Friday, October 16, 2009

The Psyience Detectives and The Mysterious Balloon Adventure

The endless hours of television and internet coverage of young Falcon Heene who was not inside a big helium balloon flying over Colorado yesterday is surely one of the oddest things of 2009. His father, Richard, is also a co-host on a video series called The Psyience Detectives where they talk about UFOs, the End of the World and other fun things. Their website has crashed due to massive amounts of online traffic, but here's part 5 of a 6 part video series about UFOs. Richard is on the right. Cool theme music, too.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

A Machine's Warning From The Future: Don't Build It

"For those of us who believe in physics,” Einstein once wrote to a friend, “this separation between past, present and future is only an illusion.”

What might happen if a few billion dollars were spent to make a gigantic Supercollider machine, meant to create a particle called a Higgs boson (though no one knows if it really exists or has ever detected one) -- and the machine sends signals back to itself from the future to ensure that it will not work?

That's a theory being offered by a few scientists about the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland since efforts to make it work have all failed. Perhaps, they say, the future machine (or maybe the scientific principle it uses) knows more than those of us in the present and are sending back a warning from the future. The machine is set to try once again to create that unique particle in December (the last time they tried to use it, a gigantic magnet in the machine melted.)

The NYTimes offered an essay on the idea of time-traveling anti-colliders this week:

A pair of otherwise distinguished physicists have suggested that the hypothesized Higgs boson, which physicists hope to produce with the collider, might be so abhorrent to nature that its creation would ripple backward through time and stop the collider before it could make one, like a time traveler who goes back in time to kill his grandfather.

Holger Bech Nielsen, of the Niels Bohr Institute in Copenhagen, and Masao Ninomiya of the Yukawa Institute for Theoretical Physics in Kyoto, Japan, put this idea forward in a series of papers with titles like “Test of Effect From Future in Large Hadron Collider: a Proposal” and “Search for Future Influence From LHC,” posted on the physics Web site in the last year and a half.

According to the so-called Standard Model that rules almost all physics, the Higgs is responsible for imbuing other elementary particles with mass.

“It must be our prediction that all Higgs producing machines shall have bad luck,” Dr. Nielsen said in an e-mail message. In an unpublished essay, Dr. Nielson said of the theory, “Well, one could even almost say that we have a model for God.” It is their guess, he went on, “that He rather hates Higgs particles, and attempts to avoid them.”

This malign influence from the future, they argue, could explain why the United States Superconducting Supercollider, also designed to find the Higgs, was canceled in 1993 after billions of dollars had already been spent, an event so unlikely that Dr. Nielsen calls it an “anti-miracle.”

Weird or not, I'm sort of intrigued that some are considering the oddity of the machine's failure.

In the meantime, other scientists, working in China, have successfully constructed a table-top sized Black Hole. Since we are all still here and not been sucked into the vast nothingness (yet) then it is a case of 'so far, so good'. But if messages start popping out of the black hole, I sure hope someone takes good notes about the message it conveys.

Alexander, Corker Protect KBR, Ignore Rape

It is very good news that the U.S. Senate voted to end forced arbitration of Defense contract employees who are raped by their co-workers. (as I noted earlier this week). But the bad news is how the Tennessee media has ignored the votes cast by Senators Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker who voted against such a change.

How could they vote to protect such a vile crime? Why does the U.S. Chamber of Commerce support arbitration as a "benefit" for employees?

Said Sen. Franken: "
She has not had her day in court, she has litigated for four years to have her day in court. She was drugged, she was raped, and she had to have reconstructive surgery. If that's a better workplace, what was the workplace like before?"

The two Tennessee senators were joined by 28 other Republicans voting against the protection of Americans and instead voted to protect the multi-billion dollar contractor Halliburton/KBR.

Rage and anger at accusations against the group ACORN dominated the news for weeks. Meanwhile, gang-rape victim Jamie Leigh Jones faced a 4-year battle to encourage Congress to halt the employee abuses of Halliburton/KBR. In September, she finally was allowed to take her case to court.

Last night on the Daily Show, Jon Stewart pointed out the shame of those 30 senators.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

MTSU State Survey: Most Oppose Gun Law Changes; Unsure On Other Topics

The annual survey among Tennesseans from MTSU reveals strong opposition to allowing guns in parks, eateries and especially bars -- but much ambivalence remains on many other topics. Some highlights from their survey:

State: Most disapprove of handguns in public places

  • Most disapprove of carrying handguns in parks, eateries, bars.
  • Two in five to get swine flu vaccination.
  • Bottle-return bill draws strong support.
  • Economy also No. 1 state problem.
  • State mood barometer rises a bit, still higher than national barometer.
  • Which party should wield power? Tennesseans shrug.
  • Bredesen, legislative approval edge up.

"Meanwhile, as the clearest-yet outlines of health reform legislation emerge in Congress, Tennesseans agree on little about the issue other than its importance. While about two-thirds of state residents consider health reform either very or extremely important, only 36 percent generally support the proposals that have been discussed in Congress so far, 46 percent oppose them, and a sizable 17 percent are unsure.

And, as in Washington , attitudes here in Tennessee toward health reform divide sharply along party lines, with Republicans generally opposed, Democrats generally supportive, and independents wavering in the middle and often saying they just don’t know,” Dr. Ken Blake said.

The poll also finds that majorities of Tennesseans oppose letting handgun carry permit holders take their weapons into public parks, restaurants and especially bars. Fifty-four percent of state residents oppose allowing permit holders to carry handguns in parks; 60 percent, in restaurants; and 80 percent, in bars."

Asked which party should control the Legislature, 31 percent say the Democrats, 33 percent say the Republicans, and 35 percent say they don’t know.

Indecision is even higher regarding the governor’s race, despite the candidates already campaigning to replace Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen. Twenty-five percent say they want a Democratic governor, but another 22 percent want a Republican governor, and a 51 percent majority say they have no preference right now. The rest give no answer.

Finally, 71 percent of Tennesseans say that the recession has hurt them financially, up from spring’s 66 percent. But worry about the future economy has decreased to 33 percent from spring’s 43 percent. These and other economic indicators in the poll suggest a cautious optimism among Tennesseans that the recession is abating."

Conducted by Middle Tennessee State University ’s College of Mass Communication , the telephone poll of 716 randomly selected Tennessee adults has an error margin of plus or minus four percentage points at the 95 percent level of confidence. Theoretically, this means that a sample of this size should produce a statistical portrait of the population within four percentage points 95 out of 100 times.

The Survey Group at MTSU provides independent, non-partisan and unbiased public opinion data regarding major social, political and ethical issues affecting Tennessee . The poll began in 1998 as a measure of public opinion in the 39 counties comprising Middle Tennessee and began measuring public opinion statewide in 2001.

The full report is available here, both nationally and here in Tennessee.