Tag Archives: MinutePhysics

A Brief History of Everything: Where Science and Spirituality Converge

In some fields, the deeper you get into them, the more the field seems to approach spirituality. A perfect example of this is science. No doubt, there’s already plenty written about the convergence of science and spirituality, especially if you take a walk through the “self-help” section of a bookstore. And that’s not to detract from it. For some, reading about science and spirituality in this way is very helpful.

Today, I wanted to share with you another one of those science and spirituality convergences, but from someone I didn’t expect: Neil deGrasse Tyson. (Note: when I first watched the video, I didn’t realize that deGrasse Tyson has actually written a fair amount about spirituality and science.) Below, I’ve included a video set to start at the 6:20 mark. Watch the next minute or so of the video, as deGrasse Tyson takes us on a quick journey from the beginning of time to the present and through it, connects the dots between us and the beginning of time.

I totally understand that people have different views on science, spirituality, and religiosity, but it always gives me pause for reflection when it can be so well articulated that there’s this connection between us and the beginning of time. From the video, we can conclude that we are made of the universe, so “technically,” we are the universe discovering itself. You probably already knew that, but I find that every one and awhile, it helps to be reminded of things like this as it may help to put a current problem in perspective.

Watching a video like this also reminds antiquity. In particular, places like ancient Greece where it might have been more common to sit around and think about the things that deGrasse Tyson talked about in the video. But I wonder… was it? If we think about our world today, the percentage of people who have time to sit around and think about things like those in ancient Greece did is probably not very high, but maybe that was also the case back then. Maybe there weren’t that many people who were sitting around and pontificating on the nature of life.

Maybe I’ve just got a glorified view of the “intellectuals” from that time period, but I wonder how different our Western culture would be today, if we had more time to sit around and think ponder the ‘meaning of life.’ Don’t get me wrong, I understand that time to think is a luxury that not all of us enjoy (and if you’re reading this, you’re probably one of the lucky ones for which time to think is a luxury), but in thinking about our consumeristic ways, part of me wonders how different we could be in a world where we pursued knowledge and not stuff.

The Problem With Facebook: Is It Really Out of Room to Grow?

I rarely read the front page of YouTube, but today when I typed in YouTube to my address bar (with the intention of finding some music to listen to while I worked), one of the videos I saw on the front page was titled “The Problem With Facebook.” Truth be told, I thought it was a video by MinutePhysics and thought that there was going to be some scientific explanation of Facebook’s problems, but it turns out the video was by 2veritasium. (I guess MinutePhysics may have liked the video, so that’s why I saw their name or maybe they had just come out with another video, who knows.)

Anyway, if you have Facebook (or had Facebook) or know anything about Facebook, I’d say it’s worth the 6 and a half minutes to watch it:

I’m not sure what the fellow’s name is, but it reminds me of when George Takei went on a bit of a rant about Facebook not letting him reach all of his fans on Facebook. At the time, I think I still had a Facebook profile (rather than the page I have now) and I thought that was strange that your posts weren’t reaching all of your friends — by design.

The fellow in this video makes that same point, but he does it in a more thorough way than I remember Takei doing it (which is not to say Takei didn’t do it), and he also juxtaposes Facebook with YouTube. He makes a rather compelling argument, but something I don’t think he highlights is that he kind of has a vested interest in YouTube being more successful — his videos are hosted on YouTube! Now, this doesn’t really take anything away from the argument — it’s sound — but I think it’s worth noting.

Throughout the video, he talks about the incentives. I wonder what Michael Sandel would say about the incentives in this situation. Would he say that the incentives have been perverted? It’s tough to say because Facebook is trying to make money and there’s nothing inherently wrong with that, but I wonder if maybe they’ve strayed a bit too far from the original purpose of the site.

There’s one last thing I want to highlight from the video — in part — because it dovetails nicely with something that I’ve been trumpeting on here for awhile. He argues that Facebook has already maxed out, with regard to the amount of time people spend on the site per day (approximately 30 minutes) and that Facebook has already reached just about everyone in the developing world. When it comes to online video, however, he argues that there is still lots of room to grow based on the fact that people still don’t watch that much of it when compared to television. I might not put it in those words exactly, but I think he’s on the right track.

If even the President of the United States knows that Facebook is becoming or already is unpopular with young folks, I have to think that the smart people over at Facebook know this, too. As they’ve got a fiduciary duty to their shareholders, I’m sure they’ve been hard at work trying to figure out just how they’re going to capture more value — translation: how they are going to make more money.

Who knows… maybe Facebook will soon go the way of the social networks that have gone before it. Remember MySpace?

Sheldon Cooper Presents “Fun With Flags”: A YouTube Series of Podcasts

The other day I happened to be eating lunch and staring off out the window. While that may not seem important, it is. Most of the time, I like to be reading or doing something, while I’m eating. I completely understand that it’s probably better to not do this, but I often can’t help myself. Anyway, as I was sitting and just eating, an idea came to me. (Don’t you find that ideas come to you when you’re not thinking about them?) The idea, as the title of this post suggests, a web series from one of The Big Bang Theory’s main cast members: Sheldon Cooper.

I don’t know if you’ve seen the show (it’s quite funny), but a few times throughout the six seasons, Dr. Sheldon Cooper has led us on a journey through the wonderful world of vexillology: “scientific study of the history, symbolism and usage of flags or, by extension, any interest in flags in general.” Sheldon’s generally a pretty funny guy (not on purpose, that is, on purpose by the writers, but not by the character himself), so when he does these short podcasts on flags, it certainly provides a laugh or two. To date, there have been 5 instances of “Fun With Flags.”

In the first podcast, Sheldon and his, at the time, “girl who’s a friend, but is not my girlfriend,” Amy Farrah Fowler, introduce us to vexillology and tell us a bit about Oregon’s state flag.

Every time I watch this one, when Sheldon asks Amy about the white flag, I can’t help but laugh… “I’m submitting… to fun.”

In the second podcast, we learn about Bavaria.

In the third podcast, we learn a little bit about flags in Star Trek with Wil Wheaton.

In the fourth podcast, LeVar Burton replaces Wil Wheaton in attempting to teach us about flags in Star Trek.

In the fifth podcast, Penny (Sheldon’s across-the-hall neighbour),  helps teach us about Nebraska’s state flag.

The idea is that these podcasts could actually become an online series that supplements the show. They wouldn’t necessarily have to be every week or even every other week. The idea is that Dr. Sheldon Cooper could teach us about flags. This could be a big boon for CBS and The Big Bang Theory as I can’t imagine it not being a hit with fans of the show. Plus, there’s the whole social media aspect to it. That is, these clips would undoubtedly be shared vehemently across many networks.

Maybe I’m way off, but my guess is that this could really be a creative way for the show to engage viewers on a medium other than the TV. There could even be “special guests” (i.e. other cast members or noted vexillologists [are there any?]).

If you’re an executive at CBS and you’re reading this, I’d encourage you to get the marketing team on this and see if they think that there are enough people to warrant this kind of endeavour. I understand that there’d still be some cost to it (paying Jim Parsons, the film crew, the editing team, etc.), but I wouldn’t be surprised if it’d be profitable.

~

For those of you who think that I may be a bit biased because I like these online learning formats (John Green, Hank Green, ASAPScience, Michael Sandel, etc.), I’d encourage you to take a look at some of the number of followers of these accounts. The Crash Course has almost 1,000,000 subscribers. AsapSCIENCE has almost 1.5 million subscribers. MinutePhysics has almost 2 million subscribers. Consistently, the videos that these users upload obtain views in the hundreds of thousands.

One final note — Mental Floss. They’ve, in a sense, tested the market as they already have a “Fun With Flags” kind of series. They’re up to episode 17. Here’s a link to the first.

 

Wanna Make a Name for Yourself: Answer One of These Questions

In The Guardian today, there’s an article that lists “20 big questions in science.” If you want to be famous (at least in some circles), answer one of the questions. Of course, there are some ‘answers’ to the questions already. Or maybe it’d be more accurate to say that there are some hypotheses or that there is some ‘general knowledge’ in the domain of the question. However, there don’t seem to be any definitive answers, yet.

Here are the questions with a few thoughts after some of them:

1. What is the universe made of?

2. How did life begin?

3. Are we alone in the universe?

If pressed to give an answer on number three, I’d probably say something to the effect of: given how big the universe is, mathematically speaking, isn’t it more likely that there is other life out there somewhere than isn’t?

4. What makes us human?

5. What is consciousness?

On number five, I remember reading a very intriguing article in The Atlantic this past winter that explored the question: what does it mean to be conscious? It approached this question in the context of anesthesia. If this question interests you, this is one way to delve into the topic.

6. Why do we dream?

While there are many theories on why we dream, one of my favorite ways for interpreting dreams is through Jeremy Taylor’s method. This method also outside the context of dreaming.

7. Why is there stuff?

8. Are there other universes?

9. Where do we put all the carbon?

10. How do we get more energy from the sun?

Number ten, while also making you famous, would likely also make you extremely wealthy unless you went the route of Jonas Salk and polio.

11. What’s so weird about prime numbers?

12. How do we beat bacteria?

13. Can computers keep getting faster?

14. Will we ever cure cancer?

15. When can I have a robot butler?

16. What’s at the bottom of the ocean?

On number sixteen: when you realize that 95% of the ocean is unexplored, it sort of gets you curious about what might be down there. More than that, 99% of the Earth is water. There’s a lot we don’t know about the planet we inhabit.

17. What’s at the bottom of a black hole?

18. Can we live for ever?

19. How do we solve the population problem?

20. Is time travel possible?

On number twenty: if this turns out to be true, that would make for some interesting ethical and moral dilemmas.