Category Archives: Interesting

IBM Research and MRFM


 IBM scientists, in collaboration with the Center for Probing the Nanoscale at Stanford University, have demonstrated magnetic resonance imaging MRI with volume resolution 100 million times finer than conventional MRI.  

For more than a decade, IBM scientists have been making pioneering advances in
MRFM. Now, the IBM-led team has dramatically boosted the sensitivity of MRFM and combined it with an advanced 3D image reconstruction technique. This allowed them to demonstrate, for the first time, MRI on nanometer-scale biological objects. The technique was applied to a sample of tobacco mosaic virus and achieved resolution down to four nanometers. (One nanometer is one billionth of a meter; a tobacco mosaic virus is 18 nanometers across.)

via IBM Press room – 2009-01-13 IBM Research Creates Microscope With 100 Million Times Finer Resolution Than Current MRI – United States.

Our world may be a giant hologram

For many months, the GEO600 team-members had been scratching their heads over inexplicable noise that is plaguing their giant detector. Then, out of the blue, a researcher approached them with an explanation. In fact, he had even predicted the noise before he knew they were detecting it. According to Craig Hogan, a physicist at the Fermilab particle physics lab in Batavia, Illinois, GEO600 has stumbled upon the fundamental limit of space-time – the point where space-time stops behaving like the smooth continuum Einstein described and instead dissolves into “grains”, just as a newspaper photograph dissolves into dots as you zoom in. “It looks like GEO600 is being buffeted by the microscopic quantum convulsions of space-time,” says Hogan.

If this doesn't blow your socks off, then Hogan, who has just been appointed director of Fermilab's Center for Particle Astrophysics, has an even bigger shock in store: “If the GEO600 result is what I suspect it is, then we are all living in a giant cosmic hologram.”

The idea that we live in a hologram probably sounds absurd, but it is a natural extension of our best understanding of black holes, and something with a pretty firm theoretical footing. It has also been surprisingly helpful for physicists wrestling with theories of how the universe works at its most fundamental level.

The holograms you find on credit cards and banknotes are etched on two-dimensional plastic films. When light bounces off them, it recreates the appearance of a 3D image. In the 1990s physicists Leonard Susskind and Nobel prizewinner Gerard 't Hooft suggested that the same principle might apply to the universe as a whole. Our everyday experience might itself be a holographic projection of physical processes that take place on a distant, 2D surface.

The “holographic principle” challenges our sensibilities. It seems hard to believe that you woke up, brushed your teeth and are reading this article because of something happening on the boundary of the universe. No one knows what it would mean for us if we really do live in a hologram, yet theorists have good reasons to believe that many aspects of the holographic principle are true.

Susskind and 't Hooft's remarkable idea was motivated by ground-breaking work on black holes by Jacob Bekenstein of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Israel and Stephen Hawking at the University of Cambridge. In the mid-1970s, Hawking showed that black holes are in fact not entirely “black” but instead slowly emit radiation, which causes them to evaporate and eventually disappear. This poses a puzzle, because Hawking radiation does not convey any information about the interior of a black hole. When the black hole has gone, all the information about the star that collapsed to form the black hole has vanished, which contradicts the widely affirmed principle that information cannot be destroyed. This is known as the black hole information paradox (re: What happens when you throw an elephant into a black hole?). …

Continue reading on Our world may be a giant hologram – space – 15 January 2009 – New Scientist.

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Edwin Abbott Abbott wrote a science fiction story in 1884 called Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions that was an allegory to social hierarchy of Victorian culture. The story is about a two-dimensional world referred to as Flatland. The unnamed narrator, a humble square (the social caste of gentlemen and professionals), guides us through some of the implications of life in two dimensions. The Square has a dream about a visit to a one-dimensional world (Lineland), and attempts to convince the realm’s ignorant monarch of a second dimension, but finds that it is essentially impossible to make him see outside of his eternally straight line. (Source: Wikipedia).

The book is out of copyright and is available in its entirety here: Google Books: Flatland.

A movie version was made in 2007. Here’s its trailer.

Original Tour de France

As you know, the Tour de France began in 1903 as some sort of wild-hair publicity scheme for the sports daily L’Auto, a paper that eventually evolved into what is now L’Equipe. The race differed remarkably from the one we know and love today. The original Tour could probably best be described as a synthesis of a modern stage race, that exercise in sleep deprivation known as the Race Across America (RAAM) and a mountain bike race, held under original NORBA rules.

Like the Tour, it was a stage race. Like RAAM, the first Tour was an individual sport, with no cooperation between riders allowed. Like an old NORBA race, riders were completely on their own, required to provide their own support and mechanical assistance.

The 1903 Tour de France was 2468 kilometers (editor: 1534 miles), but involved only six stages. These things were monsters, ranging from the shortest ? Stage 4’s 268km (editor: 167 miles) run from Toulouse to Bordeaux ? to the longest, Stage 6 from Nantes to Paris at 471km (editor: 293 miles). (Obviously, the Tour’s tradition of turning the final stage into a victory parade for the overall leader hadn’t yet taken hold.) Instead of one or two formal rest days as we now see, the 1903 Tour’s stages were separated by gaps of several days. The 1903 Tour began in Paris in July 1 and ended in Paris on July 19.

You can see from the finishing times that things must have been quite different than they are today. Frenchman Maurice Garin won the first Tour, with an impressive time of 94 hours, 33 minutes and 14 seconds. Lucien Pothier finished second, two hours and 49 minutes behind the winner. If you think that’s a substantial time gap, keep in mind that there was a whopping 63-hour gap between the first and 20th-place finishers. They’d obviously not come up with the concept of a time cut, either, leaving attrition to make those calls. Indeed, of the 60 starters, only 21 finished.

Continue reading: Velonews | The Explainer – Disqualified!

Intolerance in the classroom

As the media keeps gushing on about how America has finally adopted tolerance as the great virtue, and that we’re all united now, let’s consider the Brave Catherine Vogt Experiment.

Catherine Vogt, 14, is an Illinois 8th grader, the daughter of a liberal mom and a conservative dad. She wanted to conduct an experiment in political tolerance and diversity of opinion at her school in the liberal suburb of Oak Park.

She noticed that fellow students at Gwendolyn Brooks Middle School overwhelmingly supported Barack Obama for president. His campaign kept preaching “inclusion,” and she decided to see how included she could be.

So just before the election, Catherine consulted with her history teacher, then bravely wore a unique T-shirt to school and recorded the comments of teachers and students in her journal. The T-shirt bore the simple yet quite subversive words drawn with a red marker:

“McCain Girl.”

“I was just really curious how they’d react to something that different, because a lot of people at my school wore Obama shirts and they are big Obama supporters,” Catherine told us. “I just really wanted to see what their reaction would be.”

Immediately, Catherine learned she was stupid for wearing a shirt with Republican John McCain’s name. Not merely stupid. Very stupid.

“People were upset. But they started saying things, calling me very stupid, telling me my shirt was stupid and I shouldn’t be wearing it,” Catherine said.

Then it got worse. …

Continue reading, Tolerance fails T-shirt test.

She ultimately turned her experience in as a history report. And then as a class they discussed the issues of intolerance:

… she turned her journal into a report for her history teacher, earning Catherine extra credit. We asked the teacher, Norma Cassin-Pountney, whether it was ironic that Catherine would be subject to such intolerance from pro-Obama supporters in a community that prides itself on its liberal outlook.

“That’s what we discussed,” Cassin-Pountney said about the debate in the classroom when the experiment was revealed. “I said, here you are, promoting this person [Obama] that believes we are all equal and included, and look what you’ve done? The students were kind of like, ‘Oh, yeah.’ I think they got it.”

In order to be more scientific, this would have needed to be a coordinated effort throughout the country. For example, with this single test, we don’t know what the reaction would have been had Catherine worn the Obama t-shirt first. An interesting experiment still.

Google Flu Trends

Google has analyzed their billions of searches and discovered that flu-related searches correlate with actual CDC epidemiological data. From their FAQ,

We have found a close relationship between how many people search for flu-related topics and how many people actually have flu symptoms. Of course, not every person who searches for “flu” is actually sick, but a pattern emerges when all the flu-related search queries from each state and region are added together. We compared our query counts with data from a surveillance system managed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and discovered that some search queries tend to be popular exactly when flu season is happening. By counting how often we see these search queries, we can estimate how much flu is circulating in various regions of the United States.

During the 2007-2008 flu season, an early version of Google Flu Trends was used to share results each week with the Epidemiology and Prevention Branch of the Influenza Division at CDC. Across each of the nine surveillance regions of the United States, we were able to accurately estimate current flu levels one to two weeks faster than published CDC reports.

This year Google has released their flu trends data to the public. Epidemiologists hope that early outbreaks of influenza may be detected with this method vs. relying on traditional CDC data.

Middle Class Would Pay Less Under McCain Tax Plan

A closer look at the Obama and McCain tax plans for the reveals that it is not just the “rich” taxpayers earning more than $200,000 that would face higher rates under Obama than under McCain’s tax proposal.

The reason for this is simple: McCain expands the exemptions families can take under both the regular and alternative minimum tax schedules. Obama offers nothing new to this group. Our analysis shows that for an Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) of $50,000 or more, a household would face a higher rate under Obama’s tax plan than under McCain’s. That is hardly a “rich” household. Adjusted Gross Income is the pre-exemptions and deductions income reported on tax forms, and many middle class households would have AGI of at least $50,000.

Continue reading on The Foundry.

Wisdom Dispenser

During this election year let’s be reminded of these words:

* You cannot help the poor, by destroying the rich.

* You cannot strengthen the weak, by weakening the strong.

* You cannot bring about prosperity, by discouraging thrift.

* You cannot lift the wage earner up, by pulling the wage payer down.

* You cannot further the brotherhood of man, by inciting class hatred.

* You cannot build character and courage, by taking away people’s initiative and independence.

* You cannot help people permanently, by doing for them what they could and should, do for themselves.

Do you recognize the author?

It was Abraham Lincoln

Very, very wise words, written years ago and we still don’t get it…..

My Worry This Election Season

I’m really worried that too many young people will look at the superficial Obama, the well-spoken man who promises much, and yet fail to understand that taxing and creating a larger central government are not ways to improve the economy. If Obama does win, I’ll at least be fortunate enough to be earning a small salary as a resident for his single four-year term and, therefore, not have to distribute as much of my hard work to the large number of Americans that contribute little but expect the government to provide everything for them. One can only hope that he is promising this redistribution only to get elected and then back down to a moderate view. Unfortunately, that may not be the case and it may take four years for the American people to realize the fallacy of their ways. Hopefully, McCain will be able to get the message out on the drastic difference between him and Obama on health care, the economy, and the military.

Sadly, here’s a YouTube video of a typical starry eyed Obama supporter, saying “I won’t have to worry about putting gas in my car. I won’t have to worry about paying my mortgage. If I help him, he’s gonna help me.” Just what does she think Obama will do? Give her free money, free health care, free gas? The money has to come from somewhere. What slippery slope towards socialism are we being led down?

Obama’s Economic Agenda

Presidential candidate Barack Obama’s mantra for change in economic policies amounts to this: a huge increase in redistribution of income at the hands of the federal government. While Obama refers to this as a “net” tax cut, raising taxes on the top 5 percent and lowering taxes or increasing outright benefits for the other 95 percent simply amounts to an indisputably massive increase in redistribution and ultimately very little meaningful change.

To hear Obama and other Democrats describe our current policies, one might think that we do very little to help the poor and disadvantaged. But Americans already transfer more than a trillion dollars a year to low-income households. That’s a lot of money. Before we endorse Obama’s agenda of more of the same, shouldn’t we ask him what benefits a trillion dollars a year have yielded so far? Has that money reduced dependency? Has it solved the problems associated with poverty and inequality? Are more disadvantaged children being raised in stable two-parent families today than 50 years ago?

Since Obama believes that “in America, prosperity has always risen from the bottom up,” he should be genuinely concerned with imposing higher marginal tax rates on non-rich Americans. But economists will be more concerned with the higher rates on that top 5 percent because we know that the “rich” play a crucial role in financing the economy’s investments and new business start-ups and in producing the technological innovations so critical to improving our prosperity. Higher marginal tax rates on the “rich” are certain to reduce the contributions they make to the well being of all Americans.

Increasing marginal tax rates as Obama proposes may in the short run improve the material well-being of lower income Americans (at the expense of higher income Americans), but in the long run it will lead to slower economic growth and lower incomes for most people in the future. Economic research suggests that our current redistributive policies have already reduced the average American’s before-tax income by 25 percent. This is the hidden cost of redistribution that is well documented in economics literature, but rarely acknowledged in media discussions. That cost will become larger in the future if Obama’s economic agenda is put into place.

Continue reading, Obama’s Economic Agenda: This Is Change?

Marching Towards Socialism

Quote of the week from a liberal caller that I heard on talk radio: “It is the government’s job to create equality through taxation.”

Wow! What a horrible idea. With less incentive to work hard, this equality would drop to the least common denominator and the economy would crumble. Kind of like Obama’s idea of taxing the profitable companies that support this country and distributing the wealth to the people that don’t even pay taxes. This isn’t even a tax cut for them but simply a handout by redistribution.

Here’s John McCain’s take on this in one of his radio addresses:

Joe explained that he works for a small plumbing and heating company. He’s been thinking about maybe taking over the business when his boss retires. Problem is, that would make Joe one of millions of small business owners who face a sudden increase in taxes under my opponent’s tax plan.

That didn’t seem fair to Joe. He wanted to know why Barack Obama plans to raise taxes on folks who are trying to start or grow a business and create jobs for others. And fairness aside, at a time of serious economic crisis, punishing job creators didn’t seem like a real good way to kick-start a recovery.

My opponent’s answer showed that economic recovery isn’t even his top priority. His goal, as Senator Obama put it, is to “spread the wealth around.”

You see, he believes in redistributing wealth, not in policies that help us all make more of it. Joe, in his plainspoken way, said this sounded a lot like socialism. And a lot of Americans are thinking along those same lines. In the best case, “spreading the wealth around” is a familiar idea from the American left. And that kind of class warfare sure doesn’t sound like a “new kind of politics.”

This would also explain some big problems with my opponent’s claim that he will cut income taxes for 95 percent of Americans. You might ask: How do you cut income taxes for 95 percent of Americans, when more than 40 percent pay no income taxes right now? How do you reduce the number zero?

Well, that’s the key to Barack Obama’s whole plan: Since you can’t reduce taxes on those who pay zero, the government will write them all checks called a tax credit. And the Treasury will cover those checks by taxing other people, including a lot of folks just like Joe.

In other words, Barack Obama’s tax plan would convert the IRS into a giant welfare agency, redistributing massive amounts of wealth at the direction of politicians in Washington. I suppose when you’ve voted against lowering taxes 94 times, as Senator Obama has done, a new definition of the term “tax credit” comes in handy.

At least in Europe, the Socialist leaders who so admire my opponent are upfront about their objectives. They use real numbers and honest language. And we should demand equal candor from Senator Obama. Raising taxes on some in order to give checks to others is not a tax cut it’s just another government giveaway.

What’s more, the Obama tax increase would come at the worst possible time for America, and especially for small businesses like the one Joe dreams of owning. Small businesses provide 16 million jobs in America. And a sudden tax hike will kill those jobs at a time when need to be creating more jobs.

Fortunately, America has an alternative to the phony tax cut my opponent started talking about only months ago. The McCain-Palin tax cut is the real thing. Among our other serious tax reforms, we’re going to reduce every income tax bill in America, and double the child deduction for every family. We will cut the capital gains tax. And we will cut business taxes to help create jobs, and keep American businesses in America.