Tuesday, September 19, 2017

"Who's The Most Stupid Here?" - a test of your bias in viewing a problem

I've seen the following picture pop up a lot lately in my social media feeds:


What do you think?

It seems like a lot of people instantly answer "4" and move on, but I don't know if the answer is all that simple. Let's consider what might actually be happening to everyone in the picture.

Number 1, the guy in the blue shirt who kind of looks like he's probably the kind of guy who smokes a pipe, is sitting on a branch doing nothing while numbers 2 and 3 are both trying to make him fall. We don't know how high the branch is, so the fall may cause minor injury or it may kill. Either way, number 1 is doing nothing to act against those who are trying to harm him. Is he a pacifist or is he just not paying attention to the world around him? Hard to say. If he's aware of what's happening but does nothing to stop it, then I'd say that's pretty stupid. If he's simply unaware of what's happening then he's also pretty stupid. Inaction, by choice or due to ignorance, is not a strong position to me.

Number 2 has the look of a guy who was once a high school bully but now is the old balding asshole who still takes pleasure in hurting others. We don't know why number 2 is sawing off the branch on number 1. The smile definitely makes it look like he's being a jerk, though it's also possible that, say, number 1 is a pedophile and number 2 is helping society make a hard but righteous decision. Again, it's hard to tell. However, since number 2 is looking at the branch he's sawing, we can say that he's aware that he's about to injure or kill number 1. Without having any justifiable reason for doing this, we can assume that 2 is a jerk. However, 2 also seems unaware that 3 is sawing the branch on which both he and number 1 are seated. Although the thickness of the branch may suggest that 2 will saw off number 1 long before 3 can saw off number 2, it still seems like 2 is oblivious to the fact that 3 is sawing the branch. His ignorance to his own situation while harming number 1 is pretty stupid, if you ask me.

Number 3 is the guy I'm most worried about here. We can't see his face, though he may be wearing a suit (maybe he's a Martin Shkreli executive asshole, kind of guy). Number 3 is sawing the branch of 1 and 2. Number 3 is not in danger himself (as far as we can tell). Number 3's action here will directly cause harm to 1 and 2 (well, as I said above, it may be more likely that 2 harms 1 first and then, after 1 falls, 3 will harm 2). Number 3 is looking at the branch he's sawing. He seems like he might be aware of the harm he's about to cause. What I see here is that 3 is about to injure or kill one or two people by choice. There could be good reason for it. What if 1 and 2 are both CEOs for health insurance companies that have been preying on the weaknesses of the nation while making themselves uber rich? Or, what if they're both serial rapists? However, without knowing more, it seems like 3 is the biggest jerk of them all. He's targeting others for harm.

Number 4, the one a lot of folks seem to think is the dumbest of the lot, is sawing his own branch and appears to be aware of it. He's looking down at the branch while sawing. However, he also has a smile. He could be unaware of the fact that his own action is about to cause him harm, but his smile makes me wonder if he knows what he's doing. Maybe he's committing suicide. Maybe he's harming himself on purpose. Maybe he knows the drop isn't very far and just wants to get away from the other idiots. Again, hard to say. If number 4 is unaware that he's sawing his own branch, then, yeah, he's pretty fracking stupid. However, if 4 is aware of what he's doing, then he may be the least stupid of them all. He's making a choice to do something (action), this something will not harm anyone else (1, 2, and 3 are not in danger through 4's actions), and he appears to be happy with the choice (not necessarily a good thing, but it could mean that he's found resolution in this choice). So, the only way 4 is the dumbest of them all, as most people say, is if he has no idea what he's actually doing. But we can't know that based solely on the picture.

So the choices become a little more difficult then. Which is dumber: inaction in one's own demise (number 1), causing harm to another while being unaware of your own danger (number 2), harming others outright (number 3), or harming yourself (number 4)? A lot of people think that 4 is the dumbest of them all, but I think that's only possibly the case if 4 is unaware of what he's doing. However, if 4 knows what he's doing, then I think 1, 2, and 3 are all far dumber than he. Number 1 is going to be harmed through inaction, number 2 is causing harm while seeming to be unaware of his own danger, and number 3 is about to harm others. But that's just my take on this situation (and making a lot of assumptions). What do you think?

Monday, September 11, 2017

Luca Stricagnoli's new video for Now We Are Free


I love Luca Stricagnoli's music! He's a fantastic guitar player, using all of his fingers to strike up beautiful tunes on his guitars. I've previously shared his covers of Thunderstruck and Sweet Child O' Mine. Now, Stricagnoli has a new album out, featuring some of his own original music as well as come more of his covers. I thought I'd share one of his new videos here. For your aural enjoyment, here is Luca Stricagnoli with Meg Pfeiffer covering "Now We Are Free", a song that Hans Zimmer composed for the film Gladiator:


Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Microbial PacMan

Micromaze under electron microscope (via Micromazes Facebook Page)

Stop what you're doing and watch this video of microorganisms flitting about in a PacMan maze right now!


Ah, wasn't that just a little extra awesome! Learn more about Micromazes at their Facebook Page.

Monday, July 10, 2017

A brief bit about my field site using only the thousand most common English words



To say a lot with a little is harder than you may think. 


Words are important, but what if you only had
a small number of known words with which to speak?


Chris Trivedi (right) and Graham Lau (left) at Borup Fiord Pass in 2014.

The Up-Goer Five Text Editor, created by Theo Sanderson, is a web-app that challenges you to type using only the one thousand most common words in the English language. It's intriguingly far trickier than you may think. I gave it a go, in an attempt to explain the reason that my colleagues and I went to Borup Fiord Pass to conduct our field research in 2014. What d'ya think?

On the top of the round world where we live, lies a land with ice and cold. In this land there is a piece of ice, long and thick, and covered in a color that does not seem right in such a place. This color let us know that something important was on or in or around that colored ice. We went to that place to find the colored ice and learn more about what made the color, to learn about why this place is just so cool. In the ice I found something important about fire's friend in the book of one god. This friend of fire as spoke upon before, was to be found in new forms within the ice, and of this I wrote with my friends. Now we know more about the stuff that causes the colors of the ice in that land with ice and cold that lies so far to the top of the round world where we live.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Get Deep With the Hubble eXtreme Deep Field

The Hubble eXtreme Deep Field Image
(NASA; ESA; G. Illingworth, D. Magee, and P. Oesch, University of California, Santa Cruz; R. Bouwens, Leiden University; & HUDF09 Team
)

The Hubble Space Telescope has had a remarkable impact on space science and humanity. From observations of the outer planets of our solar system to exploring other stars and nebulae in our galaxy, Hubble has been an impressive mission and has produced some of the most incredible images of the cosmos to date. One series of incredible images are the Hubble Deep Field (HDF), the Hubble Ultra-Deep Field (HUDF), and the Hubble eXtreme Deep Field (HXDF).

The picture above shows the HXDF in all of its glory. Released in 2012, this picture shows a smattering of galaxies, something in the range of 5,500 of them, and some of them are as far away as 13.2 billion lightyears (meaning that some of those blobs of colored light in this image sent their shine our way some 13.2 billion years ago!).

Just looking at this image should make one wonder about the immense vastness of our universe and the potential things that may be happening in any of those thousands of galaxies far, far away. Now that have evidence to show that many stars in our galaxy have planets, it makes me wonder about how many worlds are out there in just this one region of space from the HXDF alone. Could there be other inhabited worlds? Are there species of beings out there who are turning their own instruments our way and seeing our light from long ago flashing at them? I'd like to think so. 

Thursday, June 22, 2017

The Earth and our Moon from Voyager 1

"There is a tide in the affairs of men, 
Which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune. 
Omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries. 
On such a full sea are we now afloat. 
And we must take the current when it serves, or lose our ventures." 

-William Shakespeare



This picture of the Earth and Moon were taken by the Voyager 1 spacecraft from a distance of 7.25 million miles (~11.66 million km). Taken on 18 September 1977 (when I was -6 years old!), this picture as the very first ever taken that showed the Earth and the Moon in one single frame.

Voyager 1 is the most distant piece of human engineering and human exploration. It's fanciful to sit and think sometimes about how far away it really is now. As of the exact time of this writing, Voyager 1 is 20,661,735,297 km from the Earth and still going. The Voyagers and their mission were a hallmark of early space exploration. Now is truly the time for us to work together to take this current of humanity's evolution as a spacefaring species, and find our ventures among the other realms in the cosmic ocean.


(Note: in the picture above, the Moon appears very close to the Earth. However, the Moon is really about as far away from us as 30 times the diameter of the Earth! The picture certainly wasn't taken from equal distances to both Earth and Moon)

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Stairway to Heaven played skillfully on koto and shakuhachi - a stellar performance

"No stairway. Denied."

...Well not in this awesome video from performers Keiko Hisamoto, Masako Watanabe, Miromu Motonaga, and Kizan Kawamura, where they play two koto (stringed instruments and the national instrument of Japan) and two shakuhachi (Japanese end-blown flutes). 

I can always jam out to some Stairway to Heaven, and this version is definitely incredible and well-performed:



Saturday, June 17, 2017

Sit back and let yourself be stunned by this awesome video of Mars imagery


Mars, dune-filled, desert planet. Mars has long held intrigue for many of us. From that red sprinkle of light in the night's sky, evoking gods of war, to the canal-irrigation hypotheses of Percival Lowell that led to some of the earliest alien science fiction, to the several dozen spacecraft that have been launched for Mars (with less than two dozen having been successful), Mars has a special place in the planetary hearts of many of us who are intrigued by the cosmos. 

One of the missions that has been uber successful, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), has the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (or HiRISE), which has taken well over 200,000 pictures of the Martian surface at high resolution. I just came across a sweet video compilation of false-colored images created by Kamil Bubeła that is definitely worth a watch. The video, called Vivid Mars, is stunning and enticing. I definitely felt the human imperative to get out there and explore a new place when I watched this video. Check it out below (or at Kamil's Youtube page):


Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Extreme Humans: Big Meets Small

Sultan Kösen, the world's tallest living human, meets with Chandra Bahadur Dangi, who was the shortest known adult human. (Credit: AFP/Andrew Cowie)
Humanity is wonderful! We come in all shapes and sizes and have different skin colors and physical and mental attributes. Some people even push the extremes of what we know about the human condition. 

In the photograph above, two extreme people can be seen meeting one another back in 2014. Sultan Kösen is currently the tallest human alive. Measured at 2.51 m (8' 3") in height for the Guinness Book of World Records back in 2011, Kösen is a Kurdish farmer from Turkey. He has undergone gamma knife treatment on the tumor which affects his pituitary gland and which caused his unusual height, and this has effectively halted his growth. Kösen is, however, not the tallest human ever known. The tallest verified living person known was Robert Wadlow, who came in at 2.72 m (8' 11.1")! Man, that's really freaking tall!

In the photograph above along with Kösen is the shortest known adult male human of all time. Chandra Bahadur Dangi, who passed away in 2015 at the age of 75, was recorded at 54.6 cm (1' 9.5") in height. Dangi had never left his village in Nepal until 2012, at age 72, when he was officially recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records. After that, he used his new-found fame to travel in his remaining years of life.

Humans really are amazing and incredible. Sure, we have our flaws and should always be cognizant of those flaws in order to improve them, yet our species has come to be a dominant part of the biosphere of our planet. If some major epidemic were to come by tomorrow and wipe out all of the human species, the impact of our actions on the planet would still remain in the rock record for an intelligent alien species to one day find! We come in so many varieties, yet I sometimes wonder if there are even more varieties possible. What lies down the road for our species? I'll come back to this idea in future posts.