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Interesting Findings And World Unfolding Through My Eyes.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Bad Gods


Posted by Ajay :: 3:59 PM :: 0 comments

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UnderSea Life

The sea contains untold numbers of strange and bizarre creatures. It is said that we know more about our own solar system than we know about our oceans.

Indeed, some creatures of the sea can seem more alien than anything you can imagine.

But even worse, some of them can seem more frightening than your worst nightmare.

Below we have collected pictures of 24 CREATURES FROM THE DEEP!

Chimaeras are cartilaginous fish related to the sharks and rays, and are sometimes called ghost sharks or rabbitfishes. For defense, most chimaeras have a venomous spine located in front of the dorsal fin.
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Posted by Ajay :: 3:56 PM :: 0 comments

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What Newton Would do?

Monday, the Boston Globe ran an editorial that I found very irritating. The writer, Jeff Jacoby, points out that perhaps the greatest scientific mind of all time, Isaac Newton, was not only very religious, but was a young-Earth creationist. For Jacoby, this shows that science and religion can work hand in hand:

For Newton, it was axiomatic that religious inquiry and scientific investigation complemented each other. There were truths to be found in both of the “books” authored by God, the Book of Scripture and the Book of Nature — or as Francis Bacon called them, the “book of God’s word” and the “book of God’s works.” To study the world empirically did not mean abandoning religious faith. On the contrary: The more deeply the workings of Creation were understood, the closer one might come to the Creator. In the language of the 19th Psalm, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.”

Jacoby also has some fun with the idea that Newton today would never get a position at a University, let alone Cambridge, and in fact Jacoby spends much of his editorial on that subject:

When Genesis 1:1 says “In the beginning,” [Newton] determined, it means 3988 BC.

Not many modern universities are prepared to employ a science professor who espouses not merely “intelligent design” but out-and-out divine creation.

I call shenanigans.

Let me be clear: I am not saying that some aspects of religion and science cannot get along. But pointing out that Newton was a creationist is a total non-sequitor, and Jacoby’s conflating it with modern Universities just accentuates his error.

Newton was indeed one of if not the finest mind of his time… but he was of his time. You can’t simply pluck Newton out of the historical timeline and then mock Universities today for not accepting someone of his beliefs. You have to take this to its logical conclusion: if Newton were born today (or, let’s say, 30 years ago so he would be applying for tenure now), he wouldn’t be a young Earth creationist in the first place.

In Newton’s time, the largest telescopes were the ones he himself built. The sciences of geology, biology, astronomy, and anthropology were in their youth; at that time, the very foundations of the sciences were being (pardon the word) created, but the details, ah the details were lacking.

Consider: When Newton lived, Uranus and Neptune had not yet been discovered. Neither had any asteroids. The nature of the Milky Way Galaxy was almost totally unknown; they lacked the instruments and mathematics necessary to understand much of what they saw (math, incidentally, that Newton invented). They couldn’t possibly have known the terrible age of the Earth, how the continents moved. The discovery of radioactivity was 150 years in the future when Newton lay dying, and its use as a clock for geologic eras was still more years later.

If Newton were born today, he wouldn’t have to invent the parabolic mirror telescope; instead, he could use one– perhaps one orbiting the Earth. He wouldn’t have to invent calculus; by the age of 20 he would have mastered it. He could then use it, apply it to his observations. We stand on the shoulders of giants, and that allows us to see very far indeed. Newton was one of those giants, but today’s Newton would see even farther.

If Newton were born today, he wouldn’t be a creationist. He’d be a cosmologist.

So please, spare me the ridiculous comparisons of smart people who are or were creationists. In Newton’s time it was all there was, but today we understand so much more. And of course there is more to see, and always, always more to learn.

But all that we have learned so far is unequivocally at odds with young Earth creationism, and Universities are absolutely right for not wanting to have a YEC teach their classes.

The analogy is ridiculous, and insulting. Newton didn’t see far because he was a creationist, he saw far because he was a genius. Asking what it would be like for him today is the wrong question, since it is posed so poorly. But a much more fair question to ask is: how much farther might he have seen had he not been a creationist? And how many Newtons are out there now, but having their vision dimmed by the fog?

Posted by Ajay :: 10:23 AM :: 0 comments

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When Batman Speaks On Budget

Excellent illustration by artist Mike Mitchell ).

As Mike tells it: “I wanted to do a Batman limited by a middle class income. He still manages to fight crime though..”
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Posted by Ajay :: 10:18 AM :: 0 comments

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Hillary Meets Karl Marx

Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney took aim at Democratic rivals on Sunday, calling them all unprepared to lead the country and comparing Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's economic plan to that of Socialist Karl Marx.

"It would be helpful to have a person leading the country who understands how the economy works and has actually managed something," the former Massachusetts governor told reporters after a GOP fundraiser. "In the case of the three Democratic front-runners, not one of them has managed even a corner store, let alone a state or a city."

Romney, who leads Republicans in New Hampshire, has focused his criticism in recent weeks on Clinton, Sen. Barack Obama and former Sen. John Edwards rather than rival Republicans. It's a strategy he hopes will help him maintain his lead over Sen. John McCain and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

"I wanted to focus on the Democrats," he said. "By and large, the best way to further my interest is to let people know what I would do and to distinguish that from what the Democrats would do."

His prime target was Clinton.

"Hillary Clinton just gave a speech the other day about her view on the economy. She said we have been an on-your-own society. She said it's time to get rid of that and replace that with shared responsibility and we're-in-it-together society," Romney told the crowd. "That's out with Adam Smith and in with Karl Marx."

A Clinton spokeswoman shot back, challenging Romney's record.

"Given how often Romney flip-flops, tomorrow he will be touting his membership in the Communist Party," Kathleen Strand said.

Romney also repeated his criticism of Sen. John Edwards.

"To have someone like Senator Edwards stand up and say there's not a war on terror, that it's a Bush bumper sticker" is unacceptable, he said. "There is a war being waged by the terrorists. If I or any other Republican president is running this country, there will be a war waged on the terrorists."

An Edwards spokeswoman said Romney's own vacillations should give voters pause.

"It seems the only thing that Governor Romney has chosen to stand firm on is the misguided, out-of-touch belief that we should continue with George Bush's failed foreign policy in Iraq," Kate Bedingfield said.

Romney also attacked Obama's health care plan.

"Barack Obama said we're going to have to have the government take over health care. He at least had the integrity to say he wants to raise your taxes," Romney said. "The right answer is not a government takeover, it's not socialized medicine. It's not Hillarycare."

At a town hall meeting in Exeter later Sunday, he said, "I don't want the guys who ran the (Hurricane) Katrina cleanup running my health care system."

Earlier Sunday, Romney was in Washington courting Hispanic voters by extolling the virtues of faith, family values and immigration.

"If you say, name people who are hardworking, seek education, love God, love their families and value freedom — it's Hispanic-Americans, just like other Americans," Romney told a crowd at the Republican National Hispanic Assembly's annual convention.

"I want to make sure we continue an open door in immigration that welcomes people who come here with those kinds of values," he said.

During an Iowa visit last week, Romney struck a hard line on illegal immigration. He criticized Giuliani for making New York "a sanctuary city for illegal aliens" by failing to enforce the immigration laws on the books. Romney also noted that as governor, he had deputized state police to enforce immigration laws and denied driver's licenses to illegal immigrants

Posted by Ajay :: 10:16 AM :: 0 comments

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God Particle

In 1977, Steven Weinberg, then two years shy of the Nobel Prize in Physics, decided to do a little of what some theorists call “ambulance chasing.”

Peter Wynn Thompson for The New York Times
Jacobo Konigsberg, top, and Dmitri Denisov at Fermi.
He heard a rumor, while spending a year at Stanford, that collisions at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory were spitting out weird triplets of particles known as muons, which are sort of fat electrons. Dr. Weinberg canceled reservations at a lodge in Yosemite National Park to spend the weekend with his colleague Benjamin Lee, trying to concoct a theory to explain the trimuons.

But the only theory he and Dr. Lee could come up with was ugly. A few weeks later it turned out that the triplet effect wasn’t true.

“I’ve always been embarrassed that we managed to come up with a theory,” Dr. Weinberg, now at the University of Texas at Austin, said recently.

Dr. Weinberg said that 30 years later, he still has not gotten to Yosemite.

“And we never got trimuons either,” he added.

And therein lies a lesson — or not — for the world’s physicists.

Earlier this summer, the physics world was jolted by a rumor that a team of scientists from the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, or Fermilab, in Batavia, Ill., had found a bump in their data that might be a legendary particle that has haunted physicists for a generation. It is known colloquially as the Higgs boson and sometimes grandly as the “God particle.” According to the Standard Model that has ruled physics for 30 years, the Higgs endows elementary particles in the universe with mass.

The history of physics is full of bumps that could have been revolutionary but have disappeared like ghosts in the night, and this rumor of a possible Higgs sighting was not even the first this year. Most physicists who have heard this rumor think that this bump is likely to be another of those disappearing anomalies, like the trimuons that frustrated Dr. Weinberg. But then these same physicists point out that you never know.

The team, known as the D Zero collaboration and numbering some 600 physicists from 19 countries and 88 institutions, will not even say whether there is a bump in its data until the scientists have decided for sure that it is nature calling and not just a random statistical fluctuation.

“It’s a rigorous process; we don’t want to make a trivial mistake,” explained Dmitri Denisov of Fermilab, one of the co-leaders, or spokesmen, of the team, which is named for the giant detector it built to record the remains of smashups of trillion-electron-volt protons and antiprotons in Fermilab’s Tevatron particle accelerator.

D Zero is the younger of two rival detectors at the accelerator. The other, known as the Collider Detector at Fermilab, or C.D.F., was built and staffed by an equally large group that is scouring its own data for the Higgs and other new phenomena.

As the analyses proceed and the Tevatron hums its trillion-electron-volt tune, this is a summer of rumors, hope and hype. Whatever the outcome for this particular Higgs rumor, the buzz about it illuminates the galloping expectations, tensions and rivalries roiling physicists as they await the inauguration next summer of the Large Hadron Collider, a giant accelerator at CERN, the nuclear laboratory outside Geneva expressly designed to find the Higgs particle and explore new realms of nature.

The excitement has been ratcheted up by the speed and ubiquity of information on the Internet.

“It is exciting even if you think the chances of it being true are only 0 or 10 percent,” said Tommaso Dorigo, from the University of Padua in Italy, who helped spread the D Zero rumor in June on his blog, A Quantum Diaries Survivor ( “It’s something you were looking for and would be very happy to find.”

Joe Lykken, a Fermilab theorist who said he first learned of the rumored bump the old-fashioned way, over lunch in the laboratory cafeteria, said: “Pre-blog, this sort of rumor would have circulated among perhaps a few dozen physicists. Now with blogs even string theorists who can’t spell Higgs became immediately aware of inside information about D Zero data.”

Jacobo Konigsberg, of the University of Florida, co-leader of the rival C.D.F. group, grumbled, “These blogs put a powerful loudspeaker in the mouths of a few people.”

Confirming the rumored bump would confirm a profound conjecture about how nature works, cementing into place the last missing piece of the so-called Standard Model and perhaps pointing the way to a deeper theory that could answer questions the current model leaves open — such as why the universe is full of matter but not antimatter — a New World of physics.

It would also be an enormous coup for American science, a last Hail Mary touchdown before the new European collider fires up its beams of protons, which will collide with seven trillion electron volts of energy apiece.

The CERN collider is the future of physics, Dr. Konigsberg said: “But it would be a fantastic feat to add one more jewel to the crown of discoveries from the Tevatron. We have our pride.”

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Posted by Ajay :: 10:13 AM :: 0 comments

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