Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Phineas Gage rediscovered

Of all the incredible pieces of history on this page of recently rediscovered photos, the one which really astonished me was the portrait of Phineas Gage, the famous railway worker whose dicing with death via a metal rod and a stack of dynamite was the cause of a revolution in our understanding of the brain. I've no time to write about him now but his story is well worth a read.

Photo taken from the above wikipedia site.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Lecture on gravitational waves and their detection

A little advertising for a seminar next Wednesday here in Santiago if you're around. A talk on the fascinating subject of gravitational waves and their detection which I'm told will be at the divulgative level. These experiments are truly spectacular in terms of their mind-boggling precision, measuring the length of a vacuum chamber several kilometers long when the distance changes by one-hundred-millionth the diameter of a hydrogen atom! These mammoth experiments are designed to detect the gravitational waves given off when extremely violent astronomical events occur, such as the merging of black holes (see the LIGO website and and VIRGO website for more details).

One o'clock in the department of physics on the South Campus of the university of Santiago de Compostela (presumably in Spanish).

Sunday, October 25, 2009

quote of the hour/day/week/until next time

The plural of anecdote is not evidence

A quote which rests on the definition of anecdote and whereabouts it might lie on a sliding scale of observation, a worthy sentiment nonetheless.

Too busy to blog at the moment but was tickled by the above line, the source of which eludes me (though an elusion through lack of searching as opposed to clever hiding - perhaps here).

Monday, October 19, 2009

Light painting spectacular

A quick note to tell you to go see TMT's latest photo which just made me gasp in wonder this morning. This is a fantastic use of a long-exposure technique known as light painting and I hope to see some more of this from TMT in the near future.

With thoughts and best wishes.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

With weather conditions exploring the extrema through the days and nights my body has decided that I've had enough months feeling good and is going all pathetic and fevery presently. So, I'm sitting at home without the ability to concentrate on anything practical for more than a few minutes which gives the perfect excuse for watching some TED talks. This one by Henry Markram on building a model of the brain on a supercomputer was news to me in terms of the complexity that can be modeled on such a system and looking around the project's website it looks like an impressive endeavour.

which reminds me, through rather tenuous links, of this video by Dan Ariely on our buggy moral code which itself ties in nicely with work on universal moral grammar which makes you realise quite how basic some of our decision making skills are.

Anyway, a couple of random links. I may update more depending on the gradient of my descent.
With apologies on free-flow brain->blog input.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Heating up

I know that blog excuses are generically tedious, but sometimes enough time goes by with the neglect of your thoughts and jotted opinions that such a statement is needed. With the termination of in-house internet the chances for such stream of consciousness writings has diminished, but they will continue, when time allows.

I'm still getting on with the papers which have been plugged into my bloodstream, gently leaking my energy levels for more months than I care to mention. They are genuinely in the final(ish) stages of writing and though thoughts of having them finished by the beginning of, middle of and end of summer vanished quickly into the distance the light at the end of the tunnel is at least close enough that parallax effects are noticable.

On top of this I've had a full house including two year old which has made for a surprisingly peaceful and enjoyable week. Cooking good food in the evenings with said baby's parents has added to the pleasure and a week's worth of hearty, good quality meals is helping the energy levels.

Tuesday saw a visit from James Lovelock who won this year's Fonseca prize, last year awarded to Stephen Hawking. The 90 year old polymath gave an impressive, if depressing speach, with little of the cliche and ranting that many climate change talks may be liable to, but with bleak predictions and the urge to plan for the future rather than to try and alter current fuel usage, the emphasis being that we've simply gone too far and are pearing over an inevitable cliff with no reasonable escape. The main claim and attack was that climate models tend to focus far too much on a small range of affects, be they meteorological, biological or otherwise, and few look holistically at the world as a complex entity with many interlocking effects - Lovelock's Gaia theory being the antithesis of such commonly used models.

Anyway, with thoughts of climate change, baryon densities, flat hunting, food hunting and tedious preoccupations with recurrent chalazion attacks (truly more boring than aggravating) the last couple of weeks have gone by apace and the coming weeks will likely have the same blurred passing.