Browsing "science"
Jun 16, 2008 - observations, opinion, science    No Comments

(Don’t) Sleep on It!

According to a study conducted by the University of Minnesota, if you don’t have a consistent, regular sleep habit (i.e. same number of hours, same level of relaxation, same time of night, etc.) you’re more likely to have “aging issues” (i.e. you’ll die).

There’s a part of me that went “duh!?!” when I heard this (it seems intuitively obvious), but then I had to take a step back and rethink things.  Is it really your screwed up sleeping habits that adversely affect your health (and, potentially, lead to your death) …

OR … is it the waking early and staying up late that affect your health … or the driving while drunk (because you’re out later) and driving hung over (because you were out later the night before) that kills you?

OR … it that (according to another survey) too little sleep leads to snacking … which leads to weight gain … and fat gain, and cholesterol gain … which leads to health issues?

OR … is it because we’re all getting fatter, and being overweight (which apparently ups the changes of shortened sleeping) has it’s own mortality issues?

Bottom line:  You can’t draw significant conclusions from a study unless the study addresses all possible variables and variations that may affect the outcome.

Oh, and don’t go thinking that all you have to do is get a lot of sleep.  Too much sleep can also lead to restless nights … which puts you right back in the same leaking boat.

As for what this all really means, I’ll have to get back to you … after I take a nap.

Oct 1, 2005 - science    No Comments

The Universe Is Huge. What We Are … Isn’t

If you’ve ever wanted to know how big/old/whatever the universe is … now we know.  So, the answers to questions that have been plaguing scientists (and the occasional quiz show) are as follows:

  • 13.7 billion years old (accurate to 1%)
  • 73% dark energy, 23% cold dark matter, 4% atoms
  • Expanding at 71 km/sec/Mpc (accurate to 5%)
  • Expand Forever

Now we know.  Man … we (i.e. that which you and I actually see in this universe) are only 4% of what’s there … ponder that the next time you encounter some self-important person who thinks the world of themselves, their beliefs, or their causes …

… it’ll help you put them in perspective.

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Aug 23, 2004 - science    No Comments

Maybe everything just vibrates …

If you’re up for an interesting read, check out Brian Greene’s The Fabric of the Cosmos, a delightfully mentally stretching romp through the worlds of relativity, quantum physics, and cosmology.

I’ve got the book on CD (compliements of Audible) and it’s an interesting way to while away the commute across the state (my current employment is about an hour’s drive away from home). I’m almost beginning to comprehend the concept of 9- or 10-dimensional space … when my brain takes a slight detour around the “particles are waves … waves are particles … everything is strings … and strings are waves” part.

I remember watching a program about research being done in the area of our sense of smell. The theory being put forth is that the nose doesn’t differentiate smells by the configuration of the molecules that make up the smell, rather it uses the vibrational differences between molecules. In other words, without knowing what chemicals combined together to produce a particular odor, if they combined compounds based on their vibrational frequencies … a smell could be duplicated. Now, all that needs to be done is the mapping of the ‘smell notes’ (different frequencies that, when combined, generate specific smells) and (much like having mapped the genome) we can replicate smells.

Wait … wait … ahh, here we go … the scientist is Dr. Luca Turin at University College of London. There’s a book on the entire thing (something else to add to my reading list): The Emperor of Scent: A Story of Perfume, Obsession, and the Last Mystery of the Senses

But look at things a different way: what they’re saying is that certain molecules vibrate in certain ways and it’s the vibrations that control the smell. I think this is just the tip of a much bigger iceberg: one where all our interactions with reality are in fact nothing more than frequency combinations. Look at our 5 senses:

  • Variations in the vibrations of photons generate the color spectrum that we see
  • Variations in the vibrations of molecules generate different smells
  • Variations in the vibrations of molecules of air generate different sounds

That’s 3 out of 5 that can be mapped to vibrations as opposed to particles:

  • Touch appears to be “particle-based”, but that makes sense: touch is a rather “coarse” sense, requiring relatively large quantities of matter before it can be physically detected.
  • Taste also still appears to be particle-based … but if smell is vibrational, it’s conceivable that taste could be seen the same way (we know that single molecules, for example a single capsaicin molecule, can be detected … so it appears we’re on the same molecular scale as smell

Sure, we talk, think, and visualize the world as a collection of particles … electrons, protons, etc. … but those particles are themselves made up of smaller entities (quarks) which are (if you adhere to superstring theory) made up of vibrating strings). Is it possible to take the frequencies of all the vibrating strings that make up a particular thing and figure out the overall harmonic pattern of the thing? Better yet, identify what frequencies combine to produce particular sensory responses (blue, sweet, rotten, etc.)

I’m babbling, I know … but it’s an interesting concept … at least, it’s interesting when I’m trying to keep from doing real work.