Category Archives: Neat Ideas

Einstein…wrong again???

One of Einsteins statements taken as fact, is that the fundamental physical constants of the universe, most notably the speed of light, are constant throughout the universe. Another thought to be constant was “alpha” the ‘fine structure constant’ that indicates how light and mater interact. The New Scientist reports that there are indications that alpha may not be constant throughout space.

Recent musings about parallel universes has led to speculation that the “fine tuning” of fundamental physical constants was a result of there being infinite parallel universes with differing constants. We are in the “goldilocks” universe not because it was formed for us, but because we could form in it. Now it seems a new wrinkle has been thrown in as some of these “constants may not be constant, but vary throughout space.

In the case of alpha, it appears that there is a gradient across the universe that gives an orientation of higher and lower values. Alpha is one constant that can be measured at a distance. Things like the speed of light may be impossible to measure remotely.

There is still a lot of double checking to be done, as with the hyper-luminal neutrinos (Einstein also famously declared the speed of light to be an absolute speed limit in the universe), but if proven out, could mean there is another layer of cosmological dynamics out there.

‘social bots’ – autonomous cyber vehicles?

This MIT Tech review article references a study into the use of ‘social-bots’ to create connections between social groups on twitter.

The question this invites is could “socialbots” be employed to foster desired patterns of connection among social groups and discourage undesirable ones? What is the impact of the overtness (or covertness) of such activities? If social connections are made, and mature, what would be impact of the discovery that the introduction starting the connection was done by someone else to further an agenda?

Could intelligent agents of this type be “autonomous cyber vehicles”?


“Artificial Trees” could scrub C02 from air, then make methane for fuel..

This Science Now article describes a possible system for removing C02 from the atmosphere, combine it with electrolysis of Hydrogen from water, and make methanol fuel in a sustainable cycle. all based on cheap materials that can be produced in industrial quantity. Ideas like should be sold on the basis of being possible sustainable sources of energy. Its also refreshing to see an article about a technology like this treat like a really good idea on its merits, and not invoking climapocaplytic fear mongering…

Researchers in California have produced a cheap plastic capable of removing large amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) from the air. Down the road, the new material could enable the development of large-scale batteries and even form the basis of “artificial trees” that lower atmospheric concentrations of CO2 in an effort to stave off catastrophic climate change.

These long-term goals attracted the researchers, led by George Olah, a chemist at the University of Southern California (USC) in Los Angeles. Olah, who won the 1994 Nobel Prize in chemistry, has long envisioned future society relying primarily on fuel made from methanol, a simple liquid alcohol. As easily recoverable fossil fuels become scarce in the decades to come, he suggests that society could harvest atmospheric CO2 and combine it with hydrogen stripped from water to generate a methanol fuel for myriad uses.

“Standard” Higgs Boson mass predicted via M-theory

This article in Nature talks about the surprise many particle physicists have regarding the 125GeV mass that seems likely for the Higgs boson. This “realistic” (as opposed to “relativistic” mass of the Higgs makes it a “standard” HIggs, rather than the “composite” (standard + relativistic) Higgs that many were expecting. The author offers the explanation that a 125 GeV “standard” Higgs can be predicted from a form of “compactified” M- theory, where the dimensions higher than 4 are left folded in on themselves (‘subspace’ Trekkies?). The best part is that for the first time, M-theory – which was thought to be an almost metaphysical concept, with no manifestation in the physical world – more “math trick” more than science – results in predictions of new particles that the LHC should be able to detect.

If confirmed, this will open a new chapter in the evolution of particle physics, and open the book on M-theory, not as a cool theoretical construct, but as a tool to drill deeper into our understanding of the universe.

‘Managing Complexity’ Site

Ran across this group ontonix from Linked-in’s group on ‘Effective Decision Making in the Midst of Complexity’.

Haven’t had a chance to critically look at their blog, but the titles sounded interesting. Some smacked of snakeoil salesmanship, others drew me in at first glance. I’ll take a closer look this weekend.

The Higgs Boson is here…The Higgs Boson is here!!!

Well, almost…

This WSJ article Gives a good overview of the narrowing of the search to a mass around 125 Giga electron volts (GeV).

The significance of the Higgs is that Quantum theory ascribes it as the arbiter of whether a particle has mass or not, and how much.

Worries that the pursuit of the Higgs might create a black hole that would swallow up the earth, are good fodder for SyFy Saturday movies, but are impossible in real life…Such a black hole would have the mass on the order of the Higgs, and would travel around for the remaining life of the universe before it swallowed enough additional mass to be in any way worrisome… Sort of like the odds that all the air molecules would all rush to a corner of the room and leave the occupants to suffocate. A finite probability, but not one to lie awake worrying about 😉

New Book “Turing’s Cathedral” by George Dyson

This New York Times interview with George Dyson about his new book about the origins of modern digital computing. Quote from the Interview:

But the digital world actually goes back to a single point — the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton in the late 1940s and early 1950s. The story I tell in my book is of how at the end of World War II, John von Neumann and his team of mathematicians and engineers began building the very machine that Alan Turing had envisioned in his 1936 paper, “On Computable Numbers.” This was a machine that could answer any question asked of it.

Confirmed quantum effect at macro scale – photosynthesis

This ars technica piece provides another of the growing list of quantum mechnical effects manifesting at the macro scale. There has been issues with the apparent hyper-effficency of photosynthesis’ energy transport. inocming photons seemd to “know” the most efficient chlorophyl route to take somehow. SOme thoerized that a biocehmical quantum computer of sorts was at work clearing the most efficient path for the photon to take. This was poo-pooed by many as such effects were typically observed only in supercooled conditions, under very controlled conditions.

This research confirms that quantum effects are indeed at work in photsynthesis and at room tempurature. The implications to solar power, farming, quantum computing, etc. will likely be far-reaching and openthe door to other phenomena where macro-scale quantm effects are suspected, but not proven.