Category Archives: Science

All About UFOs

I have (probably) never seen one and I don’t remember being ever abducted by one.

Still, it makes sense that they are around and all the evidence is hard to ignore. Additionally, I ran into a web page today that has lots of video footage of testimonials of rather credible witnesses. What I like about these witnesses is that they just report their observation and don’t try to mix it with their own interpretations and opinions.

Take a bowl of popcorn and a beer because some of that stuff is long…

adamski_type_ufo(click on picture)

Seeing the Future

When I was in my late teens, starting to read science-fiction, I was sure that by now we would regularly traveling to other planets and had settlements on the moon, and the flying car was a given.

But many of these things are still only subject of science-fiction, but something totally unimagined has materialized – a network that did make the world’s knowledge accessible from the palm of my hand. I knew there would be talking robots but that I would be able to access all data with just a query – I just hadn’t thought of.

Found this interesting video of visual thoughts of how the future might look like…

But with that last experience, what’s really going to happen, will be something totally different altogether.

The Good Old Trash 80

I ran into a web site today showing the 1980’s Radio Shack catalog of the TRS 80.

My very first computer had been a Trash-80 and I remember having a lot of fun with it. One of the most difficult tasks for me to understand, at that time, had been the idea of an interpreted language, like that TRS-80 Basic.

Before that computer I had been mostly exposed to assembler and some high level language like Fortran  and PL3 on an IBM mainframe. This the idea of typing in human readable code and directly running it – without compiling and linking – was a strange concept to grasp.

The TRS-80 I had was far less sophisticated than the one shown in the above catalog, so I looked around and found a picture that matched better what I remembered:

I believe that I had the 16kB model but certainly no floppy disks – I saved my programs and data on cassette tape. With my difficulty to grasp the concept of interpreted languages the first program I bought was an assembler. I was quite some work to get anything done with this setup:

  • Insert the cassette with the assembler and load the program
  • Edit and assemble the code, keeping source and assembled program in memory
  • Insert a new cassette into the recorder and save the source file
  • Insert a different cassette into the recorder and save the assembled program
  • Load the assembled program (overwriting the assembler in memory)
  • Running, testing the assembled program and writing down errors
  • Rinse and repeat

This lengthy procedure trained you to really think ahead and consider all possible errors – it took too long to ‘just try’ something. In this regards those interpreted languages are much easier and train programmers to be much sloppier.

Bigger part of the internet now is based on such sloppy work – whenever you have a php file it is more or less interpreted like the old Basic in my Trash 80. I once read – and it made a lot of sense – that we would do a lot to avoid global warming if we would compile all those billions of lines of php code into machine code once and then execute that on the server. All data centers around the world could be scaled down considerably if each line of php code would not have to be compiled over and over and over again, thus saving energy for the processors of the web sewer and the energy for cooling them.

Maybe, then the web could run on  a couple of TRS-80s.

The Logic of Logic

I am sometimes torn between my scientific and spiritual side. Educated in the sciences I appreciate cold pure logic. So, when I run into a lecture likes this by Peter Boghossian…

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…I might have my spiritual world shaken up.

When Dr. Boghossian explains that faith-based processes are not reliable, I have to admit that he is right. When he shows us that homeopathy does not work, I am tempted to laugh with him about the ridiculousness of faith in a remedy that does not contain anything (but water). According to homeopaths, the remedy does contain the ‘essence’ of the substance. But ‘essence’ is not something than can be measured, so it really IS only water.

What do I do to get back to my spiritual base?

First of all I have to allow myself to be exposed to ridicule for believing in something that science can’t see. But then I also have to make real to me that there was a time, not very long ago, at that, when we could not measure radioactivity. If somebody at that time postulated something that could kill you within the shortest time without being felt, smelled, or seen, this person would have been certainly ridiculed. I make it clear to me that we cannot measure the ‘essence’ of a substance – yet!

Beyond that argument I try to wrap my mind around the question if we are possibly only looking into a self-fulfilling closed system. Results of religious believes are often explained as self-fulfilling situations – if I believe in the resurrection of Jesus with all my heart and don’t allow any other possibility, I might actually have an apparition that is as real as the cop handing out a ticket for kneeling in the middle of the street.

If this works for a single person, then a group of people can certainly increase the effect and we have those events where blind start seeing and lames start walking. Science has looked at those events with double-blind studies and found that they are all humbug. Yet, they cannot duplicate a parameter they are completely unaware off, so the double blind study might miss essential parameters.

Thus I clarify for myself that science itself is in no way different than the faith they investigate. It is just a different faith – a faith that requires a multitude of observers that all observe the same.

Comparing this with a vivid dream might make this more obvious. Imagine a dream in which you can fly. And also make this a dream where you have a sweetheart that can fly with you (yes, I am thinking of Douglas Adams.) Then add another element that there is a big crowd that cheers you on as you swoop through double barrels and looks deeply embraced with your sweetheart. Would any member in this dream doubt that you two fly?
But, but, but … that’s a dream, that is different!

To which I have to answer: Says who?

Just as I could imagine that in my dream I introduce a scientist that does not believe and demands double-blind studies, so can I imagine that in ‘real life’ I introduced those scientists that tell me that homeopathy is humbug and that they have proven it beyond any reasonable doubt.

For me it boils down to the question if the ‘real life’ is any more real than my dream. And I have to admit total inability to answer that question. Simply from the fact that while I am in the middle of my lucid dream I don’t know that I am dreaming.

Maybe I am dreaming now – I would not be able to tell until I wake up – until then the question has to remain unanswered.

Up to that point any logic is self-contained logic, conclusive within itself, and the logic of science has no more relevance than the logic of astrology or reading tea-leaves. I might have preferences, but that is solely my own, personal decision.

Seeing Without Your Eyes

I used degrading eye-sight as an excuse to replace my 24 inch monitor with a 32″ TV – and I love it. Now, when I am at the other office with only a 24″ monitor I sometimes have to put reading glasses on to see the smaller part of the photoshop interface.

The idea that, as we get older, our eyes get weaker and we accept to use glasses. There seem to be a strong correlation between the eyes and seeing.

But I have been suspicious for a while that this is not the whole story. Simply because sometimes – and I have not found the pattern – my vision is just perfect. And if it would be weaker eye muscles and less elastic lenses would be the only reason for declining eye-sight, then this would not make sense.

The following video of a painter, born without eyes (!), gives more fuel to that line of reasoning. Now, what really is seeing?

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Photosynth of Devil’s Postpile – or so

Just before a trip to Mammoth Lakes this summer I had learned about photosynth, one of these project where Microsoft tries to be as cool as Google. This is technology which allows you to combine a whole set of photos taken of or around a subject into a 3D view of that subject.

I remembered PhotoSynth when up there at this amazing view of the Yosemite mountains, close to Devil’s Postpile and took a set of photos with the intention to try out photosynth with those.

The online web-all allows you to stick all your photos together into a synth, but in order to get a real nice panoramic view, you will first have to download a (free) application and do a more elaborate stitching off-line before uploading the results to photosynth.

The result of all that looks like…

Don’t forget to hit that little “full screen” button on the bottom of the synth to enjoy it to the fullest. Funny though, that the software decided that nature is more important than people and cut out Gigi in favor of nature. Not quite, as the lower legs and feet stayed in. I’m sure, if Google would have done this project, they would either have removed all signs of a person or leave the person in all-in-one – – just kidding.

Obsolete Technology – yesterday – today – tomorrow

I ran into this video teaching us  how to use a dial telephone…

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… and that got me to think.

From today’s point of view, this is obviously funny; but I tried to imagine what things that we consider high-tech today will look really funny to my son when he is my age.

Speaking of my son – I have noticed one piece of technology that I grew up which he already has no personal experience with: the tick-tock of a clock. He might still know that a clock in the distant past did make such sounds but he has never heard that himself.

Or the first super-high-tech wrist watch I had – with red LED segmented numbers. These LEDs used so much power that I switch had to be pressed to turn then on – and off right away – to see the time. Very inconvenient at a party where you were fondling a glass of whiskey on the rocks trying to look as cool as your watch. Very uncool to put the glass down to be able to push the little button on your other wrist to realize that after two hours of looking cool you still did not have the nerve to talk to the cute brunette.

So, what’s the item with the biggest cool factor today? Maybe tablets like the iPad. I believe this is a good candidate to look ridiculous in 20 or 30 years. Imagine you lugging around a book sized slate – just like Moses did when he came down the mountain – just to access some information, or look up an address, while today (tomorrow) you just say your search term into the ether and the information materializes right in front of your eyes, or even better, you just pose the question in your mind and the answer is directly delivered to your own synapses via a synaptic interface – – who needs eyes – – maybe we have them closed at all times as all the experiences we have are virtual anyway. While we experience a rich virtual world our bodies are securely stored and fed through some tubes while at the same time acting as a power source for the computer system that runs the whole virtual world, and ….  hold on, doesn’t that sound somehow familiar?