Friday, December 10, 2010

This and That

  • In my post It comes soon enough I speculated on some future developments, among them:

    “I've been thinking... that... it would be possible to grow meat suitable for consumption without having to bother with the whole animal. [A] century from now, we'll have factories with organ bags that resemble nothing like animals at all.”

    In an interview of Time Magazine with Ray Kurzweil I read last week:

    “We'll grow in vitro cloned meats in factories that are computerized and run by artificial intelligence. You can just grow the part of the animal that you're eating."

    For the complete interview, see 10 Questions for Ray Kurzweil

  • If you want more evidence that I have my thumb on the pulse of time: In my post Why'd you have to go and make things so complicated? I remarked on the the predictability of complex systems:

    “You don't need to predict the dynamics of the system. You just need to know what parameter space it will smoothly operate in so optimization works.”

    A recent article by Seed Magazine quotes Tom Fiddaman who, in collaboration with MIT and the Sustainability Institute, examines the policy implications of dynamic complexity in climate and economic models:

    “You are in a sort of dance with this complicated mess,” he says, explaining that it is impossible to determine the individual steps of this “dance”—and this is in some sense the error of current thinking. Instead, we need to be able to construct robust solutions that provide general guidelines for what style of dance we should be doing. They need to be flexible and capable of withstanding the inevitable unpredictable behaviors of complex systems.

    The whole article, titled Knowing sooner, is a very recommendable read.

  • I just learned that since July 1st, fast internet access is a legal right in Finland. Don't have much to say about it, just find it noteworthy.

  • Most concise paper ever: Unsuccessful treatment of writer's block.

  • I spoke to a science writer about What's at the center of black holes - and then forgot about it.

    “From a theoretical point of view, the singularity is something where something becomes infinitely large,” said physicist Sabine Hossenfelder at the Nordic Institute for Theoretical Physics. [That's not what she wrote, but what I actually said.]

    No one can be sure that their singularity doesn't describe a physical reality, Hoss[en]felder told Life's Little Mysteries. But most physicists would say that the singularity, as theorized by equations, doesn't really exist. If the singularity was “really real,” then it would mean that “energy density was infinitely large at one point,” exactly the center of the black hole, she said.

    However, no one can know for sure, because no complete quantum theory of gravity exists, and the insides of black holes are impossible to observe.

  • My recent paper with Xavier Calmet and Roberto Percacci just got published.

I wish you all a nice weekend and don't forget to light the 3rd candle.


  1. Phys. Rev. D! Congrats.

    Trivial alternative to spending $1500/lb 3-D growing meat in vats: Steer, pig, sheep, goat, human, chicken... Grab a fetus. Lop off its head. Attach cell culture plumbing to neck stub plumbing. Flush out the blood and go for it. Inter the soul-containing heads with full religious rights.

    As you say, the solution to making things work is for the things themselves to diddle the best solutions at their local levels. US $trillion economic and military policies are screaming examples of the overwhelming ignorance, overweening arrogance, and clown car criminal incompetence of central micromanagement,

    The asymptotic infinite curvature of spacetime at a black hole's singularity need not require spatial extent (re a tardis). Sin(1/x) within (0,1] rotated about the axis is impossible to paint for its asymptotically infinite surface area. OTOH, it is a reasonable paint can for its finite volume. Black hole thermodynamics is all about surface area.

    Candles have carbon footprints. Cap and trade demand, ah, solid borane candles,

    The Green Flame: Surviving Government Secrecy, Andrew Dequasie

  2. Uruguay is laying fiber optic cable out to 1/3 of the homes in the country by next year with 100mb/s speed. It will also provide free 256k/s internet to anyone with a phone line. Finland is quoted as an example to follow.


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  4. Yup, congrats on Phys Rev. D., Bee. :-)

  5. Bee, that's a Loop Quantum Gravity paper, isn't it? Well, even if it isn't, I get the impression that LQG papers are being published at a faster rate than ever, an impression which I believe comes from a comment at Woit's blog. Is that true? Where IS LQG lately?

    As an aside ... are your daughters going to be born on Wednesday? That was my initial bet, with myself. I'm not a gambler, but I do like to make odds. ;-)

    Well, whenever they come, this will be your last published paper in what the future will call "The Scherer Family Equaled Only Two Persons Era", right? Double or nothing! Double down! From 2 to 4, overnight! We don't need no stinking "3". Twice the people = twice the headaches, but also twice the love. Good all around. :-)

    Uh oh, this this in .... In Physical Review Letters, U. Michigan says we can get something from nothing, if only the world's most powerful laser, HERCULES, is assigned the task.

    This is of course, a "hook" to get the public interested in "Physics", or maybe it will backfire and make them think scientists are bigger nutters than previously thought. It is of course about separating virtual particles after creation but before they annihilate. Mass from "vacuum", which leads the reader to think we'll have starships soon that needn't use any fuel other than the vacuum of space.

    Which would be cool, except the ENERGY needed to extract that SOMETHING from "nothing" will far exceed the mass produced, and where will you get that energy from? So, the Laws of Thermodynamics are safe for the time being, and sadly and alas, starships will have to wait.

    But please, Bee, you and your comrades, keep working on ways to get us off this rock. I've noted a considerable lack of intelligent life on Earth lately. :-)

  6. Hi Bee,

    So does it really work out cheaper to convert grain and hay into cell culture medium and from there into meat than to use the animal?

    Would such in vitro cloned meats tempt you?

    And Steve Colyer's question :)

  7. Hi Bee,

    “What's at the center of black holes”

    Perhaps the better question being, does it make sense to say a black hole has a center; that is at least from the perspective of it being a place, describing a where and a when. Perhaps the difficulty lies with the description being used, as such places not quantifiable rather only qualifiable with a how and a why. It seems we have the how part down, yet the why part still eludes:-)

    I liked that SEED article you pointed to examining the study of complex systems. The only thing I have trouble with in such regard being such models have to assume that any influence which effects the system in effect can and does change the system being studied, in the sense it then no longer the one being studied, yet rather what it becomes with being studied. That is when it comes to economic models as it relates to decision making the objective itself can have effect on outcome respective to the motivational components based on perception.

    In fact this whole concept of economic bubbles is as much based on perception as anything else, just as the whole concept of value is. I guess what I’m trying to say is how can such models be taken seriously when important aspects of them having no metric to be measured against or for the most part even considered. That is, how does one measure hope or a lack thereof? In such regard I think it would be better to first study as to question the soundness of our visions, rather than only being concerned with them after initiated as to be acted upon.

    Oh yes, congratulations to you, Xavier Calmet and Roberto Percacci on the publishing of “Deformed Special Relativity from Asymptotically Safe Gravity”. I wonder if me saying that counts as a citation? :-)



  8. Hi Steve,

    No, the paper has about nothing to do with LQG, except that DSR has been motivated by LQG.

    Your bet on the delivery date is Wednesday next week? Well, I'll let the babies know ;-)

    As you say, a laser beam is not "nothing." Best,


  9. Hi Uncle,

    Parts of the brain serve important functions in regulating the metabolism. Just chopping the head off wouldn't work. However, big parts of the brain are entirely unnecessary when it just comes to growth, so a reduced version would do. Best,


  10. Hi Arun,

    Once the necessary technology is in place my guess is it would be cheaper. You'd save a lot of money on keeping the animals - or rather the organ bags - happy, so to speak. They wouldn't need place to move, they'd shit where you'd put them, wouldn't make noise, would probably rarely get sick because where would they pick up germs, and since you've eliminated most motion, you'd lose less of the energy you feed them.

    I'd probably try the stuff. However, I don't eat meat not because I have ethical objections or health concerns but because I don't like it. So chances are I wouldn't be too convinced. However, most of the people on the planet seem to like meat so I guess there'd be a market for it. Best,


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  12. Hi Phil,

    Yes, the problem you hint at is one of backreaction from the environment, which is very relevant for most systems involving humans. That includes that the "elements" of the system might modify their behavior once you've come up with a model for it (the model being part of the environment). You always need to make sure the backreaction is negligible for one reason or the other. I meant to write a post on this at some point, but haven't really figured out how to illuminate different aspects of the problem. In any case, sooner or later we'll come back to that. Best,


  13. Hi Bee,

    Being of the generation which preceded the current one, which more are preoccupied with the morality issues attached to what they consume, I’ve always found it interesting what it being which gave rise to such concerns. That is particularly as should also be noted it’s pretty clear that such a trend sprang forth from institutes of higher learning, to then after permeate society more generally.

    My hypothesis being it is more connected to those having such thoughts as in being so removed from the fundamental (nitty gritty) aspects of the process, as to have lost touch with the fact that they themselves being part of the whole, as rather to have come believe somehow they are able to be outside of it. That is besides the health benefits and best use of resource arguments which are so often toted as being the main reasons; which I personally find more serving as justification rather than reason, I’m convinced it has more to do with the thought of killing conscious things to have us sustained.

    This of course leads having to consider, first what the level of consciousness has to do with it and also what that is, as well as to how it can not only be quantified, yet more importantly simply to be recognized. In such respect I wonder how many so concerned have ever read as to consider what Roger Penrose thoughts on such matters being, with books he’s written such as “Shadows of the Mind” or the more recent revelations respective of the lives of plants as it relates to their quantum computational abilities being something present to even enable them to exist. What I’m saying is having meat being produced absent of mind, simply to have one to be falsely assured it then is not conscious, as to have relieved what we considered as being our own. In the end for me however it’s just represents being yet another shade of “Soylent Green ” :-)



  14. Hi Bee,

    There is easy-to-find on the Internet, a document "The In Vitro Consortium Preliminary Economics Study, Project 29071, V5 March 2008".

    Not counting R&D costs, using capital costs factored from known technology; using growth medicum costs based on current commercially available-in-small quantities medium and applying hypothetical volume discounts, and assuming that in vitro meat is a proven business proposition, so that the financing costs are not higher than normal - the paper says

    "It is likely that it will be possible to produce in vitro meant in large quantities for less than Euro 3300-3500 per tonne. This compares to the unsubsidised production of chicken meat at about Euro 1800 per tonne."

    "Cell growth media costs will need to be about 1/10th the price for commercially available media purchased for small scale pharmaceutical applications."

    Some other calculations:

    "193 kg wet weight in vitro meat can be produced per tonne of media."

  15. I know this is totally OT, but the counter shows that you're now at 36 weeks, which I was told is term for twins. Congratulations!
    [Sorry if you think this is too personal... but I remember the yippee feeling when I made it to 36 weeks]

  16. Bee,
    Congrats on reaching 36 weeks, especially if it really is true that it is the normal duration for twins. I knew good thoughts from others would help.

    Since my current interest in physics is asymptotic freedom/safety/confinement I would be interested in a capsule summary of your paper regarding DSR. I have never been clear on the motivation for DSR. My understanding is that the whole basis of SR is that the flow rate of time changes in different inertial reference frames. The fact that space seems to be foreshortened in the relative direction of the person measuring it in a different reference frame is what allows c to be constant. That is, it is the ratio of the foreshortening to the dilation of time which creates the constant c. I'm very comfortable with that and really think it is fundamental.

    I really think people, even after all this time, have a hard time getting their hands around this. It is also confusing to some that in SR time is only observed to run slower, as viewed from a different inertial reference frame. This is opposed to GR where time actually does run slower in a gravitational field or when an object is accelerated. Thus the twins paradox. However, the same principle applies to why c is constant: that is, it is the ratio of changed length scale to changes flow rate of time that creates the constant c. However in the GR case the change in time and length scales is fundamentally due to the distortion, or warping of space-time itself. It is not just a function of observational changes in different reference frames, as it is in SR.

    Do you really want to change that idea? I think it is much more feasible to change a global constant, such as G, if one wants to integrate the macroscopic with the microscopic as the universe expands. Time itself would then change along along with the measurement of distance in a way that would scale with that expansion.

    I don't think I would want to mess with Einstein's masterpiece! What do you think?

  17. Economically, it is much easier to justify in vitro organ production for transplants. Even at $2000/lb, it is easy to justify the cost of a 5 lb liver for a life saving transplant. I suppose if the price comes down enough, we could justify the cost of a pound of liver for eating. On the other hand, I prefer the flavor of meat from free ranging animals to meat from factory farmed animals, and I suspect that in vitro meat will be even blander and less pleasant.

  18. Let me clarify a few things. In SR obviosly time or length could appear just as well to be contracting or expanding in a different inertial reference frame, depending on whether the object is leaving or arriving (the Doppler effect). The same could said to be true in GR. That is, time dilation during acceleration or an increased gravitational field and time contraction in during deceleration or in a reduced gravitation field.

    The point I was trying to make in all this is that the constant c is already a result of "local" space-time conditions. That is because the constant is a result of two local conditions, length and times scales, that both change. What creates c is that they change together. It seems like a fundamental error to think there is an additional requirement to incorporate changes in the speed of light. C is already a result of local changes.

  19. "that is time contraction in a reduced gravitational field or during deceleration".

    Oops. Make that Instead time contraction in a reduced gravitational field or during reduced acceleration. Big difference.

  20. Hi Bee,

    the science writer did not understand you. Or she tried to make a story about things where there is no story to make of. Both is not very good.

    Best, Kay

  21. In a This and That post, perhaps this is OK - it is a link to a school teacher calling for more passionate teachers of physics in England.

  22. Hi damigiana,

    Yes, that's right :-) In contrast to everybody's expectation I've reached 36 weeks. Ironically, instead of being happy about it, the docs are now telling me I'd better deliver as soon as possible. Like, there's exactly one good day to have twins which is (according to their counting) TODAY! Seems like we'll miss the deadline though. I find it somewhat odd given that normally 38 weeks is considered full term and the babies have hardly reached 2.5 kg each. Best,


  23. Hi Arun,

    Thanks for the references, I didn't know any of that! Best,


  24. Hi Phil,

    I've learned it's better to avoid asking people why they're vegetarians, one risks eternal arguments along the lines of "but baby chickens are sooo cute" etc, which easily spoils every dinner party. I know it sounds heartless, but imho being eaten is part of evolution, being cute doesn't help. I don't care very much what people eat or don't eat for whatever reasons, but I prefer not to have them lecture about it. In any case, you are certainly right that most of us have lost touch with the process. Best,


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  27. Hi Bee,

    You said: ” I know it sounds heartless, but imho being eaten is part of evolution, being cute doesn't help.”

    I most heartily agree and find myself inspired as to express it poetically in the spirit of Tennyson.

    I hold it true, whate'er befall;
    I feel it, when I sorrow most;
    'Tis better to have loved and lost
    Than never to have loved at all.

    -Alfred Lord Tennyson - In Memoriam:27, 1850

    I hold to be true, when creatures fall;
    I eat them, and yet not in sorrow;
    ‘Tis better it had lived and eaten
    Than never have lived to be eaten at all.

    -Phil Warnell- In Gratitude:01, 2010

    I suppose PETA won’t be putting that one up on their website anytime soon:-)



  28. "For something to eat, something else has to die. I basically look at the Earth as a rotating buffet, with weather."
    ... George Carlin

    Carlin obviously never heard of rock-eating bacteria, but who expects good Science from a comedian? For that matter, how many great scientists would have made great stand-up comedians (Susskind? Zee?), and vice versa (Seinfeld, Kudrow, Burnett?)? It takes the gift of high intelligence to be either. Lesson learned: pick good genes. Your profession is up to you. :-)

    Hi Bee, you wrote:

    Like, there's exactly one good day to have twins which is (according to their counting) TODAY! Seems like we'll miss the deadline though.

    Well, like I said today's the day! LOL, who knows? I was off by a day, looks like it will be more. Would you believe (said Maxwell Smart) ... Thursday? No? Can I hear a ... Friday? No? Well if I keep going, I'll eventually be right, so I'll stop now. The point is that doctors, sure and for the health/comfort of the mother, want to see the babies spring forth sooner rather than later. The girls will make their appearance when they're ready, or the doctors convince you that the sooner they're born the sooner you will get back to your fighting weight.

    Whatever, the raising of a child is when the fun really begins, and you have a ton of friends here and in the real world, I'm sure, to help with the slightest question, so be ready to ask away. Now rest!


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