an exercise in miscellany

Posts Tagged ‘science’

Fine-structure constant

In science & nature on June 30, 2013 at 7:14 pm

FineSTructureConstantIn physics, the fine-structure constant (usually denoted α, the Greek letter alpha) is a fundamental physical constant, namely the coupling constant characterizing the strength of the electromagnetic interaction. Being a dimensionless quantity, it has constant numerical value in all systems of units. Arnold Sommerfeld introduced the fine-structure constant in 1916.

The current recommended value of α is 7.2973525698(24)×10−3 = 1/137.035999074(44)

via Fine-structure constant

Project 112

In history, operations and projects on May 10, 2013 at 2:09 pm

green_biohazard_symbol_sticker-r557055e39305495b8b0a5c5b40bbd4b1_v9waf_8byvr_216Project 112 was a biological and chemical weapon experimentation project conducted by the United States Department of Defense and CIA handled by the Deseret Test Center and United States Army Chemical Materials Agency from 1962 to 1973. The project started under John F. Kennedy‘s administration, and was authorized by his Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, as part of a total review of the US military. The name refers to its number in the 150 review process. Every branch of the armed services and CIA contributed funding and staff.

Project 112 


In Religion, wild card on February 15, 2013 at 9:56 am

photonbandMerkabah  is the throne-chariot of God, the four-wheeled vehicle driven by four “chayot“, each of which has four wings and the four faces of a man, lion, ox, and eagle. The word Merkabah is also found 44 times in the Old Testament and though the concept of the Merkabah is associated with Ezekiel‘s vision (1:4-26), the word isn’t explicitly written in Ezekiel 1.

via Merkabah

Found Art

In art on December 4, 2012 at 9:55 pm

found artThe term found art—more commonly found object or ready-made—describes art created from undisguised, but often modified, objects that are not normally considered art, often because they already have a non-art function. Marcel Duchamp was the originator of this in the early 20th century.Found art derives its identity as art from the designation placed upon it by the artist. The context into which it is placed (e.g. a gallery or museum) is usually also a highly relevant factor. The idea of dignifying commonplace objects in this way was originally a shocking challenge to the accepted distinction between what was considered art as opposed to not art. Although it may now be accepted in the art world as a viable practice, it continues to arouse questioning, as with the Tate Gallery’s Turner Prize exhibition of Tracey Emin’s My Bed, which consisted literally of her unmade and disheveled bed. In this sense the artist gives the audience time and a stage to contemplate an object. Appreciation of found art in this way can prompt philosophical reflection in the observer.

via Found art

Operation Argus

In history, operations and projects on May 1, 2012 at 3:07 pm

Operation Argus was a series of nuclear weapons tests and missile tests secretly conducted during August and September 1958 over the South Atlantic Ocean by the United States’ Defense Nuclear Agency, in conjunction with the Explorer 4 space mission. Operation Argus was conducted between the nuclear test series Operation Hardtack I and Operation Hardtack II. Contractors from Lockheed Aircraft Corporation as well as a few personnel and contractors from the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission were on hand as well. The time frame for Argus was substantially expedited due to the instability of the political environment, i.e. forthcoming bans on atmospheric and exoatmospheric testing. Consequently, the tests were conducted within a mere half year of conception (whereas “normal” testing took one to two years).

via Operation Argus

List of Artificial Radiation Belts

In history, science & nature on May 1, 2012 at 3:06 pm

Artificial radiation belts are radiation belts that have been created by high altitude nuclear explosions.

List of Artificial Radiation Belts
Explosion Location Date Yield (approximate) Altitude (km) Nation of Origin
Hardtack Teak Johnston Island (Pacific) 1958-08-01 3.8 megatons 76.8 United States
Hardtack Orange Johnston Island (Pacific) 1958-08-12 3.8 megatons 43 United States
Argus I South Atlantic 1958-08-27 1-2 kilotons 200 United States
Argus II South Atlantic 1958-08-30 1-2 kilotons 256 United States
Argus III South Atlantic 1958-09-06 1-2 kilotons 539 United States
Starfish Prime Johnston Island (Pacific) 1962-07-09 1.4 megatons 400 United States
K-3 Kazakhstan 1962-10-22 300 kilotons 290 USSR
K-4 Kazakhstan 1962-10-28 300 kilotons 150 USSR
K-5 Kazakhstan 1962-11-01 300 kilotons 59 USSR

The table above only lists those high-altitude nuclear explosions for which a reference exists in the open (unclassified) English-language scientific literature to persistent artificial radiation belts resulting from the explosion.

The Starfish Prime radiation belt had, by far, the greatest intensity and duration of any of the artificial radiation belts.

The Starfish Prime radiation belt damaged the United States satellites Ariel 1, Traac, Transit 4B, Injun I and Telstar I.  It also damaged the Soviet satellite Cosmos V.  All of these satellites failed completely within several months of the Starfish detonation

via Artificial Radiation Belts

Swarm Intelligence

In technology & innovatons, words & phrases on April 18, 2012 at 10:05 am

Swarm intelligence (SI) is the collective behaviour of decentralized, self-organized systems, natural or artificial. The concept is employed in work on artificial intelligence. The expression was introduced by Gerardo Beni and Jing Wang in 1989, in the context of cellular robotic systems.

SI systems are typically made up of a population of simple agents or boids interacting locally with one another and with their environment. The inspiration often comes from nature, especially biological systems. The agents follow very simple rules, and although there is no centralized control structure dictating how individual agents should behave, local, and to a certain degree random, interactions between such agents lead to the emergence of “intelligent” global behavior, unknown to the individual agents. Natural examples of SI include ant colonies, bird flocking, animal herding, bacterial growth, and fish schooling.

The application of swarm principles to robots is called swarm robotics, while ‘swarm intelligence’ refers to the more general set of algorithms. ‘Swarm prediction’ has been used in the context of forecasting problems.

via Swarm intelligence

Out-of-Place Artifact

In science & nature, wild card on April 18, 2012 at 9:54 am

Out-of-place artifact (OOPArt) is a term coined by American naturalist and cryptozoologist Ivan T. Sanderson for an object of historical, archaeological, or paleontological interest found in a very unusual or seemingly impossible context that could challenge conventional historical chronology.

The term “out-of-place artifact” is rarely used by mainstream historians or scientists. Its use is largely confined to cryptozoologists, proponents of ancient astronaut theories, Young Earth creationists, and paranormal enthusiasts. The term is used to describe a wide variety of objects, from anomalies studied by mainstream science to pseudoarchaeology far outside the mainstream, to objects that have been shown to be hoaxes or to have mundane explanations.

via Out-of-place artifact


In science & nature, words & phrases on March 15, 2012 at 6:34 am

A fullerene is any molecule composed entirely of carbon, in the form of a hollow sphere, ellipsoid or tube. Spherical fullerenes are also called buckyballs, and they resemble the balls used in association football. Cylindrical ones are called carbon nanotubes or buckytubes. Fullerenes are similar in structure to graphite, which is composed of stacked graphene sheets of linked hexagonal rings; but they may also contain pentagonal (or sometimes heptagonal) rings.

via Fullerene

Mary’s Room

In people, science & nature on December 31, 2011 at 7:31 am

Mary’s room (also known as Mary the super-scientist) is a philosophical thought experiment proposed by Frank Jackson in his article “Epiphenomenal Qualia” (1982) and extended in “What Mary Didn’t Know” (1986). The argument is intended to motivate what is often called the “Knowledge Argument” against physicalism — the view that the universe, including all that is mental, is entirely physical. The debate that emerged following its publication became the subject of an edited volume — There’s Something About Mary (2004) — which includes replies from such philosophers as Daniel Dennett, David Lewis, and Paul Churchland.

via Mary’s room