‘Psychologists have hitherto failed to realize that imagination is a necessary ingredient of perception itself.’ –Kant


For centuries, scientists studied light to comprehend the visible world. […] But in the late 19th century all that changed […] the whole focus of physics—then still emerging as a distinct scientific discipline—shifted from the visible to the invisible. […] Today its theories and concepts are concerned largely with invisible entities: not only unseen force fields and insensible rays but particles too small to see even with the most advanced microscopes. […] Theories at the speculative forefront of physics flesh out this unseen universe with parallel worlds and with mysterious entities named for their very invisibility: dark matter and dark energy. […]

…the concept of “brane” (short for membrane) worlds. This arises from the most state-of-the-art variants of string theory, which attempt to explain all the known particles and forces in terms of ultra-tiny entities called strings, which can be envisioned as particles extended into little strands that vibrate. Most versions of the theory call for variables in the equations that seem to have the role of extra dimensions in space, so that string theory posits not four dimensions (of time and space) but 11. As physicist and writer Jim Baggott points out, “there is no experimental or observational basis for these assumptions”—the “extra dimensions” are just formal aspects of the equations. However, the latest versions of the theory suggest that these extra dimensions can be extremely large, constituting extra-dimensional branes that are potential repositories for alternative universes separated from our own like the stacked leaves of a book. Inevitably, there is an urge to imagine that these places too might be populated with sentient beings, although that’s optional. The point is that these brane worlds are nothing more than mathematical entities in speculative equations, incarnated, as it were, as invisible parallel universes. […]

Scientists, of course, are not just making things up, while leaning on the convenience of supposed invisibility. They are using dark matter and dark energy, and (if one is charitable) quantum many-worlds and branes, and other imperceptible and hypothetical realms, to perform an essential task: to plug gaps in their knowledge with notions they can grasp.

{ Nautilus | Continue reading }

related { How it works: An ultra-precise thermometer made from light }

What happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object?


I understand by ‘God’ the perfect being, where a being is perfect just in case it has all perfections essentially and lacks all imperfections essentially. […]

Given that there are good reasons for thinking that the premises of the Compossibility Argument (CA) are true, it seems to me we have a good reason to think that God’s existence is possible. Of course, this does not, by itself, allow us to conclude to the much more important thesis that God exists, and so the atheist can consistently admit God’s possibility and maintain her atheism.

{ C’Zar Bernstein/Academia | Continue reading }

The omnipotence paradox states that: If a being can perform any action, then it should be able to create a task which this being is unable to perform; hence, this being cannot perform all actions. Yet, on the other hand, if this being cannot create a task that it is unable to perform, then there exists something it cannot do.

One version of the omnipotence paradox is the so-called paradox of the stone: “Could an omnipotent being create a stone so heavy that even he could not lift it?” If he could lift the rock, then it seems that the being would not have been omnipotent to begin with in that he would have been incapable of creating a heavy enough stone; if he could not lift the stone, then it seems that the being either would never have been omnipotent to begin with or would have ceased to be omnipotent upon his creation of the stone.

The argument is medieval, dating at least to the 12th century, addressed by Averroës (1126–1198) and later by Thomas Aquinas. Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite (before 532) has a predecessor version of the paradox, asking whether it is possible for God to “deny himself”.


A common response from Christian philosophers, such as Norman Geisler or Richard Swinburne is that the paradox assumes a wrong definition of omnipotence. Omnipotence, they say, does not mean that God can do anything at all but, rather, that he can do anything that’s possible according to his nature.

{ Wikipedia | Continue reading }

related { Jesus and Virgin Mary spotted on Google Earth pic }

‘Max I can loose is 100%. Max I can gain is unlimited.’ —Shit /r/Bitcoin says


The arguments for ditching notes and coins are numerous, and quite convincing. In the US, a study by Tufts University concluded that the cost of using cash amounts to around $200 billion per year – about $637 per person. This is primarily the costs associated with collecting, sorting and transporting all that money, but also includes trivial expenses like ATM fees. Incidentally, the study also found that the average American wastes five and a half hours per year withdrawing cash from ATMs; just one of the many inconvenient aspects of hard currency.

While coins last decades, or even centuries, paper currency is much less durable. A dollar bill has an average lifespan of six years, and the US Federal Reserve shreds somewhere in the region of 7,000 tons of defunct banknotes each year.

Physical currency is grossly unhealthy too. Researchers in Ohio spot-checked cash used in a supermarket and found 87% contained harmful bacteria. Only 6% of the bills were deemed “relatively clean.” […]

Stockholm’s homeless population recently began accepting card payments. […]

Cash transactions worldwide rose just 1.75% between 2008 and 2012, to $11.6 trillion. Meanwhile, non traditional payment methods rose almost 14% to total $6.4 trillion.

{ TransferWise | Continue reading }

The anal stage is the second stage in Sigmund Freud’s theory of psychosexual development, lasting from age 18 months to three years. According to Freud, the anus is the primary erogenous zone and pleasure is derived from controlling bladder and bowel movement. […]

The negative reactions from their parents, such as early or harsh toilet training, can lead the child to become an anal-retentive personality. If the parents tried forcing the child to learn to control their bowel movements, the child may react by deliberately holding back in rebellion. They will form into an adult who hates mess, is obsessively tidy, punctual, and respectful to authority. These adults can sometimes be stubborn and be very careful over their money.

{ Wikipedia | Continue reading }

related { Hackers Hit Mt. Gox Exchange’s CEO, Claim To Publish Evidence Of Fraud | Where are the 750k Bitcoins lost by Mt. Gox? }

Even if you knew the entire past history of the universe, this would not contain the information about what the particles will do in the experiment


Quantum physics is famously weird, counterintuitive and hard to understand; there’s just no getting around this. So it is very reassuring that many of the greatest physicists and mathematicians have also struggled with the subject. The legendary quantum physicist Richard Feynman famously said that if someone tells you that they understand quantum mechanics, then you can be sure that they are lying. And Conway too says that he didn’t understand the quantum physics lectures he took during his undergraduate degree at Cambridge.

The key to this confusion is that quantum physics is fundamentally different to any of the previous theories explaining how the physical world works. In the great rush of discoveries of new quantum theory in the 1920s, the most surprising was that quantum physics would never be able to exactly predict what was going to happen. In all previous physical theories, such as Newton’s classical mechanics or Einstein’s theories of special and general relativity, if you knew the current state of the physical system accurately enough, you could predict what would happen next. “Newtonian gravitation has this property,” says Conway. “If I take a ball and I throw it vertically upwards, and I know its mass and I know its velocity (suppose I’m a very good judge of speed!) then from Newton’s theories I know exactly how high it will go. And if it doesn’t do exactly as I expect then that’s because of some slight inaccuracy in my measurements.”

Instead quantum physics only offers probabilistic predictions: it can tell you that your quantum particle will behave in one way with a particular probability, but it could also behave in another way with another particular probability. “Suppose there’s this little particle and you’re going to put it in a magnetic field and it’s going to come out at A or come out at B,” says Conway, imagining an experiment, such as the Stern Gerlach experiment, where a magnetic field diverts an electron’s path. “Even if you knew exactly where the particles were and what the magnetic fields were and so on, you could only predict the probabilities. A particle could go along path A or path B, with perhaps 2/3 probability it will arrive at A and 1/3 at B. And if you don’t believe me then you could repeat the experiment 1000 times and you’ll find that 669 times, say, it will be at A and 331 times it will be at B.”

{ The Free Will Theorem, Part I | Continue reading | Part II | Part III }

Innuendo of home rule. Tourists, you know, from the isle of Man.


The key way that economists model behavior is by assuming that people have preferences about things. Often, but not always, these preferences are expressed in the form of a utility function. But there are some things that could happen that could seriously mess with this model. Most frightening are “framing effects”. This is when what you want depends on how it’s presented to you. […]

One of the most important tools we have to describe people’s behavior over time is the notion of time preference, also called “discounting”. This means that we assume that people care about the future less than they care about the present. Makes sense, right? But while certain kinds of discounting cause people’s choices to be inconsistent, other kinds would cause people to make inconsistent decisions. For example, some people might choose not to study hard in college, even though they realize that someday they’ll wake up and say “Man, if I could go back in time I would have studied more in college!”. This kind of thing is called hyperbolic discounting. It would make it a lot harder to model human behavior. But the models would still be possible to make.

But what would be really bad news is if people’s time preferences switched depending on framing effects! If that happened, then it would be very, very hard to model individual decision-making over time.

Unfortunately, that is exactly what experimental economist David Eil of George Mason University has found in a new experiment.

{ Noahpinion | Continue reading }

‘Emergence’ is an idea that has received much attention in consciousness literature, but it is difficult to find characterizations of that concept which are both specific and useful


Since 1955, The Journal of Irreproducible Results has offered “spoofs, parodies, whimsies, burlesques, lampoons and satires” about life in the laboratory. Among its greatest hits: “Acoustic Oscillations in Jell-O, With and Without Fruit, Subjected to Varying Levels of Stress” and “Utilizing Infinite Loops to Compute an Approximate Value of Infinity.” The good-natured jibes are a backhanded celebration of science. What really goes on in the lab is, by implication, of a loftier, more serious nature.

It has been jarring to learn in recent years that a reproducible result may actually be the rarest of birds. Replication, the ability of another lab to reproduce a finding, is the gold standard of science, reassurance that you have discovered something true. But that is getting harder all the time. With the most accessible truths already discovered, what remains are often subtle effects, some so delicate that they can be conjured up only under ideal circumstances, using highly specialized techniques.

Fears that this is resulting in some questionable findings began to emerge in 2005, when Dr. John P. A. Ioannidis, a kind of meta-scientist who researches research, wrote a paper pointedly titled “Why Most Published Research Findings Are False.”


The fear that much published research is tainted has led to proposals to make replication easier by providing more detailed documentation, including videos of difficult procedures. […] Scientists talk about “tacit knowledge,” the years of mastery it can take to perform a technique. The image they convey is of an experiment as unique as a Rembrandt.

{ NY Times | Continue reading }

If you’re five minutes late, just keep walking to Canada


What if the universe had no beginning, and time stretched back infinitely without a big bang to start things off? That’s one possible consequence of an idea called “rainbow gravity,” so-named because it posits that gravity’s effects on spacetime are felt differently by different wavelengths of light, aka different colors in the rainbow. […]

“It’s a model that I do not believe has anything to do with reality,” says Sabine Hossenfelder of the Nordic Institute for Theoretical Physics.

{ Scientific American | Continue reading }

If everything when it occupies an equal space is at rest, and if that which is in locomotion is always occupying such a space at any moment, the flying arrow is therefore motionless


For a couple years now I’ve been fascinated by some recent ideas about how complexity evolves. Darwin’s great insight was recognizing how natural selection could create complex traits. All that was needed was a series of intermediates that raised the reproductive success of organisms. But recently some researchers have developed ideas in which natural selection doesn’t play such a central role.

One idea, laid out in the book Biology’s First Law, holds that life has a built-in propensity to get more complex–even in the absence of natural selection. According to another idea, called constructive neutral evolution, mutations can change simple structures into more complex ones even if those mutations don’t provide an advantage. The scientists who are championing these ideas don’t see them as refuting natural selection, but, rather, complementing it, and enriching our understanding of how evolution works.

{ Carl Zimmer | Continue reading | More: Scientists are exploring how organisms can evolve elaborate structures without Darwinian selection }

For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance


Big news from the annals of science last week. A British newspaper reports that the mysteries of the universe may have been solved by a hedge-fund economist who left academia 20 years ago. Eric Weinstein’s theory – he calls it geometric unity – posits a 14-dimensional “observerse”, which contains our work-a-day, four-dimensional, space-time universe.

{ The National | Continue reading | More: Guardian }

photo { Alessandra Celauro }

Through the mirror stage, the distinct presence of (m)Other inserts itself to the psyche of child; and by the strategy of recognizing itself in regarding to (m)Other, the child’s psychic drama begins.


Modern physics deals with some ridiculously non-intuitive stuff. Objects act as though they gain mass the faster they move. An electron can’t decide if it’s a particle, a wave or both. However, there is one statement that takes the cake on sounding like crazy talk: Empty space isn’t empty.

If you take a container, pump all the air out of it, shield it from electric fields and plop it in the deepest of intergalactic space to get it away from gravitational fields, that container should contain absolutely nothing. However, that’s not what happens.

At the quantum scale, space is a writhing, frantic, ever-changing foam, with particles popping into existence and disappearing in the wink of an eye. This is not just a theoretical idea—it’s confirmed. How can this bizarre idea be true?

Even though in classical physics we are taught that energy is conserved, which means it cannot change, one of the tenets of quantum mechanics says that energy doesn’t have to be conserved if the change happens for a short enough time. So even if space had zero energy, it would be perfectly OK for a little energy to pop into existence for a tiny split second and then disappear—and that’s what happens in empty space. And since energy and matter are the same (thank Einstein for teaching us that E=mc2 thing), matter can also appear and disappear.

And this appears everywhere. At the quantum level, matter and antimatter particles are constantly popping into existence and popping back out, with an electron-positron pair here and a top quark-antiquark pair there. This behavior is the reason that scientists call these ephemeral particles “quantum foam”: It’s similar to how bubbles in foam form and then pop.

{ Fermilab | Continue reading }

photo { Robert Adams }

Then perform a miracle. Prophesy who will win the Saint-Léger.


String theory is an attempt to describe all particles and all forces in nature in one unified theoretical framework. It encompasses quantum mechanics and gravity, and it is based on the idea that the fundamental building blocks of matter are not particles, but strings: objects which have some length, and which can vibrate in different ways.

{ Steven Gubser on String Theory | Continue reading }

images { 1 | 2 }

Learn the smooth mincing walk on four inch Louis XV heels, the Grecian bend with provoking croup, the thighs fluescent, knees modestly kissing. Bring all your power of fascination to bear on them.


Perhaps no other human trait is as variable as human height. […] The source of that variation is something that anthropologists have been trying to root out for decades. Diet, climate and environment are frequently linked to height differences across human populations.

More recently, researchers have implicated another factor: mortality rate. In a new study in the journal Current Anthropology, Andrea Bamberg Migliano and Myrtille Guillon, both of the University College London, make the case that people living in populations with low life expectancies don’t grow as tall as people living in groups with longer life spans.

{ Smithsonian | Continue reading }