Wednesday, 27 September 2006

Dangerous Thoughts?

Last week there was a problem in the system here at Aston and I couldn't write. This week, I'm busy due to computers again, but now I am strugling to do numerical calculations in my research. Seems like an excuse, and indeed it is, not to write too much, but these are busy days. I'm sorry.

Well, this week I received a link about a news on New Scientist: Relativity drive: The end of wings and wheels?

I read it and it is very easy to recognize it is nonsense. You can read a detailed explanation why here: A Plea to Save “New Scientist”. The first hint it was a crank was simple to spot even before reading the "technical paper" about the engine, a kind of device which could make vehicles flight without wings or jets: the inventor said that the industry was boycotting his project because it is revolutionary and dangerous in the sense that it could lead powerful aerospacial industries to lose millions. Even worse, as it works without petrol, it could ruin the petrol kings!

Come on, this kind of argument is so outdated that I always smile when I read something like that. If someone develops such a revolutionary device, the industry guys would run to see who's the first to get it. Imagine that you are a businessman who has the chance to have a device which everyone will want to buy. Would you try to destroy it or to sell it? And if you are a government and has the possibility of being independent of petrol, what would you do? I suppose that being independent of petrol these days must be very powerful.

People whith ideas that doesn't work or make sense always use the expedient of blaming hidden powers trying to smash their dangerous thoughts. Remember about Galileo. It really happened to him, but in the end, the truth survived. Well, it usually does.

Picture: Dangerous Thoughts, by Lucy Francis from the website of Queensland Art Gallery.

Wednesday, 13 September 2006


I almost gave up to write today. I'm having problems with Blogger and everytime I try to login the browser window simply closes. I had to do a lot of gymnastics to be able to get here today!

Well, to be honest, I didn't know exactly what to write until I started to read the science news. Then, I stumbled with this one:

Why viral stowaways are a baby’s best friend

This news talks about something called endogenous retroviruses (ERV). They are remnants of virus DNA which attached to our DNA in some point of our evolution and remains there even today. I remember that sometime ago I read about the fact that ERVs are responsible for the growth of the placenta, which is the main subject of the above news.

Probably, there are a lot of other ERVs in our DNA which somehow gave us some advantage and remain there executing important functions. This added to the fact that bacteria play a major role in our digestion and that our energy comes from processes taking place in the mitochondria, which are a kind of alien organism which lives in symbiotic relationship with us, even with his own DNA different from ours, implies that we are not only one organism, as we feel to be. We, indeed, seem to be a colony much alike an ant conlony, but where the components are not allowed to take a walk outside and then come back.

Thinking about that, it is amazing how complex a life form can be. Another amazing news somehow related which I read recently, and unfortunately lost the link :( , was about a kind of cancer which affect dogs and is contagious. I was amazed when a read the origin of this disease: it is not a bacteria or a virus, it is a group of tumorous cells from an ancient dog or wolf which can be passed from animal to animal and replicate themselves inside it. In a way, the animal which was the original owner of the cells is around and will be around probably forever in the form of cloned cells carried by host animals! Now, is it an organism or not?

Seeing how creative and unimaginably complex Nature can be with respect to life, I can only smile when I see aliens in sci-fi movies with almost the same form as us. I bet that when we finally make contact with other technological species from another planet it will be something that we have never imagined before.

Picture: Mouse osteoblast, from the University of Western Ontario website.

Wednesday, 6 September 2006


Last week I didn't write anything in Skepsisfera, but I have a good excuse: I was in Paris. I spent three days there. Wonderful place. I went to the Notre Dame, Sacre Coeur, Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, Versailles Palace and the Louvre Museum. Versailles and Louvre are specially incredible. I spent one whole day inside each of them. The sky was clear and the weather was hot. And since I left Brazil I hadn't such a good coffee. Unfortunately it's over. I took a lot of pictures, but as my pen drive is dead and my MP3 player doesn't work with linux I am not able to put them here. Maybe next week...

Well, as I was out, I have not too much things to say today. I forgot to put here the paper related to the aledged proof of existence of dark matter. it is in the arXiv:

A direct empirical proof of the existence of dark matter
Douglas Clowe, Marusa Bradac, Anthony H. Gonzalez, Maxim Markevitch, Scott W. Randall, Christine Jones, Dennis Zaritsky

And yes, as everybody knows, Pluto was downgraded. Never mind, for there are a lot of astronomers complaining ablout that. To be honest, I don't see any problem. If Pluto is considered a planet, Xena should have the same write as well as other similar celestial bodies around the sun. Pluto not even orbites the sun in the same plane as the other planets. Science is a matter of objectivity, if Pluto does not fit along with the other planets, it is natural to create a new category.

Before I come back to my work, just a little interesting article I found in Wikibooks:


It is a game where computers cannot beat us yet...

Picture: The Louvre Museum. I took this picture from this site: