Friday, April 22, 2011

End of the Earth VI: Nanobot destruction

Let's destroy the earth with technology.

A while ago, I read the novel Postsingular by Rudy Rucker, and in the first chapter the Earth gets destroyed, and then undestroyed, and then the novel unfolds and the Earth's likelihood is threatened again, and it looks like the Earth will be destroyed, but it isn't.

How does all of this craziness happen you might ask: nanobots! The story revolves around little self-replicating robots. The story explores what it would be like to live in a world where every surface on Earth was coated in little computers, all of which were networked together. It's certainly a neat idea, but whenever you have self-replicating things, you need to worry a bit about what might happen if they get out of control.

Earth Day Special: Post-Apocalyptic Literature

At some point in elementary school I got into the habit of reading Franz Kafka's The Metamorphosis every time that I got sick. I found it strangely comforting to be reminded that while I might have scarlet fever and be intermittently hallucinating about Mickey Mouse, at least I had not been (spoiler alert!) turned into a giant cockroach and disowned by my family.

Today is Earth Day! The earth has seen better days, and I got too depressed googling various environmental problems to even come up with a suitable list of examples. However, look on the bright side: things could be much, much worse. To explore how much worse it could be, here's a few of my favorite works of post-apocalyptic fiction - perfect reading for Earth Day. Skip past the cut to check them out.

End of the Earth V: There Goes the Sun

The Sun [photo courtesy of NASA]
People that know me well know that I have a lot in common with Robert Frost.  We both were born in March and we both employ rural New England settings to explore complex social and philosophical themes in our poetry.  We also like the same rap groups.

In honor of my literary doppelganger, I will now, having already had the world end in fire, try my hand at ice.

Let's try to answer the question:  "If the sun blinks out of existence this instant, what is the temperature of the Earth as a function of time?"

End of the Earth IV - Shocking Destruction

Earth day is upon us once more.  So many other namby-pamby bloggers out there (don't hurt me!) are writing about how wonderful the earth is and how great earth day is.  We here at The Virtuosi take a more hardline approach.  Today I'm going to tell you how to destroy the earth.  Completely and totally.  Unlike last year's methods, this one should work.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

A Sense of Scale (in Dollars and Cents)

I hate politics, but for some reason I obsessively read about it.  I don't know why I do this, but I assume it's the same reason people slow down for car wrecks and pay to see the geek [1].  Anyway, the big thing in political news now is that if Congress can't pass a budget [2] by the end of the day Friday, the government will shut down.

Shutting down the government means that 800,000 federal employees will go without pay [3], lots of services will be put on hold and you won't be able to go to the Smithsonian or the Grand Canyon.  So it's kind of a big deal.  Since the ramifications of a government shutdown are so serious, there must be some really important disagreements holding it up, right?  Right?

A quick search (for example, here), shows that the big hold-up in passing the budget comes over a disagreement on how much money should be cut from the budget.  Republicans want to cut $40 billion dollars and Democrats are willing to cut $34.5 billion dollars.

So the hold-up is over $5.5 billion.  Let's consider how utterly and stupidly insignificant this is.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Collective Wanderings

Update [04/04/11]:  It seems Clicky got too popular for our bandwidth limits on the physics servers.  Hopefully we'll be able to fix this sometime soon...

Update [04/02/11]:  We made the code faster, so check out the new and improved Clicky!

Hey, kids!  Would you like to be a bit player in a grand experiment with poorly thought out objectives?  If so, then check this out.  It's a little interactive "game" [1] that Alemi and Matt coded up.

When you click on the link, you will be redirected to a page showing something like this:

Friday, April 1, 2011

Special Virtuosi Book Announcement!

Coming soon to a Kindle near you!
We've been at this whole blogging thing for about a year now and I think we've amassed a large and dedicated enough fanbase to finally release a book!  The track record so far for physicist-writers has been quite good of late, so we figured why not us?

Well, lots of reasons actually.  For one thing, it's really hard.  Books are, like, hundreds of pages long.  I barely stay coherent and on-topic in a one page blog post.  For another thing, it takes lots of time.  I hardly have enough time to do my laundry in time scales deemed "socially acceptable."  How could I ever find the time to write a book?

Despite these potential setbacks, the millions and millions of dollars that writers make still seems really appealing.  Who wouldn't want to be rich and popular forever.  I mean, just look at Oscar Wilde, Edgar Allan Poe and Herman Melville!

Luckily, a solution presented itself.  I don't have time to write a book now, but I found an old copy of my novel Blue Dragon laying around the house that I was able to sell using the immense popularity of the Virtuosi brand.  The book will be published this summer by Clark Hall Publishing.  Here are a few advance reviews: