgements were about as good as adults.

The article notes that appearing like a leader is appearing competent, not attractive. Other researchers have found, “That candidate appearances have the strongest impact on voters who possess little political knowledge and spend a lot of time in front of their television screens.”

My knee jerk scientific reaction is more studies are needed but those that have been done are pointing to a consistent conclusion: large numbers of people base their candidate choice consistently with facial appearance. If these results continue to hold up I have a few thoughts:

  • Is just seeing a face good enough? In other words it’s possible that after thousands of millenia of evolving, and the importance of picking good leaders to surviving, maybe we can identify competent leaders by just looking. Though it seems to me that what might have worked in the past, like craving sweets and fats, may not work so well in this obese, nuclear armed, inside the beginning of Earth’s sixth major extinction event, new Anthropocene geological epoch.
  • We think that thinking is important to picking a leader, and that thinking works better in adults. But if 5 year olds have the same competence (or some might say lack of it) as adults in picking their leaders, perhaps we should just drop the voting age to say 6 (just to be conservative)? Imagine how great it could be. We could require voting in school, maybe homeroom for middle and high schoolers, and right after the Pledge of Allegence for grade schoolers. The voter turnout would be very high so presidential candidates would have to come to schools and promise better cafeteria meals with this voter block. I can see it now!
  • Or perhaps instead of voter ID laws eliminating voters we should eliminate heavy TV viewers from the voter rolls.
  • This confirms my reasons for not usually watching the candidates. I strongly prefer to be a data driven voter, looking at what they do first in statistics and policy studies. So I’ve preferred not watching debates, speeches, etc, but instead the analysis of those, or simply read the text. Otherwise it seems they’re judge pulling my emotional triggers. Further evidence of this is the Kennedy Nixon debates where the radio audience gave the node to Nixon while TV views thought Kennedy did a better job (click here for a discussion of that). Of course once I’m sure of the rational basis then I can have fun being emotionally tweaked, so I delighted in watching Clinton’s 2012 Democratic National Convention speech that entwines good facts, reasoning, and strong emotional value appeal.

Check out another post I have on this topic by clicking here.

My Feet Are Younger!

(Photo by Matthew Kirkland, (Flicker simpologist))

(Photo by Matthew Kirkland, (Flicker simpologist))

When I was nine years old I saw a magazine that showed if you went really fast to Andromeda galaxy, then you’d age really slowly. The magazine suggested the round trip on Earth would take 2,000,000 years while the astronaut would age 20 (at least that’s what I think I remember). It also said that many scientists couldn’t believe this was true, and I knew at once I didn’t want to be like them. I promised myself, in a nine year old way, that I’d pay more attention to the means of getting the answers than to the answers themselves.

Einstein’s theories of relativity predicted this and there are probably no theories in science that have been more tested and proven right. The reason for these theories is odd measurements that showed nothing can go faster than the speed of light. This is very counter intuitive (so of course I love it). If we have two cars approaching each other at 99 mph a radar gun in one car would show the speed is 198 mph. If two spaceships were going at each other at 99% the speed of light, the radar gun (or any other way to measure it) would show the speed at a bit under the speed of light, not 198%.

To get this result means the faster you go the shorter your spaceship has to be and the slower time goes. This is in Einstein’s Special Relativity theory. Einstein’s General Relativity theory says the greater the gravity the slower time goes meaning if you’re closer to the Earth the slower time goes. This means time is a very local phenomenon. The passage of time for your feet is generally slower than for your head. And when you’re in a car driving down the street at 20 mph it’s slower than for you than for the people you left in the house.

The National Institute of Standards’ clocks are now so accurate they can measure these time differences. Check out this story on their website, “NIST Pair of Aluminum Atomic Clocks Reveal Einstein’s Relativity at a Personal Scale“. With expected improvements they’ll be able to measure time differences of 1 cm (less than ½-inch) elevation! Future improvements will bring this down to 1mm (about a dime’s thickness). Rocks my world, but I’ve loved accurate time ever since I ran across WWV on shortwave and after a while realized they were telling me time to better than 1 second accuracy. This was in an age when you’d be proud if your wrist watch was only off a minute a day. Now I wear a watch that resets itself nightly with WWV broadcasts to be less than 1/100 second off.

But one thing has kept me up a little later at nights lately. Another effect of near light speeds is increasing mass of the object. Those atomic particles they’re accelerating to huge velocities under the Swiss-French countryside to find the Higg’s particle weigh a lot more than they do when they’re sitting still.

The problem I have is imagining a big lead shield at the back of the spaceship protecting the astronauts. As it gets near light velocities doesn’t this get so much mass it turns into  neutronium, just like a neutron star, with its gravity crushing the astronauts and sort of making it obvious who’s going really fast thus violating Special Relativity? I’ve done the requisite searches to understand this but have yet to find someone who seems to have a handle on this. If you find something let me know so I can sleep better! Please.

Liberal vs Conservative Brains

In college I began to ponder the oddities of political identification. It made no sense to me. It was like people had a paper bag, labeled it “Conservative/Republican” or “Liberal/Democrat”, and threw items in it with little concern if they made much sense together.

This was clearest to me with the Conservative bag where there was “Pro-Life” (and thus anti-Planned Parenthood, more on that in a moment), pro death penalty, and large war budgets. Now clearly in my mind, the basic principle, the prime motivator, of this set of issues was not supporting and nurturing life. Something else had to be going on despite the words being uttered.

And what goes into the bag and out can change too. A recent NPR Fresh Air podcast Continue reading