Venomous vs. Poisonous

September 26, 2014

Sciency Words MATH

Sciency Words is a special series here on Planet Pailly where we take a look at new and interesting scientific terms to help us all expand our scientific vocabularies together. Today’s word is words are:

VENOMOUS AND POISONOUS

Since I was away on vacation last week and missed my regular Sciency Words post, today you get two words. I’m sure you already know the terms “venomous” and “poisonous,” but do you know the distinction between them?

Both terms involve toxic substances that could make you sick or potentially kill you. With both terms, these substances originate from animals. The distinction comes from how these animals deliver their venom/poison.

Venomous animals inject their venom by means of, for example, sharp, nasty fangs; whereas poisonous animals secrete their poison by other means, perhaps oozing it on their skin as a self defense mechanism. In short, if an animal bites you and you get sick, the animal was venomous. If you bite, touch, or lick an animal and get sick, the animal was poisonous.

Answer: both will lose.

Answer: both will lose.

During my vacation, as I trudged through the forests of Georgia, encountering many a spider and snake, I became quite concerned. Not because of the animals themselves but because I was worried about using the wrong words to describe them. Next time I stumble upon venomous and/or poisonous animals in the wilderness, I’ll feel much better prepared, now that I know which adjective is which.


Invariance vs. Relativity: An Interview with Thanh Nguyen

September 15, 2014

One of the cool things about science is that no theory, no matter how widely accepted, is safe. Some of the greatest scientific minds in history have had their work corrected or overturned by new discoveries. This could even happen to the cherished Theory of Relativity.

Today, we’re talking with Thanh Nguyen, whose Theory of Invariance challenges some of the ideas espoused by Einstein’s Relativity.

 

James Pailly: Thanh, thank you for joining us. First off, can you tell us a little about your scientific background?

Thanh Nguyen: I am at college level in Physics.

J.P.: So what is the Theory of Invariance and how is it different from the Theory of Relativity?

T.N.: The Special Theory of Relativity is a study of structure of space-time. It states that space and time cannot be separated and space-time can change depending on motion. While the Theory of Invariance was established on the perspective of absolute space and time. It is a study of relationship among energy, momentum, mass, motion and gravitation. Interestingly, the legendary equation E = mc2 can be simply derived from this classical perspective.

J.P.: How do you define the speed of light, and how is it deferent than the definition used by relativity?

T.N.: In relativity, the speed of light in vacuum, denoted c, is defined as the distance light can travel through vacuum in a unit of time, and it is a constant. This definition causes a conflict between electromagnetism and classical mechanics in a universe of absolute space and time. The Special Theory of Relativity was established to reconcile the conflict with the concept of relativistic space-time.

While, in invariance, the speed of light in vacuum, denoted c, is defined as the rate of change of the distance between light and objects which are shined with the light, in a unit of time, in vacuum, and c is also a constant. The invariant definition does not cause any conflict between electromagnetism and classical mechanics in a universe of absolute space and time, and it is perfectly appropriate with empirical results of the Michelson-Morley experiment or the De Sitter binary stars observations.

J.P.: One thing that really caught my attention while reading your paper is the claim that black holes do not have event horizons.  This seems like a testable prediction that could help astronomers determine the validity of your theory.  Could you tell us more about black holes and how they function in an invariant universe?

T.N.: Black holes are mysterious objects predicted from the General Theory of Relativity. They are defined as regions of space having a gravitational field so intense that no matter or radiation can escape. Though most people have deeply believed in the existence of black holes, the Theory of Invariance disagrees with their existence. In the theory, I wrote “A black hole, if it exists, is a point with no volume and no event horizon.” It is one of ways to say that black holes do not exist. According to the Theory of Invariance, no matter how intense a gravitational field is, it cannot hold light.

J.P.: But haven’t astronomers already confirmed the existence of black holes?

T.N.: In relation to the existence of black holes, a mainstream scientist may answer: To the best knowledge of our current scientific understanding, black holes do exist. However, an anti-relativity scientist may have a different answer: To the best knowledge of our current scientific understanding, black holes do exist in a specific theory. Besides, we also have another answer in Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_hole

J.P.: Do you see the theory of invariance as an improvement upon Einstein’s relativity, or should we throw out relativity in favor of this new theory?

T.N.: I would see my theory as an improvement upon Newtonian mechanics instead of Einstein’s theory since it is based on the perspective of absolute space and time. In science, we should not put a theory aside until we have convincing evidences against it. Though anti-relativity fans so far have provided some negative experimental evidences, scientists who support the Theory of Relativity persistently say that it has passed every real experiment. So if we have stronger evidences, mainstream scientists might re-examine the Theory of Relativity. Currently, I have no experimental evidence against relativity. However, I thought of a low-cost experiment, which, if performed, will yield results falling in only one of two cases, being against relativity or against invariance.

 

Thanh has provided two links for anyone who would like to learn more about the theory of invariance:

  • Click here for the introduction to the Theory of Invariance.
  • Click here for Thanh’s paper on Theory of Invariance.

And remember: keep it sciency, my friends.


Sciency Words: Gynandromorphy

September 12, 2014

Sciency Words BIO copy

Sciency Words is a special series here on Planet Pailly where we take a look at new and interesting scientific terms to help us all expand our scientific vocabularies together. Today’s word is:

GYNANDROMORPHY

The other night, I was doing some concept work on a new alien species, and I was considering alternatives to the simple gender dimorphism we humans are accustomed to. For example, what if children of these aliens were born without gender and only developed male or female traits (including reproductive organs) upon reaching puberty? What if, in some rare cases, a few individuals never developed gender at all?

I speculated briefly about another possibility: what if a small minority somehow developed both male and female parts, maybe split down the middle or mishmashed together somehow? Could such a thing happen? As much as I liked the idea, it seemed a little too bizarre to me. Then, Sci Show released this video on gynandromorphy.

Gynandromorphy comes from three Greek roots: “gyn” for female, “andro” for male, and “morphy” for shape. So the term literally means having the shape of both a male and a female.

One of the important functions of science fiction is to provide us with new perspectives on our current social issues. Sci-Fi writer Rosie Oliver has written several posts like this one asking what’s happened to what she calls progressive science fiction. Given the current crusade for L.G.B.T. rights and the growing importance of the L.G.B.T community, maybe a story from the perspective of a gynandromorphic alien is just what science fiction needs.

P.S.: When writing these Sciency Words posts, spell check usually goes bananas with it’s little, zigzagging red lines; but to my surprise, gynandromorphy was already in spell check’s dictionary. I guess the word is more common than I thought.


Sciency Words: Supercluster

September 5, 2014

Today’s post is part of a special series here on Planet Pailly called Sciency Words. Every Friday, we take a look at a new and interesting scientific term to help us all expand our scientific vocabularies together. Today’s word is:

SUPERCLUSTER

Before we talk about superclusters, let’s talk about fruit. What is the definition of fruit? It depends on who you ask. A biologist’s answer will involve seeds and plant reproduction. A grocer’s answer will involve flavor, specifically sweet flavors. This is why tomatoes and cucumbers are fruit in biology and vegetables in grocery stores.

So knowing that there are two different definitions of fruit, let’s turn our attention to superclusters. A supercluster is a large group of galaxies. That’s the easy part of the definition. The hard part is determining where one supercluster ends and another begins.

Astronomers in Hawaii say gravitational currents determine the shape and boundaries of superclusters. Using data on the velocities of 8,000 galaxies, they’ve even mapped the currents of our own supercluster and given that supercluster a name: Laniakea (immeasurable heaven in Hawaiian).

But Gayoung Chon if the Max Plank Institute of Extraterrestrial Physics is quoted as saying, “The definition [of supercluster] you use really depends on the questions you want to ask. The latest method is a very good way to chart the large-scale structures of the Universe, but it doesn’t ask what will happen to those structures eventually.”

Gayoung Chon prefers an alternative definition: superclusters are structures that will eventually collapse into a single object. The gravitational currents of Laniakea apparently won’t cause that to happen, so Laniakea is not (according to this definition) a supercluster—just as tomatoes (according to grocers) are not sweet enough to be considered fruit.

It all depends on the questions you ask and who you’re asking.


IWSG: Meet Professor Curzan

September 3, 2014

InsecureWritersSupportGroupToday’s post is part of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, a blog hop hosted by Alex J. Cavanaugh. It’s a way for insecure writers like myself give each other advice and encouragement. Click here to see a full list of participating blogs.

* * *

A few weeks ago, I mentioned that I have been studying linguistic science as a way to improve my writing. Linguistic science is the study of language not as we think it ought to be (that’s the job of grammarians) but the way it actually is. For today’s IWSG post, I thought I’d introduce everyone to one of my favorite teachers of linguistics, Professor Anne Curzan.

Now I don’t want to hold you up on IWSG day with a 17-minute video. We all have a lot of reading and commenting to do today, so feel free to move on and come back to this later. But I promise you what Professor Curzan has to say is worth hearing, and I encourage you to look for her other lecture videos elsewhere online.


Sciency Words: Squiddish

August 29, 2014

Sciency Words PHYS copy

Today’s post is part of a special series here on Planet Pailly called Sciency Words. Every Friday, we take a look at a new and interesting scientific term to help us all expand our scientific vocabularies together. Today’s word is:

SQUIDDISH

As researchers continue to study squiddish, the language of squid, they are running into an interesting linguistic problem. The problem isn’t with squiddish. It’s with humanese.   We humans don’t have the proper terminology to describe the complex behavior squid use to communicate.

Market_squid

Last week, we talked about chromatophores, the special cells that allow squid to change colors. Squiddish consists of rapid combinations of color patterns and body postures. The 2003 scientific paper “Squid Say It with Skin” attempts to document squid language and suggests terms to describe the “words” or “phrases” of squid speech. Examples include:

  • Full V: a body posture where the squid extends its tentacles in a V-shape.
  • Plaid: a pattern of stripes and bars across the body.
  • Zebra: a pattern of zebra-like stripes which seems to express antagonism. I’m guessing giving a squid the zebra is a little like giving a human the finger.

My favorite is “double signaling”: the simultaneous display two different color patterns, one on each side of the body. In other words, a squid can say one thing to its buddy on the left while saying something completely different to its friend on the right.   This skill will surely come in handy once squid develop a concept of politics.

Our lack of proper terminology is a problem we humans will continue to struggle with as we learn more about nature and our universe. Scientists will just have to keep inventing new words, which means we’ll always have something to talk about here on Sciency Words.


Do You Watch Educational Television?

August 26, 2014

I don’t think television makes people stupid. It seems to me that the more people watch television, the stupider the television becomes. I hate to sound like a cranky, old man complaining about the way things are these days, but T.V. just isn’t as good as it used to be.

television

Self Aware Paterns recently did an interesting blog post about the Science Channel. The quality of educational television has dropped, with only a few niche channels (like the Science Channel) holding out. And even in that case, the Science Channel might be starting to slip.

I can’t really say whether I agree or disagree with Self Aware Patterns’ assessment of the Science Channel. I canceled my cable subscription several years ago, right around the time when the Discovery Channel was starting to lose my interest.

When I want to learn something about science—or any other topic—I turn to other resources than television. Such as:

Meanwhile, it seems educational television continues to try to increase its viewership by dumbing down its programming: a trend that may apply to television in general.

So what resources do you use when you want to learn something? Are there any educational T.V. shows right now that are worth watching?


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