afterlife hypothesis.

Hypotheses are essential ingredients of a theory. Some of these hypotheses are easy to accept intuitively. For example, in planar geometry, it is postulated that given any straight line and a point not on it, there “exists one and only one straight line which passes” through that point and never intersects the first line, no matter how far they are extended.However, some of the postulates are hard to accept or refute. For example, in standard model of particle physics, an elementary particle is a zero dimensional object with no internal structure.

In general, who and how to determine validity of a postulate is an interesting question. Based on my understanding, there are three ways to make a postualte. First, we postulate something based on our every day understanding (common sense) of that particular field. Second, sometimes we postulate based on what mathematics/observation suggests. Sometimes we just postulate based on necessity in our theory. However. the postulate of no afterlife, is not based on any of these notions. My guess is that, since after life was linked to religion, by rejecting religion in the renaissance, after life was also nullified.

Breaking any of those above postulates, opens a window of new possibilities in front of us. All of these new postulates will be the basis of new theories, with possibly some predictions which will not be possible to forecast otherwiseFor example in the case of geometry, non-Eucleadian geometry arises and in the case of particle physics, string theory flourishes.

Sadly, I have encountered many people who assume that no afterlife is proven with our physical theories, while it is not. So far, it is only assumed that there is no life after death. The current scientific status does not have any evidence against or in favour of afterlife. So, it can be either postulated that such things do not exist, and pursue some type of theories, or we can assume otherwise and look at the possibilities. At this point, I personally don’t see any objection against any of those possibilities, scientifically.

Furthermore, afterlife need not to be mystical or religious. Let me give a rough example. Assume an infant in the mother womb, after life for an infant could simply be referred to the life after birth. However, we should be very careful here, and be consistent with our postulate within our theory, and then make a sensible conclusion and predictions. We have every right to accept a new postulate or break an old postulate toward finding new things. Afterlife is also one of those assumptions which can be hypothesized and one can build a theory around it.

However, we should not forget that people religiously believed for a long time that some form of afterlife exists. So, it should not be very hard to postulate such an assumption. However, I should emphasize that even postulating such a statement, does not prove or disprove presence of a God. So, I imagine someone can start a theory with a postulate that says: there is a life after death, and then investigate scientific (physical, psychological, etc) aspects of this new theory.

I would like to end this post with a statement that according to my understanding there is no  accepted (scientific) evidence in favour or against afterlife. So, postulating one with respect to the other has no (experimental) advantage, although all current philo-psychological theories postulate no afterlife. The most important problem that I see with a community that believe otherwise, is that they usually mix up things, and mostly draw non-scientific conclusions, sadly, sometimes for their financial benefits, which makes it hard to discuss afterlife-based theories in a scientific community.

One last thing is that, every postulate sometimes comes with huge philosophical aspects which would change the way we live. Afterlife is one of those postulates which drastically change our worldview. I will come back to this point in my future posts.

Are we affected by Electromagnetic field around us?

A close friend of mine, Alireza, sent me a link to a recent documentary on the effect of electromagnetic field on human and other living bodies life. You can watch the movie here.

This is a great effort to show the recent and old studies on this issue. However, there is no interview with critics to hear both sides of stories. Here I would like to present my view on this as well, as following:

1) it is not hard to assume that we are synchronized with our environment, from visible senses such as colour, smells, etc, and of course non-visible senses such as magnetic field.

2) It is very bad habit of industrial world that they expose society to something before they make sure their mid or long term problems. For example, cigars, plastic, and most less-comntroversial of all asbestos!

3) It is very bad habit of people of industrial world to trust to what their governments say without inquiring enough evidences. However, all of us know that government does not fund many long term researches, including chronic health related problems. Particularly, if this is not straightforward to see it immediately.
4) To me, cancer is simple; some cells get irritated, and then get out of control biologically leading to cancer. So to speak, any constant modulation of a group cells would cause a cancer. So, it is very likely constant exposure to EMF would lead to severe health problems such as cancer!
However, strong statement in this movies about extinction of birds and bees and so on, does not seem very obvious to me. Since the same type of evidence are being used for global warming and so on.  Or even I do remember that while ago breast cancer was also was associated with increase exposure to plastic, etc.
I believe that we need to be cautious, and we need to be more critical what we use and what we eat.
Stay Well,

Physicist Kenneth Wilson dies at 77

I recently found out that one of my favourite scientist, K. Wilson, died last week. You can read about him here.

His work on phase transition and renormalization group was one of beautiful theories in theoretical physics, which inspired me learning physics more and more. The idea of renormalization and its development can be found in Wilson’s nobel lecture: http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/physics/laureates/1982/wilson-lecture.pdf .

Optimizing graduate studies.

I have been talking about deficiencies of graduate studies before, here and here. Now, in order to partly fix some of the problems, I strongly suggest all students, particularly, those in science and engineering to gain some experience in one low level, one high level, and one database scripting language. First to understand the distinction between low level and high level computer programming language, I like to invite you the following youtube video by Feynman in which he explains (in layman term) what exactly a computer does.

I am not an expert in this field, but since this my blog, I try to suggest something which I think is useful for everyone (every student at least) to follow. I suggest to learn C++ or Java as an object-oriented language and Python as an easy, fast, and reliable programming language. Meanwhile, learning MATLAB and Mathematica is very useful for everyday math and simulations. Latex and Lyx are pretty useful for writing your documents and making presentations. Gnuplot is a useful tool for plotting data, and inkscape is useful software for making figures. For those who work with large data analysis, working with library scripting language such as SQL is desirable. Learning these materials during course of study, is proven to be extremely useful for your program of study and after that for finding a job. This is like a premium package in addition to your expertise in your field of study.

Additionally, I suggest every student (particularly graduate student) to take at least a course in statistical data analysis, since I can not imagine someone in science and engineering can work properly without understanding tools from statistical data analysis concepts (it is like basic algebra and calculus).

updating numpy to Python.

Those who are using Python know that using numpy is extremely useful in handling mathematical objects in Python. However, this package does not come with Python, and should be installed separately. I am using Paython 2.6, and I had this problem.

So, I tried to install numpy using macports using the following syntax: sudo port install py26-numpy

However, the first error message appeared complaining that my xcode is old and does not support this and I need to update my xcode. Apparently, it is not possible to update xcode and one has to re-install the new xcode. Since I am using old Mac OS (Snow Leopard, i.e, 10.6.x), I had to find the latest xcode for my OS system, which is xcode 3.2.6. This xcode could be found on apple developer webpage (you need to sign in with you apple ID). Xcode is pretty large file (~1.6 GB) which for me took almost 1.5 hrs. After that, I installed new xcode which itself took 40 minutes hoping that new xcode would solve the problem.

After installing new xcode, I ran the same syntax, sudo port install py26-numpy , but this time I faced another problem. An error message appeared saying that:

Error: The following dependencies were not installed: ncurses
Error: Unable to upgrade port: 1
Error: Unable to execute port: upgrade python26 failed

After a little search I find out that I need to update my Macport manually. So I used the following syntax to update my macport: sudo port upgrade outdated

However, this did not solve the problem completely and it seems first I need to uninstall ncursesw using sudo port -f uninstall ncursesw  , and then run sudo port upgrade outdated

Again, problem was not solved yet, it seems my perl5.2 had to uninstalled manually as well. The rest of stuff is clearly mentioned here: http://mac-os-forge.2317878.n4.nabble.com/Error-installing-ncurses-td192012.html

Sometimes new version of Python is in conflict with some of program which talk to Python, such as Inkscape. In that case, one need to set the computer to use old version of python as following:

sudo port select –set python python26

 

10 commands for maintaining a happy relationship.

Here is a simple list of ten commands which could help in having a long and happy relationship. These are based on my personal understandings, hence, it is neither complete nor perfect.

1) Life constitutes of small things, so, appreciate small things that your partner does in your life.

2) Mistakes are part of our everybody lives. Mistakes happen not all because of our miscalculations. Most of mistakes happen due to something which is out of our control in one way or the other. Don’t behave such that your partner feels that it is her/his fault.

3) As much as planning is important for a enjoyable life, postponing joy is a poisson for having a happy relationship. Don’t postpone joyful moments with your partner to another moment.

4) Not everyday in life should be extraordinary. Just being alive is enough to celebrate end of each day, no matter how terrible the way it was. Cherish every night with a “technology-free” connection with your partner.

5) Encourage your partner but don’t push it. Respect your partner character, thoughts, ideas, and concerns. Of course a constructive feedback is always useful, however, it requires building some foundations, a good timing, and a suitable occasion.

6) Engage yourself with a two-body activity at least once week. This could be a cooking together, a walk together, or building something together.

7) Establish and maintain a life long mutual interest with your partner, something that both of you could contribute and share over a long period of time. A genuine interaction is a key to learn more about your partner as he/she evolves.

8) Embrace the difference between men and women; men and women express their feelings differently. They do not necessarily enjoy the same things, and many other differences which makes life more interesting.
 
9) Communication is a key to a successful life. Always communicate with your partner about good things and particularly bad things. However, remember that NOT every person and every gender communicate the same way. Choose some successful method of commentary compatible with your partner specifications. Note that nagging is the worst type of (verbal) communication.
 
10) Travel is a good way to explore yourselves as well as other places. It also creates a new environment to communicate more effectively about your future plans, likes, and dislikes. Try to travel to new places at least once a year.

هر ده یک کتابخانه

نیاز به توضیح زیاد نداره که کتاب خوانی در کشور ما جایگاهه مناسبی نداره. یکی از راهکارهای که میتونه به فرهنگ کتابخوانی کمک بکنه، افزایش دسترسی مردم به کتابخانه ها است، به ویژه در مناطق محروم و روستاها.

در این راستا من پیشنهاد میکنم که با شعار هر ده یک کتاب خانه در این راستا حرکت کنیم. این حرکت دو حالت میتونه داشته باشه؛ ۱) از بالا به پایین: به این معنی که دولت مسولیت تهیه کتاب و کتابخانه رو به عهده بگیره. ۲) از پایین به بالا : به این معنی که خود مردم (یعنی من و تو) به صورت خیریه کتاب ها رو جمع بکنن و کتاب خانه تاسیس بکنیم.

من حرکات از پایین به بالا رو عملی ترمیدونم البته در این راستا حمایت دولت هم لازمه. خوبی حرکت پایین به بالا اینکه به صورت پیوسته میتونه انجام بشه، هر کسی میتونه در ده خودش شروع به اینکار بکنه، البته یک حرکت منسجم بهتر خواهد بود.

نکته هایی که راجع به کتابخونه لازمه ذکر کنم اینکه،

 خوبه که تو کتاب خونه کتابهائی قرار بگیره که مورد استفاده مردم اون ده باشه، البته سایر کتابهای داستانی، فلسفی و علمی لازمه، حتا اگه در ان برهه از زمان کاربری نداشته باشه. فکر میکنم که به راحتی بشه یک مجموعه خوبی از کتاب رو از شهرهای اطراف به صورت خیریه جمع آوری کرد.

 خوبه که تو کتابخونه علاوه بر کتاب یک سری فیلمها هم قرار بگیره، همراه با یک تلویزیون که مردم اون محل به ویژه بچه ها بتونن انجا واسه دیدن فیلمها بیان.

 کارهای فرهنگی، و آموزشی، و غیره حتا شده در حد تماشای یک مسابقه ی فوتبال انجا برگزار بشه.

برگزاری و اجرا این دسته از کارها نیاز به داشتن ی کتابدار خوبه که پیدا کردنش کار آسونی نخواهد بود. البته پیدا کردن یک مکانی برای کتاب خونه، و حقوق ماهیانه یک کتابدار که مسولیت انجا رو داشته باشه یک چالش بزرگ خواهد بود. در این راستا شاید بشه از برخی گزینه های موجود مثله دانشگاه آزاد کمک گرفت.

خوشحال میشم نظرتون راجع به این موضوع مطرح کنید.
با تشکر

Incentives suppress productivity for creative jobs!

I like to encourage you all to watch the following TED talk in which the speaker present some scientific findings showing that incentive worsen the productivity for creative jobs.

At the end of this talk, speaker present some ideas for enhancing productivity for creative jobs, namely, Autonomy, excellence, and purpose. So, the idea is that we should help people excel in their field of interest and then let them to work freely, if we are really looking for increasing productivity.

Noting that the university supposedly should be a house of creativity, these advices mean revolutionizing how the current universities operate. As I mentioned in my earlier post,  the current style of university, particularly, graduate studies not only does not improve creativity, it actually diminish creativity, as we can see. The current style of university even fail to help student excel in their field of interest by preoccupying them with some knowledge without providing enough time and resources for students to deepen their understandings.

I would expect from the universities to have a courage to do at least as good as google, in providing 20% of free time to graduate students to work on something that they feel is important and working in the group that they want to.

Baker-baker paradox!

It has been a while that I am thinking how our memory works. I have some ideas which is mostly based on my personal taking from my own experiences. However, I was not able scientifically explore this topic more, unfortunately, despite the fact that my wife gave me a book as a birthday present about the brain last year.

It possibly happened to all of us that we can remember some words, names, or memories much easier/faster than the others. Why is that? maybe if we could understood the procedure behind this, we would be able to memorize things better. My understanding is that, we tend to forgot things which have less connections to the other part of our memories. On contrary, we tend to remember things easier which has more nodes or connection in the brain.

Apparently, this is something that has been known for a while in psychology and social sciences under baker-Baker paradox. Roughly speaking, if we would be able to manageably associate each new peace of information in the present network of our memories, it is more likely to be able to remember it later.

Recently, I came across this interesting TED talk on how to train our brain to memorize better, which is practically based on the above simple concept. http://www.ted.com/talks/joshua_foer_feats_of_memory_anyone_can_do.html

I should call your attention to the fact that the above tricks work best for memorizing stuff over a short period of time, however, they do not form a (long term) memory.  Hence, another relevant question is that how long does it take for a memory to slip away from our brain? Additionally, how we can improve our long term memory? This will be a subject of another post in near future.

PS: Based on comments that I received from friends, I would start to write smaller post for convenience of viewers. Thank you all for your comments.

legal vs right.

During the last years, I have observed some confusion in discussions in many societies across the globe, and that is the mis-interpretation of being something legal with something right. As I will explain below, these are two different subjects with different criteria which do not lead to each other necessarily.

Let me start with legality. The social laws or contracts which form the legal system are based on some local statistics or reasonings which change over distance and time [1]. There are two main characteristics for social laws/rules/contracts, first, they are not universal, that means, they change in different countries. So the regime of validity of each legal system is bounded to its geographic borders. For example, speed limit in Germany is different from speed limit in Canada. Second, they are minimal in the sense that they form (or should form) a minimal set of rules to keep a society peacefully together. That is to say (roughly), legal system is mostly concerned with the actions which would involve the whole or part of a society and not an individual. However, this is not exact, for example, Marijuana does not necessarily involve others but it is illegal. We should never forget that legal system is determined by people/politicians, who might make some decisions in affection of their beliefs, which may not necessarily fit to general criteria of a legal system.

Hence, by definition, many aspects of individual life of every person in the society is just outside of the regime of interest of the legal system. For example, when we say that dating of a mature man and woman is not illegal, it only means that, the legal system does not have anything against it, but it does not mean that it is a good thing or a bad thing. It means that, legal system is silent about it, since it is outside of its regime of interest. So, we should not be confused between legal and right. For example, drinking alcohol (more than a certain threshold) is wrong for many scientific and non-scientific reasons, but as long as it does not interfere with others freedom, it is legal.

Previously, when the society was dominated by religion, in addition to the legal system, there was religion which would determine if something is right or wrong. Most religions, mostly cover the individual life which is not primarily covered by the legal system. For example, getting married is legal, but it was wrong for priests. Or pig products are legal, but it is wrong for a Jewish to eat pork. So, as we can see the righteousness and legal system do not necessarily fall into each other’s realm. Roughly speaking, the legal system and religion together determine what is right or wrong for people in the society and individually, in general.
My point from this post is that, just something not being illegal does not make it right, particularly about individual actions. Even something being legal does not make it right either. For example, using dark glassed windows in the house is not illegal almost everywhere, but it is not necessarily right. Hence, the righteousness has almost nothing to do with legality, since they do not share the same criteria. One particular feature of righteousness is that it is almost universal and does not depend on border lines.
The main question is that, now that religion is not dominated in most countries, what determine righteousness of an action? For some people, religion is replaced by science. At first, this may sound good, but it has many problems, one of which is that, it changes over time so frequently and so fast. In a sense, it is unstable. This instability is a good thing for the  sake of science, but for being a touchstone, it is not a good option, I believe.
Hence, what else left? I think, this is one of the main reasons behind the fact that many people still would rather keep their religion beliefs; because there is no good replacement yet. Almost every mature and open minded adult can see the deficiencies present in the religion, whatever religion it is, but, there is nothing close to it. I should also mention that several mandates of any religion have their roots into the mental evolution of human being which is the legacy of human evolution and it deserves special attention. I will talk about my ideas about the evolutionary morality in the feature posts.
[1] I tried to find out how a bill is prepared for legislation, for example in the US. So far, I have not found anything. It seems that any member of the house or senate can write the bill they want and introduce it to the congress.