20120224

A heavenly lineup

Click for larger image
A real treat tonight - the crescent Moon (lower right), Venus (middle) and Jupiter (upper left) lined up on the sky above Zagreb. :)

To be honest, they lined up like this pretty much everywhere.

See more nanometers!

Want to see infrared light, but don't know how? Pick up your phone, turn the camera on, take your TV remote controller, press the button - and watch as a tiny bit of awesomeness is revealed in front of you. :)

video 

To some, this is probably old news. It is very cool, though, I'm bored and I can do it, so I'll say a bit about it anyway. As you can see on the video above, which was made with my Samsung I5500 about five minutes ago, this actually works. No, I don't have a purple LED light installed in my remote controller, that would make no sense, and would be lame. So go ahead and try for yourselves.
Image taken from http://www.extension.org/pages/13136/infrared-photography
So how does this work? It's really simple. Typical human eye can resolve wavelengths from about 390 to 750 nanometers, and this range we call 'visible spectrum'. Wavelength of the infrared light, on the other hand, is between 750 nm and 1000 nm. Cellphone cameras can see light ranging approximately from 350 nm to 1000 nm. The remote control works by sending out a pulse of infrared light from its transmitter when a button is pressed. Add two and two (and two and two) and you have the answer - phone cameras are cooler than your eyes, though only in this one aspect.

20120223

Here comes Nothing

Just few days ago I found in my mailbox a beautiful surprise - 'A Universe from Nothing: Why There Is Something Rather than Nothing', latest book written by one of my favourite scientists, Lawrence Krauss. You may know him for some other books he wrote, namely 'The Physics of Star Trek' or 'Atom: An Odyssey from the Big Bang to Life on Earth....and Beyond'. Or one of his other GAZILLION publications, talks, lessons, articles, books, you name it. Seriously, if you somehow managed to neglect the existence of a person such as Mr. Krauss, shame on you. Also, go google him and his works.

In 'A Universe from Nothing', Krauss tries (and pretty much manages), using the latest and most accurate scientific knowledge we have, to answer one of the hottest questions in both physics and theology today - why is there something, rather than nothing? Admittedly this question is, to say the least, interesting. Well, that is a terrible understatement. To answer this question would be one of the greatest, if not THE greatest, achievements of human intellect. And we are on a great way to answer it. And by 'we', I mean incredible geniuses such as Mr. Krauss.

The first great thing about the book is - it's gonna keep you interested until the end. Seriously. You know that great feeling when you're reading a book, and you just can't stop reading it? You are so drawn into the adventures of the characters, the epic stories that somehow transport you to another world? Well, science books are rarely such. Or so most of us believe. Sorry, wrong. There is a bunch of great scientific books that will manage to hold your attention for more than an hour, and this one is probably the best example. I have read it in four days, and it took me that long only because I had an exam yesterday, otherwise I would have probably read it in a day or two. It might seem strange how such a short book could be 'really scientific and relevant', but (a) I read really fast and (b) although it might seem that the concepts around which this book revolves are incredibly strange and hard to learn, believe me, they're not. Especially when they are presented and explained so well, as they are here. The book is really easy to read, which is good in more ways than one, seeing how long an attention span most of the people have today. Definitely worthy of mention is the wry humor and sincere admiration of nature that permeates the entire book, making it extremely pleasant and enjoyable to read.

What is most important is, of course, scientific foundation upon which the book is written. Many people think the question of the beginning of the Universe should be left for theologians and philosophers to answer. While this is, naturally, a valid opinion, it is also an ignorant, foolish and lazy one. We have invented the strongest tool ever for understanding how the world really works, and this tool is science. Why is it the only approach that brings real and true answers, I will not elaborate here. I would assume it is well understood so far, though it seems a large number of people still fears and ignores it, for whatever reasons. However, to return to foundations of the book - Mr. Krauss is himself a great and respected scientist, and while this may not mean much for some people, it is actually quite important in itself. What is also important is that all of the ideas in the book have been, more or less, proven as true or, at least, most likely to be true. What we have to understand is that the Universe and everything in it doesn't necessarily have to be, and very probable isn't, built for us, and us alone. The laws of nature are as they are, and we do know a lot about them. Enough to make some general assumptions, evaluate them based on evidence and experiments which provide us with that evidence, and, finally, consider them as true or very probable. The main ideas in this book are exactly that - tested, scrutinized, and generally accepted as true. This is a scientific publication in every sense of that word.

Of course, there are some ideas that might be harder to grasp. Quantum mechanics, string theory, black holes, dark matter, that sort of thing. But this book is not, as I see it, intended for a strictly scientific populus; which is why concepts like this are not explained in all of its depth and length, but definitely are explained well and simple enough for someone with no or little knowledge of things like that. To really explain even one of these theories would require much, much, much bigger book, and was explained in numerous other publications, after all. If there are harder-to-grasp parts of this book, they are quite rare, and easy to find and learn about elsewhere. If anything, they will make you want to understand more, to know and learn more, and that's great. What is definitely true, however, is that this book as a whole is extremely easy to understand, while still actually bringing up so much important and relevant facts and ideas that it might be considered one of the most important publications in science in general (as Richard Dawkins seems to think, too).

Lawrence Krauss argues that no supernatural creator is necessary for the Universe to come to existence, and he does it with a conviction of a person backed by scientific data and experimentally testifiable facts. He shows us that the Universe could have, indeed, come from nothing, and very likely did. He also shows us the probable, and quite sad, future of the scientific exploration of the Universe - at one, very far point in the future, the galaxies will be so far from each other, that they would start moving away from us (or whoever there is to watch the skies) faster than the speed of light! So, alas, the astronomers of the future will have no proof of existence of other galaxies, and will come to the (then logical) conclusion that their galaxy is all there is in the Universe. As Mr. Krauss points out, we live in a special time, the best time to observe and explore the Universe, the laws of physics, and the matters such as - how the hell could something come out of nothing. And we should start spending more time doing just that - learning, exploring, looking for the answers. Thankfully, there are guys like Lawrence Krauss who do that for us less educated and equipped-for-battle people.

P.S. I also want to give my sincere thanks to the ThinkAtheist team, for providing me with the chance to participate in one of the giveaways they organize, in which I actually won this book. Thank you TA :)

20120208

Despised, but necessary

I've been thinking for some time now what to write in the first post, and not one good idea came to my mind. An introduction, as would be most logical? Most certainly not. I mean, it's the content of the blog that matters the most, not the person behind the screen, right? Well, yes, at least in my opinion. So, I'm gonna skip the first post completely! As much as it is possible, since I do have to have a first post, else I can't start writing.

So, just a few words about the blog itself: in the next few months, it will be EXTREMELY IRREGULAR. You will learn about why is that so when the time comes. Also, posts will be divided into different categories, covering some of my favorite interests. DIY, astronomy, science news, photography, atheism, book reviews and personal are the ones that come to my mind right now, but more categories will probably appear once I start writing more actively.

For the end of this extremely interesting post, a note for the trolls: English is not my native language, so, naturally, I don't speak it perfectly. I do believe it is understandable enough, so please, if your critique is not constructive, don't even bother writing it. I do encourage you to point at my mistakes though, since I follow that wise saying that old people from my country always say: 'We learn while we live.' And with that, this post comes to an end.
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