Tuesday, August 20, 2013

To wear or not to wear my glasses

Ever wondered what people think of you when you’re wearing your glasses. Could wearing glasses change people’s initial impressions of you? Not long ago I seem to remember people (particularly the younger ones) were of the idea that wearing thick, black-rimmed glasses make them look smarter. Well, there may be something in that.

According to research by Hellstrom and Tekle (Person perception through facial photographs: Effects of glasses, hair, and beard on judgments of occupation and personal qualities, European Journal of Social Psychology) people infer not only occupations based on physical traits but also personal characteristics like intelligence and trustworthiness.

The researchers conducted studies in which participants rated the personality characteristics and speculated about the occupation of several male faces with either glasses, hair, or a beard. The researchers found that the combination of having glasses, a beard, and no hair was associated most highly with intellectual professions. The opposite in each category led to the strongest belief that the face belonged to someone in a trade profession or a factory worker.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Golden Age Thinking - a label to help explain oneself

There is nothing like a label to help explain oneself – thank you Woody Allen.

The first time I saw Midnight in Paris I remember thinking what a beautiful film composed of a montage of postcard-pretty Parisian street scenes. I had missed completely Paul’s criticism of Gil Pender, accusing him of harbouring a "Golden Age Thinking" style.

Midnight in Paris is a romantic comedy fantasy film written and directed by Woody Allen. Taking place in Paris, the film follows Gil Pender, a screenwriter, who is forced to confront the shortcomings of his relationship with his materialistic fiancée and their divergent goals, which become increasingly exaggerated as he travels back in time each night and exploring, along the way, the contrasts of nostalgia and modernism.

Woody Allen offers a thought-provoking proposition. The idea that (the erroneous notion) that a different time period is better than the one one's living in. That it a flaw in the romantic imagination of those people who find it difficult to cope with the present and that nostalgia is denial, denial of the painful present. He calls this golden age thinking. 

Monday, August 12, 2013

Verschränkung and Schrödinger's cat

Google's latest doodle marks the birthday of Erwin Schrödinger, the Nobel prize-winning quantum physicist whose eponymous equation lies at the heart of quantum mechanics.

He repeatedly criticised conventional interpretations of quantum mechanics by using the paradox of what would become known as Schrödinger's cat. This thought experiment was designed to illustrate what he saw as the problems surrounding application of the conventional, so-called "Copenhagen interpretation" of quantum mechanics to everyday objects.

Schrödinger proposed a scenario with a cat in a sealed box, wherein the cat's life or death depended on the state of a subatomic particle. According to Schrödinger, the Copenhagen interpretation implies that the cat remains both alive and dead (to the universe outside the box) until the box is opened and the function collapses.

For those who haven’t read Schrödinger or are not familiar with the man’s character - Schrödinger was a debonair, passionate, poetic philosopher and a romantic baronessck. He wrote books about the ancient Greeks, on philosophy and religion. He was influenced by Hinduism, flamboyant, cool, suave, sophisticated, dapper dresser and a big hit with the ladies.

It is said that Schrödinger’s promiscuity was legendary, having a string of girlfriends throughout his married life – some of them much younger than him. In 1925, the 38-year-old Schrödinger stayed at the Alpine resort of Arosa Switzerland for a secret liaison with an old girlfriend. It’s said that their passion proved to be the catalyst for Schrödinger’s creative genius.

Another physicist said of Schrödinger’s week of sexually inspired physics  - he had two tasks that week, satisfy a women and solve the riddle of the atom. Fortunately he was up to both. Schrödinger argued, crucially, that the electron was the wave of energy, vibrating so fast it looked like a cloud around the atom and went on to develop what is now known as the Schrödinger equation.  This describes the wave [completely] and hence the atom in terms of traditional physics. 

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Our understanding of the world shapes how we live

The British philosopher Bertrand Russell believed that the way we understand our world fundamentally shapes the way that we live our lives. Our pre-Copernican view of the universe, for example, placed us mortals at the centre of the universe and perhaps explained [understandably] the egocentric worldview of the era.

But Copernicus was a 16th century Astronomer and our understanding of the universe has evolved somewhat over the enduring years. We now think that String Theory offers a complete, unified and consistent description of the fundamental structure of our universe - a theory of everything.

The essential idea being that all fundamental particles (in particle physics, a fundamental particle is a particle not known to have any substructure) are really just different manifestations of one basic object: a string. So where is in an older image of an electron, say as a point with no internal structure; it can now be seen as a tiny loop of string that can oscillate in different ways.  

According to superstring theory, every particle is in the universe is composed of a tiny filament of energy...which is shaped like a little string and just as a violin string can vibrate in different patterns, each of which produces different musical tone, the filaments of superstring theory can also vibrate in different patterns.

However, and amazingly we need to go back in time to 570 BC and read Pythagoras. He actively promoted a way of living that he felt could put a person into harmony with a universe that he too believed was vibrating and harmonic. This vibrating and harmonic universe that Pythagoras described in a cosmogony that has come to be known as "The Music of the Spheres" wherein the entire universe was vibrating like a huge musical instrument.

Pythagoras believed that this fundamental level of reality couldn't be seen by the human eye but was accessible to the human mind and intelligible to the human intellect via the transcendent principles of mathematics. However, once a person was “tuned and in vibrational alignment”, they could then self-actualize and become fully engaged human beings. The mystic Pythagoras even believed that such a well-tuned person could raise their level of consciousness and awareness and thus be able to "peek behind the veil" and experience what some have called "ultimate reality".