Camera’s cameras everywhere!
The Cameras they are watching you,
They see everything you do.
They always watch, they always see.
They always watch, they always see.
Before you continue reading, ask yourself to define what is real. Also, I feel the need state that the purpose of this article is to tear apart the definition of reality, and prove that I nor your nor anyone can or ever will have a proper definition of what is real, or shall I say, what real is.
“Reality is the state of things as they actually exist, rather than as they may appear or might be imagined. In a wider definition, reality includes everything that is and has been, whether or not it is observable or comprehensible. A still more broad definition includes everything that has existed, exists, or will exist.”
This is the average definition of reality, so to paraphrase, “Something that the Universe is currently doing, has done or will do; whether or not you can observe it as it is.” Reality is often contrasted with what is imaginary, only in the mind, dreams, what is false, what is fictional, or what is abstract. But Now we’ve already reached a contradiction. Are your dreams not inside your head? If you deny the existence of a dreams reality, you deny the existence of your brain, therefore denying the existence of yourself. So dreams must be real. Anything that exists within you, exists within the entirety of the universe, because just as a wave is something that the whole ocean is doing, you are something that the whole Universe is doing.
“What of That which is false? Certainly that can not be reality.” I presume you might be thinking. On the contrary, this is covered beautifully by Plato’s ‘Allegory of the Cave’ : It is somewhat of an anecdote about prisoners who have lived chained to the wall of a cave all of their lives, facing a blank wall. They can not move, nor turn their heads. The prisoners watch shadows projected on the wall by things passing in front of the fire behind them, and begin to assign names and meaning to these shadows. The shadows are as close as the prisoners get to viewing what we would call ‘reality’. Plato then explains how someone from our regular culture is like a prisoner who is freed from the cave and comes to understand that the shadows on the wall do not make up reality at all, as he can perceive the ‘true form of reality’ rather than the mere shadows seen by the prisoners. If he tried to explain the the prisoners what his reality truly was, they would call him an imbecile, a radical, blasphemous.
My point in this is that for all we know, we are analogous to the prisoners. Don’t worry this isn’t a “Wake up people the government is a dark overlord” and illuminati mumbo-jumbo article, I just needed to bring attention to the fact that 1) The Prisoners of Plato’s cave’s veiw of reality is just as valid as ours, 2) How easily we assume we live in a universe of “What you see is what you get” principles. But more on this later.
“What of fiction? Fiction isn’t real, it is literally the antonym of Real” Allow me to answer your question with a question; When I say “Invisibility cloak, Frankenstein or Atlantis,” do you make up a new fiction for them every time in your head? No of course not. That is because, dispite their non existence, you have assigned these fictional entities with real properties.
Recently I went to my city’s art gallery, in search of an inspiration for a new post, and boy did I find it. Lucky for me, there was an exhibition on, titled Math + (a)rt. However the problem was, it was all about symmetry and abstraction. Although these things can be beautiful, it was nothing I hadn’t seen before. A little disappointed in the exhibit, and/or my ability to find inspiration for a post, I went to the third floor (The Math + (a)rt exhibit was on the second floor). The third floor had three exhibits on: one on Inuit art, full of abstract shapes that when put together resembled things in nature, such as the sky or ice chunks floating in a river. The one that stood out to me the most in this exhibit was this piece.
There was no information on the artist or title of the piece, so I asked one of the women working there. According to her the piece is Titled “This is a square.” Laughing at the name, I continued into the next exhibit. This one was about violence against women, with more pictures than paintings. Although the exhibit had a good message, I wasn’t very into the artwork, so I left the exhibit.
Stepping through two huge glass doors into the main hall, I was greeted by two workers, offering me cookies and coffee. I accepted the cookies (I’m not a coffee drinker) and looked around, realizing I could access all the exhibits from the four doorways in the hall. I also came across this intricate human sized sculpture of a hollow man playing some stringed instrument I assumed was a guitar.
Invariably, every time I came across I piece I liked, It had no artist or name. I didn’t ask for either this time because I did not want to know. I liked being able to make my own story for him. Maybe the artist used to be a musician, who felt empty inside. Or maybe there was no deep meaning. It didn’t matter to me really, it was, in the end, just a sculpture.
I continued on through the prodigious doors towards the final exhibit. The room was a tall and long corridor, the walls lined with immaculate paintings from the 14th-17th century, and the middle of the corridor, were a long line of Victorian crafted kitchen-ware. Excited to continue exploring this is exhibit, I continued down the corridor, wherein I was called out of the exhibit because “There was no food allowed.” Here I thought about going on a rant about this faulty system giving food and then not allowing it, and how it was basically a derivative of the childhood playground “Stop hitting yourself” but instead I finished my cookie and continued into the rest of the exhibit.
I loved every part of this exhibit, I wasn’t sure why but it was fascinating. Maybe it was because the 15-16 hundreds was my favourite period in history (aside from the current one). Near the end of the exhibit I came across this painting:
This picture doesn’t do it justice, but it was the most realistic painting in the exhibit, if I weren’t close enough to see a few brush strokes I would have believed it were a photograph. It was six feet across and at least 3 feet tall. I tried to describe it to myself but I reached an Impasse. It looked so real, but how real was it?All at once I was out of my mental comfort zone. I couldn’t assign a number to this painting. You cant measure how real something is. I began to wonder if the question was even valid, I mean, the painting is real, the boys were not; wasn’t it that simple?
I turned around to see an immaculate, much smaller painting of a sail boat dock during sunset. I was brought back to my last thought, and how I couldn’t measure this paintings beauty. If I really tried, I could tell you the dimensions of the painting, its hue, its chemical composition, the wavelength of light it reflects at certain points; but none of these things would tell you of it’s beauty.
Unfortunately my phone died before I could take a picture of it. I remembered the Square from before and realized I could not argue that it wasn’t a square. If you multiply the base by the length right side it equals the side squared, and the area of the shape. I felt incompetent, like I should be able to define if it was in fact a square. I wondered how if at all you could define art. If you can’t measure it does that make it art? I mean as of writing this physicists do not have a complete mathematical model to predict and measure turbulence in a fluid. Did that make turbulence an art form?
I walked down to the main floor where after turning a few corners, I found an empty, silent theatre. The chairs were dimly lit and lined a dozen by a dozen, and the stage was pitch black. Stared into the blackness waiting for my eyes to adjust, but they never did. I thought that the empty dark stage would be a good exhibit by itself if it weren’t so pretentious. I walked over and climbed onto the stage, going back until I ran into some wall. I sat in complete darkness lost in thought. And I came to the conclusion that math and art are really two ways of doing the same thing. Allow me to explain
When we learn math, we are really studying two things. First you are studying mathematical language. The simplest part of mathematical language is that when we talk about the number seven, we are not just talking about seven shoes or seven doughnuts; but we are also talking about the abstract idea of seven. Then when you reach algebra the Language of mathematics also involves English or Greek letters and the language gets more and more complex as you learn which is why when most people read about the Riemann Hypothesis they feel illiterate.
The second thing we do when we are studying math is trying to understand the universe. I don’t mean to overstep my bounds but for the last few hundred years we as a species have realized that the universe is inherently mathematical. Ultimately the reason we have to know that the square-root of four is +/- two is that it helps us to build cathedrals , understand geosynchronous orbit and understand the Universe as a whole.
So we study mathematics for the resons of wanting to learn mathematical language and to understand our place in the universe; Which is also precisely why we study literature! To learn about language and to understand our place in the universe!
This is often where someone comes in saying how math is different than literature because there is only one right answer in math and many correct answers in literature. This is completely and utterly wrong. I can not stress this enough, Many times there is more than one answer in math and secondly not every answer is equally correct in literature. For example; If you think that The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a pro slavery novel, you are wrong, more wrong than someone who thinks that the square root of Euler’s constant is strawberry’s. The students of the world need to realize this, as well as that what we study in English class, is not that interesting. The questions of whether ‘The author intended a symbol or a metaphor’ are the parabola’s of literature. Sure they are sometimes helpful, but the reason that reading critically, like reading for theme and metaphor and symbolism, is important is because , those things are ways into the big interesting questions; many of which are the same questions that Mathematics is trying to answer.
The vast majority of us section ourselves into either literature people or Math people, but the truth is that our incredible and complex processor in out heads is neither a Mathematical organ or a Literature organ, it’s both. So to the ‘math people’ I say that Imaginary story’s can be every bit as intellectually engaging as imaginary numbers, and to the Literature people I say that Number theory can be every bit as fascinating and moving as The Great Gatsby.
So I challenge you to open your minds, and understand the Universe from the opposite perspective and maybe see another side of yourself.
Until next time
OK? Say it with me, ‘Correlation Does Not Imply Causation’, now repeat it 3 times. Is it drilled into your brain yet? Good, Because this week I’ll be debunking some of the most common misconceptions about Science.
Starting with; Dino’s: The brontosaurus never actually existed! The skeleton of the brontosaurus is actually an apatosaurus with the skull of a camarasaurus. It was a mistake that was discovered in 1903, but wasn’t fully eradicated until 1979. Also while we’re on the topic of dinosaurs, common birds did not evolve from pterosaurs (such as the pterodactyl), they evolved from dinosaurs.
Biology: Killer whales are not whales. They are actually members of the dolphin family. Bats are not blind, they’ve just evolved to use echolocation as their primary source of direction. A ducks quack will echo, just like anything else.
Humans actually have far more than 5 senses, depending on your definition we have in between 9 and 21. These include the ability to sense temperature, acceleration, where your limbs are, and more. The human tongue is not subdivided into different sections that taste different things, each taste bud has the ability to taste sweet, sour, savoury, and bitter foods. The blood in your veins is not blue, ie, it doesn’t suddenly become oxygenated when it comes into contacts with air, it’s your veins themselves that are a dark blueish colour.
There is no chemical that will turn water a certain colour when it comes into contact with urine.
Next, Physics: Lets get straight to the heavy topic here; there are only eight planets in the solar system, no matter how nostalgic you are for Pluto, it was demoted in 2006.
The far side of the moon is not the dark side of the moon; also the moon alone is not responsible for the tides, the sun plays a role as well, however its less than a fourth that of the moon. The sun is not burning, it is actually an enormous nuclear fusion reactor, fusing hydrogen and helium into heavier elements, giving off gobs (sorry for not using standard metric units) of energy in the process.
The vacuum of space is not devoid of gravity, in fact there is enough of it up there to keep all the stars orbiting the centre of the galaxy. As well, the vacuum of space, is not a vacuum! Its filled with cosmic rays, microwave background radiation, virtual particles, as well as gravitational and electromagnetic fields!
Speed and velocity are not interchangeable, neither are mass and weight! (Weight is a measure of the strength of gravity acting on a certain mass). Gravity is not a downward force, adding salt to water raises it boiling point, & glass is not a super-cooled liquid. Glass is an amorphous solid, somewhere in between a solid and a liquid. Centrifugal force isn’t a thing, its just the centripetal force viewed from an opposite reference frame
The seasons are caused by the earth’s axial tilt of 23 degrees and not by the earth’s distance from the sun. Lighting constantly strikes the same place twice (The empire state building, for example.) It is not possible to accurately predict earthquakes! The core of the earth is not molten, it is actually a ball of iron and nickel.
Whew its nice to get that out there.
Now I would like to talk about 2 things we are improperly taught in school. The things above are just quick fixes and queries into correctness, but these 2, I feel are fundamentally wrong to mislead our students.
I have a problem with this photo because it is wrong, and it is out in textbooks worldwide. Everyone knows it as the evolution of man or ‘The March Of Progress’, but it is hardly an accurate representation of evolution. From left to right it goes: Dryopithecus, Oreopithecus, Ramepithecus, Neanderthal, Cro-Magnon, & Homo-sapien. Lets get it started, First problem; There are no females here. As most other animals humans reproduce sexually and thus come in two ‘flavours’. For this to be an accurate representation of the species on a whole, there needs to be females as well. Secondly, Neanderthals are not ancestors to humans, they lived along side us until about 40,000 years ago, and were like a cousin species. They eventually died out because they were less adaptable to changing climates than Homo-sapiens. Another problem in this picture is that Oreopithecus was hardly even a player in the evolution of primates, it lived for a couple million years (which is short in evolutionary terms), and new research suggests it most likely was not even bipedal as the photo suggests. As well, ‘Cro-Magnon’ was at first a fancy word for ‘pre human’ but it turns out the model it was based on was in fact a modern Homo-sapien, so Cro-Magnon isn’t even actually a thing in evolutionary science anymore. My final problem with this ‘Meme of science’ is that is implies evolution is a linear process when really its just about genetics. The species of which offspring’s genes mutate and adapt better for their current habitat. In reality the depiction of human evolution should look much more like a complex tree or fractal.
2) Einstein’s Theory’s of Relativity, and Quantum Mechanics - Nowhere in the textbooks of high school physics does it talk about Einstein’s theory of relativity. Maybe if your lucky your chemistry text will bring up the particle wave duality of light. But Neither special or general relativity, or most of the major aspects of Quantum mechanics are in curriculum. These two things were the most revolutionary thing to happen in physics since Sir Isaac Newton. They changed the way we see the universe, they added layers upon layers of deep and true understanding to nature herself. Now I know most teachers are thinking “How can we expect them to learn fancy advanced physics, when most of them struggle to understand classical Newtonian physics? Besides, they couldn’t really appreciate the beauty of it without fancy college level mathematics.” To which I would say nonsense. I would have given a limb (okay maybe not but you see the point) to have just learned the qualitative aspects of these theories in physics class. And the most important reason we need to learn these things is because; That is the the way it is! Wouldn’t you be a little frustrated if you went to school your whole life being taught the earth is flat and then once you got to university, SIKE the earth is actually round. Well that’s exactly what we do with physics. And quite frankly I think it’s a little unfair.
But that’s just my 2 cents, let me know what you guys feel is the worst misconception about science? Let me know in the comments below!
Until next time,
For centuries Time-Travel has been an ever stirring thought in the mind of the intellectual. From the midevil alchemist to the twenty-first century physicist, people have wanted to travel through time. To visit the future, and explore the past, to see history for what it was, and to see what we will become.
This thought only started to really take over a few decades after the industrial revolution, specifically around world war one during Albert Einstein’s annus mirabilis. Before then, was the time of newton (No pun intended). In newtons universe, time was absolute; just as most of us perceive it to be. We think the ‘Flow’ of time is constant, that there is nothing we can do to effect it; it is a huge wave crashing in our ocean of life, and there is no force that will stop it from pushing forward.
However in 1905 Einstein proved Newtons absolute view of space and time wrong; After formulating his special theory of relativity (Or at the time; The electrodynamics of moving bodies) which he derived from basic laws of Newton and Galileo, and the results of the Michaelson-Morley experiment ( ie: the claim that the speed of light is constant no matter what your relative velocity is). From his paper, it was concluded that space, and more importantly time, are not constant. They are like a malleable substance, dependant on the observers velocity.
For example, if you are moving at near the speed of light, if you measure a rod that is supposed to be a meter long; in your reference frame, it may be only 43 cm! And even more; your time would slow down relative to an outside observer. so while an hour may have passed by for you, a few days may have passed in the observers reference frame!
Okay so now you’re all “Okay I get it Einstein was cool guy who did a lot of smart things but you said this was a time travel article!” and indeed it is, so without further ado lets proceed!
How to time travel:
Okay those were boring lets get into the Science Non-fiction of time travel.
UGH! So it seems for the time being, we are stuck in moving at a few femtoseconds relative to each other.
On the topic if time travel; remember that thing you did a while back? You know; the hilarious joke that was taken in bad taste at the job interview? The waste of hundreds to get the newest iProduct? Embarrassing yourself in front of your dream girl? These examples I’m sure have happened to many, along with all the other things you painfully regret doing. I know the feeling, you just wish it hadn’t happened, that you could go back and stop it. So just for fun, lets say you manage to get a hold of negative energy, and you invest in (instead of taking over the world) a time machine. You travel back to to the early 1900′s to shoot your grandfather before you are born. What happens?
Luckily, Physicists have two possible answers, both as crazy as the other. The first, is considered the ‘Many worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics’. Don’t worry, you don’t have to know what that means, it basically says that every time a choice is made, or in this case, someone travels time, a new universe is made, one where the choice went one way, and another where the opposing choice was made. This is where the idea of parallel universes comes from. I personally am not a fan of this choice, but to each their own.
The second possible answer is that there is NOTHING you could do to change the course of history. The gun would lock up, you would always miss, in any event, it would be impossible. This claim is backed up by the research done by Seth Lloyd, a quantum physicist at MIT. However, there is one massive massive problem with this view. It gets rid of causality! Information just comes from nothing. At first i figured it was a failed attempt to get rid of the many worlds hypothesis. What i didn’t know at first was that THEY’VE ACTUALLY DONE THE EXPERIMENT! Okay, well, they didn’t go back in time to see if you could kill your grandfather, but they used photons (Particles or quanta of light).
Essentially, photons can be polarised a couple of ways, (Their quantum spin) and they’ll only go through screens that are oriented with their polarization. That’s why Polaroid sun-glasses work – they block all the photons that are polarised the wrong way, so only some light is let through.
Now, until something detects it, a photon isn’t in any particular polarisation; it’s in all of the possible polarisations at once (Called quantum superposition). But once something has detected what kind of polarisation a photon is in, it’s always been in that state. Essentially quantum causality works both ways in time. So you can set up an experiment that only detects photons of one polarisation, and that way you can send a message back to the past, to the photon emitter (light source) saying “Only send photons of this type”. If you do this the right way, you can send a photon back in time (but you can’t look at the photon that’s been sent back in time until it’s come back to the time you sent it from, or the experiment can’t work). This might sound incredulous, but it’s the way things are.
By doing the above, you can set up a kind of quantum ‘gun’ – set it up so that the photon going back in time tries to cancel out itself coming forward in time – all you do is put something in the middle that tries to change the polarisation of the backwards-in-time photon to the opposite of the forwards-in-time one. Changing polarisation is easy, and works about 96% of the time.
BUT IT NEVER WORKED ON THE BACKWARDS IN TIME PHOTONS
Now, assuming their experimental design wasn’t flawed and their maths works – and it looks OK to me, but I’m not a quantum physicist.. .yet; then this means a few things:
So it appears we live in a very Bill and Ted universe, and not a back to the future one.
Either way, if its any consolation you’re about 5 minutes into the future, and we now have personal JetPacks!*
Considering last week I made a tech article, I figured this one could be more abstract. I wish to talk about whether mathematics exists objectively in the universe. I’ll be looking at the three most popular views, and how they compare to each other.
Mathematics as a system is elegant, exhaustive and frequently even beautiful. In the words of Eugene Wigner it is “Unreasonably effective when put to use in all other sciences.” But where does math come from? Whereas biology is the study of living organisms, Physics the study of the universe and its forces, chemistry the study of chemicals; Math, is the study of math. Unlike all the other sciences, math lacks an empirical component; math cannot be observed in nature. This has caused some mathematicians and philosophers to doubt that math, or numbers, have an objective existence. Math and all of its elements, such as calculus, parabolas, and subtraction do not actually exist.
Mathematical Platonism is the belief that numbers are real abstract objects, outside space and time and it is the most popular view among mathematicians. Platonists say that math is real, and that it has an objective existence. They think that beyond the mathematics humans already know, there is more math. This argument seems logical at first, however there are several examples against this, the most prominent being Andrew Wiles proof of Fermat’s last theorem. Wiles spent years in his house working to create a proof, not to find it. Another big problem with Platonism is the question, how are these mathematicians so reliably accessing this world of abstract mathematics? As well, seeing as how math is only provable with more math, a tautology arises. The only math which is known by humans is the math knowable, by humans. This seems obvious at first, but it is really important. Platonists believe in an objective mathematical universe that contains concepts human’s might one day discover, or might never discover; and in the absence of a direct observation of mathematics, in the same way a biologist can directly observe animals, Platonism boils down to a kind of faith. A faith in a mathematical entity, or set of entities, which is out there in the universe waiting to be discovered; and would be there regardless if there are humans or not. This causes the view of Platonism to have a few, quite frayed loose ends.
Moving away from Platonism, Mathematical Nominalism is the view that man’s mathematical claims are true, but should best be understood through everyday objects. Children are not born with the inherent knowledge of numbers; they are taught it using things like pencils and blocks. Whereas the Platonist would say six times seven is forty-two, the nominalist agrees, but says that it only has a purpose in the sense that if there are six groups of seven objects, there are 42 objects. The nominalists say that is all there is to mathematics. Although this is the most common view for regular people, the argument breaks down when applied to irrational and imaginary numbers. What kind of objects do these numbers represent? For the Platonist it is easy; it is just another number. However for the nominalist it is quite contradictory to say the square-root of negative one can represent anything physical.
Finally, there is the unintuitive view of Mathematical Fictionalism. The Fictionalist says that although mathematics is useful, it has no real value outside the set of rules that people have designed for it. They say that, similar to a game or a story, the mathematical statement ten divided by two equals five is about as true as Batman sped down the street in his Batmobile. Within the confines of the story it makes perfect sense; but outside the story, ten, five, Batman and his Batmobile are all equally fictional. Much like an atheist can agree that the Ten Commandments set a good groundwork for the laws of society, a Fictionalist can recognize the benefits of using mathematics. However, simply because something works does not make it true. A Fictionalist sees math merely as a tool humans developed to model regularities in the universe, which are not inherently mathematic. From this it is clear that Fictionalism, unlike Platonism or Nominalism, is nearly flawless from a logical standpoint.
Philosopher Alain Badiou says “Mathematics is thus, a rigorous aesthetic; it tells us nothing of real being, but forges a fiction of intelligible consistency.” Since humans want to describe, discover, and probe; human’s are great at creating systems to do so. Numbers, operations, even measurements, are systems people created and designed to assist in mankinds overall understanding of the universe. If there were something better than math at describing the universe, people would use that. However, just because it is not inherently embedded in the universe, does not mean math is worthless. It is still beautiful, elegant and works remarkably well to approximate reality.
So what do you guys think? Is math a part of the universe, just a tool, a language, or maybe something else? let me know in the comments down below!
Until next time
It seems to be that in the field of optics, the ‘Holy Grail’ is to design a device or gadget that can be used to conceal an object entirely, so that an outside observer would not be able to detect it visibly. Well today we are one step closer to that goal! Now it is not your standard invisibility cloak from the popular book turned movie Harry Potter but it is still awesome! This new invisibility cloak has been found the completely conceal objects when looked at using particular wavelength of light. Namely, that of microwaves. However there is a price to pay. In return for the invisibility at some frequencies, the cloak actually makes the wearer MORE visible at others.
The Engineers physical review letter says, “We introduce the concept and practical design of broadband, ultrathin cloaks based on non- Foster, negatively capacitive metasurfaces. By using properly tailored, active frequency- selective screens conformal to an object, within the realm of a practical realization, is shown that it is possible to drastically reduce the scattering over a wide frequency range in the microwave regime, orders of magnitude broader than any available passive cloaking technology. The proposed active cloak may impact not only invisibility and camouflaging, but also practical antenna and sensing applications.”
Now if that went straight over your head don’t worry, these guys are leaders in their field! (If it were easy it wouldn’t be worth writing about!)
Professor Andrea Alu, from the University of Texas at Aust in, reported (with a bit more of a context on what the cloak can do for the laymen), “If you want to make an object transparent at all angles and over broad bandwidths, this is a good solution We are looking into realising this technology at the moment, but we are still at the early stages.”
This stuff already has applications in the military, microscopy, biomedical sensing, and energy harvesting devices; and it is just in the beginning of its development! I can’t begin to fathom what miracles of science these engineers will come up with next!
Until next time, Craig McRae.