Thursday, July 15, 2010

What if our dreams are right and gravity is just an illusion?

What If Our Dreams Are Right and Gravity Is Just an Illusion?
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The Madison skyline looks so pretty from above. Who hasn't sometimes dreamed of flying, of floating free in a fantasy world where the force of gravity is nonexistent? You know that feeling of awaking and feeling suddenly heavy and earthbound? Feeling that there's been some mistake, and that if you could only concentrate hard enough and recover what you knew in the dream, gravity would lose its power over you? Maybe our dreams are on to something.
But what if it’s all an illusion, a sort of cosmic frill, or a side effect of something else going on at deeper levels of reality?

So says Erik Verlinde, 48, a respected string theorist and professor of physics at the University of Amsterdam, whose contention that gravity is indeed an illusion has caused a continuing ruckus among physicists, or at least among those who profess to understand it.
That's from Dennis Overbye's story in the New York Times about a prominent physicist who claims that gravity is more an illusion than a force.
Reversing the logic of 300 years of science, he argued in a recent paper, titled “On the Origin of Gravity and the Laws of Newton,” that gravity is a consequence of the venerable laws of thermodynamics, which describe the behavior of heat and gases.

“For me gravity doesn’t exist,” said Dr. Verlinde, who was recently in the United States to explain himself. Not that he can’t fall down, but Dr. Verlinde is among a number of physicists who say that science has been looking at gravity the wrong way and that there is something more basic, from which gravity “emerges,” the way stock markets emerge from the collective behavior of individual investors or that elasticity emerges from the mechanics of atoms.
For now, Verlinde's ideas don't impact directly on everyday life or our personal experience of gravity. They relate more to fundamental questions in theoretical physics and cosmology. Of course, the idea that atoms could be split was once just an abstruse bit of theory that had nothing to do with real life. You never can tell.

But, for the time being, you'll probably want to hold on to your car.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Amateur engineers join Consumer Reports in developing innovative iPhone 4 antenna hacks

iPhone 4 Antenna Hacks
I'm impressed. A nation of tinkerers joins Consumer Reports in coming up with solutions. A selection of leaked engineering drawings from the user uprising's secret command post.

Censor these if you dare, Apple!

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If the light at the end of the tunnel is green you know it's good

If the Light at the End of the Tunnel Is Green You Know It's Good
I love the way the green of the Wisconsin countryside in midsummer beckons at the end of the tunnels along the Military Ridge Trail. Sheer magic.

Monday, July 12, 2010

How many people does it take to screw in a lightbulb at MMoCA?

How Many People Does It Take to Screw in a Lightbulb at MMoCA?
That's what I first thought when I passed the glass prow of the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art on State Street the other day. A bad joke. And I didn't know the punchline. But the process definitely seems to take a very tall ladder, one that reaches so high it seems to pierce the clouds. Biggest ladder I ever saw. Gave me vertigo just to look at it.

But the more I thought about it, I figured I probably had it all wrong. Should the real question be "how many bloggers does it take to miss the point?"

I began to think it might actually be a work of art. Either the reflections were wreaking havoc with it, or that was one strange looking ladder. The second set of rungs seemed to be in the wrong position, and the perspective was all wrong. I figured I better get more information.

Sure enough, a quick check at the MMoCA website showed it was part of the Wisconsin Triennial.
Actualsize Artworks--a collaborative team comprised of Gail Simpson and Aris Georgiades--will assemble and install a large sculptural ladder and hanging light in the museum's iconic glass prow. The work, which will be visible to passersby as well as museum visitors, addresses attainment and craft, dedication and resolution.
Here's how Jennifer A. Smith described it in her Isthmus review.
Vanishing Point, a 20-foot-high piece by the team known as Actualsize Artworks (Gail Simpson and Aris Georgiades of Stoughton), works well in MMoCA's glass prow. It's part ladder, part optical illusion: The higher you go, the closer together the rungs get, and the sides of the ladder narrow in.

Above the ladder, a lamp with a single exposed bulb sways in a circular motion. The effect — which you can check out from the various landings on MMoCA's glass staircase — is a little dizzying.
I guess that you could say that in addition to addressing "attainment and craft, dedication and resolution," the installation addresses jumping to conclusions. Plus, it looks intriguing from the street.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Dancing with the Haitians at La Fête de Marquette Saturday night


Onstage: Boukman Eksperyans from Port-au-Prince. From the Fête's program notes:
Boukman Eksperyans introduced a musical revolution in Haiti in the late-'80s when they overthrew the popular compas music with their new sound Vodou Adjae (also the title of their first album). Boukman's sound merged dance music with Haiti's religious preoccupation with Vodou (one of the many forms the Yoruban religion took after the Diaspora). Their music is heavily identified in Haiti with the springtime festival called Rara. In fact, Boukman first rose to popular interest after they began winning Best Song at Carnival. In the aftermath of the the September 1991 army coup against the Aristede government, Boukman struggled against censorship culminating in having their 1992 Carnival entry, Kalfou Danjere, banned by the military authorities as "too violent". They were excluded from Carnival celebrations and their songs were prohibited from being aired on the radio. Boukman take their name from a Vodou priest who helped to unify the Haitian slaves. The slave leader led the revolution against the French colonists which ended in 1804 with the former slaves victoriously forming the first Black republic in the world. Boukman Eksperyans spread their Vodou unifying spiritual message throughout the world with their artful blend of traditional Haitian rhythms with rock, reggae, and Caribbean sounds.
Beer, Bokeh and Beautiful MusicT and I packed up our folding chairs and headed for Dickinson Street the second night in a row. Summer in Madison -- the two of us, together, enjoying ourselves at La Fête de Marquette. Beer, bokeh and beautiful music. It doesn't get any better than that.