Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Travelling to Pluto?

A few months ago I came across Audible.com.  Audible is a company owned by Amazon which specializes in selling audio books (and pretty great quality I must add).  So I subscribed to get one audio book every month and after research I settled on getting Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything.  An absolutely wonderful book which I heartily recommend, but there is one section that I keep returning to again and again as it fascinated me to no end.  I decided I should share that brief section with everyone and so played the audio book and typed down what was being said as accurate as need be.  The book starts by talking about the universe and how it started (where you're writing about the history of 'everything', how the universe began would be the best place to start I guess) and Bill begins showing how immense our universe is by just showing us our own solar system.  A small picture in the grand scale of things, but effective in it being a small picture.

Our solar system is so vast that even the maps we look at in books are not even remotely to scale.  This is a necessary deceit to get all the planets on the same piece of paper.  For example, Neptune is five times away from Jupiter than Jupiter is from us.  Such is the distances that it isn't possible or practical to draw out the solar system to scale.  On a diagram of the Earth drawn to scale with the Earth at the size of a pea, Jupiter will be over 300m away, and Pluto 2.5km distant and about the size of a bacterium.  On the same scale, Proxima Centauri, our nearest star will be 16,000 km away!  Even if you shrank down everything so that Jupiter will be the size of a full stop at the end of a sentence and Pluto was no bigger than a molecule, pluto will  still be more than 10m away!


Our solar system surrounded by the Oort Cloud.

If we rode a spaceship that can travel at the speed of light (which is not possible) (300,000 km/s) it will take us 7 hours to get to Pluto from Earth.  Currently at the speed of a normal space ship (56,000 km/h) it will take 9 years to reach Uranus and a dozen years to cross the orbit of Pluto.  By the time we get to Pluto the Sun is as small as a pin head.  At this point, the Oort Cloud, at the edge of our solar system, is 10,000 years away from us.  Where Pluto is about 40 AU from the Earth, the heart of the ort cloud is about 50,000 AU.  In other words, it is remote.  Based on what we know now and can reasonably imagine, there is absolutely no prospect that any human being will visit the edge of the solar system.  Ever.  It is just too far.  And remember, we're talking only about our own solar system, our Milky Way galaxy contains billions of solar systems and there are hundreds of billions of galaxies in the universe.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

The Immortal Jellyfish (yay! I'm back!)

Well now that I finished a major part of my dissertation, I feel I have more time to return to blogging! So here we are again!


Today someone on reddit mentioned something quite interesting about life in the depth of the ocean which lead to alot of reading on the net.  The following are three amazing creatures of the oceans and seas that I want to share.

First, the immortal jellyfish (pictured) that can practically return to its youth after sexual maturity and repeat its biological life-cycle indefinitely!  They would actually carry out the transformation in times of hardship and physical damage so that in a sense they would get another chance at things!

Another sea creature worth mentioning amongst the immortals is the lobster.  Apparently their DNA contains a gene that will repair deteriorating cells and thus technically, they never age but still continue to grow in size!  The article on the lobster end with a brief mention of something known as the Hayflick limit stating that due to this limit we cannot introduce immortality to humanity as it will only lead to cancerous cells.  I did a brief research on what the Hayflick limit is and my understanding is that it is a limit to the number of times a human cell can divide (through mitosis) to continue the growing process.  Research discovered three stages to a cell's life;
Hayflick found that cells go through three phases. The first is rapid, healthy cell division. In the second phase, mitosis slows. In the third stage, senescence, cells stop dividing entirely. They remain alive for a time after they stop dividing, but sometime after cellular division ends, cells do a particularly disturbing thing: Essentially, they commit suicide. Once a cell reaches the end of its life span, it undergoes a programmed cellular death called apoptosis.

The last mention to the fantastic world beneath the seas and oceans goes to the octopus and their amazing brains.  Not only are their brains larger relative to their size than any other animal except for birds and mammals, but they also have areas of their brain completely dedicated to memory and learning.  Furthermore, like humans, they have a preference as to whether they're left or right oriented in the sense that there is preference for the use of the right or the left eye.  According to the article on Discover;

Such lateralization, corresponding to our right- and left-handedness, suggests specialization in the brain's hemispheres, which is believed to improve its efficiency and which was first considered an exclusively human, then an exclusively vertebrate, attribute.
It is also worth mentioning that like dolphins and dogs, Octopuses enjoy playing and they each have different personalities and characters and thus react differently to different situations.  The Youtube video linked to earlier further mentions their ability to detect light from their body rather than their colour blind eyes which just imagining how that would appear is absolutely mind blowing!


Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Animal Languages

We all know that different animals have different ways of communicating with one another, however our understanding of the different languages in the non-human world is very limited to say the least. Wikipedia has quite a good article on animal communication for further reading, but I just want to talk about two animals in this post.   I've just stumbled upon this interesting article which is a few months old now about prairie dogs. According to research carried out by a professor in the North Arizona University, prairie dogs have a quite intricate language system - and not just some simple noises, but specific 'words' for specific items that they see. Thus not all danger is described in one word, but each forms of danger is given a name; a falcon, an owl, a human, a coyote, etc. According to the article they can even differentiate between a coyote and a domesticated dog! But it doesn't stop there, the professor decided to test if there were different calls for different humans so he dressed four men in exactly the same clothing except for their t-shirts where each one wore a different coloured shirt. And indeed, the prairie dogs gave a different call for each person! Apparently they describe what they see in their call. It makes me wonder whether it is possible that they actually could maybe invent new words for things not included in their vocabulary? Or is that a bit too far? I don't know!

This article actually reminded me of a very old story I read about honey bees. There was this girl (Barbara Shipman) whose dad was an agricultural researcher working with bees and he always had his daughter involved in his work. However, as fate would have it, the daughter decided to enter the field of mathematics and graduated as a mathematician from the University of Rochester. But that's where she made her greatest discovery in bees language!  It's very complicated to go through her methods over here, you really need to read it yourself as I'm not even 100% on it, but apparently bees can perceive not just magnetic fields (which we know alot of animals can see them and use them for directions) but also quantum fields!  Fields made by quarks - the tiniest of particles that make up our own atoms!  It's mind boggling to say the least and there has been disputes over her conclusions, but it's still a very interesting read non-the-less!

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Simplified Languages

Any one who read George Orwell's book Ninteen Eighty Four is familiar with the term 'Newspeak'. For those who haven't read the book, it's basically a dark vision of a future world ruled by a totalitarian regime that stabilises its rule through constant supervision of its citizens as well as through insuring they remain too busy doing one meaningless task after another thus wont have time to think, wonder or plan. The totalitarian regime also introduced 'Newspeak' which is a simplified language that drastically reduced the number of words in the English dictionary by just removing 'unnecessary' words. Thus basically to retard human intelligence, imagination and creativity by simplifying language and making it as plain and dull as possible. The Wikipedia article on Newspeak explains it as follows.

The basic idea behind Newspeak is to remove all shades of meaning from language, leaving simple dichotomies (pleasure and pain, happiness and sadness, goodthink and crimethink) which reinforce the total dominance of the State. Similarly, Newspeak root words served as both nouns and verbs, which allowed further reduction in the total number of words; for example, "think" served as both noun and verb, so the word thought was not required and could be abolished.

But is Newspeak as bad as it's portrayed? A recent news article on the BBC reminded me of how in our real human history governments did try to forcefully interfer in local languages for one reason or another. The article talks about the government of Taiwan deleting all Simplified Chinese scripts from its agencies texts and using only the more complex traditional Chinese script instead. Obviously this is probably for political reasons more than anything (I'd imagine to insist on their independent identity separate from mainland China), but on the Chinese side, according to the article, traditional Chinese script has been abandoned only in the 1950s for the simplified Chinese. Unlike Newspeak, however, simplification has been done to raise literacy levels rather than retard imagination.

Kemal and the new Turkish alphabet
I can think of another example of a language reformation and that is in Turkey after it won its independence from the Allies in 1923 and established the modern Turkish state. Mustafa Kemal, the founder of modern Turkey, had a more nationalistic agenda to his language reformation. In 1932 he established the Turkish Language Association which aimed to remove all non-Turkish words in the local vocabulary that have established itself under the multi-national Ottoman rule. But not only did Turkish nationalism allowed for the reintroduction of abandoned Turkish words to replace those borrowed from other nationalities - there was more in the Turkish language reform. Mustafa Kemal replaced the Turkish script and alphabet completely from that based on Arabic alphabet and grammar to that of Latin based. There are two reasons for this. First was political; Mustafa Kemal wanted Turkey to move away from the Eastern world and join Europe and the West as a new 'modern' Turkey. The other reason was the complexity of the Arabic language compared to the simplicity of a language based on Latin grammar. Turning to a more simple script allowed literacy rates to increase - or so I'm told (I've never seen any statistics to prove anything though).

I'm really in two minds about this. I can understand the logic that a simpler language will be easier to learn and thus would allow for higher literacy rates, but does it effect imagination and intelligence? Could Shakspear write his plays in Newspeak? The Qura'an itself was revealed to an Arab population who valued poetry and the linguistic arts as the highest form of expression. Infact even today Muslims consider the miracle of the Qura'an to be a linguistic miracle more than anything else. Would simplifying language really be a good educational policy? I really don't know. A part of me prefers the more complex arts and allowing human imagination to wander wherever it wishes.  When I started studying Turkish language a while back, I was told that language isn't only a means of communication, but also the way people think.  Language is the result of an evolutionary process and reflects culture, ideas, arts and the characters of a people and the more languages you speak the more you can think in different ways.  Something doesn't sit right with government interference in language, even if it is to increase literacy rates.

I personally want to learn a computing language and be able to design websites.  I tried getting into it but found it too difficult and time consuming that I decided to leave it for another time when I have more free time on my hands.  Now I do wish there is a simpler programming language but I have to wonder, does simpler not mean I will be able to do less?  Rather than design a very unique website, I would probably only be able to put blocks and buttons with a very simple language.  Does not the same apply with human languages only in a non-tangible format that might only prove its negative effects after several generations?  It's a scary thought.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Scientists create an artificial brain with 12 seconds memory


Scientists at the University of Pittsburgh developed an artificial brain that can sustain 12 seconds of memory. The brain was formed on silicon discs coated with proteins and later on infused with rat brain cells. The brain cells were taken from the Hippocampus section of the brain which Wikipedia tells us is the component of a mammal's brain that plays an important role in short-term and long-term memory.

The cells were then given time to grow, connect and develop a neural network. This network was then given a short electric shock which in natural circumstances would only last a quarter of a second but instead lasted in the network for 12 whole seconds!

Read the article here.

Click here for the full research paper.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Israel unveils first commercial solar power plant

Israel's Arava Power unveiled the country's first commercial solar power plant on Sunday, showing it off to government ministers and dignitaries, and announced plans to erect dozens of other solar array fields, whose total cost could reach $2 billion. The announcement was appropriately made on UN World Environment Day.

The NIS 100 million ($30 million), 4.95 megawatt plant in the agricultural community of Kibbutz Keturah, currently the largest of its kind in Israel, is due to be hooked up to the national grid in the next few weeks. It is the first of about 50 photovoltaic power fields that Arava said it will build throughout the southern Negev desert by the end of 2014.

Approximately 50km north of Eilat, Kibbutz Ketura is situated in the southern part of the Arava region, which is among the sunniest areas of the world. It gets at least 350 days of direct sunlight each year, making it a perfect location for a solar panel field.

The government has said that by 2020 it wants the country to provide 10% of its energy with solar and other renewable energy sources.

Read the rest of the article from Haaretz here.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Schizophrenia

Continuing with our psychology theme today (I don't plan these things - they just happen :-P), I've stumbled upon this very informative comic about schizophrenia.

Culture and free will

In the May/June issue of the Scientific American: Mind magazine there is a brief article about Toxoplasma gondii, a certain single-celled organism that reproduces inside cats but can spread to all warm-blooded animals. This protozoa (a quick Google search says that a protozoa is a single-celled organism but is NOT a bacteria) when not inside a feline's intestine reproducing and raising a happy family will endeavor to effect its host's actions so as to give the protozoa access into a cat. How does it do that? Well according to the article it is able to manipulate the host's brain. In the example of small animals like a mouse, the protozoa can create a complete lose of fear of cats in the mouse's brain and thus result in a higher probability that the mouse will be eaten by a cat allowing the protozoa to enter the cat's body. The article doesn't go into much detail on how it can effect humans but goes on about how it effects smaller animals that can be prey to felines.

I did find another article online however, that does give more information about this particular parasite in a human context. Apparently it does create minor character changes in humans, but nothing fatal to the average person. According to the article from Discover, research suggests the following character changes in people infected by T. gondii.

Carriers tend to show long-term personality changes that are small but statistically significant. Women tend to be more intelligent, affectionate, social and more likely to stick to rules. Men on the other hand tend to be less intelligent, but are more loyal, frugal and mild-tempered. The one trait that carriers of both genders share is a higher level of neuroticism – they are more prone to guilt, self-doubt and insecurity.

A second article, also from Discover (although two years older than the previous article), quotes a different research says the following effect T. gondii has on humans.

Those infected, he found, show a small, but statistically significant, tendency to be more self-reproaching and insecure. Paradoxically, infected women, on average, tend to be more outgoing and warmhearted than controls, while infected men tend to be more jealous and suspicious.

It might seem that such character traits are very minuscule and not worth alot of research time and effort but the first article goes on to say that in certain parts of the world, there is a huge portion of the population infected (67% in Brazil). This would raise a very important question on the meaning of how we look at cultures and people's characters. T. gondii has a prefered climate where it does spread in vast numbers. A small character change to the human population in such a region would certainly have an effect on national character traits and the historic cultural evolution of the region.

Nonetheless, the results are striking and one implicaiton is that climate could have a larger effect on culture than previously thought. Toxoplasma gondii‘s eggs live longer in humid, low regions so variations in climate could influence the global distribution of cultural traits. Perhaps, this could explain why men and women perform more distinct roles in society in countries in warmer climates. Other factors can also affect the risk of infection, including cat ownership and national cuisines that include undercooked meat.

We like to think of culture as something governed by the collective actions of free-thinking and free-acting humans. But Lafferty’s analysis shows us that if environmental factors like parasites can affect our thoughts and actions, no matter how subtly, they can have a strong effect on national cultures. In many cases, these effects could be much stronger than the agents that we normally believe to drive cultural trends. After all, more people around the world are infected with Toxoplasma than are connected to the internet.

On a further note in relation to human judgment (but not so much the involvement of external parasites), this old story seems very relevant.  A sex offender in 2002 turned out to have a brain tumor that has been responsible for his perverted habits.  Apparently after the tumor was removed he returned to his usual self until around a year later when the tumor returned and he restarted his habit of collecting pornography and harassing women!

Really, what all this tells us is that the brain is such a complex organ and it should never be very easy for us to make hasty judgments on anyone - even though I'm very guilty of it myself.

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Next comes the cultural revolution

A friend pointed me towards a recent news item I wasn't aware of. Basically, the (temporarily) ruling military council in Egypt has arrested several women in Tahrir Square and rumors have been circulating that these women have been forcefully subjected to "virginity tests". Today officials in the ruling council have not only admitted that these women went through such "tests" but defended the practice as well!

For years I have always agreed and argued for the theory that humans do not progress through education alone but through entire environmental change. My family in particular, who mainly follow the mainstream politics of Muslim so-called "scholars" have always either argued against the idea or shied away from even discussing the issue. They espoused the idea held by alot of Muslims that to cultivate a progressive human society we need to start from the bottom up, ie, we need to better ourselves and gradually once we reach a highly cultured level within the majority of the population, our leaders and politicians will be reformed automatically.

Yes it's utter bullshit, but what can you do when you have televangelist half-wits in a beard under some dictator's pay, yapping on this nonsense constantly to keep the people from rising up against tyranny?

But due to excessive financial and social pressures, the people in the Arab world can no longer take oppression and have went out with their intrinsic instincts and emotions and rebelled against the tyrants while the "scholars" sat back and watched the show. Some, when it became clear that the protestors will eventually overthrow the regime, have joined the people in protest and pretended to be espousing this all along. Others remained loyal to the despots (him, him and him).

The issue with the "virginity tests" really should come as no surprise as the mentality of the Mubarak era cannot be erased overnight. Even if we overthrow his regime and begin implementing a new more progressive one, we still need time to culture ourselves and enforce the new ideas that such actions are not only unacceptable, but reprehensible and should be actively stopped - not defended! When that happens, then even if a party to a group suggests something as disgusting as this, someone from within the group will insure that this is stopped, reported and fought. Because the people will be cultured by their enforced environment  that such a thing is inhuman. And it will be unimaginable that the ruling party will defend such a practice openly!

The point of this post I suppose, is the question; what is the next step? In the argument of nature vs nurture, I am firm believer in the stronger position nurturing has over the nature of a being. The next step, I think, is to ask ourselves what kind of environment do we want our people to be nurtured in. We then have to apply a governing body to provide, protect and propagate this particular environment so as to finally create the progressive human society we all aim to achieve.

Monday, 30 May 2011

A major step towards renewable energy

The German government has recently decided to abandon nuclear power which currently provides a quarter of its energy needs completely by 2022 and become fully dependent on renewable energy. Although they might keep one plant on stand-by incase renewable energy might not be sufficient for winter months.

The Financial Times further reports that this move "will come as a blow to Germany’s “big four” nuclear power companies, RWE, Eon, Vattenfall and EnBW." Personally I don't know much about these nuclear companies but I am aware that Eon does invest alot into renewable energy alternatives. As typical in a Capitalist market, innovation and development is only done in great strides when it becomes profitable. Now that nuclear power (at least in Germany) is in its dying days, I'm sure alot of other energy companies will be investing heavily on cleaner and renewable sources.

Germany is the largest economy in Europe and one of the strongest in the world. I would hazard a guess and say that this decision by the German government will be infectious throughout Europe and other EU countries will soon follow suite although reading this article might give a different opinion as it suggests that France has a greater dependence on nuclear energy than Germany.

Still, I do hope in the very least a serious plans to gradually reduce dependence on non-renewable sources will be implemented and a time-line put in place in other countries for the complete adoption of renewable energy is primary sources.  I would also say that the strongest economy in Europe abandoning nuclear energy and forcing the market to invest in renewable energy will push companies towards new innovations that make renewable energy more efficient and alot cheaper to build and run.  If this happens, it could be this scientific breakthrough, triggered by the German market, which will make renewable energy more appealing to different countries of the world.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Electrons are surprisingly round

The experiment, which spanned more than a decade, suggests that the electron differs from being perfectly round by less than 0.000000000000000000000000001 cm. This means that if the electron was magnified to the size of the solar system, it would still appear spherical to within the width of a human hair.

The physicists from Imperial's Centre for Cold Matter studied the electrons inside molecules called Ytterbium Fluoride. Using a very precise laser, they made careful measurements of the motion of these electrons. If the electrons were not perfectly round then, like an unbalanced spinning-top, their motion would exhibit a distinctive wobble, distorting the overall shape of the molecule. The researchers saw no sign of such a wobble.


According to the article, the purpose of this recent research is to understand anti-matter which was theorized by scientists to have been created in the same quantity as normal matter after the Big Bang but for some reason is only found in very tiny traces. If the electrons were found to be not as round as expected then scientists hoped that that would explain the lack of anti-matter in the visible solar system.

In another article (posted in 2008) that gives a better background on the relationship between electrons and anti-matter, it explains that "electrons encountering positrons (their antimatter equivalent) annihilate each other, with their mass converted into high energy gamma rays." Furthermore, the largest collection of anti-matter is a cloud near the galactic center.

Now what I'm not understanding is; in a universe made up primarily of matter, how can even the smallest cloud of anti-matter exist? Surely it's gradually being destroyed by border contact with the surrounding matter which exists in greater number? Unless there is a vacuum border between the two that stops contact? And if it existed in equal quantities after the Big Bang (as being theorized), why are the resultant quantities today of the two matters so different?

Monday, 23 May 2011

What drives suicide bombers?

Ariel Merari, a psychologist who fought in the Arab-Israeli war of 1973 and has spent the past three decades studying the attitudes of terrorists. Some of his most notable work is on Palestinian suicide bombers. He has spoken to friends and families of suicide bombers, and even to would-be attackers who failed to detonate their explosive belts before being captured.

His first conclusion is that Palestinian suicide bombers are usually not suicidal. They aren't depressed, or otherwise mentally ill, nor do they tend to be drug or alcohol abusers. What's more, these supposed Islamic warriors aren't especially religious. By and large, they didn't suggest religion as their primary motivation, nor was there much hope of a glorious afterlife.

Read full article from the Guardian here.

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Depending on Western powers for support?

I have no doubt in mind that things would have played out very differently in Libya without intervention from NATO forces. I do remember my anxiousness when Gaddaffi's troops and mercenaries were closing in on Benghazi as NATO and the UN were discussing the legality of intervention and the kind of intervention required. It felt like they were only teasing the Arabs as they waited for the last opportune moment to strike at Gaddaffi and save the Libyan rebellion. But that doesn't change the fact that they did.

And again it is also true that if it wasn't for alot of the previous interferences, alliances and support from the Western powers throughout modern history alot of the current (and past) tyrants wont be haunting the Arab world, but they are.

And at a crucial moment in Arab history, the Western powers give what can be viewed as a mixed message. While president Obama of the US gave just a few days ago what appears to be a very supportive message to the Arab people in a speech at the State Department, David Cameron (the US prime minister) welcomes a tyrants who crushed protesters calling for democracy in Bahrain.  Sure we cannot take the whole 'West' into one basket and say they should all have the same foreign policy, but at the same time there is a common degree of agreement amongst the major Western powers on what direction to take in whichever item in question. The UK outwardly does claim to support Arab democratic movements as William Hague (the foreign secretary of the UK) a few days ago called on the international community to support the democratic movements in the Middle East.

So what is going on?

Well, I would say there is no mixed message really. The Western powers have based their internal and external policies on a capitalist ideology. Their market capitalism has one policy and one policy only that we can be sure will be consistent; they'll support whatever they see as more profitable. Again, returning to the UK for an example (uncharacteristically they seem to be very bad at keeping blatant Capitalism under the table), Cameron on February this year (very soon after Mubarak was overthrown) made a visit to Egypt under the banner of "promoting Arab democracy". But he didn't go alone, he went with a bunch of arms dealers tagging along! So looking at Bahrain, we can see why Western powers will not be attacking the tyrannical monarchs of that country.

(a) Because of Saudi Arabia's support to the al-Khalifa royal family (and Saudi Arabia is THE biggest Western allie in the Middle East - I would even say closer to the West than Israel).

(b) Because the Bahraini royals are themselves very close allies to the West. Yes, so was Mubarak - and this is why we didn't hear a peep out of the West against Mubarak until after he stepped down and/or it was clear he will be stepping down.

(c) The protesters are mainly (but not exclusively) from the Shia community of Bahrain - which is natural as the majority of Bahrain's population is Shia Muslims. I do not really know the politics of the protesters and I do not want to make baseless assumptions, but there might be a degree of fear from the West that Iran might expand its influence if Bahrain gets ruled by Shia Muslims. Again, I do not know what the politics of the Bahrain protesters are, but I would assume this is something Western powers are calculating on.  One thing I think is for sure, a Bahrain ruled by a Shia Muslim will not be on as good terms with Saudi Arabia as the al-Khalifa family (not because of them being Shia, but because of Saudi Arabia being Saudi Arabia).  Whether that would mean they would jump into an Iranian bed is a different question which I don't know enough to answer.

So in conclusion, it really comes down to profit. The Western powers will not support anyone for any ideological or moral reasons. If economic or political power can be profited from in supporting one cause over another, then they will follow that cause no matter what morals, ethics or their own ideological pursuit of democracy calls for.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Chickens and Eggs

Today I've learned a new thing about eggs and their colours that I'd like to share here. Obviously we're all familiar with the brown and white eggs in the supermarkets. My parents once told me that the brown eggs are from free range chicken while the white eggs are from chicken fed and raised in cages.

There is an element of truth in that, but the idea behind it is false. It is true that caged hens and mass egg producing industries generally ship the white colour eggs, but that has nothing to do with feeding and environment, but with the type of chicken being used. There isn't only one single type of chickens but a variety of sub-species. The ones producing the white eggs are known as Leghorn and they require less feed to produce eggs (thus more economical, thus more favored by commercial producers). The brown eggs (from Barred Rocks hens) require more feeding and the hens don't produce as many eggs as the Leghorn thus are usually available in less commercialized stores or viewed as the organic or free range alternative.

Now comes the surprise - there are yet more variety of hens that produce even more colours! Greenish-blue eggs and chocolate brown eggs. The Araucanas hens produce a very lovely greenish eggs and if you cross breed you would get an even larger range of naturally colour eggs!

I have no idea if there is any difference in taste, but it really makes me want to have my own farm one day and raise all the different kind of hens there are!

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Al-Jazeera TV network draws criticism, praise for coverage of Arab revolutions

The Washington Post has an article about al Jazeera's news coverage of the Arab Spring. According to the article, al Jazeera didn't give enough coverage to the news in Bahrain when the Saudi army marched in to help quell the protests.

Read the full article here.





Well just a quick point I would like to make in this relation; I obviously support completely clear and transparent journalism with absolutely no bounds or limitations. But for god's sake cut al-Jazeera a little slack! Yes there is a degree of bias, but I doubt it's intentional or part of any agenda within the channel's management. The Arab world is still largely under oppressive rule in a lot of places and to a large degree pressure does exist in Qatar, especially with a despotic neighbor like the Saud family. I, as any reasonable person, wished there was more aggressive reporting on the Bahrain massacres committed by both the Bahraini and the Saudi tyrants, but for obvious reasons al-Jazeera was probably not allowed.

In summary; yes there is bias and it's unfortunate, but I don't blame al-Jazeera. I think they're doing a good job for a news company based in the Middle East.

Tony Blair and the Wataniya scandal

This is an old post from a blog I follow, The Arabist. I had the post bookmarked and today as I was cleaning and tidying up my Google Reader/Gmail/Bookmarks folders in my account I stumbled upon it and thought it's worthy to post on my blog, at least for future reference.



This really makes clear the corruption and sleaziness of the "Palestinian Authority" under the pig Mahmoud Abbas.


Sunday, 8 May 2011

China is the second largest producer of green technologies in the world.

China's production of green technologies has grown by a remarkable 77 per cent a year, according to the report, which was commissioned by the World Wildlife Fund for Nature and which will be unveiled on Monday at an industry conference in Amsterdam.

"The Chinese have made, on the political level, a conscious decision to capture this market and to develop this market aggressively," said Donald Pols, an economist with the WWF.
 
Read full article from Physorg here.

It seems as the world's attention is turning towards sustainability and renewable energy, a market is gradually starting in green technology.  I guess this is all what is needed to push something in a capitalist economy.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

It's like it doesn't matter...

Author's website

Another poem on Ozymandias

by Horace Smith
In Egypt's sandy silence, all alone,
Stands a gigantic Leg, which far off throws
The only shadow that the Desert knows:
"I am great OZYMANDIAS," saith the stone,
"The King of Kings; this mighty City shows
"The wonders of my hand." The City's gone,
Nought but the Leg remaining to disclose
The site of this forgotten Babylon.
We wonder, and some Hunter may express
Wonder like ours, when thro' the wilderness
Where London stood, holding the Wolf in chace,
He meets some fragments huge, and stops to guess
What powerful but unrecorded race
Once dwelt in that annihilated place.

Ozymandias

 Ozymandias
 by Percy Bysshe Shelley

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

The Egg by Andy Weir (short story)

The Egg

By: Andy Weir

Author's website



You were on your way home when you died.

It was a car accident. Nothing particularly remarkable, but fatal nonetheless. You left behind a wife and two children. It was a painless death. The EMTs tried their best to save you, but to no avail. Your body was so utterly shattered you were better off, trust me.

And that’s when you met me.

“What… what happened?” You asked. “Where am I?”

“You died,” I said, matter-of-factly. No point in mincing words.

“There was a… a truck and it was skidding…”

“Yup,” I said.

“I… I died?”

“Yup. But don’t feel bad about it. Everyone dies,” I said.

You looked around. There was nothingness. Just you and me. “What is this place?” You asked. “Is this the afterlife?”

“More or less,” I said.

“Are you god?” You asked.

“Yup,” I replied. “I’m God.”

“My kids… my wife,” you said.

“What about them?”

“Will they be all right?”

“That’s what I like to see,” I said. “You just died and your main concern is for your family. That’s good stuff right there.”

You looked at me with fascination. To you, I didn’t look like God. I just looked like some man. Or possibly a woman. Some vague authority figure, maybe. More of a grammar school teacher than the almighty.

“Don’t worry,” I said. “They’ll be fine. Your kids will remember you as perfect in every way. They didn’t have time to grow contempt for you. Your wife will cry on the outside, but will be secretly relieved. To be fair, your marriage was falling apart. If it’s any consolation, she’ll feel very guilty for feeling relieved.”

“Oh,” you said. “So what happens now? Do I go to heaven or hell or something?”

“Neither,” I said. “You’ll be reincarnated.”

“Ah,” you said. “So the Hindus were right,”

“All religions are right in their own way,” I said. “Walk with me.”

You followed along as we strode through the void. “Where are we going?”

“Nowhere in particular,” I said. “It’s just nice to walk while we talk.”

“So what’s the point, then?” You asked. “When I get reborn, I’ll just be a blank slate, right? A baby. So all my experiences and everything I did in this life won’t matter.”

“Not so!” I said. “You have within you all the knowledge and experiences of all your past lives. You just don’t remember them right now.”

I stopped walking and took you by the shoulders. “Your soul is more magnificent, beautiful, and gigantic than you can possibly imagine. A human mind can only contain a tiny fraction of what you are. It’s like sticking your finger in a glass of water to see if it’s hot or cold. You put a tiny part of yourself into the vessel, and when you bring it back out, you’ve gained all the experiences it had.

“You’ve been in a human for the last 48 years, so you haven’t stretched out yet and felt the rest of your immense consciousness. If we hung out here for long enough, you’d start remembering everything. But there’s no point to doing that between each life.”

“How many times have I been reincarnated, then?”

“Oh lots. Lots and lots. An in to lots of different lives.” I said. “This time around, you’ll be a Chinese peasant girl in 540 AD.”

“Wait, what?” You stammered. “You’re sending me back in time?”

“Well, I guess technically. Time, as you know it, only exists in your universe. Things are different where I come from.”

“Where you come from?” You said.

“Oh sure,” I explained “I come from somewhere. Somewhere else. And there are others like me. I know you’ll want to know what it’s like there, but honestly you wouldn’t understand.”

“Oh,” you said, a little let down. “But wait. If I get reincarnated to other places in time, I could have interacted with myself at some point.”

“Sure. Happens all the time. And with both lives only aware of their own lifespan you don’t even know it’s happening.”

“So what’s the point of it all?”

“Seriously?” I asked. “Seriously? You’re asking me for the meaning of life? Isn’t that a little stereotypical?”

“Well it’s a reasonable question,” you persisted.

I looked you in the eye. “The meaning of life, the reason I made this whole universe, is for you to mature.”

“You mean mankind? You want us to mature?”

“No, just you. I made this whole universe for you. With each new life you grow and mature and become a larger and greater intellect.”

“Just me? What about everyone else?”

“There is no one else,” I said. “In this universe, there’s just you and me.”

You stared blankly at me. “But all the people on earth…”

“All you. Different incarnations of you.”

“Wait. I’m everyone!?”

“Now you’re getting it,” I said, with a congratulatory slap on the back.

“I’m every human being who ever lived?”

“Or who will ever live, yes.”

“I’m Abraham Lincoln?”

“And you’re John Wilkes Booth, too,” I added.

“I’m Hitler?” You said, appalled.

“And you’re the millions he killed.”

“I’m Jesus?”

“And you’re everyone who followed him.”

You fell silent.

“Every time you victimized someone,” I said, “you were victimizing yourself. Every act of kindness you’ve done, you’ve done to yourself. Every happy and sad moment ever experienced by any human was, or will be, experienced by you.”

You thought for a long time.

“Why?” You asked me. “Why do all this?”

“Because someday, you will become like me. Because that’s what you are. You’re one of my kind. You’re my child.”

“Whoa,” you said, incredulous. “You mean I’m a god?”

“No. Not yet. You’re a fetus. You’re still growing. Once you’ve lived every human life throughout all time, you will have grown enough to be born.”

“So the whole universe,” you said, “it’s just…”

“An egg.” I answered. “Now it’s time for you to move on to your next life.”

And I sent you on your way.

Thursday, 5 May 2011

A space-time vortex right underneath Earth

...And every other rotating mass in space apparently.  According to a recent NASA experiment (which required building "the most perfect spheres ever made by humans"), Einstein's predictions that under all spinning objects of a large mass, space-time gets twisted (imagine a fat man in a trampoline rotating in his place) by the motion.  This constant twisting creates a space-time vortex!



For this experiment and the extreme precision it required, NASA had to invent 13 new technologies to succeed and began funding this research since 1963!

Monday, 2 May 2011