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Archive for the ‘Science’ Category


It is such an odd sensation.  I feel like I’m at a point, in thoughts and ideas, where i might be on the edge of a precipice.

There have been many thoughts that have been swirling in my head for a some time now, mostly for the past six months.  Ideas that were vague and unclear, accumulating.  And now because of an interesting encounter and discussion with someone unexpected, it seems that some sort of catalysis and crystallisation happening. It is interesting, as a phenomenon unto itself, as well as it terms of the fruits it is bearing. I’m realizing how little i know outside of my own scientific domain.

Not surprisingly, in these situations, things seem to fall into space.  I came across an article, quite by chance, written by Eugene Wigner, Nobel Laureate in physics, and one of the greats of quantum field theory.  The article is entitled “The Unreasonable effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences“.  And this has only exacerbated the flow of ideas.

It is a great sensation.

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This is a very interesting discussion between two rather well-known and well-mediatized scientist: famous anti-god and anti-religion flagbearer Richard Dawkins and physicist Lawrence Krauss one of the many pretenders to the throne of former physics/astrophysics for the layperson champion Carl Sagan. It is a very interesting discussion, about the agelong conflict between science and religion, why do we need one or the other, and other such matters.

It is a series of 12 videos (they load automatically), with the final three being a Q&A session with the audience. Enjoy:

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Musical Philosophical Nightmare

It was a couple of weeks ago, when sleeping in the throws of a mild fever, i had one of those fantastic fever-induced surreal dream/nightmares.  Now before i continue, if for no reason other than to set my mother aflight with worry, i should add that it was mild, and nothign serious, in fact i enjoyed it quite the lot.

I remember when i was a kid my particular dreams in this state involved inflation of body parts or things in my room.  A general change of size thigns.  And it wasn’t nightmarish in the Freddy Krueger sense of the word either (i can recall two nightmares in my entire life, and one of them was rather psychological more than anything else), so i’m not even sure if this one shoudl qualify as a ‘nightmare’ per se.  But it does make for a nice post-title.

The fantastic thing about this fever-induced dream was that i was a musical! That’s right, not musical (as in the adjective), but also A MUSICAL (as in the noun, as in South Pacific, or Moulin Rouge).  What was even more fantastic was the fact that it was a musical about the Philosophy of Physics.  And what was even more fantastic was that it was complete!  So here is the summary:

I had a fever induced nightmare which consisted of a Musical about the Philosophy of Physics.  And it was in three acts! The first and final act were in the classroom with my students, and the middle act was in the Teachers’ Lounge. Honestly, if i could have more nightmares of that nature, i would not mind it one bit.  I was so totally awestruck when i woke up in the morning.

And why was it a nightmare, you ask?  Because not only where none of the students were actually paying attention (that’s pretty normal for my students), but i also kept missing the High C!!!!

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From the “things that make you go hmmm…” file, comes the new ANTI-RAPE PRODUCT: Rapex.

Quoting The First post:

Rapex – dubbed the ‘rape trap’ – is a product worn internally by women. The hollow inside is lined with rows of razor-sharp hooks, which are designed to latch on to a rapist’s penis during penetration. They can only be removed by a doctor.

There is quite staunch opposition by feminist groups and such to this,

“Vengeful, horrible, and disgusting”


“This is like going back to the days when women were forced to wear chastity belts. It is a terrifying thought that women are being made to adapt to rape”

It does make you wonder. On the product’s website, the first question in the FAQ is “when should i wear this?” and the response is a little more than startling:

Should you have to travel long distances alone, on a train, working late, going out on a date with someone you don’t know too well, going to clubs, or in any situation that you might not feel comfortable or even just not sure.

What do you think?

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From ecstatic to depressed

You know, i was so happy when i got off work today.  I absolutely love my work, and i was going to write a big post about that. 

But then i got home, and started to search for articles to give to my english students, and i came across this article ,  and it knocked the wind out of my sales and made so incredibly depressed again, by reminding me of what a horrible disgusting work we live in. It reminded of what base and cruel and worthless creatures we can be. 

It's an article about how victims of teh continous Israeli attacks in Palestine, are showing up with weird internal burns, and almost melted organs, without even sings of shrapnel

 Doctors in Gaza have reported previously unseen injuries from Israeli weapons that cause severe burning and leave deep internal wounds, often resulting in amputations or death.

The injuries were first seen in July, when Israel launched operations in Gaza following the capture of an Israeli soldier by Palestinian militants.

Doctors said that, unlike traditional combat injuries, there was no large shrapnel found in the bodies and there appeared to be a "dusting" on damaged internal organs.

"Bodies arrived severely fragmented, melted and disfigured," said Jumaa Saqa'a, a doctor at the Shifa hospital, in Gaza City. "We found internal burning of organs, while externally there were minute pieces of shrapnel. When we opened many of the injured people we found dusting on their internal organs."

It is not the first such report i've come across.  i remember during the horrendous invasion of lebanon in july there were numerous reports that they had used phosphorous weapons, cluster bombs, and other banned unconventional weapons.  

This time it's supposedly a new kind fo weapon that the americans are developing called DIMEs.  They use high density metals such as tungsten to give a more powerful explosion in a shorter radius. 

It's amazing, because Israel has effectively become the american military's testing, and rsearch and developement wing.  They try all their new developemental weapons, and war techniques.  And yet the International community just stands by and watches.

Naturally the Israeli's deny their use of illegal weapons, however, they refuse to give any acccount of their arsenal.  WHAT A SURPRISE.

Well, there you go.  One day, when i'm feeling so happy, and so positive, and all it took was that to ruin that good feeling. What a shitty world we live in, and waht a shitty species we are….

[tags] israel, US, palestine, illegal weapons, DIME, illegal weapons, unconventional weapons, injuries[/tags] 

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This is something that would never come up in Iran, due to its racially homogenous nature, however in Canada and France, the question of the Origin of your Teacher, is a fun hobby of students.  With my students in grade 8 i have managed quite well to keep the mystery alive.  They top three hypotheses for my origin among my students are:

  1. Portugese
  2. Anglophone (to them i guess that is a 'race')
  3. Pakistani (with honourable mention going to Iranian!)

 So for the moment i have said nothing.

However, for Anne-Laure's first year university class (to him i give physics and chemistry oral examinations) the mystery has been solved.  They actually thought i was the guy in this commercial:

00:31 – July 21, 2006

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Here is a video of the IRANIAN-american woman, who is the first to travel to space as a touriste, Anoushe Ansari:

01:04 – September 20, 2006


[tags]anoushe ansari, space, station, visitor[/tags] 

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AWESOME Future Technology

I can easily say, this is by far the coolest thing i have seen in a long time.  The Future promises to be very cool. 

04:16 – August 03, 2006


[tags]jaff han, TED, touch interface, new technology[/tags] 

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A (bad) Math Story

This is taken from here, and is BRILLIANT. The worst part of it is if you understand it all!

To prove once and for all that math can be fun, we present: Wherein it is related how that paragon of womanly virtue, young Polly Nomial (our heroine) is accosted by that notorious villain Curly Pi, and factored (oh horror!!!)Once upon a time (1/t) pretty little Polly Nomial was strolling across a field of vectors when she came to the boundary of a singularly large matrix. Now Polly was convergent, and her mother had made it an absolute condition that she must never enter such an array without her brackets on. Polly, however, who had changed her variables that morning and was feeling particularly badly behaved, ignored this condition on the basis that it was insufficient and made her way in amongst the complex elements. Rows and columns closed in on her from all sides. Tangents approached her surface. She became tensor and tensor. Quite suddendly two branches of a hyperbola touched her at a single point. She oscillated violently, lost all sense of directrix, and went completely divergent. As she tripped over a square root that was protruding from the erf and plunged headlong down a steep gradient. When she rounded off once more, she found herself inverted, apparently alone, in a non-Euclidean space.

She was being watched, however. That smooth operator, Curly Pi, was lurking inner product. As his eyes devoured her curvilinear coordinates, a singular expression crossed his face. He wondered, “Was she still convergent?” He decided to integrate properly at once.

Hearing a common fraction behind her, Polly rotated and saw Curly Pi approaching with his power series extrapolated. She could see at once by his degenerate conic and dissipative that he was bent on no good.

“Arcsinh,” she gasped.

“Ho, ho,” he said, “What a symmetric little asymptote you have I can see you angles have lots of secs.”

“Oh sir,” she protested, “keep away from me I haven’t got my brackets on.”

“Calm yourself, my dear,” said our suave operator, “your fears are purely imaginary.”

“I, I,” she thought, “perhaps he’s not normal but homologous.”

“What order are you?” the brute demanded.

“Seventeen,” replied Polly.

Curly leered “I suppose you’ve never been operated on.”

“Of course not,” Polly replied quite properly, “I’m absolutely convergent.”

“Come, come,” said Curly, “let’s off to a decimal place I know and I’ll take you to the limit.”

“Never,” gasped Polly.

“Abscissa,” he swore, using the vilest oath he knew. His patience was gone. Coshing her over the coefficient with a log until she was powerless, Curly removed her discontinuities. He stared at her significant places, and began smoothing out her points of inflection. Poor Polly. The algorithmic method was now her only hope. She felt his digits tending to her asymptotic limit. Her convergence would soon be gone forever.

There was no mercy, for Curly was a heavyside operator. Curly’s radius squared itself; Polly’s loci quivered. He integrated by parts. He integrated by partial fractions. After he cofactored, he performed runge – kutta on her. The complex beast even went all the way around and did a contour integration. What an indignity – to be multiply connected on her first integration. Curly went on operating until he completely satisfied her hypothesis, then he exponentiated and became completely orthogonal.

When Polly got home that night, her mother noticed that she was no longer piecewise continuous, but had been truncated in several places But it was to late to differentiate now. As the months went by, Polly’s denominator increased monotonically. Finally she went to L’Hopital and generated a small but pathological function which left surds all over the place and drove Polly to deviation.

The moral of our sad story is this: “If you want to keep your expressions convergent, never allow them a single degree of freedom.”

[tags]math, joke, bad jokes, math humour[/tags]

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  • Filed under: Science
  • I just read over at Cosmic Variance that a group of american Nobel laureates, and Fields medal winners, have written an open letter to the Bush Administration, asking that they cancel any ideas of a nuclear strike on Iran.  Here is the text of the letter.

    The list of names is quite impressive in fact, it includes:

    • Philip Anderson, professor of physics at Princeton University and Nobel Laureate in Physics
    • Michael Fisher, professor of physics at the Institute for Physical Science and Technology, University of Maryland and Wolf Laureate in Physics
    • David Gross, professor of theoretical physics and director of the Kavli Institute of Physics at the University of California, Santa Barbara and Nobel Laureate in Physics
    • Jorge Hirsch, professor of physics at the University of California, San Diego
    • Leo Kadanoff, professor of physics and mathematics at the University of Chicago and recipient of the National Medal of Science
    • Joel Lebowitz, professor of mathematics and physics, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey and Boltzmann Medalist
    • Anthony Leggett, professor of physics, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Nobel Laureate, Physics
    • Eugen Merzbacher, professor of physics, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and former president, American Physical Society
    • Douglas Osheroff, professor of physics and applied physics, Stanford University and Nobel Laureate, Physics
    • Andrew Sessler, former director of Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory and former president, American Physical Society
    • George Trilling, professor of physics, University of California, Berkeley, and former president, American Physical Society
    • Frank Wilczek, professor of physics, MIT and Nobel Laureate, Physics
    • Edward Witten, professor of physics, Institute for Advanced Study and Fields Medalist

    Just on a purely interesting note, you can see the .pdf version of the letter with the actual signatures of the writers.  It’s always interesting to see what people’s signatures look like.

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  • Filed under: Science, politics
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