Monday, December 19, 2011

ObSrv bug fixed (empty feeds)

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Over the last few weeks ObSrv was often returning empty feeds.

I’ve fixed this bug.

If there are any further problems, please let me know.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Big Black Holes

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Baby Black Hole by Nasa

This is an open question to anyone who might understand astrophysics better than me (which is probably most of the human race).

Assume there is a really big black hole. So large, in fact, that its event horizon is more than one light-year across. If you do the sums, the gravitational force near the event horizon of such a large black hole would roughly be about 1g – the same as what it is on earth.

Imagine coming close to this event horizon in a spaceship. It would be easy to accellerate away – after all, the gravitational force in the vicinity is only 1g. So any imaginary spaceship capable of escaping the gravity of earth – if it were near the event horizon of this super massive black hole, would be able to escape its gravity.

One of the horrors you normally hear about black holes is the tidal forces that would “tear you apart”. This is caused by the difference in gravitational forces as you move closer to center of gravity of the black hole. The same thing happens near neutron stars. Your head is being pulled with a lesser force than your feet. So you get “stretched”. But in our thought experiment, the centre of gravity of our supermassive black hole is over a light-year away. My head won’t feel any different amount of attraction than my feet would. There would be no noticeable tidal forces to speak of.

So imagine you’re sitting in your late-model spaceship, orbiting just outside the event horizon of this super-massive black hole. You don’t feel any tidal forces, and the black hole is exerting a similar gravitational attraction on your vessel as what you’d experience orbiting the earth.

Apart from the huge black sphere blocking half of the sky, and the strange lense-like effect of light bending as we look across the horizon of the black hole to the numerous stars in the distance, there’s nothing to be afraid of is there?

My point is it would only take a reasonable amount of thrust to move our vessel away from the black hole.

BUT… imagine as we sit near the event horizon, we move slowly towards it until we have moved INSIDE it. What would happen? What would we experience? My meagre understanding of physics leads me to think that the escape velocity just outside the event horizon would be slightly less than the escape velocity just inside the event horizon.

So the burning question then is why couldn’t you escape from this super-massive black hole, having visited the forbidden area just inside the event horizon? The gravitational attraction at this distance would be small enough for our ship to thrust away.

And this leads me to another question. If the gravitational force near this super-massive event horizon is about 1g, why couldn’t light escape from an object just inside the event horizon? And if light could escape, would there even be an event horizon? The “Black Hole” appearance of this thing is based on the assumption that no light can escape from it because the required escape velocity exceeds the velocity of light.

So please help me. I obviously know nothing about black holes. I must be making an incorrect assumption. I don’t mind asking stupid questions, and am hoping that a patient genius will take the time to reply and explain where I’m going wrong.

Thanks in advance :)

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

ObSrv – Appropriate Images Please

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I’ve added a mandatory “Safe Search” filter to all images served up by ObSrv.

To most users, you won’t notice any difference, but the problem was that some people were using ObSrv to generate adult images, which got me in trouble with Google Adsense.

This is a business decision, not a moral one. Using ObSrv to generate adult images would get my Adsense account cancelled. No Adsense income = No ObSrv. Everyone would lose. So the simplest solution I could find was to block anything that didn’t pass the Google “Strict Safe Search” test.

If you find your image feeds aren’t generating images any more, please consider using less adult-related search terms.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Low-res Brain

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Thought experiment.

Close your eyes and imagine a clock face with hands and numbers.

Imagine the clock face as a whole.  Try not to think of just parts of it.

In your minds eye can you see the individual numbers on the clock face all at once?

I can’t.

I have to “zoom” in to each part of the clock to see all the numbers. I can’t see them all at once.

If the brain can’t do this while we’re awake, then it’s no wonder we don’t have vivid details of items when we’re asleep and dreaming.

If our brains imagery has such low resolution, why do we seem to have such hi-resolution memories?

Maybe it’s different for you.  But that’s how it is when I try it.

This whole experience helps me understand how my brain visualizes things.  It’s not like the “Pictures” folder on my computer.  I don’t store high-resolution pictures in my head.  I think it’s more like a short-hand way of reconstructing a picture.  Without realizing it my brain says  “A clock is a circle.  And it’s got numbers around it from 1 to 12.  And it has hands.  And it ticks”.

Perhaps it’s like that for someone’s face as well?  Do you know every freckle, mole or scar on your partners face?  When you think about it, how much detail of someone’s face do you actually remember?  I think perhaps we actually store a low res “caricature” of a persons face in our brain, and when we see that person, we match what we see of their face with the low res memory of it, and somehow our brain can recognize that the two things represent the same person.

I think our physical perception of reality is a lot less detailed than we realize.  When we look at a page in a book, there’s only a small circle of our vision that can actually see fine detail – about the width of our thumb held at arms length.  If you hold your thumb in front of a book held at arms length, and focus on your thumb, you’ll find it almost impossible to read the book.  That’s because the Fovea (the bit that sees detail)  in your eye only occupies a small part of your Retina (the bit that actually sees things).  But our brain manipulates us to think that we can see everything in detail, because our eyes dart around, and our brain puts all the jigsaw pieces together.

So next time you’re certain you saw something, remember that what you saw, what you thought you saw, and what you remember seeing are all totally different!

Isn’t the brain an amazing thing?