Making Unique Observations in a Very Cluttered World

Monday, 16 May 2011

Stephen Hawking Declares "There Is No Heaven - it is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark." -

Stephen Hawking Declares "There Is No Heaven - it is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark." - 

A belief that heaven or an afterlife awaits us is a "fairy story" for people afraid of death,Stephen Hawking has said.
In a dismissal that underlines his firm rejection of religious comforts, Britain's most eminent scientist said there was nothing beyond the moment when the brain flickers for the final time.
Hawking, who was diagnosed with motor neurone disease at the age of 21, shares his thoughts on death, human purpose and our chance existence in an exclusive interview with the Guardian today.
The incurable illness was expected to kill Hawking within a few years of its symptoms arising, an outlook that turned the young scientist to Wagner, but ultimately led him to enjoy life more, he has said, despite the cloud hanging over his future.
"I have lived with the prospect of an early death for the last 49 years. I'm not afraid of death, but I'm in no hurry to die. I have so much I want to do first," he said.
"I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail. There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark," he added.
Hawking's latest comments go beyond those laid out in his 2010 book, The Grand Design, in which he asserted that there is no need for a creator to explain the existence of the universe. The book provoked a backlash from some religious leaders, including the chief rabbi, Lord Sacks, who accused Hawking of committing an "elementary fallacy" of logic.
The 69-year-old physicist fell seriously ill after a lecture tour in the US in 2009 and was taken to Addenbrookes hospital in an episode that sparked grave concerns for his health. He has since returned to his Cambridge department as director of research.
The physicist's remarks draw a stark line between the use of God as a metaphor and the belief in an omniscient creator whose hands guide the workings of the cosmos.
In his bestselling 1988 book, A Brief History of Time, Hawking drew on the device so beloved of Einstein, when he described what it would mean for scientists to develop a "theory of everything" – a set of equations that described every particle and force in the entire universe. "It would be the ultimate triumph of human reason – for then we should know the mind of God," he wrote.
The book sold a reported 9 million copies and propelled the physicist to instant stardom. His fame has led to guest roles in The Simpsons, Star Trek: The Next Generation and Red Dwarf. One of his greatest achievements in physics is a theory that describes how black holes emit radiation.
In the interview, Hawking rejected the notion of life beyond death and emphasised the need to fulfil our potential on Earth by making good use of our lives. In answer to a question on how we should live, he said, simply: "We should seek the greatest value of our action."
In answering another, he wrote of the beauty of science, such as the exquisite double helix of DNA in biology, or the fundamental equations of physics.
Hawking responded to questions posed by the Guardian and a reader in advance of a lecture tomorrow at the Google Zeitgeist meeting in London, in which he will address the question: "Why are we here?"
In the talk, he will argue that tiny quantum fluctuations in the very early universe became the seeds from which galaxies, stars, and ultimately human life emerged. "Science predicts that many different kinds of universe will be spontaneously created out of nothing. It is a matter of chance which we are in," he said.
Hawking suggests that with modern space-based instruments, such as the European Space Agency's Planck mission, it may be possible to spot ancient fingerprints in the light left over from the earliest moments of the universe and work out how our own place in space came to be.
His talk will focus on M-theory, a broad mathematical framework that encompasses string theory, which is regarded by many physicists as the best hope yet of developing a theory of everything.
M-theory demands a universe with 11 dimensions, including a dimension of time and the three familiar spatial dimensions. The rest are curled up too small for us to see.
Evidence in support of M-theory might also come from the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at Cern, the European particle physics laboratory near Geneva.
One possibility predicted by M-theory is supersymmetry, an idea that says fundamental particles have heavy – and as yet undiscovered – twins, with curious names such as selectrons and squarks.
Confirmation of supersymmetry would be a shot in the arm for M-theory and help physicists explain how each force at work in the universe arose from one super-force at the dawn of time.
Another potential discovery at the LHC, that of the elusive Higgs boson, which is thought to give mass to elementary particles, might be less welcome to Hawking, who has a long-standing bet that the long-sought entity will never be found at the laboratory.
Hawking will join other speakers at the London event, including the chancellor, George Osborne, and the Nobel prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz.

Science, truth and beauty: Hawking's answers

What is the value in knowing "Why are we here?"
The universe is governed by science. But science tells us that we can't solve the equations, directly in the abstract. We need to use the effective theory of Darwinian natural selection of those societies most likely to survive. We assign them higher value.
You've said there is no reason to invoke God to light the blue touchpaper. Is our existence all down to luck?
Science predicts that many different kinds of universe will be spontaneously created out of nothing. It is a matter of chance which we are in.
So here we are. What should we do?
We should seek the greatest value of our action.
You had a health scare and spent time in hospital in 2009. What, if anything, do you fear about death?
I have lived with the prospect of an early death for the last 49 years. I'm not afraid of death, but I'm in no hurry to die. I have so much I want to do first. I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail. There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.
What are the things you find most beautiful in science?
Science is beautiful when it makes simple explanations of phenomena or connections between different observations. Examples include the double helix in biology, and the fundamental equations of physics."

10 Food Additives That You're Eating . . . Right . . . Now -

10 Food Additives That You're Eating . . . Right . . . Now - 

When it comes to our eating habits, we've been living in the future for quite some time. Compared to food of the past, ours is sweeter, its colors are brighter, and (if it's bread) ultra-fluffly-er. Find out about all the neat things that you're eating, even as you read this. That's right. I see that hot pocket.
10. Ethyl Vanillin

You'll find this in a lot of cake mixes, frostings, and ice creams. It's not too exciting, but I'm including it because I think it should start a new trend. Usually, when people find something boring, they call it 'vanilla'. This is unfair. Vanilla is an honorable flavor, used in all kinds of baking, carefully made, and relatively rich. Ethyl vanillin, on the other hand, is a cheap vanilla knock-off, and made from wood pulp. So please, from now on say, "That's so ethyl vanillin." Because - isn't it?
9. Alkali
From vanilla to chocolate! Many lovers of chocolate and cocoa will notice the phrase 'dutch chocolate' or 'processed with alkali' on the side of their packages. Alkali is a basic salt, and neutralizes acids. It gives cocoa a more consistent color and removes some of the bitterness from it. It also removes 'flavanoids'. Guess what they do? That's why many chocolate purists, especially those who like bitter chocolate, will not eat chocolate processed to be flavanoid-free.
8. Caramel Coloring
When you don't have real cocoa to put in food, but you want to make it look like you did, you add caramel coloring. This is sometimes added to mixes and cake batters to make them look chocolatey. Mostly, though, caramel coloring is added to cooked meats, sodas and gravies to give them the golden-brown look that people find appetizing. It's made by cooking up various sugars with agents like ammonium or alkali. Although it's possibly carcinogenic, it hasn't been yanked from shelves, because people love brown food. Love it.

7. Taurine
This is an additive that is much-celebrated by companies that add it. It naturally occurs in shellfish and meat, and has been added to many energy drinks. There has been no evidence that it does any harm to people. There has also been no evidence that it gives people energy. At least this additive can take the Hippocratic Oath.
6. Diacetyl
Diacetyl is a butter flavoring. It's produced naturally as part of the fermentation process of some beers. It's added to instant or movie popcorn to give it that buttery flavor. It's also added to butter. Yes, butter doesn't taste enough like butter nowadays. It needs more butter flavoring in it. Diacetyl isn't particularly harmful to those who eat it, but it causes lung problems in factory workers who inhale it when they process food. Most manufacturers who still use it have their workers wear protective gear.
5. Fumaric Acid
This stuff is in powdered juices, gels, pie fillings, and any other 'fruit like' powder. It's cheap, easy to make, and is an acid that can be turned into dry powder. It gives things a tart flavor.

4. Lecithin
Lecithin is in ice cream, margarine, chocolates, and most kinds of creamy dessert. When creamy things are made fresh and eaten quickly, they don't have time to separate out. Most people who have left all-natural creams or chocolates out for a while notice that eventually they divide into a watery layer and a fatty layer. Lecithin is an emulsifier, which means it keeps that division from happening. It also leads to fluffier cakes and baked goods, so it's in most manufactured baked products. This is one of the few additives that has a health benefit. It seems to bind to a certain protein and help metabolize glucose, which means it could one day be included in a medicine that helps diabetics, or people with high blood pressure.
The manufacturing process brings food into contact with materials it would rarely be near otherwise. Most foods are exposed to metal while being processed, and some foods, such as soda, are shipped in metal containers. EDTA (ethylenediamine tetraacetic acid) traps particles of metal in the food. Metal particles of the size and quantity that are usually in food aren't dangerous to humans, but they can make the food rancid or muddy the food's artificial colors. EDTA surrounds the particles and prevents them from ruining the food while still allowing us to eat the metal particles that we crave.
Additives like EDTA, that trap metal impurities, are called chelating agents or sequestrants. Chelation therapy - using chelating agents on humans - has successfully saved the lives of people suffering from toxic metal poisoning. It has also been used on patients with autism, although no benefits have been shown, and two children have died as a result of the therapy.
2. Partially Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil
Ah, the old favorite. Vegetable oil is a liquid. When people hydrogenate it, they cook it at high temperatures. The process adds hydrogen atoms to it. This changes the shape of the molecule, and to a certain extent solidifies the oil. Partially hydrogenated oils are a cheap alternative to animal fats (which are also partially solidified at room temperature), but keep longer than animal fats without going rancid.
1. High Fructose Corn Syrup
Give it up for the champ. The most famous product to use this additive is American coca-cola. It's not a point of national pride. Americans go abroad and notice the superior flavor of foreign coke, most of which is made with natural sugar. High fructose corn syrup also makes lab rats fatter than rats which have been eating regular sugar - even if the amount of calories each rat ate is the same. This additive was invented in 1957, when someone found out that adding an enzyme called glucose isomerase to corn produced an incredibly sweet syrup from the plant's natural glucose. Once corn boomed, corn syrup was mass produced in the 70s, and has been earning a bad name for itself, while staying on the market, ever since. But don't worry. You won't be seeing that name on food forever. Manufacturers are petitioning to get the name changed to 'corn sugar.'

Read more - http://io9.com/5801787/10-food-additives-that-youre-eating----right----now