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Combfish: Not a Jellyfish

Its been a while I updated my blog. I will try to post atleast one or two interesting posts a week from here on. To get started with, I have got a picture and video which I took while visiting Shedd Aquarium during memorial day weekend in Chicago. The image shown above is a kind of jellyfish (not exactly the same species) also called as Comb fish (Ctenophora, Greek-Comb bearers). Unlike Jellyfish, they don’t sting. As can be seen from the image that the most distinctive feature of this marine organism is comb like structure (cilia, typically 8 of them) which they use for locomotion. Their body consists of mass of jellies covered by a single layer of cells on the outside and another layer of cells inside. These layers are typically two cells deep (as compared to jellyfish which are mostly single cell deep). Similar to Jellyfish, combfish also have a network of nerves all over these layers as compared to centralized brain. The combs also scatter light which gives rainbow like effect when they move. Typically they are transparent, but some them also have bio-luminescence which gives them distinct blue and green color and can be observed in dark. There are many aspects of combfish which are not clearly understood yet. Combfish are typically predatory in nature and their bloom in Dead sea lead to wiping out of fish in the area as they ate fish larvae affecting the livelihood of fishermen. If you prefer video than just a picture, then here goes the video with combfish in motion.


Leave a Comment May 31, 2012

The Proof From The Book

Abstruse Goose comic strip is simply awesome. Here is the Riemann Hypothesis, postulated in 1859,  which is also one of the seven millennium prize problems:

Some numbers have the special property that they cannot be expressed as the product of two smaller numbers, e.g., 2, 3, 5, 7, etc. Such numbers are called prime numbers, and they play an important role, both in pure mathematics and its applications. The distribution of such prime numbers among all natural numbers does not follow any regular pattern, however the German mathematician G.F.B. Riemann (1826 – 1866) observed that the frequency of prime numbers is very closely related to the behavior of an elaborate function

    ζ(s) = 1 + 1/2s + 1/3s + 1/4s + …

called the Riemann Zeta function. The Riemann hypothesis asserts that all interesting solutions of the equation

    ζ(s) = 0

lie on a certain vertical straight line. This has been checked for the first 1,500,000,000 solutions. A proof that it is true for every interesting solution would shed light on many of the mysteries surrounding the distribution of prime numbers. [Clay Mathematics Institute]

Leave a Comment February 12, 2012

The Network Effect

Why is social networking via web so effective as compared to snail-mail, email, TV or phone? The reason lies in the structure of network and connections it allows to form (see the plot below). Take for example television network , it’s a one-to-many type of network and the number of possible connections such a network allows depends on how many people own/watch TV. Such networks are like one-way traffic where users don’t have any capability to interact with other users in the network system. So basically it’s networking capacity scales as a function of N, where N is the number of people (Sarnoff’s Law). Emails and phones allow multiple connection possibilities between people in the network which scales as N^2-N (Metcalfe’s Law). Social networking is just completely another beast which expands exponentially with the size of people in the network as 2^N-N-1 (Reed’s Law). Social networking allows formation of groups and sub-groups and there lies the immensely powerful network effect. In a group of N people, you can from 2^N such groups and thereby the potential networking capacity increases exponentially. That’s what Facebook and other social networking websites are trying to capitalize on. How strong are these networks and connections, that’s a different story and will be subject of my other post sometime later.

Top image credit: Facebook | Paul Butler

Leave a Comment June 17, 2011

Doubly-True Anagram

Here is one of the coolest anagram I have ever seen. Anagram is basically a play of words where by re-arranging the words or phrases you create another words or phrases, only catch is that you have to use each alphabet just once. Mike Kieth used names of sixty elements from the periodic table to create this magic, 30 elements on each side of the equality. But the anagrammy didn’t end just with the words.  If you replace each element with its atomic number, the equality still persists in terms of the sum of the numbers. He won the best Anagrammy award in 1999 for the same. Doubly-true Anagram!

Leave a Comment June 16, 2011

Origin of Word Photon

When do you think was the word “photon” first coined? Your first guess might be somewhere around 1900-1910, when Einstein and Planck introduced the idea of light quantum or das Lichtquantas as Einstein called them. But interestingly, neither Enistein nor Planck coined the word photon. The word photon was introduced by chemist Gilbert Lewis in 1926 when he wrote a letter to Nature magazine titled ” The conservation of Photons”. The letter was published in December 1926 issue of Nature magazine. In the letter he introduced his hypothesis “we are dealing here with a new type of atom, an identifiable entity, uncreatable and indestructible, which acts as the carrier of radiant energy and, after absorption, persists as an essential constituent of the absorbing atom until it is later sent out…… I therefore take the liberty of proposing for this hypothetical new atom, which is not light but plays an essential part in every process of radiation, the name photonYou can read the complete letter here. His theory and explanation about light failed but the word ‘photon’ he introduced, survived.

The word photon can be broken down to Greek word phōs, which means light. Phōs can also be related to Sanskrit word bhā or ābhā which means light. Other words originating from phōs were already in use by that time (photo, photograph, photometer). I plotted frequency of occurrence of words –photon and photograph– in books during the years 1800-2000 using Google ngram which gives us an idea of the evolution of both the words. As you can clearly see, photon became popular after 1926 while the word photography was already in vogue by that time. But it’s interesting to see a hump in photon curve during 1900-1910, same time period during which Planck and Einstein presented their idea of light quantum. I don’t have an explanation for that, whether it’s an artifact from Google ngram data sampling or whether the word photon was used sometime even earlier than 1926, but it would be interesting to investigate.

1 Comment June 9, 2011

What Do People Search To Reach My Blog?

I dont know what algorithm Google uses to send people to my blog when people search for certain keywords, but Google analytics has been very generous to me in directing people especially those who are looking for Demetri Martin or Tim Tebow or Paul the Octopus.I  have written just one post on each of them but it seems like people want more of them! People have also been searching Gliese 581g, ununseptium, Gandhi, India, Nobel prize winners and Lammert de Jong (my only blog interview) quite a bit as well. I just created the word cloud (shown above) of recent search words which people have used to reach my blog. Just for fun, I also created another word cloud of the phrases and words I used in my last 10 posts (shown below). It’s fun, you too can create your own word cloud at!

Leave a Comment June 6, 2011

Endeavour Blooms Inside The Clouds

I am a bit late posting this amazing picture of space shuttle Endeavour disappearing in the clouds. In case you missed the image, here you go. This beautiful image of Endeavour’s final trip to space was taken by Trey Ratcliff on May 17th.

Leave a Comment May 24, 2011

Zombie Marie Curie

Marie Curie is one of the finest women scientists whose achievements were well recognized by the scientific community, although the recognition did not come easy. She won two Noble prizes, first one for understanding the  phenomena of radiation which was shared with her husband while the second one she won solo for discovery of elements radium and polonium. When she won the second Noble prize, the Nobel committee which comprised mostly of men made attempts so that she could not attend the award ceremony, but she did attend the ceremony anyway. But besides her which other famous women scientists  we know of that era. Not many! Did you know about Lise Meitner or Emmy Noether? Lise Meitner was part of the team which worked on nuclear fission project. While Otto Hahn won the Nobel prize working on the project, she was conveniently neglected by the Nobel committee. As a consolation prize, an element Meitnerium was named after her. Zombie Marie Curie wants us to know that there were many other women scientists who made groundbreaking contributions to the field of science but were neglected due to gender bias.

Comicstrip credit: xkcd

Leave a Comment May 24, 2011

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December 2, 2020
1946 Gianni Versace
1959 Gwyneth Strong
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