Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Well I was supposed to be in Swansea at the moment but the tooth removal has taken a lot more out of me than I'd expected and I'm sitting here with a fever still not feeling much better. Just hope I'll be better by the weekend. Anyway, all this sitting around means I'm keeping a pretty good eye on the news.

Not only has the record just been equalled for the most hurricanes in a single season but the latest, hurricane Wilma, has just become the strongest hurricane ever recorded. This is all looking pretty suspicious so we'll see if Bush sits up and listens. As far as I can tell it's pretty difficult to make a direct link between hurricane activity and global warming. Quote: "Based on recent research, the consensus view is that we don't expect global warming to make a difference to the frequency of hurricanes,"(Julian Heming, from the UK Meteorological Office). This quote however was before both records for frequency and strength were broken in the space of two days. Though I can follow the various arguments, I don't know enough about meteorology to be swayed by any one argument as there appear to be so many contradictory opinions from eminent scientists.

The other thing I've been reading about has been from John Baez who is a mathematical physicist from California. He works on loop quantum gravity, the main alternative to string theory as a 'theory of everything'. Though loop quantum gravity is, perhaps, even less well understood than string theory, as far as I can tell, its main benefit is that it's what is known as a 'background free theory'. This means that you don't formulate the theory in a set space-time background but the background comes out of the theory itself. This is in contrast to string theory where the ten-dimensional space time is set and perturbations around this are studied.

Anyway, John Baez has an item called 'this weeks finds in mathematical physics' where he generally discusses conferences he's attended but also talks about more general scientific and technological ideas. This week he's talking about the Technological Singularity which I hadn't come across before. It sounds a bit sci-fi but technology experts seem to treat it as a real possibility. The idea is that the rate of technology is accelerating at such a rate that, at some point in the next couple of hundred years, once a machine that is more intelligent than man is created, technology will exceed human comprehension and man will be left behind. A bit Terminator perhaps. That's not a great explanation and I'm yet to understand it fully but it's something worth thinking about. I'm slightly wary as the Wikipedia article includes comments about the grey goo scenario which I've never been terribly impressed with. Anyway, what is interesting is looking at the canonical milestones in the history of the Earth. Of course this is down to the points chosen and I'm sure one could create just about any graph you wanted but the logarithmic plot is interesting none the less.

After all that waffle I thought I'd upload another picture from Boulder Colorado. This was taken on the way up to Bear Peak which is at around 7000 ft, a pretty decent climb. Anyway, I was particularly pleased with how this one came out:

A short but important P.S. I've been reliably informed that the sitetracker I've set up from this site inundates the viewer with cookies. I'd be interested in people's opinions on the privacy and intrusiveness of this. If enough people (which may not be many) don't like it, I will remove the site meter which allows me to see how many people from around the world view the blog. Just for my own, egotistical interest.


Major Tom 'Tom' Tom said...

Jon, you have a brain the size of Mars. I enjoy the way you hop seemlessly from hurricanes to technological singularities to rocks to cookies. Incidentally, on that last topic, your sitetracker is inoffensive. It does chuck a few cookies one's way, but they're harmless enough.

Get well for the weekend.

Reginald Wimuleant said...

I've got a lovely bunch of coconuts! See them all lined up in a row.

Jonathan Shock said...

A fine use of both bold and italics. How generous of you.