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Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Elegant Universe Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory - Brian Greene - Review

What is there in Strings Theory? What are hyper-dimensions? How does the area of a given geometry change when the shapes change? I have always wanted to know these. Though we have several books on relativity and quantum mechanics no book covers the hot-topic as this book has covered. For the first time I got to know calabi Yau.

Greene touches topics on his own contributions to super-string theory, as he is well-qualified to cover this aspect. Thankfully, he is also a clear and engaging writer, and this is one of the most readable science books I've read while still being assured that it would be accurate.

He presents conclusion and then the proof!, which may take out interest at times but towards the end of the book I think the difficulty of the material begins to overwhelm his ability to explain it clearly to the layman without mathematics. Each chapter, I felt, would not be complete until the next one was touched. The continuity is felt throughout, but at times you would need a break either to digest what he has said or to bring back concentration, particularly on string theory.

The first few chapters are a brief but comprehensive introduction to the basics of special relativity, general relativity, quantum mechanics, and their conflict, and are worth the price of the book by themselves. I've read innumerable explanations of relativity before, from physics textbooks to posts on the net, and this book's introduction still clarified for me things that I'd not really understood.

It may even help with the details of what goes with general relativity and what goes with special relativity. The quantum mechanics is not quite as good, but then quantum mechanics is harder to explain, and Greene does a competent job at introducing the important bits that will matter for the story of super-string theory (Like Perturbation Theory and Approximation methods).

The heart of this book, of course, is the explanation of just what superstring theory is, why people care about it, and what it's status is at the time of the writing of the book. With this, I was quite satisfied. Superstring theory is a hard topic to explain, given the esoteric circumstances under which it diverges from established theories, its use of ten- and eleven-dimensional space with folded dimensions, and its close association with topology theory .

The importance of unification of quantum mechanics with general relativity makes sense, but I didn't understand how he could express dissatisfaction with quantum mechanics for requiring that the weights of fundamental particles be experimentally determined rather than predicted.

But the most significant thing I found in this book was how multi-dimensions can be unfolded and how large distances can be traveled without travelling at the speed of light using Worm-holes. Quite good reasons he has to show this is possible. The text is quite readable without the end notes, and a non-scientific reader likely is better off skipping them.

The end of the book has a very interesting summary of each chapter. A must read for every 'reader'.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Reviewed most

A Portrait of Global Winds

High-resolution global atmospheric modeling provides a unique tool to study the role of weather within Earth’s climate system. NASA’s Goddard Earth Observing System Model (GEOS-5) is capable of simulating worldwide weather at resolutions as fine as 3.5 kilometers.
This visualization shows global winds from a GEOS-5 simulation using 10-kilometer resolution. Surface winds (0 to 40 meters/second) are shown in white and trace features including Atlantic and Pacific cyclones. Upper-level winds (250 hectopascals) are colored by speed (0 to 175 meters/second), with red indicating faster.
This simulation ran on the Discover supercomputer at the NASA Center for Climate Simulation. The complete 2-year “Nature Run” simulation— a computer model representation of Earth's atmosphere from basic inputs including observed sea-surface temperatures and surface emissions from biomass burning, volcanoes and anthropogenic sources—produces its own unique weather patterns including precipitation, aerosols and hurricanes. A follow-on Nature Run is simulating Earth’s atmosphere at 7 kilometers for 2 years and 3.5 kilometers for 3 months.
Image Credit: William Putman/NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

E-Squared: Nine Do-It-Yourself Energy Experiments That Prove Your Thoughts Create Your Reality - Pam Grout

The E-square actually deceived me into reading it as I thought it was a Science writing when a glance on it mentioned about 'experiments' along with this "E=MC^2" reference, and it turned out to be a book like 'How to win..., how to count chicks...The Secret..., The Winner within....'etc. 

But then there is a great difference for the good. The book is all about energy and how one can either squander it mindlessly or use it to his/her advantage. It has a good collection of significant quotes by eminent scientists and there are punch lines that would give one the reason to
cheer in life. The NINE 'thought experiments' are systematically and 'thermodynamically' listed out in the order they should give the reader the reason to smile and reflect upon.

It proves the following:
1. There is an invisible energy force or field of infinite possibilities.
2. You impact the field and draw from it according to your beliefs and
3. You, too, are a field of energy.
4. Whatever you focus on expands.
5. Your connection to the field provides accurate and unlimited guidance.
6. Your thoughts and consciousness impact matter.
7. Your thoughts and consciousness provide the scaffolding for your physical body.
8. You are connected to everything and everyone else in the universe.
9. The universe is limitless, abundant, and strangely accommodating.

For the beginners, graduates and the alike, this book would be an excellent choice to read.

A lady author well performed!

Material Science to the fore - the Nano Satellites

Cubesats Released From Space Station
ISS038-E-003872 (19 Nov. 2013) --- Three nanosatellites, known as Cubesats, are deployed from a Small Satellite Orbital Deployer (SSOD) attached to the Kibo laboratory’s robotic arm at 7:10 a.m. (EST) on Nov. 19, 2013. Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Koichi Wakata, Expedition 38 flight engineer, monitored the satellite deployment while operating the Japanese robotic arm from inside Kibo. The Cubesats were delivered to the International Space Station Aug. 9, aboard Japan’s fourth H-II Transfer Vehicle, Kounotori-4.
Image Credit: NASA

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

“Whether you can observe a thing or not depends on the theory which you use. It is the theory which decides what can be observed.” — Albert Einstein

Thursday, October 24, 2013

“Man, surrounded by facts, permitting himself no surprise, no intuitive flash, no great hypothesis, no risk, is in a locked cell. Ignorance cannot seal the mind more securely.” —ALBERT EINSTEIN

Friday, October 4, 2013

“Everyone who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that a spirit is manifest in the laws of the universe—a spirit vastly superior to that of man.” —ALBERT EINSTEIN

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

How to Teach Relativity to Your Dog! - Chad Orzel - Review


Great idea : "What we see in the Universe are all, in fact, disguised aspects of a single interaction."

Brilliant mistake: We often assume that the concept of relativity is beyond our understanding and is not vital for understanding. This book would really take you to the concept of understanding the 'limitations' with which we are living.

Know this: Complex Einsteinian ideas like the slowing of time for a moving observer, the shrinking of moving objects, the effects of gravity on light and time, black holes, the Big Bang, with simple examples would make even a lay man understand the concepts of 'LIFE' - may be that is why the author thought he would teach that to his dog!

Regret: There is a good analysis for Einstein's comment about "greatest blunder of his life". Unfortunately, he is not alive to see how his 'cosmological constant' is being used now a days by many Physicsts to describe the expanding Universe.

Humorous Aspect: The most important thing I liked in this book is when the authors' dog spills the coffee by mistake after which it starts roaming around the room, speeder and speeder, and when the author asked why it was doing so, it replied, "I want to move faster and faster so that I can slow the time and slowing this would at some stage stop the time or take me to the PAST. Once in the 'PAST', I would 'restore' the spilled coffee"! Humorous, but a true concept.

I would recommend this as 'must-read' for all - I mean all.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Paradox - Nine greatest enigmas in Science - Jim Al-Khalili - Review

After a long time I was able to complete this book at one go as it addressed the paradoxes that science cannot answer, but yet the questions raised were from the Physics and pertained to 'reality'. Prof Al-Khalili, perhaps the first Arabian writer on 'Science writing' I have come across, has addressed the following:

Achilles and the Tortoise paradox
Olbers' Paradox
Maxwells' Demon
The Pole in the Barn paradox
The Paradox of the Twins
The grandfather paradox
The paradox of Laplace's Demon
The paradox of Schrodingers' Cat
Fermis' Paradox

The Quantum Chemist is sure of the last but one here. The style is lucid and pleasant and even a lay man can get through provided he evokes at least '3D' thinking. Many 'assumptions' are purely theoretical, but could be real.

Most people are nostalgic about their 'past' and this book gives you the reason to be nostalgic about the 'future'. Great efforts Prof. Khalili.

Quite a different book as the author tries to explore what lies outside the universe - Nothingness? Void? Vacuum? How were they created. There is more cosmological exploration than any thought experiment or Quantum reality. Vacuum has been related to Higgs field a new challenge at the LHC. Good book for beginners!

The non-existent was not; the existent was not
Darkness was hidden by darkness
That which became was enveloped by The Void.

Monday, August 5, 2013

The brain boggles the mind!

Werner Lowenstein has dared Quantum mechanics into the brain and has succeeded in breaking down the nervous system into its component parts and relate them to physical interaction with mind, body and the environment.

A few interesting things out there:

# While there are electrons everywhere, why is it that the body has inorganic ions floating in electrolytes?!!
# The body can exist in two different states at discrete times (read calm state and anger state for reference, invent QUBITS!)
# Meticulousness is mind matter: Rutherford is regarded as inventor of electron while Walter Kauffmann discovered electrons simultaneously
# Ordinary people can attend science seminars to extend the stock of Metaphors (Thanks to Samuel Coleridge)
# Einstein's courage to praise Werner Heisenberg as 'lifting the corner of a veil'.
# Thermodynamic and cosmological arrow of Time!!
# And of ALL: Quantum collapse of waves related to memory loss (Refer to Roger Penrose's work on the protein Tubulin that can collapse after reaching a threshold limit within the nerves in less than half a second time!)

Good read!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Common Everyday Items That Are Radioactive

You are exposed to radioactivity every day, often from the foods you eat and the products you use. Here is a look at some common everyday products and foods that are radioactive. Some of these objects may pose a health risk, but most of them are a harmless part of your everyday environment. In almost all cases, you get more exposure to radiation if you take a ride in a plane. Still, it's good to know the sources of your exposure.
1. Brazil Nuts

Brazil nuts are probably the most radioactive food you can eat. They provide 5,600 pCi/kg (picocuries per kilogram) of potassium-40 and a whopping 1,000-7,000 pCi/kg of radium-226. Although the radium is not retained by the body for very long, the nuts are approximately 1,000 times more radioactive than other foods. It's interesting to note the radioactivity seems not to come from elevated amounts of radionuclides in the soil, but rather from the extensive root systems of the trees.
2. Beer

Michael Connors,
Beer is not particularly radioactive, but a beer does contain, on average, about 390 pCi/kg of the isotope potassium-40. All foods which contain potassium have some of this isotope, so you could sort of consider this a nutrient in beer. Of the items on this list, beer probably is the least radioactive, but I found it amusing to note that it is, in fact, slightly hot. So, if you were afraid of the Chernobyl energy drink from that movie "Hot Tub Time Machine," you might want reconsider. It could be good stuff.
3. Cat Litter

GK Hart/Vikki Hart, Getty Images
Cat litter is sufficiently radioactive that it can set off radiation alerts at international border checkpoints. Actually, it's not all cat litter you need to worry about -- only the stuff made from clay or bentonite. Radioactive isotopes naturally occur in clay at the rate of about 4 pCi/g for uranium isotopes, 3 pCi/g for thorium isotopes, and 8 pCi/g of potassium-40. A researcher at Oak Ridge Associate Universities once calculated American consumers buy 50,000 pounds of uranium and 120,000 pounds of thorium in the form of cat litter each and every year.

This does not pose much of a danger to cats or their humans. However, there has been a significant release of radionuclides in the form of pet waste from cats being treated for cancer with radioisotopes. Gives you something to think about, right?
4. Bananas

Bananas are naturally high in potassium. Potassium is a mix of isotopes, including the radioactive isotope potassium-40, so bananas are slightly radioactive. The average banana emits around 14 decays per second and contains about 450 mg of potassium. It's not something you need to worry about, unless you are hauling a bunch of bananas across an international border. Like kitty litter, bananas can trigger a radiation alert for authorities seeking nuclear material.

I don't want you thinking bananas and Brazil nuts are the only radioactive foods out there. Basically, any food that is high in potassium naturally contains potassium-40 and is slightly, but significantly radioactive. This includes potatoes (radioactive french fries), carrots, lima beans and red meat. Carrots, potatoes and lima beans also contain some radon-226. When you get right down to it, all food contains a small amount of radioactivity. You eat food, so you are slightly radioactive, too.
5. Smoke Detectors

Whitepaw, public domain
About 80% of standard smoke detectors contain a small amount of the radioactive isotope americium-241, which emits alpha particle and beta radiation. Americium-242 has a half-life of 432 years, so it's not going anywhere anytime soon. The isotope is enclosed in the smoke detector and poses no real risk to you unless you break apart your smoke detector and eat or inhale the radioactive source. A more significant concern is the disposal of smoke detectors, since the americium eventually accumulates in landfills or wherever discarded smoke detectors wind up.
6. Fluorescent Lights

Deglr6328, Creative Commons License
The lamp starters of some fluorescent lights contain a small cylindrical glass bulb containing less than 15 nanocuries of krypton-85, a beta and gamma emitter with a half-life of 10.4 years. The radioactive isotope is not a concern unless the bulb is broken. Even then, the toxicity of other chemicals typically outweighs any risk from radioactivity.
7. Gemstones

Gregory Phillips, Free Documentation License
Some gemstones, such as zircon, are naturally radioactive. Additionally, several gemstones may be irradiated with neutrons to enhance their color. Examples of gems that may be color-enhanced include beryl, tourmaline, and topaz. Some artificial diamonds are made from metal oxides. An example is yttrium oxide stabilized with radioactive thorium oxide. While most of the items on this list are of little to no concern where your exposure is concerned, some radiation-treated gemstones retain enough "shine" to be radiologically hot to the tune of 0.2 milliroentgens per hour. Plus, you may wear the gems close to your skin for an extended period of time.
8. Ceramics

Salvation Army, Creative Commons
You use ceramics every day. Even if you aren't using old radioactive stoneware (like brightly-colored Fiestaware), there's a good chance you have some ceramics that emit radioactivity.
For example, do you have a cap or veneer on your teeth? Some porcelein teeth have been artificially colored with uranium containing metal oxides make them whiter and more reflective. The dental work can expose your mouth to 1000 millirem per year per cap, which comes out to two and a half times the average whole body annual exposure from natural sources, plus a few medical x-rays.

Anything made of stone may be radioactive. For example, tiles and granite countertops are slightly radioactive. So is concrete. Concrete basements are especially high, since you get off-gassing of radon from the concrete and collection of the radioactive gas, which is heavier than air and can accumulate.

Other offenders include art glass, cloisonne enameled jewelry, and glazed pottery. Pottery and jewelry are of concern because acidic foods can dissolve small amounts of radioactive elements, so that you might ingest them. Wearing radioactive jewelry close to your skin is similar, where the acids in your skin dissolve the material, which may be absorbed or accidentally ingested.

9. Recycled Metal

Frank C. Müller, Creative Commons License
We all want to reduce our impact on the environment. Recycling is good, right? Of course it is, as long as you know what it is you're recycling. Scrap metal can get grouped together, which has led to some interesting (some would say horrifying) cases of radioactive metal getting incorporated into common household objects.

For example, back in 2008 a gamma-emitting cheese grater was found. Apparently scrap cobalt-60 found its way into the metal used to make the grates. Metal tables contaminated with cobalt-60 were found scattered across several states.
10. Glowing Items

Wiki Phantoms
You probably don't have an old radium-dial clock or watch, but there is a decent chance you have a tritium-lighted object. Tritium is a radioactive hydrogen isotope. Tritium is used to make glowing gun sights, compasses, watch faces, key ring fobs and self-powered lighting.

You may buy a new item, but it may include some vintage parts. Although radium-based paint may not be used anymore, parts from old pieces have been finding new life in jewelry. The problem here is that the protective face of the clock or whatever gets removed, allowing the radioactive paint to flake or peel off. This can result in accidental exposure.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

A circle drawn on a sphere (b) has a shorter circumference than one drawn on a flat sheet of paper (a), while a circle drawn on the surface of a saddle (c) has a longer cirumference, even though they all have the same radius.

From Brian Greens' Elegant Universe

Friday, January 4, 2013

Spatial Fabric around the Sun

Beautiful way to express how the earth is kept in its orbit by the Sun as it rolls along a 'valley' in the warped spatial fabric. This follows the "path of least resistance" in the distorted region around the sun. 

Also, this is another way to suggest how gravitational 'explosion' could me 'immediately' felt if something happened to the sun. Whereas it might take light to reach the Earth from Sun in about 8 minutes, Newton suggested the gravitational impact would be instantaneous!! Something travelling faster than light is still not allowed in Physics unless General Theory of Relativity is invoked.

From Brian Greene's The Elegant Universe