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Season 11: Science Stories in the News


Tensor
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4 hours ago, Tensor said:

Astronomers are enjoying an embarrassment of riches, with the Aug 17 detection of a neutron star merger.   However, it has revealed problems in dealing with the new discoveries.  

https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/two-stars-slammed-into-each-other-and-solved-half-of-astronomys-problems-what-comes-next/?ex_cid=538twitter

Kind of extraordinary.

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“It’s a wonderful time, it’s a terrifying time,” O’Shaughnessy said. “I can’t really capture the wonder and the horror and glee and happiness.”

I'm going to get silly but getting the gravity wave detection just prior to the high energy gama rays that result from the merger reminds me of a line from Princess Bride:

  • "Westley: No, no. We have already succeeded. I mean, what are the three terrors of the Fire Swamp? One, the flame spurt - no problem. There's a popping sound preceding each; we can avoid that."

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  • 1 month later...

Recent interview on string theory (jan 7, 2018).

https://thewire.in/211357/theres-no-conflict-lack-evidence-string-theory-work-done/ 

a snippet

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First, this is a very exciting intellectual effort and is as such worth pursuing. Second, it has given a lot of options to other branches of science, including condensed matter physics, ideas in astrophysics and cosmology, all the way to completely revolutionising ideas in pure mathematics. This means two different things: 1. This effort has already paid off, “paid off” by the standard criterion of having an impact on other things. 2. I think this is more important: Whenever you work on something and try to solve one problem, and you end up helping or solving many other problems, it is a sign that what you are doing is good.

Because historically this is the way it has worked. For example, Columbus tried to find India and ended up solving a much bigger problem. Other places like people working on quantum mechanics for the sake of understanding what matter is made of, and all modern technology including computers came out of it. This was the original intent. So when you work towards something with a long term goal and along the way you have all these options, a) the option has already been paid for, and b ) it is a sign that it’s worth pursuing this work.

 

Edited by djsurrey

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Yeah, I have to disagree with he premise, especially the last sentence.  The alchemists of the Middle Ages were involved in the exciting intellectual effort of trying to find a way to turn baser elements into gold.  Along the way, they found acids, bases, discovered other elements.  Was that a sign that Alchemy was worth pursuing?  Somehow I doubt it.  Middle age astrology led to advances in observations for Astronomy, was the study of astrology, in and of itself doing good?  Just because advances, in other fields, come out of an investigation, doesn't mean that investigation, in and of itself is worth anything.   

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The idea that you can find something while looking for something else is not new. I do think any effort to learn is worthwhile, even if it leads you in a different direction. Alchemy and Astrology to me became chemistry and astronomy. And that was a good thing because of what came out of the fact that they existed in the first place to morph into what they are now. I'm not explaining it correctly. I know that. I can't get what's in my head out properly, but it's a question of progression. 

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On 1/10/2018 at 9:27 AM, Tensor said:

Yeah, I have to disagree with he premise, especially the last sentence.  The alchemists of the Middle Ages were involved in the exciting intellectual effort of trying to find a way to turn baser elements into gold.  Along the way, they found acids, bases, discovered other elements.  Was that a sign that Alchemy was worth pursuing?  Somehow I doubt it.  Middle age astrology led to advances in observations for Astronomy, was the study of astrology, in and of itself doing good?  Just because advances, in other fields, come out of an investigation, doesn't mean that investigation, in and of itself is worth anything.   

It is odd how history unfolds. The development of Colossus for the breaking of the Lorenz cipher (more complex than Enigma).

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Flowers was first brought into the codebreaking world to work on Alan Turing's Bombe, a system designed to break Enigma codes.  A more complicated cipher, Lorenz, required a new system to crack.  In order to break it, Flowers proposed the design for the machine that would become known as Colossus, the world's first programmable electronic computer.  Management at Bletchley Park, the UK's codebreaking centre, was sceptical and encouraged Flowers to continue alone rather than prioritising the project.  Flowers put his own money into the machine to get the project off the ground.  It paid off - he was soon assigned staff and priority access to resources.  Flowers had pursued the use of valves rather than electro-mechanical switches in the construction, which caused heated debate, but when Colossus began operating at Bletchley Park in January 1944, his system ran five times faster than the rival electro-mechanical switch machine, named Heath Robinson.

A Mark II redesign of Colossus entered service on 1 June 1944 and immediately provided vital intelligence regarding the D-Day landings, such as the disposition of German troops in Normandy.  The machines continued providing vital intelligence until the end of the war.  Ten units were operational during World War II.  All but two were dismantled after the war.  This last pair of Colossi may have provided codebreaking services during the Cold War before finally being decommissioned in 1959 and 1960.

Flowers was rewarded with an MBE and a £1,000 grant, which did not even cover his investment in Colossus.  His work was not publicly revealed until the 1970s.  Today, the place of Colossus in computing history is assured, and Flowers is acknowledged as the principal architect of the machine.

Then the move during the cold war for the development of miniaturization of electronics essentially for electronic countermeasures essential for intelligence gathering and navigation for ICBMs. Ultimately the payoff has been GPS and computers used as smart phones and a bunch of other nifty stuff (ECU, Arduino's, Raspberry Pi, quadcopters ...). 

ARPANET (precursor to the internet) was developed due to the need to have a system that could adapt to a nuclear attack.

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Meanwhile, since the early 1960s, Paul Baran at the RAND Corporation had been researching systems that could survive nuclear war and developed the idea of distributed adaptive message block switching.[10] Donald Davies at the United Kingdom's National Physical Laboratory (NPL) independently invented the same concept in 1965.[11][12] His work, presented by a colleague, initially caught the attention of ARPANET developers at a conference in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, in October 1967.[13] He gave the first public demonstration, having coined the term packet switching, on 5 August 1968 and incorporated it into the NPL network in England.[14] Larry Roberts at ARPA applied Davies' concepts of packet switching for the ARPANET.[15] The NPL network followed by the ARPANET were the first two networks in the world to use packet switching,[16][17] and were themselves connected together in 1973.

Physicists working at CERN and collaborating around the world needed better ways of sharing and finding data and documents which lead to the development of the World Wide Web and HTTP.

 

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By October of 1990, Tim had written the three fundamental technologies that remain the foundation of today’s web (and which you may have seen appear on parts of your web browser):

  • HTML: HyperText Markup Language. The markup (formatting) language for the web.
  • URI: Uniform Resource Identifier. A kind of “address” that is unique and used to identify to each resource on the web. It is also commonly called a URL.
  • HTTP: Hypertext Transfer Protocol. Allows for the retrieval of linked resources from across the web.

Tim also wrote the first web page editor/browser (“WorldWideWeb.app”) and the first web server (“httpd“). By the end of 1990, the first web page was served on the open internet, and in 1991, people outside of CERN were invited to join this new web community.

As the web began to grow, Tim realised that its true potential would only be unleashed if anyone, anywhere could use it without paying a fee or having to ask for permission.

So now we get to talk about TBBT using technologies that were originally military and/or for scientific cooperation.

I abhor war but I sure enjoy the technological advances made largely because of the needs of the military.  (no plans to become Amish or go back to living on a farm like my Quaker ancestors)

Edited by djsurrey
put in link for Colossus/Flowers (source of quote)

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  • 1 month later...

Sheldon and Amy have already tried seeing how fast fake news travels. Now they have company....

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Researchers call for large-scale scientific investigation into fake news

Date:
March 8, 2018
Source:
Indiana University
Summary:
The indictment of 13 Russians in the operation of a "troll farm" that spread false information related to the 2016 U.S. presidential election has renewed the spotlight on the power of "fake news" to influence public opinion. Now, a professor who studies the spread of misinformation online is joining prominent legal scholars, social scientists and researchers in a global "call to action" in the fight against it.
from https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/03/180308143132.htm

 

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  • 1 month later...
Quote

Taming the multiverse: Stephen Hawking's final theory about the big bang

Date:
May 2, 2018
Source:
University of Cambridge
Summary:
Professor Stephen Hawking's final theory on the origin of the universe has just been published.

see https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/05/180502094641.htm for more.

and

http://www.cam.ac.uk/research/news/taming-the-multiverse-stephen-hawkings-final-theory-about-the-big-bang 

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from https://www.sciencenews.org/blog/context/celebration-curiosity-richard-feynman-birthday 

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Feynman was born 100 years ago May 11. It’s an anniversary inspiring much celebration in the physics world. Feynman was one of the last great physicist celebrities, universally acknowledged as a genius who stood out even from other geniuses.

In 1997 I interviewed Nobel laureate Hans Bethe, a Cornell University physicist who worked with Feynman during World War II on the atomic bomb project at Los Alamos (and later on the Cornell faculty). “Normal” geniuses, Bethe said, did things much better than other people but you could figure out how they did it. And then there were magicians. “Feynman was a magician. I could not imagine how he got his ideas,” Bethe told me. “He was a phenomenon. Feynman certainly was the most original physicist I have seen in my life, and I have seen lots of them.”

 

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