April 2021 Archives

Thursday, April 15, 2021

CONTINUITY: Rocket Lab’s CEO Peter Beck on Neutron, Electron Recovery, and Rocket Lab’s Future

Posted at 14:52 Permalink

TRACKING WITH CLOSEUPS: The Wolfram Physics Project: One Year Update

The linked article, “The Wolfram Physics Project: A One-Year Update”, is a long read (13,179 words), but well worth the investment of time. What Stephen Wolfram and his collaborators are attempting is breathtaking in its ambition and, if successful, profound in its implications for our understanding of the fundamentals of physics and perhaps much more.

I've long suspected that our “fundamental theories” such as quantum mechanics and general relativity were effective theories describing emergent phenomena from a much simpler, very different, and in all likelihood discrete underlying substrate, just as the Navier-Stokes equations of fluid mechanics describe behaviour which is entirely the consequence of electromagnetic interactions between molecules at a lower level, which could never be discovered by elaborating models of the emergent phenomenon. The Wolfram Physics Project is exploring very simple models which, they have discovered, manifest emergent phenomena which seem to exhibit properties like relativity and quantum mechanics, providing encouragement they're on the right track.

A vast collection of on-line resources is available at the Wolfram Physics Project Web site, and the book, A Project to Find the Fundamental Theory of Physics, is now available in a Kindle edition which is free for Kindle Unlimited subscribers.

In the article, I found the brief discussion of the possible applicability of multiway systems to economics fascinating.

A bit like in the natural selection case, the potential idea is to think about in effect modeling every individual event or “transaction” in an economy. The causal graph then gives some kind of generalized supply chain. But what is the effect of all those transactions? The important point is that there’s almost inevitably lots of computational irreducibility. Or, in other words, much like in the Second Law of Thermodynamics, the transactions rapidly start to not be “unwindable” by a computationally bounded agent, but have robust overall “equilibrium” properties, that in the economic case might represent “meaningful value”—so that the robustness of the notion of monetary value might correspond to the robustness with which thermodynamic systems can be characterized as having certain amounts of heat.

This is similar to what I (reluctantly) called “Quantum Economics” in my 1988 paper, “The New Technological Corporation”.

We construct aggregates to approximate the behaviour of large numbers of discrete interactions. Sometimes they are useful, as in thermodynamics. Often they aren't, as with most macroeconometric measures. Wheeler suspects that all our laws of physics describe approximate behaviour of aggregates of observations; that the fundamental quantum event is all that really exists. Most of physics does not attempt to understand why these quantum events occur but simply describes the aggregate behaviour of large numbers of events. As we begin to understand the low-level mechanisms, we will get to the true physics beneath the aggregates. Similarly, in economics we try to predict behaviour of aggregates of individual transactions. Only the transactions are real; all the rest is the work of man. One may not be able to understand what drives the transactions by theorising based upon aggregates.

Parallels exist between markets and quantum mechanics. The electron has no position or momentum until you measure it. When you measure its position, you disturb it, forgoing accuracy in measuring the momentum. A share of General Motors has no price until a buyer and seller exchange it, a discrete event. This transaction/measurement affects the price of subsequent transactions. Prices are undefined until a transaction occurs, whether the purchase of a loaf of bread or the takeover of RCA by GE. Prices in a large liquid market can be predicted quite well since the effect of a single transaction is minuscule; prices in blockbuster transactions can barely be predicted at all. Similarly, you can predict interference fringes to many decimal places but which detector an individual electron will trigger in a dual slit interference experiment is unknowable in principle.

Just as Wolfram argues may be the case for physics, generations of economists have been struggling with effective theories based upon aggregates rather than getting down to the individual transactions, which is the bottom-level reality (what Wolfram calls the “machine code”) that their aggregates and abstractions will never discover.

Posted at 13:12 Permalink

CONTEXT: Brute-Forcing a 256 Bit Encryption Key

But remember:

xkcd: Security

Posted at 10:53 Permalink

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

CONTINUITY: Blockchain as Global, Un-censorable, and Indestructible Library

The book(-let: it's just 104 pages) is Blockchain (Library Futures Series, Book 3).

In 1998, I proposed the “Data Immortality Foundation” to provide for perpetual storage and access to documents and data despite the vicissitudes of time, technology, and coercive governments. Perhaps blockchain technology (not Bitcoin, which would be hideously inefficient for the purpose and prohibitively expensive, but a purpose-built system based upon its fundamental technologies) could provide for a distributed, peer-to-peer, permanent, unalterable, and impossible-to-censor repository for documents and data of all kinds (images, video, sound recordings, raw data from scientific experiments, etc.). Once you have immutable addresses and documents, you can then build a layer on top of it with versioning, citation, and compensation for authors and publishers, and finally realise the dream of Project Xanadu without any central organisation or choke-point where censorship could be applied.

Such a system would, incidentally, make abusive copyrights impotent and obsolete.

Posted at 13:28 Permalink

THE HAPPENING WORLD: Blue Origin NS-15 New Shepard Suborbital Launch

Launch is scheduled for 15:15 UTC on 2021-04-14, and will be a rehearsal of a launch with customers on board. The Webcast will probably start around 15:00 UTC. These launches are often delayed from the start of the launch window, but rarely scrubbed.

Posted at 12:36 Permalink

CONTINUITY: American Reporters in the Battle of Berlin

Posted at 11:07 Permalink

TRACKING WITH CLOSEUPS: N1-methylpseudouridine (m1Ψ) in COVID-19 Messenger RNA Vaccines

The paper is “Modifications in an Emergency: The Role of N1-Methylpseudouridine in COVID-19 Vaccines”, also available as PDF.

Here is background on pseudouridine and its appearance in various forms of RNA. It has been found in all three domains of life.

Posted at 09:52 Permalink

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

TRACKING WITH CLOSEUPS: How Many Ways Can Circles Overlap?

Posted at 19:06 Permalink

CONTINUITY: Jet Powered Trains—What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

Posted at 11:28 Permalink

CONTEXT: Mining Bitcoin on a Commodore 64

Hey, why not? In 1987, I got a neural network to run on one!

Posted at 10:36 Permalink

CONTINUITY: (Badly) Colouring the Past: Colourisation AIs vs. Reality

Here is the complete thread, with additional examples.

Posted at 09:40 Permalink

Monday, April 12, 2021

CONTEXT: Robin Hanson—Explaining Stylized UFO Facts: Panspermia Siblings, World Government, Moral Ideology, and Complexity Rot

Might millions of years of woke ideology, ever-increasing sclerotic regulation, and pervasive incompetence due to lack of competition explain the seemingly irrational behaviour of aliens responsible for the UFO phenomenon? Also see the earlier post, “UFO Stylized Social Facts”.

I continue to think they're dumber still: “Flying Saucers Explained”.

Posted at 14:30 Permalink

CONTEXT: Toilet Technology: U.S. vs. Europe

“That's OK…there may be blood.”

Posted at 12:56 Permalink

TRACKING WITH CLOSEUPS: SpaceX’s “Wet” Fleet Gives Up on Catching Falling Fairings

Posted at 12:17 Permalink

THE HAPPENING WORLD: Asteroid 2021 GW4 Zips Through the Geosynchronous Orbit Belt

Here are the orbital elements of the asteroid and a plot of its orbit courtesy of the JPL Small-Body Database.

Posted at 11:50 Permalink

CONTINUITY: Sixty Years Ago Today—Yuri Gararin is First to Orbit the Earth

The film First Orbit, released in 2011 to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the flight of Vostok 1, re-creates the mission with images from the International Space Station following Gagarin's flight path, with original mission audio and subtitles.

Here is a short film about the making of First Orbit.

Posted at 11:21 Permalink

Sunday, April 11, 2021

CONTINUITY: HP 9825 Repair Part 2: Is Our Rare 16-Bit Processor Fried?

In Part 1, the catastrophic failure of the power supply was analysed and repaired, but that didn't fix the computer, indicating damage elsewhere as a result. Now the investigation digs deeper into the circuitry, checking the clock generation and memory access signals from the processor. There's excellent background about Hewlett-Packard's pioneering 16-bit processor built from multiple chips on a hybrid substrate.

Posted at 13:59 Permalink

CONTEXT: The Pigeon Hole Principle: 7 Gorgeous Proofs

Are there two people on the continent of Australia with exactly the same number of hairs?

Posted at 10:49 Permalink

Saturday, April 10, 2021

TRACKING WITH CLOSEUPS: The Great Olive Poisoning of 1919

Posted at 14:56 Permalink

CONTINUITY: The Unbeatable Game from the 1960s: Dr NIM

A plastic and marbles mechanical computer that plays Nim.

Posted at 14:12 Permalink

CONTEXT: Helmholtz Resonance: Moving Things with Sound

You can see an example of vortex separation and the formation of a Kármán vortex street in the WIND computational fluid dynamics model included in Fourmilab's Cellular Automata Laboratory.

Posted at 13:46 Permalink

Friday, April 9, 2021

CONTINUITY: Cold Spot, Planet Nine, and the Axis of Evil: Uncovering the Secrets of the Cosmic Microwave Background

Posted at 14:57 Permalink

TRACKING WITH CLOSEUPS: Close Encounter above Siberia

Posted at 14:33 Permalink

CONTINUITY: Comrades—Save the Mycelium!

Posted at 12:53 Permalink

THE HAPPENING WORLD: Neuralink: Monkey Mind-Pong

Here is more about Neuralink's brain-machine interface, including Gertrude, the pig with the wired snout.

Posted at 12:18 Permalink

THE HAPPENING WORLD: M Equals Two: Soyuz Docks with the ISS

On September 12th, 1966, Gemini 11 rendezvoused and docked with its Agena target vehicle just 94 minutes after liftoff, demonstrating the direct ascent first orbit rendezvous which would used in lunar orbit by Apollo. Commander Pete Conrad exclaimed “M=1!” after accomplishing the first revolution docking, Fifty-five years later, Soyuz has gotten it down to two revolutions, docking with the International Space Station two orbits after launch.

Posted at 11:57 Permalink

Thursday, April 8, 2021

CONTEXT: More on Muons: Brian Keating and Dan Hooper of Fermilab Discuss the g−2 Experiment

Here are how two different kinds of theoretical calculations fit with the experimental results.

Posted at 14:43 Permalink


Here is more about dimethylmercury. Absorption of as little as 0.1 millilitre can be fatal, and the liquid can permeate normal laboratory and surgical gloves within 15 seconds.

Posted at 14:12 Permalink

CONTINUITY: “Census Sixty”—The Univac 1105 at the U.S. Census Bureau

This cheesy propaganda film about the 1960 U.S. census has some nice footage (around nine minutes in) of the UNIVAC 1105 vacuum tube computer used in that census and the FOSDIC microfilm scanner which replaced punching Hollerith cards from the data collected by census takers. The Census Bureau, which was a pioneer in punched card tabulation of data, was later one of the first to replace cards with optical document scanning.

Posted at 12:08 Permalink

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

THE HAPPENING WORLD: It's Magnetic Moment of the Muon Day!

Fermilab reports precision measurements which strengthen the case for physics beyond the standard model (anomalous magnetic moment of the muon).

And on the same day, a computational quantum chromodynamics group reports that previous theoretical calculations were incorrect and that a recalculation from first principles is consistent with the experimental results.

Posted at 20:41 Permalink

THE HAPPENING WORLD: Farewell, Ms. Tree and Ms. Chief

Apparently SpaceX have given up on trying to catch payload fairings before splashdown and will routinely recover from the sea in the future. Having now re-flown a number of fairing halves after they splashed down, that seems a viable strategy for the future.

Posted at 20:18 Permalink

CONTINUITY: IBM System/360: Announced 57 Years Ago Today

Posted at 18:27 Permalink

CONTINUITY: Hewlett-Packard 9825T Repair Part 1: Power Supply

In January, 2021, Curious Marc's 1970s vintage Hewlett-Packard 9825 laboratory computer blew up when a single transistor in the power supply failed with a dead short from emitter to collector which placed 13 volts on the +5 power supply rail. This caused one integrated circuit on one of the boards to literally explode, with less apparent damage elsewhere the way to bet. The diagnosis and repair adventure begins with fixing the power supply.

Posted at 14:41 Permalink

CONTINUITY: Mysteries of the Gaps Between Prime Numbers

Posted at 14:14 Permalink

CONTEXT: User Interface

The Kenworth W900 series of trucks has been in continuous production since 1961.

Posted at 11:20 Permalink

THE HAPPENING WORLD: SpaceX Starlink Launch

Launch is scheduled for 16:34 UTC today, 2021-04-07.

Posted at 11:03 Permalink

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

CONTEXT: Age of Stupid—Academic Journals Are Omitting the Titles of Cited Papers

This makes citations almost worthless unless you want to look up every one to see what it's about. The “saving paper” argument is absurd in an age where the vast majority of publication is electronic and actual printed journals go for exorbitant prices. You almost wonder if academics don't want you to check the cited papers.

Posted at 19:54 Permalink

CONTINUITY: Spacecraft Spin Stabilisation—from Explorer 1 to New Horizons

Posted at 19:46 Permalink

TRACKING WITH CLOSEUPS: Vacuum Tube Computer — Adding Skip to the Instruction Register

The skip logic simply forces an instruction of all ones into the instruction register when the SKIP signal is asserted. This is done with four OR gates with cathode follower buffered outputs to drive the instruction register flip flops. The OR gates are built from semiconductor diodes, which is fair enough since “diode OR” has been used in electronic computer logic circuitry from the very beginning: ENIAC used 7200 “crystal diodes” (or “crystal rectifiers”) as they were called at the time.

Posted at 13:38 Permalink

CONTINUITY: Mars Helicopter Ingenuity Flight Plans

Posted at 13:20 Permalink

TRACKING WITH CLOSEUPS: Photosynthesis from Infrared Emission by Deep-Sea Hydrothermal Vents

The paper is “An obligately photosynthetic bacterial anaerobefrom a deep-sea hydrothermal vent” [PDF]. Abstract:

The abundance of life on Earth is almost entirely due to biological photosynthesis, which depends on light energy. The source of light in natural habitats has heretofore been thought to be the sun, thus restricting photosynthesis to solar photic environments on the surface of the Earth. If photosynthesis could take place in geothermally illuminated environments, it would increase the diversity of photosynthetic habitats both on Earth and on other worlds that have been proposed to possibly harbor life. Green sulfur bacteria are anaerobes that require light for growth by the oxidation of sulfur compounds to reduce CO2 to organic carbon, and are capable of photosynthetic growth at extremely low light intensities. We describe the isolation and cultivation of a previously unknown green sulfur bacterial species from a deep-sea hydrothermal vent, where the only source of light is geothermal radiation that includes wavelengths absorbed by photosynthetic pigments of this organism.

Posted at 10:44 Permalink

Monday, April 5, 2021

CONTEXT: The Bitcoin Blockchain: A Secure, Worldwide, and Unjammable “Numbers Station”?

Here is more about numbers stations. Of course, you'll want to encrypt any message you embed in a blockchain transaction with, for example, my JavaScrypt.

It appears everybody hasn't yet gotten the message. Here is a numbers station broadcasting in Russian, recorded earlier today (2021-04-05) in Finland.

Posted at 20:03 Permalink

TRACKING WITH CLOSEUPS: The Rise and Fall of the CIA's A-12 Spy Plane

The A-12 design, of course, went on to spawn the much more successful SR-71, although neither was ever used for the mission for which they were designed: overflight reconnaissance of the Soviet Union and Red China.

Posted at 12:25 Permalink

CONTINUITY: SpaceX: Starship SN11 Explosion Due to “Relatively Small Methane Leak”

Posted at 12:11 Permalink

CONTEXT: The Darkest Clothing in the World

Invisible is the new black.

Posted at 11:36 Permalink

THE HAPPENING WORLD: Winning at Cornhole with a US$32,000 Industrial Robot

What is cornhole? Complete source code is available on GitHub,

Posted at 10:57 Permalink

Sunday, April 4, 2021

TRACKING WITH CLOSEUPS: The Future of Heat Pumps Is Underground

I had not heard of heat pump clothes dryers—that sounds like a tremendous idea, also reversible heat pump/air conditioners for electric vehicles.

Posted at 15:12 Permalink

THE HAPPENING WORLD: Russian Floating Small Nuclear Reactors Now In Service

Rosatom is now offering floating nuclear power plants to other countries.

Posted at 12:06 Permalink

CONTINUITY: Finally! A Bluetooth-Connected Mug

Expensive, and you can't put it in the dishwasher!

Posted at 11:46 Permalink

CONTEXT: Estimating the Probability We Are Living in a Computer Simulation


It is shown that under reasonable assumptions a Drake-style equation can be obtained for the probability that our universe is the result of a deliberate simulation. Evaluating loose bounds for certain terms in the equation shows that the probability is unlikely to be as high as previously reported in the literature, especially in a scenario where the simulations are recursive. Furthermore, we investigate the possibility of eavesdropping from the outside of such a simulation and introduce a general attack that can circumvent attempts at using quantum cryptography inside the simulation, even if the quantum properties of the simulation are genuine.

The authors do note, however, that one potential solution to the Fermi paradox might be that we are in a simulation and the absence of aliens is due to the simulators using a variable level of complexity to reduce the computing power required. If the simulation is confined to Earth, there would be no reason to include intelligent aliens from other planets. Here is a PDF version of the paper.

Posted at 10:46 Permalink

THE HAPPENING WORLD: Mars Helicopter Ingenuity on the Surface, Getting Ready to Fly

Posted at 10:07 Permalink

Saturday, April 3, 2021

CONTINUITY: Lessons Learned from the Suez Canal Accident

Posted at 21:46 Permalink

CONTEXT: Eric Weinstein: A Revealing Conversation about Geometric Unity

Posted at 19:43 Permalink

THE HAPPENING WORLD: Prompting Artificial Intelligences: A New Kind of Programming?

Here is more on GPT-3.

Posted at 12:07 Permalink

Friday, April 2, 2021

TRACKING WITH CLOSEUPS: How (and Why) to Raise e to the Power of a Matrix

Posted at 14:26 Permalink

CONTEXT: The Book Even Theodore Dalrymple Couldn't Finish

Here is the book, The Ahuman Manifesto: Activism for the End of the Anthropocene. A brief quote from the volume:

The negative value of the end of anthropocentrism is where the jubilance of the world begins. The everything else that comes at the end of these systems is primarily only really the end of the primacy of one isomorphic functioning mode of knowledge. Difference and proliferation which seethes beneath in a germinal state has the capacity to express when the anthropocentric mode is diminished to one of many ways, historical or majoritarian-hysterical.

The Kindle edition sells for US$ 26.95.

Posted at 12:48 Permalink

TRACKING WITH CLOSEUPS: Brian Keating: Searching for Lorentz Invariance Violation in the Cosmic Background Radiation

Posted at 11:50 Permalink

CONTEXT: Clouds on Mars after Sunset

Posted at 11:11 Permalink

CONTINUITY: Large Burroughs Alphanumeric Neon Display from the 1960s

Unlike a nixie tube, all of the 15 segments are in the same plane, so you don't get the 3-D effect as the characters change.

Posted at 10:49 Permalink

Thursday, April 1, 2021

CONTEXT: An Engine Block Shredder

I'd call it “The Persuader”.

Posted at 14:56 Permalink

THE HAPPENING WORLD: Rocket Lab: Building a Path to the Moon

Posted at 14:17 Permalink

CONTINUITY: Forgotten World War II Seaside Relics

Posted at 13:26 Permalink

CONTEXT: SpaceX Starship: What Happened in the Fog at Boca Chica?

Posted at 11:33 Permalink

TRACKING WITH CLOSEUPS: The Clever Mechanism in Your Drink Carton

Posted at 11:14 Permalink