We lost a great one

Today we lost Professor Stephen Hawking, he made science cool for the masses while being a great theoretical physicist. Despite being afflicted with ALS, he persevered and made an impact on humanity, his contribution to the sciences will be remembered for generations to come.

Hawking first earned prominence for his theoretical work on black holes. Disproving the belief that black holes are so dense that nothing could escape their gravitational pull, he showed that black holes leak a tiny bit of light and other types of radiation, now known as “Hawking radiation.”

“It came as a complete surprise,” said Gary Horowitz, a theoretical physicist at the University of California, Santa Barbara. “It really was quite revolutionary.”

Horowitz said the find helped move scientists one step closer to cracking the unified theory.

Hawking’s other major scientific contribution was to cosmology, the study of the universe’s origin and evolution. Working with Jim Hartle of the University of California, Santa Barbara, Hawking proposed in 1983 that space and time might have no beginning and no end. “Asking what happens before the Big Bang is like asking for a point one mile north of the North Pole,” he said.

Source: The Star

I enjoyed his books and he will be sorely missed by many.

No more opiods!!!

Here’s a great piece by Vox on the opiod crisis.

Krebs is the lead author on the first randomized trial, comparing chronic pain patients on prescription opioids (like morphine, hydrocodone, and oxycodone) to patients on non-opioid painkillers (like acetaminophen or Tylenol, naproxen, or meloxicam), measuring their pain intensity and function over the course of a year.

The striking result was that the patients on opioids did no better than those taking the opioid alternatives — despite the much higher risk profile of opioids. At one year, the opioid takers even reported being in slightly more pain compared to the non-opioid group.

Source: Vox

I really hope there’s further studies, so far the positive/negative benefits of one taking opiods seems to be really weighted in the negative column and if future research finds the same results the medical industry should move towards a different approach.

Automation and a scary future

When I look at the future, I really do worry about the upcoming automation wave and what it may do to our society.  Right now many low skilled jobs are being replaced by machines, the popular right wing talking point is that those are entry level jobs, stepping stones and that people should be striving for more, easy to say but the realities of the world are another thing.  What’s the excuse when robots start taking jobs from family doctors, lawyers or accountants, these are not people we think of being “losers” in society.

AJ+ has put together a great series of videos talking about the subject.

I really hope that by Maggie and I are retired before our jobs get automated away, mine is a bit harder I think (though not sure) as it’s based on human relationships but Maggie’s an accountant which is basically a series of inputs and outputs, her job could be done by a robot pretty easily. 🙁 I also worry about Brandon’s future, what type of job can he do that won’t be automated?

It’s something as a society we really need to think about, I think the solution we’ll eventually get to is some sort of universal basic income where everyone gets money no strings attached.  Our society at the moment is built on consumption by the masses, if the masses have no money then it no longer works.  In the short term I think it’s going to be very scary, the optimist in me thinks that the future can be really bright where robots do everything for us and we can live our lives out in luxury but the pessimist thinks we may head down some dystopian path where everyone except the richest people live in slums.

Who knows what the future will bring but this reality is closer than many think.

Thank you Cassini!

So after launching in 1997, 20 years in space and 13 years around Saturn, the Cassini mission over Saturn has come to a fiery end. Over those years the satellite has stunned us with beautiful images Saturn & the accompanying moons as well as greatly expanded our knowledge of that small local system. This is what science is about, absolutely amazing and there’s still so much for us to learn.

I encourage everyone to gaze at some of the beautiful photos on the NASA website thank the scientists & engineers that made this happen.  Keep inspiring the young to reach for the stars and I wish Juno the artificial satellite a long productive life as well!

Hehe check this out

So earlier in the week I picked up the FLIR Scout TK because well I was impulsive and this little thing is pretty darn awesome. Even a couple of years ago something like this would be well over $2k but well anyway it’s pretty affordable now. 😀

It’s slightly larger than my Vortex monocular and it allows me to see heat.  So if there were a lot of smoke or in a place where there was no light (and where my night vision would be useless), I could still see with this thing.  The refresh rate is slow at 9 Hz and the sensor is small but it can help me see hot spots as far away as 100 meters.

There are a whole bunch of different settings, I like the black and white image tha thighlights hot points in orange, that seems to help thing stand out the most. LOL I’ve already gone around my house to see where it’s leaking energy and I will see improve the insulation so I’m not wasting so much energy. 🙂

Now this is cool!

Today Telsa announced all its cars produced moving forward will have the hardware to be fully autonomous!

Build upon Enhanced Autopilot and order Full Self-Driving Capability on your Tesla. This doubles the number of active cameras from four to eight, enabling full self-driving in almost all circumstances, at what we believe will be a probability of safety at least twice as good as the average human driver. The system is designed to be able to conduct short and long distance trips with no action required by the person in the driver’s seat. For Superchargers that have automatic charge connection enabled, you will not even need to plug in your vehicle.

All you will need to do is get in and tell your car where to go. If you don’t say anything, the car will look at your calendar and take you there as the assumed destination or just home if nothing is on the calendar. Your Tesla will figure out the optimal route, navigate urban streets (even without lane markings), manage complex intersections with traffic lights, stop signs and roundabouts, and handle densely packed freeways with cars moving at high speed. When you arrive at your destination, simply step out at the entrance and your car will enter park seek mode, automatically search for a spot and park itself. A tap on your phone summons it back to you.

Source: Tesla

Maggie and I have talked briefly about maybe buying a used Model S but this is a feature I’m going to want so I guess I’ll just stick with the Model 3 we have on preorder.  Hopefully they won’t be delayed too long, we’ll see Q4 18.

Gravitational Waves!

So today LIGO announced that it detected gravitational waves!!!  This is huge news in the realm of physics and opens so many new research opportunities…

The groundbreaking discovery opens several doors, and has the potential to win a Nobel prize.

Since gravitational waves were predicted by general relativity, they offer a chance to verify that Einstein’s theory really is the correct account of gravity. So far, general relativity is passing with flying colours: the observed signal is perfectly explained by Einstein’s equations.

But the real excitement is that gravitational waves can show us a side of the night sky we’ve never seen before. Until now, there had been no sign of black holes in this size range – much less two of them.

Now that the first event has been detected, the era of gravitational wave astronomy is under way, says Avi Loeb of Harvard University in Massachusetts.

Source: NewScientist

Absolutely amazing, this is a peer reviewed discovery so yeah it’s confirmed.

The possibilities…

So NASA announced today that it has evidence of water flowing on the surface of Mars during the warmer seasons and that’s freaking amazing!

NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has captured the strongest evidence yet that salty liquid water flows on the planet’s surface during warm seasons.

Whether or not these salty flows could sustain life depends on how salty they are, says Lujendra Ojha of the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, who has reported the findings, along with his colleagues. “If the water is completely saturated with perchlorates [hydrated salts], then life as we know it on Earth wouldn’t be able to survive in that sort of concentrated water,” he says. “But if the water only has a tiny percentage of perchlorates in it, then I think we should be fine.

Source: NewScientist

The presence of water doesn’t equal life but still if another planet in our celestial backyard could harbour life, just think about the possibilities in the universe!  Given enough time, what we consider rare events (like say life) are guaranteed to happen elsewhere.  I just hope I’m alive when we confirm it, that will be a wonderful time. 🙂


I saw this news article yesterday and thought it was pretty amazing.

For the first time, aggressive breast, lung and bladder cancer cells have been turned back into harmless benign cells by restoring the function which prevents them from multiplying excessively and forming dangerous growths.
Source: National Post

That’s pretty huge news but the cynic in me thinks that the pharmaceutical companies will try and quash this or hold it back as long as possible because cancer makes them a lot of money. Still it’d be nice if cancer became a thing of history in my lifetime. 🙂

Hello Pluto!

Today is a great day for science and the New Horizons probe flew by the dwarf planet Pluto this morning.

NASA’s New Horizons probe flew by Pluto this morning (July 14), capturing history’s first up-close looks at the far-flung world — if all went according to plan. (Mission team members won’t declare success until they hear from New Horizons tonight.) Closest approach came at 7:49 a.m. EDT (1149 GMT), when the spacecraft whizzed within 7,800 miles (12,500 kilometers) of Pluto’s frigid surface. To celebrate, NASA unveiled the latest photo of Pluto, showing a reddish world with a stunning heart-shaped feature on its face.

Source: Space.com

After spending a bit of time with Pluto, it’s onto the Kuiper belt for New Horizons and who knows what it’ll find out there at the edge of the known solar system… I’m definitely going to share pictures and the video with Brandon when I get home tonight, it’s amazing what we’ve done since the start of the space age. 🙂