Friday, March 17, 2006

No Name

I couldn't think of a good title for this post, so instead I picked a rather stupid one. But not a completely meaningless one, as you'll see below

Here's an image of a distinctly double-helix-shaped nebula near the center of our galaxy, taken by the Spitzer Space Telescope. There's two ways to look at this. Normal people like me just go "cool" and wonder how it got that way, while the inhabitants of conservative never-neverland just froth at the mouth about a conspiracy of evil liberal scientists making the whole thing up. Ok, I haven't actually seen them do that yet, but it stands to reason.

And here's the latest weird extrasolar planet, which (according to researchers) is a huge ball of ice with a mass roughly that of Neptune. Here's a link to the researchers' paper, for those who prefer original sources. It occurs to me that, until quite recently, the Earth was actually the largest known solid object in the unverse. Since the Earth's the largest (known) solid planet in our solar system, and we were unaware of any bigger ones elsewhere, so there you go. I mean, this is not counting bizarre stuff like neutron stars, and even they're smaller if you're just going strictly by diameter.

An article at Tom's Hardware discussing one of the greatest movies of all time, TRON, including a long interview with the director.

Two previous articles of mine discussed (or possibly just babbled about) the weird world of transfinite ordinals. You'll probably want to read those first, that or just skip this item, because it probably won't make sense otherwise. I had just a couple more tidbits I wanted to pass along. The mysterious Church-Kleene ordinal, or w1CK, was discussed in connection with Turing machines, as the limit where all recursion finally runs out of steam. Which is part of the story, but it turns out that the same number is also the first example of something called an admissible ordinal. Which is an intriguingly positive-sounding name, since the Turing machine discussion made w1CK sound like a frustrating barrier, not something "admissible". It turns out the name just derives from these ordinals' connection with admissible sets, something I'm still hazy on. But w1CK is just the first one (after w, anyway), and the sequence goes on endlessly from there. And "admissibility" is by no means the strongest ordinal property. Here's a well-written paper I ran across, giving an overview of the esoteric and difficult field of proof theory. It even has a few diagrams, which may be really helpful for people trying to understand the subject. Beyond the admissibles, several additional types of ordinal are discussed, each a sort of recursive ordinal equivalent to a variety of large cardinal. Recursively inaccessible, Mahlo, and supercompact ordinals all make an appearance. The paper offers the names iota_0, mu_0, and kappa_0 for the first ordinal of each variety, adding to the already-rich, exotic bestiary of incredibly huge numbers "out there". Here's another paper that uses mu_0.

Ok, switching gears completely, here are two humor blogs I came across recently: Smile of the Day and Jokes & Humor Online.

A few new animal species to report: , a new grasshopper in Malaysia; , a shark in the Sea of Cortez, and , a.k.a. the Scott Bar salamander, which is about to lose its California habitat to logging. Seems that once the state realized it was a new, separate species, they decided that meant the state's raft of regulations protecting previously-known salamander species didn't apply anymore, and P. asupak habitat was fair game for clearcutting. Now there's a choice bit of self-serving "logic" for ya. Some photos here -- see 'em while you can...

And finally we get to the bit where I explain the title of this post. Here's the official website for No Name, a boy band from Montenegro (WP article here), in the Balkans. They were going to be Serbia-Montenegro's official Eurovision 2006 entry, but the choice spawned a huge controversy, complete with inter-republic ethnic tensions, and now the country's sending nobody at all. Did I mention Montenegro's thinking about seceding? They'll be voting on May 21st. However that turns out, I just hope we don't end up with yet another Balkan war to sort out. Back when Milosevic ran the show in Yugoslavia, I kept hoping Montenegro would secede, since I figured it was the only way to escape a dictatorship that showed no signs of weakening. They always seemed to be right on the verge of seceding, but they never quite did. Now I don't know what to think about the whole thing anymore.


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