Category Archives: Education

A Brief History of the Grand Unified Theory of Physics

By Lawrence M. Krauss – Each time we peel back one layer of reality, other layers beckon. So each important new development in science generally leaves us with more questions than answers. But it also usually leaves us with at least the outline of a road map to help us begin to seek answers to those questions.

The successful discovery of the Higgs particle, and with it the validation of the existence of an invisible background Higgs field throughout space (in the quantum world, every particle like the Higgs is associated with a field), was a profound validation of the bold scientific developments of the 20th century.

As elegant as this idea might be, it is essentially an ad hoc addition to the Standard Model of physics—which explains three of the four known forces of nature, and how these forces interact with matter. It is added to the theory to do what is required to accurately model the world of our experience. But it is not required by the theory. The universe could have happily existed with massless particles and a long-range weak force (which, along with the strong force, gravity, and electromagnetism, make up the four known forces). We would just not be here to ask about them. Moreover, the detailed physics of the Higgs is undetermined within the Standard Model alone. The Higgs could have been 20 times heavier, or 100 times lighter.

Why, then, does the Higgs exist at all? And why does it have the mass it does? (Recognizing that whenever scientists ask “Why?” we really mean “How?”) If the Higgs did not exist, the world we see would not exist, but surely that is not an explanation. Or is it? Ultimately to understand the underlying physics behind the Higgs is to understand how we came to exist. When we ask, “Why are we here?,” at a fundamental level we may as well be asking, “Why is the Higgs here?” more>


Updates from Aalto University

Launch times draw near for Aalto satellites
By Jaan Praks – The Aalto-2 satellite, designed and built by students, is ready and waiting to be launched inside the Cygnus space shuttle at the Cape Canaveral Space Launch Complex in the US.

On 22 March, the shuttle will be launched with an Atlas V booster rocket up to the orbiting international space station, where the astronauts will release it later to orbit independently.

Aalto-2 will take part in the international QB50 Mission, the aim of which is to produce the first ever comprehensive model of the features of the thermosphere, the layer between the Earth’s atmosphere and space. Dozens of satellites constructed in different countries will also be part of the mission.

Construction of the Aalto-2 satellite began in 2012 as a doctoral project when the first students graduated as Masters of Science in Technology after working on the Aalto-1 project.

Since the start of the Aalto-1 project in 2010 and the Aalto-2 project two years later, around a hundred new professionals have been trained in the space sector. The impact is already visible in the growth of space sector start-up companies. more>


No easy answers: why left-wing economics is not the answer to right-wing populism

By Zack Beauchamp – Since World War II, Western European politics has been structured by the ideals of social democracy. From Germany to France to Sweden to Italy, every nation adopted some version of the basic social democratic vision — a mixed-market economy defined by both private property and deep government involvement, with high levels of taxation and sometimes stifling government regulation of the private sector, in exchange for a generous social welfare system that offers things like universal health care and free or heavily subsidized education.

By most measures, though, Europe’s social and economic programs provide their citizens with better standards of living than can be found in the US. That, however, hasn’t kept the parties that advocate and defend those policies most vigorously from steadily losing votes.

The American welfare state has always been weaker than its counterparts around the West. Correspondingly, you see the highest rates of inequality in the developed world, with 3 million American children living on less than $2 a day and a health care system that ranks dead last in the respected Commonwealth Fund’s measures of performance among 11 developed countries.

The uncomfortable truth is that America’s lack of a European-style welfare state hurts a lot of white Americans. But a large number of white voters believe that social spending programs mostly benefit nonwhites. As such, they oppose them with far more fervor than any similar voting bloc in Europe. more>


The century of American global domination of language is over


That’s the Way it Crumbles—The Americanization of British English, Author: Matthew Engel.

( Cassie Werber – While some argue that the infiltration of American English is constantly speeding up, Lynne Murphy, a reader in linguistics at the University of Sussex, says that in fact the great era of American English as the language of the world was the 20th century, and it’s over.

“American culture (and words) could easily spread in the 20th century because it was hard to produce and distribute recorded entertainment, but the US had the capacity and the economy and the marketing savvy to do so,” Murphy wrote in a recent blog.

What’s changed in the 21st century, she suggests, is that the internet has re-formed our relationship with media, making audiences less purely receptive, and more able to seek out the content that interests them. Ultimately, she argues, there’s more “exchange of words between people, rather than just reception of words from the media.”

Now, Britain is seeing “a huge torrent” of language from the US, and being constantly changed by it. more>

The Future of Growing Cities Rests in Smart Transit

By Robert Garcia – Transportation isn’t just about moving people around; it’s also about moving goods. As home of the nation’s largest port complex, Long Beach has made significant strides to transport goods in more efficient and environmentally sustainable ways, and we are quickly becoming a model for ports across the globe.

Long Beach is now ranked in the top 10 cities nationally for walkability and bike-ability. And we have even used technology to make it easier for those who elect to drive, with apps like EZParkLB, which shows parking availability and pricing in real time. In addition, we have partnered with Mercedes Benz to launch an electric vehicle charger giveaway program to encourage more people to adopt sustainable technology.

Through the Green Port Policy, the Port of Long Beach has successfully introduced smart technologies over the past twenty years, bringing us closer to our goal of becoming a zero-emissions facility. We have reduced greenhouse gases significantly by using electric equipment on the docks and are currently in the process of converting existing vehicles to clean cargo-handling technologies. Other advances include providing shore power for ships, allowing engines to be shut down, and on-dock rail that shifts more than 30 percent of the cargo shipments from trucks to trains. And our newest terminal, Middle Harbor, uses the most advanced automated technology available to move containers from ships and into economic markets throughout the country. more>


Updates from Adobe

The Infinity Wall
By Charles Purdy – Inspired by the event space’s interior design—which involved curvilinear wood elements and sculptural wooden columns—the team came up with the “Infinity” theme.

“The interior had planes of wood, and there was a beautiful Zaha Hadid bench that looked like a tree trunk made of slats of wood,” says Vincent Rogozyk. “For this reason, we started designing with slats. The scale of the wall informed the scale of the graphics—the idea was to make the whole thing look like a giant object.”

Bałauszko and Michał Czubak brought the designers’ sketches to life, turning the biomorphic and geometric shapes into polished motion graphics. The final work comprised four basic scenes of abstract 3D kinetic animations that were programmed to morph and transition in a loop. “We designed using 3D software and Adobe After Effects CC, with the help of an offsite render farm,” says Rogozyk. “We definitely tested the limits of the hotel’s Internet connection.” more>


Brexiters and Remainers both fail to grasp the challenges facing Britain

By Tom Kibasi – Neither Remainers nor Brexiters are facing up to our problems – and their failures are letting Britain down. During the referendum, Remain campaigners argued that things were fine when they were not and, since the result, Brexiters have argued that things will be fine when without serious change they will not be.

Immigration is such an important issue precisely because free movement of labor is the crucial enabler of the low skill, low productivity, low wage economic model that has been imposed on much of the country. It is this economic model – combined with the cultural and identity challenge of large-scale immigration – that has created such discontent with the status quo.

What’s more, there is nothing progressive about declining to invest in skills in this country, while plundering poor countries of nurses or doctors or carers and then approaching immigration as if people were commodities to be bought up on the open market. more>

Web of war


The Imagineers of War: The Untold Story of DARPA, the Pentagon Agency that Changed the World, Author: Sharon Weinberger.
The Manchurian Candidate, Author: Richard Condon.
The Romance of American Psychology, Author: Ellen Herman.

By Sharon Weinberger – Joseph Carl Robnett Licklider – JCR, or simply Lick to his friends – spent much of his time at the Pentagon hiding. In a building where most bureaucrats measured their importance by proximity to the secretary of defense, Licklider was relieved when the Advanced Research Projects Agency, or ARPA, assigned him an office in the D‑Ring, one of the Pentagon’s windowless inner circles. There, he could work in peace.

One time, Licklider invited ARPA employees to a meeting at the Marriott hotel between the Pentagon and the Potomac River, to demonstrate how someone in the future would use a computer to access information. As the chief proselytizer for interactive computing, Licklider first wanted people to understand the concept. He was trying to demonstrate how, in the future, everyone would have a computer, people would interact directly with those computers, and the computers would all be connected together. He was demonstrating personal computing and the modern internet, years before they existed.

ARPA was established in 1958 to help the United States catch up with the Soviets in the space race, but by the early 1960s, it had branched off into new research areas, including command and control. The internet would likely not have been born without the military’s need to wage war, or at least it would not have been born at ARPA. Tracing the origins of computer networking at ARPA requires understanding what motivated the Pentagon to hire someone like Licklider in the first place.

It started with brainwashing. more>

The Blockchain Will Do to the Financial System What the Internet Did to Media

By Joichi ItoNeha NarulaRobleh Ali – Even years into the deployment of the internet, many believed that it was still a fad.

Fast forward two decades: Will we soon be seeing a similar impact from cryptocurrencies and blockchains?

There are certainly many parallels. Like the internet, cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin are driven by advances in core technologies along with a new, open architecture — the Bitcoin blockchain. Like the internet, this technology is designed to be decentralized, with “layers,” where each layer is defined by an interoperable open protocol on top of which companies, as well as individuals, can build products and services.

Like the internet, in the early stages of development there are many competing technologies, so it’s important to specify which blockchain you’re talking about.

The internet and its layers took decades to develop, with each technical layer unlocking an explosion of creative and entrepreneurial activity.

Early on, Ethernet standardized the way in which computers transmitted bits over wires, and companies such as 3Com were able to build empires on their network switching products.

The TCP/IP protocol was used to address and control how packets of data were routed between computers. Cisco built products like network routers, capitalizing on that protocol, and by March 2000 Cisco was the most valuable company in the world.

In 1989 Tim Berners-Lee developed HTTP, another open, permissionless protocol, and the web enabled businesses such as eBay, Google, and Amazon. more>

Big data’s power is terrifying. That could be good news for democracy

By George Monbiot – Our capacity to resist manipulation is limited. Even the crudest forms of subliminal advertising swerve past our capacity for reason and make critical thinking impossible. The simplest language shifts can trip us up.

Already big money exercises illegitimate power over political systems, making a mockery of democracy: the battering ram of campaign finance, which gives billionaires and corporations a huge political advantage over ordinary citizens; the dark money network (a web of lobby groups, funded by billionaires, that disguise themselves as thinktanks); astroturf campaigning (employing people to masquerade as grassroots movements); and botswarming (creating fake online accounts to give the impression that large numbers of people support a political position).

All these are current threats to political freedom. Election authorities such as the Electoral Commission in the UK have signally failed to control these abuses, or even, in most cases, to acknowledge them.

That’s the bad news.

But digital technologies could also be a powerful force for positive change. Political systems, particularly in the Anglophone nations, have scarcely changed since the fastest means of delivering information was the horse. They remain remote, centralised and paternalist.

The great potential for participation and deeper democratic engagement is almost untapped. Because the rest of us have not been invited to occupy them, it is easy for billionaires to seize and enclose the political cyber-commons. more>