Posts Tagged Physics

Weekend Science Videos: Views from and into the (night) sky above us

A message from space to our blue marble:

And here is the executive summary: “Our Story in 1 Minute” (somewhat reminiscent of the BigBangTheory Intro Sequence) by melodysheep

The following footage taken from the International Space Station left me speechless anyway: “View from the ISS at Night” by  (fullscreen view is a must)

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Happy birthday Richard !

Not that he won’t mind it was already yesterday. Since there are a couple of posts related to him on this site there is probably no need re-iterate how inspirational he was and even over 2 decades after his death still is. Just a welcome occasion to point out richard-feynman.net which has a great collection of videos, a photo gallery and quotes like this one on the ignorance of experts:

Science alone of all the subjects contains within itself the lesson of the danger of belief in the infallibility of the greatest teachers in the preceding generation … Learn from science that you must doubt the experts. As a matter of fact, I can also define science another way: Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts…

Let me refer you to this post with a bit more physics in it while leaving you with this scene from the movie “Infinity”, showing Feynman at the tender age of 6 learning a few things about science from his father.

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Nobel Prize in Computing


Pearl‘s book on “Causality” has been on my shelf for a while now. I also read it, a few times, but never managed to get through it in one go, cover to cover. Consequently, I haven’t come to grips with all details, implications and equations yet. No reason to worry about my intellectual capabilities, it’s quite fundamental and takes time to sink in. Now Judea Pearl has been awarded the 2011 ACM Turing Award – Congratulations!

The annual Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) A.M. Turing Award, sometimes called the “Nobel Prize in Computing,” recognizes Pearl for his advances in probabilistic and causal reasoning. His work has enabled creation of thinking machines that can cope with uncertainty, making decisions even when answers aren’t black or white. […]
The UCLA computer science professor is widely credited with coining the term “Bayesian Network,” which refers to a statistical model ACM describes as mimicking “the neural activities of the human brain, constantly exchanging messages without benefit of a supervisor.” Bayesian networks have been used to, among other things, analyze biological data for studies of medicine and diseases.

Here is a chance to see him talk for yourself:

“I compute, therefore I understand” – More videos are here on theScienceNetwork.

found via networkworld.com: Judea Pearl, a big brain behind artificial intelligence, wins Turing Award. See also on the ACM NEWS “Judea Pearl Wins 2011 ACM Turing Award“.

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The Network that (likes to think it) runs the World


Scientists at the ETH Zurich analysed the international ownership network of multi-national companies. If you had a look at the intrinsic properties of real-world and biological networks, the 80-20 rule comes as no surprise: in biological networks, usually over 80% of the edges are covered by less than 20% of the nodes. A related phenomenon is called the Pareto Principle in economics. The core of this network contained 1318 companies, which

… represented 20 per cent of global operating revenues, the 1318 appeared to collectively own through their shares the majority of the world’s large blue chip and manufacturing firms – the “real” economy – representing a further 60 per cent of global revenues …

“Reality is so complex, we must move away from dogma, whether it’s conspiracy theories or free-market,” says James Glattfelder.

It took me some time to find the original paper on PLoS, which isn’t linked from this article on the NewScientist – probably because it wasn’t out yet at the time:

Reference: The Network of Global Corporate Control by Stefania Vitali, James B. Glattfelder, Stefano Battiston (2011) PLoS ONE 6(10): e25995. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0025995

How these findings relate to the error and attack tolerance of scale-free networks in the context of the current economic situation is further food for thought. But I urge caution to naïvely transfer insights from one domain to another, there are no simple (mono-causal) answers to complex problems. Especially when dealing with the emergent properties of networks, there is only one constant: they tend to work out quite differently from what we initially thought.

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The Tail of the Elephant

There is this old story of the 3 wise blind guys who come to examine an elephant. They are lead up to it, and one of them gets to grab the ear, another the holds on to a tusk, and the third gets hold of the tail.
Later, they come to completely different opinions about the nature of the object under study – is it flat and flappy, thin and wriggly, or hard and pointy? And, obviously, later they spend a looong time arguing and beating each other up about their theories on what it really is like.

George Cham, creator of Ph.D. comics, refers to this in this beautiful animation on how current science might redefine our understanding of the universe – Enjoy!


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Everything and Nothing


The pictures of the anisotropy of the cosmic microwave background radiation have been fascinating me since looking deeper into the relative spatial distribution of residue contacts in proteins and complexes.  Now here is a beautifully produced documentary by the BBC that takes you to the edge of the universe and everyting else we know about – well – mostly nothing :
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Free Radicals: The Secret Anarchy of Science

13 things that don't make sense

Via the Cambridge University Alumni Group I was made aware of the forthcoming event “Free Radicals: The Secret Anarchy of Science” at the Real Time Club Dinner on the 21st of June from 18:00 to 21:00 at the National Liberal Club, Whitehall Place, SW1A 2HE. You do not need to be a member of the club to attend this event: see http://bit.ly/iE5Hc8.

The speaker is Michael Brooks – an English scientist and author. It promises to be quite an interesting event, especially since Brooks takes a strong stance against political representatives of pseudo-science – more from him about himself can be found at http://www.michaelbrooks.org/.

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