Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Military examines 'beaming up' data, people / Critics say its extreme computing, energy needs keep teleportation unlikely for now

"Frustrated that terrorist kingpin Osama bin Laden is still on the loose nearly four years after the Sept. 11 attacks, a few military types and their scientific advisers are pondering a 'what if' solution straight out of TV's 'Star Trek.'

Wouldn't it be neat, they ask, if we could nab bin Laden via teleportation? In 'Star Trek,' the characters traveled between spaceship and planet by having their bodies dematerialized, then 'beamed' to another locale -- hence, the characters' familiar request to the ship's engineer: 'Beam me up, Scotty.'

That's teleportation."

Click on the title to read more....

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Einstein's pen

Although the giving of a personal fountain pen as a mark of respect between academic colleagues and friends -- as depicted in the Russell Crowe movie A Beautiful Mind was apparently apocryphal, the idea may have stemmed from a real-life exemplar.

In 1921 Albert Einstein presented his friend, and fellow theoretical physicist, Paul Ehrenfest with the fountain pen that he had used to write down his research on General Relativity. Now that's a gift!

The pen itself is on display at the Boerhaave Museum in Leiden.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Scientist finds secret Renaissance ingredient

"How did paintings by Tintoretto and other Venetian Renaissance artists get their special glow?

Using an electron microscope, Barbara Berrie, senior conservation scientist at the National Gallery of Art, discovered one of their secrets: tiny bits of glass the artists mixed with their pigments.

"By looking beyond the limits of their usual practice and transforming materials from other trades to their painting, the great artists of the Renaissance created a palette that gave them an immediate and lasting reputation as brilliant colorists," Berrie said."

'Out-of-body' experiences may come from within

"Psychologists at The University of Manchester are investigating the idea that out-of-body experiences, commonly thought of as paranormal phenomena, may in fact have their roots in how people perceive and experience their own bodies.

Around 10% of the population have an out-of-body experience (OBE) at some time, typically involving a sensation of floating and seeing the physical body from the outside. It isn't uncommon for people to have more than one OBE, and they may also occur as part of the wider near-death experience some report experiencing in life-threatening circumstances.

Despite the high incidence of OBEs however, there is still a great deal scientists don't know about the phenomenon. "

Monday, August 22, 2005

Asians, Americans Show Perceptual Divide

"Asians and North Americans really do see the world differently. Shown a photograph, North American students of European background paid more attention to the object in the foreground of a scene, while students from China spent more time studying the background and taking in the whole scene, according to University of Michigan researchers.

The researchers, led by Hannah-Faye Chua and Richard Nisbett, tracked the eye movements of the students - 25 European Americans and 27 native Chinese - to determine where they were looking in a picture and how long they focused on a particular area.

'They literally are seeing the world differently,' said Nisbett, who believes the differences are cultural."

Table Tennis in the Mensa Bulletin

Sunday, August 21, 2005

The man who would be king

"For 20 years, Garry Kasparov remained virtually unbeaten on the chess board. Now he's planning his most audacious move ever - to topple Vladimir Putin. Andrew Anthony reports on the opening game of his political campaign "

Discovered:the long-lost songs of Bob Dylan that went blowin' in the wind

"Four songs recorded by the then-unknown folk singer for the BBC in 1962 were long thought to have been destroyed. But, reveals Anthony Barnes, the tracks - including a version of his most famous song - were taped by fans and have now, in a remarkable story of musical salvage, been restored and will be heard again.

He was a complete unknown. When a folk singer by the name of Bob Dylan wandered into the BBC studios and performed four songs in late 1962, nobody paid much heed and the tape was thrown away.

But now Bob Dylan's performance as a hobo guitarist in the BBC drama The Madhouse on Castle Street is causing a buzz among music fans with the news that the tracks are set to be broadcast again for the first time in more than 40 years."

Original Einstein Manuscript Discovered

"The original manuscript of a paper Albert Einstein published in 1925 has been found in the archives of Leiden University's Lorentz Institute for Theoretical Physics, scholars said Saturday.

The handwritten manuscript titled 'Quantum theory of the monatomic ideal gas' was dated December 1924. Considered one of Einstein's last great breakthroughs, it was published in the proceedings of the Prussian Academy of Sciences in Berlin in January 1925.

High-resolution photographs of the 16-page, German-language manuscript and an account of its discovery were posted on the institute's Web site."

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Chinese Cryptologists Get Invitations to a U.S. Conference, but No Visas - New York Times

"SAN FRANCISCO, Aug. 16 - Last year a Chinese mathematician, Xiaoyun Wang, shook up the insular world of code breakers by exposing a new vulnerability in a crucial American standard for data encryption. On Monday, she was scheduled to explain her discovery in a keynote address to an international group of researchers meeting in California.

But a stand-in had to take her place, because she was not able to enter the country. Indeed, only one of nine Chinese researchers who sought to enter the country for the conference received a visa in time to attend."

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | Tsunami clue to 'Atlantis' found

"A submerged island that could be the source of the Atlantis myth was hit by a large earthquake and tsunami 12,000 years ago, a geologist has discovered.

Spartel Island now lies 60m under the sea in the Straits of Gibraltar, but some think it once lay above water.

The finding adds weight to a hypothesis that the island could have inspired the legend recounted by the philosopher Plato more than 2,000 years ago.

Evidence comes from a seafloor survey published in the journal Geology.

Marc-Andre Gutscher of the University of Western Brittany in Plouzane, France, found a coarse-grained sedimentary deposit that is 50-120cm thick and could have been left behind after a tsunami.

Dr Gutscher said that the destruction described by Plato is consistent with a great earthquake and tsunami similar to the one that devastated the city of Lisbon in Portugal in 1755, generating waves with heights of up to 10m.

The thick "turbidite" deposit results from sediments that have been shaken up by underwater geological upheavals.

It was found to date to around 12,000 years ago - roughly the age indicated by Plato for the destruction of Atlantis, Dr Gutscher reports in Geology.

Spartel Island, in the Gulf of Cadiz, was proposed as a candidate for the origin of the Atlantis legend in 2001 by French geologist Jacques Collina-Girard.

It is "in front of the Pillars of Hercules", or the Straits of Gibraltar, as Plato described. The philosopher said the fabled island civilisation had been destroyed in a single day and night, disappearing below the sea.

Sedimentary records reveal that events like the 1755 Lisbon earthquake occur every 1,500 to 2,000 years in the Gulf of Cadiz.

But the mapping of the island carried out by Dr Gutscher failed to turn up any manmade structures and also showed that the island was much smaller than previously believed.

This could make it less likely that the island was inhabited by a civilisation."

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Possible Pattern Found in Incan Strings

"Three figure-eight knots tied into strings may be the first word from the ancient Inca in centuries.

While the Incan empire left nothing that would be considered writing by today's standards, it did produce knotted strings in various colors and arrangements that have long puzzled historians and anthropologists.
Many of these strings have turned out to be a type of accounting system, but interpreting them has been complex.

Now, Gary Urton and Carrie J. Brezine of Harvard University say they have found a three-knot pattern in some of the strings, called khipu, that they believe identifies them as coming from the city of Puruchuco, about seven miles north of modern Lima, Peru.

They used computers to analyze 21 khipu found at Puruchuco and divided them into three groups based on the knot patterns. Their findings are reported in Friday's issue of the journal Science.

One group seems to be for local use and the other two groups - each with the three-knot pattern - may have been used to report local activities to higher authority, or to receive messages from those authorities. Details of the information from the local khipu was coded onto the others intended for travel.

In this case, the researchers believe they have found a place name in the three knots. 'If that's the case, we should ideally be able to look around at other khipu and see if we see this arrangement,' Urton said.

'We suggest that any khipu moving within the state administrative system having an initial arrangement of three figure-eight knots would have been immediately recognizable to Inca administrators as an account pertaining to the palace of Puruchuco,' the researchers said.

"For the first time, really, we can see how information that was of interest to the state was moving up and down in a set of interrelated khipu," Urton said in a telephone interview.

"We assume it has to do with tribute, the business of the state, general census taking or what resources existed or what activities were taking place," he said.

Identifying a place-name, they said, could provide the first foothold for interpreting the knots.

Potentially, Urton said, they might be able to build up an inventory of place names, the first time khipu knots have been directly associated with words rather than numbers.

There are between 650 and 700 khipu in museums, he explained, and about two-thirds of them have the knots organized in a decimal system indicating their use in some sort of accounting.

But the remaining khipu have knots in other patterns, perhaps a form of written language, if the researchers can work it out.

"We think those may be the narrative ones, "Urton said. "The identities attached to those knots may not be numerical. If we can use the numericals to account for objects, that may give us clues to how they were assigning identities to objects," he said, citing such items as llamas, gods, defeated cities and warriors that might have been counted.

If they are able to find such words, then they could look for those words in the narrative khipu.

What is missing is something like the Rosetta stone, which allowed Egyptian hieroglyphics to be deciphered when researchers realized it contained identical text in three languages, two of which could still be understood.

The Inca empire flourished along the western edge of South America in the late 1400s, ending with the arrival of the Spanish in the early 1500s. There are reports of the Inca telling the Spanish conquerers that the khipu told history, good and bad. The Spanish reportedly wrote down some of the Inca stories, but destroyed many of the khipu.

Galen Brokaw, professor of languages at the University at Buffalo, called the paper "exciting," because Urton was able to show a relationship between three levels of khipu.

"Each higher level condenses the more specific and detailed information of the level immediately below it. So, this provides us with an idea about how khipu were used in the Inca administration. To a non-specialist, it may sound like a fairly small discovery, but within the context of khipu studies it is fairly significant," Brokaw said.

Heather Lechtman, a professor of archaeology and ancient technology at Massachusetts Institute of Technology - after hearing a description of Urton's paper - said "he is making an interpretation, and I expect that he is not far from the mark."

Neither Brokaw nor Lechtman was part of Urton's research team.

The research was supported by the National Science Foundation, Dumbarton Oaks Foundation, Harvard's Faculty of Arts and Sciences and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation."

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Bobby Fischer: A grandmaster finds a new home

"The atmosphere was tense at Reykjavik airport. Iceland was awaiting its newest citizen and the press corps was ready. Bobby Fischer had been in jail in Japan for almost eight months and resembled a barbarian when he stepped off the plane. He did not greet the large welcoming committee. Soon enough he appeared at a news conference, however, looking a bit more civilized but ranting about American and Jewish conspiracies. It is unlikely that anyone in the crowd agreed with him. So why on earth would the Icelanders invite somebody like that to be a citizen of their country?
The answer is simple: Chess. It is very popular in Iceland. From ancient times there are stories of people in Iceland playing chess and in 1931, world champion Aljekin was honored with the Order of the Falcon - the nation's highest form of recognition - when he came to Iceland. Fischer was a child prodigy in chess and Icelanders have followed his development since the late fifties. He first came to Iceland in 1960, at the age of 17. He returned in 1972 to beat Boris Spassky in the fight for the world championship. Although Fischer often made demands that seemed unreasonable, he was still very popular in Iceland, as was his competitor.

Since 1972 Fischer has only played one official match, a rematch with Spassky in the former Yugoslavia. Unfortunately for him, the US was enforcing an embargo on "performing any contract in support of a commercial project in Yugoslavia, as well as from exporting services to Yugoslavia." A letter from the government to Fischer read, in part: "The purpose of this letter is to inform you that the performance of your agreement with a corporate sponsor in Yugoslavia to play chess is deemed to be in support of that sponsor's commercial activity.” To most Icelanders this seems far-fetched. At the moment no other individuals are being pursued for a similar violation of this act.

The Washington Post was critical of the Icelandic parliament for granting Fischer citizenship, publishing an editorial citing the “shame of Iceland.” The Post’s criticism focused on Fischer’s statements about the US, Israel and Jews. However, Icelanders take a different view of the issue. Helgi Ágústsson, Icelandic ambassador to the US, wrote to the editor of the Post: “While of course respecting the Post’s right to criticize the decision, the Embassy strongly disagrees with the underlying assumption that granting citizenship to Mr. Fischer somehow reflects Iceland’s support of his statements. On the contrary, Iceland is an old friend of both the US and Israel, and a country with a strong tradition of religious tolerance could not disagree more with his remarks. Humanitarian concern was at the heart of Iceland’s decision to accept Mr. Fischer’s request for citizenship. The Washington Post actually points out that Mr. Fischer can be considered the subject of pity, rather than hatred. This is the essence of his case and his circumstances.” In other words, most Icelanders feel that the greatest chess master of all time should not rot in jail simply for playing chess.

Meanwhile, Fischer seems to be adjusting well to life in Iceland. He frequently goes to an antiquarian bookstore and has been seen sipping beer at local bar. He has not played chess, but he did give a lecture on the world chess championships between Russian masters Kasparov and Karpov, which he claims were fixed. The audience did not embrace those claims, but grandmaster Jóhann Hjartarson, Iceland’s highest rated chess player said that it was interesting to meet the legend and to hear him speak about chess."

Friday, August 05, 2005

And the song that changed the world is...

"Bob Dylan's song 'Like a Rolling Stone' topped a poll Friday to find the 100 songs, movies, TV shows and books that 'changed the world' in the opinion of musicians, actors and industry experts.

Dylan's 1965 single beat Elvis Presley's 'Heartbreak Hotel' into second place in the survey for 'Uncut' magazine.

Paul McCartney, Noel Gallagher, Robert Downey Jr, Rolling Stone Keith Richards and Lou Reed were among those who gave their views for the poll.

'I absolutely remember where I was when I first heard it. It got me through adolescence,' rocker Patti Smith said of the winning song.

Ex-Beatle McCartney picked 'Heartbreak Hotel' as his number one choice.

'It's the way (Presley) sings it as if he is singing from the depths of hell,' McCartney said. 'His phrasing, use of echo, it's all so beautiful. Musically, it's perfect.'

The Beatles' song 'She Loves You' ranked at number three, followed by the Rolling Stones' '(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction.'

Stanley Kubrick's 'A Clockwork Orange' emerged as the most influential film at number five, followed by 'The Godfather' and 'The Godfather II' films in sixth place.

'The Prisoner' was the top-ranking TV series at number 10, while Jack Kerouac's novel 'On the Road' was the highest-ranking book, in 19th place.

Actor Edward Norton and ex-Beach Boy Brian Wilson also took part in the poll, marking the magazine's 100th issue. "

Space Shuttle Discovery repairs

Here's the latest cartoon from my brother, Bruce Pritchard:

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Rowling, Dylan Nominated for Quills Awards

"NEW YORK (AP) - J.K. Rowling, Bob Dylan and Stephen King are among the nominees for the first annual Quills Awards, a glitzy literary affair for which the general public will cast the ballots.

From Aug. 15 to Sept. 15, the public can vote online at . The prize will be promoted at bookstores and on NBC Universal stations."

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Scientists Deem Saturn Moon Titan Dry

"Scientists peering through a ground-based telescope say the surface of Saturn's planet-sized moon Titan appears dry and not awash in oceans of liquid hydrocarbons as is commonly believed."

The mystery of the song that changed Rock'n'Roll

The mystery of the song that changed rock'n'roll - Reviews - Books: "Reviewer Michael Epis
July 31, 2005

Like a Rolling Stone: Bob Dylan at the Crossroads
By Greil Marcus
Faber & Faber, $29.95

"It is a strange thing to write a book about one song - but Greil Marcus is a strange writer and Bob Dylan's Like A Rolling Stone is a strange song.
Not that Marcus could ever limit himself to writing about one thing at a time - just as the six-minute six-second song refuses to limit itself to any one meaning.

Marcus has been fossicking and ferreting his way into popular and not-so-popular culture for three decades and more, and his magpie bricolage continues here. So we learn that the Italian hip-hop cover - Come una Pietra Scalciatta by Articolo 31 - that Dylan includes in his curious 2003 film, Masked and Anonymous, is not so much a cover of the original as it is of another hip hip-hop version by the Mystery Tramps.
By means of the utter transformation the Italians wreak, Marcus glides to his conclusion: the song's true precursor is the Drifters' 1959 There Goes My Baby. Which is perhaps not as shocking as his contention that its successor is the Pet Shop Boys' cover of the Village People's Go West. The fun is in keeping up with Marcus' runaway trains.

Marcus details the recording sessions, which embrace six stabs at the song at Columbia's Studio A in New York on June 15, 1965. In none is the song played to the end. The next day there are 16 more attempts, most immediately sputtering out. Two went the distance - one was a total 'screw-up', one succeeded.

Like a Rolling Stone is a mystery song. Marcus tracks down the mystery - not so much "what does it mean?" (though there's a bit of that) but "how did it happen?".

In the end, it was, as inspiration is, a focused accident. Bobby Gregg whacked the snare drum just hard enough to announce the song, a micro-second of echoing silence follows, then "the fanfare opens, with small notes on the piano dancing like fairies over the low, steady pulse from an organ you hear but don't register".

The organ was played by guitarist Al Kooper, who had been invited to watch, but snuck his way onto the instrument when producer Tom Wilson asked Paul Griffen to try the piano. Dylan would not explain the song to the musicians - he delegated that to guitarist Michael Bloomfield.

Dylan famously played it at the Newport Folk Festival the day after its release, where it was outshone by two lesser lights. Six months later, at Berkeley University, it still sounds all wrong, but by London in May 1966 it was a tour de force - a claim on rock'n'roll that no one could match.

"The song was never the same after England, neither was Bob Dylan - and neither was his audience," writes Marcus. Dylan tried the song twice in the next eight years - and forgot the lyrics both times.

The song mystified Dylan. As he once said of it: it was like a ghost gave him the song, "then it goes away". And it scared others.

It has often been said the song broadened the realms of the possible in rock. It did the opposite too. Tin Pan Alley songwriter Gerry Goffin says of his reaction and that of his songwriting partner, Carole King (of Tapestry fame): "We took all the (demos of) songs that hadn't been placed . . . and smashed them in half." Tin Pan Alley was dead.

It is a song that even now has the capacity to blast its way into the consciousness of someone who has never heard it before. It has not dated, and by some mystery of spirit, it never evokes nostalgia.

The mystery is audible. No verse sounds like any another. Each chorus is different. Instruments appear and disappear. It teeters, Dylan stumbles, vocally and on harmonica.

And yet it gathers momentum, rises and falls, rises above itself, so that the sneer in "How does it feel?" resolves itself by the end into unbridled exhilaration.

What had seemed like a put-down of a poor little girl rich ends up something so much greater, an affirmation of the unknown. It is the sound of someone daring to be great.

The song stands alone. So does the book. In their own strange ways."

Al Aronowitz - Comment - Times Online


August 03, 2005

Al Aronowitz
1928 - August 1, 2005
Columnist whose connections with poets and musicians paved the way for gonzo journalism

AL ARONOWITZ was the doyen of early American rock criticism. Yet even if he had never written a word he would still have found a place in the history of popular culture as the man who introduced Bob Dylan to the Beatles.

Born in Bordentown, New Jersey, Aronowitz studied at Rutgers University before he began writing for the New York Post in the mid-1950s, making his name with a 12-part series on the Beat movement. He became friends with many of those he was writing about, including Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac, and his sympathy with the Beat philosophy was evident in his writing. The series is now hailed as one of the first examples of participatory journalism, a style later adopted by such writers as Hunter S. Thompson.

Aronowitz was on hand in 1961 when Bob Dylan arrived in Greenwich Village, New York, and chronicled the folk revival and the emergence of the protest movement. He became friends with Dylan after interviewing him for The Saturday Evening Post. Many years later Aronowitz confessed: �We all thought he was God. In fact I got so crazy I thought he was the new messiah.� In 1963 he introduced Dylan to Ginsberg, who became a strong influence on the young songwriter.

Even more significantly, when covering the Beatles' tour of America the year after, he was asked by John Lennon to arrange a meeting with Dylan. It took place at Hotel Delmonico, New York, and presaged a sea change in popular music. As Aronowitz put it: "The Beatles' magic was in their sound. Bob's magic was in his words. After they met, the Beatles' words got grittier and Bob invented folk-rock.”

Other critics sometimes accused Aronowitz of being a scene-stealer. Certainly, he was always ready to paint his own part in events large and once boasted: “The Sixties wouldn’t have been the same without me.” But most of his stories, such as the claim that Dylan wrote Mr Tambourine Man in his kitchen, stand up to scrutiny. When asked at a New York press conference in 1965 who he thought could save the world, Dylan jokingly nominated Aronowitz. The writer was one of the few people permitted to visit Dylan after he retreated to Woodstock after his 1966 motorcycle crash and accompanied him on his “comeback” at the Isle of Wight festival in 1969.

Aronowitz’s life fell apart in 1972 when his wife, Ann, died of cancer and he was sacked by the New York Post.

Addicted to drugs, he disappeared from the scene before re-emerging in the 1990s, when he launched a website, The Blacklisted Journalist, and published the books, Bob Dylan and the Beatles and Bobby Darin Was a Friend of Mine. At the time of his death, he was working on Mick and Miles, about Mick Jagger and Miles Davis.

He is survived by three sons and his companion, Ida Becker.

Al Aronowitz, writer, was born in 1928. He died of cancer on August 1, 2005, aged 77."

Monday, August 01, 2005

Chess player Susan Polgar is queen of her game

"It sounds like something out of a Frankenstein movie.

Laszlo Polgar, who has devoted his professional life to the study of the mind, boldly declares to the world that he can turn any healthy baby into a genius. He will test his theory with his firstborn child, a girl. She will not attend public school - Laszlo believes they are factories for mediocrity. Instead, he will home-school her in his modest apartment in communist Hungary.

He will teach her discipline, critical thinking, logic, math, science, English, literature, history. She will learn to speak seven languages fluently and, in time, will grow up to be a mental heavyweight. An Einstein in a skirt.

The end product of this experiment is sitting in the lobby of a hotel in Palm Beach Gardens. Laszlo's girl, Susan Polgar, now 36, a single mother of two boys, is wearing a delicately cut lavender jacket and smart black slacks. Her candy-apple-red toenails stick out from soft pink sandals. She is beautiful. But it is her brain that stuns all comers.

She is one of the smartest women - no, make that people - on the planet."

A fascinating profile of Susan, and to an extent her younger sister Judit (who has a real shot at becoming overall World Champion).

Star Trek Personality Test

"This test has twenty-eight questions testing four aspects of your personality. When you reach the conclusion of the test, you will be told of your basic personality parameters as well as the Star Trek characters who match with you."

Finally, an important link on the blog! I turned out to be a Spock/Miles O'Brien type. If you take the test, please let us know your results by clicking on the 'Comments' tab at the end of this blog entry. Just click on the title bar above to go to the test!