Friday, November 23, 2012

Something from nothing

Recently reading the book Why Does The World Exist by Jim Holt I came across the idea of an arithmetic nothingness. Holt explores the mystery of existence including taking a philosophical tour and quantum based spontaneous creation of something from nothing and so on…

So back to the arithmetic – and in particular Zero and One (0 and 1). To the Greeks and Romans the very idea of zero was inconceivable how could a nothing be a something.

If we let 0 stand for nothing and 1 for something then we get a sort of toy version of the mystery of existence. How can you get from 0 to 1. In advanced mathematics there is a simple sense in which the transition from 0 to 1 is impossible.

A number is regular if it can be reached via the numerical resources lying below it. More precisely, the number n is regular if it cannot be reached by adding up fewer than n numbers that are themselves smaller than n.

We can see 1 is regular because it can’t be reached from below. The sum of 0s is 0.So the big question is whether there is a way of bridging the gap between 0 and 1 – between nothing and something.

Leibniz thought he had found an answer and this is fascinating. One infinite series is 1/(1.x) = 1 + x + x(2) + x(3) + x(4) + ……

By plugging in -1 into this series

½ = 1-1 + 1-1 + 1-1 + 1-1  + …..

½ = (1-1) + (1-1) + (1-1) + (1-1) + ……

and so

½ = 0 + 0 + 0 + 0 ….

The equation seems to suggest that something can appear from nothing. Had Leibniz stumbled on something?

This is of course invalid. The infinite series isn’t convergent and so therefore a series jumping between 0 and 1 makes no sense.

Friday, November 16, 2012

International Facebook Unfriend Day - social psychological relations

Today, November 17th is the International Facebook Unfriend Day

National Unfriend Day is the international day when all Facebook users can protect the sacred nature of friendship by cutting out the 'friend fat' on their pages occupied by people who are not necessary friends. And true, the social psychological relations this may help alleviate is uncalculatedable.  

The movement seems to have struck a chord. A Facebook page dubbed "National Unfriend Day Nov 17" has garnered almost 5,000 "likes".

Unfriending a friend

Contrary to what some people may think, when you unfriend someone on Facebook, that person won't know you committed such a deed. If you unfriend someone on Facebook, the person does not receive a notification, but they can no longer look at your profile and they can’t request to get connected again.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Factors influencing referral pathways into and through forensic ID services

Factors influencing referral pathways into and through forensic ID services.

Bill Lindsay presented a review of research related to pathways into and through forensic Intellectual Disability services.  In his follow up studies of Community Forensic ID services (12 and 20 years) he found distinct trends in referral patterns with more recent cohorts being significantly younger and more likely to come from the criminal justice system.

He goes on to say sex offenders are older than other types of referrals (mostly violent) and men outnumber women 5 to 1. His recent research reviewed referrals to different levels of security finding that aggression and violence, referral source, diversity of offending behaviour, criminal justice involvement and IQ all predict where someone will be referred.

Surprisingly, some variables commonly associated with forensic ID such as arson and sex offending do not predict referral pathways. He has found that security levels have only a small to medium, but nevertheless significant, relationship with assessed risk. 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Empathic and Analytic Thinking are Mutually Exclusive

Empathic and Analytic Thinking are Mutually Exclusive

A study, led by researchers at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, in the US reported in the Journal NeuroImage, explains why some business leaders sometimes overlook the public relations consequences of their cost-cutting exercises.

The study is believed to be the first to show that humans have a built in neural constraint that stops us thinking empathically and analytically at the same time.

Our brains switch between social and analytic networks when we’re not doing anything in particular. But, when working on a goal-directed task, our brains engage the appropriate neural pathways.

Lead author Anthony Jack, an assistant professor of cognitive science at Case Western Reserve explain, "this is the cognitive structure we've evolved":

Before this study, from previous research, scientists already thought there were two large networks in the brain that were in tension, one called the default mode network and the other called the task positive network. However, there are different views on what drives them.

One view proposes that one network is deployed in goal-directed tasks, and when this happens, the other one allows the mind to wander.

Another view proposes that one network engages in external attention, while the other is for internal attention. The new study suggests a new explanation: both networks focus on external stimuli, but one is for social problems and the other is for analytical problems, and when the one concerned with one type of problem is engaged, the neural pathways for the other type are repressed.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Mayonnaise and the perception of reality

Jack Dikian
October 2012

How a jar of Mayonnaise helped overturn our perception of reality. For hundreds of years, we assumed incorrectly that materials, such as paint and mayonnaise remained viscous due to attractive forces that exist between neutral atoms and molecules.

The long held view that properties of such solutions are determined by van der Waals forces - long-range, attractive forces that exist between neutral atoms and molecules.

In the mid twentieth century the theory that was used to explain van der Waals forces, which had been developed by Fritz London in 1932, did not adequately reflect experimental measurements.

Casimir and Polder working at the Philips Research Laboratories in Eindhoven discovered that the interaction between two neutral molecules could be better described and interpreted in terms of vacuum fluctuations eventually leading to his famous prediction of an attractive force between reflecting plates. That is:-

What happens if you take two mirrors and arrange them so that they are facing each other in empty space?


In the days of classical mechanics the idea of a vacuum was simple. The vacuum was what remained if you emptied a container of all its particles and lowered the temperature down to absolute zero. The vacuum therefore was/is a region that is devoid of matter or put another way - a volume of space that is essentially empty of matter. It’s what comes to mind when we thought about space as we were growing up.

Space is shockingly bizarre

According to quantum mechanics, all fields have fluctuations. That is, at any given moment their actual value varies around a constant, mean value. Even a perfect vacuum has a fluctuating field, the mean energy of which corresponds to half the energy of a photon.

Some 30 years after Paul Dirac formulated the famous Dirac equation, which describes the behavior of fermions and which led to the prediction of the existence of antimatter (however, unable to deal with more than a single electron) Richard Feynman, and others, attempted to take the understanding of the Atom further and help develop the theory of everything.

Their theory, Quantum Electrodynamics (QED) is a far-reaching and more accurate than any previous approximations and underpins almost everything we experience in the physical world – shapes, texture, color, and how everything interacts together.

Here, empty space (a vacuum) buzzes with matter and activity. Here, energy is said to be borrowed from the future and is used in the creation of a particle and an antiparticle. These particles, in turn meet in a fraction of a second and annihilate each other. So energy is borrowed out of nowhere, turned into matter self-destruct and returns back into energy all in a fraction of a second. This is happening everywhere countless times a second.

So according to QED, the everyday matter filling our physical world, the world we see and feel is a kind of left-over from the feverish activities virtual particles get up to in the “empty” void.

Click here to download the complete article

Further reading

M Bordag, U Mohideen and V M Mostepanenko 2001 New developments in the Casimir effect Phys. Rep. 353 1 

H B Chan et al. 2001 Nonlinear micromechanical Casimir oscillator Phys. Rev. Lett. 87 211801 

F Chen and U Mohideen 2002 Demonstration of the lateral Casimir force Phys. Rev. Lett. 88 101801 

C Genet, A Lambrecht and S Reynaud 2000 Temperature dependence of the Casimir force between metallic mirrors Phys. Rev. A 62 012110 

S K Lamoreaux 1997 Demonstration of the Casimir force in the 0.6 to 6 micrometer range Phys. Rev. Lett. 78 5 

K A Milton 2001 The Casimir Effect: Physical Manifestations of Zero-point Energy (World Scientific, Singapore)