Archive for the 'Science' Category

Journal of Visualized Experiments

Wired ran an article in the latest issue about a new website that takes the idea of user created video to the next level with a focus on experimental methodology in the sciences. The Journal of Visualized Experiments offers howtos on hardcore experimental methods. These methods have been bound up in tacit knowledge which is extremely difficult to extract from the brains of seasoned researchers. Now with a little work and a community of inquiry spirit, these bits of specialized expertise can be easily accessed as needed. This kind of site really brings to the fore the fact that video has reached the level that desktop publishing reached in the last decade. What’s next you might ask? Desktop fabrication. Work has already begun on DIY open source rapid prototypers.

Antikythera Decoded

Scientists using the latest X-Ray Tomography equipment have finally gotten a clear picture of the complex mechanism that represents the oldest known computer. The Antikythera was found in a shipwreck off the coast of Greece and dates from circa 200 BCE. The computer was used to track and predict moon cycles. Tony Freeth and Mike G. Edmunds from University of Cardiff, Wales, published their findings in the journal Nature. Here’s the NYT article.

Detecting perturbations in the global mind in the present and future

Just read an interesting article here on something I had never heard about before. Apparently, there is a group of scientists from various disciplines who have been quietly monitoring a network of blackbox random number generators for about 7 years. It’s a kind of "Electrogaiagram" and the project goes by the playful name EGG. Although this certainly could be seen as just another wacky parapsychology study, I find it interesting on many levels.

The article linked above refers to the statistical analysis the Global Consciousness Project has carried out with respect to momentous events that have had massive impacts on many people. The EGG researchers have seen perturbations in the randomness of the EGGs (the random number generators I mentioned above) that correspond to important global events like the recent tsunami in Asia and the September 11th terrorist attacks in New York, D.C., and Pennsylvania. The perturbations in the randomness of the numbers, according to Dr. Roger Nelson, the primary researcher based at Princeton, represent about a million to one odds that they are mere coincidence. In fact the project has recorded several statistically significant departures from random in the system of EGGs over the past several years, including the funeral of Princess Diana (watched by an estimated 1 billion people world-wide and the passing of the new year in 2000 at major metropolitan areas such as New York and London.

Some readers of this post may have read my musings from last summer on the nature of infinity and light, and I think the EGG project is related in several ways. In the end, the idea of a global consciousness seems very Hegelian to me, especially as Josiah Royce developed Hegel’s metaphysics through Charles Peirce’s Logic and Semiotics in The Problem of Christianity. I’ve been interested in these ideas since they were introduced to me at Loyola in my several philosophy classes on epistemology and American Philosophy with Rev. John Stacer, S.J.–a wonderful teacher.

Dr. Nelson at the Global Consciousness project also refers to the work of Teilhard de Chardin on evolutionary theology, who I was also introduced to by Fr. Stacer at Loyola. For a great speculative treatment of some of the ideas of Teilhard, I’ve always really enjoyed reading and re-reading Julian May’s Galactic Milieu novels–very fun stuff. Put all this together with my readings recently on string theory, relativity, and transfinite mathematics and you get the bubbling pot that is my mind right now.