Recent discovery of a new supernova may lead to questions about dark matter theory. Science aficionados know that there appears to be more gravitational attraction than can be explained by the matter that we can see. So, in order for the extra gravity to be there, it’s been theorized that there must be extra matter that we can’t see – in other words, “dark matter“.
However, this new supernova discovery may shine some light on the darkness. Apparently, this supernova is spewing calcuim and titanium, and while most reports are focusing on the calcium, it is thought that the much heavier element titanium is the interesting part. This titanium, which is radioactive and emits positrons as it decays, could be the source of what had previously been attributed to dark matter particles colliding. If these types of supernovae are creating such an abundance of radioactive heavy elements in the universe, this could help explain the supposed dark matter signatures.
I love to read, and I especially love to read nonfiction books that help me understand how the world works. So, I’m going to be providing reviews of some of the books that I’ve been reading lately, and let you in on why I like (or don’t like) them and what I’m learning.
Recently I picked up a copy of The Perfect Swarmby Len Fisher, Ph.D., which focuses on the science of complexity in everyday life Dr. Fisher has also written books on game theory in real life (Rock, Paper, Scissors) and the optimal way to dunk a doughnut (aptly named How to Dunk a Doughnut). It turns out that Fisher was awarded the Ig Nobel Prize for the dunking donut work – the award is usually reserved for work that just plain bad, but Fisher has apparently turned his lemon into lemonade…
In The Perfect Swarm, Fisher describes how bees, ants, locusts, and fish use swarm intelligence to guide group movements and to help in the search for food. Humans use swarm intelligence as well, and Fisher describes multiple interesting ways that we can take advantage of these concepts to make better judgments in everyday life. Here’s just some of the interesting concepts and principles that come out of his analysis of complexity:
To move a group in the direction you want (for example, within a company), lead from the inside, but take care not to let other members of the group know what you are doing. Just head in the direction that you want to go, and leave it to the laws of the swarm to do the rest.
If you are in a crowd in a dangerous situation, use a mixed strategy for escape; follow the crowd 60 percent of the time, and spend the other 40 percent searching out escape routes on your own.
If you want to persuade a large group of people, or even start a craze, don’t rely on persuading someone with influence to pass the message on. It is far better to try for a critical mass of early adopters – people who will take the idea or product up after a single exposure.
When confronted with a mass of data that you need to use as the basis of a decision, furst use Benford’s Law to check that the data haven’t been faked.
Avoid the perils of groupthink by escaping temporarily from the group environment, doing some independent thinking, and committing yourself to the conclusions of that thinking before returning to the group.
Spread your bets evenly. Instead of choosing one alternative over another, allocate your resources equally to each.
And here’s a really interesting one – especially if you are hiring someone in your company:
If you want to give yourself the best chance of choosing the very best option in a situation that doesn’t allow you to go back to the options that you have rejected, look at 37 percent of those available, then choose the next one that is better than any of them. This will give you a 1 in 3 chance of finding the best option, and a very high chance of finding one in the top few percent.
I am incredibly interested in systems that have simple rules yet create complex behavior. The world can be modeled as a system using simple rules, and Fisher is quite effective in showing us some interesting and useful things that come from looking at these systems. It’s a good read, interesting to understand the concepts he’s getting across, and, I would say, worth the time. You can pick up a copy of The Perfect Swarmhere…
The Lego Star Wars series is just cool – they’ve made kits for the Death Star and the Millenium Falcon. Plus, they have video games (that my daughter really loves!…). But, the video below is absolutely awesome, retelling the Star Wars trilogy (Episodes IV, V, and VI) in about two minutes with what appears to be the most incredible Lego Star Wars set ever!