Comments on a cultural reality between past and future.

This blog describes Metatime in the Posthuman experience, drawn from Sir Isaac Newton's secret work on the future end of times, a tract in which he described Histories of Things to Come. His hidden papers on the occult were auctioned to two private buyers in 1936 at Sotheby's, but were not available for public research until the 1990s.

Showing posts with label Cosmology. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Cosmology. Show all posts

Monday, December 17, 2018

Can Energy Be Moral?

Scientists have begun to prove that quantum entanglement can be demonstrated at macro levels. Could the same be said for the observer effect? Image Source: Develop Good Habits.

To my readers, I have a new post up at Vocal Media, concerning 2018 scientific research which has proven that quantum entanglement can be taken to the macro level:

In that post, I argue that the endgame of the current Tech Revolution is to reach a Kardashev Civilization Level I, in which a tech-harmonized global society would be able to consume and harness the energy of the entire planet.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Space and Struggle to Become Responsible

Vice President Pence Unveils U.S. Space Force Plans (C-SPAN) (9 August 2018). Video Source: Youtube.

The news is full of space headlines. On 9 August, the American Vice President Mike Pence announced that the United States will build a sixth branch of its armed forces, a "space force" to "prepare for the next battlefield." The full statement is here.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Stephen Hawking, An Immortal Farewell

This is a post I wish I did not have to write, on the passing of the theoretical physicist and cosmologist, Stephen Hawking. He died today, aged 76.

Image Source: Reuters via Voa News.

This time last year, it was reported that Richard Branson offered Hawking transportation on Virgin Galactic to the International Space Station. In 2007, the famous physicist became the first quadriplegic to experience simulated zero gravity on a modified Boeing 727-200 and looked incredibly happy when he became weightless.

Click here to read my references to his work. If you have not read his books, you can listen to some audiobooks and films on his work, below the jump.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Interstellar Hystery

"This artist’s impression shows the first interstellar asteroid: `Oumuamua. This unique object was discovered on 19 October 2017 by the Pan-STARRS 1 telescope in Hawai`i. Subsequent observations from ESO’s Very Large Telescope in Chile and other observatories around the world show that it was travelling through space for millions of years before its chance encounter with our star system. `Oumuamua seems to be a dark red highly-elongated metallic or rocky object, about 400 metres long, and is unlike anything normally found in the Solar System." Image Source: ESO/M. Kornmesser; image published 20 November 2017.

Since the end of October, astronomers have been buzzing about the first ever observed interstellar visitor to our solar system. Jointly confirmed by ten observatories as it was momentarily captured by the gravity of our sun, this asteroid has arrived from elsewhere in our galaxy. The International Astronomical Union has now given this rock a name, 1I/2017 U1 ('Oumuamua - pronunciation here). The name is a Hawaiian word meaning “a messenger from afar arriving first.” The asteroid was spotted on 19 October 2017 by Robert Weryk with the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System (Pan-STARRS) telescope at the University of Hawaii.

Video Source: Guardian.

What struck me, looking at its path, is how strict and staid the average person's view still is of the cosmos. That is, on the unconscious level, our view of reality is shaped by the order and predictability of our tiny solar system - sun plus planets on a plane, the night sky punctuated by familiar constellations. The visit of 'Oumuamua is a reminder of the scope of space and its unpredictability. Of course, thousands of these interstellar objects regularly enter our system, and our limited knowledge of them is symptomatic of our level of science and technology, rather than their absence.

"A/2017 U1 is probably of interstellar origin. This NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory/Caltech diagram shows its path of travel from above the plane of our solar system, around the sun and past earth at 44 kilometres per second. It was closest to the sun on Sept. 9." Image Source: NASA JPL/Caltech via Weather Network.

"This diagram shows asteroid 'Oumuamua's path through the solar system. An analysis of its path shows that it is coming from the direction of where the star Vega is now, although Vega would not have been at that location millions of years ago. Now that it is leaving, it is headed for the constellation Pegasus. A new report, written using observations made using the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope, is now providing even more information about this asteroid." Image Source: ESO/K. Meech et al. via Weather Network.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Blog Book Holiday Giveaway

Image Source: Humans are Free.


Today, I am sending out a HUGE thank you to my readers for sticking with this blog since 2010! It's been seven long years. I know how much noise and information there is on the Internet, and I am so grateful to everyone who has stopped here and helped build Histories of Things to Come to 3 million total hits this October.

Writing this blog has been hugely rewarding for me, and I appreciate all the readers who have lurked, commented, donated, and written to me privately. Thank you! To celebrate, I am offering a holiday book giveaway to my readers.

I was going to run this giveaway in December, but after checking the mail service, I'm running it now so that winners receive the books in time for the holidays.

How it Works

Over the next two weeks, from 8 November 2017 (starting 12:00 a.m. UTC) to 29 November 2017 (ending 23:59 p.m. UTC), if you want any of the books listed below, please send me a note in my 'Contact Me' message box in the right hand margin.

In the message, provide your email address and which books you want. If you want more than one book, list which ones in order of your preference (yes, you can list all of them). I won't acknowledge receipt of messages because of time limits but rest assured, the contract form is reliable. Don't leave your request in the comments box below.

For each book, I will put all related emails in a hat and choose one email. If your email gets picked more than once, I'll pick your top choice of book and redraw so someone else gets the other books.

Once I've drawn the winners, I'll email the winners personally and ask for their names and addresses and will mail the book directly to them. In the case of Scott Bembenek's work, I'll pass on the winner's information and his publicist will mail the book directly.

I'll also announce when the winners are chosen on the blog, so you will know if you didn't win.

Privacy: I won't share your e-mail or private information with anyone else. Please indicate when you contact me whether you want your e-mail to be included on my mailing list or not.

The Books

Sorry that these are only books in English - maybe next time I can find non-English publishers who wish to share copies.
  • THE COSMIC MACHINE: Scott Bembenek, The Cosmic Machine: The Science that Runs Our Universe and the Story Behind It (San Diego: Zoari, 2017).
This is the Amazon #1 Best Seller in Chemical Physics and Quantum Chemistry. I will be featuring an interview with Dr. Bembenek about his book in December on this blog.
ENERGY, ENTROPY, ATOMS, AND QUANTUM MECHANICS form the very foundation of our universe. But how do they govern the world we live in? What was the difficult path to their discovery? Who were the key players that struggled to shape our current understanding?

The Cosmic Machine takes you from the earliest scientific inquiries in human history on an exciting journey in search of the answers to these questions. In telling this fascinating story of science, the author Scott Bembenek masterfully guides you through the wonderment of how scientific discoveries (and the key players of those discoveries) shaped the world as we know it today.

With its unique blend of science, history, and biographies, The Cosmic Machine provides an easily accessible account without sacrificing the actual science itself. Not only will this book engage, enlighten, and entertain you, it will inspire your passion and curiosity for the world around us.
[From Zoari Press:] Paperback: 358 pages
Publisher: Zoari Press; First edition (August 15, 2017)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0997934107
ISBN-13: 978-0997934106

  • OURS TO HACK AND TO OWN: Trebor Scholz and Nathan Schneider, eds., Ours to Hack and to Own: The Rise of Platform Cooperativism, A New Vision for the Future of Work and a Fairer Internet (NY: OR Books, 2016).
Real democracy and the Internet are not mutually exclusive. Here, for the first time in one volume, are some of the most cogent thinkers and doers on the subject of the cooptation of the Internet, and how we can resist and reverse the process. The activists who have put together Ours to Hack and to Own argue for a new kind of online economy: platform cooperativism, which combines the rich heritage of cooperatives with the promise of 21st-century technologies, free from monopoly, exploitation, and surveillance.

The on-demand economy is reversing the rights and protections workers fought for centuries to win. Ordinary Internet users, meanwhile, retain little control over their personal data. While promising to be the great equalizers, online platforms have often exacerbated social inequalities. Can the Internet be owned and governed differently? What if Uber drivers set up their own platform, or if a city’s residents controlled their own version of Airbnb? This book shows that another kind of Internet is possible—and that, in a new generation of online platforms, it is already taking shape.

Included in this volume are contributions from Michel Bauwens, Yochai Benkler, Francesca Bria, Susie Cagle, Miriam Cherry, Ra Criscitiello, John Duda, Marina Gorbis, Karen Gregory, Seda Gürses, Steven Hill, Dmytri Kleiner, Vasilis Kostakis, Brendan Martin, Micky Metts, Kristy Milland, Mayo Fuster Morell, Jessica Gordon Nembhard, Rachel O’Dwyer, Janelle Orsi, Michael Peck, Carmen Rojas, Douglas Rushkoff, Saskia Sassen, Juliet Schor, Palak Shah, Tom Slee, Danny Spitzberg, Arun Sundararajan, Astra Taylor, Cameron Tonkinwise, McKenzie Wark, and Caroline Woolard.

Publication January 12, 2017 • 252 pages
Paperback ISBN 978-1-682190-62-3 • E-book 978-1-682190-63-0

  • BEAUTIFUL RISING: Juman Abujbara, Andrew Boyd, Dave Mitchell, and Marcel Taminato, eds., Beautiful Rising: Creative Resistance from the Global South (NY: OR Books, 2017).
In the struggle for freedom and justice, organizers and activists have often turned to art, creativity, and humor. In this follow-up to the bestselling Beautiful Trouble: A Toolbox for Revolution, Beautiful Rising showcases some of the most innovative tactics used in struggles against autocracy and austerity across the Global South.

Based on face-to-face jam sessions held in Yangon, Amman, Harare, Dhaka, Kampala and Oaxaca, Beautiful Rising includes stories of the Ugandan organizers who smuggled two yellow-painted pigs into parliament to protest corruption; the Burmese students’ 360-mile long march against undemocratic and overly centralized education reforms; the Lebanese “honk at parliament” campaign against politicians who had clung to power long after their term had expired; and much more.

Now, in one remarkable book, you can find the collective wisdom of more than a hundred grassroots organizers from five continents. It’s everything you need for a DIY uprising of your own.

272 pages • Illustrated throughout with black-and-white photographs
Paperback ISBN 978-1-682191-12-5 • E-book 978-1-682191-13-2

In June 2011, Julian Assange received an unusual visitor: the chairman of Google, Eric Schmidt, arrived from America at Ellingham Hall, the country residence in Norfolk, England where Assange was living under house arrest.

For several hours the besieged leader of the world’s most famous insurgent publishing organization and the billionaire head of the world’s largest information empire locked horns. The two men debated the political problems faced by society, and the technological solutions engendered by the global network—from the Arab Spring to Bitcoin. They outlined radically opposing perspectives: for Assange, the liberating power of the Internet is based on its freedom and statelessness. For Schmidt, emancipation is at one with US foreign policy objectives and is driven by connecting non-Western countries to American companies and markets. These differences embodied a tug-of-war over the Internet’s future that has only gathered force subsequently.

When Google Met WikiLeaks presents the story of Assange and Schmidt’s encounter. Both fascinating and alarming, it contains an edited transcript of their conversation and extensive, new material, written by Assange specifically for this book, providing the best available summary of his vision for the future of the Internet.

Publication September 18, 2014 • 223 pages
Paperback ISBN 978-1-939293-57-2 • E-book ISBN 978-1-939293-58-9

  • JERUSALEM: Alan Moore, Jerusalem (London: Knockabout, 2016).
Alan Moore says of his work:

In the half a square mile of decay and demolition that was England’s Saxon capital, eternity is loitering between the firetrap tower blocks. Embedded in the grubby amber of the district’s narrative among its saints, kings, prostitutes and derelicts a different kind of human time is happening, a soiled simultaneity that does not differentiate between the petrol-coloured puddles and the fractured dreams of those who navigate them. Fiends last mentioned in the Book of Tobit wait in urine-scented stairwells, the delinquent spectres of unlucky children undermine a century with tunnels, and in upstairs parlours labourers with golden blood reduce fate to a snooker tournament.

Disappeared lanes yield their own voices, built from lost words and forgotten dialect, to speak their broken legends and recount their startling genealogies, family histories of shame and madness and the marvellous. There is a conversation in the thunderstruck dome of St. Paul’s cathedral, childbirth on the cobblestones of Lambeth Walk, an estranged couple sitting all night on the cold steps of a Gothic church-front, and an infant choking on a cough drop for eleven chapters. An art exhibition is in preparation, and above the world a naked old man and a beautiful dead baby race along the Attics of the Breath towards the heat death of the universe.

An opulent mythology for those without a pot to piss in, through the labyrinthine streets and pages of Jerusalem tread ghosts that sing of wealth and poverty; of Africa, and hymns, and our threadbare millennium. They discuss English as a visionary language from John Bunyan to James Joyce, hold forth on the illusion of mortality post-Einstein, and insist upon the meanest slum as Blake’s eternal holy city. Fierce in its imagining and stupefying in its scope, this is the tale of everything, told from a vanished gutter.

“The endgame of epic modernism. There is nothing quite like this book in scale and bustling frenzy. Gamble everything. Read Jerusalem and you’ll never emerge in the same place.” – Iain Sinclair

1200 pages 3 paperbacks in slipcase | ISBN isbn 9780861662548

Additional Thanks:

I want to thank Katie Schnack at Smith Publicity and Emma at OR Books. OR Books publishes the top names in digital dissidence and cutting-edge analyses of the social, political, and philosophical impacts of technological innovation.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Wonders of the Millennial World 9: The Speed of Consciousness

Image Source: pinterest.

One of the questions which I pursue on this blog is whether or not human consciousness is manifesting on the Internet, in the psycho-anthropological myth-space of virtual reality, or as an alternate way of being, or in zeroes and ones, or in the physics of quantum computing. If human consciousness operates collectively on the Internet, it raises a subsequent question of whether that online consciousness can alter actual, real world reality.

The Big Bang Theory: Schrödinger's cat from Season 1, Episode 17, The Tangerine Factor (19 May 2008) © Warner. Reproduced under Fair Use. Video Source: Youtube.

This sounds bizarre, but the relationship between mind and matter remains one of the great unsolved mysteries of modern science. In my 2015 post, A Quantum Christmas, I outlined the origins of the mystery: when we measure matter, matter changes. And quantum entangled matter shows that we can measure an entangled particle, and its unmeasured twin will change too.

This means that matter has some other way of existing beyond our perception and we have an effect on matter which we do not understand. At the quantum level, matter changes from a previous, indefinite state before we look at it, where it exists in all places at once. After we look at it, it acquires a definite, measurable state. The impact our observations have on reality is exerted at a speed of three trillion metres per second. This is how fast our observations travel to transform reality into fixed states. We might call it the speed of consciousness.

Try to assess this, and find further, via the double slit experiment, that before we measure matter, when it exists in an indefinite state, it acts like a wave of energy. Measure the matter, and it becomes definite, fixed, and the wave 'collapses' to behave like particles.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Jovian Poles and Auroras

Juno's infrared view of the auroras at the Jovian south pole, not visible from earth (27 August 2016). The  Image Source: NASA/JPL.

NASA has released more data from Juno's mission to Jupiter over the past week, including a heat vision photograph of the southern lights over the maw that is the planet's south pole. Photographs from 27 August 2016 revealed that the north pole features a sea of giant cyclones. NASA also published an audio recording of Jovian polar aurora activity.

Composite photograph of Jupiter's south pole from Cassini mission (11-12 December 2000). Image Source: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute.

Jovian north pole: "The JunoCam instrument obtained this view on August 27, about two hours before closest approach, when the spacecraft was 120,000 miles (195,000 kilometers) away from the giant planet (i.e., for Jupiter's center). Unlike the equatorial region's familiar structure of belts and zones, the poles are mottled with rotating storms of various sizes, similar to giant versions of terrestrial hurricanes. Jupiter's poles have not been seen from this perspective since the Pioneer 11 spacecraft flew by the planet in 1974." Image Source: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS.

Video Source: NASA via Youtube.

Caption for the above video: "Thirteen hours of radio emissions from Jupiter's intense auroras are presented here, both visually and in sound. The data was collected when the spacecraft made its first orbital pass of the gas giant on Aug 27, 2016, with all spacecraft instruments turned on. The frequency range of these signals is from 7 to 140 kilohertz. Radio astronomers call these 'kilometric emissions' because their wavelengths are about a kilometer long."

Monday, August 29, 2016

NASA Reaches Jupiter

"Jupiter's north polar region is coming into view as NASA's Juno spacecraft approaches the giant planet. This view of Jupiter was taken on August 27, when Juno was 437,000 miles (703,000 kilometers) away." Image Source: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS.

NASA's Juno probe, launched from Florida on 5 August 2011, entered Jupiter's orbit on 4 July 2016; it will remain in orbit for 20 months, testing Jupiter's atmosphere and magnetosphere until February 2018. The American space agency continues the Decadal Solar System Exploration Survey; Jupiter has previously been visited by Pioneer 10 (1973) and Pioneer 11 (1974); Voyager 1 (1979) and Voyager 2 (1979); the Galileo spacecraft (1995-2003); Ulysses (1992 and 2004); the Cassini-Huygens mission (2000); and the New Horizons probe (2007). This Juno mission brings full circle four centuries of research on the great planet, which has three outer Gossamer rings and 67 moons. There are two Jovian lunar exploration missions proposed by the Europeans and Russians and NASA for the 2020s. More photos will follow from the Juno mission:
"NASA's Juno mission successfully executed its first of 36 orbital flybys of Jupiter today [27 August 2016]. The time of closest approach with the gas-giant world was 6:44 a.m. PDT (9:44 a.m. EDT, 13:44 UTC) when Juno passed about 2,600 miles (4,200 kilometers) above Jupiter's swirling clouds. At the time, Juno was traveling at 130,000 mph (208,000 kilometers per hour) with respect to the planet. This flyby was the closest Juno will get to Jupiter during its prime mission. 'Early post-flyby telemetry indicates that everything worked as planned and Juno is firing on all cylinders,' said Rick Nybakken, Juno project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

There are 35 more close flybys of Jupiter planned during Juno's mission (scheduled to end in February 2018). The August 27 flyby was the first time Juno had its entire suite of science instruments activated and looking at the giant planet as the spacecraft zoomed past.

'We are getting some intriguing early data returns as we speak,' said Scott Bolton, principal investigator of Juno from the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. 'It will take days for all the science data collected during the flyby to be downlinked and even more to begin to comprehend what Juno and Jupiter are trying to tell us.'"

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Look Skyward: Total Solar Eclipse

The 2012 total solar eclipse as seen from Queensland, Australia. Image Source: EPA via Daily Mail.

On March 8 and 9 there is a total solar eclipse. It begins on 8 March 2016 at 11:19 p.m. UTC. It reaches its maximum point on 9 March at 1:59 a.m. UTC. The full eclipse will end in its range of visibility on 9 March at 3:38 a.m. UTC. The totality will be visible in Sumatra, Borneo, Sulawesi and the partiality in locations across the Pacific.

Visible area of solar eclipse, 8-9 March 2016. Image Source: Time and Date.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Science and Tech: Headlines and History in February 2016

The world's first flexible smartphone lets you hold and use your mobile phone like an old-fashioned book. Gif source: Engadget.

Recent scientific and high tech headlines struck a positive note, with some discordant undertones. Several cutting-edge experiments create synthetic or mechanical versions of what we already have in organic form, revealing the underlying meta-mentality of researchers. The European Commission's Digital Single Market announced the arrival of the 'Fourth Industrial Revolution' in late January, 2016. In early February, there was a discussion at Quora about converting energy into matter: E=mc2 says energy and mass are interchangeable. Are energy and matter states of a same thing? Is matter a rigid form of energy? Great discoveries, such as the possible cure for blindness this week, are beneficial; yet that same desire to overcome physical debilitation, limitations and illnesses becomes problematic in other examples, as when parents assert the right to edit their children's genes.

The flood of news in such a short amount of time reveals vast resources diverted to these spheres, with very little to no resources comparatively devoted to putting this work into human perspective. The headlines show how difficult it is to keep track of the explosion of innovations on an ongoing basis; and they reveal how necessary it is to do so (hat tips: Engadget, ErekAlert, Graham Hancock):
  • Quartz (3 February 2016): Germany is getting closer to nuclear fusion—the long-held dream of unlimited clean energy
  • BBC (11 February 2016): Einstein's gravitational waves 'seen' from black holes
  • BBC (11 February 2016): Why you really should get excited about gravitational waves
  • Engadget (12 February 2016): Watch DARPA's tiny drone do 45 MPH indoors, autonomously ... and then crash into countless expensive pieces
  • Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health (12 February 2016): Researchers Create ‘Mini-Brains’ in Lab To Study Neurological Diseases
  • Independent (13 February 2016): Chinese nuclear fusion scientists achieve temperatures three times hotter than the sun The temperatures were roughly equal to a 'mid-sized thermo-nuclear explosion'
  • Guardian (14 February 2016): Race is on for next breakthrough as physicists target dark matter: Scientists from South Dakota to Australia seek material believed to make up quarter of universe as researchers in China investigate another mystery particle
  • University College London / EurekAlert (15 February 2016): Virtual reality therapy could help people with depression: "Patients in the study wore a virtual reality headset to see from the perspective of a life-size 'avatar' or virtual body. Seeing this virtual body in a mirror moving in the same way as their own body typically produces the illusion that this is their own body. This is called 'embodiment'. While embodied in an adult avatar, participants were trained to express compassion towards a distressed virtual child. As they talked to the child it appeared to gradually stop crying and respond positively to the compassion. After a few minutes the patients were embodied in the virtual child and saw the adult avatar deliver their own compassionate words and gestures to them. ... 'People who struggle with anxiety and depression can be excessively self-critical when things go wrong in their lives,' explains study lead Professor Chris Brewin (UCL Clinical, Educational & Health Psychology). 'In this study, by comforting the child and then hearing their own words back, patients are indirectly giving themselves compassion.'"
  • Engadget (15 February 2016): Johns Hopkins grows tiny brains in petri dishes for lab testing: "Most new drugs tested on mice don't work on humans, because we're 'not 150-pound rats,' says Johns Hopkins' Bloomberg School's Dr. Thomas Hartung. He and his team believe the 'mini-brains' they've designed and grown in the lab are better test subjects for drug development, since they're derived from human cells. These mini-brains are truly tiny at 350 micrometers in diameter, or about the size of a housefly."
  • PhysOrg (15 February 2016): No more keys or cards? Technology goes under the skin
  • Guardian (15 February 2016): Cancer researchers claim 'extraordinary results' using T-cell therapy ‘This is unprecedented’ says researcher after more than half of terminally ill blood cancer patients experienced complete remission in early clinical trials
  • Guardian (16 February 2016): WHO paves way for use of genetically modified mosquitoes to combat Zika: Consequences of Zika outbreaks could be ‘staggering’ says WHO as it advocates further trials and assessments for controversial mosquito control techniques
  • Ars Technica (16 February 2016): The NSA’s SKYNET program may be killing thousands of innocent people: "Ridiculously optimistic" machine learning algorithm is "completely bullshit," says expert: "Last year, The Intercept published documents detailing the NSA's SKYNET programme. According to the documents, SKYNET engages in mass surveillance of Pakistan's mobile phone network, and then uses a machine learning algorithm on the cellular network metadata of 55 million people to try and rate each person's likelihood of being a terrorist."
  • Engadget (16 February 2016): Doctors reveal they can 3D print body parts and tissue
  • Sky News (16 February 2016): 'Extraordinary' Cancer Breakthrough Revealed: Terminally ill patients are left symptom free after treatment with modified cells - described as a "potential paradigm shift"
  • Discovery News (16 February 2016): Hawking: Gravitational Waves Could Revolutionize Astronomy
  • Engadget (17 February 2016): Flexible smartphones may be coming sooner than you think
  • EurekAlert (17 February 2016): DNA evidence shows that salmon hatcheries cause substantial, rapid genetic changes
  • EurekAlert (17 Feburary 2016): New predictor of cancer: When your biological age is older than your chronological age, the risk of getting and dying of cancer rises
  • EurekAlert (17 February 2016): Progress toward an HIV cure highlighted in special issue of AIDS Research and Human Retroviruses
  • Yahoo (17 February 2016): The Hubble Space Telescope Just Snapped Photos of the Biggest Black Hole We've Ever Observed: "So how big is it, exactly? Well, according to our best estimates, the supermassive black hole is roughly 21 billion times the size of the Sun, and its event horizon (an area so dense and powerful that light can’t escape its gravity) measures 130 billion kilometers in diameter. That’s about 15 times the diameter of Neptune’s orbit around the Sun, according to scientists at the Hubble Space Telescope."
  • PhysOrg (18 February 2016): Five-dimensional black hole could 'break' general relativity: "Ring-shaped black holes were 'discovered' by theoretical physicists in 2002, but this is the first time that their dynamics have been successfully simulated using supercomputers. Should this type of black hole form, it would lead to the appearance of a 'naked singularity', which would cause the equations behind general relativity to break down. The results are published in the journal Physical Review Letters."
  • Guardian (18 February 2016): Robots could learn human values by reading stories, research suggests. Scientists have been running tests where artificial intelligences cultivate appropriate social behaviour by responding to simple narratives
  • Baltimore Sun (18 February 2016): Woman's blindness apparently reversed by stem cell treatment
  • Economist (20 February 2016): Wireless: the next generation. A new wave of mobile technology is on its way, and will bring drastic change
  • Daily Mail (20 February 2016): Earth really IS special: None of the 700 million trillion planets in our known universe are similar to our own, study finds
  • HuffPo (20 February 2016): Lost Tapes Reveal Apollo Astronauts Heard Unexplained ‘Music’ On Far Side Of The Moon. "If you’re behind the moon and hear some weird noise on your radio, and you know you’re blocked from the Earth, then what could you possibly think?"
  • Science Alert (22 February 2016): NASA researchers are working on a laser propulsion system that could get to Mars in 3 days. "There is no known reason why we cannot do this."
  • Wired (22 February 2016): Nasa's laser-powered engine could get us to Mars in 72 hours (if it works)
  • Reuters (22 February 2016): Brazil to fight Zika by sterilizing mosquitoes with gamma rays
  • Science Daily (22 February 2016): Bat 'super immunity' could help protect people
  • PhysOrg (22 February 2016): Study shows plants appear able to forget memories when they are not useful
  • Science Alert (23 February 2016): NASA has been inundated with a record number of astronaut applications. Real-life space cadets
  • Space.com (23 February 2016): Plans Being Devised for Human Outpost Near the Moon
  • Discovery News (23 February 2016): Self-Driving Flying Car to Take Off in Two Years
  • Nature (23 February 2016): Should you edit your children’s genes?
  • ErekAlert (23 February 2016): DNA 'Trojan horse' smuggles drugs into resistant cancer cells
  • ABC News (23 February 2016): Vaccinating wildlife with GM viruses could stop diseases jumping to humans, scientists suggest
  • Engadget (23 February 2016): Boston Dynamics presents the 'next generation' Atlas robot. Google's humanoid robot-builders have created a version that's smaller, lighter and more agile
The confirmed discovery of gravitational waves (11 February 2016), when two American research institutes recorded the merging of two black holes a billion years ago, has huge implications. Image Source: BBC via Twitter.

A 3D printed, human-size ear (16 February 2016). Image Source: Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine / Engadget.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Time Moves Backwards and Other Space-Time Headlines

Image Source: New Scientist.

There are several notable, mind-bending and possibly related recent scientific headlines. Four new elements have been confirmed, completing the seventh row of the periodic table (ununtrium (Uut or element 113), ununpentium (Uup, element 115), ununseptium (Uus, element 117), and ununoctium (Uuo, element 118)). The Guardian confirms that these elements are synthetic, created by "slamming lighter ­nuclei into each other and tracking the following decay of the radioactive superheavy elements. Like other superheavy elements that populate the end of the periodic table, they only exist for fractions of a second before decaying into other elements."

Then there is a report that time arises organically and moves in different directions in adjacent multiverses. The idea rests on problems with the way we define time as a function of the behaviour of matter, with the parts we can't explain disappearing into universes we cannot see. The associated notion that time flows backwards comes from Sean Carroll at the California Institute of Technology at Pasadena and Alan Guth at MIT. On 13 January 2016, The New Scientist reported:
Guth and Carroll's work is motivated by a problem vexing physicists and philosophers: why it is that time's arrow points in just one direction. It's true we can only remember the past ... but the laws of physics don't much care which way time flows: any physical process run backwards still makes sense according to those laws.

There's no such thing, at a very deep level, that causes [must] precede effects, says Carroll.

In the absence of other laws to set the direction of time, physicists have settled on entropy – basically, a measure of messiness. As entropy grows, time ticks forward. For example, you can stir milk into coffee but you can't stir it back out again – so neatly separated black coffee and milk always comes first.

“We can't talk to beings in a time-reversed cosmos: they are in our past and we in their past.” Zooming out to the entire universe, we likewise define the future as that direction of time in which entropy increases. By studying the motion of faraway galaxies, we can predict how the cosmos will evolve. Or we can rewind time back to the big bang, when the universe must have had much less entropy.

Try to rewind further and we meet a cosmological conundrum. We can't proceed if the big bang was indeed the beginning of time, but in that case, why did it have such low entropy? And if it wasn't the beginning of time – as Guth suspects – we'd still want to know how an eternal universe could have reached such a low-entropy state that would allow for the arrow of time to form.

In an as yet unpublished model, Guth and Carroll explore the latter idea. They drop a finite cloud of particles, each zipping around with its own randomly assigned velocity, into an infinite universe. After a while, arrows of time emerge spontaneously.

The random starting conditions mean that half the particles initially spread outwards, increasing entropy, while the other half converge on the centre, decreasing entropy, then pass through and head outwards. Eventually the whole cloud is expanding, and entropy is rising in tandem. Crucially, this rise happens even if you reverse time by flipping the starting velocity of every particle: ultimately, all particles will end up travelling outwards. If entropy grows either way, who's to say which way the arrow of time should point?

We call it the two-headed arrow of time, Guth says. Because the laws of physics are invariant, we see exactly the same thing in the other direction.

The model shows that an arrow of time arises spontaneously in an infinite, eternal space. Since this allows entropy to grow without limit, time zero could simply be the moment where entropy happened to be at its lowest.

That could explain why the big bang, the earliest moment we can see, has so little entropy. But it also feels a little like a cheat: if entropy can be infinite, anything can have relatively low entropy by comparison.

The point that Alan and I are trying to make is that it's very natural in those circumstances that almost everywhere in the universe you get a noticeable arrow of time, Carroll says, though he admits the model still needs work. Then of course you do the work of making it realistic, making it look like our universe. That seems to be the hard part.

If the model matches reality, it would have implications for more than just our own observable universe. This is intended to describe the whole of existence, which would mean the multiverse, Guth says. In his view, the arrow of time may have arisen in a parent or grandparent universe of our own.
In the next headline, supermassive black holes might be hiding whole universes inside them. The New Scientist:
Black holes may be hiding other universes. A quirk of how space-time behaved in the early universe could have led to short-lived wormholes connecting us to a vast multiverse. If borne out, the theory may help explain how supermassive black holes at the centres of galaxies grew so big so fast. The idea that ours is just one of a staggering number of universes - what cosmologists call the multiverse - is a consequence of our leading theory of how the universe grows: eternal inflation.

The theory holds that during its early phase, space-time expanded exponentially, doubling in volume every fraction of a second before settling into a more sedate rate of growth. Eternal inflation was devised in the 1980s to explain some puzzling observations about our universe that standard big bang theory alone couldn't handle.

But cosmologists soon realised that the inflationary universe came with caveats. Quantum mechanical effects, which normally only influence the smallest particles, played an important role in how all of space-time evolved.

One of these effects was that a small patch of space-time within the larger universe could shift into a different quantum state, forming a bubble. Such bubbles could form at random throughout our inflating universe. [Thus:] “Our universe could even look like a black hole to physicists in some other universe”
In other news, the Advanced Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) which has detectors in Hanford, Washington, and Livingston, Louisiana, USA, may have discovered the existence of gravitational waves, which are ripples in the fabric of space-time. Wired:
Gravitational waves tell the story of the universe’s mass. Every object from black hole to supernova, everything from black hole collisions (the most likely explanation for this potential LIGO discovery) to superfast expansion of the universe has its own gravitational fingerprint. From those swirls, astronomers will be able to learn about spacetime, gravity, and the objects themselves. And no one knows what they’ll find out.
Critics urge caution about this report, which might have more to do with the internal workings of the cosmology profession than the workings of space-time. If true, it could be a huge discovery, proving the "last unproven prediction of Einstein's theory of general relativity." The Guardian:
According to the rumours, [LIGO] scientists on the team are in the process of writing up a paper that describes a gravitational wave signal. If such a signal exists and is verified, it would confirm one of the most dramatic predictions of Albert Einstein’s century-old theory of general relativity.

[Professor Lawrence] Krauss[, cosmologist at Arizona State University,] said he was 60% confident that the rumour was true, but said he would have to see the scientists’ data before drawing any conclusions about whether the signal was genuine or not.

Researchers on a large collaboration like Ligo will have any such paper internally vetted before sending it for publication and calling a press conference. In 2014, researchers on another US experiment, called BICEP2, called a press conference to announce the discovery of gravitational waves, but others have since pointed out that the signal could be due entirely to space dust.

Speaking about the LIGO team, Krauss said: “They will be extremely cautious. There’s no reason for them to make a claim they are not certain of.”

If gravitational waves have been discovered, astronomers could use them to observe the cosmos in a way that has been impossible to date. “We would have a new window on the universe,” Krauss said. “Gravitational waves are generated in the most exotic, strange locations in nature, such as at the edge of black holes at the beginning of time. We are pretty certain they exist, but we’ve not been able to use them to probe the universe.” Einstein predicted that the waves would be produced in extremely violent events, such as collisions between two black holes. As gravitational waves spread out, they compress and stretch spacetime.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

True Detective: Time is a Flat Circle

Poster for True Detective season 1 (2014) is set in Louisiana. Image Source: HG Girl on Fire. The show's poster spawned a spoof meme, see: here, here, here.

America loves a morality tale, the deeper and darker, the better. Just as the '70s had Serpico, Mean Streets and Chinatown, the '80s had Blade Runner, Blue Velvet and Angel Heart, the '90s had L.A. Confidential and The Usual Suspects, and the '00s had No Country for Old Men and The Dark Knight as the definitive neo-noirs of those decades, the 2010s have Winter's Bone and the HBO television series True Detective. True Detective debuted in the USA and Canada on 12 January 2014 and debuted in the UK on Sky Atlantic on 22 February 2014. The second season begins in North America on 21 June 2015. Season 2 is set around the Los Angeles transportation system and involves a murder at the heart of a giant conspiracy.

The writing and vision for this series is incredible. True Detective makes the parallel UK drama, Broadchurch, pale in comparison. Broadchurch is strong in its own right and has somewhat similar initial premise: two quarreling detectives seek a murderer. But Broadchurch does not take the same risks.

True Detective season 2 (2015) is set around the Los Angeles transportation system, the venal conduit into the dark heart of the City of Angels. Season 2 stars Rachel McAdams, Vince Vaughn and Colin Farrell. Image Source: Mashable.

True Detective does exactly what a noir should do. The tension mounts, and as the characters' flaws deepen, the plot gets more feverish. The Toronto Sun remarks that True Detective, "makes every other police procedural drama seem faint and quaint by comparison. How are we supposed to watch 'regular' TV if HBO keeps dropping these sorts of live grenades in our laps?"

True Detective is not just a genre-hopping cop drama trying to shock its viewers, as with another Millennial series, The Fall. Like Twin Peaks, season 1 of this Lynchian show started off as police noir and ended up as a horror story. There are references in True Detective to H. P. Lovecraft's works and Blair Witch, which similarly involve rational investigations dragging the investigators' subconscious into a confrontation with an immense, malevolent, supernatural being or force.

There is a monster here, behind the police explorations of gritty streets and haunted bayous. The monster inhabits the dreams of this mundane world, but unfortunately for the characters, the monster has legs. It has a history. The Gen X writer of True Detective, Nic Pizzolatto, gives his horror deep roots. He presents this TV series as one story in a long line of stories about a much, much larger legend. True Detective is a metafictional continuation of the multi-authored Carcosa mythos, which started with an Ambrose Bierce short story, "An Inhabitant of Carcosa" also known as "Can Such Things Be?" (1891; read it here) and The King in Yellow (1895) by Robert W. Chambers. You can read The King in Yellow online here. For more on The King In Yellow and the Carcosa story: go here, here, herehere and here. You can see this series' connection with Chambers's stories drawn here and here. The metafiction continuity inspired so much chatter that some critics claimed that Pizzolatto had plagiarized, rather than continued, other authors' works.

In other words, True Detective is supposed to be part of, and continue, a fictional mythology about something terrible that once happened in an ancient lost city. In Bierce's work, that city, Carcosa, is described by someone who once lived there:
Along the shore the cloud waves break, The twin suns sink behind the lake, The shadows lengthen In Carcosa.

Strange is the night where black stars rise, And strange moons circle through the skies, But stranger still is Lost Carcosa.

Songs that the Hyades shall sing, Where flap the tatters of the King, Must die unheard in Dim Carcosa.

Song of my soul, my voice is dead, Die thou, unsung, as tears unshed Shall dry and die in Lost Carcosa.

—"Cassilda's Song" in The King in Yellow Act 1, Scene 2

Friday, April 3, 2015

A Total Lunar Eclipse for Passover and Easter

The Olive Trees (1889) by Vincent van Gogh. Image Source: Wiki.

There will be a total lunar eclipse in the early hours of 4 April 2015, Pacific time. See the video below, or go here for viewing details.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Mars Colonizers and the Secrets of the Universe

Image Source: BBC.

Space exploration will tell us the secrets of the universe. This is because space exploration is a synthetic act. It demands a united vision from, and intense cooperation among, diverse experts. It will require a Millennial convergence of many fields of research and knowledge, which have been divided and sequestered through overspecialization over the past two hundred years. No matter the focus - from cryptocurrencies to the relationship between anti-ageing and cancer - every area of human endeavour and study seems set for epiphany. We are coming from many different paths to a higher consensus of understanding which we cannot yet see.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Blue Sunsets in Crimson Skies

A blue Martian sunset in a red sky, photographed by Mars Pathfinder (August 1997). Image Source: NASA via Wiki.

Are you sick of the world's turmoil? Take a fresh perspective and go off world. What does the night sky look from the surface of Mars? Are the constellations different? Does astrology change? Below, see more Martian sunsets and the view of one of the Martian moons, Phobos, from the surface of the Red Planet. The sky on Mars, like the soil or regolith, is orange. At sunset, the sky turns crimson. Sunrises and sunsets are blue. Wiki:
Around sunset and sunrise the Martian sky is pinkish-red in color, but in the vicinity of the setting sun or rising sun it is blue. This is the exact opposite of the situation on Earth. However, during the day the sky is a yellow-brown "butterscotch" color. On Mars, Rayleigh scattering is usually a very small effect. It is believed that the color of the sky is caused by the presence of 1% by volume of magnetite in the dust particles. Twilight lasts a long time after the Sun has set and before it rises, because of all the dust in Mars's atmosphere. At times, the Martian sky takes on a violet color, due to scattering of light by very small water ice particles in clouds.
On Mars, the Earth appears as the 'morning star' and 'evening star,' just the way Venus appears to us before sunrise and sunset. Our planet is the second-brightest object in the Martian night sky. From Mars, you can also see the Terran moon:
An observer on Mars would be able to see the Moon orbiting around the Earth, and this would easily be visible to the naked eye. By contrast, observers on Earth cannot see any other planet's satellites with the naked eye.
The Martian sky at noon is yellow-brown, imaged by Mars Pathfinder (June 1999). Image Source: NASA via Wiki.

Martian sunset at Gusev Crater, photographed by Spirit rover (May 2005). Image Source: NASA via Wiki.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Quote of the Day: Neil Gaiman

Gaiman's character Tim Hunter in the Faerie Market © DC Comics. Image Source: Best Comics Quest!

The quote of the day comes from Neil Gaiman in the Books of Magic, Vol. 1 (Jan. 1990):
"Science is a way of talking about the universe in words that bind it to a common reality. Magic is a method of talking to the universe in words that it cannot ignore. The two are rarely compatible."
The Books of Magic are one of the sources from which J. K. Rowling likely lifted her original Harry Potter ideas. Gaiman's series was listed in 500 Essential Graphic Novels.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Secrets of the Vitruvian Man

Vitruvius, Roman engineer and architect, wrote: "“No temple can be put together coherently unless it conforms exactly to the principle relating the members of a well-shaped man.”

Last year, Bloomberg reviewed a book by Toby Lester on the origins of the basic principles of classical architecture, which derived from the male body; in the ultimate act of anthropomorphizaton, these principles were later applied to cosmology:
In “Da Vinci’s Ghost,” the journalist Toby Lester peers closely at Leonardo’s “Vitruvian Man” -- its origins, its meaning and the circumstances of the artist who drew it.

It’s called “Vitruvian Man” because the idea for it came from “Ten Books on Architecture,” written by a Roman military engineer named Marcus Vitruvius Pollio. For the Romans, architecture meant proportion, which meant the body.

... Vitruvius wrote ...: “If a man were placed on his back with his hands and feet outspread, and the point of a compass put on his navel, both his fingers and his toes would be touched by the line of the circle going around him.”

Similarly, for a perfectly proportioned man with feet together and hands outspread (a posture that later would inevitably betoken the crucified Christ), “you would find the breadth the same as the height, just as in areas that have been squared with a set square.”

Over time, the notion of the body as the locus classicus of proportion became tied to the relationship between the body and the cosmos -- the microcosm and the macrocosm. The 12th-century mystic Hildegard of Bingen put it this way:

“The firmament, as it were, is man’s head; sun, moon and stars are as the eyes; air as the hearing; the winds are as smell; dew as taste; the sides of the world are as arms and as touch.”
The core geometric archetypes, the triangle, the circle, the square, were mapped onto the male body. Buildings conceived on these patterns symbolized the spiritual, mental and physical gifts of the ideal human male.

Although I have previously questioned the health of global societies which have for the past two thousand years relied upon male divinity as the measuring stick of civilization, it is also true that diminished masculinity is a cause for concern.

The post-World War II media, technological and communications revolutions have spawned a lot of cyber Cassanovas and deskchair quarterbacks. These not-men cultivate the anti-heroism of our age, who contradict everything to which Theodore Roosevelt referred in his famous 'Man in the Arena' speech at the Sorbonne in Paris on 23 September 1910:
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.
We, by contrast, live in a crumbling patriarchy whose points of reference are the sensitive vegetarian vampire or drone-assisted democracy. There is a world of difference between real masculine virtues and patriarchal domination based on masculine weakness.

Are men really becoming less manly? This development caught the attention of the bloggers at The Art of Manliness, who observe that testosterone levels have been falling in America over the past decades; in fact, this problem is happening worldwide.