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Submission + - John Conway's Life in Games (

An anonymous reader writes: The mathematician John Horton Conway claims to have never worked a day in his life. This adaptation from Genius at Play shows how serious advances such as the surreal numbers can spring out of fun and games.

Submission + - Randall Monroe Announces New Book: "Thing Explainer"

An anonymous reader writes: In the spirit of this comic where Randall explains the Saturn V rocket in a humorous manner by restricting himself to the one hundred most commonly used words, the founder of the famous xkcd comic site has announced that he is releasing a book with a similar premise. Entitled "Thing Explainer," Monroe hopes to explain complicated concepts using these simple words. It will be released in November 2015.

Comment Re:Flat does not imply infinite. (Score 1) 235

Ah Interesting-- Sorry, I seemed to have missed bullet point one in your original post. If we lived in a closed 3D space, and were able to observe the whole thing, then we would see some sort of repeating pattern in the CMBR. That's really interesting (and cool that somebody has looked into this!)

I guess I don't know enough about what cosmologists mean by ``flat.'' There are different kinds of flatness, and they have different interpretations.

For instance, if you wanted to look at a surface, and just assign a single number to each point to describe the curvature, then things like cylinders are flat.
If you take the General-relativity definition of flat, then I would believe (although, I don't really know!) there are a lot of manifolds which are Ricci-flat.
If you take the curvature to be zero (in the curvature tensor sense), then there are only a few closed manifolds which are flat (see for all 6 examples in dimension 3)

Comment Flat does not imply infinite. (Score 4, Interesting) 235

A mathematical note: Tori can be flat.

If the universe (and here we are talking about the large spacetime structure, not any of the weird tiny compactified extra string dimension stuff) is globally flat, it can still have the structure of a torus.

The torus when viewed as a 2 dimensional space in 3 dimensions, is not flat-- it has some positively curved parts (think the outer edge of the donut) and some negatively curved portions (think the saddle like regions on the inner ring of the torus.) However, the total curvature (when I sum up all contributing curvatures) on the torus is zero. This is related to a mathematical fact that the total curvature of any surface is given by a topological quantity called the genus. In simpler terms, no matter how I deform the torus, the sum of the curvature will be zero. This is very different from the sphere, whose total curvature is always 2\pi.

So, a flat universe would imply that we cannot live on a 4 sphere, because such objects must always have at least some positive curvature. However, there are examples of tori that have no curvature.

In the 2 dimensional case, it is best to see this from the ``Pac-Man'' perspective. The pacman game is played on a flat surface, and whenever you head off the top of the screen, you arrive at the bottom, and whenever you go off the left side of the screen you wind up on the right hand side. This describes a possible shape for the universe, and this shape is the torus! To see this, imagine that you took the playing field, and glue the top and bottom sides together. That would give you a cylinder. Taking the left and right sides and gluing them together would give you a torus. Now that we believe the pacman game is played on a torus, notice that the original interpretation was a flat surface. So , there is a flat representation of the torus.

To avoid some confusion and people trying to draw flat tori in 3 dimensional space, it can't be done. Every surface viewed in 3 dimensional space will necessarily have some positive curvature around its maximal value. Sorry folks!

In fact, of all the 2 dimensional (compact) surfaces, the only one that has a flat representation is the torus. So, if the universe is compact (and 2 dimensional, which seems unlikely,) there is hope for a Pacman world.

Comment Re:I love reading about this stuff... (Score 5, Informative) 129

Sure. I don't work in physics, but here is my understanding of the holographic principle.

Imagine that you are in a bathtub. There is a certain kind of physics that dictates the motions of waves in the bathtub. Now, you might believe that you need to understand the entirety of water to predict its future motion. You could develop a theory of water in bathtubs, and run experiments to verify if they are true.

After a lot of thought, you might come across the realization that in order to understand the mechanics of the water in the bathtub, it is only necessary to understand the way the surface of the water moves, or maybe even how the water interacts with the edge of the bathtub. This means that you've reduced the dimension of your theory in some way. While this analogy isn't true, there are examples of where it is-- for instance, the physics of harmonic oscillators, like strings, drumheads, etc, can be understood by looking at the boundaries of those oscillations.

Now, in physics, there are several ways that holography shows up. The most famous of these holography theories is called the AdS/CFT correspondence. It conjectures that a certain 5 dimensional string theory can be understood as a 4 dimensional field theory on the boundary. Now, I think that this perspective is interesting to physicists not because of the dimension change (dimensions in theoretical physics usually have little correlation with the observable dimensions of spacetime) but because it was one of the first known correspondences where a string theory reproduced the results of a field theory. Quantum Field theory is the most validated theory of physics we have, but it is thought to have foundational errors. String theory is suppose to offer a way out, but is... hard.

Hope that helps!

Submission + - Shooting at MIT (

Aphonia writes: There was a shooting at MIT. A police officer is down, near the home of CSAIL.
"Update on shooter incident. Responding agencies continue to investigate the situation. The scene is outside of Building 32 (Stata) and 76 (Koch) near Vassar and Main Streets. Injuries have been reported. The situation is still very active and we ask everyone to stay inside. "

Comment Not the First Time This Has Happened (Score 5, Informative) 301

I simply googled a few lines from some of her other posts, and saw that has happened before. For Example googling "Michelle and their two-year-old daughter are dragged into the fray, the No" from her article Pulls up a summary from this site, which was published months earlier.

Submission + - 4chan hacks Plainfield, NJ School District (

An anonymous reader writes: Visitors of 4chan's Technology board used admin credentials to access the school's Genesis management system and wreak havok (text mirror of thread here). Users from the board posted screenshots of their shenanigans, which included suspending students for drug trafficking, making installing Gentoo a sport, and sending out a message from Richard Stallman as an emergency broadcast to parents.

The school has posted a message indicating that the Genesis system is down, but has yet to publicly acknowledge that a breach occurred.


Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch Provokes Bomb Scare 186

Bomb disposal teams were called in and a nearby pub evacuated after water company engineers mistook a Monty Python film prop for a hand grenade. After nearly an hour of examination by bomb experts, they counted to three. No more. No less. Three was the number they counted, and the number they counted was three. Four they did not count, nor two, except to proceed to three. Five was right out. Once the number three had been reached, being the third number, they declared that the grenade was actually a copy of the "Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch" used in the film Monty Python And The Holy Grail. A police spokeswoman confirmed that the device was a toy and that it had been no danger to the public.
United States

Journal SPAM: Golha o Shirinee

Sweets and Flowers

(QUESTIONER): Vice President Cheney yesterday said that he expects that American forces will be greeted as liberators and I wonder if you could tell us if you agree with that and how you think they'll be greeted and also what you meant you said before that some Iraqi opposition groups might be in Baghdad even before American forces?


Is AMD Dead Yet? 467

TheProcess writes "Back in February 2003, IBM predicted that AMD would be dead in 5 years (original article here), with IBM and Intel the only remaining players in the chip market. Well, 5 years have passed and AMD is still alive. However, its finances and stock price have taken a serious beating over the last year. AMD was once a darling in this community — the plucky, up-and-coming challenger to the Intel behemoth. Will AMD still be here in 5 years? Can they pose a credible competitive threat to Intel's dominance? Do they still have superior but unappreciated technology? Or are they finally old hat? Can they really recover?"

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