February 15, 2014
In 1986, the Chernobyl Nuclear Reactor in Ukraine went into meltdown, causing a massive ecological disaster. Radiation flooded the environment and all humans had to evacuate. The trees wilted and all the animals were dying of cancer and other forms of sickness. But what about today?
The BBC released a really fascinating story. A group of animals remained there in the area, and over several generations, they’ve evolved an immunity to the radiation. There are bears roaming the forest, pigeons and starlings in the trees, and lynxs wandering around the ground. These native radioactive animals are perfectly healthy, almost as if nothing ever happened. Here’s a photograph of a Przewalski horse, who doesn’t seem to notice that he’s being bombarded with lethal doses of radiation every hour of the day.
If you take animals from anywhere else and put them there, they develop cancer, get sick, and die. These radioactive animals are different. They’re now immune. We could never eat them, but that’s to their advantage, I guess.
In the 1980s, there was a lot of public uproar about all of this. People worried that our meddling in nature would end life on the planet eventually. This case is actually different though. Twenty-five years later, some environmentalists are joking that we should place radioactive nuclear waste in every rainforest to protect the animals and wildlife from humans.
Life is resilient. It will find ways to exploit any sort of environmental catastrophe. We’re here because a giant meteor came down from space and wiped out the dinosaurs.
February 15, 2014
A recent study published in the journal of Frontiers in Human Neuroscience found that mathematicians perceive the same degree of beauty in elegant equations as an artist does admiring beautiful architecture, or a musician listening to Bach.
“Many have written of the experience of mathematical beauty as being comparable to that derived from the greatest art. This makes it interesting to learn whether the experience of beauty derived from such a highly intellectual and abstract source as mathematics correlates with activity in the same part of the emotional brain as that derived from more sensory, perceptually based, sources. To determine this, we used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to image the activity in the brains of 15 mathematicians when they viewed mathematical formulae which they had individually rated as beautiful, indifferent or ugly. Results showed that the experience of mathematical beauty correlates parametrically with activity in the same part of the emotional brain, namely field A1 of the medial orbito-frontal cortex (mOFC), as the experience of beauty derived from other sources.”
The most elegant and beautiful equation was Euler’s identity.
We physicists spend so much time with mathematics, we also have this same sense of beauty. Paul Dirac once said, “What makes the theory of relativity so acceptable to physicists in spite of its going against the principle of simplicity is its great mathematical beauty. This is a quality which cannot be defined, any more than beauty in art can be defined, but which people who study mathematics usually have no difficulty in appreciating.”
I spend so much time with mathematics these days, I now viscerally “feel” and “perceive” the beauty in equations. It’s the same feeling I have when I look at the blue sky and think that the clouded dome above us is a realm of the gods. Who could define exactly what it is that makes a group of big poofy white clouds so beautiful? The same thing happens with mathematical expressions.
February 11, 2014
I’ve just finished watching some really old lectures of Paul A.M. Dirac speaking on quantum mechanics and quantum electrodynamics. Youtube is so neat. Somebody found an old film spool, digitized it, and uploaded it to Youtube.
I find the end of the lecture on quantum mechanics very interesting. He felt that the subject is full of problems, incomplete, and creates as many problems as it solves. He was waiting for someone to come up with something to replace it. Jump to time 49 mins to hear the discussion.
February 9, 2014
From time to time I receive nasty emails from people who disagree with the things I say in my blog posts. When I say nasty, I mean really nasty, with not a single shred of respect. They insult me, call me all sorts of names, and tell me how terrible a person I am. Some of you may notice that I never talk about it, and I don’t make posts like, “Reading my hate mail” or “Analyzing hate mail”. Truth is, when I receive hateful criticism that doesn’t offer any sort of argument, and I’m unable to glean any new insight from it, I simply delete it and never think of them again.
I really enjoyed Ayn Rand’s movie The Fountainhead. Personality wise, I have a lot in common with Howard Roark, the main character. He’s an architect with a passion for building beautiful skyscrapers. Another man, Ellseworth Toohey, runs a column in a popular magazine on architecture and acknowledges Roark’s excellence but is afraid of it. Toohey does everything he can to stop Roark because he knows that he will take business from his buddies. Therefore he uses his column to attack Roark’s buildings, stirring up public controversy.
They end up meeting one day on the streets, with Toohey waiting for Roark at a building site. Roark should have gotten the deal but didn’t due to insider corruption, in large part due to Toohey’s influence. You should take note how Roark handles it.
You may easily misunderstand this scene, thinking Roark hates Toohey. He doesn’t at all. In fact, later in the movie, the owner of that very newspaper hires Roark to build several skyscrapers for him. When they meet in his office, Gail Wynand, the CEO, asks him how he could work for a newspaper which had spent so much time running him down. Roark just makes a joke out of it, actually finds the good in Wynand, compliments him on it, and goes on to design them spectacular office buildings. That’s how men and women of integrity deal with hate.
February 8, 2014
I’m sure you’ve all heard of Jerry Seinfeld. He was the star of his hit TV comedy Seinfeld throughout the 90’s, and now he does a web show called Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. In an interview, they were asking him about comedy and stand up routines. He said, “if you’re not funny, I’m not interested. I have no interest in gender or race or anything like that.” He said that comedy is the ultimate form of justice. The audience laughs or they don’t. That’s the only real factor.
Then they asked him why almost all of his web show guests have been white males. Of course, they were implying that he doesn’t have racial diversity in his show. Where are the asians, blacks, women, and everybody else? I loved Jerry’s response, “What is this, the census?” The left is now saying he’s a racist.
This stuff makes me sick. Click toward the bottom right to get it to play.
I’ve never seen a group as intolerant in all my life. See that woman in the interview? “I used to be a fan of Jerry, but now… UGH!” The third woman’s response is so telling. Listen carefully to what she says, “He’s had so much success, and he’s had that success doing things his way…”
God forbid he does things his way on his show. Why should it be your way, or anyone else’s way? It’s his show. And what is the left’s problem? He was just saying comedy should be based on merit, not anything else. What’s wrong with that?
It’s his cameras. His cars. His equipment. His guests. He’s the one paying to advertise the show. You know what? That gives him the right to have whoever he wants as his guests. Period.
And by the way, he had Chris Rock and Mario Joyner on his web show. So much for your claims he’s a racist. He’s also had Tina Fey. They’re not all white males.
If you deal with these leftists, you have to have a politically correct statement prepared in advance for every question they ask you, and if you say anything they don’t like or disagree with, they’re going to boycott you and cause a giant stir.
If you’re going to accuse a person of racism, why Jerry Seinfeld? He’s the racist? Really? Give me a break. Go after real racists, not the rich white guy whose success you can’t stand.
I’ve had it with political correctness, in all of its forms. This isn’t equality, this is control. This is one group of people trying to tell another group of people what to do with their things. I don’t respect that at all.