Tag Archives | Science

Beauty is Truth?

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E=mc2. Einstein’s great equation represents a pinnacle of mathematical purity. But as the evidence piles up which general relativity struggles to account for, is the very elegance of Einstein’s theories preventing scientists from updating them? Is there always beauty in truth, or are aesthetics a distraction from the fundamental mission of science?

Excellent interview on this with Jon Butterworth, a physics professor at University College London and author of Smashing Physics: The Inside Story of the Hunt for the Higgs.

 

You have said in the past that beauty is found in simplicity, but isn’t it actually the complex nature of the world that inspires awe? 

Obviously it’s a subjective point of view but, for me, what inspires awe is the fact that such complexity can arise for some very simple underlying principles. It’s the combination of complexity and simplicity. If the universe was all manifestly simple, that wouldn’t be so impressive.

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How Technicolor Changed Storytelling

Via Adrienne LaFrance at The Atlantic:

In the dawn of the age of cinema, adding color to black-and-white films was something like “putting lip rouge on Venus de Milo.” That is to say, it had the potential for disastrous, garish results. And that’s how the legendary director Albert Parker referred to the process of colorizing motion pictures in 1926, according to The New York Times that year.

Parker’s lipstick-on-the-Venus de Milo line wasn’t originally his—it was the same comparison famously used by silent film star Mary Pickford to lament the rise of talkies. As with sound, adding color to motion pictures represented a revolutionary shift in onscreen storytelling—and not everyone was convinced that change was worthwhile. Even those who were excited about color filmmaking felt trepidation.

“The color must never dominate the narrative,” Parker told the Times. “We have tried to get a sort of satin gloss on the scenes and have consistently avoided striving for prismatic effects… We realize that color is violent and for that reason we restrained it.”

Today, we’re accustomed to seeing color choices set the tone for a scene, a film—even an entire body of work.

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Late 19th-Century Maps Show Measles Mortality Before Vaccines

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Via Rebecca Onion at Slate:

These maps of measles mortality appeared in three late-19th-century statistical atlases published by the Census Office. Experiments in data visualization, the atlases are modern in their scope and ambition. Since they were compiled in a time before the availability of vaccines for most childhood diseases (with smallpox being the exception), they are a good record of the former pervasiveness of measles.

In a brief history of the disease, the Centers for Disease Control writes that between 1953 and 1963, when the measles vaccine became available, “nearly all children got measles by the time they were 15 years of age.” Yearly, “400 to 500 people died, 48,000 were hospitalized, and 4,000 suffered encephalitis (swelling of the brain) from measles.” (Writer Roald Dahl’s daughter, who died in 1962 and is the subject of this 1988 Dahl letter urging parents to vaccinate, was afflicted by this complication.)

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Beyond Reality – Does Science Really Have A Clue? [Debate]

117 - Beyond Reality

From trees to houses, atoms to stars, we assume our senses and instruments reveal the truth about the world. But could our picture of reality be radically incomplete? Is this hocus pocus best reserved for fools and philosophers, or does it open a world of infinite potential?

The Panel

Award-winning novelist Joanna Kavenna, mathematical physicist Roger Penrose, and post-postmodern philosopher Hilary Lawson get real about reality.

Watch more debates on IAI TV.

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Why Do Many Reasonable People Doubt Science?

Joel Achenbach is frustrated that you don’t believe everything that scientists tell you. He’s going to call you irrational if you don’t buy in. Or a conspiracy theorist. Or derogatory term du jour, an anti-vaxxer. He vents at National Geographic:

There’s a scene in Stanley Kubrick’s comic masterpiece Dr. Strangelove in which Jack D. Ripper, an American general who’s gone rogue and ordered a nuclear attack on the Soviet Union, unspools his paranoid worldview—and the explanation for why he drinks “only distilled water, or rainwater, and only pure grain alcohol”—to Lionel Mandrake, a dizzy-with-anxiety group captain in the Royal Air Force.

Dr. Strangelove - Ripper and Mandrake

General Jack D. Ripper (Sterling Hayden) shares an intimate moment with Group Captain Lionel Mandrake (Peter Sellers)

 

Ripper: Have you ever heard of a thing called fluoridation? Fluoridation of water?

Mandrake: Ah, yes, I have heard of that, Jack. Yes, yes.

Ripper: Well, do you know what it is?

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Strange Attractors: A Tale from Science’s Outer Edge

41lk-B0DyPLThis is an excerpt from Disinformation’s “Far Out: 101 Strange Tales From Science’s Outer Edge” plus a bonus video at the end!

Since 1987, one year after the Chernobyl disaster, 76-year-old Russian factory worker Leonid Tenkaev, his wife Galina, their daughter Tanya and grandson Kolya have all been able to make metal objects stick to their bodies. Leonid himself can hold individual objects weighing up to 50 pounds (23 kg) on his chest.

Doctors in Russia and Japan appear convinced that the Tenkaev’s abilities are genuine, describing, for example, how difficult it is to pull ferrous objects away from their bodies. “There is absolutely no doubt that the objects stick as if their bodies were magnetic,” an impressed Dr. Atusi Kono told reporters in 1991.

Remarkably, the Tenkaevs are not alone. In 1990, the Superfields conference in Sofia, Bulgaria attracted 300 such “human magnets” after a young woman, Marinela Brankova, demonstrated her powers on television by supporting a 15 lb (7 kg) weight from her vertically held palms.… Read the rest

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A Review of the Best Habitable Planet Candidates

Image: This diagram illustrates how the boundaries of the HZ as defined in the work of Kopparapu et al. vary as a function of star temperature and planet mass. Several potentially habitable extra solar planets are included. Credit: Chester Harman/PHL/NASA/JPL.

Image: This diagram illustrates how the boundaries of the HZ as defined in the work of Kopparapu et al. vary as a function of star temperature and planet mass. Several potentially habitable extra solar planets are included. Credit: Chester Harman/PHL/NASA/JPL.

Paul Gilster writes at Centauri Dreams:

The fascination with finding habitable planets — and perhaps someday, a planet much like Earth — drives media coverage of each new, tantalizing discovery in this direction. We have a number of candidates for habitability, but as Andrew LePage points out in this fine essay, few of these stand up to detailed examination. We’re learning more all the time about how likely worlds of a given size are to be rocky, but much more goes into the mix, as Drew explains. He also points us to several planets that do remain intriguing. LePage is Senior Project Scientist at Visidyne, Inc., and also finds time to maintain Drew ex Machina, where these issues are frequently discussed.

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Man of science, man of faith: AP obit reveals both sides of Charles Townes

Charles Hard Townes (born July 28, 1915) via Wikimedia Commons

Charles Hard Townes (born July 28, 1915)
via Wikimedia Commons

Via Jim Davis at getreligion.com:

Whenever we play a DVD, watch a light show or have a clerk scan our groceries, we may not think of a religious thinker. Yet those modern marvels and many others are possible because of Charles H. Townes, inventor of the laser – and an eloquent believer.

We can thank the Associated Press for its obit reminding us of this man of brilliance and goodwill,who converged both parts of his life as well as he synchronized light beams.

And AP gets to the point right after the lede:

On the tranquil morning of April 26, 1951, Townes scribbled a theory on scrap paper that would lead to the laser, the invention he’s known for and which transformed everyday life and led to other scientific discoveries.

Townes, who was also known for his strong spiritual faith, famously compared that moment to a religious revelation.

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A waste of talent? Making space for autism in engineering

Notoriously difficult to get along with and ruthlessly focused, Isaac Newton is now believed to have been on the autistic spectrum.

Notoriously difficult to get along with and ruthlessly focused, Isaac Newton is now believed to have been on the autistic spectrum.

Via the ENGINEER

What would you think if I told you that there was a group of people within our society that probably contained amongst their members some of the greatest engineers, scientists and inventor’s humanity has ever produced? Amongst its members are likely to be Einstein, Tesla and Newton as well as many of the luminaries that were responsible for the dotcom boom and the explosion of Silicon Valley in the world’s most concentrated area of business wealth. I presume you would, as engineering companies would want a way to identify this group of people and to get them to work for their business if possible. What if I went on to tell you that only 15% of this group actually find full time work as adults? Would you think this was nonsense?

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The Cusp of a Transhumanist Renaissance, or the Eve of Dystopia?

Transhumanist, Zoltan Istvan joins Midwest Real.

When it comes right down to it, we have absolutely no idea what the future will hold. Yet, between 2014’s major advances in AI, VR, AR, quantum computing and longevity science, it sure as hell seems like we’re on the cusp of something huge.

ITUNES  STITCHER DOWNLOAD

IMG_6532Will these unprecedented breakthroughs usher in a utopian neo-renaissance? Will technological and medical innovation enable us to live practically forever so that we’re free to pursue our passions all day long? Or, will we find ourselves an Orwellian dystopia plagued by a broken environment, thought control and murderous AI oligarch overlords who’ll invade our minds in an effort to milk us for money and energy as we jump willingly into ultra-plush matrix pods of their design?

Who knows?

Our guest this week, Zoltan Istvan is the author of The Transhumanist Wager. He writes for practically every major technology website (Gizmodo, Huffington Post, Motherboard Wired etc.) He’s the founder of the Transhumanist Party, which aims to draw attention and dollars to cutting-edge science and technology.… Read the rest

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