Monthly Archives: July 2010

The End of time

Ok.not really but it may as very well be , our concept of what time is has never been absolutely clear and any number of philosophers and physicists have been grappling with that very question for decades ; what I present here is adapted from a presentation I gave in my freshman year that may shed some light on what we may be saying when we talk about time.I will touch on two things the block universe model and the quantum model.

“How, then, can these two kinds of time, the past and the future be, when the past no longer is and the future has not yet happened?”

Our senses tell us that time flows: that the past is fixed, the future unknown, and reality lives in the present the present moment has special significance. It is all that is real.As the clock ticks,the moment passes and another comes into existence–a process that we call the flow of time e.g The moon, is located at only one position around Earth.Over time, it stops existing at that position and is found at a new position.

Classical Physics and the standard model

“Classical physics” refers to the Newtonian physics which preceded relativity, i.e. the branches of physics based on principles developed before the rise of relativity and quantum mechanics.

Before the discovery of quantum mechanics, the framework of physics was this: If you tell me how things are now, I can then use the laws of physics to calculate, and hence predict, how things will be later.In this model put forward by Newton the three spatial dimensions and the one time dimension are absolute.What proponents of quantum theory have shown is that this is not so with distances and durations arent absolute but are affected by motion, this new model could have upto tens of spatial and time dimensions.This is beyond the scope of this piece but a good source is Brian Greene’s , “The Fabric of the Cosmos” , to whit the proponents of quantum theory claimed, reality consists of a haze of all possibilities – all trajectories – mutually commingling and simultaneously unfolding. And why don’t we see this? According to the quantum doctrine, when we make a measurement or perform an observation, we force the myriad possibilities to ante up, snap out of the haze and settle on a single outcome. But between observations – when we are not looking – reality consists entirely of jostling possibilities.

This is not to say that the Newtonian model was/is wrong , quite the opposite really for macroscopic events it holds remarkably well and that is the eason to date its still a part of most school curriculae whereas quantum theory which can be thought of as a finer instrument can more accurately explain the microscopic phenomenae existing at the atomic scale and at velocities smaller than the velocity of light.

Ideally by now we should have already begun incorporating the discoveries of the past decades into our collective as it would go a long way towards clarifying a host of contentious issues from time travel , teleportation to determinism.

The foundations were laid by Werner Heisenberg, Max Planck, Louis de Broglie, Albert Einstein, Niels Bohr, Erwin Schrödinger, Max Born, John von Neumann, Paul Dirac, Wolfgang Pauli, David Hilbert, and others in the mid-1920s.

So what time is it

“The past, present and future are only illusions, even if stubborn Ones.” – Albert Einstein

Einstein’s conclusion came from his special theory of relativity, which denies any absolute, universal significance to the present moment. According to the theory,simultaneity is relative. Two events that occur at the same moment if observed from one reference frame may occur at different moments if viewed from another.For the physicist, time is simply what (accurate) clocks measure.We dont really observe the passage of time what we notice is the that later states of the world differ from earlier states , as a result of entropy which gives us the “arrow of time” ; as a consequence of entropic decay where a stable systems tends towards disorder from an ordered state is the reason we are able to distinguish between past present and future.Entropy as a force is also suspected to be responsible for gravity according to ongoing research.

From some researchers (according to the classic model)comes the conclusion that all of eternity is laid out in a four-dimensional block composed of time and the three spatial dimensions.

“past” and “future” may be used as directions, just as “up” and “down” may be applied to spatial directions, but past or future are as meaningless as referring to the up or the down, the time of the physicist does not pass or flow.

The quantum model and altenate timelines

“God does not play dice with the universe.”

Picking up on the relativistic probabilities and special relativity of Einstein allows for parallel timelines to be a possibility.For example , A person living on a planet called Earth, with misty mountains, fertile fields and sprawling cities, in a solar system with eight other planets. The life of this person has been identical to yours in every way until now, that is, when your decisions signals that your two lives are diverging.

The idea is that any choice made in this universe results in the creation of another universe where an alternate choice was made.

When discussing parallel universes, we need to distinguish between two different ways of viewing a physical theory: the outside view or bird perspective of a mathematician studying its mathematical fundamental equations ant the frog perspective of the observer going about her life.

From her frog perspective, however, each observer perceives only a tiny fraction of this full reality: she can only see her own Hubble volume (Level I) .When asked a question, makes a snap decision and answers quantum effects at the neuron level in her brain lead to multiple outcomes, and from the bird perspective, her single past branches into multiple futures.

From their frog perspectives, each copy of her is unaware of the other copies.Afterwards, there are multiple copies of her that have the exact same memories up until the point when she answers the question and divergence occurs.

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Posted by on July 30, 2010 in Physics


The future of the Social Network pt1


In an increasingly interconnected world a web presence is not only something to be desired it is absolutely necessary as envisaged by the multitude of networking sites littering the webspace.Discounting (or perhaps not) the 600 pound gorilla that is facebook , we have a bunch of up and coming contenders to the throne of social media like the appleseedproject and recently diaspora.

Watching a news blurb on the Bbc there was a talking head being interviewed and what he said struck me as quite succint , essentially he’s of the opinion that fb as a social network is unassailable by any competitors due to the massive userbase it commands and its momentum in adding hordes of new users.Th first thing I thought of was “thats what they were saying about Microsoft in the 90s” and look at where we are now with Oses a dime a dozen and something new getting remixed everytime a itch has to be scratched.The hi5’s and myspace’s cmae and went and increasingly in the area of the social webits all about having something relevant and innovative to offer your users.Acouple of years ago that position was held by facebook as evidenced by their successes to date, as all incumbents do though fb has gotten complacent as is self evident by the gripes userc shave with its quicksand of privacy debacles.

Not to seem to be ragging on fb others such as foursquare have also had their dark days.

From wired:

Foursquare is one of the most popular of a growing number of services that let people quickly report to friends, family or the entire world where they are — and is part of a growing trend of making public more information that used to be private. Foursquare’s popularity is tied to its game-like ecosystem, where users can win “badges” for certain actions or become the “mayor” of locations by checking in there more than any other users.

On pages like the one for San Francisco’s Ferry Building, Foursquare shows a random grid of 50 pictures of users who most-recently checked in at that location – no matter what their privacy settings. When a new check-in occurs, the site includes that person’s photo somewhere in the grid. So Andersen built a custom scraper that loaded the Foursquare web page for each location in San Francisco, looked for the differences and logged the changes.

Whikle tools like openid exist out there their uptake with the general users is pitifully slow and still doesnt address the fact that for every site you log into you leave a trail of breadcrumbs about yourself and given sufficient motivation there are those online that will make use of it(see rule 34 of the internets).

Or another case:

Since Facebook changes its security policies about every 3 seconds, your worries are not limited just to someone seeing a post and telling someone else. In fact, personal pages on sites like LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook rank pretty high in Google searches. So that means that a potential employer who’s looking at your resume could also be finding out via social networking about your membership in that Neo-Nazi Glee Club even though your account settings are “Friends only.” (Studies show that 78% of recruiters use Google to research job candidates and social networking sites rank very highly on Google.)

And don’t forget that Facebook is like “Six Degrees of Separation” on Barry Bonds-grade steroids. Even if you make a comment on someone else’s page, THAT person’s friends will see it, and then every friend of those friends will see it, etc.

Thus the question becomes how do we interactwith the social network and the internet at large , it is possible to have as many email accounts and login details as you feel you need to remain aanonymous but that is a cumbersome and highly impractical solution that ends up defeating itself in the long run , case in point which account did you use to login to a particlar site and do you have multiple account on a particular site because you forgot you were already logged on.

Additonally do you trust the custodian of your online identity to be discreet and mindful of your needs , as with most corps the larger percentage of online entities are more interesrted with the bottom line than with any ideological concerns.This is taken from the latest revision of the facebook TOS(emphasis mine):

  • For content that is covered by intellectual property rights, like photos and videos (“IP content”), you specifically give us the following permission, subject to your privacy and application settings: you grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook (“IP License”). This IP License ends when you delete your IP content or your account unless your content has been shared with others, and they have not deleted it.
  • When you delete IP content, it is deleted in a manner similar to emptying the recycle bin on a computer. However, you understand that removed content may persist in backup copies for a reasonable period of time (but will not be available to others).
  • When you publish content or information using the “everyone” setting, it means that you are allowing everyone, including people off of Facebook, to access and use that information, and to associate it with you (i.e., your name and profile picture).

You agreed to all of the above by simply clicking on that sign up button , to be honest not a great many users read through all the privacy policies when signing up trusting to the vendor that their rights will not be violated,the preceeding chunk of legalese confers upon fb a whole host of rights that most users properly informed would think twice and then think about it once more.

What im advocating for is nothing new and there art ecountless articles online eschewing the importance of gopd data custodianship and efficient privacy controls that are understandable by users.What is lacking is a ubiquity in the implementation of a system that allows a user achieve three things without too much of a hassle.A user should be able to:

  1. .Choose what aspects of their personal data is available to online vendors
  2. .The ability to select the custodian of their data annd have an open framework to change them as they deem fit
  1. Make it as simple as possible for novice users to manage and organise their online presence

In order to foster adoption and faster uptake of such a system an open model is to be preferred to allow as much of a open community of developers and users to take advantage of it.

The first two I would consider the most important and serious issues to be tackled, so I shall try and give a brief of what I see as their role in social network webscape.


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Posted by on July 22, 2010 in Internet & networks


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