Science news this week are all about the almost certain discovery of the Higgs Boson. From what I gather that’s big news, even if my understanding of particle physics is also in an infinitesimal scale, so I go with the explanation that the finding of the Higgs particle closes and vindicates the Standard Model of particle physics in pretty much the same way the discoveries of elements such as Gallium, Ytterbium or the noble gases in the late 19th century vindicated the atomic model and Dmitri Mendeleev’s periodic table.
However, I find myself in utter lack of awe at such discoveries. I think it’s sad all cutting-edge science nowadays seems to deal with the negative Powers of Ten, the infinitesimal, starting at nano and working its way down. It feels as if Mankind is retreating, into Earth, into tinier and tinier spaces. That’s not to say the study of the infinitesimal isn’t interesting and without awesomeness - just look up stuff on quantum levitation or Bose-Einstein condensates - but we also need to look at the stars - at the positive powers - for inspiration.
Hence The Voyagers by Penny Lane. Go watch it in silence. Let’s not retreat into tiny holes in the ground.
Questions No One Knows the Answers to, by Chris Anderson and Andrew Park at TED Education, which seems like an interesting video education resource in the Khan Academy mold, even if the TED brand is getting a bit old (here’s one proof).
Misc. links Sep 27th - Oct 14th
Sorry About My Face. I too share the same problem - often my face reads bitter even if I’m actually daydreaming about nice things. And nobody takes “it’s just my face” for an answer, which leads to episodes in which I feel a significant other is acting like someone in a club suddently asking me “where are you looking at?!” and trying to pick a fight, etecetera. Perhaps I need to find an early XXth century Virginia Woolf-looking girlfriend… ¶
A conservative politician calls for science. Despite being mostly on the other end of the conservative-liberal spectrum, I wish there were more politicians like this. Far too many people people - in the left and right alike - believe and act as if the Outside World would fit with their preconceptions. It won’t: because that’s the very definition of Outside. ¶
Film is on its way out, as the last 35mm cinema cameras were built. Am I being sacrilegious by saying and it was about time!? Film has its charm, but is wasteful bordering on the insulting - like printing a whole sheet of paper for every word a writer types. ¶
Warner Brothers is developing a film based on a Reddit discussion: could a single battalion of US Marine soldiers fight and destroy the entire Roman Empire? This calls for the ghost of Philip K. Dick. The entire episode, not just the film premise. ¶
And also speaking of film: Peter Bogdanovich’s Blogdanovich. ¶
Lecturefox links to a mountain of free university lectures. ¶
The Golden Grid System. This makes me want to redesign this whole thing, dammit! ¶
A funny read every once in a while: the problem with n00b time-travellers that keep killing Hitler. ¶
This is scary in a Michael Crichton-ish sci-fi sort of way: two AI chat programs are made to talk to each other and the resulting dialogue gets pretty rough.
So here’s a science fiction scenario which I believe nobody ever wrote about: In a near future, machines achieve self-conscience. But rather than deciding to ‘save’ Earth from mankind or put people to use as AA batteries, etc., machines will engage instead in fraticidal tribal warfare. I mean, imagine that computers and OSs become bigger zealots than some of their fanboys (and perhaps encouraged so by their makers).
If you are a writer, you’re welcome to use this premise and get successful with it. I’ll take no royalties. But some kind of tip would be nice.
A very interesing Scientific American article about Erez Lieberman Aiden, a twenty-first century Renaissance Man with work in lingustics, mathematics, engineering and genetics.
Although I strive to be interested in multiple things, this article made me feel like a very low-ranking amateur-division polymath, if ever. But even though there’s no contest there - some people are just geniuses the way some are natural leaders, others run 100 meters in 9.5 seconds and others fully recharge on just 4 hours sleep -, this is the kind of success-story article I find misleading: even if corporate and academic establishments are supposedly supportive of All-Round People, often these will only actually get there through a mix of far-out genius, luck and nepotism - and I feel there’s a very thin line between being perceived as ‘a genius’ and ‘a deadbeat who can’t focus’, very much like the thin line between being brilliant and being a self-obsessed douche (think of you favourite sport for thousands of examples of this). The truth is, establishments, being establishments, want drones. Caring about multiple kinds of stuff may get you plenty of pats in the back and the kind of weak praise that is disgusting the way weak handshakes are, but doesn’t correlate with big cash payments and career advancement (see most true Renaissance Men - for each sponsored millionaire like Michelangelo there were dozens of peers striving to make ends meet).
But still, being interested in things is interesting. Keep doing it.