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And another very interesting article in Ars today, on a possible new approach to a Theory of Everything. For the most part it goes way too far over my head, but the high concept seems to be that, if you tweak one fundamental assumption of physics, you seem to wind up with a universe that looks very much like ours. The high concept seems to be that time and space have to be considered more separately than usual, and you can treat space as the same in all directions, but *not* time.

I'm intrigued and curious, but have only the slightest idea of what they're talking about. (My math isn't nearly up to physics at this level, not to mention that reading the underlying papers appears to cost Real Money.) Hopefully, if this has any legs at all, someone will come up with a better layman's summary of the concrete implications of the idea...
jducoeur: (Default)
And another very interesting article in Ars today, on a possible new approach to a Theory of Everything. For the most part it goes way too far over my head, but the high concept seems to be that, if you tweak one fundamental assumption of physics, you seem to wind up with a universe that looks very much like ours. The high concept seems to be that time and space have to be considered more separately than usual, and you can treat space as the same in all directions, but *not* time.

I'm intrigued and curious, but have only the slightest idea of what they're talking about. (My math isn't nearly up to physics at this level, not to mention that reading the underlying papers appears to cost Real Money.) Hopefully, if this has any legs at all, someone will come up with a better layman's summary of the concrete implications of the idea...
jducoeur: (Default)
Science geeks may want to check out this article in Ars Technica. Basically, a bunch of scientists attempted to do a principled simulation of the orbital mechanics of the inner solar system -- a very complex system, because of all the large elements in it and how they can interact. They ran the simulations out, making *tiny* modifications to the size of Mercury while doing so. The article sums it up:
Out of the 2,500 runs that were performed, only about one percent resulted in a major disruptions in Mercury's orbit. This result is in agreement with prior works that had not taken general relativity or the lunar effects into account. However, when Mercury's orbit did become highly perturbed, large variations could occur, some of which saw disturbances in the dynamics of the entire inner Solar System—all of these using variances no larger than one meter.
Those "variations" wound up producing scenarios ranging from Mercury falling into the Sun, to the Earth and Mars having a near-collision of less than 1000 km.

Most of us think of the Solar System as very tidy and orderly, with things going around the Sun in near circles indefinitely. So it's fascinating to hear about simulations that show it to be a lot less simple than that. None of this is destiny, of course -- the system is quite difficult to simulate with real accuracy, and most results didn't get wonky -- but it does illustrate the range of possibilities...

ETA: On rereading this, I realize that it makes it sound like the changes are sudden and dramatic. I should note that the simulations are for the next five billion years...
jducoeur: (Default)
Science geeks may want to check out this article in Ars Technica. Basically, a bunch of scientists attempted to do a principled simulation of the orbital mechanics of the inner solar system -- a very complex system, because of all the large elements in it and how they can interact. They ran the simulations out, making *tiny* modifications to the size of Mercury while doing so. The article sums it up:
Out of the 2,500 runs that were performed, only about one percent resulted in a major disruptions in Mercury's orbit. This result is in agreement with prior works that had not taken general relativity or the lunar effects into account. However, when Mercury's orbit did become highly perturbed, large variations could occur, some of which saw disturbances in the dynamics of the entire inner Solar System—all of these using variances no larger than one meter.
Those "variations" wound up producing scenarios ranging from Mercury falling into the Sun, to the Earth and Mars having a near-collision of less than 1000 km.

Most of us think of the Solar System as very tidy and orderly, with things going around the Sun in near circles indefinitely. So it's fascinating to hear about simulations that show it to be a lot less simple than that. None of this is destiny, of course -- the system is quite difficult to simulate with real accuracy, and most results didn't get wonky -- but it does illustrate the range of possibilities...

ETA: On rereading this, I realize that it makes it sound like the changes are sudden and dramatic. I should note that the simulations are for the next five billion years...
jducoeur: (Default)
Science geeks might want to check out this article from Ars Technica last week, talking about the theoretical "super-antenna". It's talking about a very hypothetical concept -- essentially, how to produce coherent light without a laser -- but the first half of the article is actually the most interesting bit.

Basically, it talks about the latest step in what I see as scientists coming to terms with the mathematical nature of the universe: instead of taking existing materials and figuring out how to use them, they've begun to address problems in terms of how you want to bend space, and then invent meta-materials that can accomplish that. Which approach sounds a bit improbable, but is starting to actually produce some results: for a very early field, meta-materials seem to be producing a lot of fascinatingly cool possibilities.

Neat stuff -- it's one of those "yes, we really *are* living in the 21st century" stories. I'll be interested to see how much success they have in turning these cool theories into practice...
jducoeur: (Default)
Science geeks might want to check out this article from Ars Technica last week, talking about the theoretical "super-antenna". It's talking about a very hypothetical concept -- essentially, how to produce coherent light without a laser -- but the first half of the article is actually the most interesting bit.

Basically, it talks about the latest step in what I see as scientists coming to terms with the mathematical nature of the universe: instead of taking existing materials and figuring out how to use them, they've begun to address problems in terms of how you want to bend space, and then invent meta-materials that can accomplish that. Which approach sounds a bit improbable, but is starting to actually produce some results: for a very early field, meta-materials seem to be producing a lot of fascinatingly cool possibilities.

Neat stuff -- it's one of those "yes, we really *are* living in the 21st century" stories. I'll be interested to see how much success they have in turning these cool theories into practice...
jducoeur: (Default)
Check out this amusing article from Ars Technica last week: it turns out that, when a banana is perfectly ripe, it glows bright blue under black light. Taking bets on how long it takes before someone comes out with the Home Banana Ripe-Checker (available for $19.95 only on TV if you order today!).

Of course, my other immediate reaction is that this is surely a good thing to know for Paranoia Live games: they've now come up with a way to create Higher-Security-Level bananas. There's the hook for a game right there...
jducoeur: (Default)
Check out this amusing article from Ars Technica last week: it turns out that, when a banana is perfectly ripe, it glows bright blue under black light. Taking bets on how long it takes before someone comes out with the Home Banana Ripe-Checker (available for $19.95 only on TV if you order today!).

Of course, my other immediate reaction is that this is surely a good thing to know for Paranoia Live games: they've now come up with a way to create Higher-Security-Level bananas. There's the hook for a game right there...
jducoeur: (Default)
So the big science news I've been stumbling across repeatedly for the past week is the new evidence that indicates that homo habilus and homo erectus co-existed for half a million years. Gasp, shock, says the news: does this mean that erectus didn't evolve from habilus?

What?

Okay, am I missing something, or are these science writers *seriously* missing the point here? Unless you take the most ridiculously extreme view of evolution, an X-Men-ish view that a new species will not only inevitably but quickly supplant the old one, it's entirely reasonable that a successor species will co-exist with its progenitors for quite some time. Indeed, it would seem to me to be a perfectly normal state of affairs unless at least one of the following pertains:
  • there is an environmental shift that greatly benefits one species over the other;

  • the two species are inherently in deep competition with one another;

  • the resources available to both species aren't sufficient to support both.
Sure, these factors do tend to come into play eventually, but why is everyone so sure that it's immediate? It doesn't seem any more obvious to me that there must be only one species of genus homo at a time than that there would be only one species of bird at a time.

If the species aren't in direct competition for scarce resources, the effects of evolution are going to be strictly statistical, and I don't see any reason why that would be quick. The better-adapted species will *eventually* outproduce the less-adapted one, sure. But if there's enough space and resources for both, it just doesn't strike me as surprising that that could take a very long time. Am I missing something here?
jducoeur: (Default)
So the big science news I've been stumbling across repeatedly for the past week is the new evidence that indicates that homo habilus and homo erectus co-existed for half a million years. Gasp, shock, says the news: does this mean that erectus didn't evolve from habilus?

What?

Okay, am I missing something, or are these science writers *seriously* missing the point here? Unless you take the most ridiculously extreme view of evolution, an X-Men-ish view that a new species will not only inevitably but quickly supplant the old one, it's entirely reasonable that a successor species will co-exist with its progenitors for quite some time. Indeed, it would seem to me to be a perfectly normal state of affairs unless at least one of the following pertains:
  • there is an environmental shift that greatly benefits one species over the other;

  • the two species are inherently in deep competition with one another;

  • the resources available to both species aren't sufficient to support both.
Sure, these factors do tend to come into play eventually, but why is everyone so sure that it's immediate? It doesn't seem any more obvious to me that there must be only one species of genus homo at a time than that there would be only one species of bird at a time.

If the species aren't in direct competition for scarce resources, the effects of evolution are going to be strictly statistical, and I don't see any reason why that would be quick. The better-adapted species will *eventually* outproduce the less-adapted one, sure. But if there's enough space and resources for both, it just doesn't strike me as surprising that that could take a very long time. Am I missing something here?
jducoeur: (Default)
[Happy birthday to [livejournal.com profile] shava23!]

I'm beginning to suspect that I'm rather weird. That's not going to surprise folks, but I'd like to take a quick survey. Note that the following questions are entirely about intuition -- not what you intellectually think, but what, at a *gut* level, seems correct to you, so don't spend a lot of time thinking about it. Yes, I'm being intentionally simplistic in the replies: I'm curious whether, when pushed into a black and white answer about their gut reaction, folks find these ideas sensible.

[Poll #1029830]
jducoeur: (Default)
[Happy birthday to [livejournal.com profile] shava23!]

I'm beginning to suspect that I'm rather weird. That's not going to surprise folks, but I'd like to take a quick survey. Note that the following questions are entirely about intuition -- not what you intellectually think, but what, at a *gut* level, seems correct to you, so don't spend a lot of time thinking about it. Yes, I'm being intentionally simplistic in the replies: I'm curious whether, when pushed into a black and white answer about their gut reaction, folks find these ideas sensible.

[Poll #1029830]

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