Category: General Science

Knowing what we can’t know

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By , August 17, 2009 11:05 am

It is interesting to think that there is something in nothing, or only were we perceive it to be. It is also interesting to think that we know that we’ll never be able to know about the edge of the universe because it is moving away from us at faster than the speed of light. But in a way, isn’t that also just a perception – deep thoughts from the Deep Field to kick off your Monday.

The Third Replicator

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By , July 31, 2009 2:19 pm

New Scientist has an interesting article suggesting that beyond genes and memes, that information in computers, the “Ghost in the Machine” if you will is now a replicator. Pointing to the way that software is now able to act in an autonomous manner without the aid of a human, and often the I/O for one system isn’t even for human consumption, rather for another computer.

It is an interesting idea – genes act through interacting elements at the molecular and cellular level to the point that they “explode” and are able to create systems that handle memes. Meme systems are able to interact and out complete, remix and replicate just as genes can, but what about this new thing? Demes, let’s call them (if it sticks, I said it first), digital genes, are a product of genes and memes it would seem. Or are they?

At first I would think that demes are just an extension of memes, but the fact is that they have  a separate carrier, and it just so happens that memes can be carried along with demes, but there are agents out there that cannot process the meme (they might try), but they can process the deme and depending on where the output goes, other agents, human or electronic can then take action. For instance, I am promoting certain memes with this blog, but it is sending out a feed that a machine can read and then analyze. That system could then say feed into another that is looking for a trend, that if spotted will increase the production of some item, all without any human memetic input beyond the initial data. If instead of a human entering information (memes), a sensor was doing the same thing (think RFID tags), then the entire process is demetic. Many big box stores are doing this now – items are purchased online or in store, inventoried are updated, new orders are placed and production is adapted to meet those orders with little if any outside input. The only thing that humans need to supply is raw material (stop thinking Matrix), but even than will soon happen in a demetic sense as we extend our reach to other worlds and resource exploration and extraction becomes automated.

Interesting ideas… and certainly something interesting to think about as we continually enter a brave new world.

PS3 Supercomputing

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By , December 23, 2008 7:37 am

Remember way back in 2003, when the PS2 was king? Back then a few folk got together and built a PS2 supercomputer. I don’t know if those systems went beyond a proof of concept, but there is now a PS3 cluster that has. The team has even been kind enough to put together a resource to describe how to roll your own.

Now all those PS3s that are going to be got for Christmas have a greater purpose.

Waterloo to be Hawking’s “Second Research Home”

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By , November 27, 2008 5:42 pm

Earlier this year, the rumour mill was buzzing that Hawking would be heading to Canada to be part of the Perimeter Institute. Well today we found out more details behind that.

According to Hawking:

”I am honoured to accept the first Distinguished Research Chair at the Perimeter Institute,” Prof. Hawking said in a statement released Thursday. ”The Institute’s twin focus, on quantum theory and gravity, is very close to my heart and central to explaining the origin of the Universe.”

With tongue firmly in cheek, I just have to say that at least there is some distance between Waterloo and Toronto – otherwise, this might have given TO a boost to the “center of the Universe” ego. But this is certainly going to be a boost to Canadian science.

Name the next Rover

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By , November 25, 2008 9:41 pm

With Wall-E out there showing off the galaxy with the World Wide Telescope with MS, there is now another way that you can reach out and learn more about the world beyond our Blue Marble – NASA is offering the chance to name the next Rover for students in US K-12 schools.It would be cool if it was an international contest, but that might be for a future contest.

Aurora Watch – for Edmonton

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By , November 4, 2008 1:55 pm

If you live in the Edmonton area, this is a cool resource if you like to watch the dancing lights – esp if you want to be able to get some pictures of them.

Great Science Starts Today

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By , September 10, 2008 7:41 am

Well today, the Large Hardon Collider starts up and U of A’s Science 100 course heads out on its field trip, both great steps for science. More on the later in the next post, but in the mean time, enjoy this rap:

Hawking Waterloo bound?

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By , July 16, 2008 9:11 am

Well, this is tagged as a RIM post, only because it deals with the Perimeter Institute, but there are quite a few reports (GN) that Hawking might be headed to Waterloo after expressing his disappointment with the British government and how they are dealing with research funding.

One of the things that have admired about Hawking (other than his true never quit attitude – Toyota… there is your spokeperson…) is that he wants to make science accessible. If you put this together with an institute that is built on the back of Blackberries, an increasingly consumer device; you have the masses helping fund basic research that will (hopefully) be returned to the masses… in theory.

Segue into Star Wars

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By , June 2, 2008 11:23 am

It looks like Dean Kayman is firing on all cylinders with this new invention – the “Luke Arm”.


There is also an IEEE paper available. Beyond the just plain coolness of the work, what really strikes me is how he’s gone about solving the problem – modular “chunking”.

Popular Memes

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By , April 23, 2008 11:55 am

It is very dangerous when leaders, or those who would be leaders pick up on a popular meme. In this case, the connection between vaccines and Autism. 

My connection with Autism is via my wife’s classroom and with researchers that I worked with in Education. But even though my connection is peripheral, my interest in the possible causes of this spectrum “disorder” have more to do with marveling at how narrow “normal” really is. Afterall, there are people who, had they been born today, would have  been labelled and stuck in a closet… but that is another post for another day. 

Back to this one. I am really hoping that the US, via Oprah, McCarthy and now it seem all the Presidential candidates does not start to believe that there is a direct connection between vaccination and autism. There certainly is more work to be done and every effort should be made to find all possible connections, and not take the easy way out because “the starts” are saying it as well. This vaccine/autism meme is a dangerous one to propagate and it will come back to haunt us. 

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