Saturday, July 28, 2012

Creating Colossus, the World’s First Electronic Computer

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A Colossus Mark 2 computer. Colossus became operational in January 1944. Source: Wikipedia

Creating Colossus, the World’s First Electronic Computer

Remembering Colossus, the World’s First Programmable Electronic Computer Google is reporting: It’s no secret we have a special fondness for Bletchley Park. The pioneering work carried out there didn’t just crack codes—it laid the foundations for the computer age. Today, we’d like to pay homage to a lesser-known contributor—Tommy Flowers. Bletchley Park’s breakthroughs were the product of theoretical mathematical brilliance combined with dazzling feats of engineering—none more so than Flowers’ creation of Colossus, the world’s first programmable, electronic computer.

By 1942 the hardest task facing Bletchley Park’s wartime codebreakers was deciphering messages encrypted by Lorenz, used by Germany for their most top-secret communications. Initially Lorenz messages were broken by hand, using ingenious but time-consuming techniques. To speed things up, it was decided to build a machine to automate parts of the decoding process. This part-mechanical, part-electronic device was called Heath Robinson, but although it helped, it was unreliable and still too slow. Tommy Flowers was an expert in the use of relays and thermionic valves for switching, thanks to his research developing telephone systems. Initially, he was summoned to Bletchley Park to help improve Heath Robinson, but his concerns with its design were so great he came up with an entirely new solution—an electronic machine, later christened Colossus.

When Flowers proposed the idea for Colossus in February 1943, Bletchley Park management feared that, with around 1,600 thermionic valves, it would be unreliable. Drawing on his pre-war research, Flowers was eventually able to persuade them otherwise, with proof that valves were reliable provided the machine they were used in was never turned off. Despite this, however, Bletchley Park’s experts were still skeptical that a new machine could be ready quickly enough and declined to pursue it further.

Fortunately Flowers was undeterred, and convinced the U.K.’s Post Office research centre at Dollis Hill in London to approve the project instead. Working around the clock, and partially funding it out of his own pocket, Flowers and his team completed a prototype Colossus in just 10 months.

The first Colossus came into operation at Bletchley Park in January 1944. It exceeded all expectations and was able to derive many of the Lorenz settings for each message within a few hours, compared to weeks previously. This was followed in June 1944 by a 2,400-valve Mark 2 version which was even more powerful, and which provided vital information to aid the D-Day landings. By the end of the war there were 10 Colossus computers at Bletchley Park working 24/7.

Once war was over, all mention of Colossus was forbidden by the Official Secrets Act. Eight of the machines were dismantled, while the remaining two were sent to London where they purportedly were used for intelligence purposes until 1960. It wasn’t until the 1970’s that Colossus could begin to claim its rightful crown at the forefront of computing history.

Tommy Flowers passed away in 1998, but we were privileged recently to catch up with some on his team who helped build and maintain Colossus.

This week heralds the opening of a new gallery dedicated to Colossus at the U.K.’s National Museum of Computing, based at Bletchley Park. The rebuilt Colossus is on show, and over the coming weeks it will be joined by interactive exhibits and displays. Bletchley Park is less than an hour from Central London, and makes a fitting pilgrimage for anyone interested in computing. Posted by Lynette Webb, Google, Senior Manager, External Relations

Colossus: Creating a Giant A short film made by Google to celebrate Colossus and those who built it, in particular Tommy Flowers. Colossus was the world's first electronic computer, used for code-breaking at Bletchley Park during WW2. A working rebuilt Colossus can be seen at The National Museum of Computing in the UK.

Official Google Blog: Remembering Colossus, the world’s first programmable electronic computer

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Saturday, July 21, 2012

Dark Matter Core Defies Explanation in Hubble Space Telescope Image

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Merging Galaxy Cluster Abell 520: Dark Matter in Blue

Dark Matter Core Defies Explanation in Hubble Space Telescope Image

NASA: March 2, 2012

It was the result no one wanted to believe. Astronomers observed what appeared to be a clump of dark matter left behind during a bizarre wreck between massive clusters of galaxies.

The dark matter collected into a "dark core" containing far fewer galaxies than would be expected if the dark matter and galaxies hung together. Most of the galaxies apparently have sailed far away from the collision. This result could present a challenge to basic theories of dark matter, which predict that galaxies should be anchored to the invisible substance, even during the shock of a collision.

The initial observations, made in 2007, were so unusual that astronomers shrugged them off as unreal, due to poor data. However, new results from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope confirm that dark matter and galaxies parted ways in the gigantic merging galaxy cluster called Abell 520, located 2.4 billion light-years away.

Now, astronomers are left with the challenge of trying to explain dark matter's seemingly oddball behavior in this cluster.

"This result is a puzzle," said astronomer James Jee of the University of California, Davis, leader of the Hubble study. "Dark matter is not behaving as predicted, and it's not obviously clear what is going on. Theories of galaxy formation and dark matter must explain what we are seeing."

A paper reporting the team's results has been accepted for publication in The Astrophysical Journal and is available online.

First detected about 80 years ago, dark matter is thought to be the gravitational "glue" that holds galaxies together. The mysterious invisible substance is not made of the same kind of matter that makes up stars, planets, and people. Astronomers know little about dark matter, yet it accounts for most of the universe's mass.

They have deduced dark matter's existence by observing its ghostly gravitational influence on normal matter. It's like hearing the music but not seeing the band.

One way to study dark matter is by analyzing smashups between galaxy clusters, the largest structures in the universe. When galaxy clusters collide, astronomers expect galaxies to tag along with the dark matter, like a dog on a leash. Clouds of intergalactic gas, however, plow into one another, slow down, and lag behind the impact.

That theory was supported by visible-light and X-ray observations of a colossal collision between two galaxy clusters called the Bullet Cluster. The galactic grouping has become a textbook example of how dark matter should behave.

But studies of Abell 520 showed that dark matter's behavior may not be so simple. The original observations found that the system's core was rich in dark matter and hot gas but contained no luminous galaxies, which normally would be seen in the same location as the dark matter. NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory detected the hot gas. Astronomers used the Canada-France-Hawaii and Subaru telescopes atop Mauna Kea to infer the location of dark matter by measuring how the mysterious substance bends light from more distant background galaxies, an effect called gravitational lensing.

The astronomers then turned Hubble's Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 to help bail them out of this cosmic conundrum. Instead, to their chagrin, the Hubble observations helped confirm the earlier findings. Astronomers used Hubble to map the dark matter in the cluster through the gravitational lensing technique.

"Observations like those of Abell 520 are humbling in the sense that in spite of all the leaps and bounds in our understanding, every now and then, we are stopped cold," explained Arif Babul of the University of Victoria in British Columbia, the team's senior theorist.

Is Abell 520 an oddball, or is the prevailing picture of dark matter flawed? Jee thinks it's too soon to tell.

"We know of maybe six examples of high-speed galaxy cluster collisions where the dark matter has been mapped," Jee said. "But the Bullet Cluster and Abell 520 are the two that show the clearest evidence of recent mergers, and they are inconsistent with each other. No single theory explains the different behavior of dark matter in those two collisions. We need more examples."

The team has proposed a half-dozen explanations for the findings, but each is unsettling for astronomers. "It's pick your poison," said team member Andisheh Mahdavi of San Francisco State University in California, who led the original Abell 520 observations in 2007. One possible explanation for the discrepancy is that Abell 520 was a more complicated interaction than the Bullet Cluster encounter. Abell 520 may have formed from a collision between three galaxy clusters, instead of just two colliding systems in the case of the Bullet Cluster.

Another scenario is that some dark matter may be what astronomers call "sticky." Like two snowballs smashing together, normal matter slams into each other during a collision and slows down. But dark matter blobs are thought to pass through each other during an encounter without slowing down. This scenario proposes that some dark matter interacts with itself and stays behind when galaxy clusters collide.

A third possibility is that the core contained many galaxies, but they were too dim to be seen, even by Hubble. Those galaxies would have to have formed dramatically fewer stars than other normal galaxies. Armed with the Hubble data, the group hopes to create a computer simulation to try to reconstruct the collision, hoping that it yields some answers to dark matter's weird behavior.

Merging Galaxy Cluster Abell 520: 1 of 6 Galaxy Collisions Where Dark Matter Has Been Mapped


Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The Universe As a Virtual Reality and the Double Slit Experiment Paradox

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I think, therefore I am? -or- I'm programmed, therefore I am?

The Universe As a Virtual Reality and the Double Slit Experiment Paradox

From Newton's mechanical universe to the Einstein revolution and the beginning of quantum physics, the search for base reality is always over the horizon. Is this horizon receding before our eyes? From quantum physics came the standard model, which now explains a grand total of 4% - 5% (depending on who's counting) of the known Universe! A huge chunk of the Universe is missing: dark matter (23%) and dark energy (73%).

Michio Kaku believes String Theory is the only game in town. When (if?) the Higgs Boson is discovered at CERN, String Theory is the only viable avenue to expand the research because it's the only testable theory. He's right. The problem is String Theory kicks the can down the road, adds unnecessary layers of complexity, and therefore is an Ockham's Razor nightmare.

Wave-particle duality, probability wave collapse, non-locality, and yet other anomalies, have yet to be explained without theoretical convolution. Among these anomalies, the results of the Double Slit Experiment and the enhanced Delayed Choice Quantum Eraser Experiment cannot be crammed into the so-called theoretical box and remain mysteries. The video below provides an excellent description and primer of these experiments and the baffling results.

There is an alternative explanation, which is heretical to the traditional human worldviews of the atheists and evolutionists as well as the other end of the spectrum, the religious faithful and creationists. In fact, it's possible these opposing camps could both be partially correct as they battle each other! That is, the Universe is a virtual reality, programmed and created and processing. The Simulation Hypothesis asserts this.

What is striking about the Universe as a virtual reality is how all of humankind's philosophical and scientific questions through the centuries are answered simply and forthrightly. In an odd way, the Simulation Hypothesis really is the Game of Life, although creating a certain uneasiness once the implications are pondered and delved into. What we are taught and learn to perceive that the world, the Universe, is an objective reality of matter still mechanistically functioning at the macro level like Newtonian physics, begins to disappear before our eyes and in our mind. Welcome to the edge of reality! Now on to our show, the video below, and the brave new world of the Universe as a virtual reality...

Quantum Physics 101 - Double Slit Experiment (Revised version from March 4th 2012) This video starts out explaining the basics regarding the double slit experiment, then it goes into detail regarding the setup and results of the delayed choice quantum eraser experiment with its rather strange results. The measurement data of this experiment implies that information obviously travelled backwards in time, which violates known scientific principles regarding causality and time. Finally it provides an explanation for these strange results based on the My Big Toe model of physicist Thomas Campbell who claims that we are living in a virtual reality and that reality as we know it is based on information and created from this information as any other virtual reality simulation on a computer. Most of the content presented in this video is also available in written form here.

Thomas Campbell: The Nature of Reality His key insight is that we live in a virtual reality based on consciousness. Consciousness is the foundation of our reality and the main method for consciousness to evolve is by breaking up the holistic consciousness into separated individual part (us humans) which then have free will to interact.

Related Posts:
Tom Campbell: Why Reality is a Computed Simulation
Are Humans Advanced Simulations? Is the Universe a virtual reality?
Is the Universe a Simulation? Do we live in a virtual reality?

Humans are most likely virtual creations


Seeking Alpha