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Is the human brain analog or digital? - Quora
The brain is neither analog nor digital, but works using a signal processing paradigm that has some properties in common with both.
Unlike a digital computer, the brain does not use binary logic or binary addressable memory, and it does not perform binary arithmetic. Information in the brain is represented in terms of statistical approximations and estimations rather than exact values. The brain is also non-deterministic and cannot replay instruction sequences with error-free precision. So in all these ways, the brain is definitely not "digital".
At the same time, the signals sent around the brain are "either-or" states that are similar to binary. A neuron fires or it does not. These all-or-nothing pulses are the basic language of the brain. So in this sense, the brain is computing using something like binary signals. Instead of 1s and 0s, or "on" and "off", the brain uses "spike" or "no spike" (referring to the firing of a neuron).
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april 2018 by nhaliday
Why do stars twinkle?
According to many astronomers and educators, twinkle (stellar scintillation) is caused by atmospheric structure that works like ordinary lenses and prisms. Pockets of variable temperature - and hence index of refraction - randomly shift and focus starlight, perceived by eye as changes in brightness. Pockets also disperse colors like prisms, explaining the flashes of color often seen in bright stars. Stars appear to twinkle more than planets because they are points of light, whereas the twinkling points on planetary disks are averaged to a uniform appearance. Below, figure 1 is a simulation in glass of the kind of turbulence structure posited in the lens-and-prism theory of stellar scintillation, shown over the Penrose tile floor to demonstrate the random lensing effects.

However appealing and ubiquitous on the internet, this popular explanation is wrong, and my aim is to debunk the myth. This research is mostly about showing that the lens-and-prism theory just doesn't work, but I also have a stellar list of references that explain the actual cause of scintillation, starting with two classic papers by C.G. Little and S. Chandrasekhar.
nibble  org:junk  space  sky  visuo  illusion  explanans  physics  electromag  trivia  cocktail  critique  contrarianism  explanation  waves  simulation  experiment  hmm  magnitude  atmosphere  roots  idk 
december 2017 by nhaliday
light - Why doesn't the moon twinkle? - Astronomy Stack Exchange
As you mention, when light enters our atmosphere, it goes through several parcels of gas with varying density, temperature, pressure, and humidity. These differences make the refractive index of the parcels different, and since they move around (the scientific term for air moving around is "wind"), the light rays take slightly different paths through the atmosphere.

Stars are point sources
…the Moon is not
nibble  q-n-a  overflow  space  physics  trivia  cocktail  navigation  sky  visuo  illusion  measure  random  electromag  signal-noise  flux-stasis  explanation  explanans  magnitude  atmosphere  roots 
december 2017 by nhaliday
galaxy - How do astronomers estimate the total mass of dust in clouds and galaxies? - Astronomy Stack Exchange
Dust absorbs stellar light (primarily in the ultraviolet), and is heated up. Subsequently it cools by emitting infrared, "thermal" radiation. Assuming a dust composition and grain size distribution, the amount of emitted IR light per unit dust mass can be calculated as a function of temperature. Observing the object at several different IR wavelengths, a Planck curve can be fitted to the data points, yielding the dust temperature. The more UV light incident on the dust, the higher the temperature.

The result is somewhat sensitive to the assumptions, and thus the uncertainties are sometimes quite large. The more IR data points obtained, the better. If only one IR point is available, the temperature cannot be calculated. Then there's a degeneracy between incident UV light and the amount of dust, and the mass can only be estimated to within some orders of magnitude (I think).
nibble  q-n-a  overflow  space  measurement  measure  estimate  physics  electromag  visuo  methodology 
december 2017 by nhaliday
How do you measure the mass of a star? (Beginner) - Curious About Astronomy? Ask an Astronomer
Measuring the mass of stars in binary systems is easy. Binary systems are sets of two or more stars in orbit about each other. By measuring the size of the orbit, the stars' orbital speeds, and their orbital periods, we can determine exactly what the masses of the stars are. We can take that knowledge and then apply it to similar stars not in multiple systems.

We also can easily measure the luminosity and temperature of any star. A plot of luminocity versus temperature for a set of stars is called a Hertsprung-Russel (H-R) diagram, and it turns out that most stars lie along a thin band in this diagram known as the main Sequence. Stars arrange themselves by mass on the Main Sequence, with massive stars being hotter and brighter than their small-mass bretheren. If a star falls on the Main Sequence, we therefore immediately know its mass.

In addition to these methods, we also have an excellent understanding of how stars work. Our models of stellar structure are excellent predictors of the properties and evolution of stars. As it turns out, the mass of a star determines its life history from day 1, for all times thereafter, not only when the star is on the Main Sequence. So actually, the position of a star on the H-R diagram is a good indicator of its mass, regardless of whether it's on the Main Sequence or not.
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december 2017 by nhaliday
Is the speed of light really constant?
So what if the speed of light isn’t the same when moving toward or away from us? Are there any observable consequences? Not to the limits of observation so far. We know, for example, that any one-way speed of light is independent of the motion of the light source to 2 parts in a billion. We know it has no effect on the color of the light emitted to a few parts in 1020. Aspects such as polarization and interference are also indistinguishable from standard relativity. But that’s not surprising, because you don’t need to assume isotropy for relativity to work. In the 1970s, John Winnie and others showed that all the results of relativity could be modeled with anisotropic light so long as the two-way speed was a constant. The “extra” assumption that the speed of light is a uniform constant doesn’t change the physics, but it does make the mathematics much simpler. Since Einstein’s relativity is the simpler of two equivalent models, it’s the model we use. You could argue that it’s the right one citing Occam’s razor, or you could take Newton’s position that anything untestable isn’t worth arguing over.

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november 2017 by nhaliday
[1509.02504] Electric charge in hyperbolic motion: The early history and other geometrical aspects
We revisit the early work of Minkowski and Sommerfeld concerning hyperbolic motion, and we describe some geometrical aspects of the electrodynamic interaction. We discuss the advantages of a time symmetric formulation in which the material points are replaced by infinitesimal length elements.

SPACE AND TIME: An annotated, illustrated edition of Hermann Minkowski's revolutionary essay: http://web.mit.edu/redingtn/www/netadv/SP20130311.html
nibble  preprint  papers  org:mat  physics  electromag  relativity  exposition  history  mostly-modern  pre-ww2  science  the-trenches  discovery  intricacy  classic  explanation  einstein  giants  plots  manifolds  article  multi  liner-notes  org:junk  org:edu  absolute-relative 
november 2017 by nhaliday
Static electricity - Wikipedia
Electrons can be exchanged between materials on contact; materials with weakly bound electrons tend to lose them while materials with sparsely filled outer shells tend to gain them. This is known as the triboelectric effect and results in one material becoming positively charged and the other negatively charged. The polarity and strength of the charge on a material once they are separated depends on their relative positions in the triboelectric series. The triboelectric effect is the main cause of static electricity as observed in everyday life, and in common high-school science demonstrations involving rubbing different materials together (e.g., fur against an acrylic rod). Contact-induced charge separation causes your hair to stand up and causes "static cling" (for example, a balloon rubbed against the hair becomes negatively charged; when near a wall, the charged balloon is attracted to positively charged particles in the wall, and can "cling" to it, appearing to be suspended against gravity).
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november 2017 by nhaliday
Early History of Electricity and Magnetism
The ancient Greeks also knew about magnets. They noted that on rare occasions "lodestones" were found in nature, chunks of iron-rich ore with the puzzling ability to attract iron. Some were discovered near the city of Magnesia (now in Turkey), and from there the words "magnetism" and "magnet" entered the language. The ancient Chinese discovered lodestones independently, and in addition found that after a piece of steel was "touched to a lodestone" it became a magnet itself.'


One signpost of the new era was the book "De Magnete" (Latin for "On the Magnet") published in London in 1600 by William Gilbert, a prominent medical doctor and (after 1601) personal physician to Queen Elizabeth I. Gilbert's great interest was in magnets and the strange directional properties of the compass needle, always pointing close to north-south. He correctly traced the reason to the globe of the Earth being itself a giant magnet, and demonstrated his explanation by moving a small compass over the surface of a lodestone trimmed to a sphere (or supplemented to spherical shape by iron attachments?)--a scale model he named "terrella" or "little Earth," on which he was able to duplicate all the directional properties of the compass. (here and here)
nibble  org:edu  org:junk  lecture-notes  history  iron-age  mediterranean  the-classics  physics  electromag  science  the-trenches  the-great-west-whale  discovery  medieval  earth 
september 2017 by nhaliday
Fermat's Library | Cassini, Rømer and the velocity of light annotated/explained version.
Abstract: The discovery of the finite nature of the velocity of light is usually attributed to Rømer. However, a text at the Paris Observatory confirms the minority opinion according to which Cassini was first to propose the ‘successive motion’ of light, while giving a rather correct order of magnitude for the duration of its propagation from the Sun to the Earth. We examine this question, and discuss why, in spite of the criticisms of Halley, Cassini abandoned this hypothesis while leaving Rømer free to publish it.
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september 2017 by nhaliday

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