Thirty Meter Telescope

Last night I went to hear Dr. Luc Simard speak about the new Thirty Meter Telescope that is in development. This telescope will have a 30-metre diameter primary mirror and will provide nine times the collecting area of today’s largest optical telescopes. It will enable scientists to observe objects nine-times fainter than existing 10 metre telescopes in an equal amount of time.

The Thirty Meter Telescope will give astronomers the clearest and deepest picture of the Universe ever. This telescope will push the frontier of technology, fully integrating the latest innovations in precision control, segmented mirror design, and adaptive optics to correct for the blurring effects of Earth’s atmosphere. When combined with the unprecedented light-collecting area of the primary mirror, TMT will be the most capable and sophisticated telescope ever constructed.

Relative to the Hubble Space Telescope, TMT will have 156 times the collecting area and more than a factor of 10 better spatial resolution at near-infrared and longer wavelengths.

The University of Lethbridge is contributing to the project, and my friend, Richard Querel, does some pretty interesting research as part of the team headed by Dr. David Naylor. They have developed a very powerful laser device which calculates atmospheric conditions and can be used to calibrate the telescope to compensate for things like humidity and smog.

Thirty Meter Telescope

See a video fly through of the proposed TMT facility which will be built in either Chile or Hawaii and should be operational by 2018.


Subliminal Ringtones

I can’t express the level of skepticism I feel over this Discovery Channel clip claiming that subliminal ring tones can affect the way our minds think and even the way our bodies grow.

Hideto Tomabechi made headlines in June 2005 when he started selling a ring tone that he claims could make a woman’s breasts grow larger just by listening to it.

If ring tone breast enhancement smacks of gimmickry, the theories behind it are taken very seriously indeed. Over the last ten years, Dr. Tomabechi has been lecturing on how to apply his mind manipulating techniques to the threat of terrorism.

His services have been in demand ever since March 1995 when members of the Aum Shinrikyo doomsday cult released a nerve gas called sarin into the Tokyo Subway System which injured 5000 people and killed 12. Dr. Tomabechi was asked by the Japanese police to deprogram some of the brainwashed members of the cult by applying his “sound” theories.

Hit play or watch at YouTube.

For the record, there have been no scientific studies which demonstrate anything remotely close to subliminal commands influencing motives. It all boils down to the fact that subliminal messages designed to change behaviour DO NOT WORK.




About 15 years ago, my cousin Mike got a copy of the movie Gizmo! for Christmas. He raved about how hilarious is was, but it was in black and white and released in 1977; I was sceptical.

Gizmo! is a documentary about some of the thousands of inventions that did things we never thought needed doing, or in ways we never considered doing them. A respectful, yet humorous tribute to the inventors whose vision, however far-reaching, was just a little off the mark.

After watching it, our whole family fell in love with it and to this day, my dad still occasionally impersonates Cecil from the first scene. “I don’t know, but I’ll try!”

Here is Gizmo!, embedded for your own viewing enjoyment.

Hit play or watch Gizmo! at YouTube.


Sine-wave Speech

First developed by Robert Remez and Philip Rubin at Haskins Laboratory, Sine-wave speech is a form of artificially degraded speech. Much like the “aha” moment one gets when one listens to music backwards with a suggested lyric showing, the sine-wave speech is easily recognizable once the listener has been primed.

Listening to the sine-wave speech sound again produces a very different percept of a fully intelligible spoken sentence. This dramatic change in perception is an example of “perceptual insight” or pop-out. We have argued that this form of pop-out is an example of a top-down perceptual process produced by higher-level knowledge and expectations concerning sounds that can potentially be heard as speech.

I picked up on a few of the lines without checking first, and it got easier as I went along.

Try the examples yourself at Sine-wave speech.


education religion Science

Five must see open course video lectures

Since the introduction of open lectures by progressive thinking educational institutions like M.I.T., Stanford, Duke, Yale, and others, many exceptional presentations have bubbled to the top and should be watched.

Here are five must see open course video lectures as recommended by Virginia Heffernan of the NYTimes.

  1. Walter H. G. Lewin, Powers of 10, M.I.T. (At about 2:40 watch Power of Ten video that is cut from the lecture)
  2. Randy Pausch, Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams, Carnegie Mellon
  3. Dan Ariely, Predictably Irrational, Duke and M.I.T. (the rest of his short clips)
  4. Langdon Hammer, Modern Poetry, Yale
  5. Christine Hayes, Introduction to the Old Testament (Hebrew Bible), Yale

I also recommend Mark Schlissel, Introduction – The Cell Theory, Bacteria, Animal Cells, Evolution (Viruses and Midochondria). (The good stuff starts at about 13:00).

I listened to about a quarter of all the lectures from this course—most of which were over my head, but the first and second (mp3) classes are fascinating and make me wish I studied biology at school.


MagLev Toy Train

A crash course on the amazing properties of super-conductors, the following video demonstrates what may be the future of transportation.

[MagLev Toy Train – Liveleak]

Popular Science published an article five years ago on the possibility of a trans-Atlantic maglev train that would travel in an airless underwater tunnel at 4,000 MPH and make the trip from New York to London in an hour.

A 4,000-mph magnetically levitated train could allow you to have lunch in Manhattan and still get to London in time for the theater, despite the 5-hour time difference. It’s not impossible: Norway has studied neutrally buoyant tunnels (concluding that they’re feasible, though expensive), and Shanghai is running maglev trains to its airport. But supersonic speeds require another critical step: eliminating the air — and therefore air friction — from the train’s path. A vacuum would also save the tunnel from the destructive effects of a sonic boom, which, unchecked, could potentially rip the tunnel apart.


magic psychology

Quirkology – The Missing Piece

See if you can figure out how psychology professor Richard Wiseman creates space for the missing piece. I have to admit, even though I’ve seen tricks like this before, it took me 3 or 4 times through to figure it out completely.

[The Missing Piece – YouTube]


DNA Folding

Paul Rothemund will send chills down your spine as he explains the astonishing potential of DNA folding in this great TED talk from September 2007.

Hit play or watch Paul Rothemund: The astonishing promise of DNA folding. See also—Paul’s other talk on DNA folding, Paul Rothemund casts a spell with DNA.

Art Science

Paintball Painting

The Mythbusters, Adam and Jamie, demonstrate the difference between serial and parallel processing with a little live art demonstration.

[Adam & Jamie draw a MONA LISA in 80 milliseconds! – YouTube]

games physics

Fantastic Contraption

Warning: The following link leads to an extremely addicting flash game. Luckily there are only 20 levels and then you can go to sleep. At least, that’s what I did.

Fantastic Contraption.