If we could understand how the Axelotl salamander regenerates body parts, perhaps eternal youth would be in our grasp. Or not. Most likely we will destroy them first. Fascinating creature.
ASAP Science have posted this lab rule song. Important rules to remember for beginners and experts with a nicely done irreverent tone.
Reblogging this incredibly interesting tribute to Joe Polchinski ‘s D-Branes.
Polchinski — Joe, to all his colleagues — had one of those brains that works magic, and works magically. Scientific minds are as individual as personalities. Each physicist has a unique combination of talents and skills (and weaknesses); in modern lingo, each of us has a superpower or two. Rarely do you find two scientists who have the same ones.
Joe had several superpowers, and they were really strong. He had a tremendous knack for looking at old problems and seeing them in a new light, often overturning conventional wisdom or restating that wisdom in a new, clearer way. And he had prodigious technical ability, which allowed him to follow difficult calculations all the way to the end, on paths that would have deterred most of us.
One of the greatest privileges of my life was to work with Joe, not once but four times. I think I can best tell you a little about him, and about some of his greatest achievements, through the lens of that unforgettable experience.
[To my colleagues: this post was obviously written in trying circumstances, and it is certainly possible that my memory of distant events is foggy and in error. I welcome any corrections that you might wish to suggest.]
Our papers between 1999 and 2006 were a sequence of sorts, aimed at understanding more fully the profound connection between quantum field theory — the language of particle physics — and string theory — best-known today as a candidate for a quantum theory of gravity. In each of those papers, as in many thousands of others written after 1995, Joe’s most influential contribution to physics played a central role. This was the discovery of objects known as “D-branes”, which he found in the context of string theory. (The term is a generalization of the word `membrane’.)
I can already hear the Lee Smolins and Peter Woits of the world screaming at me. ‘A discovery in string theory,’ some will shout, pounding the table, ‘an untested theory that’s not even wrong, should not be called a discovery in physics.’ Pay them no mind; they’re not even close, as you’ll see by the end of my remarks………………………..
The rest of the article is on Matt Strassler‘s blog.
Propaganda is an odd phenomenon. In spite of the many lies we are told on a daily basis, we accept propaganda as true. Religion, states, science and cultures utilize propaganda in their socialization of individuals as productive members of society. Take biological sex. Many/most people are taught that there are only two sexes, male and female. Attempts to change status quo meets strong resistance. Introduction of third-gender options for birth-certificates, passports, bank papers or other legal documents exemplify how difficult necessary change is. Yet protestations do stop nature from diversifying sexual organs.
Consequences of political cowardice and voter attitudes are harsh for people who are born intersex. Horror stories regarding unsafe health personnel, their dissemination about long term effects and unnecessary operations of healthy children illustrate how dangerous propaganda is. Intersex individuals certainly do not support such assumptions.
While modern medical personnel perpetuate the myth of binary genders, they only spout what medical colleges and universities teach them. Teachers bring with them their own socialization which is based on whatever philosophical background they come from. The West, Middle-East, Asia and Africa all take part in abusing intersex children. Religion plays a large part in cultural philosophies and most religions speak only of male and female, with male as the standard against which all else is measured. Yet biology does not, in the least, care about propaganda people are socialized into.
Genitals start out looking the same. Not until the fetus is between 9 and 12 weeks is it possible to see which main direction their external and internal genitalia will take. From then on the phalloclitoris develops according to the hormonal output from our brains. The phalloclitoris is the soft organ that either stretches out into some kind of penis or it may split and grow internally to lie on either side of the vaginal canal. Nerve endings in the phalloclitoris render it highly sensitive to touch and is likely to produce pleasurable sensations. Removing parts of the phalloclitoris, because it does not fit with conventional opinions about biological sex, is sexual mutilation. Some children are born with a large external phalloclitoris complete with testicles plus a fully functioning uterus and ovaries (2011) Occasionally, teenagers begin menstruating through their penises. Others, like “Bob“, do not discover this reproductive combination until adulthood, and there are people who have lived with a combination of reproductive systems their entire lives without knowing. In the Dominican Republic there are people called guevedoces who begin life as girls and develop penises at puberty. Their status goes from female to male. In extremely rare instances a person may even have one side of their body develop along one line while the other side develops along the other.
The current system does not match reality and reality is what ought to be represented in bureaucracy’s obsession with labels, not an outdated patriarchal world-view that seems to think that an external and large phalloclitoris is the norm to which all else must bow. In Norway medical professionals claim it is unhealthy for the child to have unusual genitals, unlike New York which celebrates a birth certificate designating intersex as a gender. Germany allows genderless birth certificates and France has a neutral gender option on birth certificates. None have gone as far as Malta. In 2015 Malta chose to outlaw forced genital surgical intervention on minors, and I hope that the rest of the world soon joins them in ending this practice of genital mutilation. Only the person with the genitalia should decide what to do with their own bodies.
There are many theories about why we think and behave as we do. Be they as they may, but the real reason we do what we do, say what we say, and think what we think, lies here:
“The human race is just a chemical scum on a moderate-sized planet, orbiting around a very average star in the outer suburb of one among a hundred billion galaxies. We are so insignificant that I can’t believe the whole universe exists for our benefit. That would be like saying that you would disappear if I closed my eyes.” (Stephen Hawking from an interview with Ken Campbell on the 1995 show “Reality on the Rocks: Beyond Our Ken”)
Brainwashing is something that happens to all of us. Often we are brainwashed to the point of blindness. Letting go is immensely difficult. My religious beliefs, cultural beliefs and common-sense beliefs have all needed pruning. In the Mormon church members are taught that humans may one day become as gods, creating worlds of our own. Culture taught me that humans have a Right to nature. From common-sense lessons, I learned that humans were much more intelligent and complex than other living creatures. One after the other, these flawed and dangerous beliefs have been revised.
Letting go of the idea of my own importance was intimidating at first. I had to defy the advice of Mormon leaders to NOT seek outside sources. Ready access to information on the net made that possible for me. Today information is accessible to a degree I can barely comprehend. Some of it is garbage, but much information on the net is verifiable and valid. Learning Truth has been amazing, beautiful, freeing and mind-opening.
Now. Now I believe that I have no more or less right to exist than any other living creature. By life, I mean any collection of atoms that enables a creature to consume another. Everything from single-celled life to the collection of cells, bacteria and fungi that make up my body. My cells are no more significant than other cells that exist. Except to me, that is, and a very small circle of family and friends. Understanding that plants have their own form of communication and discoveries about other animals‘ helped me realize that intelligence, as humans define it, isn’t a valid definition for all life-forms. After all, we humans seem to happily destroys vital life-sources for short-term gains, and that seems pretty stupid to me.
Right now, in North Dakota, the US Government is deciding whether it will break another treaty with Native Americans. The Dakota Access Pipeline will trek across vital food and water sources. We shall see how corrupt the judge making the decision is. Wars (conflicts) about water are likely to become more common as clean water becomes scarcer. At times it feels as though the only reason countries, organizations or communities go war is short-term gain, yet long-term consequences for current life may be dire. Western culture pollutes to an unprecedented degree. Air-pollutants, water-pollutants, land-pollutants and light-pollutants are all a symbol of our consumer-addicted economies. Humans are committing species’ suicide and ecological murder. Most of us probably don’t even care. Empathy for future generations and other life-forms is sadly lacking in our evolutionary development. In more than one way, Hawking’s description of humans as self-important “chemical scum” seems fitting.
First Sight and Second Thoughts, that’s what a witch had to rely on: First Sight to see what’s really there, and Second Thoughts to watch the First Thoughts to check that they were thinking right. Then there were the Third Thoughts, which Tiffany had never heard discussed and therefore kept quiet about; they were odd, seemed to think for themselves, and didn’t turn up very often. (Wintersmith by Terry Pratchett)
In 1999 I started on what would end up being a BA in culture and society = 2 years of psychology and 1 year of sociology. Until that time I had lived uncomfortably with my worldviews and life. Throughout the study-years I learned about the processes that interfere with being able to see reality. Cognitive dissonance and the mob effect are the ones I am best able to recognize in my own lives.
From what I can see the world, in general, is ruled through mob rule. Very few of us sit back and take time/have time to reflect on how our neighborhoods, cities, countries or the world have come to be the way they have. Social influences are ignored because our lives run smoother that way. Our own choices are rationalized with whatever thought-exercise we need to justify whatever it is we have done/are doing/are about to do. Myself included.
Becoming handicapped in a manner that leaves much time for thought and reflection has brought with it a lowering of my personal physical quality of life. In many ways it has forced a heightening of my mental quality of life (although my emotional one often takes a hit). Now I find myself having to ask both second and third thought questions.
Sometimes when we ask questions, the answers we find are neither pleasant nor pretty. People in general, myself included, do not seem to want to understand just how greatly our own values undermine the existence of mammals (humans included) on Earth. My own country is very much part of this destructiveness.
This is the world as I see it:
Realizing, accepting and internalizing that humans make up a tiny fragment of the world is one of my permanent goals. It is in seeing myself as part of the in-group “residents on Tellus”, rather than human/mammal/animal, that motivates me to work harder for continued life on earth, even if that life ends up being without humans.
What would the world be without engineers? Much poorer for sure. Here is what happens when one engineer decides what would be fun to do during a family reunion:
Rising like monoliths from ancient times on the western edge of the Sandhills of Nebraska stands a formation of vehicles from days gone by.
Is it a temple for sun worship, a healing centre, a burial site or perhaps a huge calendar? Did ancient people in hooded robes move the mighty structures from distant lands and then, using only the most primitive of tools, build this amazing structure?
Carhenge, which replicates Stonehenge, consists of the circle of cars, 3 standing trilithons within the circle, the heel stone, slaughter stone, and 2 station stones and includes a “Car Art Preserve” with sculptures made from cars and parts of cars.
Located just north of Alliance, Nebraska, Carhenge is formed from vintage American automobiles, painted gray to replicate Stonehenge. Built by Jim Reinders as a memorial to his father, it was dedicated at the June 1987 summer solstice.
Is it a socio-economic statement? Is it art? A car lover’s passion? Is it a photographer’s delight? Is it quirky? Do you get a mystical, magical feeling by standing within the Henge? … ummmm,,,,,,,Could be………..
August 21, 2017, Carhenge will be in the direct path of the Total Solar Eclipse at 17:49 (UT) or 10:49 am (MT) More information HERE …….
The answer to this question is kind of given. But the why is something that needs explaining and is something I do not have either the math nor the ability to explain. Chris, on the other hand, does. His explanations are in layperson terms and fun to read. So: “If I hammered and flattened a penny enough, could I cover the entire earth with it?”
No. If you spread out the atoms from a single penny over the entire surface of the earth, you would no longer have a single piece of solid material since the atoms would be too far apart to bond to each other. Let’s do some careful calculations to show this result. A modern Unites States penny has a mass of 2.500 grams according to the US Mint. Since a penny is composed of 97.50% zinc and 2.50% copper, it therefore contains 2.4375 grams of zinc and 0.0625 grams of copper. At a molar mass of 65.380 grams per mole for zinc and 63.546 grams per mole for copper, a penny therefore contains 0.037282 moles of zinc and 0.00098354 moles of copper. Since a mole of atoms contains 6.0221 × 1023 atoms, there are 2.2452 × 1022 zinc atoms and 5.9230 × 1020 copper atoms in a penny, for a total of 2.3044 × 1022 atoms in a penny.
The earth has a surface area of 510,072,000 square kilometers, or 5.10072 × 1032 square nanometers. The surface area of the earth really depends on what you include in your definition of surface. For instance, if we wish to cover the area of every leaf on every tree and shrub with atoms from the penny, then this will change our answer. Surprisingly, it will not change our answer very much. Most of the earth is covered in relativity flat oceans, sandy deserts, snow fields, barren rocks, and meadows. Trees, shrubs, buildings, and other irregularly-shaped objects only cover a very small percentage of the earth (trees and buildings seem common to most of us humans because most of us live near crowded concentrations of trees and/or buildings). At any rate, we must pick some definition of earth’s surface area to make any calculations. The number cited above does not include the surface area of tree leaves and other small irregularities. In the context of trying to cover the earth with a flattened penny, you can think of this definition of surface area as us lowering a sheet of zinc so that it drapes along the tops of the trees, but does not wrap around any of the leaves or branches of the trees. The thinnest we could ever hammer a sheet of material is one atom thick. We therefore assume that we are creating a one-atom-thick planar sheet of material. Using the above value for earth’s surface area, we divide it by the number of atoms in a penny to find how much area each atom will occupy when the atoms are spread evenly across earth’s surface. We get the value of 2.21347 × 1010 square nanometers per atom, or 0.0000343 square inches per atom. This may seem like a small area, but it is huge compared to the types of areas spanned by simple molecules. ………………………………
The rest of the article can be found on Christopher Baird’s blog
Many people feel there must be a purpose to being human, a meaning to all the suffering in the world. There has to be an after that rights all the wrongs and keeps our identities eternal. I hold no such beliefs. Once our lives are over, what makes us who we are disappears.
For some that happens sooner, rather than later. Terry Pratchett is one of the many examples of losing oneself before death through Alzheimer. Other diseases may cause a change of identity. Various forms of damage to the brain brings about dysfunctions we did not previously have.
If I had to dig up one meaning to life, it would be the instinct to spread our genetic material as far and wide as possible. Humans seem to excel at that to an extent that makes war a regular occurrence in a struggle for resources. For a species that prides itself on its development away from instincts (yes, some of my professors actually thought that was the case), we have remarkably low instinct-control.
Rant: Prevention people! It has been around for quite some time. Perhaps lowering birth numbers would help so the interval between wars might increase. I doubt Death would miss the work.
Sometimes I hear the argument that death cannot be the end of all. In a sense, such arguments are correct. Energy is as old as our universe and it certainly does not disappear into empty air once we die. What happens after death is a fascinating and gross process that changes the way our energy expresses itself. This quote gives a great description of the transformation of energy that happens upon death:
In terms of physical energy, the difference between a living body and a very recently dead body is just a question of how that energy is being organized. Living critters in general are very good at using chemical energy for things like moving, growing, etc. Newly dead critters have about the same amount of chemical energy, it’s just that they don’t use it. Instead, whatever comes along to consume the body uses it (whether that’s fire or decomposition or whatever). ()
Knowing that I, metaphorically speaking, have existed since the Big Poof and shall continue to do so in ever changing forms until nothing is left of the universe is freaking amazing.