Category Archives: Interesting

What Really Matters


I came upon this page today as I was doing some research. We concern ourselves with many things … but ask yourself, which ones really matter. I know I will forget this story and as often do, forget what are my real priorities; however, I do not ever forget that my kids are the “only” priority.

Am I A Fireman Yet?

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Why Do I Post?


Does having a blog and posting in it hurts you? Well, does it? Does it matter?

I think about these question on a regular basis. There is not that much privacy in the world anymore. I can find out most things about almost anybody. And if I am willing to pay, it is even easier and the information even more complete. As prospective business partners, employers, customers, band mates, etc, research who I may be, they will happen upon this blog. So, is it wise for me to have a blog like the one I have been keeping?

I post all sort of things in this blog. From music (poor music 😉 ) I have recorded on my own or with my band, to business thoughts and ideas, experiences to cheap philosophical discussions. The blog has become an outlet for expressing myself at many levels. I write because it is therapeutic. It allows me to express myself to “my audience.”

And that in itself is an interesting question, who is my audience?

First and foremost I am my own audience. I write for myself. As I mentioned earlier, I find writing therapeutic just like I find coding therapeutic. But since I do not do much coding anymore, writing is it.

Writing is very powerful. It forces us to take the time to put our thoughts in order so we can write them down. As we put them down, we find how not in order our thoughts really were and then the writing process assists us in organizing our ideas. I am not very eloquent and often enough struggle with communicating my ideas – yeah .. some will call BS on this but that is because through writing I have overcome my lack of eloquence – thus writing helps me in such communication.

In write about everything I can think of. I have many posts started and in progress with titles such as:

•   Innovation as a version number

•   Does democracy really exist

•   Evolution, freedom and revolution

•   Building Datacenters

•   Social networks and cloud computing

•   The right to die

•   And other topics

First of all, these topics are of interest to me. Nothing is barred or taboo. They cover a wide range. From the definite business topic, to the intersection of business and technology, politics, philosophy, religion and much more. In many cases my writings were sparked by discussion I had with friends over dinner, drinks or hanging out. In other cases, they are answers to other posts found on the web.

Writing allows me to investigate my thinking in a paused and methodical manner. It affords me the time to think and research the topics I target.

Second, my family and friends. The blog is a vehicle for them to check on my “sanity” 🙂 that many times is heavily questioned and contested. It is a way for me to share with them a part of me, in particular because I have friends all over the world. Facebook is the vehicle I use for communication, but the blog is the content of such communication.

It is said that in order to became a “full man” you need to plant a tree, write a book and have a kid. I have planted many trees, have had two lovely kids that I am very proud of – with the help of a great wife – but no book. This is the “book in progress.” The “full man” concept is really about what legacy we leave behind. This is just a part of it. And that is also why I include my music and other artistic outlets.

Third, business partners, clients, etc. They might find some of my writings interesting or even useful. In the case of business related topics, I use the blog as a means to keep as current as I can with technology concepts and ideas and business trends. I take a very strategic approach to what I write about. Am I right in my conclusions? Well … I think I am, but in the end, it does not matter. It is one possible conclusion amongst many other.

But here is where it gets a little dangerous. I am mixing personal posts with business writings. Basically, it appears that I am being careless in how I address my audience. The truth is that early on I decided I was not going to segregate my writings based on my audience. While I do keep many of my thoughts and other elements of my personal life private, I also strive for transparency; especially when it comes to business and business relationships.

Fourth, whomever finds it in their Internet travels. There is a big world out there that is getting smaller and smaller everyday. This is just my grain of sand 😉

Now, this post may sound like a justification. And it is a justification to me in terms of the decisions I continue to take. I few years back I realized that I was still holding on to ideas, concepts, decision, certain values that I had set on between the ages of 15 to 20 and 25. While I am the same person at the core, I am not the same person overall. I have lived many experiences since then that need to be factored in. So, I re-evaluate many of my earlier thoughts and decisions continuously. Writing this post is just another re-evaluation.

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Perpetuum Jazzile Africa


Amazing work and arrangement – great work!!

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Thinking In Time And Space


When I was a child I wanted to be a Theoretical Physicist. Maybe the fact that Albert Einstein was somebody I looked up to might have had something to do with it. However, looking back into it, he was an influence but not a determining factor. My father had a bigger hand in what I wanted to be in addition to my own curiosity. I remember clearly playing, as a child, that I was an interstellar and time traveler. It was not, however, your standard child play … it was more mental.

While my childhood is long gone and I have abandoned many of the topics that interested me then, Theoretical Physics remains an interest. I do not have the required time to pursue it in the manner I would normally do something that interests me – all time consuming – so I stay at a very high and abstract level; conjectures, theories, mere ideas and imagination.

Two very basic and important elements in Physics are Time and Space. These elements can also be understood as concepts and used as basic building blocks. One small disclaimer, while I believe that Mathematics is a Universal language – and by it I mean Universal in the cosmic sense – I will not use it as part if this writing. I would like to say that is because people will not be able to follow, but the truth is that I am way too rusty in it.

Some definitions first:

Space

1 A continuous area or expanse that is free, available, or unoccupied : a table took up much of the space | we shall all be living together in a small space | he backed out of the parking space.
• an area of land that is not occupied by buildings
an empty area left between one-, two-, or three-dimensional points or objects : the space between a wall and a utility pipe.

2 The dimensions of height, depth, and width within which all things exist and move : the work gives the sense of a journey in space and time.
• (also outer space) the physical universe beyond the earth’s atmosphere.
• the near vacuum extending between the planets and stars, containing small amounts of gas and dust.
• Mathematics a mathematical concept generally regarded as a set of points having some specified structure.

Time

The indefinite continued progress of existence and events in the past, present, and future regarded as a whole : travel through space and time | one of the greatest wits of all time.
• the progress of this as affecting people and things : things were getting better as time passed.
• time or an amount of time as reckoned by a conventional standard : it’s eight o’clock Eastern Standard Time.
( Time or Father Time) the personification of time, typically as an old man with a scythe and hourglass.

When I think of space I think in multiple levels. Just like the definition above, I think of the standard mathematical construct – a point in space is defined as 3 points, one on the x plane, one on the y plane and one on the z plane – I guess I can not escape my training. I think about the laws of Physics – two objects can not occupy the same space concurrently (but that is in 3 dimensions). I think of the house I live in, the office I use every day, the car I drive. I also thinking about distance. The distance from my office to my home, from my home office to the bedroom, and so on.

But the space that concerns me most is the distance between celestial bodies, such as planets, stars and galaxies; similarly, the distance between atoms, electrons, protons, neutrinos. The full understanding of these spaces are key to understanding Physics and thus, the Universe. Often times I ask people what kind, or what size, of a space they can hold in their heads. The most interesting one was “from here to the door”. I though the person was kidding, but it was true. He could only “imagine” the distance he could “see”, which was from where he was to the door. The interesting part was that he fully understood the question and the concept I was after. The rest of the answers were a combination of confused looks to small distances. The reality is that by-and-large people did not comprehend the question and/or have a limited way in which they think about the subject. Not everybody is bothered with such triviality.

When I ask the same question of myself the answer is very different. I can keep in my mind, in my imagination, in my consciousness, several million light years. I know it sounds not only presumptuous but strange. I can travel in just instances across large expanses of the Universe. I can see it in my mind and I can feel each meter going by. But what I can not see is the details.

I can see planets, but not if the planets are inhabited. I can see the color of their atmospheres but not the content. I can bounce from sun to sun and feel their warmth. The Universe is enormous. And the several million light years that I can keep in my mind are but just an tiny portion of the Universe. The Universe is infinite; so a few million light years means nothing. So, proportionally speaking, I can keep in my head not more than “from here to the door”.

While space is something in the “here and now”, time is a different story. Presented to the same “space” question but in regards to time, all people I have asked are at a loss. First, they do not understand the question. After I explain, they do not understand the concept. The question/concept is simple: How long a time can you “remember” and/or “perceive” in your mind.

I can keep billions of years in my head. However, unlike space, I can not travel through time. I wish I could, but I can not. The past is in the past and the future is yet to occur. I am not in particular a student of history. I like history as it serves the purpose of providing a somewhat of a context for understanding events, their cause and effect and how current events are influenced from past events. But history is hardly a means to “travel” to the past.

So, what do I exactly mean by saying I keep billions of years in my head? I feel that I have a good understanding of time and how events have a potential for unfolding. I do not claim, and I want to be clear about this, that I have a full and precise understanding of how events unfold, but only a full understanding that events do unfold and there are ramifications – this is obvious. The question I often ask is: If I could go back to the past and change something, would I now enjoy my children? The cold answer is “most likely not but I would have other children to enjoy”; or “my reality would be different so it does not matter”. And I also want to be clear that I love my children more than anything.

Extend the above simple example to prehistoric man. Or even beyond. What would have happen if a rock that fell to the left had fallen to the right when the primordial soup had first come together. An extra Carbon? Maybe Silicon? And beyond? What was there beyond … if The Big Bang Theory is what happened what happened instances after or before? And finally, what was there before the big bang?

Similarly, what does tomorrow hold in store for me? And in 10 years? What about my kids in 50? Or great-grandchildren in 100? Humanity in 1000? And how will the Universe look in 1 Million years? And that is where I stop, believe it or not. I keep questions in my mind, events with different possibilities and cause and effect from before the alleged Big Bang to 1 Million years in the future. As I said: Billions of years. After that my thoughts become confused, diffused and all together incoherent – you can argue that it is my general state of being, but … hey, pot shots later please.

An important question: Do I subscribe to The Big Bang Theory?

The important answer: Absolutely not.

Surprised? I hope not. When I was about 13 I had my first formal Physics class in High School. In grammar school Physics was a part of Math and Science. Argentina at the time had a different school structure than now. Grammar School was between 6 and 12, and High School between 13 and 17 or 18 depending if you went to a Normal or  Technical school. In class we were explained The Big Bang Theory. In its simplest terms the theory states that at one moment there was a singularity, like a dot made by a pencil and the next moment it expanded to our current universe; and in the expansion process, big amounts or energy were released, thus, BIG BANG!!

Most of my classmates did not really get it. However, being in a technical school they took is as dogma. A few of us scratched our heads. Half of us had come from a very strong religious background. So, the teachings of The Bible came to bare on  the discussion that ensued. The other half – I was amongst this second half – had come from a strong science background. For a time the discussion was monopolized by the religious folks. They brought up some good points; of course, all based on religious views. The teacher was somewhat of an ignoramus and could not intelligently or eloquently discuss The Big Bang from a religious point of view.

Eventually the religious chatter gave way to the science geeks. The teacher was a little better prepared for us than for the other students. But not that much more. My chief argument was that “while the creationist views did not make much sense in general given fossil evidence across multiple subject” – somebody said background radiation? – “The Big Bang Theory did not make sense either in spite of the fossil evidence” – again, background radiation anyone? – “How can a singularity no bigger than a pencil point be so dense as to “pack” all the necessary “matter and energy” to spawn the Universe? And what was there before the Big Bang – “NOTHING” would just not cut it.” The teacher was dumbfounded.

There was no conclusion to the discussion and it soon died out as the teacher continued with the lesson. What a wasted opportunity!!

The basic principle of the conversation remained with me to this day. Evidence needed to be found to support the theories, including creationism. I embarked on a life long venture to discover the evidence. I started with religion; I was foolish enough to think it was the easiest and most accessible. We will leave that for a different blog post.

Science, while still lacking, provided many of the answers I was looking for. But not all of them. To this day “modern” Science lacks the same depth that religion has achieve over a much longer life span. But it will get there and I suspect religion would not be anywhere close.

I do have to say that I have a great deal of respect for religious people, specially the ones that can carry out a conversation in “scientific” terms – and even better if there is some libation fueling the mood. Being able to have faith is enviable.

What do I propose as an alternative theory? For starters, the Universe has always been and will always be. While it may sound as a cop-out, I feel very strongly that from a logical point of view it makes more sense. Consider Einstein’s conservation of mass and energy: No mass is lost but transformed; no energy is lost but transformed. No matter how dense a singularity can be, in my wildest imagination I can not conceive it to have as much mass as the imaginable Universe has – not to say the rest of the Universe, the un-imaginable.

What I can imagine is all of the celestial bodies’ and their gravitational field synching up and attracting each other. This occurred a long time ago; trillions and trillions of years ago, if not more. We now observe the Universe expanding, but to an observer on those times, the Universe would have been contracting. As the bodies got closer together, their collective gravities started to tear the bodies apart further increasing the overall gravitational field and accelerating the bodies to each other converging in some “Point” in “Space”.

Again, from an observers point of view, it would have looked as a very dense singularity  and relatively speaking, possibly as a “lead point”.

At some point in time gravity was so strong that all bodies collapsed on each other creating a massively dense – not only mass but also energy in the form of gravity – conglomerate of bodies to a point that stored and potential energy in the system became so large that it needed to be released. And this release is what has become known as the “Big Bang”.

Maybe I need to restate what I previously wrote – it is not that I do not believe in the Big Bang, but that I think the theory is incomplete and erroneous in its assumptions from a timed events point of view.

There is another point that needs to be brought up: What is the definition of “ … some ‘Point’ in ‘Space’”? In other words, how is this point expressed and what is its dimensionality? And again … that is a topic for a different post.

Further Reading:

http://www.fortunecity.com/emachines/e11/86/big-bang.html

http://www.universetoday.com/2008/06/13/thinking-about-time-before-the-big-bang/

http://www.tomcoyner.com/before_the_big_bang_there_was__.htm

https://filer.case.edu/dts8/thelastq.htm

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An Answer That Even An Single Cell Organism Can Understand


By Agustin M Rela
Translated by Fabian Schonholz

I hired Ramiro Rela back in late 2002 or early 2003. The reality is that I did not want to hire him because he did not have the relevant experience I was looking for. I would have had to contend with mutiny had I not hired him. Allowing my other employees to convince me was one of the best decisions I ever made. Ramiro is a scholar and a gentleman, a friend, a fantastic co-worker (when we did work together) and a very intelligent individual with whom I enjoyed pizza, beer or wine and some deep intellectual and technical conversations.

With the CERN turning on the LHC and the rumors around the event – whether a black hole can be produced by it or not – Ramiro asked his father, who is a physicist, to explain what a particle accelerator was and how it worked, all in terms a “single cell” organism would understand. Now … the single cell organisms are the people at the office who were “aptly” concerned about black holes generated by a particle accelerator … and influenced by the WWW’s rumor mill.

I have translated Ramiro’s father’s explanation because I think it is brilliant and it MUST be shared. It explains in very clear terms not only what an accelerator is but some basic quantum physics concepts needed to understand how and why accelerators are built. I have included the original text in Spanish for those who would rather read the original and save themselves from my horrible and butchered translation. Besides, if you can read it in Spanish, even better, since Agustin writes beautifully.

Here it goes …

Dear Ramiro:

Physics studies everything the hard way. It is one of its curses.

In 1916 Max Plank and others discovered Quantum Physics, which establishes that objects with definite contours do not exist and that matter is only diffused energy waves. To make matters worse, these waves can only manifest in packets called “quantum” and as whole packets. This discovery changed the philosophy of Physics, since it wiped the borderline between object and subject and the principle of causality and set a numeric limit to the knowledge of reality.

Mass is equivalent to energy through Einstein’s E = mc2. And the energy of a quantum (of which you can calculate its mass) is E = hf. Where ‘h’ is Plank’s constant and f the frequency measured in hertz – or cycles per second.

On the other hand, in order to see an object you need to use waves smaller than the object. That is why a virus can not be seen with an optical microscope, since the smallest light wave we can see is of 1/1000th of a millimeter and viruses are 100 times smaller. In order to observe them we need to use shorter length waves provided by electrons – let’s remember that electrons are themselves waves. A more familiar example is waves in the ocean of 2 or 3 meters long. They go around the dock posts like they were not there but bounce back once they hit a boat. However, the waves generated by a fisherman’s floater reflect perfectly off the same dock posts.

A high frequency means a short wave length, as we realize that mice squeak but do not roar. And as Planck’s formula tells us the higher the frequency the greater the energy associated to a particle. It is an injustice that in order to see a small particle we need to violently shake it with great energy while to see an elephant a faint sound wave is sufficient.

Historically, large molecules could be seen without instrumentation. Atoms could only be seen if you bombarded them with particles emitted from radioactive sources. Atom’s nuclei can be seen by using a cyclotron, a machine in whose interior electrons gyrate thanks to synchronized attractions and repulsions. With such machine we can obtain high energy electrons, thus, high frequency and short wavelength. As a consequence, these electrons are apt for bouncing against smaller elements than an atom, e.i.: its nucleus.

To see what’s inside a nucleus higher energy particles are needed, in other words, faster particles. Particles are accelerated by attracting and rejecting them with correctly polarized electricity. The largest accelerators are big vacuumed tunnels so accelerated particles would not collide with anything; and they are attracted and repelled by rings of changing polarity. It is as though a horse was running along the tunnel being offered a carrot at one moment and spanked immediately after. Each trainer ought to rapidly change his attraction strategy for a repulsion as soon as the irrational goes by their noses. Such is what the electric poles do in the accelerator.

The famous LHC or Great Hadron Collider is today the largest in the world. It differentiates from the previous in that it can accelerate particles until they have enough energy to see what is inside a particle that belongs to an atom’s nucleus It accumulates up to 5 trillion electron volts per particle. A Hadron is a type of subatomic particle composed of quarks and characterized by strong nuclear interactions; i.e.: protons and mesons. Hadron means “heavy” in Greek.

There is no risk that these experiments may destroy the world. Moreover, the world is constantly being bombarded by cosmic rays with an energy of ten to the twentieth electron volts while the LHC does not even reach ten to the thirteenth of the same units. It was built because there is not time to wait for just the required cosmic ray in the required place needed for an experiment.

Some people call the LHC “The God Machine” since it produces and is used to produce particles that where abundant during the beginning of the universe. The religious tradition associates the beginning of the universe with Creation.

Objections are heard that a large quantity of resources have been invested in basic or pure science with no immediate concrete application. But that always happens. When the first experiments with nuclear energy were conducted, nobody knew that France and Japan were going to obtain today most of the electricity they consume from nuclear energy; nobody knew that cancer was going to be cured with radio-isotopes; or sterilized surgical instrumentation with atomic radiation. And when Isaac Newton imagined in 1684 the placement of an artificial satellite on an orbit around Earth, he set in play the wildest and freest scientific imagination, that today, make it possible for people to be evacuated hours before a hurricane hits; or airplanes to save a third of their gas thanks to weather forecasting; or make it possible for me to receive your questions and for you to receive my answers.

Regards.

AgustIn M Rela
14.Sep.2008

—- Spanish Version —-

Querido Ramiro:

La física estudia todo a los golpes; ésa es una de sus maldiciones.

En 1916 Max Plank y otros descubrieron la física cuántica, que establece que los objetos de contornos definidos no existen, y sólo hay ondas difusas de materia. Para colmo, esas ondas sólo se pueden manifestar en paquetes llamados cuantos, y no en fracciones. Ese descubrimiento cambió la filosofía, porque barrió la frontera entre objeto y sujeto y el principio de causalidad, y puso límite numérico al conocimiento que se puede tener de la realidad.

La masa es equivalente a la energía a través de la famosa fórmula de Einstein, E=m.c². Y la energía de un cuanto (de la que se puede calcular la masa) vale E = h.f, donde h es la constante de Plank, y f la frecuencia de la onda, en hertz, o ciclos por segundo.

Por otra parte, para ver un objeto hay que usar ondas más chicas que el objeto, por eso no se puede ver un virus con un microscopio óptico, dado que la onda de luz más chica que podemos ver es de media milésima de milímetro, y el virus es centenares de veces más chico. Para observarlo hay que usar ondas más cortas, provistas por electrones. (Recordemos que los electrones son ondas, igual que cualquier otra cosa.) Un ejemplo más familiar es que las olas del mar, de dos o tres metros de longitud, pasan alrededor de los postes del muelle como si no existieran, pero rebotan en un barco más grande. En cambio las olas pequeñas que hace el corcho del pescador se reflejan perfectamente en los mismos postes.

Una frecuencia alta significa una longitud de onda corta, como nos damos cuenta al comprobar que los ratones chillan, pero no rugen. Y como la fórmula de Planck dice que cuanto mayor es la frecuencia, tanto más grande es la energía asociada a una partícula, resulta la injusticia de que para ver cosas muy chicas hay que sacudirlas a lo bruto con gran energía; en cambio para ver un elefante alcanza con muy débiles ondas de sonido.

En la historia, las moléculas grandes se vieron casi a simple vista. Para ver átomos hubo que bombardearlos con partículas emitidas por fuentes radiactivas. Para ver los núcleos de los átomos hubo que usar un ciclotrón, que es una máquina en cuyo interior giran electrones gracias a repulsiones y atracciones sincronizadas. Con esa máquina se obtienen electrones de mucha energía, por tanto, de alta frecuencia; y por eso, de escasa longitud de onda, y en consecuencia aptos para rebotar en cosas más chicas de un átomo; por ejemplo, su núcleo.

Para ver lo que hay dentro del núcleo hacen falta partículas de más energía, o sea más veloces. Se las lleva a gran velocidad atrayéndolas y rechazándolas con electricidad de la polaridad correcta. Los aceleradores más grandes son túneles en los que se hace el vacío para que las partículas no choquen con nada, y se las atrae y repele con anillos de polaridad cambiante. Es como si por el túnel corriera un caballo y le ofrecieran zanahorias por delante, y lo castigaran a patadas por atrás un momento después. Cada entrenador debería cambiar rápidamente su estrategia de atracción por una de repulsión, apenas pase el irracional frente a sus narices. Eso hacen los polos eléctricos del acelerador.

El famoso LHC, o Gran Colisionador de Hadrones, hoy el más grande del mundo, se distingue de los anteriores en que puede acelerar partículas hasta que tengan la energía suficiente como para ver qué  hay dentro de las partículas que forman parte de los núcleos. Acumula hasta 5 billones de electrón voltios por cada partícula. (Algunas fuentes dicen trillones, por error de traducción.) Un hadrón es un tipo de partículas subatómicas compuestas por quarks y caracterizadas por una interacción nuclear de la llamada fuerte; por ejemplo el protón y el mesón. Hadro significa pesado en griego.

No hay riesgo de que esos experimentos destruyan el mundo, porque de hecho todos los días nos bombardean rayos cósmicos de diez a la veinte electrón voltios, mientras que el Gran Chocador no llega a diez a la trece de las mismas unidades. Se lo construyó porque no hay tiempo para esperar que justo aparezca un rayo cósmico en el lugar requerido por un experimento.

Algunos llaman al LHC la Máquina de Dios, porque las partículas que estudia fueron las más abundantes en los comienzos del universo, y la tradición religiosa asocia ese origen con la Creación.

Se oyen objeciones a que se haya invertido una cantidad muy grande de recursos en ciencia básica o pura, o sea sin aplicación concreta a la vista. Pero eso pasa siempre. Cuando se experimentó con la energía nuclear por primera vez, no se sabía que Francia y Japón iban a obtener hoy de ella casi toda la energía eléctrica que consumen; que se iba a curar el cáncer con radioisótopos, o a esterilizar instrumental quirúrgico con radiaciones atómicas. Y cuando Isaac Newton imaginó en 1684 la colocación de un satélite artificial en órbita, puso en juego la más pura imaginación científica libre y desenfrenada, sin sospechar que hoy los satélites hacen que se pueda
evacuar a tiempo una región amenazada por un huracán; ahorran hasta un tercio del combustible de aviación gracias al pronóstico meteorológico, y permiten que me lleguen tus preguntas, y que tellegue esta respuesta.

Un abrazo,

AgustIn M Rela
14.Sep.2008

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For The Nerds Like Me


For the nerds like me out there … classic newsgroup post. Very cool.

Click here for post

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Einstein said …


“Technological progress is like an axe in the hands of a pathological criminal.”

Sometimes I wonder …

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