Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Quantum computers could increase search engines efficiency

Nearly all computers active at present are classed as traditional computers, that is, their memory is based upon 'bits' which can store information. These 'bits' are limited in the sense that they could only store a 0 or a 1 (binary is the fundamental language for information).

We can buy huge memories for our laptops say 100 gigabytes or even 3 terabytes which could be used as external hard drives. However these are still classical, they are merely many 'bits'.  Search engines such as Google and Bing use complex algorithms which sort out website pages into relevancy for an agents search. These mathematical calculations are one of the longest calculations done on a regular basis in the world.

Having a new type of 'bit' could make this information algorithm perform much more quickly and efficiently.
Daniel Lidar, a corresponding author of a research paper in the journal Physical Review Letters (June 4th) has proposed the use of 'qubits' which are memory storage units which can hold a 0 and a 1 at the same time (before being used). This is due to the nature of quantum mechanics, how small (I mean extremely small) particles behave. A particle could be in all possible states until observed, there is a probability function underlying the likelihood of a particle being in a state. This property is known as superposition.

This, researchers say, will enable computing processes to be much faster and it will become faster with even more data (quantum world is odd I know, get used to it). Also the time it takes for a quantum computer program to answer whether the search engine's web page list needs updating would shorten exponentially with increasing data. Amazing possibilities.

Einstein would be impressed... or would he?  He never liked quantum mechanics..

Also check out the article on Google's and Microsoft's plans to build knowledge graphs changing the way search engines function....  :)  http://newphysicistphi.blogspot.co.uk/2012/06/google-and-microsoft-plan-to-change-web.html

Monday, 25 June 2012

'Levitated mass': Art failing to impress

Heizer's 'levitated mass' is a 340 ton boulder resting above a walkway outside  the county museum of art Los Angeles in California. It's artistic purpose is to create the illusion of a floating heavy object which would somehow impress it's viewers.

A lot of workload has been dissipated to this project, Heizer's team had to drive the boulder through 22 cities at a measly 5mph. This somehow resembles Michelangelo's effort in maneuvering his huge slab of marble through Florence, Italy. The marble transformed, through artistic obsession and genius, into David which stood strong and tall in Florence. It became the most celebrated artistic sculpture for over half a century.

Heizer's levitated mass seems a desperate attempt to woo passers by. It seems almost pathetic. I know that seems harsh as a lot of work has been put into the project but it has minimal appeal apart from 'wooah mum look at that massive rock juxtaposing the urban concrete environment'.

I am enthusiastic when it comes to creative efforts and artistic flair but this has neither.

This is not a just a post of a subjective opinion on a piece of (what has become of) art. My dislike for many artistic projects and maybe many others too probably stems from modernization of human culture. We have become extremely capitalist, technology obsessed and film has become the supreme art form.

Static art ceases to impress most of us, some people dislike art all together because they reduce it to mere pointless wastes of time, those of us who are artistic in the modern sense are impressed by different art forms now.

Yes, Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Picasso, Rembrandt and Carravaggio for example are all still artistic geniuses but we tend to enjoy past 'static' art because they embody historical, social and intellectual change not just for their physical appeal.

Art has changed, it has become dominated by film, music and sport has become some what artistic. This change is not bad however, it is merely a consequence of technology and changing perception of the world.

For real levitated mass look at this video demonstrating Quantum locking.... oh yes physicists will actually levitate mass if they say they will ;)


Friday, 22 June 2012

Einstein and Godel: Two great minds, two great friends

The institute for advanced study in Princeton sought to employ not just any great mind, but the greatest. It was a place which simulated the environment of English universities such as Oxford and Cambridge and aimed at revealing the universes mysteries through determined researchers.

It so happened that at the time when the institute was looking for its primary great minds, Nazi Germany was becoming ever more dangerous and hostile towards those who rebel and those that contradict its values. Einstein and many other physicists left Germany and took refuge in the United States, Godel soon followed after being attacked on the street by a Nazi thug, his wife feared for his life in Germany.

Einstein and Godel are somehow alike yet different, they are both solitary thinkers, theoreticians in their field, deep philosophers and very rationally minded. Yet Einstein was the optimist, the loud laugher who played the violin and wore unusual clothing. Godel however was slim, shy and looked extremely straight laced, he was more paranoid than Einstein and in later years his  health started to deteriorate due to his obsessive nature.

Godel was invited round to Einstein's house, this seemed to be unusual for Albert. The two lone intellectual wolves finally found a comfortable friendship.

The two could be seen walking slowly and reflectively to and from the institute, many speculate that Einstein remarked that he would only go to the institute to have walks with his friend Kurt Godel.

The two did not collaborate explicitly on a paper but Godel did work on finding exact solutions to Einsteins general relativistic equations which somehow could make sense of the notion of time travel. This led to Godel (with Julian Schwinger... a mathematically minded physicist who would later win the Nobel prize with Richard Feynman) winning the Albert Einstein award.

Wouldn't it be fascinating to hear these two intellectual giants talk?

Such conversations are lost in time, could we somehow use Godel's relativistic solutions to retrieve them ? I doubt it.

Recommended book: http://www.amazon.co.uk/World-Without-Time-Forgotten-Einstein/dp/0713993871
Einstein pictures: http://th.physik.uni-frankfurt.de/~jr/physpiceinstein.html

Cytomegalovirus: How using its talents could help treat Cancer

        Cytomegalovirus (CMV) is an extremely common herpes virus which if we were tested for, we would probably have it. It is practically harmless and the symptoms only become observable when the host of CMV also has HIV or other immune system problems. The combination of CMV and HIV can be fatal leading to cases of CMV retinitis which can cause blindness.

New and insightful medical research is being done to really explore the consequences of CMV, Paul Moss at the university of Birmingham and his team conducted studies of elderly people above the age of 65. 70% of them were CMV positive and these people experienced a 4 year reduction in lifespan.

CMV is unique as it has the ability to trigger new immune responses every time it activates itself in a host. This means that it is less vulnerable to being attacked by strong immune defenses which have been programmed to fight it. Researchers say that this 'ability' is aging out immune systems.

The American Association of Immunologists saw a positive side to CMV's ability, Khanna and Qiu have cleverly conducted research into using a genetically tailored CMV to attack cancerous tumour cells which are left by the hosts immune defense mechanisms. The immune system sees the cancerous cells as familiar and hence leaves them be.

The team modified a protein expressed by over 90 per cent of melanoma tunours so that the body could treat it as a foreign body but still recognise it as tumour cell. They then installed this genetic code for this particular protein into the cytomegalovirus. This was then tested on mice which when used saw the lifespan increase from around 25 days to 2 months, which is a great success.

This method keeps the immune systems defense against the cancerous cells constant as it triggers new responses. A definite medical breakthrough!

More info:
Paul Moss: http://www.birmingham.ac.uk/staff/profiles/cancer/moss-paul.aspx
CMV virus: http://www.bbc.co.uk/health/physical_health/conditions/cmv1.shtml
Challenges of Cancer: http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b01hn6rf/Great_Ormond_Street_Series_2_A_Difficult_Line/

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Nanotechnology could do with some pomegranates

A paper in the International Journal of Nanoparticles has found a more environmentally friendly reducing agent for making silver nanoparticles. A reducing agent donates electrons to another compound which is needed in the process. Usually the reducing agents take the form of chemical agents but instead a group of scientists namely, botanist Naheed Ahmad of Patna University and physicist colleague Seema Sharma of AN College (India), are trying to use the skins of pomegranate fruit to replace the chemical agent.

This will be more benign and natural then using chemicals and solvents. This could also save the laboratory money as less money will be spent on those chemicals and also the need to heat the solvent would be eradicated hence saving energy.

Maybe more fruit exhibit similar biomass to the pomegranate or could be used in other manufacturing chemical processes.

In other fruit news...  Genetically modified tomatoes could be out on your shelves, researchers say these tomatoes live nearly a month longer than 'normal' tomatoes and this could have cost effectiveness in agriculture and food wastage. Economically the price of tomatoes would drop as they would last longer.

Genetic modification has its skeptics however, many argue that the long term effects have not been thoroughly tested, however scientists do test to see any major side effects. These skeptics have to be aware that many foods have not been tested but they indeed could play a role in our health either for the good or bad. 

Genetic experiments should carry on and more teamwork between physicists and biologists would be great!

Friday, 15 June 2012

Twilight of the Porn Stars: Consequences of the industry

The pornography industry is a product of western democracy, sexual freedom and capitalism. It is a market which is based on a sexual demand i.e. males and females wanting to view recorded sexual acts for either physical pleasure or for other stimulation.

There are many groups against porn such as religious groups, feminist groups, moral activists and others who say it is damaging to society. Feminists argue that the material is demoralizing to women, reducing them to mere sexual objects to be used and abused. They also claim that economically women feel pressured to enter pornography either to fund college fees or just to get by, however this could be said about the illegal drug dealing, prostitution or stripping. This could hint at a moral hole in the western world, or just the lack of skills sets that some young women have due to a lack of education or un-healthy upbringing.

Many claim that some extreme porn which features hints at abuse and rape have causal influences to domestic violence and sexual crime. Such claims have yet to be vindicated by study and hence no links have been made between pornography and any crime statistics.

Louis Theroux presents an interesting documentary about how the industry is effecting its stars. How some male pornstars in particular find it emotionally unsettling and how it has led to the death of a well known pornstar who had a wife and daughter.

The industry is suffering due to free youtube style porn sites which make revenue from advertising yet pay little towards the makers of the material. Hence the directors and pornstars are economically suffering.

The documentary is definitely worth watching as you are able to comprehend the stars and industry from a different yet more realistic viewpoint.

A big question has to be asked though, what are the effects of pornography on crime, mental and sexual health and on our perception of women?


Tuesday, 12 June 2012

EURO 2012: Steady start for England. Closing minutes of Greece Vs. Czech Republic.

The general expectation for England's hopes have dropped considerably this year, most fans hearts for the side have been broken many times over the decade or so of World Cups, Euros and general international football disappointment.
This lack of enthusiasm may have relieved some of the pressure off the England side as the medias coverage has been less ferocious.

From the sides performance in the friendlies before hand (including a 1-0 win against Norway which was a first since 32 years ago) and their strong footed performance against France I think it is fair to say that England are looking a fresher and more consistent side.

France played some great possessive football and Benzema, Nasri and Ribbery were all looking very dangerous to our game. We scored the opening goal from a beautiful free kick cross from Gerrard which landed to Lescott's head. France became more dominant through the game and Nasri equalized with a quality finish, he had plenty of time to pick his spot as the midfield line was too deep within the box to intercept the shot.

We did lose possession as time marched on but our tactic of countering looked increasingly damaging to France. Theo came on late in the game and I think he should have came on sooner to have really settled in and to create some more chances for England.

A positive draw resulted, in our next game we should hope to have more flair up front and be more patient in our build up towards the oppositions goal. Personally, the flair would come naturally from Theo who has pace and confidence to run at defenders.

Greece's 6 minute nightmare

The dream start for Czech Republic as they managed to score 2 goals in the first six minutes of their encounter against Greece. Jiracek 3' and Pilar 6' scored from quick and decisive play from the Czechs, Greece looked confused and very clumsy at the start of the game.

However things started to look better for the Greeks as they replied, quite belately, with a goal from Gekas 53'. Czech Republic held on to their 2-1 victory and generally looked the stronger team on the pitch. They now place second behind Russia (on goal difference). Greece need to beat Russia to stand a chance of progression.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

5 Ways to Supercharge Your Brain

By Luke Kristopher Davis
1. Digest more Omega 3 fatty acids

A study on school children aged between 8-10 in Durham took place which tested the effect of omega 3 fatty acids on academic success, that is, on intelligence (not all intelligence mainly academic). The experimental method applied was the double blind trial where half the children were given capsules high in omega 3 fatty acids and the other half given placebos. All the children did not know which one they had. One mother noticed a difference in her son (who was given non-placebo caps): 

“When I first heard about it, I didn’t think Mark had any problems. He’d only been taking them a few weeks when I started to notice changes. His handwriting became better and his teachers said he was joining in more in class discussions,” says Mark’s mother Christine.
Dr. Richardson of Mansfield college Oxford found increased academic success in 40% of those who took the  omega 3 fatty acid tablets. He also notes that dyslexia and dyspraxia overlap in neural causes by about 50% and there is connections with ADHD disorders. This study hints at but does not confirm the benefit of Omega 3 fatty acids in our brain. Take it anyway !!

2. Read lots of different materials and Search the internet more randomly

The occasional article in cosmopolitan or Zoo magazine or the odd chapter in a fiction book would not be challenging your brain to increase its brain power and increase neural connections. In order to really work your brain out regularly make time for challenging material and material that is sometimes picture heavy, wordy or full of numbers. This will regularly activate key areas in your brain. Not just this but reading magazines such as the NewScientist, NewStatesman, The economist and Menshealth (or womenshealth) allows you to absorb positive useful knowledge which you can apply in your actual life. This makes learning fun and worthwhile, your brain will like this. You will become more curious and read more and more!

These images (which were provided by UCLA  newsroom) are functional MRI brain scans. The one on the left is that of a person reading, we are not told what type of book or how it is being read, the one on the right is that of a person browsing the internet. As you can see the areas engaged whilst browsing engage those areas whilst reading but much more activity occurs. This is good. This is brai-cercise (I'll happily coin that term).

Don't just become absorbed on facebook, which no doubt is a great place for your brain to analyse peoples thoughts and social status or even follow links, videos and articles. Literally explore the internet "web-sling" from site to site follow your curiosity and just go wild. You will be surprised to what you'll find and what you'll end up knowing.

Just try to avoid any... sticky sites.

3. Exercise more regularly and change your fitness routine more often

This data was taken from a study of young adults who exercised often to those who did close to none. The study was to test the relationship between exercise and cognitive ability. These graphs highlight a possible linear correlation between cardiovascular fitness and nearly all aspects of cognition. Muscular training i.e. strength training increased global intelligence at the beginning significantly but in the long term the affects died off.

So go for more runs, swims, bike rides, Zumba classes, spinning, boxing or any cardio testing training. If you do this often enough with enough intensity you may say increase in your sharpness of your brain and your genera intelligence...   what are you waiting for... 10 pressups, 30 mins on treadmill, 10 more pressups, 20 mins Bike GO GO GO!

4. Increase your network of friends... be more sociable!

A study on primates revealed an amazing discovery which led to the hypothesis that the size of an individuals network (amount of friends say) determined the size of the neo cortex and the density of gray matter around the cortex.

More recent studies reveal that this may also be true to humans as we are related to primates (Genetics are extremely similar) and we are the most sociable primate out there! There may be a link to our superior cognitive ability and our bigger average network size of humans compared to our evolutionary predecessors. This is not established scientific fact. However evidence is inclined towards this hypothesis.

I mean think about it in your everyday life... if you propose an idea to say 10 friends at once, you are more likely to receive more varied and interesting replies from a bigger group than say 3 friends (assuming intelligence of the friends are around the same).

So mingle with different people and be more open about your ideas. The more replies and constructive rebuttle you get the more chance you can practice your reasoning abilities and or your ability to accept you're wrong and moving on with fact.

http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/primate-diaries/2011/11/17/social-networks-matter/ << VERRRRY INTERESTING

5. Do more math and try applying it to science!

Mathematics requires a brain which is logical, patient, visual and imaginative. Generally after one has been doing maths for a while you start applying your mathematical methods to everyday life, solving numerical problems, tax bills, pocket money, interest rates, dividing restaurant bills etc. not only that one sees the world differently. Some natural phenomena like say a grand father clock resemble periodic motion which is embodied in the sinusoidal trigonometric function. You starting building connections with real life phenomena.

Not just that, mathematics requires abstract reasoning and visual spatio reasoning which will most probably increase the performance of those areas of the brain. Also your executive memory and your attention span increase in performance as some mathematics problems push you to remember certain facts or conventions and you may become absorbed in it... inducing 'flow'.

Number Crunch when you can and never be afraid of math!

Generally having fun increases your endorphin levels and serotonin levels which will increase attention span and cognitive activity.


Google and Microsoft plan to change the web. Will an E-Brain be born?

Coalition or Darwinian competition of the techno kind?

By Luke Kristopher Davis

Brief market update

Google is the most popular search engine; it has a simple and ingenious interface, extremely useful and powerful search engine and provides other services for web users such as Google adsense, affiliates and Google +. 
It has been accused, by a senator  of an antitrust panel, of acting as monopoly in the search engine market. 
Senator Herb Kohl said:

But you do recognize that in the words that are used and antitrust kind of oversight, your market share constitutes monopoly, dominant -- special power dominant for a monopoly firm. You recognize you're in that area?- Herb Kohl
Eric Schmidt came close to admitting that Google is a monopoly, but his response was vague. Google holds 80.77% of the search engine market. However, a business in a market is not a monopoly until it is legally labelled as one, until then Google is free of antitrust restrictions.

As you can see Google is the big player, Bing on the other hand consumes only around 4% of the market.

Power and mechanisms of present search engines 

If you search a key word or phrase into Google you will be confronted with a huge list of relevant/popular sites associated with that word or phrase. For example I searched for Queen into Google and this is what came up:

A Wikipedia page for Elizabeth II was the primary result, maybe because a lot of users wanted to find more information on her due to the Jubilee celebration. Queen the band (another wikipedia page) was second. The majority of the results were about the Queen or related current news. Also it is interesting to note that 1,030,000,000 results were found in 0.25 seconds... which is pretty quick.

Bing on the other hand only provided a total amount of 715,000,000 results which is lagging behind Google. The primary result is Queen's official band website then Queen's wiki page. Elizabeth comes into play about 5 results in. This difference in primary results is due to different algorithms which govern the two search engines information infrastructure and hence result output.

The foundation of both search engines is of a similar kind. They have programmed algorithms which focus on strings of words and relate these together with sites. The engines merely pick out links to sites which contain a sufficient amount of information about the 'search' string of words and the string of words themselves.

This is why when I search queen the engine cannot differentiate between the band and the actual Queen Elizabeth II. The engines do not know what context we mean, the engines are limited in their comprehension of the nuances of search words.

This is apparently about to change as Google and Microsoft have recently been building knowledge graphs (Microsoft calls its graph Satori (meaning Enlightenment)) which include new 'trawlers' which are algorithms which when a user searches for something say 'Queen' the 'trawlers' search the knowledge graph as well as sites.

The selection of data is based on previous searches on this topic, so Google knows in this case that users are interested in things like average height and lifespan (for a 'beagle'). - Jim Giles NewScientist
Knowledge Graphs 

Google's knowledge graph and Satori make use of graph theory and 'entities'. Graph theory is part of discrete mathematics, you may have encountered it in one of your A-Level mathematics modules. It is the basis of knowledge graphs because the nodes act as 'entities' which could be nouns representing real objects or abstract concepts. The paths between them represent links between entities which resemble linguistic connections or physical relationships.

Both companies have used entity databases  before but now they are expanding there density, power and sheer size. Building ever more intricate connections between entities and finding more entities. Currently finding new entities is moderately easy as each new entity has a sort of background for which the algorithms can base their search on. 

These knowledge graphs are growing extremely fast and they sort of resemble the brain. Nuerons and nueral connections are quite similar to abstract graphs, however our brain seems to have different stations which have different processing abilities for example the hippocampus area is designed for memory and the  parietal lobe is an area for cognitive analysis. Maybe Google and Microsoft could take advice from natures sophiscated human brain.

Google and Bing will differ in the outputs of their knowledge graphs, Microsoft intend to be more 'business like' offering links to transactions and actions based on their Satori however google intends, as Thakur (of google) says, to return knowledge. 

A mini online revolution?

As we have seen if Google and Microsofts renovation plans for their search engines succeed and expand then it will influence other search engine market shareholders to do also. Google especially will influence website programmers and users with their new engine system.

However will it work? Google and Microsoft plan to answer queries such as 'who invented the light bulb and why?' with definitive answers. This means that we cannot just input lists of keywords or phrases. Maybe they will incorporate that into the new system, giving the user options to choose popular queries already asked. 

This new search engine plan sounds exciting and will no doubt save time on finding knowledge and provide a more efficient service.

Also this is on the brink of research, computing power and complexity will no doubt be pushed to its limit as these knowledge graphs become ever more complex and vast. 

This could be the start to a hyper brain (CEREBRO- See X-men) where a cyber network of information could actually understand language to a degree.

How very exciting!