Einstein: General and Special Relativity

Einstein was unique in that he was able to expand on Newton’s ideas of gravity and give us a new way of thinking about time. This would be unremarkable if it wasn’t for the fact that his theories have been proven over and over (for example, thank him for GPS technology and bending light).

For some modern physicists, his ideas are lacking because of quantum dynamics. Of course this is a serious field of study, but it kind of makes me mad when I hear about contemporaries dissing him (I won’t name any names).

Scientists that argue for brane theory and dismiss the subtle mixture of space and time confuse me. How can you acknowledge that time is inexorably linked to space and then propose a theory that suggests another hidden dimension of space? This supposedly allows time to have existed forever. How is this more satisfactory? How can we reconcile the macro with the micro in a way that doesn’t destroy 100 years of proven theory? Are we just going to paradoxically claim that time is intimately linked to space but is also potentially independent of 3-dimensional space?

We get into a terribly difficult ontological argument about “What comes before time existed?”. If we accept that time has always existed then we have to accept these ontological arguments. The Arrow of Time is a hard philosophical construct to detour.

What’s great about Einstein’s theories is that he taught us that things are much more chaotic than Newton. He got us to the moon, helped guide Voyager, and obviously helped make GPS satellites possible. Why were all these things significant? Because of time. Time travels differently depending on velocity and nearness to mass. This was his Opus. No serious scientist would argue against this logic.

What is arguable is the essence of “time”. I don’t think it is a knowable variable, but it works in the math as a variable nonetheless. 😉 Careful!

Maybe we ARE living in the Matrix?!

Scientists to Investigate…

This is not your usual news, but it certainly is interesting. Scientists at the University of Washington have developed a way to test whether we are indeed living within a computer simulation.

Before you start laughing or shaking your head, consider the original article by Nick Bostrom that started all this. Basically, the article posits that if humans advance to the point of “post human” (meaning a super-advanced civilization capable of running computer simulations of ancesters), then it can be a logical argument to assume that it has already happened and we are merely one of these computer simulations. The article does some math based on current known constraints of computational powers and physical laws. Assuming a “post human” world encompasses the knowledge to fully access the brink of physical laws and has almost inifinte compueter processing power, then Bostrom argues that we can assume that we are a computer simulation just as safely as we can confirm “normal” reality.

If you’re still following and haven’t dropped your jaw, scratched your head, or donned your cap of skepticism, then check out this U of W article that proposes a test so we can know for sure. While it is still in it’s infancy, the idea is to show a distinct difference from the normal cone of distribution expected from the relationship of energy and momentum. What this means in lame’s terms is that we should start to notice some idiosynchrocies between “normal” and the computer simulation. I guess the idea is that if we do find these discrepencies then we can assume that we are living in a computer simulation.

I have a few problems with this. First of all, there could be other things causing these discrepencies. The answer could be more troublesome than being part of a computer simulation. Another problem is that it doesn’t really tell us anything that we can use. If we are all just part of a computer simulation, then what does that mean for us? Does it change anything? Does it make this life less “real?

But you know, part of me would not even be surprised. It wasn’t too long ago that we did not even know about the existence of DNA or pathogens, much less radioactivity or electricity. What if we next find out that we live inside a computer program? I would not change my outlook on life except to have a constantly unsettling feeling. 🙂

In any case, this is a really neat thing to think about psychologically as well as philosophically. The fact that it is now being tested with math and science just adds to the philosophical drama.

For an interesting take on this from the entertainment industry, take a look at the Star Trek Voyager episode “The Thaw”.

Let me know what you think about this in the comments. Also, if you know of any other pertinent tv or movie references, then leave those in the comments as well and I will append them to the post. Happy computing! 🙂


Thanks for all the Nucleotides

Your DNA is now pwned!

A study from the scientific journal, Genome Medicine, evaluated the current patents on genomes and came to a surprising conclusion. Nearly all of the human genome has been patented!

Humans don’t “own” their own genes, the cellular chemicals that define who they are and what diseases they might be at risk for. Through more than 40,000 patents on DNA molecules, companies have essentially claimed the entire human genome for profit, report two researchers who analyzed the patents on human DNA. Their study, published March 25 in the journal Genome Medicine, raises an alarm about the loss of individual “genomic liberty.”

In their new analysis, the research team examined two types of patented DNA sequences: long and short fragments. They discovered that 41 percent of the human genome is covered by longer DNA patents that often cover whole genes. They also found that, because many genes share similar sequences within their genetic structure, if all of the “short sequence” patents were allowed in aggregate, they could account for 100 percent of the genome.

Furthermore, the study’s lead author, Dr. Christopher E. Mason of Weill Cornell Medical College, and the study’s co-author, Dr. Jeffrey Rosenfeld, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Medicine & Dentistry of New Jersey and a member of the High Performance and Research Computing Group, found that short sequences from patents also cover virtually the entire genome — even outside of genes.

“If these patents are enforced, our genomic liberty is lost,” says Dr. Mason, an assistant professor of physiology and biophysics and computational genomics in computational biomedicine at the Institute for Computational Biomedicine at Weill Cornell. “Just as we enter the era of personalized medicine, we are ironically living in the most restrictive age of genomics. You have to ask, how is it possible that my doctor cannot look at my DNA without being concerned about patent infringement?”

Source: Cornell Medical College

The implications of these findings are outstanding. How will this affect patient care in the future? Should we be ahead of the curve on this legislatively? What does this mean, if anything, for personal freedom?

Personally, I think it is atrocious that: a) companies are trying to patent the building bricks of human life and b) that the judicial system and patenet office let’s it continue without much thought.

Lots of things scare me these days. This, folks, is one of those things that really scares me.