The universe is a big place. Its so big that it is difficult if not impossible to wrap your brain around. And it just got a lot more difficult. The previous estimate for the number of galaxies in the universe was 200 billion, each galaxy itself containing about 300 billion star systems and each star system represents a chance of harboring complex life. The new estimate is a ten fold increase which brings the number to 2 trillion and can be found here: https://arxiv.org/pdf/1607.03909v2.pdf
What is a trillion anyway? I don’t know. I mean I know what a trillion is. Its a 1 followed by a whole bunch of zeros. But what is it really? The image below, that I may or may not have borrowed, helps conceptualize it a bit. Just imagine each bill representing 100 stars. And also imagine the guy standing next to all those stars not vaporizing….as a matter of fact forget the guy altogether but just use it a reference to see how millions billions and trillions compare to each other. I mean if you want to imagine the guy being vaporized you could do that too.
So as you can clearly see a trillion is totally a lot more than a million or billion. A lot lot more. How the hell did those crazy scientists figure this out? Through the development of more accurate instruments and the painstaking task of analyzing data / images from those instruments. An International team of researchers took a look at tiny snapshots of the sky and counted. Or probably developed a computer program to count for them. They then took the amount of stars they counted per size of the sky being examined and extrapolated outwards to the area of the sky unexamined.
This is a very exciting announcement for a few reasons:
- Higher probability of the existence of fucking aliens…..seriously though.
- Higher probability of other cool shit
- We know so little about the universe and that’s ok.
When science is at its best it is falsifiable. That’s what makes science the best tool of examining the world around us. Because of bias and other flaws in both humanity’s nature but also things such as instrumentation this is very important. Our ideas and world view shouldn’t be static. They should be plastic and able to be changed in my opinion because as far as I can tell there are no absolute perfect truths.
“I can live with doubt and uncertainty and not knowing. I think its much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers that might be wrong.” Richard Feynman
Happy Black History Month!
All humans can draw their roots back to the continent of Africa. There is some debate about when exactly our species and other species migrated from there but there is no credible evidence to support the idea that hominids and our specific genus (Homo) came from anywhere but Africa.
The earliest anatomically modern human remains were discovered in Ethiopia and date back to roughly 195,000 years ago and were dubbed “Omo remains.” Evolutionarily we are infants but I digress. The date was determined by examining the surrounding soil’s radioactive argon content. Additional anatomically similar remains were also found in the same layer and surrounding soil was found to be a match and thus supported the original time stamp.
Meet your great great great great great great great great great great grandfather:
We owe everything to our African ancestors. The road they traveled was not an easy one. Roughly 70,000 years ago there was an extinction event caused by the eruption of a supervolcano dubbed Toba. It was about 1000 times more powerful than Vesuvias. Six hundred fifty cubic miles of vaporized rock were thrust into the air which dimmed the sky for 5-10 years. This in turn caused cooling in some places by as much as 20 degrees. Food was in short supply. Internet was down for sure. Our numbers dwindled to somewhere between 1,000 and 10,000 breeding pairs of Homo sapiens.
Its quite remarkable that we are still here. And its all thanks to our ancient African ancestors.
It seems that the GMO genie is out of the bottle. But is it a good idea?
I think its a great idea. I’m just not so sure if we know exactly what the hell we are doing. Genetics is a complex field of knowledge. Geneticists claim they are five years away from completely understanding everything….. as they have been claiming for decades. It is far from being completely understood.
GMO is short for a “genetically modified organism.” While it is true that humans have been modifying the genome of organisms for millennia it is not true that we have been modifying the genetic code in the same sense that we are currently doing when we speak of genetic modification. There are a few important distinctions:
- Prior to the 1980’s we didn’t insert dna directly into the genome. The process was done through selective breeding. It is worth mentioning that this has also been shown to have some very negative side effects.
Study shows domestication of dogs led to an increase in harmful genetic changes
- Prior to the 1980’s we didn’t insert genes of another species or even another kingdom of life.
- Inserting uniform genes across populations reduces genetic variance.
Manipulating a genome through selective breeding is considered a much safer approach than directly inserting genes. But even this isn’t without consequence. Normally genes are chosen by the conditions of nature, the environment that the species lives in. As a result you will find organisms well suited for their environment in a balanced ecosystem. When humans decide what genes to include or exclude in a population the decisions are based on what is immediately beneficial for us.
We want it to provide a greater yield so it could feed more people or in the case of corporations they are based on the desire of shareholders to make them more money. While there is a possibility that the decision could yield more money and just by pure chance also make the organism more well suited for an ecological niche the probability is low.
I’ll speak on the other two points on a post later this week.
I would love to hear thoughts on what I’ve said so far!
Today marks the day when the sun god begins its triumph (albeit temporary) over the dark. Since the summer solstice, in the northern hemisphere, darkness has progressively defeated the light. The amount of sunlight has decreased about 2 minutes each and every day until today. We will gain back 2 minutes of light until the summer solstice 6 months away.
With the light comes renewed life. The Egyptian sun god Amun Ra has defeated Set and will begin to breathe energy into nature once again. The spirit behind the idea is literally what happens. I can’t blame people for worshiping our sun as a god. It’s energy comes to us in the form of photons and is absorbed by plant material which in turn will feed the planet. The celtic cross is a symbol of the movement of the sun relative to the earth or actually vice versa and the 4 seasons that this movement represents.
Many of the modern traditions for religious holidays are adaptations from earlier myths. For example evergreen pine trees held a special place in the hearts of celtic people. Plants were considered sacred by most archaic people and rightfully so. Much of the tree of life depends on it to be the middle man between it and the star at the center of our solar system.
Early pagans would move a tree into their homes to symbolize the rebirth of nature soon to come. The lighting of the tree was symbolic of the lengthened days soon to come. I’ve discarded the rebranded holiday and this year my family has decided to celebrate the winter solstice. I don’t know much about it but I’m learning more each day and passing it on to my children who love it just the same.
What are your non traditional winter solstice celebrations?
Bitcoin bitcoin bictoin. I drive my wife nuts with all my bitcoin talk. At least I have an outlet now for all things bitcoin thanks to my blog.
One BTC is currently trading at $435, down from above $460 but above the value of $420 when I wrote my last post about the virtual currency. The value is certainly volatile as I mentioned in my last post but I have a feeling that it will reach upwards of $2,000 by mid 2016. I have nothing to base this off of except that is the currency of choice for the deep web and the knowledge that it has built in anti-inflatinary technology. There is a fixed amount of coins that can be created: 21 million. As long as BTC exist the value should be asymptotic more or less. The value will continue to increase until roughly 70% of the coins have been generated at which point it should begin to stabilize. Some estimates put the value at stabilization somewhere between $100,000-$1,000,000.
Others still put the value at about $0. I don’t see this as a strong possibility unless its use on the deep web is abandoned. Which could definitely happen but I dont see it.
Its pretty well entrenched and as each day passes it becomes more entrenched. Part of its draw is that it is almost as anonymous as cash can be when it is at its best. Sure the blockchain serves as a public ledger that records from which ip address the coin is coming from and to which ip address the bitcoin is going but that is easily covered up through different means such as vpn’s and ip address spoofing.
I’m all for it. We should be free to do what we wish when we wish with our own money so long as we aren’t hurting anyone else. I would be naive to think that there isn’t any being used for illegal purposes but again if the transactions are being conducted by adults and no one is getting hurt who am I to judge?
I’m a peaceful socialanarchist and this resonates with me to a very high degree. I believe in personal liberties and so did the creators of bitcoin.
And thats why I fell in love with the idea behind it.
Bitcoin has a history of volatility no doubt but the overall movement has been upwards. It has withstood some major blows and in the face of all that adversity I think it is doing surprisingly well. Bitcoin is currently valued at about $420 usd per bitcoin. You don’t need a crystal ball to see that it will continue to climb in value, then crash, then go for another bull run and so on and so forth. But what the hell is it exactly?
Who the fuck knows.
Bitcoin is a virtual currency. Its open source. Its peer to peer so its decentralized. And its awesome. It can be used just as regular money can be used and it can also be used as an investment tool. I have a few friends who did very well by getting into bitcoin early. It has many advantages over the old electronic money system and cash. And of course it has its downsides.
Some of the pros:
Transferring funds is quick, usually under an hour, and cheap, typically 0.0001 BTC
Its super secure if you take the right measures
It isn’t currently regulated by any central authority.
Some of the cons:
None. Its fucking awesome. Ok maybe there are a few.
If you don’t take the right measures it can be super insecure.
If you don’t know what you’re doing you could lose your shirt. Pretty easily. One example would be sending money to an incorrect address.
No central authority and no safety net. It isn’t FDIC insured.
There is an adjustment period to using bitcoin. Users should educate themselves a good deal before ever purchasing one. Luckily there are plenty of people who are more than happy to help.
I’ll be back later on in the week with a post about it.
Please feel free to comment if you have anything to add or if you have any questions!
Although Einstein developed the foundation for quantum physics he was uncomfortable with its implications. Einstein said famously “God does not play dice” or something to that effect. Since the most accurate and experimentally verified explanation of the universe is one that does so by describing events probabilistically it appears as though he she or it does play dice. Or probably plays dice. At least a few days a week.
A universe that has events occurring probabilistically is a much more interesting one in my opinion. And as far as we can tell so far it appears that this is so. In my last post I spoke about how electron’s locations were said to be potentially here and potentially there. The highest likelihood of finding it would be somewhere close to the nucleus but there would also be a small possibility of finding it a few light years away. What we didn’t speak about directly is the possibility of finding the electron in two places at once. One electron…existing in two (or more) places at once. This strange quality of the electron, as improbable as it sounds, occurs very easily and happens all the time in certain situations. The video below gives a great description of it:
The Double Slit Experiment Dr. Quantum
Physics calls this strange quality superposition. The double slit experiment was first conducted in 1801 by a man by the name of Thomas Young. Young conducted the experiment with photons and it has been repeated with all kinds of matter, including complex molecules comprised of hundreds of atoms.
Its a mad world!
The Schrodinger Wave Equation was developed by Erwin Schrodinger and is ranks among the biggest breakthrough’s in the history of science. It serves as one of the pillars of quantum physics. The irony of the situation is that it wasn’t quite clear what the equation could be used for when it was first developed. It wasn’t known what the results actually meant however. Over time it became apparent that it was describing the location and energy of a particle in terms of probability. The time independent equation is shown below.
In the beginning of last century it was postulated that particles behaved both like particles AND waves. Schrodinger was the first person to prove this mathematically. Before the quantum revolution particles were described as having definite locations and other characteristics. As scientists began examining things a bit deeper it became clear that this was not the case. The most accurate description of our universe, including subatomic particles, suggested that the physical characteristics of things should best be described as probabilities. For example the location of an an electron, proton, atom, or even groups of atoms are not absolute. Their probable location of anything is both non zero percent and non one hundred percent for every possible location across space and time in the universe. While there is a higher probability for the electron existing close to the nucleus of a hydrogen atom but there is also a probability, albeit small, for the electron existing on the surface of Proxima Centauri which is over 4 light years away. That possibility of it being on Proxima Centauri is very very very very small and highly unlikely to actually happen. An event such as an electron moving across a few microns or even a few meters is still unlikely but not so unlikely as to not occur. These events are known as quantum tunneling, or as lay people know it: teleportation, and will be covered in a future post.
The picture below is a visual representation of the probability cloud of the various electron shells for the hydrogen atom. The bright areas are the areas of highest probability for the location of the electron and the darker areas have a lower probability of finding it but keep in mind although dark and unlikely there is a small possibility for finding the electron anywhere in the universe, no matter how much space and or time separate it from the nucleus.
Let all of this sink in.
Any questions or comments so far?
I’ll expand on this in my next post later on in the week on the 4th of December!
Until then may the force be with you!
Thanks so much for everyone’s support and interest in the blog. I’m not blowing away any records but traffic has been growing steadily and I couldn’t be happier.
Today we will be discussing some tweeks and advancements that will take 3D printing to the next level. These developments will make the device a true world changer. In my opinion a sufficiently advanced 3D printer will have a greater impact then the printing press, antibiotics, the transistor and even the internet. In this post I’ll focus on two additions to the 3D printing that are simply the synthesis between already existing technologies. Nothing new needs to be invented.
I can’t think of a thing that wouldn’t be better with a little nuclear fusion. Or maybe a lot of nuclear fusion. The benefits would be two fold. The first benefit of nuclear fusion is the amount of power that is released during the process. Fusing together two hydrogen ions, or protons, releases enormous amounts of energy, relative to the mass of the protons of course. Aside from matter-antimatter fusion proton-proton fusion is the most powerful process that we know of. It also has some very interesting byproducts. Unlike nuclear fission which produces dangerous radioactive heavy elements, fusion produces stable lighter elements as its waste. These waste products would be used as starting material to be used in the printer and the energy released can be used to power the printer with a great excess that will be used to power your house, car, etc.
Through the process of nucleosynthesis, aka the creation of heavier atomic nuclei, fusing protons will produce heavier elements. This process releases energy up until the production of Iron. After that the process becomes endothermic, or it requires more energy to make these things than is released. The basic process is that you would take two protons and smash them together, one of the protons degrades into a neutron and the element is called Deuterium. Then Deuterium is fused together with another proton, the proton degrades into a neutron and yet a new element is produced which is called Tritium. Deuterium and Tritium are isotopes of hydrogen in case you were wondering. If you fuse another proton to Tritium the result is something more familiar: Helium!
Nucleosynthesis occurs in stars and nuclear reactors but it also takes place in particle accelerators. Particle accelerators tend to be very large but they have shrunk dramatically in size over the decades. As of about 15 years ago they have been shrunk down to the size of a room. That might be small enough for our purposes but I imagine there are some that are even smaller by now, if not I would imagine they are on the horizon.
My other tweak that I thought of would be to integrate nanotechnology that would be able to assemble molecules from the elements that we produced in the previous step. Once we have these more complex compounds we would be able to assemble most anything we could design. I don’t think we would need to look any further than nature for inspiration. Organic processes in animals in plants produce a whole host of useful compounds. For example the chloroplasts in plants make sugars of many variety. These sugars can be linked together to form complex carbohydrates such as wood or chitin, the protective shell of insects. We will be able to mirror a lot of these methods and expand on them to build inorganic compounds as well.
What are your thoughts? What would you change or add to the 3D printing process to improve the technology?
This is a video of my friend Brian Leibowitz and myself. It was our first attempt at a podcast. Its long. Its a conversation. It needs to be cut up and published as a few “highlight” reels.
The gods of fate are not without their sense of humor. The attention hog that I am didn’t figure out how to make the podcast split screen and unintentionally made the entire video side of the recording of Brian and not me.
Anyway it was fun. I had a great time. It wasn’t as bad I had imagined.
Moving forward we plan on making it less conversational and more informative.
So without any further adieu….I give you…. 2 Nerds Nerding Out!!!!!