Gheorghe Curelet-Balan Blog

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Atrium science reverberations.

Waterloo's science enthusiasts of all ages and from all walks of life decided to celebrate Waterloo's 150th Birthday at the city's science star, Perimeter Institute (PI). The mixture of whys, hows, wows, becauses and chatting transformed PI's impressive glass atrium into a reverberating temple of science. Click below to have a taste of this marvelous experience inspired by science wonders.

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Sunday, May 27, 2007

What I wish you Waterloo?

Waterloo, a symbol of victory... On its 150th anniversary the City of Waterloo has lots of reasons to celebrate.

From its thriving past and glorious present the Waterloo City is poised for a great and promising future.

What other future can we expect from a city where innovation doesn't rest and where smart people gather to give renown to great universities, state of the art research institutes, businesses and community?

Happy Anniversary Waterloo! I wish you more than words can say!

Waterloo celebrates 150 years photo gallery.

PI Community Day.
CIGI Community Day.

My previous posts on:
- University of Waterloo awards.
- Region of Waterloo in 2005.
- Waterloo's recent 2 victories.

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Monday, May 21, 2007

Two victories and a holiday.

Fireworks are celebrating right now Canada's Victoria Day holiday. The City of Waterloo is celebrating not only the official holiday but has reasons to celebrate also two recent victories.

On Thursday, the Perimeter Institute (PI) was selected by the Prime Minister (PM) of Canada, Stephen Harper to announce the new Science and Technology Strategy. During the announcement the PM said that "science and technology are key to a stronger economy and stronger Canada" (see minute 8:08 of the online recording).

PI a "beacon for scientific progress", as characterized by Mike Lazaridis (see first 4 minutes) was selected (minute 33:57) since "there is no better example in this country of what we are trying to accomplish in science and technology" as PM said (minute 34:24).

On Friday, the City of Waterloo was named the World's Top Intelligent Community.

Congratulations Canada, PI and Waterloo!

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Thursday, May 10, 2007

When branes collide...

Big Bangs are born... as shown in this picture.

If the assumption that we are confined in a brane that lives in a higher dimension, is true, then we could find humanity's most sought after answer to the fundamental question: What was before the Universe was created?

The origin of the Big Bang could be in the collision of two branes in higher dimensions.

1. Find more info on extra dimensions, Big Bang, string theory and time in the second part of Gary Horowitz's, EinsteinFest Lecture: Strange Views of Space and Time: From Einstein to String Theory

2. My previous post on Simon Singh's Big Bang PI lecture.

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Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Extra dimensions whys and other puzzles.

Why do we live in three spatial dimensions?
Why the Universe is accelerating its expansion?
Why only 4% of the Universe is visible?
Why the gravity force is so weak compared with the other natural forces?
What is the Big Bang? Who created it? Did time begin? Was there anything before?

All of the above puzzles could be solved by the existence of extra spatial dimensions. This is what I learned on Saturday at the Perimeter Institute's Black Hole session "Extra Spatial Dimensions" held by Claudia de Rham.

It is well known that in our real world one extra dimension could make a huge difference. The existence of extra spatial dimensions besides the ones we are familiar is puzzling since there is no experimental evidence of them.

Claudia's explanation is that we could have 2 types of them: small extra dimensions and large. The small one we wouldn't be able to see it while the large ones will keep us confined to a surface making traveling through them impossible since we are unaware of their existence. The particles we are made of are confined to the surface while the gravity spreads along all the dimensions explaining why gravity is so weak (Hierarchy Problem).

There are two explanations for the existence of large extra dimensions: string theory (where the surfaces are known as branes) and topological defect (found in crystals and magnetic domains).

More about these in my next post.


1. An intuitive representation of 1016, the order of magnitude of the hierarchy problem.

2. My post on another PI session on spatial dimensions.

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Thursday, May 03, 2007

The courage of Why.

Why woodpeckers don't get headackes?
Why high pitched noise is audible only by teenagers?
Why people dislike the sound of fingernails scraping on the blackboard?
Why when you bend dry spaghetti it often breaks into more than two pieces?

Yesterday I learned that big ideas are born sometimes when people are wondering about common life situations that the rest of us were afraid to ask or didn't dare to approach them.

The message that I took home from Marc Abrahams' PI lecture is that a candidate for a big idea is one that makes you first laugh and then makes you think (this is actually the mantra of the Annals of Improbable Research journal whose editor he is).

I'll go further and extend the meaning of "think" to non discrimination of ideas. Any idea doesn't matter how unusual, crazy or out-of-the-box is should be given the chance of thinking after the laughter. And my thought goes to Einstein's theories that one century ago would have been candidates for improbable research.

It was lots of laughing yesterday at Waterloo Collegiate Institute when Marc gave few juicy examples of big ideas that won Ig Nobel Prizes last year.

Here there are few of them:

Ornithology Prize for exploring and explaining why woodpeckers don't get headackes,

Peace Price for inventing an electromechanical teenager repellant that is producing high pitched noise audible only by teenagers,

Acoustics Prize for experiments to learn why people dislike the sound of fingernails scraping on the blackboard,

Mathematics Prize for the estimating the number of photographs you must take to ensure that nobody in a group photo will have their eyes closed,

Literature Prize for an report on Problems in using Long Words Needlessly (it is funny that the title of the report starts with "Consequences of Erudite Vernacular Utilized Irrespective of Necessity"),

Physics Prize for insights into why when you bend dry spaghetti it often breaks into more than two pieces,

Chemistry Prize for Ultrasonic Velocity in Cheddar Cheese as Affected by Temperature.

Who says the researching and science cannot be fun.

In the second part of the lecture during the The Great Inertia Debates I learned how the virtuosity of NO won over SLOW in a double debate contest between YES and NO and between FAST and SLOW. I leave you the pleasure to enjoy it when the lecture will be available online or broadcasted on local Rogers Television TV channel or TV Ontario.

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Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Laugh then think.

Ideas are used in solving problems. Sometimes they are very hard to get while other times there are too many and some of them look ridiculous right from the beginning. How can you know what ideas are good? This is a tough unsolvable problem in itself since I guess there is no clear solution to it.

Marc Abrahams will try to solve it tomorrow during his PI lecture What's the Big Idea? It looks like the lucky holders of a lecture ticket are for a real entertaining treat.

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