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Apples, Gravity and Tall Tales……

30 Mar

 

‘Nothing imprints a story on the public’s imagination like a good anecdote. Not all are mythological or embellished. However, some accounts of purported events are clearly exaggerated and don’t add up……’

A recent item on the local BBC news covered a story of cuttings from the Apple tree at Woolsthorpe Manor, the ancestral home of Sir Isaac Newton, being taken to keep alive the source from which the apocryphal falling Apple inspired the Natural Philosopher to formulate his theories of gravitational attraction. But several things about this legendary story don’t add up.

imageThe story of the the Apple falling on Sir Isaac Newton’s head first appeared in the “Memoirs of Sir Isaac Newton’s Life”, written by William Stukeley and published in 1687. As a young man, Newton returned to Woolsthorpe, Lincolnshire to avoid the Plague. Newton was born on 25 December 1642. The Plague affected England in 1665/1666 when Newton was 23 years old, which leads to the conclusion that story was at least 22 years old upon publication. Newton makes no mention of falling Apples in “The Principia Mathematica”, which has led many scholars to believe it never actually happened and may have been used by Newton, first as a metaphor in lectures, and latter as an embellished anecdote at dinner parties.

Whether you choose to believe the story or not, there is still a problem with the BBC imagenews story. The preservation of the tree which sits in a small garden at Woolsthorpe is very unlikely to be the same allegorical tree because Apple trees usually only have a life span of 80 to 120 years. The oldest recorded Apple tree is 204 years old; still not old enough to be the tree under which Newton supposedly had his epiphany that led to his theory of gravitational attraction in 1665/1666.

I don’t question the validity and genius of Newton’s work, given what was known about physics at the time. Nor do I have a problem with the story of the falling Apple being used to educate children in schools today. But to make them believe that they may have a sibling of the original tree in the school gardens is on a par with the suspect King James Bible, venerated in every RE department and purporting to be “the gospels” of Jessie Chreezies disciples, which anyone with an IQ of above 80 should know to be nonsense, had they not been lied too since childhood by bigoted self-serving zealots with their own disreputable agenda……

Perhaps they could plant them next to the tree of “forbidden fruit” from the garden of Eden next to Jack’s Beanstalk……?

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What is Reality……

8 Mar

The answer to the question “What is reality?” is actually quite simple and can be put into one short sentence: it’s whatever you perceive as real. However, the simplicity immediately becomes complicated by the word ‘perceive’. Perception is subjective but there are many things we all perceive in a very similar way, but those things, such as the sky being blue are largely down to a common evolution. In the case of the sky, we agree on the colour because the receptors in our eyes are fundamentally the same in everyone (unless you are colour blind, which is a genetic defect of the eye). There is, however, a further complication to reality which is much, much deeper……

It is well known that an atom is predominantly empty space. It could be argued that it contains nothing ‘solid’ at all as we probe ever deeper. If everything we perceive as solid contains nothing at all, then how can anything exist to make our reality? This is the point at which we have to disassociate everything we think of as real and remind ourselves that perception is nothing more than an interpretation created by the sensory input to our brains. It becomes difficult to discuss, because all we have is language and mathematics to describe things, and both are coloured by our perception of reality……

Physicists ran into difficulties in the early 20th century. Called ‘The measurement problem’, the act of making a measurement actually affects the outcome. This is easily demonstrated visually with the famous double slit experiment, is still as yet unexplained and is one of the central mysteries of quantum mechanics. Follow this link to see a demonstration and the paradox will become clear. A well known thought experiment by Erwin Schrödinger in 1935 applies the double slit experiment to the macro scale with a cat in a box. Follow this link to learn about Schrödinger’s Cat and the paradoxical nature of the measurement problem becomes abundantly clear……

As we have developed the technology to ‘see’ things on smaller and smaller scales using particle accelerators, it appears that our ‘solid’ particles vanish altogether and all we are left with are forces and ‘virtual’ particles. The illusion of reality is a consequence of those forces being slowed down by the Higg’s mechanism; a sort of cosmic treacle that slows down the forces from the speed of light, giving them mass. Without it everything in the universe would move at the speed of light and nothing would exist at all……

So, what is reality? In our daily lives it is what we see, no matter how strange it is. But we have to accept that it is an illusion and, personally, I don’t believe we will ever really know. It’s a Rabbit hole which just get stranger the further down you go……

The reality right now is that I need a coffee, a smoke and more time to scratch my head……

Infinity

A Sad Day for Free Speach……

27 Feb

Today we have heard the sad news that fellow blogger, Avijit Roy, was murdered and his wife seriously injured by two deluded individuals.

The American born writer of Bangladeshi origin was killed in Dhaka.  His blog ‘Mucto-Mono’ (Free Mind) discussed the catastrophic repercussions of the effects of religion and other social inequalities in today’s world.

The couple were attacked by two men with machetes.

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My deepest sympathy goes out to the family and friends of Avijit.  Rest assured that his great work will be carried on by the rest of us……

RIP Avijit……

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A Review of 2014……

31 Dec

The_Thinker_Rodin

‘Thank you to all of my readers during 2014…  Below is an automated summary generated by WordPress…  More to come in 2015…  Bringing you the truth behind the ‘commercial medias’ headlines…..’

 

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog:

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 3,700 times in 2014. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 3 trips to carry that many people.

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Click here to see the complete report.

Absolute Zero……

23 Nov

‘I was thinking about absolute zero and thought, if there’s a minimum , why not a maximum’

Not being a thermal physicist I applied what I do know and read up on the other stuff, only to find I’m not the only one seeking the answer and it gets pretty complicated. Without over complicating the issue and removing those scary equations, here are some possible answers (yes, plural…..)

First of all back to school. What is heat? (heat and temp are for our purposes the same). Gold star to anyone whose answer was ‘it’s the product of the speed at which atoms move’. Absolute zero is the point at which all atoms stop moving as do quantum mechanical effects . This happens at 0 Kelvin or minus 460 F. You can’t get colder than that. It would be like trying to go south of the South Pole. That’s Absolute zero; simple hey……

Sun_in_XrayWhat about Absolute Hot. Surely, a similar set of equations govern that; like I said it’s not my field and had two choices; read up or blame ‘God’ (I’m starting to think I should have chosen the latter). Little did I know it but I’d opened a can of worms, the one labelled ‘The Theory of Everything; a sort of UN for physicists where String Theory, Quantum Mechanics and Multiverses go to argue their point……

I’m not actually going to try and explain the five most popular theories because they all have a fundamentally plausible reasons but involve very complicated mathematics which I was trying to avoid. I will, however, tell you what they are and my intuition as to the final answer……

There are many theories. 10 to the power of 32 Kelvin is one. That’s 100 million million million million million degrees Kelvin. It is based on the Standard Model of particle physics and relies on the Planck temperature. Max Planck’s measurements and ratios have proven accurate now we can test them and form the basis of many quantum calculations. But as one physicist put it, it’s largely accademic as it is in an order of magnitude beyond that of a Gamma Ray Burst or Quasar and makes the Sun look like a tiny spark millions of light years away. There are no sufficient words in the English language to express it. Saying it’s hot is like saying the universe is quite big……

Working Physicists at CERN think that the power of the particle accelerator which reaches 10 to the power of 17 K, is around the maximum temperature. To reach the energy needed the LHC produces 14 (Terra electron Volts, Terra meaning trillion); 15 orders of magnitude below the Planck temperature……

How about a boundless temperature that just keeps on going to infinity? It is possible but some very strange quantum effects would be observed. Anyway, much of this speculation has to do with those pesky billion billionths of a second when all conventional models break down.

Infinity

In my humble opinion absolute zero and absolute hot could be the same thing. (Now he’s has lost the plot I hear you cry), but hear me out. Once a really high temperature has been reached all bets are off with regard to the behavior of matter. The known interactions between the strong and weak nuclear forces, electromagnetism and gravity become unpredictable and, more importantly, equal out, forcing the system to stop, just as it does with absolute zero. So, the scale maybe +0 K – +300 K – K +infinity – K -infinity – -300 K to -0 K. This also explains beautifully why infinities pop up whichever way or with whatever model you choose to calculate……

Happy pondering……

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Religious Education……

10 Jun

Religious Educating should not be ‘taught’ in our schools.  This is the 21st century, not the 19th.  Making statements of fact that are completely unsubstantiated, if not disproven by science.  We tell our kids there’s a Father Xmas and a Tooth Fairy but they’re little tricks parents play to say well done.  As soon as they develop some awareness and reasoning they forget Santa and Pester mum and Dad.

Religion is different.  It is a long term brainwashing strategy that’s worked quite adequately for a few thousand years.  Re-enforce the nice stories of Nohah then bring in the facts about God and what awaits children who don’t follow the doctrine.  Many kids like me went to Sunday School but that was the norm and it gave our parents a break.  A lot will question the validity of what they are being told and turn Atheist like me.  But some don’t.

RE has been given the title ‘Religious and Social’ education but that’s just smoke and mirrors.  When teaching other religions, questionable events in history become facts by way of veneration through time and a manuscript, of which there are hundreds of differing versions. Many of these ‘facts’ have been disproven by science, right from Genesis which God’s description of is impossible and it is only by evolving the interpretation the bible that it survived.

Stop wasting tax payers money indoctrinating children into a single minded process of thinking and replace it with physics or PE.  You wouldn’t make your kids Liberal Democrats and send them to Lib Dem schools so they leave as caring lefties with not much understanding of the Torys of Labour.  Let kids make up their own minds when they’ve been given all of the information……

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Anonymous – The Worlds Third Superpower……

22 Apr

‘Throughout the 20th century Russia and America were the two superpowers in the world with the threat of ‘Mutually Assured Destruction’ holding each other at bay. Now there is a third superpower called Anonymous who, without an arsenal of weaponry at their disposal have the power to bring civilisation to its knees……’

 

The History of Hacking and Anonymous……?

 

Way back in the 70s a group of tech-heads, some employed by telephone companies, began ‘Phreakin’, a harmless activity tapping into phone lines and making calls to other Phreakers, or even to themselves via another far off country by hijacking into phone lines through a back door. The process was simple; build a device known as a ‘Bluebox’ with parts from Radio Shack that generated tones. We’re all used to hearing these tones on modern phone equipment but back then numbers were sent as a series of clicks and the tones were used to open and access the lines. Phreakin was a harmless activity and many of the names now associated with modern computing were in on the act from the start such as Steve Wosniac, one of the founders of Apple, and Bill Gates (no introduction needed).

 

It is from this early form of hacking that the next generation of hackers were born. The most well known amongst them being Anonymous……

 

Giving Hackers a Bad Name……Guy_Fawkes_01

 

A lot of hackers hack because they can. They relish the intellectual challenge of deconstructing programmers’ work and that’s as far as most go. Some will even tell the company about the inadequacies in their systems; offering a unique public service. Anonymous are that kind of group. To the best of my knowledge they have not interfered with databases or sought to profit from their activities. They sometimes make their presence known an ‘alternative’ start up screen from the ones the employees are used to seeing. Sadly, there are a few scammers who seek to exploit their access by making money from their victims……

 

Some Interesting Hacks of Recent Times……

 

‘Stuxnet’ is one of the hackers more interesting creations. Stuxnet installed itself on millions of innocent computers over the course of about two years. It was harmless to the average PC and you’d never have known it was even there. As it spread it found its way into the Iranians’ nuclear facilities. Stuxnet didn’t steal passwords or access codes, what it did was pure simplicity and hats off to whom created it, thought by many to be the American Secret Services. So, how did Stuxnet work? Almost all modern factory equipment is fitted with computerised ‘controllers’. They tell the machines when they are about to run out of something or if they are moving too fast for the production line ahead. There are thousands of these control boxes in every factory, in every country and in every industry. Stuxnet took control over one such operation; namely the RPM of the centrifuges used in the purification of Uranium. Nobody knows how long Stuxnet had sat quietly waiting to perform its eventual task, which was to tell the centrifuges they were running too slowly and needed to speed up. Meanwhile, running a sub-routine to tell the operators that all was normal. The eventual outcome of all this subterfuge was to accelerate the centrifuges until they shook themselves to bits, all without anybody noticing what was happening and with no idea that their computers had been compromised. “Neat, ha” is how I had it described to me.

 

The newest kid on the block is ‘Heartbleed’; the extent of its damage to systems is not yet fully known but they made it clear to users of ‘Mumsnet’ that it had been compromised and login data, user name, pass words etc had been accessed. Mumsnet, to the best of my knowledge, doesn’t use card payment systems, so it is pretty safe to say that nothing malicious has come of that intrusion but, people do tend to use the same pass words over and over again. You can hardly blame them, I had a quick tot up all my accounts and I have somewhere around 60 usernames and passwords, so like a lot of people who can’t perform feats of memory akin to remembering the order of a deck of cards, use some more than once and don’t change them nearly enough. Worse still they will often use a child’s name or birthday. My feeling is that the hackers were pointing out a security flaw and not out to raid peoples’ bank accounts; or why make yourself known?

 

Implications……

 

Unless you have a computer connected to a printer that has never been connected to the internet, the chances are you’ll probably have viruses on it. They are unlikely to do any harm, maybe slow you down a little. The big problems lay with the financial institutions, governments and the military. Any system that uses computers and is not completely isolated from the web is vulnerable, no matter how clever the ‘geeks’ that program them. Systems need to access each other to communicate and no system is foolproof. You can guarantee that someone somewhere can find a back door into the system and taken into consideration the computer controlled environment we live in there are ‘geeks’ tapping away at keyboards in basements all over the world, even if their intentions are innocent and they simply relish the challenge.

 

For all we know there could be a ‘Stuxnet’ quietly installing itself onto your PC right now. To what end nobody can say. Fortunately, it is the geeks that play at hacking for fun; it is the secret services, MI5/6, the CIA and Mossad who are most likely to be tampering with the ‘trigger’. Let’s just hope they don’t get caught by Russia or North Korea, who thinking they are under attack, hit the big red button.

 

It is groups like Anonymous who help to demonstrate the vulnerabilities of government systems. However, if a member was traced and arrested, would they be hailed as moderators? No, you can almost guarantee that we would be told that a member of a terrorist cell had been apprehended, saving us all from destruction and I’ll bet everything I have on which ‘terrorist’ outfit they are connected to. Yep, the non-geographical, highly organised hyper terrorists ‘al Qaeda’. Don’t be put off by the mud huts and rusty pick-ups with Kalashnikovs crudely mounted on the back. Somewhere there is a high tech volcano where Mohamed Scaramanga is plotting world domination. Let’s hope The Department of Homeland Security finds that volcano before they use the death ray on us……

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