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What Happened Before The Big Bang?

Posted in In The News on May 24th 2006 by Randy Reichardt

.: This kind of stuff hurts my brain but absolutely fascinates me. From Penn State Live:

Penn State researchers look beyond birth of universe
Monday, May 22, 2006

University Park, Pa. — According to Einstein’s general theory of relativity, the Big Bang represents The Beginning, the grand event at which not only matter but space-time itself was born. While classical theories offer no clues about existence before that moment, a research team at Penn State has used quantum gravitational calculations to find threads that lead to an earlier time.

“General relativity can be used to describe the universe back to a point at which matter becomes so dense that its equations don’t hold up,” said Abhay Ashtekar, holder of the Eberly family chair in physics and director of the Institute for Gravitational Physics and Geometry at Penn State. “Beyond that point, we needed to apply quantum tools that were not available to Einstein.”

By combining quantum physics with general relativity, Ashtekar and two of his post-doctoral researchers, Tomasz Pawlowski and Parmpreet Singh, were able to develop a model that traces through the Big Bang to a shrinking universe that exhibits physics similar to ours.

In research reported in the current issue of Physical Review Letters, the team shows that, before the Big Bang, there was a contracting universe with space-time geometry that otherwise is similar to that of our current expanding universe. As gravitational forces pulled this previous universe inward, it reached a point at which the quantum properties of space-time cause gravity to become repulsive, rather than attractive.

The full press release is here.

.: Rehearsals for the Sunday night gig are going well, we should be able to crank out about 14-15 tunes, even if a couple of them are, like, 60 seconds long!


Posted in In The News, Technology on November 10th 2005 by Randy Reichardt

.: Here’s some scary news out of Kansas, but then, where else would one expect it to happen? Kansas is where the latest challenges to teaching evolutionary biology began in 1999. Scientists there are fighting back as best they can.

.: Are into bittorrents like I am? Are you a Shaw subscriber, like I am not? Check Shaw Cable secretly limits BitTorrent Bandwidth.

.: Here’s a story from the NYTimes about a particularly nasty piece of software referred to here as a rootkit, and used by Sony BMG to copy-protect its pop-music CDs. Excerpt:

Starting in June 2004, Sony BMG records began copy-protecting its pop-music CD’s. Over the months, the company has used several software schemes for preventing you, the customer, from making illegal copies of its discs. But 20 albums are protected by a scheme devised by a company called First 4 Internet—and it’s caused an incredible online furor.

These CD’s, all bearing “Content Protected” labels on the packaging (meaning “copy protected”), do something very sneaky if you try to play them on a Windows PC: they install a proprietary watchdog program that prevents you from copying the CD more than twice. (On a Macintosh or Linux machine, these CD’s play just fine, without any copy protection.)

Last week, a programmer and blogger named Mark Russinovich dug a little deeper, and found out something disturbing: the Sony watchdog program not only installs itself deep in the core of Windows—it’s what’s called a rootkit—but it also makes itself invisible.

Among other problems it creates, is this one: “Once hidden, the copy-protection software is invisible to antivirus programs, too. So the baddies of the Internet could, in theory, use Sony’s software as a backdoor to infect your machine, and your virus checker would miss it.” Nasty indeed.


Posted in In The News on December 30th 2004 by Randy Reichardt

:: The tsumani disaster in Southeast Asia continues to dominate the news, and rightfully so. It is difficult to appreciate the magnitude of this event for many of us in Canada. Latest reports have the death toll topping 123,000 people. Unicef is suggesting that children will account for one third of the dead:

NEW YORK, 28 December 2004 Children are likely to account for more than a third of those killed when massive waves smashed into coastal communities across Asia, UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy said today.

Virtually no country has a population with less than a third of its population aged eighteen years or below and in some of the countries up to 50 per cent of the population is young, she told reporters at the United Nations.

According to UNICEF, children account for a large proportion of casualties because they represent 39 per cent of the overall population in the eight hardest-hit countries. Eyewitness accounts indicate that many children died because they werent strong enough to hold on to fixtures or trees when huge tidal waves swept them off their feet.

The saddest aspect for me is that each of these people was an individual with goals, dreams, and aspirations. Their deaths, so sudden and unexpected, will in turn impact millions of others who knew and loved them. For hundreds of thousands, there can be no closure, as their loved ones will be buried in mass graves or cremated, given that there are no other options at the moment. Many will be buried anonymously, or never found, adding to the prolonged grief of their friends and relatives. In the wake of the tsunamis, millions are homeless. Tonight, I will sleep comfortably in my own bed, and not worry about sub-zero temperatures outside, because I have shelter with food, clothing, water, electricity, plumbing, heat, transportation, and communication, and live in a city with an infrastructure supporting my daily needs. Feeling guilty because one is fortunate to experience a high standard of living is a wasted emotion. The tsunami disaster in SE Asia serves to remind us of that good fortune, and to not take it for granted.

If you wish to donate, agencies in Canada accepting online donations include the Canadian Red Cross, Unicef Canada, and Unicef, World Vision Canada.

According to geophysicists, the displacement of material by the earthquake was so enormous that the rotation of the earth has been permanently altered, with the Earth now spinning at 1/10,000th of a second shorter (3 microseconds). Scientists have estimated that during the earthquake, material approximately 600 miles long and 100 miles wide, inside the Earth, fell 30 feet closer to the planet’s axis of rotation. Further details are emerging regarding how the quake has literally redrawn the map in the region, displacing some islands by several metres.

The Earth is changing. Permafrost is thawing and melting throughout the planet’s cold regions, and grass has become established in Antarctica. Global warming, anyone?

Peace Train Rerouted, Dan Rather’s Frequency Confirmed

Posted in In The News on September 21st 2004 by Randy Reichardt

:: Cat Stevens on security “watch list”, refused entry to the US.

:: I wasn’t aware that bloggers were responsible for recently dragging down CBS. Earlier this month, CBS aired a piece regarding documents they said cast doubt on Dubya’s National Guard service in the 70s. Apparently within hours of the broadcast, bloggers were casting doubt on the authenticity of the documents. CBS relented this week, and apologized. Is Dan Rather’s career over? (Do any of us blog in our pajamas? Who owns pajamas?)

More importantly, who gives a rat’s ass? The US federal elections are bizarre. There is no focus on the issues, just on the candidates, and it goes on for months and months and months and months. The media continues to lose their credibility in the midst of it all. There is something to be said for living in a country wherein elections last no more that about a month at a time.

Downloading Music Ruled Legal In Canada – Canadian Recording Industry Association Cannot Sue Uploaders

Posted in In The News on March 31st 2004 by Randy Reichardt

:: In what might be considered a landmark ruling in Canada, Justice Konrad von Finckenstein, a Federal Court judge, today “ruled against a motion which would have allowed the music industry to begin suing individuals who make music available online.” Of interest to me is his comparison of placing music files into a shared directory with the placement of a photocopier in a library surrounded by copyrighted material:

    Von Finckenstein said that downloading a song or making files available in shared directories, like those on Kazaa, does not constitute copyright infringement under the current Canadian law.

    “No evidence was presented that the alleged infringers either distributed or authorized the reproduction of sound recordings,” he wrote in his 28-page ruling. “They merely placed personal copies into their shared directories which were accessible by other computer users via a P2P service.”

    He compared the action to a photocopy machine in a library. “I cannot see a real difference between a library that places a photocopy machine in a room full of copyrighted material and a computer user that places a personal copy on a shared directory linked to a P2P service,” he said.

The ruling means that the Canadian Recording Industry Association cannot file lawsuits in Canada against individuals who allow for the uploading of music files from their computers. von Finckenstein’s ruling reaffirms what the Copyright Board of Canada ruled in December 2003: downloading music in Canada is not illegal.

Meanwhile, the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, based in Europe, is filing lawsuits against 247 file-sharing individuals in Italy, Germany, Denmark and Canada.

The full, 34-page text of Finckenstein’s ruling is available here, in .pdf format. In essence, what is being said is this: downloading a song from the Internet for personal use does not constitute copyright infringment. If Big Music wants to solve the downloading issue, they may need to go about it a different way. And if you think all successful artists are fighting this, read Janis Ian’s two essays on the subject: The Internet Debacle – An Alternative View, and Fallout – A Followup to the Internet Debacle.

Loose Ends

Posted in In The News, Music, Pop Culture on October 8th 2003 by Randy Reichardt

:: Regarding Neil Postman, I was a day ahead of the news of his passing reaching at least one major internet site. The NYTimes published a lengthy obit today. Surprisingly, there is still no mention of his death on the NYU site.

:: Last August, I made mention of ManPop, a rock festival held in Winnipeg in what I thought was 1971. My friend in Minneapolis, Garth Danielson, sent a link to the 1970 Led Zeppelin tour list, and under August 29th, is the Man Pop Festival. So ManPop was in 1970, not 1971. Thanks for the correction, G.

:: I’ve made small progress with my workouts and nutrition program. I’ve tipped the scales down about four pounds since I turned up the intensity of the workouts a couple weeks ago, while continuing close monitoring of my food intake on a number of levels.

:: Remember Tears for Fears, and how they wanted to rule the world and shout, shout, let it all out? Principal members Curt Smith and Roland Orzabal are have reunited recently, after 13 years. After Smith left in 1990, Orzabal kept the name of band going, releasing a couple of albums in the 1990s under the TFF banner, but ostensibly those were solo albums. The band has signed with Arista to release a new album in Spring, 2004. The album will be called Everybody Loves A Happy Ending. (And this really isn’t new news: here’s an interview with Orzabal from July 15, 2003, that mentions the reunion (requires Real Player). More details here as well.

:: Among the many interviews given by Al Franken, here’s an interesting one conducted by Steven Waldman, EiC of Beliefnet, a multi-faith web site of no particular religious affiliation. (From: Derryl.)