A Curious And Curiouser Tale Of Tabby’s Star, Cosmic Clocks And Ghostly Galactic Blobs!

Astronomers are upto their eyeballs this month with stuff, we have never seen before, reminding us as we fill out our tax returns, that this universe is not only stranger than we imagine, its stranger than we can imagine. Aye, Sir Eddington!

For starters, Tabby’s Star already caused a bit of argy bargy among boffins worldwide and although the satisficing explanation so far, points to a ‘broken comet turned dust cloud’ swirling about the star; which recently dimmed to a record low and if anything, left a pesky shadow of doubt in its wake. That is, unless you like the electric sun model to explain away its fluctuating incandescence as a faute de mieux to the Dyson swarm.

Imagine going to your local amusement park next, only to realize this time that every single ferris wheel you jump on, no matter what shape, size, style…somehow completes a rotation, uncannily every one minute. Enter, your local neighbourhood cosmic clock! Stargazers are now finding, regardless how big or small, or what direction you look at, every galaxy out there completes a rotation every 1 billion years or 1 Giga year. Is the universe a great time machine as Descartes saw it, a watch created and wound up by the great watchmaker? Indeed, the very history of science likens it to a clockwork universe ticking along as a perfect machine with gears governed by laws of physics, making every part of the machine predictable…

The case of missing dark matter. Last week, astrophysicists found a wraithlike galaxy similar to ours, but with little or no dark matter, refreshing the whole debate for Popper Falsifiability of dark matter, which is widely assumed as the building block of galaxies. Interestingly, the same team earlier found a class of galaxies with nothing but dark matter so either, there is more than one way of making up a galaxy without dark matter or dark matter is something else, an exotic quantum state of superfluid  coupled with modified newtonian dynamics at play. Funny enough, thinking of dark matter as something else (not weakly interacting massive particles) to solve a strong binding and/or lensing phenomenon only kicks the trouble of proving it doesn’t exist into the long grass, as it actually shows some stuff is there, whether tied to galaxies or not.

I’m reminded of Asimov’s favorite story here, ‘The Gods Themselves’, where different physical laws of two parallel universes allow transfer of matter, giving life in both, an endless source of source. This begets the question; can dark matter naturally ‘decay’ into baryonic matter (i.e matter of every day life) under special conditions or, could a Type III civilization nudge the transformation to meet its energy needs? Not too sure? Pause. Listen to Neil Gaimon and suspend disbelief.

“I like the stars. It’s the illusion of permanence, I think. I mean, they’re always flaring up and caving in and going out. But from here, I can pretend…I can  pretend that things last. I can pretend that lives last longer  than moments. Gods come, and gods go. Mortals flicker and flash and fade. Worlds don’t last; and stars and galaxies are transient, fleeting things that twinkle like fireflies and vanish into cold and dust. But I can pretend…”

Wireless Charging Roads for Electric Cars

Were it not for the charging, it is practically a no-brainer for many to buy an electric car. What if you no longer need to queue up for fossil fuel and were able to recharge your car on the go? Israel is actually testing wireless charging roads for electric vehicles that literally works ‘when the rubber hits the road’! Time to jump band er, wagons?

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Light Sails to Sailors on Wings of Light!

Viewed as some tin-foil hat non-science, until quite recently if you talked earnestly of UFOs in front of a scientific assemblage, you were likely to be met with rolling eyes and polite avoidance or a sly wink-and-nudge at your direction later, as you walked around clutching unpublished papers! Yet, after discovery of Tabby’s star, mainstream scientists are coming out of the woodwork and nailing their colors to extra-terrestrial masts by proposing that fast radio bursts (FRBs), verily observed but inexplicable till date, could be the force driving alien ships with light sails.

Interestingly, the science behind this isn’t exactly news. Last April, Stephen Hawking and Mark Zuckerburg backed a similar plan to reach Proxima B, our nearest Earth like planet, in about two decades, nicknamed Breakthrough Starshot, financed by billionaire Yuri Milner. Yes, 21 years! Here’s how:

Mythology suggests magical creatures with wings of light who visit us unseen and who knows, we may too evolve into a technological hybrid of something similar ourselves and someday when our children hitch their light sails to some distant shore, hope the shining orbs guides ’em sailors, man or alien, rapidly through!

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Positive Talk – If a story moves you, act on it!

Today information is available at the speed of thought so we can’t help but instantly like or share and move on! In this engaging talk, writer and human rights activist, Sisonke Msimang tells us the value of a story is not in what it says but in what it does…

Here’s an excerpt or simply watch it below (12-13 min).

‘So firstly, the world would be a better place, I think, if audiences were more curious and more skeptical and asked more questions about the social context that created those stories that they love so much. Secondly, the world would be a better place if audiences recognized that storytelling is intellectual work. And I think it would be important for audiences to demand more buttons on their favorite websites, buttons for example that say, “If you liked this story, click here to support a cause your storyteller believes in.” Or “click here to contribute to your storyteller’s next big idea.” Often, we are committed to the platforms, but not necessarily to the storytellers themselves. And then lastly, I think that audiences can make the world a better place by switching off their phones, by stepping away from their screens and stepping out into the real world beyond what feels safe.’

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Homeless No More

A 44-year old homeless man in Thailand with hardly a penny in his pocket, quietly returns a cash and card stuffed designer wallet to 30-year old business man, who overwhelmed by his honesty offers him a job and house. Cheers to both men! You can read that story here

In a similar vein, this project for fundraising is aimed at helping the homeless, thanks to the creative efforts of photographer, Horia Manolache…who is clicking the homeless not just as they are, but as they may well be in an alternate reality where they are successful and happy. He has helped many in this process with proceeds of his photo book given to changing how the homeless are seen. You can support his project here….

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NASA Finds Thousands of Black Holes

Physicist Nassim Haramein believes black holes seeded the baby universe and dust and gas spun around it to form galaxies, adding a twist to the popular notion, black holes are merely the aftermath of supernovas…

Think of black coffee swirling around in a mug yet not visible to the naked eye unless you add milk to it. Interesting enough, NASA recently found thousands of black holes dated billions of years right back to the big bang when there were little or no stars about to die so could this be the smoking gun for that theory?

Is it possible our universe itself spawned out of a white hole in a field of singularities with other universes being born or ending in a singularity as we speak? It is thought, in a black hole singularity, time and space swap axis so an observer has infinite time and zero local space so a white hole singularity can have zero time and infinite non local space. By local, imagine our universe bubble and non local, a sea of froth…

To go further, why is there something rather than nothing, asks physicist Lawrence Krauss or since out of nothing sprung something, is that nothing, nothing but black holes inside out or white holes bursting with the potentiality of creation, bearing a possibility of life?

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bd

Bhaskar Dutta is a writer and IT specialist based in London.

Positive People – John Bird, Founder of ‘The Big Issue’

The Big Issue is the world’s most widely circulated magazine that was birthed in UK. Inspired by Street News, a magazine sold by the homeless in US, it offers homeless people in UK, long time unemployed people, people marginalized by society and just about anyone whose life is blighted by poverty, an opportunity to move away from the streets by earning a legit income by selling this magazine and working themselves out of homelessness.

It kvells in the fact, it’s ‘a handup, not a handout’. Vendors BUY copies for £1.25 and sell for £2.50. They are working, not begging.

Started in 1991, the magazine 25 years later is synonymous with challenging, independent journalism and popular for securing exclusive interviews with the most elusive of superstars. It currently circulates around 100,000 copies a week.

The Big Issue Vendors are allocated a pitch or location, normally around a tube or train station and first issued with a number of free copies of the magazine. Last year alone more than £5 million was put into the pockets of the vendors, releasing them from dependence on handouts and providing a decent alternative to begging.

And the buck doesn’t stop there. The Big Issue Foundation, charity arm of The Big Issue supports vendors in gaining control of their lives by tackling the many issues that lead to homelessness and offers a smorgasbord of services.

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Created as a business solution to a social problem, The Big Issue has inspired other street papers in more than 120 countries, leading a global self-help revolution. There are 9 Big Issue projects by the same name today in Australia, France, Japan, Kenya, Korea, Malawi, South Africa, Taiwan, Zambia.

Meet the man who started it all, John Bird who himself homeless at age of 5, was last year made a life peer at the House of Lords, appointed Member of Order of the British Empire (MBE) for his ‘services to homeless people’ and awarded the Beacon Fellowship Prize for his tireless energy and originality in raising awareness of homelessness and supporting homeless communities worldwide.

In his editorial, John pulls no punches when he says, “I’m trying to invent a philosophy of dismantling poverty, rather than keeping the poor comfortable” and exhorts any buyer to always TAKE the copy of the magazine since “it is a bloody good read and our sellers are working and need your custom”. Ne’er truer said!

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bd

Bhaskar Dutta is a writer and IT specialist based in London.

The Chosen One

“If you want to follow Jesus, you better look good on wood!” –  Father Dan Berrigan  (Poet, Priest, Peace Activist)

As an editor and a writer on this site , I avoid any religious topic as a rule but given the time of year, I’m wont to make an exception to share a couple of ideas that I hope you will accept in good humor.

The first one is a scientific explanation of God that I ran into recently that may hopefully intrigue you and second, a more logical explanation of the second coming of Christ, than what is usually preached and if that offends your faith, I ask for forgiveness and request you to close this page and move on.

Still happy to hear? Allow me to hearken Fr. Dan’s advice and go out on a limb…

1.

Dr. Paul Brunton, author of Search of Secret India/Search of Secret Egypt, whose secret as a writer was his attitude of spiritual sympathy tempered with scientific scepticism, argues in his book, ‘Inner Reality’ that in the coming ages, religion will be strengthened by science as man will have scientific proof of God and no longer be led by  simple belief. He adds, scientists are not only accepting that the source of the universe is unity out of which the multiplicity of objects and forces we see around us has sprung but starting to break down matter into radiant energy or light so if what the Bible says is true, first there was light and then God created this and that, ask yourself how God created light?

In other words, how could He have created it except out of himself, unless as a spider spins a web out of itself? The web is no different from the spider’s body, it is but part of it and so God created light out of his own being and this means that light is no other than God. Light is God! Next, if all material objects without a single exception- whether you take your own physical body or the chair where you are seated is but a gross materialization of the radiant energy of light, do you not see that God is, therefore everywhere present? It is not merely a poetical fancy but a fact then that the material world is built up out of light and so we come full circle to the concept of God as scientifically at the back of everything and always within reach, because wherever you turn, God is literally there!

2.

Monk Paramahansa Yogananda, author of Autobiography of a Yogi, wrote a detailed commentary on the Gospels in a two set volume, ‘The Second Coming of Christ’ in which he explains from personal communion that the second coming of christ is not so much a physical event of the reincarnation of Jesus but a mystical experience of the realization of christ consciousness, at some stage, by each of us.

This explanation is far more satisfying as it confirms the true mission of Christ was not really to build churches or start a new religion but redefine the concept of God from something that is wonderful but abstract to someone up close and personal and more importantly, inspire and guide so we may also have that same blessed consciousness as he had! It is like we are unconsciously waiting to find Jesus (re)born inside us so we too can grow into Christ. Think about it – even if Jesus returned for Chrissake, would he rather sit in the back of a church, right between you and me and pray, unassumingly or walk around the corridors of Vatican?

It is amusing if you look at the updated nativity scene (see title image) in recent news, on the birth (or rebirth) of Christ into modern times…solar roofed stable, pouting selfie, wise men on wheels with Amazon boxes, teen shepherd on iPhone posting on Instagram to an organic cow, sheep in jumper – gentrified glamping!

That said, question remains, who is the chosen one? I guess the answer is who isn’t.

 

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bd

Bhaskar Dutta is a writer and IT specialist based in London.

I am AI

If you are sanguine about the opportunities and challenges of AI (artificial intelligence) in an evolving market (or, already sick to the back teeth on how ubiquitous AI is in today’s workplace) this statistic of Harvard Business Review can make you pause awhile and wonder what the world is coming to…

“Executives and experts from IT and communications sectors are bullish about the potential of artificial intelligence, on a survey by The World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on the Future of Software & Society45% of respondents said the first AI machine would sit on a corporate board of directors by 2025. 75% predicted that 30% of corporate audits would be performed by an AI by that time. And 78% said that driverless cars would represent at least 10% of the vehicles on U.S. roads.”

Source: Technology tipping points and Societal impact.

In this report, Erik Brynjolfsson, Director, MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy and a prolific author says; “Now comes the second machine age. Computers and other digital advances are doing for mental power – the ability to use our brains to understand and shape our environments – what the steam engine and its descendants did for muscle power.”

It adds, “These changes will impact people around the world. Inventions previously seen only in science fiction, such as artificial intelligence, connected devices and 3D printing, will enable us to connect and invent in ways we never have before. Businesses will automate complicated tasks, reduce production costs and reach new markets. Continued growth in internet access will further accelerate change. In Sub-Saharan Africa and other underdeveloped regions, connectivity has the potential to redefine global trade, lift people out of poverty and topple political regimes. And for many of us, seemingly simple software innovations will transform our daily routines. These changes are not without their challenges; as technology improves the lives of many, we hope to help prepare people to understand and address concerns on privacy, security and job disruption…

Feel free to grab this intriguing report as it sums up deep shifts happening around us and the timelines for it. That said, the next question is, where does all that leave you and me and in turn, reason for this humble post.

As a manager, if most of your day goes in administrative work, say monitoring or reporting and as a worker, you’re building/sorting/fixing/teaching or ‘strutting your stuff’, depending on your level of support, AI can automate it at best or at worst, soon master basic to intermediate levels and work longer hours and cheaper…so, unless you’re way up the ladder, work advance support or regarded an expert, you may be happy to hear, what is likely to see you through the next decade or two, is a little more creativity, empathy and judgment skill!

If that sounds too easy to be true (make no mistake, it may not be that easy) listen to Tim Leberecht, author of ‘The Business Romantic: Give Everything, Quantify Nothing, and Create Something Greater Than Yourself’ who here asks that in this day and age of artificial intelligence, big data and digitization of everything, are we losing sight of the importance of the emotional and social aspects of our work?

 

 

In closing and in tune to this sentiment, ‘we measure our lives in coffee spoons’, it may come to pass that in the near-to-far future, when AI takes over the technical aspects of life, we might see ourselves as a version of AI or Altruistic Intelligence, responsible for taking us to guiding stars and distant shores…

 

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bd

Bhaskar Dutta is a writer and IT specialist based in London.

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