Gheorghe Curelet-Balan Blog

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

In search of hospital's antimatter.

Antimatter, is a classical example of the power of theoretical research, as I learned one year ago. If you didn't know, antimatter (as positron) was first predicted theoretically by Paul Dirac and then discovered experimentally.

I didn't know till march though what an important application it could have when it is combined with Einstein's work.

Lets do our 007 mission to find out where antimatter lives in a well equipped hospital. Ok, once passing the checking point we could use an intelligent system to voice our request for locating the hospital's most sophisticated equipment. Well...what is the jewel equipment of any hospital that all patients and doctors want? I hope you guess it. It is the MRI equipment.

Now, how MRI relates to antimatter. As I learned during PI's march Black Hole session (see below picture), MRI uses Positron Emission Tomography (PET) technology to create high quality body images that doctors use in their diagnosis.

As you can see, antimatter goes after the cancer and there is nothing to be afraid of since it is part of the nature.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

I say tomato you say tomata.

OK...after some thinking I realized that the second part of the Black Hole session is better characterized by the above theme rather than the previous one.

As I hinted before, the second part was more intense, being caused by its nature. Damian Pope, the PI's Director of Scientific Outreach, challenged the audience for its feedback about the likes, dislikes and wishes for the next Black Hole sessions.

There were hot debates about what subjects should be approached, presentation forms and ways to better outreach the general public. As any democratic process it is hard to find shoes that fit all sizes.

For almost one hour ideas were pouring. Everybody had something to say. From teenagers to seniors, from locals to people coming as far as Toronto, Stratford, or London Ontario, from teachers to people that are just curious. Here there are some of the debated ideas:

Black Hole sessions should run series of presentations on specific subjects. There were some reservations on this idea as some of the sessions were targeting till now (and rightly so) the subjects of the PI's public lectures.

Some were bothered by the mathematical content that is hard to follow. Damian, replied that only few sessions had mathematical content since it was needed for the purpose of presentations. People agreed that physics is a tough subject and it is hard to avoid mathematics totally. Some suggested that Black Hole sessions should be divided in two sections an informational one and a more detailed where math could be used. Others replied that you need good presenters in order to present tough physics subjects in easy to understand terms. Majority of the participants agreed that all of PI public lectures and Black Hole sessions they attended were very well done some of them being quite entertaining. Examples were given of Simon Sigh's lecture, Edward Kolb's "The Quantum and the Cosmos", John Grant's "Mission to Mars" lectures and Damian's sessions Through Einstein's Eyes and Modern Physics in Everyday Life.

Other people were suggesting that they would be interested to see the train of thought behind ideas presented citing for instance Lee Smolin's confession how he came up with an idea while waiting in a car repair shop.

Someone suggested that Black Hole sessions should approach the subject of antimatter. At this time Damian intervened with the quiz if we know that antimatter is used in hospitals. This reminded me of the Damian's past session when he presented the relationship.

Then people were suggesting the need for more sessions (sometimes organized as workshops, every 2 weeks for example) were PI people to present or answer questions (as a panel eventually) on what they are working on or what is hot in physics today.

A few guys were quite keen on presentations detailing quantum computing applications in this region since the research done here has silicon and electronics as one of its targets as it was envisioned by Mike Lazaridis.

There were suggestions of presentation of scientific documentaries (PBS or Discovery Channel) and comment/debate on them. In this context, interest was shown on clarifying the "science" aspects in some TV shows so that the public knows what is actually science and what is entertainment.

Then the subject of organizing a yearly physics festival in Waterloo came up. People confessed that Einsteinfest created a lot of general public interest in physics and could inspire the young generation to follow a scientific career.

Some commented that PI's outreach activities show results as the WCI auditorium capacity hardly satisfy the public demand while getting tickets is becoming a challenging adventure. Now, as the number of PI's outreach participants is on the rise, PI faces a real challenge, to find shoes that fit most of the participants.

While some people had to leave others were still debating with such an intensity
that it caught the attention of the usual latecomers to Black Hole sessions.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

I say potato you say potata.

This I might say was the theme of PI's Black Hole session held on Saturday. When it comes to PI events nothing surprises me regarding the wild ideas I might learn. The theme reverberated (not quite ad litteram) in both parts of the session, the scientific one and the administrative democratic one.

In the first part, the PI researcher, Doug Hoover, tried to convince us that what we might think is one dimensional space he can see it as two dimensional. Another analogy was given relating to the fiber optic cable that from light's perspective is one dimensional even though for us it is 3 dimensional.

Well, if you think that these observations are "small potato(a:)s" think again. This simple idea might solve some of the today's toughest problems in theoretical physics.

Doug presented how the use of extra dimensions could help find intriguing solutions to two hard theoretical physics problems: cosmological constant and hierarchy problem. Cosmological constant is derived from the fact that space is dynamic, i.e. it can be created or destroyed. There is a discrepancy though between the experimental value and the theoretical one.

Details were given only for solving the hierarchy problem, i.e. explain why gravity force is so weak compared to the other 3 fundamental nature's forces: strong, electromagnetic and weak. Doug started from the well known fact that forces manifest through the exchange of elementary particles, then developed the Newton's Law of Gravity in "n" dimensions reaching in the end the main idea of his talk: if we assume that the world is for gravity a space with more dimensions than for the other forces then the hierarchy problem is solved.

He ended his talk with some considerations about the testability of his theory and open issues to be addressed. Follow this link to some of the pictures I took during the session.

As for the second part of the session, the administrative democratic one, I'll leave it for another time since the theme at that time was more intense.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

The calm before the storm.

A few days ago I wanted to post this clip that I found interesting since it catches the idea of transition from the edelweiss tranquility to the storm of barrel racing.

It is surprising that after such a nice weekend the Great Lakes were hit by a quite bad snow storm that started on October the 12th and ended on the "lucky" day of Friday October the 13th. The first taste of winter lasted in Kitchener-Waterloo only few minutes on the October 12th. The storm was chased towards Toronto probably by the ducks that you barely see in this picture.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Tubing Oktoberfest.

The 38-th annual Kitchener-Waterloo Oktoberfest, the second largest in the world, is already in full motion. It started with big pomp two days ago with the official opening ceremonies of keg tapping honored by the Premier of Ontario, Dalton McGuinty.

I couldn't miss the annual Oktoberfest Family Pancake Breakfast and the Barrel Race in Uptown Waterloo. As usual the breakfast comes with music and dance. Sometimes the music is so good that almost everybody jumps in dancing.

Links to the 2004 Oktoberfest:
About Oktoberfest
Family Pancake Breakfast
Rolling the barrel

I tube, you tube, Einstein tubes.

Ok, almost everybody is tubing these days, so here it is my first clip: Grandpa's ice cream maker spotted at this year's Annual Downtown Kitchener B.B.Q Cook Off and Craft Beer Show, in Victoria Park, Kitchener. I talked about this festival last year.

As for Einstein he doesn't tube actually. An Einstein look like Hubo (aesthetic expressed by Hanson Robotics) gave a dancing and Tai Chi demonstration during Nextfest. As you can see Einstein doesn't need any swords. He can use his sharp mind instead.

Friday, October 06, 2006

A fundamental limit yields to new discovery.

This is the main idea that I learned from Janna Levin's yesterday PI lecture. It can be rephrased as: Truth is limited but humanity's mind is limitless.

Before you jump on me I have to mention that we are talking about mathematical truth (expressed in theorems) and not the real life truth revealed by a witness or not tampered picture, video clip or audio recording.

Both Godel and Turing proved that there are limits to mathematical knowledge. In other words there are mathematical statements whose truth cannot be established if they make references to themselves. Janna started her "hard to get" explanation with the liar paradox (I used a version of it as voting for the Random Party during the political elections). Then she explained in lame terms Godel's incompleteness theorem, ending this part of the lecture with "that's OK if you don't quite get it since there are people that study this things for a year and still don't get it" (my paraphrase).

Turing's approach to use an abstract machine to decide if a proposition is true or false reached a similar result with Godel's: there are propositions whose truth cannot be proved doesn't matter how long the machine computes. His systematic approach yielded to the computer invention.

Having all these been said about the mathematical truth Janna easily introduced her main idea, in my humble opinion: A fundamental limit yields to new discovery. She explained how light's speed limit yielded to the theory of relativity and the Heinsenberg uncertainty principle yielded to the quantum mechanics. In the same way the limit of mathematical truth proved by Godel and Turing yielded to the computer discovery.

Janna found intriguing to oppose the greatness of Godel and Turing achievements with the true limit of their minds, that she characterized with a quote from a review of her book as genius obsessive disorder.

Monday, October 02, 2006

The limits of Truth and Mind.

A quite intriguing subject. It will be interesting to see the parallels Janna Levin makes between the genius of logic, Kurt Godel and the computer science pioneer, Allan Turing in the context of Artificial Intelligence.

May I have this dance, please?

The science and technology were rocking in the Big Apple last week during the Nextfest show. The collective wired imagination of the participants presented a glimpse at the future society. From the future sources of energy to ways to communicate with virtual dandelion. From innovative designs of virtual hug shirts, spatialtemporal virtual traveling and handheld multimedia painting to new entertainment ways. From the future of health and play to the future of security and transportation.

After so much rock music, organizers left room though for some ballroom dancing music. As for the dancers we could imagine someone combining Hubo's voice and vision skills with fembot's dancing skills.

Now we are faced with another robotic challenge (besides soccer) a "Dancing with the robots" competition. It remains to be seen if the gracious fembot ladies could avoid a wrong step of a clumsy partner.

Linking to my pictures.

Yes, I know, I promised some links... Here they are:
1. Waterloo Jazz Festival about which I talked here
2. Canada Day Celebration at Niagara Falls
3. My visit to Westfield Heritage Village close to Rockton.