Re: How is technology changing the campaign for human rights?

Question: I have a lot of faith in the power and potential of communications. And I think the explosive growth in technology and what it now allows us is an opportunity to connect and communicate outside of the conventional systems; specifically outside of mainstream media. Big Think is one example of creative ways to approach the challenges that confront us, and creative ways to connect and commune people at a global level around those challenges. So I do see technology and communications as absolutely critical; but you know what also must . . . can and must come about is an awakening of our consciousness. And I think here again I’m a real believer, as I said earlier, in the necessity of evolution; in the necessity of personal, societal and institutional evolution. And I don’t believe that evolution can come about unless we have consciousness. I’m a spiritual person, but I’m not a religious person per se. And for me that spirituality, that consciousness is really about awareness – self awareness and knowledge, and how you use that to move throughout the world. And I think we all must rise to that invitation to become more deeply aware so that in turn we can be . . . we can all be better and much more productive citizens together.

Recorded on: 8/13/07

Technology creates potential for more creative ways of connecting outside the mainstream media, says Caldwell.

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The competition between forces from protons and neutrons inside a neutron star create super-dense shapes that look like long cylinders or flat planes, referred to as "spaghetti" and "lasagna," respectively. That's also where we get the overall name of nuclear pasta.

Caplan & Horowitz/arXiv

Diagrams illustrating the different types of so-called nuclear pasta.

The researchers' computer simulations needed 2 million hours of processor time before completion, which would be, according to a press release from McGill University, "the equivalent of 250 years on a laptop with a single good GPU." Fortunately, the researchers had access to a supercomputer, although it still took a couple of years. The scientists' simulations consisted of stretching and deforming the nuclear pasta to see how it behaved and what it would take to break it.

While they were able to discover just how strong nuclear pasta seems to be, no one is holding their breath that we'll be sending out missions to mine this substance any time soon. Instead, the discovery has other significant applications.

One of the study's co-authors, Matthew Caplan, a postdoctoral research fellow at McGill University, said the neutron stars would be "a hundred trillion times denser than anything on earth." Understanding what's inside them would be valuable for astronomers because now only the outer layer of such starts can be observed.

"A lot of interesting physics is going on here under extreme conditions and so understanding the physical properties of a neutron star is a way for scientists to test their theories and models," Caplan added. "With this result, many problems need to be revisited. How large a mountain can you build on a neutron star before the crust breaks and it collapses? What will it look like? And most importantly, how can astronomers observe it?"

Another possibility worth studying is that, due to its instability, nuclear pasta might generate gravitational waves. It may be possible to observe them at some point here on Earth by utilizing very sensitive equipment.

The team of scientists also included A. S. Schneider from California Institute of Technology and C. J. Horowitz from Indiana University.

Check out the study "The elasticity of nuclear pasta," published in Physical Review Letters.