19 July 2009
Friday/July/24 2009 Filed in: Science / Technology
Just as gravity, magnetism and nuclear forces cause physical objects to come together, there are other unseen forces that cause living things -- or even events -- to cluster.
Social attraction is as real and as necessary a dynamic of nature as electromagnetic, gravitational and nuclear attraction.
In other words, for chemical elements to combine to become more complex compounds, those elements must be in close physical proximity with one another. Forces of nature inform and facilitate these combinations.
By the same token, for communities to rise and for offspring to come to be, the behaviors of people are informed and facilitated by observable and necessary forces of nature.
Let's Get Physical: Love is an Essential Component of the Natural Universe
Corrollary Question: Are love and kinship any less important as scientific forces of nature than gravity and electricity?
Parking Lot Experiment:
The next time you're walking to your car in a parking lot, notice how often someone else is, at the same time, walking toward their car. In that situation, notice how often your car and the stranger's car are in very close physical proximity (within one or two parking spaces).
Notice the frequency with which there may be an awkward door opening moment or, when pulling out, one of you will have to wait for the other because you are parked so close together.
Bookstore Experiment #1
The next time you go to a bookstore to buy a particular book or magazine, notice how often there is someone standing directly in front of the book or magazine that you're looking for.
Notice how often the reverse happens, when you are blocking someone else from reaching for the book or magazine they're looking for.
Do these encounters result in an "excuse me" exchange?
Bookstore Experiment #2
In a bookstore that is not especially crowded, stand or sit in particular place for at least 15 minutes. See if a small cluster of two or more people seems to gather in the stacks or chairs near you.
Let us know.
Rupert Sheldrake suggested that we test this theory. Please help us do that and report any interesting findings to Apocalypzia.
What evidence have you observed that suggest this kind of social gravitation? What experiments would you suggest to test these theories?
Only an open mind and a spirit of curiosity.
Other than that, have fun with it...
Thursday/July/23 2009 Filed in: Science / Technology
The Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.
You know. The idea that a chain of associations across a series of movies links any given actor to Kevin Bacon in no more than six steps.
Just some old college drinking game, right?
The Science Channel recently reported that scientists are on the verge of a major breakthrough in working out the underlying algorithms that determine the relationship between elements within complex systems.
If they're right, we may be on the brink of cracking the code of ... well, just about everything, and certainly just about anything that can be described by a network.
Scientists believe that this new science could provide insights into everything from the internet, to anti-terrorism, to the spread of the flu viruses, to the very mysteries of synchronicity.
At the foundation of all this is the concept of the small-world network, the idea that universes with a large number of elements (e.g., the population of Earth) are organized into a vast series of clusters (e.g., your personal network of friends and family).
These cluster points, nodes or hubs, if you will, are the magic of networks. They allow for short pathways that dramatically facilitate the inter-connectivity of individual elements within any network.
But are we truly only six people away from connecting with virtually any one on a planet of nearly 7 billion people?
The work of Strogatz and Watts would suggest that we are.
Steve Strogatz, professor of Applied Mathematics at Cornell University, and Duncan Watts, professor of Sociology at Columbia University, partnered to develop a mathematical model that graphs short pathway/high-cluster networks.
Strogatz and Watts -- and other Small-World scientists like them -- are doing work that may change the very nature of our understanding of connectivity.
Interestingly, the concept of the six-degrees concept is based, in large part, on the work of Stanley Milgram (yes , that Stanley Milgram).
The Kevin Bacon Experiment.
The math these scientists are involved with is way above our heads and maybe you feel the same way. But the Science Channel offered an experiment that we can all relate to.
The target was Marc Vidal, a a geneticist at Harvard University in Boston.
A letter was given to Nyaloka Auma and 39 other people scattered around the planet who had no idea who Marc Vidal was.
These 40 people were asked to send the letter to anyone they knew on a first name basis who might move it closer to the target by, in turn, passing the letter on to someone they knew on a first name basis, and so on, and so on...
Nyaloka's immediate challenge was that -- living in the remote village of Nyamware, Kenya -- she was having difficulty just getting the letter out of town. Until she remembered her aunt from Nairobi who had a friend in New York.
Nyaloka's letter eventually made it to Marc Vidal. The number of connecting steps? Six.
To be clear, only three of the 40 letters dispatched made it to Marc Vidal but it is more than interesting that the average number of connecting steps was...six.
Maybe It's a Small World After All...
Wednesday/July/22 2009 Filed in: Science / Technology
If there were an Apocalypzian Hall of Fame, Rupert Sheldrake's portrait would surely have a place of honor there.
Rupert Sheldrake is the biologist and author who turns laws of science and nature inside out with theories that align less with Freud's mechanical universe and more with Jung's quantum cosmos, where the collective unconscious is as valid a force of nature as electromagnetism.
And he indeed believes, Jedi-like, that the Force is with us. He postulates that unseen morphic resonance fields surround all matter communicating information about form and structure, amazingly linking and cross-linking past and future.
Composite photographs of 30 female and 45 male staffers at the John Innes Institute provide eerie insight into Mr. Sheldrake's theories of morphic resonance and formative causation.
The Sense of Being Stared At
Ever had the feeling that someone was staring at you and been right? Mr. Sheldrake believes that the act of seeing is hardly passive and that, instead, we interact with and change that which we observe.
Sound fantastic? Surely it does, but the 1935 theory of Shrodinger's Cat discusses the entanglement phenomenon in very similar terms.
Ever heard the phone ring and known who it was before answering? (And we're not talking distinctive ring tones here.) Mr. Sheldrake can shed light on why and how.
To be sure, Mr. Sheldrake is not without critics both inside and outside of the scientific community. But he takes on all comers in lively and ongoing debate about the nature of all things. Such is the life of true revolutionary thinkers.
And the post-apocalyptic world will need renegade thought leaders like Rupert Sheldrake to be the trailblazers and the pathfinders of the new science.
The Parking Lot Theory
We had the privilege of meeting Mr. Sheldrake a few years ago and found him to be as gracious as he is brilliant. He listened with apparent interest to our Sheldrakian postulate that a kind of social gravity -- similar to that which causes matter to move toward matter -- causes organisms and -- even events -- to cluster: a phenomenon we call the Parking Lot Theory.
After a moment's reflection, the Magnificent Sheldrake said it was a theory worthy of being tested. Though he did not say, and in no way indicated, that we had found an answer to the great mysteries of the universe, we left the meeting feeling inspired and validated.
You'll be able to participate in an experiment to test this theory in an upcoming post here at Apocalypzia.
In preparing this entry, we learned that Mr. Sheldrake had been the unfortunate victim of a Monica Seles type attack in 2008. We understand that he has recovered and is doing well. We wish him the best.
Tuesday/July/21 2009 Filed in: Science / Technology
The 100 Mile High Club
In 2003, Yang Liwei, became to China what Yuri Gagarin was to Russia and what Alan B. Shepherd was to the US.
Yang Liwei, astronaut (taikonaut to some) and commander of the Shenzhou 5 mission, became the first traveler aboard China's ambitious space exploration program.
Liwei made 14 revolutions around the earth, before making a hard landing in the Inner Mongolian grasslands the day after his launch.
Always Be Prepared
He was apparently ready for anything. He was supplied with a gun, in case he met any unfriendly aliens along the way or, more likely, unfriendly earthmen if he overshot has planned landing site.
Since that flight, China has flown several missions and including Zhai Zhigang's space walk in 2008.
The Shenzhou 5 mission was the first move of a high stakes game of political wei qi that may end with China following the contrails of Neil Armstrong and his colleagues all the way to the Moon by 2020.
But while the Apollo lunar missions turned out to be a temporary excursion, China intends to stick around with permanent Moon bases for exploration and mining expeditions.
Several years ago, the US announced plans to return to the Moon. But while it took only 8 years from John F. Kennedy's call to action in 1961 to Apollo 11's lunar touchdown, NASA needed 15 years for the redux.
As was reported in the Discovery Channel's television documentary, When We Left Earth, today's NASA no longer possesses the necessary technology or expertise to travel to the Moon and return safely.
It's as if forty years after the Wright Brothers historic flight, we had forgotten how to fly.
In truth, within only forty years after the success at Kitty Hawk, the Bell P-59 Airacomet, the first US jet fighter aircraft, was already paving the way for the jet fighters and jetliners in service today.
The Final Frontier?
But the question as to why the US needs longer to get back to the Moon than it took to get there in the first place may be moot. President George W. Bush's rambling and half-hearted 2004 commitment to travel back to the Moon and beyond is reported to be under review by the Obama Administration.
So forty years after the US achieved the most amazing scientific breakthrough in the history of humankind, the International Space Station boondoggle may be our only crumbling outpost on the Final Frontier and our ultimate destiny in space may be to timidly go where everyone has gone before.
The US beat the Soviets to the Moon (indeed, they never got there) but if American astronauts ever return they may find that their Chinese counterparts have already done all the giant leaping this time around.
Monday/July/20 2009 Filed in: Science / Technology
Moon Lander by Thomas J. Kelly
"Tranquility Base, Here...The Eagle Has Landed..."
On July 16, 1969, Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin lifted off from earth atop a roman candle that soared above the clouds and roared into history. Four days later, and forty years ago, Neil Armstrong, commander of the Apollo 11 mission, set foot on the Moon.
The Surly Bonds of Earth.
Only 66 years before the Apollo 11 mission, the Wright Brothers achieved powered, heavier than air flight over Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.
In 1969, the Saturn V rocket that propelled the Apollo crew was the most massive of its era, powerful enough to break the bonds of gravity for a journey of a quarter of a million miles.
But not to be forgotten is the Lunar Module, the engineering marvel of the Grumman Corporation.
Home Away from Home
Christened the Eagle and weighing little more than a 2006 Hummer, it was the Lunar Module that touched down upon the magnificent dusty desolation of the Moon, and was lander, living space and launch pad for the crew's two day stay.
After Project Apollo was shelved, Grumman bid to build the Space Shuttle. And though their Lunar Module was the only major component of the Apollo/Saturn system to never suffer any failure that negatively impacted a mission, they were not awarded the contract.
A Testament to Teamwork
After the end of the Cold War, Grumman was acquired by Northrup. But the base of the Lunar Module still stands in the Sea of Tranquility as a testament to the ingenuity and perseverance of the Grumman team.