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Rhys Taylor


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Ya done fucked up, Google

For me, Google+ is the internet. But it's clear that the security concern is a mere pretext for cancellation, so I don't have much hope of a revival.

As a just-in-case move that will take about five seconds of your time and cost you nothing, consider signing the petition :

My plan is to continue using G+ more or less as normal until the bitter end. I don't currently use any other social media but at some point - not anytime soon - I'll switch to something else, possibly multiple services. I haven't decided anything yet. There's a community dedicated to this here :

Feel free to note where you're going (or other ways I can reach you) in the comments on this thread, which I'll pin. Of course, I'll also be manually checking as many people as possible to see where y'all going. I can always be reached via my :
- Website :
- Blog :
- Email :

On the positive side this is an opportunity to start anew and form new bonds in new communities. On the negative side, G+ already had a fantastic community of people I never would have interacted with elsewhere. It was a great service, poorly understood and maintained by its own developers, kept alive by its wonderful users. Yes, even - especially - the crazy ones. Because while many of you antisocial media users have some views which are frankly worrying, not a single damn one of you didn't have at least something useful to say that I wouldn't have heard otherwise. Whatever's next, it won't be the same.
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The Big One-Zero

Submitted my tenth paper as first author :

Faint and fading tails : the fate of stripped HI gas in Virgo cluster galaxies

Although many galaxies in the Virgo cluster are known to have lost significant amounts of HI gas, only about a dozen features are known where the HI extends significantly outside its parent galaxy. Previous numerical simulations have predicted that HI removed by ram pressure stripping should have column densities far in excess of the sensitivity limits of observational surveys. We construct a simple model to try and quantify how many streams we might expect to detect. This accounts for the expected random orientation of the streams in position and velocity space as well as the expected stream length and mass of stripped HI. Using archival data from the Arecibo Galaxy Environment Survey, we search for any streams which might previously have been missed in earlier analyses. We report the confident discovery of nine streams as well as sixteen other less sure detections. We show that these well-match our analytic predictions for which galaxies should be actively losing gas, however the mass of the streams is typically far below the amount of missing HI in their parent galaxies, implying that a phase change and/or dispersal renders the gas undetectable. By estimating the orbital timescales we estimate that dissolution rates of 1-10 M⊙ yr−1 are able to explain both the presence of a few long, massive streams and the greater number of shorter, less massive features.

And now to pray to the Journal Gods for a fair and fast referee....
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Lightweight Battery-Powered Haptic Glove Lets You Touch VR Objects

A research team from EPFL in Lausanne and ETH in Zurich have developed a haptic feedback glove that is both lightweight and low-powered, which allows users to touch and hold virtual objects

At a mere 40 grams (or 8 grams per finger), the glove runs on only 200-volts of battery power, and can simulate the tactile experiences of both very hard and very soft objects.

Queue the dirty jokes, but this represents a major step forward in the development of interactive Virtual Reality technology, which is finally moving into the mainstream after many previous failed attempts.

#VR #VirtualReality #Haptics
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One of the Science of Discworld books claimed that you can't have an individual scientist because scientists must always check each other's work or it's not science. This has always struck me as wrong-headed and gives too much weight to peer review and not enough to observational testing. I like this interpretation - there simply different kinds of science - much better.

So what is it that distinguishes the science of the ancient world from modern science? Modern science has developed far beyond ancient science primarily due to the organization of the scientific community which has developed institutions that facilitate the dissemination of knowledge. In antiquity, even the greatest scientists usually worked alone, or at most had a few students. The isolation of scientists meant that idea diffusion was severely limited compared to what it is today, and it also meant that ancient science never embodied what philosopher of science Imre Lakatos called a scientific research program.

While the scientific revolution was a unique historical event that had to wait for Goldilocks conditions to obtain before it could occur, science without a scientific revolution was not historically unique. Nor have scientific research programs been unique to modern civilization. It would be fair to say that there was an ancient scientific research program, and indeed also a medieval scientific research program, but it must also be said that these early research programs differed from modern research programs in important ways. And while the difference between early and modern scientific research programs may be a difference of degree rather than a difference in kind, as we know from the study of emergent complexity, sometimes more can be different.

The tightly-coupled scientific research programs of today converge on results (or even upon falsification) much more rapidly than the loosely-coupled scientific research programs of the past, which might produce an interesting result every few hundred years.

Via +Winchell Chung.
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Potentially relevant to that finding on pilot waves, among other things.

I get the impression from some people that analogies are only valid if they're direct subsitutions. "Alice walked across the room much like Bob did" would be fine, they'd say, but "Alice crept across the room like a cat that had spent six years training as a ninja" would not, because Alice isn't sufficiently similar to a cat.

Personally I think less exact analogies are more interesting and more illuminating. They encourage examination of what exactly it is about two systems that's similar and what's different, why those difference occur, and what other similarities the two systems may or may not share. More exact analogies are less interesting because they require less thinking. As far as laboratory astrophysics goes, analogies can suggest useful comparisons and lines of inquiry that might otherwise remain unexplored, but they can't replace the substituted system perfectly.

In a case that I wrote about in Quanta, a physicist in Israel created a fluid that traps sound much as a black hole traps light; he then detected an effect in this “sonic black hole” that is analogous to Hawking radiation, a hypothetical black hole phenomenon predicted by Stephen Hawking in 1974 with profound consequences for how the universe works. Does the tabletop experiment provide indirect evidence for Hawking’s prediction?

Hartmann argues that experimenting on sonic black holes may indeed shed light on real ones because there might be a “common cause” underlying their similar mathematics. In the same way, yellow fingers and heart disease are both caused by smoking, and detecting one can be evidence of the other. On the flip side, many black hole experts put no stock in the analogy and consider it potentially misleading, since it isn’t known whether Hawking’s math, upon which the analogy is based, actually does describe black holes.

Either way, the situation “raises wonderful philosophical questions,” Hartmann said, “because we learn about new types of evidence.” Increasingly, he said, physics theories like string theory and the multiverse describe realms of nature that are inaccessible to experimenters. Direct tests of such theories appear impossible. “So we have to think about alternative ways of testing theories. And whatever we think about these analogue experiments at the moment, I think these works go exactly in the right direction.”
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Miniwiz sees waste as a valuable resource, not rubbish. Some 70 engineers and scientists in its Trash Lab - out of 80 staff in total - collect consumer and industrial garbage and process it for re-use. The 13-year-old Taipei-based firm has created 1,200 new materials, many of which are being used in fabric, construction, consumer products and - perhaps most ambitious of all - the wings on a two-seater aircraft that Mr Huang intends to fly (once he's finished his pilot training).

"We will fly with a trash wing," he says proudly. "We had to invent a new material. It's a carbon fibre-like material. It's taken two years' R&D (research and development), but we're almost there."

Miniwiz has created a miniature wind turbine and solar panel from electronic waste and paper that can charge smartphones. And in 2010 it built a nine-floor 130-metre building from bricks made out of 1.5 million plastic bottles for a Taipei garden festival - fully tested for structural strength.

Despite such inventions, a truly circular economy remains far off due to the costs of collecting and processing trash, says Mr Szaky. "The value of garbage is far below the cost of recycling it."

Governments could address this market imbalance through tougher legislation, but Mr Huang also wants countries to commit a percentage of their procurement budgets to recycled products. "It would open the floodgates for all sorts of technological innovation," he says. For Mr Szaky, it is consumers who have the real power. "When consumers make the right choices, producers and retailers will follow."
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Well, bugger.

De Broglie insisted that everything at the quantum scale was perfectly normal and above-board. He devised a version of quantum theory that treated both the wave and the particle aspects of light, electrons and everything else as entirely tangible. His “pilot-wave” theory envisioned concrete particles, always with definite locations, that are guided through space by real pilot waves — much like the waves propelling Couder’s bouncing droplets.

Couder discovered by chance that tiny oil droplets bounced when plopped onto the surface of a vibrating oil bath. Moreover, as the droplets bounced, they started to bunny-hop around the liquid’s surface. Couder soon figured out that the droplets were “surfing on their own wave,” as he put it — kicking up the wave as they bounced and then getting propelled around by the slanted contours of the wave.

Straightaway, they saw the droplets exhibit surprisingly quantum-like behaviors — only traversing certain “quantized” orbits around the center of their liquid baths, for instance, and sometimes randomly jumping between orbits, as electrons do in atoms. There and in bouncing-droplet labs that soon sprang up at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and elsewhere, droplets were seen to tunnel through barriers and perform other acts previously thought to be uniquely quantum. In reproducing quantum phenomena without any of the mystery, the bouncing-droplet experiments rekindled in some physicists de Broglie’s old dream of a reality at the quantum scale that consists of pilot waves and particles instead of probability waves and conundrums.

The article contains links to the papers which have movies as supplementary material. I can't access the one about tunnelling, though there are numerous results if you Google "oil drop tunnelling". I'll have to check those out later.

After recording the trajectories of 75 bouncing droplets through a double-slit barrier, Couder and Fort thought they detected rough stripes in the droplets’ final locations — an interference-like pattern that seemed as if it could only come from the pilot wave. Double-slit interference, considered “impossible to explain in any classical way,” was happening without mystery before everyone’s eyes.

Drawn by the potential quantum implications, the fluid dynamicist John Bush started up a bouncing-droplet lab of his own at MIT and led others to the cause. Tomas Bohr heard Couder talk about his results in 2011 and later discussed the experiments at length with Bush. He teamed up with an experimentalist colleague, Anders Andersen, to study bouncing droplets further. “We really became fascinated with, in particular, the double-slit experiment,” Andersen said.

After perfecting their experimental setups, getting rid of air currents, and setting oil droplets bouncing on pilot waves toward two slits, none of the teams saw the interference-like pattern reported by Couder and Fort. Droplets went through the slits in almost straight lines, and no stripes appeared. The French pair’s earlier mistake is now attributed to noise, faulty methodology and insufficient statistics.

I'd like to hear from Couder and Fort. Most individual studies claiming that something has been proven or disproven turn out to be wrong. I don't mind quantum mechanics making the universe fuzzy and unknowable because it's like that anyway. No, what I want from quantum mechanics is :
- No need for an observer to collapse wavefunctions, because that is plainly silly.
- No need for multiple universes to kill a cat, because that's even sillier.
(I guess I could try and justify why I find these things silly, but I ain't gonna do that)
Pilot-Wave Alternative to Quantum Wave-Particle Duality a Bust

Ever since the dawn of Quantum Physics, there have been those who felt that somehow, eventually, it would be reconciled with a conventional Newtonian-Relativistic causal framework.

Einstein spent a large part of his later years trying to banish Quantum indeterminacy and entanglement (which he derisively called 'Spooky Action At a Distance'), only to fail miserably. Despite his insistence that God does not roll dice with the universe, the dice keep falling and no one can rationalize them.

A recent attempt to overcome this issue involved an analogy with the dual-slit experiment, wherein a photon can be shown in different conditions to behave as either a particle or a wave, but never both at once, depending upon how it is observed (or measured). As a particle is an object with a given mass at a given point in space moving in a particular direction with a particular velocity, and a wave is at best only some of those, this seems irreconcilable with our sense that reality must exist independent of observers.

More than a decade ago, some imaginative researchers suggested a theory based on observations of a stream of oil droplets surfing on their own wave, a pilot wave as it's called, which seemed to reproduce the effects observed in the dual slit experiment. This led to optimism that Quantum Physics could finally be brought back into the fold of conventional causation. Particles would be particles again, but sometimes behaving wave-like due to being acted upon by a physical pilot wave (think more-or-less a droplet of seawater being carried on an ocean wave, and you'll get the general idea).

Alas, research since 2015 has not only failed to support this, but has even debunked the original observation, showing that the droplets do not, in fact, behave like photons in the experiment they were meant to replicate.

Interestingly, one of those who helped put the final nails in the coffin of this approach was Thomas Bohr, grandson of Niels Bohr, the Father of Quantum Physics itself, and a Physicist like his grandfather.

Thus, yet another attempt to rationalize the Acausal, Uncertain, Observer-Dependent Reality described in Quantum Physics with the Causal, Determinate, Observer-Independent Reality pictured by conventional Physics and our general post-Enlightenment Era intuitions about reality has failed. While there are still efforts along these lines, they are vanishingly few, and increasingly arcane and difficult to disprove (thus lacking strong falsifiability).

As unsatisfying as it may be to some people, it appears Quantum Physics is correct in its core premise: though our macro reality may appear to be Causal, Uncertain, and Observer-Independent, its roots run into a more fundamental reality in which none of this is true, or is weakly true at best.

#BlindMeWithScience #QuantumPhysics #PilotWaveTheory
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Amazon will work enthusiastically with the US military, its founder and chief executive Jeff Bezos has said. His unequivocal position comes as other firms, such as Google, pulled out of defence work after employee pressure. "If big tech companies are going to turn their back on the US Department of Defense, this country is going to be in trouble,” Mr Bezos said.

“We are going to continue to support the DoD, and I think we should,” he said. “One of the jobs of the senior leadership team is to make the right decision, even when it’s unpopular.” He later added: “This is a great country - it needs to be defended.”

... because the US's military dominance and foreign, ahem, interventions, aren't enough yet ?
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Paul Allen, who co-founded Microsoft, has died aged 65 from complications of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. He had revealed the disease's return only two weeks ago, after previously being treated for it in 2009. He had said he and his doctors were "optimistic" about treatment. His Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates said: "I am heartbroken by the passing of one of my oldest and dearest friends... Personal computing would not have existed without him."

He is estimated to have donated more than $2bn to philanthropy throughout his life including science, education and wildlife conservation causes, the Associated Press report. He was also an avid sports fan, owning both the Portland Trail Blazers basketball team and Seattle Seahawks NFL team, who won the US Superbowl in 2013. In 2010 he pledged to give the majority of his fortune to charitable causes after his death.

He also funded the ATA :
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Seriously high on the creepy factor. Sounds far too similar to Q. T. McWhiskers.
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