Long time no see on the blogosphere. I’ve been busy during the summer with all the usual stuff, mostly learning and working. I’m glad to say that I’ve almost finished the Exploring Complexity: An Introduction book during the summer, and I was even able to get some of the mathematics out of the way. I think I was able to model a pretty neat animation on some of the methods demonstrated in the book, and I’ll try to post it soon.
I’ve also been saving up for going skydiving before the summer’s over… I’ve always dreamed of the skies (my first choice in college education was majoring in aeronautics, never quite made it though), so it’s only natural that I do something that involves full-contact with the air up there. Living on the student budget means that I have to work some extra jobs for that though. Some a bit more crazier than the others.
And of course, there’s always the DIYBio NYC. I’ve been trying to come up with some decent ideas, but everything I can think of at the moment mostly revolves around the kind of project that would require some sort of dedicated labspace. All I can do at the moment is to prepare for that inevitable day when we’ll obtain access to a labspace through independent studies. Some of the things I’ve talked about the members during a recent meeting regarding the state of the group and the processes that are involved in constructing artificial vesicles were very enlightening, and I intend to do a full-length post about that some time in the near future.
On to the main post…
During today’s twitter and identi.ca browsing I happened upon some interesting resources for scientists and potential scientists.
The first one is a collection of links and documents on how to prepare a scientific presentation. I haven’t had the time to read through it yet, but I know some of the posts on the list, and if the rest are like the ones I know, they are definitely worth a read, especially for an aspiring scientist like me. It’s amazing just how many things are involved in preparing a half-way decent presentation, and how most people are just plain terrible at it. I’ve sat through my share of lectures/symposiums/conferences and there’s nothing more painful than a horrible presentation with irrational powerpoint.
The second resource I want to share with you is osgrid. It’s a virtual environment tool like the second life except that it’s opensource. It’s relatively simple to download the environment and run it off your own servers, though it also means that you ‘need’ to run it on your own server for the whole thing to work. I’m really interested in finding out how this environment can be used for scientific research. Perhaps virtual laboratories running off university computer clusters? Open educations tool like a virtual university? A method for scientists to interact with their own 3D datasets in clean and intuitive manner? There are plenty of possibilities out there.
… I can also think of a few ways to utilize some of the stuff for the DIYBio community.
Brief post amidst a mild snowstorm nursing a mug of hot chocolate:
The prominent particle physicist/cosmologist Lisa Randall is apparently hard at work writing an opera with the artist Matthew Ritchie, according to a detailed interview on the Boston Globe. The opera is an hour-long piece between two performers with the title of “Hypermusic Prologue: A projective opera in seven planes”, obviously having to do with the physicist’s expertise in the field of physics.
I have mixed feelings about this, since I hope this to be a good musical piece as well as something that’s scientifically meaningful. Though I must say I do welcome the increasing exposure of ‘artscience’ in increasingly mainstream spotlight. I’ll certainly try to watch it when it comes out, though at the moment it seems they are not planning on bringing it stateside.
A colleague of mine jokingly pointed out that the mediums of science and opera both share a similarity in being hard to comprehend. I certainly hope this work will end up being simply beautiful in artistic standpoint instead of becoming an intellectual tryst of one of the most educated people on the planet.
P.S. I attended the ITP 2008 winter show yesterday, held at the NYU school of arts. It was amazing. I felt like a child in a toy store, except that these toys remixed melodies and mixed cocktails. I took bunch of cellphone pictures which are admittedly grainy. I’ll post them up with description of the event soon.
(Update: The LHC beam came full circle at last!)
The LHC first beam came and went. The LHC experiment itself is active right now, with about 3/8th of the ring active and 60,000 particles observed in one shot. Of course, it is set to increase to the full capacity eventually.
I am very proud to say that I have participated in the biggest scientific experiment ever undertaken by humanity no matter how indirect the method. Those of you out there who have not participated yet style yourselves supporters of science should hang your head in shame… Just kidding. Though you should really feel disappointed.
The main goals of the LHC experiment is put succinctly by Michael Sean Wright at his blog (which I happened to catch by chance).
Why did Matter triumph over Anti-Matter?
Why do particles have mass?
What is the nature Dark Matter?
What was the state of mass in the moments right after the Big Bang?
These are some of the questions entire cabals of scientists lose sleep over in their ceaseless pondering and amazement at the face of the universe in front of us. I am exhilarated to say the least. What will this experiment (the LHC experiment is, of course, a long term experiment. It is not about singular results obtainable over an experiment or two) teach us about the universe? What system of the world? I would have to be dead on the inside if such questions did not get my heart running!
McCain and Obama will be gone and done away with sooner or later. LHC experiments will remain with us so long as the human civilization thrives, perhaps changing the fundamental nature of how humanity sees the universe around themselves.
Here are some resources in case you are still interested in a bit of LHC first-beam catch up.
U.S. LHC blog.
LHC live blogging.
LHC webcast service (severely congested at the time of the first beam event. I had to switch to BBC livecast)
There are two big events from today to tomorrow, one of them truly big in the sense of its possible impact on humanity and the sciences, and the other one big in the sense that it is a release celebration of a book by one of my favorite authors hosted by one of the more interesting groups around today. Both of them will be on the net through live webcast, so anyone interested should set the alarm bells on their clocks today.
The first and the most important is the upcoming live webcast of CERN lab LHC first beam. The Large Hadron Collider went though so much drama and uncertainty (pun intended) from inception to its recent power-up, this event will be quite emotional for the people who worked on the project as well as the large portions of the members of scientific community at large (and there are lot of them, I assure you). The first *beaming* of the tens of kilometers large apparatus is set to begin at 10th September 2008 9am CEST (GMT+2), which roughly translates into around 10th of September 3am EST in NYC. Considering that the technical and scientific magnitude devoted to this project likely dwarfs that spent for building the Great Wall, it would be tragic for anyone even remotely interested in the advances of sciences to miss this significant event. I know I will be up and about in the night, despite the fact that I have early workday tomorrow. It is worth the anguish of a day without sleep I say! So please remember to make a ruckus and wake up members of your family in support of the sciences when the beam goes off. (Fermilab in U.S. is hosting a pajama party in honor of the event, though the registration is closed I am sorry to say)
The second even is the release party for the book Anathem by Neal Stephenson, hosted by the Long Now foundation. While Neal Stephenson might not be the greatest writer alive, he is certainly one of the most interesting. I preordered my copy from Amazon in a heartbeat when I heard that he was set on publishing a new book after a long period of inactivity. The Long Now foundation itself sounds as interesting as the man himself, focused around the concept/building of millennial clock. Those people should be well worth checking out if you are interested in humane pursuits that stretches beyond mere decades or centuries. I personally find such devotion to long-term pursuits to be very attractive in this day and age where vast majority of information seem to be relegated to the role of a junk food. Since the basic premise of the Anathem itself revolves around the millennial clock concept, the Long Now foundation is throwing a party of sorts in celebration of the release of them book, with some readings and performances that will be streamed through a live webcast at the Long Now website. The webcast is set to begin on 9th September at 7pm PST, so I guess it will be around 10pm EST in NYC (interestingly enough, the year is written as 02008 on the Long Now website. Maybe we should all begin adding zeros in front of our year marks from now on).
P.S. There is a teaser stream running at the LHC first-beam webcast site describing what they are doing at CERN. For some reason I can not stop thinking about the background music they used in the stream.
It’s been an unusual afternoon of relaxation and reading today. I’m listening to Bach’s concerto for two violins in D minor. The music of violin is especially fitting with the calm afternoon sunlight streaming in through the windows… It sounds as if the light and the instrument were made for each other, sharing some fundamental secret amongst themselves that mortal men are not privy to.
This kind of experience always arouses an intense wave of curiosity over my mind. Just what makes a molecular system react in such a way to certain vibrations of air? Is it complexity? Is it some innate characteristic of my components? Or is it purely dependent on the way the materials are arranged? Is it replicable? If this is a natural phenomenon, who’s to say that another phenomenon of similar nature might be manifesting somewhere else in this universe, on entirely different materials and scales, like that of a whole galaxy? Imagine, the bow of energies striding across the strings of time and space, propagating a subtle echo of the exuberant creations, ringing away toward eternity.
My favorite cup of green tea ice cream is beginning to melt away. I should go now and enjoy my life more.