Memtropy Signals from the Noise

June 18, 2008

The Paradox of Choice – Why More Is Less

Filed under: The Human Mind,Video — Tomek @ 1:22 am

In this one hour Google TechTalk, psychologist Barry Schwartz takes aim at one of the central dogmas in our modern civilisation: freedom of choice. He argues that, contrary to intuition, more choice does not make you freer but more paralysed, more choice does not make you happier but actually more dissatisfied.

If you liked his talk, read his book The Paradox of Choice – Why More Is Less.

June 17, 2008

360° Light Field Display

Filed under: Artificial Evolution,Video — Tomek @ 1:27 am

The Graphics Lab at the University of Southern California has designed a convincing, low-cost 3D display system. The display is

  • autostereoscopic – requires no special viewing glasses
  • omnidirectional – generates simultaneous views accommodating large numbers of viewers
  • interactive – can update content at 200Hz

The system works by projecting high-speed video onto a rapidly spinning mirror. As the mirror turns, it reflects a different and accurate image to each potential viewer.

  • Spin rate: 15-20 Hz
  • Images/revolution: 288
  • Degrees/view zone: 1.25°
  • Projected frames/second: 4320-5760 fps
  • Image resolution: 768 x 768
  • Image bit depth: Binary
  • Displayed volume:13cm3

June 16, 2008

DNA Molecular Animation

Filed under: Life Science,Video — Tomek @ 10:40 pm

This 8 minute animation realistically shows the major parts of the molecular machinery within cells: DNA coiling, replication, transcription, translation. Made by Drew Berry of The Walter And Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research in Melbourne, Australia.

June 14, 2008


Filed under: The Human Mind,Video — Tomek @ 11:27 pm

Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman is an Israeli-American psychologist who is renowned for his work in behavioral economics and hedonic psychology.

Intuition: Marvels and Flaws

In this one hour lecture he gave at UC Berkeley in August 2007, he explores the idea of intuition. He distinguishes two modes of thinking, what he calls System 1 and System 2.

    System 1: Intuition
    eg. reading a facial expression
  • Fast
  • Automatic
  • Slow-learning
  • Effortless
  • Associative
    System 2: Reasoning
    eg. calculating 17 x 24 is 408
  • Slow
  • Controlled
  • Flexible
  • Effortful
  • Rule-governed


June 13, 2008

The Tenth Dimension

Filed under: Interesting,Thoughts — Tomek @ 3:42 am

From: Imagining the Tenth Dimension by Rob Bryaton

Although this view of ten dimensions is not the like the 10-(or even 26-)dimensional spacetime is viewed in string theory, this video nicely shows the concept of higher-dimensionality, understandable to even the non-scientifically inclined.

Speaking of the still not proven string theory, the space probe Planck, due to launch in October this year, might even see a shadow of extra dimensions.

June 12, 2008

Would an anti-apple hit your head or fly off into space?

Filed under: Physical Universe — Tomek @ 1:18 am

Scientists still think that an apple made of anti-matter would hit your head (never mind the consequences), but they are not certain, so they plan an experiment called AEGIS (Antimatter Experiment: Gravity, Interferometry, Spectroscopy) at CERN to test, which way a beam of anti-hydrogen atoms would be deflected by gravity.

This is not an easy task. Every anti-atom must be made in a particle accelerator, making it probably the most expensive substance one could buy (estimated $300 billion per milligram). But the real problem is containing the neutral (non-charged) antimatter, since as soon as matter hits antimatter, they annihilate each other and turn into energy. Using charged anti-protons for this would solve the container problem, but since the electromagnetic force is many times stronger than gravity, the effects of gravity on the antimatter would not be observable.

If antimatter were to behave opposite to matter regarding gravity, that could explain the missing antimatter in our universe, since it would not be attracted but repelled by the observable matter.

Read more at the physics arXiv blog.

The crazy bit

Applying Maxwell’s equations in four dimensions, one cannot distinguish an anti-proton from a proton moving backwards in time. So you could say that the creation of an anti-particle in an accelerator, from the anti-particle’s perspective it’s its destruction, and the seeming annihilation with a particle was its creation.

June 11, 2008

Pangea Day

Filed under: Interesting,Video — Tomek @ 2:58 am

Jehane Noujaim, writer and director of Control Room won the TED Prize in 2006, an award granted annually at the TED Conference. She was granted a wish to change the world and $100,000. Her wish was to create a day in which the world came together through film. Pangea Day is her wish coming true. See her acceptance speech below.

Starting at 18:00 GMT on May 10, 2008, locations in Cairo, Kigali, London, Los Angeles, Mumbai, and Rio de Janeiro will be linked for a live program of powerful films, live music, and visionary speakers. The entire program will be broadcast – in seven languages – to millions of people worldwide through the internet, television, and mobile phones.

The 24 short films to be featured have been selected from an international competition that generated more than 2,500 submissions from over one hundred countries. The films were chosen based on their ability to inspire, transform, and allow us see the world through another person’s eyes.

There are no embed links at so here is a link to a list of short films featured on Pangea Day. To get an overview, watch some highlights.

I can recommend the beautifully surreal, rather brazilesque film L’Homme Sans Tete (The Man Without a Head) by the Argentinian director Juan Diego Solanas.

June 10, 2008

A pizza of radius z and thickness a has a volume of pi z z a

Filed under: Interesting,Text/Link — Tomek @ 1:37 am


June 8, 2008

The Sounds of Colour

Filed under: Physical Universe,Thoughts — Tomek @ 6:48 pm

A440 is the 440 Hz tone that serves as the standard for musical pitch. A440 is the musical note A above middle C (A4).

Every time you double the frequency, the pitch goes one octave up. Starting from the note A at 440Hz, doubling the frequency six times, you hear five different As until the sound becomes ultrasonic and inaudible. Another 36 octaves up and the frequency is the same as that of visible light, in our case from A440 you get a frequency of 484THz, which is a wavelength of 619nm, which is red.

The frequency spectrum of visible light is a bit less than one octave. This can actually be seen, in that on one end of the spectrum is red and the other end is moving back from blue to red, giving violet.

June 6, 2008

Life from Space

Filed under: Life Science — Tomek @ 1:43 pm

Scientists from the Cardiff Centre for Astrobiology collected particles from the stratosphere up to 41 km up using a specially designed and cleaned device attached to a balloon. They found hundreds of particles in their filters, among them living cells. Due to the nature of our atmosphere it is highly unlikely that any of those cells found their way up from the earth by themselves, implying that at least some must have come from somewhere else.

Link to the papers and more pictures.


Theories of panspermia are rapidly coming into vogue, with the possibility of the transfer of viable bacterial cells from one planetary abode to another being generally accepted as inevitable. The panspermia models of Hoyle and Wickramasinghe require the transfer of viable bacterial cells from interstellar dust to comets and back into interplanetary and interstellar space. In such a cycle a viable fraction of as little as 10-18 at the inception of a newly formed comet/planet system suffices for cometary panspermia to dominate over competing processes for the origin and transfer of life. The well-attested survival attributes of microbes under extreme conditions, which have recently been discovered, gives credence to the panspermia hypothesis. The prediction of the theory that comets bring microbes onto the Earth at the present time is testable if aseptic collections of stratospheric air above the tropopause can be obtained. We describe a recent collection of this kind and report microbiological analysis that shows the existence of viable cells at 41km, falling to Earth at the rate of a few tonnes per day over the entire globe. Some of these cells have been cultured in the laboratory and found to include microorganisms that are not too different from related species on the Earth. This is in fact what the Hoyle-Wickramasinghe theory predicts. The weight of evidence goes against the more conservative explanation that organisms are being lofted to the high atmosphere from the ground.

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