Archive for the ‘science’ Category

board games

October 28, 2007

go board
I must say I love board games. After all it is the nice way to spend an afternoon with your monopoly-playing friends. But interesting thing is….why are board games good for? I read that there is more than a century long study on psychologic aspects of such games going on…impressive. So what do they say.

In nice article Wanna Play in Psychology Today by Jay Tietel he mentions

It is impossible to calculate how much people benefit from games:

o Games are primers on turntaking, the basis of all relationships.

o They can solve major crises in industry and teach people not to pilfer pencils from the company storeroom; in fact, companies spend hundreds of millions of dollars a year on them for that.

o They can be training grounds for legendary generals and make the difference between winning and losing wars.

o Finally, and most important, games can reopen doors into the world of pretending and childhood, reminding us of unadulterated fun, sparking creativity.

So, what is your favourite game? I always liked chess, since my early childhood when I first saw on the photo that my uncle plays that unusual game. I asked my father to explain the rules to me, and he also bought a chess set very soon for me, and one illustrated book, so I was delighted to ponder about pawns and other figures as medieval armies in my imagination. At school I played sea battle on piece of paper with my friends, shoot invisible submarines with invisible torpedoes – it was fun. Later on I learned Go, and that game took my breath away with its infinite variety of possible moves. It is like painting your character and inner world with black and white stones on wooden table.

But I liked also to play Monopoly game, recently I played it with my little cousin, but he was constantly trying to steal monopoly money (he thought I do not see it). At first I acted as if I do not notice, but then I said stop – it is very important to play by the rules. Such is the life and everyday situations also, you have to know inner rules to get the joy in your victory and in your defeat. And very important thing that board games and sports are teaching us is fair-play.

Card games are also very nice. I like the idea of bluffing in Poker, but I never played it seriously – though I like to hear stories about card players very much and to watch such movies, as the one with Matt Damon.

But the game I would like to learn to play is Diplomacy. Several reasons for that. First, I want to learn more about history in Napoleonic wars, and WWI and WWII (game starts in 1901, so it is best for learning about WWI). And learning history without paying attention to diplomatic intricacies is incomplete. So, somehow I want to feel the history of Europe – not just to learn dates mechanically. I have a feeling that would be very challenging and interesting thing to do.

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lung cancer early diagnosis

February 27, 2007

Dr. Peter Mazzone and his team invented a senzor that will help diagnozing lung cancer in early stadium (when it can be still treated successfully), using cheap and non-invasive method. And it diagnoses it just by examining breath.

Rather than determine the exact chemicals and their concentrations, this sensor changes color depending on the pattern of chemicals. The device is about the size of a nickel and has 36 dots, each made up of a different chemical.

“The color of that dot changes based on what chemicals are absorbed into it,” Mazzone explained. “So, the pattern of chemicals in the breath is represented by patterns of color changes on the sensor.”


A type of X-ray called spiral computed tomography or CT can find lung cancer early, but it is expensive and also finds non-cancerous lesions that are expensive and risky to test.

You can read more about this in good articles at

News-Medical.net

HealthCentral.com

envoys of beauty

February 22, 2007

To go into solitude, a man needs to retire as much from his chamber as from society. I am not solitary whilst I read and write, though nobody is with me. But if a man would be alone, let him look at the stars. The rays that come from those heavenly worlds, will separate between him and what he touches. One might think the atmosphere was made transparent with this design, to give man, in the heavenly bodies, the perpetual presence of the sublime. Seen in the streets of cities, how great they are! If the stars should appear one night in a thousand years, how would men believe and adore; and preserve for many generations the remembrance of the city of God which had been shown! But every night come out these envoys of beauty, and light the universe with their admonishing smile.

Ralph Waldo Emerson – Nature

I am into astronomy these days. Downloaded and installed free Astro Planner on my PC, and also installed Planetarium on my handheld. But nights are cloudy in Belgrade, I have no luck. As soon as stars become visible again I am determined to find Orion Nebula on the sky. Approximately I know where it should be located.

For those who are not accustomed with using telescopes, good start is to observe the sky with binoculars. And if you watch through telescope, first thing you should see is the surface of the Moon (it always takes my breath away), then you can try to find Jupiter and see its 4 bigger satelites (if you draw down their positions over time axis you will get sinusoidal waves). Of course, never ever watch directly to the Sun, do not try that even with special filters either. If you want to see spots on Sun surface, project the image from telescope to paper, and there you will see it very well. And you can try to see Saturn rings too.

I have at home some older russian telescope, I think that diameter of mirror is about 6 cm. But let me tell you these modern computerised telescopes are really something. They have so called GoTo option, which means that there are memorized coordinates of stellar objects and computer controlls moving mechanism which directs the telescope right to the desired object. All you have to do is just look and enjoy.

Problem with using telescopes in cities is light pollution. I wonder if Suburbia likes to watch the stars since she lives in the suburban area of the big city, and I guess the night sky is much more clear there. Nowdays there are many telescopes on the market, I saw even those with 10 inches diameter (I think that with them you can see even that red spot on Jupiter’s surface). Actually I found very nice booklet from Meade telescopes and you can download it here. There are interesting stories in it, like one when a man found new supernova (exploded star) with his home telescope.

I remember I liked to read in my primary school about comet hunters. That is so cool to try to find new comet.

Astrophotography is also something breathtaking. That art combines calculation and photography. You have to be very precise if you want to catch the photo of “diamond ring” in total solar eclipse.

We always stand in awe under the starry sky. I hope tonight there will be no clouds in Belgrade. I am already browsing the catalogs in software to choose what I will (and can) observe. Wish me good luck with the weather. And you can join me with exploring the space.

favourite magazine

February 18, 2007

Ah yes, I like to read magazines. In early 80ties I was a still a kid, and in those times computers were much expensive, but I was so obsessed with computers – so you guess, I was not merely reading, but learning computer magazines by heart :)

Even today I like to read computer magazines, but they are much different now. The best ones are business oriented, and frankly I don’t care about business. For me science was always like a poetry, and I am always more eager to read interesting article about something theoretical or even about good computer game, than to read boring article about some database or something that will help someone improve his business, and earn a lot of money.

This is the reason, perhaps, why I am always silently quarreling with my wallet. But I remain a poet.

And today, it is so difficult to find good scientific magazine. Back in 80ties in Yugoslavia there was famous magazine Galaksija (Galaxy). It was about popular science. You could read there how to solve Rubik’s cube or how to build a solar house or a wind turbine. And articles about cosmos, which were so not business related. Remember the TV series about Cosmos by famous Carl Sagan. We loved to watch him here.

I bought few days ago National Geographic in serbian language. And it is great. Articles are well written. And on NG site you can find video material related to those articles. I wish to see good magazine about science here one day. Some of the articles in National Geographic Magazine you can read here, they are in section Features.

In the meantime I read Nature and New Scientist sometimes, in English. They are really good.

And I like to read about expensive things I cannot buy – like magazines about yachts, or good hi-fi and hi-end magazines.

What is your favourite magazine and what do you like to read?

who is alive, and who is not?

January 25, 2007

As I mentioned in previous post, my little niece came to visit us last week with her grandma who is my aunt.

She is 8 years old, and very sweet child. Unlike me, she adores to dance and is very good at it. I always say that she is new Brittney Spears. So, my aunt is a bit of overeager choleric personality. Most importantly she believes that her way is the only way, but at the same time she has a very, very kind heart.

You know sometimes there is such difference between mind and heart. I believe it is so even in my own humble presence here in this world – I really feel bored when I am living inside my limited mind. But if I manage to intoxicate the mind with the simplicity and peace that I sometimes spontaneously feel deep inside the heart – heh, that is another matter.

Now, my aunt is teaching my little niece this and that, and helping her with school. She teaches her everything, except to think with her own head. Love that grandmothers have towards grandchildren is always great, and my aunt is a bit overeager to teach child what is right and what is wrong, that she fails to see that we have to teach child the value of freedom first. Freedom is something about which we have to sing always and always, through our poems, music, paintings and art in general, and our philosophy and way of thinking. Remember Mel Gibson at the end of movie Braveheart. -Say mercy William- -Freedo0o0o0om!-

I even had a chance to experience how it is like when bombs are falling down all around, my beautiful Belgrade was bombed in 1999 by NATO (without prior permission of UN Security Council, the only international body who can give legitimacy to such action. Iraq was attacked also without such permission). Believe me, if there is no war we should be grateful. From 1991 to 1999 there were 4 wars in different parts of former Yugoslavia. More than 250 000 people were killed, and now what happens – all former Yu republics, now independent states want to go to integrate in EU. But that could be done with big Yugoslavia without war before. Why stupid people want disintegration first, and afterwards again integration? Wars are led because of lack of vision. Look at the history of Europe, remember Hundred years’ war? And now those countries are living united in EU. God bless the uniting aspect of European Union!

Hand in hand with physical freedom goes freedom of thinking. Look what kind of thinking freedom Albert Einstein had! Really I do not understand how could he be so smart when he was only 25 years old. What happens when you are travelling in speed of light and at the same time a mirror is travelling parallel with you. What would you see
when you look in the mirror? Gee, I would never even dare to think to ask myself such question! How could I even formulate something like that?

The tragedy of life is what dies inside a man while he lives.

Albert Einstein

To my understanding the best thing you can do to teach children the value of freedom is to cut jokes and to laugh. Why? Kids already have more freedom in their hearts than we adults have. Nothing should be assumed too serious, especially not the school. I was joking so much that my little cousin told me one day that it would be very good for me to work in the circus. What a compliment she gave me! I was so happy to hear that.

My father’s and my aunt’s father, my grandfather who died before I was born. He was transported to Paris during the WWI and he lived there 9 years. When he came back to Serbia he married, got children, and one day he desired to teach them French language. But my grandmother did not allow him to “spoil” her children. That is why I my father does not speak French, and why I do not know today that beautiful language of diplomacy and love. And it could have been different.

So, my aunt wanted to show us all what my little niece knows. So she asked her to explain what is the difference between living beings, and things that are not alive. That is the kind of things they teach kids in second grade of primary school.

-Great!- responded I -that question is still unclear to me. Even great Nikola Tesla mentioned that some people believe how pearls on necklace are living beings, and that they become more beautiful in time as woman wears them.

-What the heck are you rambling about?!- interrupted me my aunt, -what is there to be unclear, living beings are those who breathe, is it right so Sarah?

-But what then with anaerobic bacteria?- exclaimed I somewhat jubilantly, which gave my doctor sister a good laugh. Sarah laughed too, though she had no idea what I was talking about.

No need to mention, aunt went with Sarah to another room. To save her from the wrong spoiling ideas of her crazy-pseudo-scientific cousin. Uh huh.

logic and intuition

January 22, 2007

How do we know that we are right? Yes, I’ve heard about syllogisms, enjoyed to make examples of false syllogisms which sound nice, but I really did not even presume that logical thinking is so complex before I found out that there are, no more no less, than 42 informal logical fallacies. A formal fallacy is contrasted with an informal fallacy, which has a valid logical form, but is false due to one or more of its premises being false. Oh great!

You know what this means, it means that there are 42 ways that you can reach wrong conclusions even if think logically right. What powerful weapon in hands of people who like to deliberately deceive another people. And you know lie is a lie, but half-truth can be more dangerous than a lie – I am refering to verbal communication, when someone deliberately launches half-truths as for example in politics (I was not speaking of cognitive domain where we cannot perceive complete truth because our minds are imperfect, so it is also half-truth, but we can call it constructivism in learning theory; we are making constructs which help us to seek for truth, it is different than when someone make false constructs to influence other people according to some selfish manner or aim)

Presume that you are professor or a teacher – someone who can give grades to students or pupils? What would be your criteria for giving grades? I believe that human brain is natural neural network (isn’t it obvious from medical anatomy) so the best thing is to regard intellect as not analogous to computer memory (be it hard disc, CD, DVD, or RAM) but analogous to ANN’s (artificial neural networks) which never contain information, but just some kind of changing weight function for every neuron, so to put it more simple – you have input, you have many neurons unaware of each other, and you have output. So knowledge is just like an echo to an impulse – we do not have to “store” knowledge in brain, rather we have to train our neurons to respond correctly to external stimuli. In another words – teachers should value more the correct way of thinking and especially ability to organize knowledge than mere capacity to “store” knowledge like a parrot. Human race has Wikipedia and Encyclopaedia Britannica for storing purposes.

Yes, I know…artificial neural networks were invented because scientists were inspired by the natural neural network – brain. It is funny that I am using now vice versa analogy – but what can I do? I cannot find better analogy – it seems that we created something, and then that something helped us to understand more about ourselves. And what if there is someone in us who created our mind and senses and heart and body to understand oneself more fully? Funny idea, huh, but we know so little about ourselves. To put this metaphorically – it is our intellect that creates prose, but who is he who creates poetry?

Question is – do we need knowledge of logic to get to know ourselves better? Is logic our friend which will intorduce us to ourselves? Will it bring a human closer to himself/herself? Will it make us feel we are at home? What do you think about that? In my case, sometimes it is friend, sometimes it is obstacle. When I feel joy in aesthetics – for example when I watch beautiful sunrise, I need no logic to feel beauty and become closer to myself. No, I need not even thoughts.

In this post I was speaking about intellectual knowledge. But how limited it is compared to intuitive knowledge. I feel peace when I read about Ockham razor. And it seems to me – house of Truth is Simplicity.

And what about those 42 ways thanks to which you could be deceived? Don’t worry – your own sincerity is your greatest protection.

all I NEED (now) is radio ga ga

January 20, 2007

Radio – radio
I’d sit alone and watch your light
My only friend through teenage nights
And everything I had to know
I heard it on my radio

You gave them all those old time stars
Through wars of worlds – invaded by Mars
You made ’em laugh – you made ’em cry
You made us feel like we could fly
Radio

(taken from the song by band Queen – Radio Ga Ga)

We are living in a time when we are thinking about concerts on DVD’s and about 7.1 speakers, but what happens to inspiration and awe of good old radio? What happened to that medium which was absolutely amazing before television? Nowdays we can listen to radio that is propagated by radio diffusion and FM modulation, and Internet radio stations which are there on the net, of course there are another modulations for ordinary radio which are more rare, and some lucky countries even have digital radio such as Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB) or Digital Radio Mondiale (DRM).

But my main question for this post is – would you consider buying hi-fi radio receiver? You know, those marvellous looking devices that you can add to your hi-fi system and receive radio programs. I know some people who are giving large amounts of money for hi-end tube amplifiers (in order to avoid quantization noise at least in that component), but they say they would never buy a receiver as another component (I guess they would spend money on another component). And my opinion, oh well, I do not have money to buy hifi right now – but I would buy a receiver. I would like to listen radio on such device. And what is your opinion?

My favourite internet radio stations are SmoothJazz.com and Piano Whisperings and one fusion jazz station, I forgot now the link and the name.

No we must not forget the radio, and this is my appeal to all people who are working on radio, to give their best to make that media once more popular. Everything can be done through careful planning of all details. We simply have to have quality radio shows. And to end with Queen’s song again

Let’s hope you never leave old friend
Like all good things on you we depend
So stick around ‘cos we might miss you
When we grow tired of all this visual
You had your time – you had the power
You’ve yet to have your finest hour
Radio – radio

P.S. What is your favourite internet radio station? Share your opinion and the link here in comments please.

Why are Stradivari violins sooo good?

January 18, 2007

Believe it or not, there is opinion that it is because of borax, chemical that Stradivari used to protect wood from wood worms.

Who got such idea? Professor emeritus of Biochemistry at Texas A&M University Dr. Joseph Nagyvary. On his www.NagyavaryViolins.com homepage we can read

It appears that the art of violinmaking in Cremona during the Golden Years ( ~1550-1750) was shaped by historical coincidences in wood acquisition and preservation. Stradivari and his colleagues were likely the beneficiaries of a local technology without being aware of it. For protection against woodworm and mold, chemists were known to apply a chemical solution to the surface of the wood, and this solution was often a slurry made with a powder the alchemists called “the salt of gems”. According to historical accounts from Cremona collected by V. Grivel, these sophisticated materials were provided by the local apothecary to a variety of wood workers. Presumably, neither the apothecary nor the violinmakers were conscious of the profound acoustical effect of the chemicals which were used routinely on all fine furniture.

On that site you can find mp3s that are comparing Stradivari and Nagyavary violins. For me very interesting were those comparison frequency diagrams.

Be sure to check out article Stradivari ‘owes it all to worms’ on telegraph.co.uk

And what Wikipedia says on Stradivari violins, well, check out by clicking here. Also, especially interesting is article about famous violin duel in September 2003.

steam engine

January 6, 2007

What wonderful invention steam engine is! Most interesting part of it for me is regulating mechanism for steam admission into cylinder. It is called centrifugal governor, and it was used on windmills many years before Watt. It is an example of feedback control, and human creativity. I have no idea who invented it (some lonely person in spare hours while windmill was working), but such creativity without aid of computers I deeply admire.