Extraordinary claims. Ordinary investigations.

Archive for the 'Science' Category

A Message of Faith in Despeñaderos

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rosary “The photo was captured during Valentino Mora’s baptism. The moment priest Osvaldo Macaya throws holy water, the falling liquid forms a rosary. The story started on October 10, when the month-old baby, son of Erica Mora, a 21-years-old single mother was baptized. The photo of Valentino’s baptism has raised the locals’ faith. They go to Erica Mora’s house to touch the boy.” [cadena3]

The priest himself doesn’t seem to be very happy with it:

“The photographer, [María Silvana], was very happy [when she discovered the image] and soon the whole town knew about it. I don’t like those signs, I hold the sacraments. Actually the Bible for this week says ‘this perverse and evil generation asks for a sign, and it will not be given to them because it has the sign of Jonah, and here there’s someone else besides Jonah, referring to Jesus’ death at the cross for everyone’s salvation”, says father Macaya.

The image is definitely a message of faith, at least when it spreads as an email chain letter telling us to pray with rosaries. Which is how I received it.

The photo itself is not necessarily a message of faith, and can be understood as simply the quirky behavior of water, freezed by the camera. Ironically, it also had something to do with the priest’s way of throwing holy water, so he was part of the “sign”.

Notice how the water is not actually forming a lace of prayer beads: one can see the water fills the inside of the lace. Also, the cross is a conjunction of water droplets, which in fact looks more like an inverted cross. Anyone familiar with high speed photography will see similar images.

And perhaps even more interesting scenes:

The amazing thing is to realize how that sort of stepped reduction of a water droplet over water happens all the time. We are just not usually able to see it. It doesn’t depend on the movements of the hand of a priest or even on pareidolia. That happens all the time as an interaction of several physical effects, from superficial tension to gravity.

Imagine billions and billions of water drops, like tiny beads, getting smaller and smaller at a determined rhythm, as if they were being counted so fast no human could see it. I like this rosary better. [hat tip Eustáquio Patounas, video via cgr v2.0]

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Superman: a Unified Theory for his Superpowers

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“Since Time immemorial, man has sought to explain the powers of Kal-El, a.k.a. Superman. Siegel et al. supposed that His mighty strength stems from His origin on another planet whose density and as a result, gravity, was much higher than our own. Natural selection on the planet of Krypton would therefore endow Kal El with more efficient muscles and higher bone density; explaining, to first order, Superman’s extraordinary powers. Though concise, this theory has proved inaccurate. It is now clear that Superman is actually flying rather than just jumping really high; and His freeze-breath, x-ray vision, and heat vision also have no account in Seigel’s theory.
In this paper we propose a new unified theory for the source of Superman’s powers; that is to say, all of Superman’s extraordinary powers are manifestation of one supernatural ability, rather than a host. It is our opinion that all of Superman’s recognized powers can be unified if His power is the ability to manipulate, from atomic to kilometer length scales, the inertia of His own and any matter with which He is in contact.”
[Ben Tippett: A Unified theory of Superman’s Powers (PDF)]

Inertia. That would be the key to all of Superman’s powers, according to the Grand Unified Theory proposed by Ben Tippet in the style and prose of a scientific paper. The work has generated quite a buzz and we are actually a week late on this, but bear with us for some comments on what looks like one of the most promising theories for understanding this ancient enigma.

Consider, for instance, that if Superman was simply very, very strong guy, capable of lifting dozens of tons with only one arm, this would still not be a satisfactory explanation for the observed behavior in many comics, TV series and movies. A figure of Tippett’s work illustrates the problem:

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They Might Be Giants – Science is Real

Impressively fun and adorable work: lyrics, tune and graphic art! By They Might be Giants, directed by Andy Kennedy and David Cowles, it’s the first single from the CD and DVD Here Comes Science for kids.

Some other fabulous clips after the jump, including “Put it to the Test”… if only science education was this much better, perhaps we would have less lame hoaxes to debunk around and more genuinely intriguing cases for our ordinary investigations.

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Scientific legends together in motion

At the most important scientific meeting of all time, the fifth Solvay Conference, among the 29 select scientists, one of the 17 who earned a Nobel also had a camera. And beyond the novelty of seeing all those great icons together, in motion, in bad hair day and joking around, as the narrator tells the film also records the change of mood before and after the conference.

It seems you couldn’t simultaneously have the greatest scientific minds discussing together and have them all agree at the same time. At least not when the subject of the Conference was quantum physics.

Between those brief moments captured on film, Einstein, disenchanted with Heisenberg‘s "Uncertainty Principle," famously remarked "God does not play dice." Bohr replied, "Einstein, stop telling God what to do." [via gaussianos, I couldn’t confirm but the voice-over is by Nancy Thorndike Greenspan.]

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Carl Sagan “A Glorious Dawn” ft Stephen Hawking (Cosmos Remixed)

Amazing work by melodysheep, Autotune put to good use! Download the MP3 here. Now sing with us:

[Sagan]
If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch
You must first invent the universe

Space is filled with a network of wormholes
You might emerge somewhere else in space
Some when-else in time

The sky calls to us
If we do not destroy ourselves
We will one day venture to the stars

A still more glorious dawn awaits
Not a sunrise, but a galaxy rise
A morning filled with 400 billion suns
The rising of the milky way

The Cosmos is full beyond measure of elegant truths
Of exquisite interrelationships
Of the awesome machinery of nature

I believe our future depends powerfully
On how well we understand this cosmos
In which we float like a mote of dust
In the morning sky

But the brain does much more than just recollect
It inter-compares, it synthesizes, it analyzes
it generates abstractions

The simplest thought like the concept of the number one
Has an elaborate logical underpinning
The brain has it’s own language
For testing the structure and consistency of the world

[Hawking]
For thousands of years
People have wondered about the universe
Did it stretch out forever
Or was there a limit

From the big bang to black holes
From dark matter to a possible big crunch
Our image of the universe today
Is full of strange sounding ideas

[Sagan]
How lucky we are to live in this time
The first moment in human history
When we are in fact visiting other worlds

The surface of the earth is the shore of the cosmic ocean
Recently we’ve waded a little way out
And the water seems inviting

[via Brudna, thanks!]

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