Saturday, 22 December 2012

To thine own self be true.

“For instance, on the planet Earth, man had always assumed that he was more intelligent than dolphins because he had achieved so much-the wheel, New York, wars and so on-whilst all the dolphins had ever done was muck about in the water having a good time. But conversely, the dolphins had always believed that they were far more intelligent than man-for precisely the same reasons.” - Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

"The wise man adapts himself to the world; The foolish man tries to adapt the world to himself, therefore all progress depends on the fool."

Nuclear power is the safest of all currently available energy production methods
(including wind, hydro and solar)

How tall can a Lego tower get? Apparently the answer is 3.5 km.
What they fail to see is that if things were different, however, wherever, whenever, we would be sure to ask the same questions.

"there is no sensible limit below which the risk of cancer is decreased. Therefore, even though light to moderate alcohol consumption might decrease the risk for cardiovascular disease and mortality, the net effect of alcohol is harmful."

"Thus, alcohol consumption should not be recommended to prevent cardiovascular disease or all cause mortality."

Though, on the other hand... Yet in general...

Perhaps this belong here as well...

The way I see it, is that your body and mind is a temple. You don't put anything harmful, ugly or unnecessary in there. Especially if it is permanent or semi-permanent in nature. You don't get dirt on it, or at least if you do, you wash it away. Intentionally and unnecessarily poisoning ones body doesn't make sense to me.

Small minded vanity, dishonest and inconsiderate behavior, lack of empathy, judgmentalness on a personal level, possibly the worst character traits there are. It is a weak mind which is in a constant need of affirmation and exhibits these character flaws. People make up big words and give fancy titles to themselves. They pretend to be important, live in self-deception. They obfuscate information and look down on people when failing to communicate. People should be ashamed of themselves. Most things are simple and mundane, it is the people who make it complicated. It is this artificial self importance, small-mindedness and petty pride which makes this world such a shitty place to live in. I feel people fear so much that someone will come and say their lives are meaningless and unimportant, but it is not the other people they should be afraid of, it is themselves.

We should eventually forgive people most of their human weaknesses, their ill-adjusted emotions, their lack of sophistication, their fears and insecurities, their stupidity, laziness and lack of competence, perhaps even their lack of civil manners, but not their unwillingness to develop their characters and to improve themselves. Not forgive them their failure of empathy or greed when it causes significant pain to others. However, we should also remember to not entirely forget anyone, ourselves included, it is also our failure to help the lesser of us who fail to help themselves.

"A true artist is never content. What makes a true artist is the realization that perfection will never be achieved, yet strives for it anyway." - Dylan Wineland

"I tell people I'm too stupid to know what's impossible. I have ridiculously large dreams, and half the time they come true." - Debi Thomas

"You know what's really crazy? Living with a human being. Something with feelings and opinions." - Gregory House

"Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent." - Isaac Asimov

"Perhaps it's impossible to wear an identity without becoming what you pretend to be." - Orson Scott Card

"You never know what is enough until you know what is more than enough." - William Blake's Proverbs of Hell

"Every true genius is bound to be naive." - Friedrich Schiller

"Be smarter than other people, just don't tell them so." - H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Bruce Wayne: People are dying, Alfred. What would you have me do?
Alfred Pennyworth: Endure, Master Wayne. Take it. They'll hate you for it, but that's the point of Batman, he can be the outcast. He can make the choice that no one else can make, the right choice.

"I don't want to achieve immortality through my work. I want to achieve it through not dying." - Woody Allen

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson

"We are here to laugh at the odds and live our lives so well that Death will tremble to take us." - Charles Bukowski

"A superior man is modest in his speech, but exceeds in his actions." - Confucius

"Beauty is worse than wine, it intoxicates both the holder and beholder." - Aldous Huxley

"Never chase love, affection or attention, if it isn't given freely it isn't worth having."

I don't, in any universal sense, consider my life a success, nor do I consider it a failure. I don't think I'm better than anyone else, in any particular way. I think every human being is different and unique in their own ways, with their own little flaws and their own little strengths. I am different, but so is everyone else, some statistically perhaps more than others for a selected number of criteria, some in ways which are more personally pleasing to me than others, but I don't think this is particularly insightful, yet it sometimes seems worth repeating.

Guntrip observed that a sense of superiority accompanies self-sufficiency. "One has no need of other people, they can be dispensed with... There often goes with it a feeling of being different from other people." The sense of superiority of the schizoid has nothing to do with the grandiose self of the narcissistic disorder. It does not find expression in the schizoid through the need to devalue or annihilate others who are perceived as offending, criticizing, shaming, or humiliating. This type of superiority was described by a young schizoid man:
"If I am superior to others, if I am above others, then I do not need others. When I say that I am above others, it does not mean that I feel better than them, it means that I am at a distance from them, a safe distance."
It is a feeling of distance rather than of superiority.

"Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them. We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant." - Karl Popper

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough.

Vacuum fluctuations are a funny thing. You take an ordinary mirror and place it into a spring so that the system has a certain resonant frequency. We know that temperature is just energy and in this case movement of the mirror. This movement can be measured by firing a laser (which is basically a single frequency [sine] electromagnetic wave) at the mirror. The thermal movement of the mirror will introduce frequency shifts into the reflected laser beam (as depicted in the picture below). This can be detected by observing the spectrum (splitting the laser beam into different frequency components by a prism for example). More or less symmetric movement (thermal energy) of the mirror back and forth will introduce sidebands below and above the laser frequency. However when the temperature of the mirror system is cooled close to absolute zero, there is no thermal energy present in the system anymore and the upper sideband will vanish. However what is paradoxial is that there is still a small, but finite lower sideband present in the signal, this sideband is due to vacuum fluctuations and cannot be cooled away by any amount of cooling, in some sense the mirror is still moving. Vacuum fluctuations, however, cannot give energy (which would be the case if a higher frequency sideband would be generated) and hence only the lower sideband is present, as if the mirror was only moving away from the laser (only absorbing energy, but not emitting any).

[Physics 5, 8 (2012)]

The imbalance is explained of course by the fact that part of the photons energy is absorbed by the cool environment before it is re-emitted. What's interesting though is that the amplitude of the lower sideband below which one cannot cool down the mirror is determined by the resonant frequency of the mirror. The higher the frequency, the higher the amplitude below which one cannot go. This all is of course due to the quantized nature of energy. The effect is very real though and has many consequences, one is that vacuum fluctuations prevent helium from solidifying at any temperature, even at absolute zero (in normal pressure ranges, if the pressure is very high then it can solidify due to the fact that vacuum fluctuations become small relative to the pressure).

I'm sure most people are familiar with the idea that light consists of photons and know that when a single photon is fired at a 50:50 beam splitter, it will be detected either in one branch of the apparatus or the other with equal probability. (This sort of light is called antibunched and it is not emitted by normal light sources such as lamps, however single atoms exited by a laser do emit this sort of light. Bunched light emitted by a regular lamp on the other hand can (and will sometimes) trigger both detectors simultaneously.)

Now instead of using a single photon source, if we have a source which gives two entangled photons (it's not important how they are made, it is sufficient to know we can) something strange happens. We know that the entangled photons have opposite polarization and that they are always generated in pairs. If photon A has vertical polarization then photon B has horizontal and vice versa. This can be detected by a polarizing beam splitter. When the angle between the polarizing beam splitter at left and right are equal, nothing strange happens, if we detect vertical left, we will detect horizontal right and vice versa  However if one of the polarizing beam splitters is rotated by 45 degrees then something strange happens. At 45 degrees the transmission probability of vertically and horizontally polarized photon is 50% (or if you consider the process as continuous then you might say that the power is split 50:50). What you see is that each time no photons are lost, we always detect 2 photons, one at the left side of the apparatus, the other at the right side of the apparatus. However if one counts the correlations between the photons, say a photon which at the left side was detected having a horizontal polarization and at the right side was detected having vertical polarization, we get roughly 70% (sqrt(2)/2), same if reverse order is detected, but how could this be? A polarizing beam splitter has 50% transmission for both polarization states so one might classically expect no more to be possible.

The quantum mechanical prediction is different and consistent with the experiments. Somehow the other photon knows which way the other went (in certain sense).

Monday, 1 October 2012

Lesser of two evils

Many essential non-renewable resources are expected to run out within the next 100 years. Have we, the humans, a species in our infancy, gambled away our future? Most of these resources we used for our petty pleasures. Today oil is on average equivalent to 150 slaves to each person alive. Helium, oil, rare minerals and many other non-renewable resources are running out. It is conceivable that these materials might have played an important role in science and perhaps even saved the human species one day from extinction by making devices such as warp drive possible.

The fundamental problem of mankind is their inability to understand the exponential function. The only sustainable condition for mankind to exist is zero growth in balance with renewable resources (or at least growth must decay or follow a pattern which satisfies this balance). Energy consumed must not exceed energy arriving on this planet. Most of the energy available on this planet originates from the sun (excluding nuclear and geothermal), and their availability is always finite. The surface area of the planet is finite, output of the ecosystem is finite, mankind already consumes over 40% of the output of photosynthesis. The efficiency of our production can at best only approach 100%. For the population to reach an equilibrium the number of people born must equal the number of people dying. Growing life expectancies must be accompanied by declining birth rates. The total number of people on this planet are already near the limit of the carrying capacity of this planet. At the moment, by maintaining our current lifestyle, we are borrowing from the future generations. Perhaps we should know better.

The energy crisis and overpopulation is not even a technological problem, it is an economic and political one. The inflationary banking system forces exponential growth and cannot in its current form properly function without it.

It is ironic that improving the efficiency by which a resource is used tends to increase (rather than decrease) the rate of consumption of that resource.  In 1865, the English economist William Stanley Jevons argued that, contrary to intuition, technological improvements could not be relied upon to reduce consumption.

Some people refuse to understand the simple math behind exponential growth. No matter how low a growth rate, an exponential growth if allowed to continue, will eventually hit some sort of physical limit, if nothing else then it will be limited by the speed of light. If human population keeps growing, the sphere containing the combined volume of their bodies will eventually need to grow at a speed faster than the speed of light. Now one doesn't needs to be a genius to understand why this is impossible.

Another interesting prospect has to do with curing death and disease which I would argue is a simple engineering problem compared to fundamental problems of energy, time and space. Human by our best knowledge is a finite machine with finite complexity and all such machines can be fixed. The human DNA can be stored on a single DVD (or in fact much less), that is how little information is contained in the human blueprint. Crabs and lobsters have an unusual longevity for arthropods, their mortality rate does not increase with age, and this is attributed to DNA repair by the enzyme telomerase, in effect, they do not die of old age. Considering the advances in genetic engineering it is perfectly conceivable that we might eventually cure death by old age. Under such conditions we would be forced to decide between living forever or having children. Children could only be had as a replacement of existing people. Perhaps having been passed away due to accidents or perhaps by trading one life for another. It would become a rare gift or a lucky chance to be given a right to have a child. It is my opinion that having children should already be regulated and people wishing to become parents should go through exams to guarantee at least a minimal level of competence for the task of bringing up a child, but perhaps that's another story for another time.

Some say that by not having children people end up selfishly consuming more and this money will still not go to the poor. This need not be the case. Choosing to not have children can accomplish all of these ideals. You can increase your standard of living, give more money to the poor and still decrease the amount of total consumption. However even if the outcome will not benefit the poor, but lowers the total consumption, it can still be worth it.

What we will eventually need to do though, is to choose to live a life of less consumption than what we are short-term capable. A life in which consumption is planned for an infinite timespan and sustainable existence. We need to minimize the total suffering of all living beings while maximizing the sum of happiness for those alive. Those who were never born cannot suffer. I don't think the human species should become extinct, but it should be stabilized at a level which is in par with the natural renewal rate of the resources. This level of population is probably much less than the current level of people, possible by more than factor of 10. Perhaps something like 500 million people would be a better number.

Perhaps the reason why aliens have never visited us is because throughout the universe, no civilization can ever progress much beyond our current level because they simply exhaust their resources and stop advancing before technology would make it possible for them to leave their solar system. Though in the long run, this should not be a problem since one should be able achieve a balance with energy we get from the sun. Perhaps mankind or the universe is just not old enough yet.

Sunday, 30 September 2012

Nothing defies reason

A couple of interesting results from modern physics which many are not familiar with are the Bekenstein bound and the Bremermann's limit. They are derived from the laws of thermodynamics, the theory of relativity and the quantum theory.

The Bremermann's limit implies that the computational speed of a finite region of space with finite amount of energy is finite and the Bekenstein bound implies that the information necessary to perfectly describe a finite region of space with finite amount of energy is finite.

These sorts of limits strongly support the idea of digital philosophy according to which the universe and all entities inhabiting it is simply a gigantic Turing-complete cellular automaton, i.e. a classical computer.'s_Game_of_Life

I'll save a link here to somewhat unrelated discussion I had about the existence of god...

My guess is that if there is a god he will throw believer to hell for intellectual failure and put skeptics to heaven for honesty. Though, a possibility might exist that he would do neither. After all, we should forgive people most of their limited vision and weakness.

If you can give me any example of something that is immaterial that I can recognize as immaterial, then maybe we can have a discussion about the immaterial. Until then, everything you say about immaterial things is literally nonsensical.

"Since it is obviously inconceivable that all religions can be right, the most reasonable conclusion is that they are all wrong." - Christopher Hitchens

"What can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence." - Christopher Hitchens

"Rational arguments don't usually work on religious people. Otherwise there would be no religious people." - Gregory House

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Behringerin Truth B1031A

I ordered Behringerin Truth B1031A studio monitors from Thomann (249€) because I was interested to see if I could use them as standalone speakers without a subwoofer for my home theater setup. Speaker elements are reasonably large (8") so I figured it might work. The frequency response goes down to 35Hz (-3dB) which is pretty nice. My first impression was very neutral and nice sound overall. The speakers even came with a calibration certificate and a measured frequency response.

After I had listened to them for a while I noticed that deep bass, below 60Hz sounded somehow unnatural. I did some measurements and noticed that there is significant distortion at 3x the base frequency. For example when playing 40Hz sine tone at 0dB (just a relative number, volume in the low linear range) there exists about -20dB tone at 120Hz (measured directly in front of the speaker). This is rather significant. For example I measure from my cheapo 6" main speakers (OR-CINEMA ZOUND M1) to have about 44dB between 40Hz and 120Hz in the same room, position etc. This sort of distortion makes deep bass sound very unnatural and at least for me, these speakers are basically unusable below 50Hz. I do not know if this is electrical problem or mechanical, but never the less it seems strange to me. It is likely that it has something to do with the design of the port because blocking the port by hand effects the amplitude of the harmonic. Now I don't like to complain too much because I really like the sound above 50-60Hz (harmonic content vanishes) and I plan on using these speakers as main speakers in my home theater setup, but I am going to need a subwoofer because I really like clean 30-60Hz and unfortunately B1031A just won't do it. The no-signal noise floor isn't the lowest either, for example my 100W home theater amplifier + OR speaker gives lower noise floor. Not a big issue, but just something I noticed. All the tests were performed using 24bit/96kHz signals (direct digital optical input, output directly from the main XLR output of the DEQ2496 to maximize SNR and minimize THD). Perhaps I could mention that the Truth B1031A is probably very good for people who are not so interested in the low frequency range and in my opinion they do produce overall very nice and clean sound. They are even pretty loud and Behringer's claim of "chest-pounding bass" is not totally exaggerated.

Spectrums of 40Hz signal I measured. Relevant information is the height of the 120Hz peak. Ignore the phase noise (peak width), it is related to finite sample length.

One a related note it would be very nice if Behringer DEQ2496 would have a volume control and a crossover for subwoofer so one wouldn't need to introduce more noise by using an external crossover and a mixer.