Category Archives: Feature

Chirality and the Asymmetrical Universe


Chirality is a state of not being able to superimpose over its own mirror image. Anything can be chiral, as long as it is asymmetrical along more than one dimension.

Different forms of chirality can be confirmed and used to prove the existence of at least three spacial dimensions.Underlying all of physics is chirality. Without context to anything but itself, there is a universal direction to every dimension. Asymmetry is found everywhere in the natural world.

Quantum physics is riddled with asymmetries like the noteworthy fact that neutrinos all spin the same direction.

The most common usage of the word chirality is in chemistry, where some molecules can’t be  superimposed on their own mirror images. Chiral molecules have more complex properties and can often only operate in cellular life in a narrow context, making them trustworthy and predictable.

Flawed Terminology

Because we function in three-dimensional space, objects must have chirality along multiple axises in order to be truly chiral. Most things easily fulfill that caveat but the official definition is slightly flawed in light of three dimensions. Often, the definition mentions a mirror image that can’t be superimposed but if something were only a mirror image it could be flipped in a third dimension and once again be superimposable. People use the example of left and right hands to describe chirality but that example works because hands have a palm and a back, in addition to mirroring left and right. That said, the etymology of the word chirality is derived from the Greek word for hand. Snail shells, spiral galaxies, and the DNA helix are must have more than one axis of asymmetry to be truly chiral. Another way of saying this is that chiral objects or systems have no symmetrical center in any dimension.

Chirality is  Huge Part of the Synthetic Drug Market

Origami

These origami structures are worth a thousand words. They possess opposite chirality. No matter which way they are turned, the pattern will never twist in the same direction for both objects, yet they are in pattern, ratio, color and mass identical.

 

Many, many molecules are chiral. Whether it is found in nature, synthesized by the human body or created in a lab, a lot of effective, powerful drugs can be analyzed and synthesized with the opposite chirality, creating often times similar drug effects – under a brand new copyright. Drug manufacturers can often times remarket a similar or even better drug without worrying about generic drugs.

There are several ways which chirality manifests in particle physics. Neutrinos only spin left~! Well, “left” isn’t exactly the right word but neutrinos posses a chirality of shape and then only spin in one directions relative to that shape – the only object in the known universe to spin this way. Neutrinos are hard to come by, and usually found as stand alone particles when emitted via radioactive decay or a nuclear reaction, such as the sun. There may be an anti enutrino particle that spins the other way but it has not been discovered. Neutrinos are only affected by the weak subatomic force, and pass freely through matter.

 

 

Jonathan Howard
Jonathan is a freelance writer living in Brooklyn, NY

Why is it so difficult to think in Higher Dimensions?


Humans can only perceive three dimensional space but theoretical math works out just fine when manipulating objects in four or more spacial dimensions. Mathematicians, scientists and philosophers still debate whether higher spacial dimensions actually exist.

It’s hard to imagine higher dimensions. Even one additional spatial dimension is hard to see with your inner mind’s eye. If you want to imagine six, seven or eight spacial dimensions it isn’t just hard – no one’s even truly conceptualized hyperspace. It’s what makes the subject compelling but also what makes it frustrating to talk about. The examples theorists are able to use to help people “visualize” what can’t be seen must work within human limitations, and are thus second and third dimensional examples of a higher dimensional concept or object.

“Wait a second,” some of you are wondering, “Isn’t TIME the fourth dimension?”
This article is about spacial dimensions only. Personally, I agree with Amrit Sorli and Davide Fiscaletti’s work which I feel adequately proves that time is NOT a spacial dimension. If you want to debate this issue further, you can read my reasoning in my follow up piece, Time: fourth dimension or nah?, also available on Cosmoso.net

One of the most basic exercises in multidimensional theory is to imagine moving in a fourth. The distance between you and everything around you stays the same but in some fourth dimension you are moving. Most people can’t truly do this imagination game because there in nothing in our three spacial dimensions to compare the experience to.

Flatland_sphereFlatland

In the famous book about spacial dimensions, Flatland, living, two-dimensional beings existed in a universe that was merely two dimensions.  A being with three dimensions, such as a sphere, would appear as a circle able to change circumference as it moved through a third dimension no one in flatland has ever conceptualized.

Humans evolved to notice changes in our three-dimensional environment, inheriting our ancestors ability to conceptualize space in three dimensions as a hardwired trait that actually stops us from conceptualizing other aspects of reality that might nonetheless  exist. Other people see hyperspace as a theoretical construct of mathematics that doesn’t describe anything in reality, pointing to the lack of evidence of other dimensions.

Tesseracts Predate Computer-assisted Modelling.

A Tesseract. Many people in the advanced math classrooms of my generation of high school students struggled to wrap their heads around tesseracts without moving diagrams. If a picture is worth a thousand words are we talking animated gifs and words used to describe three dimensional space or should we make up a new saying?

We are able to conceptualize three dimensions in the abstract when we watch TV, look at a painting, or play a video-game. Anytime we look at a screen we watch a two dimensional image from a point outside that dimension. Having an outside point of view for a three dimensional space could give us a way to artificially understand a higher spatial dimension. Until that time comes, we are sort of stuck explaining fourth dimensions by demonstrating how it would look on a two dimensional screen which we view from a third dimensional viewpoint.

It’s kind of like imagining “one million”; you can prove it mathematically to yourself, you can count to it and you know how valuable it is but you can’t truly picture one million of anything. Trying to explain this conceptualization problem with words is pretty tough because your brain is not equipped to handle it. Humans try to wrap their minds around it and dream up ways to explain hyperspace to each other anyways.

4D Rubix Puzzle

A rubix cube is particularly compelling as a multi-dimensional teaching tool, because it puts spacial dimensions in the abstract in the first place, and then gives the cube the ability to change the dimensional orientation of a third of it’s mass. It’s hard to wrap your head around a normal three dimensional rubix puzzle. By adding another dimension and using the same principle, one can ALMOST imagine that fourth spacial dimension. Most people can’t solve a three dimensional Rubix puzzle but if you think you are ready for the fourth dimension, you can download it and play it on your two dimensional screen, here: Magic Cube 4D

If you don’t think you’re ready to try and solve that puzzle but you want to know more you can watch this roughly 1/2 hour video about it:

Miegakure

While Miegakure is still under development, it’s set for release in 2015. Interactive games like this can spur collaborative thinking from a larger pool of collaborators – and make game developers tons of money.

If you want something a little less abstract than Rubix, check out this prototype for Miegakure, the surreal PlayStation 4 game that lets the user explore a four dimensionally capable world through three dimensional spaces that connect to each other through higher dimensions. It’s a great idea that makes everyone have the initial thought of wondering how the heck they coded it. Then the idea sinks in and you realize they wrote the code first and played with the visual manifestation as they went. It’s a great metaphor for the idea in the first place; begins as a concept rather than an observation. The essence of the argument against hyperspace actually existing is the lack of physical evidence. Unlike a ghost story or a spiritual, religious attempt to explain the supernatural, there is actually mathematical evidence that seems to make higher dimensions possible. It has logical evidence as opposed to empirical data. There are ways to observe without using human senses but it’s difficult to prove an observation of something the majority of humans have trouble even seeing with their mind’s eye, so to speak.

One day we might be able to use technology to increase our understanding of this abstract concept, and manipulate an entirely new kind of media. For now we are stuck with two and three dimensional visual aids and an mental block put in place by aeons of evolution.

 Read More about Hyperspace on Cosmoso.net~!
Jonathan Howard
Jonathan is a freelance writer living in Brooklyn, NY

A Dozen Questions with Clay Yount, Creator of Hamlet’s Danish


Temporal Advertising

Check out more of Hamlet’s Danish by Clay Yount at: http://clayyount.com/hamlets-danish/

Where do you live? Where are you from?

I’m a Virginian, born and raised. Born in Appalachia, and raised in a small town in Northern Virginia called Warrenton. I went to college at the University of Virginia, and I’m currently living in Fairfax County, Virginia.

What is your educational background?

My educational background is a hodgepodge of arts and sciences with a focus on languages. In high school I took lots of French and Latin, and in college, I took a bunch of Japanese language courses. Later I got into web development, which turned out to be a lot like learning a language, and made that my career.

Monkey

Check out more of Hamlet’s Danish by Clay Yount at: http://clayyount.com/hamlets-danish/

When did Hamlet’s Danish start?

Hamlet’s Danish started in April of 2014.

Any other art or comics people can find from you online?

In college, I drew a couple strips for the school newspaper, and from 2004-2012 I did a comic called Rob and Elliot with my brother, Hampton Yount, as the writer. He’s a stand up comedian/writer and ridiculously funny. I have the archives for that comic up on my site.

Your characters make really appropriate facial expressions. How hard is that to do?

Well, it’s much easier now than when I started. I used to draw boring same-y faces a lot. I had a handful of expressions that I would overuse and it was something about my art that bugged me, so I made a conscious effort to practice it. I still have to check myself to make sure I’m not relying on repetitive easy expressions. Drawing a comic is kind of like planning and acting out a scene. I tend to make the face I’m drawing as I’m drawing it, which must look pretty ridiculous.

Killer App

Check out more of Hamlet’s Danish by Clay Yount at: http://clayyount.com/hamlets-danish/

What inspires the way your characters look?

The characters change from week to week, so there’s not really a unifying look. I’ll also change up my style between cartoony and realistic based on the script, or just how I’m feeling that week. I’ll spend lots of time researching images for inspiration on posture or clothing, especially on the historical comics.

I also really like your dialogue and wide range of subjects that always have a nod to history, gaming and science.
You don’t seem to mind taking a shot at conventional wisdom. Do you have any political or social agenda behind the project?

My only agenda is to make the funniest comics I can. My views on science, culture, history, and politics will seep into that, for sure, but I’m not trying to use my comics as a platform for anything other than comedy. In general, I’m a big history buff and a huge fan of science, so those topics tend to crop up a lot. The only thing I try and stay away from is pop culture or meme jokes. They date quickly and I don’t make comics fast enough for it.

How long does it take you to get a one page comic like that done?

Toilet Paper

Check out more of Hamlet’s Danish by Clay Yount at: http://clayyount.com/hamlets-danish/

Anywhere from 6-10 hours. Sometimes more. It’s about 30% writing and lettering, 40% pencilling, 10% inking and 20% coloring.

What medium are you using? Is it all created digitally?

It’s all digital. I use Manga Studio 5 for the whole thing. I’m really into tech and made the switch to tablet drawing in 2002. I haven’t looked back since. I currently use a Cintiq, which is a great piece of hardware.

How much money does this project make you? Do you have a day job?

Non Branded Flying Disc

Check out more of Hamlet’s Danish by Clay Yount at: http://clayyount.com/hamlets-danish/

It doesn’t make a lot, but that’s on me. I have a great day job as a web designer/developer, so I haven’t really felt the need to work to monetize the comic. I don’t have a store because I dread order fulfillment, and I removed all ads from my site because they weren’t earning much, and I didn’t like how they looked. Monetizing is something I know I need to work on, but I’m making baby steps right now. I plan to have a store later this year, and I’m attending a few conventions where I’ll have books printed. Right now, my main focus is expanding my audience.

What has the response been like? How much feedback do you get and what’s it like?

My audience is still relatively small, so I only get a modest amount of feedback, but when I do, it’s been overwhelmingly positive. Every once in a while, I’ll make it to the front page of Reddit or Imgur or something and that definitely gives you a nice ego boost :).

Do you have any upcoming work?

Right now, I’m just plugging away at Hamlet’s Danish and trying to maintain a work/life balance with a new baby. Occasionally I’ll work on a side project, like a piece of art or a short story comic, and I’ll post it on my site’s blog. My most recent side project was making a free Squarespace template for webcomic artists. The only upcoming thing right now is getting ready for a convention and printing some books for it.

Check out more of Hamlet’s Danish by Clay Yount at: http://clayyount.com/hamlets-danish/

Super Hero

Check out more of Hamlet’s Danish by Clay Yount at: http://clayyount.com/hamlets-danish/

 

Jonathan Howard
Jonathan is a freelance writer living in Brooklyn, NY

Mars isn’t a One Way Trip Anymore


150 Cubic Meters of Ice Means a powerful rocket fuel can be synthesized on Mars – powerful enough to escape Mars gravity for the return trip to Earth.

Turns out Mars has 150 billion cubic-meters worth of ice that’s been frozen for so long it’s covered with Mars’ ubiquitous red soil. NASA knows this because of  radar measurements from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The ice is spread out among a few ginormous belts made of countless glaciers.

There’s been evidence of a once liquid ocean on Mars’ surface.  Curiosity rover found riverbeds back in September 2012 with NASA able to estimate two pints of water for every cubic-foot of soil. In early 2014, Spanish researchers were able to prove glaciers dug canyons 3.7 billion years ago. Water leaves chemical byproducts of various reactions and residues.

No one expected such a big find, except maybe anyone who saw the Arnold Schwarzenegger version of Total Recall.

If you are wondering where Total Recall got the idea for underground glaciers, scientists  have suspected glacial activity below the Martian surface for decades. The debate centered around formations that would not be abel to hodl their particular shape without glacial activity but was the frozen material water ice, dry ice, or a muddy mix of red dust and water or some other frozen gas or liquid.

 

Using logic and science, the evidence available can now be interpreted to be enough to cover Mars with a meter of liquid water, if it melted – and if Mars was completely smooth.

Glaciers of Mars Image: Mars Digital Image Model, NASA/Nanna Karlsson

 

“We have looked at radar measurements spanning ten years back in time to see how thick the ice is and how it behaves. A glacier is after all a big chunk of ice and it flows and gets a form that tells us something about how soft it is. We then compared this with how glaciers on Earth behave and from that we have been able to make models for the ice flow.”

Read Nanna Bjørnholt Karlsson entire press release on the subject.

Water can easily be separated into hydrogen gas and oxygen, making breathable air and a powerful rocket fuel that can be used for other space missions, including a return trip to Earth. Water can also be used to cultivate food and animal crops on Mars, making colonization a hell of a lot more appealing.

Oh, and one more thing:

Jonathan Howard
Jonathan is a freelance writer living in Brooklyn, NY

Physics Concepts Intuitively Understood Through Skateboarding


People constantly manipulate technology without formal training but are not always able to explain what they know.

You probably aren’t surprised skateboarders haven’t been using proper physics terms to teach each other sick tricks. Try to wrap your head around Taylor Bray wrapping the board around his front foot while also turning his body around 360 degrees in this short youtube video:

Sometimes it’s almost like only the skater knows what’s going on with the board. As if to prove my point, the title of this video was written by someone who can’t even seem to label the trick. When I was a kid, wrapping the board around your foot like that was called an “impossible”. I originally encountered the clip on facebook with the trick labeled “front foot impossible craze”, making a total of three attempts to describe how Taylor Bray is spinning his body and the skateboard.

Here are some physics concepts Bray obviously understands without having to verbally prove himself:

Leverage. Most flip tricks start with an ollie, leveraging the board up into the air by tapping the end hard against the ground.

Friction. The top of the skateboard has grip tape to increase friction and make it stick to the soft rubber sneakers. The bottom of the skateboard has wheels to make it roll back and forth but not slide as much side to side. This trick doesn’t play to much with sliding friction but tons of tricks play with the various levels of slipperiness and stickiness a skateboard offers.

Potential energy. Bray is popping the board up with an Ollie but there’s also. A newer skateboard deck has “pop” which is basically when the wood is at its most springy. By kicking the board hard against the “ground”(in this case, the ramp), he can make the board bounce up into the air with him when he jumps. The more a skateboard is used it loses its pop.

Gravity. That brief instant where he kicks the end of the board into the ground allows him to jump and escape gravity. An Ollie let’s him bring the board up with him. Gravity always pulls things down at the same rate, making it easy to estimate how much time Bray has to perform the trick. The subsequent slow motion shots of the same trick allow the viewer to analyze the trick but the first version in the clip shows how fast gravity pulls Bray back toward the Earth, giving him about one second to pull off the impossible.

More rolling friction. When he gets the board in the air, he rolls it around his front foot. This trick was called an “impossible” when I was a kid in the 90’s but it’s basically wrapping the board around his front foot using rolling friction.

Inertia. Bray is using inertia in several ways. He is using the speed he has to travel up the ramp against gravity. He’s using the direction the ramp sent him in to help him continue up into the air after the Ollie. Inertia comes into play in a few small ways while he is in the air manipulating the board with his feet. When he finally lands, he continues in the direction he was already going, and it is important that he points the wheels in the approximate direction of that momentum so his inertia doesn’t throw him off balance.

Rotation. Bray is analyzing two different axises in quick succession. First he is rolling the skateboard around that foot in a move where the axis is outside the board itself, then he is catching it with his feet and rotating himself and the board on a vertical axis 360 degrees, landing in the same direction he was facing before the trick began.

In the box above, I stuck to physics concepts. There are additional science concepts at work in this example, such as muscle memory, spatial cognition, coordination, time perception and sense of balance.

A really common technical flip trick is the 360 flip. A 360 flip spins the board on 2 axises at once. In order to perform the move, a skateboarder has to conceptualize the simultaneous rotations before actually kicking them into place, and the rotations are often too complex for a layman to follow.

The next age of enlightenment could require humans to quickly communicate complicated concepts despite only possessing an intuitive understanding.

Consciousness and the human brain is a relatively young field of study. We are starting to understand what is happening in the brain when we perform complex physical tasks like a frontside 360 front foot impossible. Soon we might be able to identify the intuitive understanding of the related physics concepts and allow someone like Bray to access the verbal explanations of these physical principles as freely as he applies them to reality.

I’ll leave Cosmoso.net readers with this thought about language in skateboarding:

In the 90's, a newer, more symmetrical skateboard design allowed for a new school of technical flip tricks. As designs do when they've reached near perfection, the new school skateboard changes within a very narrow parameter based on current trends in skateboarding - the design has plateaued. Skate tricks are a folk art that are learned from advice from peers and pros. The communication about how to pull off a given trick comes in the form of an esoteric language that changes over time. The names for new and developing styles of tech tricks are different in different social circles, evolve and change over time, and seldom utilize proper physics vocabulary. Skateboarding remains a great way to demonstrate intuitively understood, applied physics.

 

Jonathan Howard
Jonathan is a freelance writer living in Brooklyn, NY

The Ancient Technology of Mirrors


Mirrors out perform most modern image technologies in terms of resolution, efficiency and user experience.

The technology to understand and manipulate light took centuries to develop, and happened independently across many different cultures. Mirrors have helped to shape the modern human mind while also furthering our understanding of math and science. They are an impressive holdover from the analogue age that doesn’t require electricity yet can produce replicated, moving images at a resolution higher than the human eye can perceive. Cosmoso takes a look at the history of this uniquely high tech piece of our global, human ancestry.

Developing Reflective Tech Before Recorded History

Like a lot of ancient technologies, people were able to develop and perfect image reflection without fully understanding the principles and materials they were manipulating. Creating a mirror in a time before modern science took different paradigms of understanding, such as alchemy, superstition and religious belief.

Human technologies are often inspired by nature. Our ancestors often pondered the meaning of the reflective properties they no doubt noticed in pools of water. When water is flowing, falling or otherwise in turmoil, the light it reflects is scattered but a calm pool of water with a dark surface below it shows a reflection.

Technologies often lead to further inspiration, and the advent of metal smelting and the discovery of glass and crystal lead to a variety of reflective properties humans were able to control. Archeologists have found man made mirrors made of polished obsidian, a natural volcanic glass dated back to 6000 BC in ancient Turkey.

Thousands of years after stone reflective mirrors were created, mirrors made of polished copper were made by ancient Mesopotamians dated to 4000 BC, one thousand years before Egyptians discovered copper smelting and discovered copper reflection on their own, at about 3000 before Christ.

Other types of polished stone mirrors have been found in Central and South America much later around 2000 BC. Ancient Americans developed tech on a later timeline because the land was developed later in the planet’s history by nomadic people who often abandoned technology to live off the land while nomadically exploring previously uninhabited lands.

Aztec_mirror,_Museo_de_América,_Madrid

In times when the only access to your own reflection was an enigmatic piece of polished obsidian, the sense of self was a psychological leap away from modern man’s. Obsidian mirrors were used by various cultures to scry or predict the future, and mirrors of stone were thought to possess magic powers.

Chinese Technology: Far Ahead of the West

Around the time when the Americas were still developing stone technologies, bronze mirrors were being manufactured in 2000 BC China. China was very technologically developed at this time, and able to smelt and create a variety of metals, compounds and amalgams, including a bronze. There are many archeological finds attributed by forensics to Chinese “Qijia” culture. Proprietary secrets forced mirror tech to diverge, and it’s possible to find examples of mirrors made from various metal alloys such as copper and tin, at the same time other parts of Asia were still simply polishing copper smelted from the earth.  The tin, copper alloy found in China and India is called speculum metal, which would have been very expensive to produce in it’s time.

mirror-03-238x300Speculum metal coated mirrors brought such a high analogue resolution that people could understand what they looked like, which affected fashion and hairstyles but also began to affect other artforms like dancing and martial arts. Philosophical concepts such as duality, other worlds and multiplicity were suddenly easy to explain via analogy with the help of a mirror.

Manipulation of one’s own facial expression, slight of hand and other practiced mannerisms were now able to be studied and documented, creating new layers to the fabric of civilization.

For all of this cultural development, there was no scientific analyzation of why a mirror worked or the light it was reflecting. Before mirror technology could be advanced, there needed to be written, thoughtful investigation of why the tech worked in the first place. This was a slow process in any ancient tech but in a time before light waves and chemistry was understood, it was extremely slow. The earliest written work studying the way light reflects came from Diocles, a Greek mathematician and author of On Burning Mirrors who lived 240 BC – c. 180 BC. Illiteracy and language barriers slowed the technological development of concave and convex curved mirrors another few hundred years.greek math

Mathematics and mirrors will always have a reciprocal relationship, with math and science allowing humanity to dream up new ways of manipulating light and mirrors allowing that manipulation to inspire new questions and explanations. What was once considered magic became the study of the world we inhabit as  technology took root in the physical and psychological world humans are trapped in.

Another technological breakthrough happened in ancient Lebanon when metal-backed glass mirrors were finally invented, first century AD. Roman author Pliny wrote his famous work, “Natural History” in 77 AD, where he mentions gold-leafed glass mirrors, though none from that time have survived. Most Roman mirrors were glass coated with lead which might have used the same technological process and just been much cheaper than gold.

ptolemy's optics

Discovering the text On Burning Mirrors, Greco-Egyptian writer, Ptolemy, began to experiment with curved polished iron mirrors. He was able to peak the interest of wealthy benefactors and study with impunity. His writings discuss plane, convex spherical, and concave spherical mirrors. This was circa 90 AD. The image above describes light passing through a cylindrical glass of water.

Silvered Glass & the Modern Age:

Silver-mercury amalgams were found in archeological digs and antique collections dating back to 500 AD China. Renaissance Europeans traded with the known world, perfecting a tin-mercury amalgam and developing the most reflective surfaces known until the 1835 invention of silvered-glass mirrors. Historical records seem to credit German chemist Justus von Liebig with silvered glass but glassworkers guild records obscure the story behind it. Silvered glass coats metallic silver on the back of the reflective glass by utilizing silver nitrate in the dawning of applied chemistry. Silver is expensive but the layer is so thin, and the process so reliable that affordable mirrors began to show up in working class households across the planet ever since.

 

Jonathan Howard
Jonathan is a freelance writer living in Brooklyn, NY

Revisiting the Death of Michael Hastings


Could emerging tech present new forensics in the suspicious early demise of controversial Rolling Stone reporter, Michael Hastings? How cheaper hardware and open-sourced coding could shed new light on a murder as the possibility of remotely hacking today’s cars gains traction.

Hacking your car might already be possible. This tweet by NYT tech writer, Nick Bilton, is a great example:

Weeks back, I wrote a short piece about CANtact, a $60 device that enables you  to interface with a car’s onboard computer through your laptop’s USB port. Eric Evenchick presented CANtact at Black Hat Asia 2015 security conference in Singapore. The onboard CPU of a motor-vehicle is called the CAN, for Controller Area Network. Evenchick hopes his device’s affordability will spur programmers to reverse engineer the firmware and proprietary languages various CAN systems use.

Read more about CANtact: CANtact Device Lets you Hack a Car’s CPU for $60

I got feedback on the CANtact story about a seemingly unrelated topic: The Death of Michael Hastings. Hastings was Rolling Stone and Buzzfeed contributor who became very vocal about the surveillance state when the  U.S. Department of Justice started investigating reporters in 2013. Hastings coined the term “war on journalism” when the Obama Administration sanctioned limitations on journalists ability to report when the White House considered it a security risk. Buzzfeed ran his last story, “Why Democrats Love to Spy On Americans”, June 7, 2013. Hastings is considered suspicious by many Americans after he died in an explosive, high -speed automobile accident, June 18, 2013, in Los Angeles, CA.

Check out one of the last interviews with Michael Hastings and scroll down for a description of the oft repeated conspiracy theory surrounding his untimely death.

The Michael Hastings Conspiracy Theory:

Unlike a lot of post-millennium conspiracy theories, which usually start online, this one actually began on television. Reporters were already contentious about the limitations the Obama admin. were attempting to impose and it seemed like extremely suspicious timing that one of the leaders of the criticism against censorship was suddenly killed. The internet ran with it and some Americans considered the crash as suspicious at the time. Public opinion is often without the merit of hard evidence, though, and this case was no different. Not everyone considered the media coverage unbiased, considering the political stake journalists had in the issue.

The first solid argument that Hasting didn’t die by accident came from Richard A. Clarke, a former U.S. National Coordinator for Security, Infrastructure Protection, and Counter-terrorism(what a title~!), who called the crash “consistent with a car cyber attack”. The conspiracy theory gestating around water coolers and message boards was truly born when Clarke went public with this outright accusation:

“There is reason to believe that intelligence agencies for major powers—including the United States—know how to remotely seize control of a car. So if there were a cyber attack on [Hastings’] car—and I’m not saying there was, I think whoever did it would probably get away with it.”

Next, WikiLeaks announced that Hastings reached out to a Wikileaks lawyer Jennifer Robinson only a few hours before the crash.

Army Staff Sergent Joe Biggs came forward with an email he thought might help in a murder investigation. The email was CCed to a few of Hastings’ colleagues, stating he was “onto a big story” and planned to “go off the radar”. Perhaps the most incriminating detail is that he warned the addressees of this email to expect a visit from the FBI. The FBI denied Hastings was being investigated in a formal press release.

LA Weekly admitted Hastings was preparing a new installment of what had been an ongoing story involving the CIA. Hastings’ wife, Elise Jordan, confirmed he had been working on a story profiling CIA Director John O. Brennan.

 

The case against foul play:

I have to admit, I got sucked in for a second but Cosmoso is a science blog and I personally believe an important part of science is to maintain rational skepticism. The details I listed above are the undisputed facts. You can research online and verify them. It might seem really likely that Hastings was onto something and silenced by some sort of foul play leading to a car accident but there is no hard evidence, no smoking gun, no suspects and nothing really proving he was a victim of murder.

The rumor online has always been that there are suspicious aspects to the explosion. Cars don’t always explode when they crash but Frank Markus director of Motor Trend said the ensuing fire after the crash was consistent with most high-speed car crashes. The usual conspiracy theorist reaction is to suspect this kind of testimony to have some advantage or involvement thus “proving” it biased. It’s pretty difficult to do that in the case of Frank Markus, who just directs a magazine and website about cars.

Hastings’ own family doesn’t seem to think the death was suspicious. His brother, Jonathan, later revealed Michael seemed “manic” in the days leading up to the crash. Elise Jordan, his wife told the press it was “just a really tragic accident”

A host of The Young Turks who was close with Hastings once said Hastings’ friends had noticed he was agitated and tense. Michael often complained that he was being followed and watched. It’s easy to dismiss the conspiracy theory when you consider it may have stemmed from the line of work he chose.

Maybe the government conspiracy angle is red herring.

Reporting on the FBI, the Military, the Whitehouse, or the CIA are what reporters do. People did it before and since. Those government organizations have accountability in ways that would make an assassination pretty unlikely.

If it wasn’t the government who would have wanted to kill Hastings?

A lot of people, it turns out. Hastings had publicly confirmed he received several death-threats after his infamous Rolling Stone article criticizing and exposing General McChrystal. Considering the United States long history of reactionary violence an alternate theory is that military personnel performed an unsanctioned hit on Hastings during a time when many right wing Americans considered the journalist unpatriotic.

Here’s where the tech comes into play:

Hastings had told USA Today his car had recently been “tampered with”, without any real explanation of what that means but most people in 2013 would assume it means physical tampering with the brakes or planting a bug. In any case he said he was scared and planned to leave town.

Now it’s only two years later, and people are starting to see how a little bit of inside knowledge of how the CAN computer works in a modern vehicle can be used to do some serious harm. We might never know if this was a murder, an assassination or an accident but hacking a car remotely seemed like a joke at the time; two years later no one is laughing.

Jonathan Howard
Jonathan is a freelance writer living in Brooklyn, NY

American Revolutionary Edward Snowden in the News this Week


Controversial hero of the information revolution to some, traitor to the American empire to others, Edward Snowden is popping up in headlines again.

A lot of Cosmoso might have caught the John Oliver interview.

The interview is an instant classic and will be talked about for a long time but it was also genuinely funny, with some unexpected chemistry between Oliver and Snowden. It also featured probably the second best extended tech metaphor involving dicks.

Silicon Valley

That’s right. I said second best.

Other superficial highlights include John Oliver losing his mind during the half hour before Snowden showed up late, the alarming but totally unsurprising ignorance of Americans during the man-on-the-street interviews about privacy and a concise but fleeting description of Snowden’s Patriotism for the layman.

 

Snowden Bust 2

The morning after the interview aired, another iconic moment in revolutionary journalism happened. Three, anonymous street artists erected a bust of Edward Snowden in Brooklyn, video and still pics documented exclusively by AnimalNewYork. The work was covered with a tarp and removed within twelve hours because it was put atop an existing war monument, and done without permission.

Update:

A hologram of Snowden is currently being shown in the spot where the bust was removed, courtesy of The Illuminator Art Collective who used two projections and a cloud of smoke  to show a likeness of Edward Snowden at the Revolutionary War memorial, releasing an accompanying statement:

“While the State may remove any material artifacts that speak in defiance against incumbent authoritarianism, the acts of resistance remain in the public consciousness, and it is in sharing that act of defiance that hope resides.”

Snowden Hologram

Jonathan Howard
Jonathan is a freelance writer living in Brooklyn, NY

“Many Interactive Worlds” Quantum Theory Still Doesn’t Make Sense


A lot of people really want alternate universes to make sense but they don’t. It makes for great sci fi and it’s a fun thought experiment, but alternate universes might be based on too much assumption to be considered good science: back in October, 2014, Wiseman and Deckert suggested a new take on the Many Worlds Interpretation of quantum theory: Many Interactive Worlds. It’s hard to see what sets their work apart from predecessors.

You can read more about misinterpreted implications of quantum mechanics: Your Interpretation of Quantum Physics is Probably Wrong

I was initially excited by their work, published Winter 2014, but the more I read about the Many Worlds Interpretation the less I bought it. Quantum theory is hard for most people to understand, which makes sifting through conflicting theories and rationalizations a daunting task. I’m going to try and be concise but thorough in my critique of Wiseman and Deckert’s work. I’m sure they are fine people and they’ve certainly put a lot of thought into a very abstract, difficult concept.

Whats-in-a-Name

First let me get this superficial complaint out of the way: Wiseman and Deckert seem to have just dropped the word “interpretation” from their interpretation. Why? well it certainly wasn’t for clarity’s sake. The Many Worlds Interpretation and Many Interacting Worlds have awkwardly similar acronyms, MWI and MIW. Because quantum theory isn’t confusing enough~!

The Many Worlds Interpretation was the work of Hugh Everett III back in  1957. It gets called the parallel universe theory, the alternate universe theory, and the “many universes” interpretation. It comes back up in science fiction periodically but most quantum physicists don’t count it as a viable explanation of quantum mechanics’ many unanswered questions. Everett postulated all  possible outcomes happen causing reality to branch at each decision or quantum observation, creating infinite parallel universes as more an more branches are formed. Everett imagined the observer splitting into what he described as “clones” who live in the different universes. It’s really easy now, in 2015, for a version of the Many Worlds Interpretation to gain traction, because so many people are familiar with the concept from decades of science fiction examples.

So Wiseman and Deckert didn’t make up the idea of multiple universes. What are they saying is different about their new interpretation? In the Everettian model, universes branch off like a tree, never to meet again. Wiseman and Deckert describe a multiverse where particles seem to be able to influence each other and interact despite existing in separate universes. It makes a more classically physical math work out in the examples they chose. Many Interactive Worlds explains “Ehrenfest’s theorem, wave packet spreading, barrier tunneling, and zero-point energy—as a direct consequence of mutual repulsion between worlds.”

The equation they provided can successfully calculate quantum ground states and explains the notorious double-slit interference phenomenon. It sounds so impressive that most science news outlets ran with it despite there being absolutely no evidence of these other universes.

So the Griffith University academics turned heads but they kind of sidestepped the work of many foundational aspects of quantum science.  Physical Review X published the work, which is basically a proposal that parallel universes not only exist, but that they constantly interact. They explain this interaction as a force of repulsion between alternate universes. Their equations show this type of an interaction explains some of the most bizarre parts of quantum mechanics – and that is a mathematical breakthrough. It just doesn’t really have any explanation of what this “force of repulsion” is or how it can be measured. They are basically talking about philosophy, not science, but it’s really hard to prove them wrong because it’s so complicated and most people want a solution to the century of unexplainable quantum dynamics.
The bottom line: There is still no experimental evidence to support any multiple universe model, and the Many Interactive World interpretation didn’t change that.
Update: I found a video that explains my point~! Check it out.

Jonathan Howard
Jonathan is a freelance writer living in Brooklyn, NY

Your Interpretation of Quantum Physics is Probably Wrong


Quantum theory can be misinterpreted to support false claims.

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There is legit science to quantum theory but misinterpretations justify an assortment of pseudoscience. Let’s examine why.

Quantum science isn’t a young science anymore. This year, 2015, the term “quantum”, as it relates to quantum physics, turns 113 years old. The term as we know it first appeared “in a 1902 article on the photoelectric effect by Philipp Lenard, who credited Hermann von Helmholtz for using the word in reference to electricity”(Wikipedia). During it’s first century of life attempts to understand quantum particle behavior have lead to a bunch of discoveries. Quantum physics has furthered understanding of key physical aspects of the universe. That complex understanding has been used to develop new technologies.

Quantum physics is enigmatic in that it pushes the limits of conceptualization itself, leaving it seemingly open to interpretation. While it is has been used to predict findings and improve human understanding, It’s also been used by charlatans who have a shaky-at-best understanding of science. Quantum physics has been misappropriated to support a bunch of downright unscientific ideas.

It’s easy to see why it can be misunderstood by well-intentioned people and foisted upon an unsuspecting public by new age hacks. The best minds in academia don’t always agree on secondary implications of quantum physics. No one has squared quantum theory with the theory of relativity,  for example.

Most people are not smart enough to parse all the available research on quantum physics. The public’s research skills are notoriously flawed on any subject. The internet is rife with misinformation pitting researchers against their own lack of critical thinking skills. Anti-science and pseudoscience alike get a surprising amount of traction online, with Americans believing in a wide variety of superstitions and erroneous claims.

In addition to the public simply misinterpreting or misunderstanding the science, there is money to be made in taking advantage of gullible people. Here are some false claims that have erroneously used quantum theory as supporting evidence:

Many Interacting Worlds

The internet loves this one. Contemporary multiple universe theorMultiverse1ies are philosophy, not science, but that didn’t stop Australian physicists Howard Wiseman and Dr. Michael Hall from collaborating with  UC Davis mathematician Dr. Dirk-Andre Deckert to publish the “many interacting worlds” theory as legit science in the otherwise respectable journal, Physical Review X. This is the latest in a train of thought that forgoes scientific reliance on evidence and simply supposes the existence of other universes, taking it a step further by insisting we live in an actual multiverse, with alternate universes constantly influence each other. Um, that’s awesome but it’s not science. You can read their interpretation of reality for yourself.

Deepak Chopra

Deepak Chopra is a celebrated new age guru whose views on the human condition and spirituality are respected by large numbers of the uneducated. By misinterpreting quantum physics he has made a career of stitching together a nonsensical belief system from disjointed but seemingly actual science. Chopra’s false claims can seem very true when first investigated but has explained key details that Chopra nonetheless considers mysterious.

The Secret

‘The Power’ and ‘The Secret’ are best-selling books that claim science supports what can be interpreted as an almost maniacal selfishness. The New York Times once described the books as “larded with references to magnets, energy and quantum mechanics.” the secret

The Secret’s author,  Rhonda Byrne, uses confusing metaphysics not rooted in any known or current study of consciousness by borrowing heavily from important-sounding terminology found in psychology and neuroscience.  Byrne’s  pseudoscientific jargon is surprisingly readable and comforting but that doesn’t make the science behind it any less bogus.

Scientology

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There isn’t anything in quantum physics implying a solipsism or subjective experience of reality but that doesn’t stop Scientology from pretending we each have our own “reality” – and yours is broken.

Then there is the oft-headlining, almost post modern psuedoscientific masterpiece of utter bullshit: Scientology.

Scientology uses this same type of claim to control it’s cult following. Scientology relies on a re-fabrication of the conventional vocabulary normal, English-speaking people use. The religion drastically redefined the word reality. L.R. Hubbard called reality the “agreement.” Scientologists believe the universe is a construct of the spiritual beings living within it. The real world we all share is, to them, a product of consensus. Scientology describes, for example, mentally ill people as those who no longer accept an “agreed upon apparency” that has been “mocked up” by we spiritual beings, to use their reinvented terminology. Scientologists misuse of the word reality to ask humans, “what’s your reality?” There isn’t anything in quantum physics implying a solipsism or subjective experience of reality but that doesn’t stop Scientology.

In conclusion…

The struggle to connect quantum physics to spirituality is a humorous metaphor for subjectivity itself.

If you find yourself curious to learn more about quantum theory you should read up and keep and open mind, no doubt. The nature of a mystery is that it hasn’t been explained. Whatever evidence that might be able to help humanity understand the way reality is constructed is not going to come from religion or superstition, it will come from science. Regardless of the claims to the contrary, quantum theory only points out a gap in understanding and doesn’t explain anything about existence, consciousness or subjective reality.

Jonathan Howard
Jonathan is a freelance writer living in Brooklyn, NY