Right Brain vs. Left Brain cage match!


Wow, a blog post about a blog post, what is the world coming to? Anyway, my friend thePete found an article from the Australian Herald Sun about how to determine if you’re more right-brained or left-brained, with right and left being shorthand for “creative” versus “logical”.

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At last! A practical death ray.


Hidden amongst the pop-up ads upon Flash pop-up ads, NewScientist reports that scientists at UC Riverside have found a way to use the decay of antiparticles to create gamma radiation millions of times more powerful than conventional chemical lasers.

If positronium atoms could be forced to merge into a kind of “super-atom” condensate, it would decay in bursts of identical gamma rays, which could lead to gamma-ray lasers a million times more powerful than standard lasers.

Um, I just said that. The thing that fasctinates me is that I had grown so accustomed to shiny red lasers being the next big thing in high-tech murder that I forgot they’re nothing more than a focused energy beam, and are only a small part of the spectrum of electromagnetic radiation at that. Electromatic radiation exists in a range of frequencies from radio waves to X-rays to gamma rays, and a gamma ray burst of sufficient energy is just as effective at breaking apart molecular bonds as a beam of high-energy visible light, if not moreso. The freaky part is it’s also invisible.

These induced gamma ray emissions are also known as the significantly more terrifying, but unfortunately named, Gaser. I don’t know what weapons will be used to fight World War III, but WW4.0 may see the ravages brought by the n00b-grenade, pwnz3r tank, or perhaps a LOLtomic bomb.

Oh, and the icing on the cake is that scientists are creating anti-matter to accomplish this. Finally, a sane use for positronium.

In other news, OldScientist is trying to develop a death ray using inclined planes and alchemy.

The Synesthete’s Alphabet


Much has been made of Daniel Tammet, the “Brain Man” who could recite Pi to 22,000 places. How the savant achieved this feat was by picturing the digits that make up Pi’s infinite and complex string of numbers. The condition facilitating this monumental task is called synesthesia, where the mind unconsciously blends together two different sensations. In this case, it is grapheme-color synesthesia that causes his mental picture of a number (or letter) to appear as more than just an abstract numeral, as it would on a page. Instead he perceives it to have a great deal of unique, identifying characteristics. To a non-synesthete, 3 is just 3, but to him, “every number up to 10,000… has its own color, has its own shape, has its own texture.”

“For example, 289 is an ugly number, I don’t like it much.” And he’s got a point. Yellow, inky-blue and reddish-pink? Yeck, what an ugly color combination!

Though my degree of grapheme-color synesthesia is nowhere near as profound as the Brain Man’s, I’ll share the colors I associate with the letters of the alphabet, as well as the numbers 0 through 9.


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The Swiss will destroy us all!


Reader ThePete apparently pays closer attention to my sources than I do, because when reading up on the particle physicists reassuring us that no, their supercollider won’t, in fact cause the destruction of the earth, I inadvertently linked to a statement from scientists at the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider at the Brookhaven National Laboratory in Long Island, and not the Swiss physicists working at the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva… which means the evil Swiss may yet have designs on destroying you, me, and all the pocket calculators in the world. Yeah I know, easy mistake to make, right?

It’s a lot like the line from that famous movie, “Once again Dr. Jones, we see there is nothing you can possess which I cannot collide with a stream of charged particles at near the speed of light.”

Oh, and it turns out the CERN collider won’t be in use until May of 2008 because the eggheads broke the damn thing.

Sleep tight!

Go back to bed, America


About a year ago, I had expressed some apprehension about the dangers of the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva and how the experiments it was designed to carry out could spell disaster for all the atoms that make up my body and all my stuff.

Since then, the project’s scientists have quashed suggestions that the experiment could cause the destruction of the Earth. Meaning we can all breathe easy now. Or as Homer once said (sorry, not that Homer), “I’m alive! From this day forward, I vow to live life to its fullest!”

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a bag of pork rinds to eat in front of the TV.

Shiva and the Case for The Big Crunch


Yes, the universe is expanding, and I’m sad to report, it’s speeding up. By this time a dozen billion years or so from now*, all the matter in the universe will be so dissipatted that each celestial body will be beyond the reach of the other’s gravity and the universe will keep expanding and cooling, until it’s nothing more than the proverbial dust in the solar wind. Enjoy it while it lasts.

*assuming you aren’t reading this in 12,000,002,007 A.D.

Why is the universe expanding and where will it all end? This deserves a longer explanation than I’m capable of, involving gravity, dark matter and the cosmological constant. But what I can do is sum up the end of the universe thusly:

Have you ever known an explosion to collapse back in on itself?

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I am the light of the world


I just had a religious experience. Or, at least as close as I’m going to get to one.

It was over a TV program called “The Sun” — a show so minor, The Science Channel doesn’t even have a web page for it. In it, Dr. Paul Scowen of Arizona State University described the simple process by which our universe went from a soup of positively-charged quanta of energy, each orbited by its own negatively-charged, smaller unit of energy, to you at this very moment reading these words. Stopping to consider that, I was reminded of just how elegant and beautiful the universe is. And it all started with a cloud of atoms.

It will sit there for thousands, and in some cases, millions of years… What you need to do to get the star formation process going is you need to kick it with something. That can be an impact on the cloud from one side by a supernova blast wave — a massive star has gone boom at the end of its life, and that sends out in all directions, very energetic compression waves that hit the gas and compresses it.

The first stars formed out of dense clouds of hydrogen. Then, when they died, their supernovas sent out shockwaves to jumpstart the creation of another generation of stars. It’s a perfectly simple method for increasing complexity in the universe, and it all runs automatically!

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</dying of embarrassment>


My friend Todd is usually up on current technology trends, so I was excited when he sent me an article from my hometown’s very own newspaper, The Free Lance, about a new portable entertainment device! I couldn’t wait to find out more. Apparently it’s a machine called an “iPod”.

It’s a little contraption – about the size of a deck of cards – but it can almost literally put heaven and earth at your finger tips.

Almost in disbelief, I checked and re-checked, but there was no denying it: this article was dated today.

What other gems did this article offer up? It continues:

A podcast is almost like an electronic version of a magazine or radio show that people subscribe to for free. The term is a combination of the Apple MP3 player “iPod” and the word “broadcast.”

So this will be helpful if you ever need to explain what a podcast is to your grandma. To learn more about iPod, find the whole mortifying story here: Becoming Pod People

Another dimension. Another Dimension. And now that you mention, another dimension!


Rob Bryanton, for his new book, Imagining the Tenth Dimension offers up a quick Flash tutorial that takes the viewer from the first to the tenth (and final?) dimension, and the viewer’s brain from a functioning organ to complete mush: www.tenthdimension.com

…in the biggest picture possible, we could say that the 4th dimension is a line that joins the big bang to one of the possible endings to our universe.

Now entering the seventh dimension, we’re about to imagine a line that treats the sixth dimension as if it were a single point. To do that, we have to imagine all possible timelines which could’ve started from our big bang, joined to all the possible endings of our universe — a concept which we often refer to as infinity — and treat them all as a single point.

So for us, a point in the 7th dimension would be infinity — all possible timelines.”

I could understand 10 dimensions, but 11 would just be silly. Once you start tacking on extra dimensions to string theory, you start to get into the dangerous territory of “Meme-Theory”, in which the different ways of conceptualizing the known universe all start getting their own dang dimensions.

Is this meat clone-safe?


If just worrying whether your food is vegetarian, vegan, free-range, *may contain peanuts, kosher, cruelty-free and organic isn’t enough…

FDA Set to OK Food From Cloned Animals

So if you’re the type to take issue with what you should be eating, or need another conduit for your Orthorexia Nervosa, then… come ‘n get it!

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