Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Humorous Aside: Funny Farside cartoons

I love the farside, special thanks to Gary Larson for producing such a hysterical cartoon as the Far Side.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Buddhism and the permanence of matter

The Dalai Lama (the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism and one of the world’s most prominent Buddhists) has indicated that he believes that Buddhism is ready for scientific analysis in the age of reason. I agree with this assessment – indeed I believe all the world’s religions need to be ready for scrutiny and analysis in the age of reason. To this end the Dalai Lama has indicated that Buddhist scriptures disproved by modern science should be abandoned.

I was thinking about how some ideas from science may conflict with the idea of impermanence which plays a moderately prominent role in some Buddhist texts.

One example may be whether matter as we know it is permanent or impermanent.

Monday, June 15, 2009

String Theory

String theorists claim that the universe has 9, 10, 11, 13 or whatever number of dimensions (depending on which theorist you talk to). These claims are based on nothing more than mathematics, however, I wouldn’t be surprised to discover that the universe does indeed have more dimensions than the 4 dimensional space-time that Einstein’s general relativity implies.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Another Bohring article?

Problems with the Bohr model of the atom: it claims that the reason the electron does not degrade and collapse into the nucleus is because the electromagnetic force pulling the electron in is balanced by the centripetal force from the kinetic energy of the electron (moving really really fast around the core). The problem with this model is that maintaining its super fast speed is the only thing that keeps the electron from degrading into the nucleus and letting off a LOT of energy (Einstein's E=mc^2). The universe has been around for some 14 billion years, I think matter is a little more stable than that!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Unknowns in the strong force

The electromagnetic force repels same charged particles and attracts oppositely charged particles. Similarly, the strong force attracts same charged particles

Friday, June 12, 2009

Humorous Aside: The significance of scientific research?

Once a scientist's experiments are complete (measurements taken, data collected) the scientist is typically expected to show that their research is statistically significant. A previous article shows that the main statistical significance test that people use was created in a beer factory over a hundred years ago and was only used on sets of up to 10 samples (way too few by today's scientist's standards). If you collect a lot of samples, the test will almost always give you the significance you're looking for. Luckily I discovered a new statistical significance test on the internet that will allow us to compute a number to determine if our research was worth anything (thank you PhDComics.com).

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Science assisting world peace

Science and technology have been advancing at a remarkable pace. One large contribution to changing our lives is the cell phone - not least of which because modern versions have the ability to take photographs and capture video clips.

MRI: Why do some things ring and others not?

As mentioned on previous posts MRI works because a proton in a strong magnetic field will polarize. We use it to image hydrogen along with a collection of isotopes (somewhat irregular configurations of matter where the nucleus has an unusual number of protons or neutrons). However, other than hydrogen, magnetic resonance has not been reported in all the remaining elements (just isotopes). But in MRI we are typically merely imaging protons which occur naturally in all elements and isotopes. Why is it that we observe no magnetic resonance phenomena in the elements? (except for hydrogen).

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Humorous Aside: Thesis realism

Some jokes from PhDComics.com on keeping realistic thesis expectations.

Functional MRI

Functional MRI is an exciting idea: it allows us to create a map of how the brain responds when the person being imaged is subjected to some particular stimuli (say being shown a picture or told to perform a task). Functional MRI (fMRI) involves taking a measure of the amount of oxygen in a particular location of brain tissue. When a person’s mind activates with a particular thought/concept/action the activation can be measured by observing an increase in the amount of oxygen present (oxygen is delivered to activating regions by hemoglobin).

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Measuring the strong force with MRI

MRI works because a proton that's in a strong magnetic field will polarize/align with the field and then behaves like a bell when it's hit with a radio wave (it rings back with another radio wave that we listen to in order to make an image).

Monday, June 8, 2009

Free will, predestiny or do we have to choose?

We all have the ability to use our memories to look back at past events. If we were to do so we would be aware that at one particular point in our past we chose to do some particular thing. In the present moment, free will implies that we have the ability to choose to do any particular thing.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Physics: MRI a quark based dipole?

In MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) an image is obtained by placing a person in a strong magnetic field. The strong magnetic field causes the proton of a hydrogen atom to align with the field. A radio wave is applied to the person which causes the proton to be knocked out of alignment with the magnetic field. The strong magnetic field causes the proton to return to its original state, and this process of realigning lets off another (much smaller) radio wave, which we listen to. The final image is formed from measurements of the strength of these radio waves that emanate from hydrogen protons in the body.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The problems with currencies

As everyone is aware, the world's economic transactions are performed in a variety of different currencies. Currency traders share a generally accepted range of possible exchange rates for different currencies with respect to each other. If a new event occurs that appears to weaken a particular currency, currency traders are liable to buy and sell in a pattern that adjusts the exchange rate to devalue the currency.

Monday, June 1, 2009

The problems with mortgages

Economics is a fascinating science (physical scientists often look down upon the social sciences, however, social sciences are simply areas of scientific study that are affected by human behaviour – a fascinating challenge for the researcher).

Present law in Canada and the United States says that a banking institution can issue a mortgage while only actually having 10% of the amount of funds needed for the mortgage. The bank borrows the rest of the money from the central bank (a government agency: the Bank of Canada or the Federal Reserve in the USA). The banks are charged a remarkably low interest rate from the central bank and in turn charge YOU a higher interest rate on money they never even had!

Problems with economics policy

Currently the United States and Canada are funneling something like 60 billion dollars into General Motors (GM) and in exchange they are receiving 72.5% ownership of the company. The company has recently announced that it has over 170 billion dollars in debts. So the Canadian and US governments have just paid 60 billion dollars for the privilege of owing another 125 billion dollars (72.5% of 170 billion). GM will use $4-billion of the Canadian loans to address the shortfall in its pension plans. In addition, the company will inject $200-million into the pension plans over the next five years, making them fully solvent." So part of the plan that the government has funded is to provide GM with loans and GM will use 4 billion dollars of the Canadian loans to pay the pensions of former employees, and GM plans to 'fix' its pension problems by investing only 40 million dollars per year to make "them fully solvent" (ie. economically healthy). This is preposterous! How could 40 million per year fix a problem that needs 4 billion dollars right now?!