October 31st, 2008
This is such a spectacular image! We are able to see the same quasar twice due to bending of the light rays around large galaxy. This is the “double quasar”, also known as 0957+561.
You can read an expert’s (Dr. William Keel, over at University of Alabama) description of this here.
Let me see if I can draw this for you:
Ok, ok, I am no artist, but isn’t this still awesome!
October 31st, 2008
What is the new power structure in the world today, that a country can attack another country, kill 8 people, and not have to respond at all? On Sunday, October 26th, 2008, US allegedly carried out a raid on the Syrian territory some 8 km from the border. A week later, the officials have still not accepted or denied it. The only comment has come from a military official in Iraq, who said that “the area has been used to move insurgents”. Syria has since released pictures and significant media coverage seems to convey beyond doubt that the 8 people were civilians.
It is especially concerning that no explanation seems to be necessary anymore – no denial or admission is necessary. The incident in general has received scant media coverage in the US.
Apparently, I am not alone in my shock at the raid on Syria. Michael from Glasgow, Scotland wrote to BBC: “Whether they could justify a raid or not is irrelevant. They killed eight people in an unannounced attack on an uninvolved country.”
October 29th, 2008
Today, listening to the Frank Wilczek on the Kojo show, there was a one very interesting thing that Dr. Wilczek said, “Anyone can make an ordinary mistake, but a profound mistake requires a genius”.
That is an awesome quote!
By a profound mistake, he gives the example of Newton’s theory of gravitation, and how it proposed an idea of “instantaneous” force that is applied between two bodies. As we know very well now, Einstein’s general theory of relativity replaced Newton’s theory of gravity (read here if you want to learn more on that). I also agree with Dr. Wilczek when he says that Newton’s theory was basically “right for the time”; after all we still use it as it is much easier to calculate than general theory of relativity.
This idea of “profound” mistake is generalizable to other fields too – anything that solves a lot of problems but has its caveats is basically a “profound” mistake, and requires a genius. Such profound mistakes are sometimes the best things that happen to a field, since waiting for a “perfect” solution can take a very long wait. Examples of “profound” mistakes exist in other fields also. For example in the case of computer networks, TCP/IP may be a “profound” mistake. Of course, the protocols are not perfect, but they work so so well in so many of practical scenarios that they were truly one of the best things that happened to the field of networking.
October 25th, 2008
What is wrong with health care in America, you ask.
Well let me tell you what is wrong. A family member of mine who has Carefirst Blue Cross Blue Shield got some lab work done. This is what the explanation of benefits looks like:
Total charges: $934.00
Less non allowed amount: $803.27
Total paid: $130.73
Further it says in “Remark R033″, “Preferred providers agree to accept our allowance as payment in full. Therefore, the member is not responsible for this portion of the charge.”
Let me help you understand. Someone who has insurance, pays nothing, and the insurance pays $130.73 to the laboratory. But, if you did not have insurance, you would have to pay $934.00 – MORE THAN 7 TIMES! Add to this that $934 would be paid in cash, on the spot, while $130.73 would come 4 months later after much paperwork (so much in fact, that laboratories need to hire full time billing specialists). In case you think this is volume discount, consider that this amounts to an 86% discount!
In plainspeak, this is simply exploitation of the weak – laboratories charge more to who they can, those who have no leverage on them. The strong are those who have insurance. In this respect, the weakness (or the strength) is not provided by the law of the land (the rights), but by the insurance company. If your insurance company is strong, then it will pay $130.73. If it is second grade, perhaps it will pay $200. If it is a third grade insurance company, perhaps it will pay $300. But, on your own, you are the lowest of low, and will pay $934.
October 23rd, 2008
The star boy of 2000s has finally admitted that there may be a flaw in his market ideology! That’s OK Alan, we have known it for a while.
In early 2000s, when markets were crashing, Alan came up with a novel idea – well, the economy is shrinking, but if we can keep the housing market booming, perhaps the net will be 0 or slightly positive. He enabled exactly that, by setting the interest rates to historic lows. People were offered ridiculous lending terms, bigger houses and dubious futures, and all working Joes were sucked into Alan’s ideology. Remarkable short sightedness from a guy who led the Federal reserve for 19 years!
Now, however, the US faces a different challenge. The economy is tanking (in much worse ways than in 2001), and the govt has no card to play – the interest rates are already low, the jobs are shrinking AND the housing market has crashed. I like to call the current meltdown the “Greenspun” meltdown.