What I think about genetic modification NOW


Coincidently just this weekend I started to read Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, because I need it for my English class. At the same time during today’s class (English conversation) we spoke about GMOs. Speaking on the topic means that I read Wikipedia page for 10-15 minutes and then I presented it in front of the class. Then we moved on to another topic and there were no comments from either the teacher or my class mates, I doubt anybody had any opinion based on anything more than impressions which is the case for me too.

The reason why I mentioned Brave New World is because it is a sci-fi about genetically modified humans. I am in the beginning of the book so it won’t have much of an effect on what I will try to do here.

So as a person who does not know much about GMO and dangers/benefits of genetic modification I want to briefly write down what I think now. After that I want to inform myself as much as possible and then write what changed and what I learned.

I think that GMO plants might be a risk but also a road that we might take eventually. I guess that there are dangers with taking DNA of one organism and putting it into some else because if I am right, we are not fully able to predict the consequences so while we are trying to get resistant corn we might also get corn that has some nasty properties that might not be visible immediately (as my mum always says, we invent something great but do not see the consequences). I assume this to be the reason why in EU it takes way more time for “new species” to be marked as safe. On the other hand, from China or USA many types of new GMO’s arrive illegally anyway. I have read that for insect resistant GMO’s you do not need so many pesticides and you generally lower the effect that the mass production has on global warming. Wikipedia also says that Greenpeace is against GMO’s but it has been criticized exactly for this.

If I ask myself about the future of all this I bet that it is the time of these technologies getting better and better and scientists making bolder and bolder changes. Once of course it might come to humans. It might be a way to treat a disease or at some point simply improve body. Now this is the point where it starts to be a bit speculative for me since I bet we might not be so far from SOME kind of human genetic modification. Because right now I think that when we compare technological and “moral” or “mind” advancement we are way ahead with the former. Therefore, I am not an advocate of immortality (when I take the point that the society is in) and also there comes all of the problems that will probably be described in the book, how people are made certain way according to certain rules which could be hazardous.


PS: All written above might be horribly wrong and that is exactly the point why I am writing it, we will see how long it will take me to learn something about genetic modification so I can bash down this post.


Can you find everything on the Internet?

so over the last Sunday I have spent a LOT of time doing physics. This meant mainly analyzing the problem (which was the movement of rocket through the Solar System) and then ton of writing and rewriting but in particular researching on the internet. I had real trouble sometimes and spent countless minutes search information like “energy density of RP-1” which is a rocket propellant and how much energy you can get from it when you burn it.

This got me thinking about how the internet is spot where one can find basically anything but you should never forget that this makes it a huge dumpster.

Let me give you a very simple example that I can remember right now. Just type into Google “Sun”, I did this because I wanted to know the radius of Sun [1]. The first link will probably be www.thesun.co.uk that is British magazine as you might already know (and a bit controversial as you might find out when you click on the link). Of course, I did not want to know how some celebrity’s kid spilled soup so I clicked the second one (which was Wiki). What I simply wanted to illustrate is that internet will give you what you ask for, except that you do not know what you are really asking for. The most visited webpages are made for quick eyes, simply who sets the best clickbait gets to the top so it is going to be difficult to get some hardcore explanation of a given problem. This is partially the reason why I wanted (and luckily got) a textbook for astronomy. I realized that it is no longer an option for me to learn from the internet (as I knew it back then) and decided that I need solid source of information [2]. So yes, internet will quickly give you the video about biggest black holes but you won’t know why they are so big. After you type in the exact question you might at best get binary answer (this one is a trick, if I remember correctly we do not know how come supermassive black holes be so big). In short, internet does not go deep, just check out channels like SciShow for example. You need to spent way more time digging in this dump if you gonna find anything. It also helps to understand what you are looking for, because internet is not best in explaining.


[1]You would not believe how tricky it is to find if this is the same information as the radius of the surface of the Sun (and it is).

[2] It is possible of course, you just have to do way more work.

Rick and Morty


It seems I am not the only one on the internet being “obsessed” by the series Rick and Morty. I am quite late to the party since the first series premiered in the end of 2013. I am half way through the 3rd and so far, last season.

The animated sitcom tells the story of a family with two parents (Beth and Jerry), two kids (Summer and Morty) and their grandfather Rick. The main characters are of course Rick and Morty and most of the time they are on some crazy adventure that sometimes makes fun of movies like The Purge or Inception or is based on some sci-fi concept like the idea that the world is purely simulated. There are surely many jokes that one will miss but I think everybody will always find something for themselves.

Why I find this much more interesting than Futurama or Simpsons (which could seem quite similar) is because of how clever it is. The whole series have this extremely important undertone of Rick being extremely nihilistic and cynic. One of my favorite themes is also how Morty is changing a bit and I love how in the first season Rick’s “experiment” goes wrong and he cannot revert it so after he kills basically everybody on Earth he takes Morty to another dimension where both died along the time where everything has gone wrong in their reality. They take their dead bodies and bury them on their garden while taking place of their dead selves. Few times after that Morty says that it is creepy to sleep just few meters next to his dead body.

Nevertheless, there is lot to look for when you watch it and I recommend trying out few episodes though I must say that it was only and only better through second and third season so do not get discouraged if every (just 20 minute) episode is not of your liking.


Peaceful dying out

today I will write about the difficulties of calculating the amount of people on Earth and demographic revolution.

For this month’s physics problems that I want to solve, I need to know how much is the number of people in the world increasing. It is just a part of the problem but necessary for the solution. One can quite easily make some simple assumptions and derive an exponential formula that is for any type of reproducing species but does not account in “human” factors. Some of those would take an effect for a population of animals or plants too of course, simply because you do not have an infinite space and other resources. Just an exponential growth would work (I think) for bacteria for example because it is simple to have enough food for LOT of them and they won’t care when they are close to each other[1].

Humanity could be assumed to increase in size in similar fashion during sometimes of its history, for example around the Industrial Revolution when mortality rapidly decreased while natality stayed the same. This did not happen across the whole globe though meaning that in most of the world we were still stagnating. In 21st century the predictions are even worse, the reason is that people in Western world are dying out, meaning we do not have enough babies. The population still increases overall but its thanks to India, Niger or other countries still in the first parts of demographical revolution, that is a part human “evolution” following the decrease and final levelling of natality and mortality. You can read more about that on Wikipedia.

Northern-Western part of the world is dying out. It is probably because people have higher education, which takes longer time and during their career they have less and less time to have and up bring babies. It is fascinating that this effect takes place even in countries with strong religion background, like Poland. I do not find it very sad though, who would think that there could be peaceful dying out?


Disclaimer: I am not a sociologist.

[1] This is actually more complicated and in a sense factually false. There are four phases to the life of bacteria colony and only the second follows what I wrote originally. In the beginning when you put bacteria into some medium, meaning place with “food”, they will start to grow individually in size. This is called the lag phase and after that follows the log phase which is an actuall explosion in the number of bacteria. Here the numbers do grow exponentionally but after they do not have anymore nutrients or there is just too much waste around they will come into a stationary phase where the population is in balance. In the end you might have the death phase but when the onset starts depends on the medium, bacteria etc. The bacteria can reach the density of several billions of cells per millilitre. That is a lot and does take some time if you start with smaller numbers but this proces CAN NOT go on forever.

Generalized bacterial growth curve showing the phases in the growth of bacterial colonies.

Generalized curve for bacteria, note that y-axis is logarithmic

Source: https://www.britannica.com/science/bacteria/Growth-of-bacterial-populations
Picture: “bacteria: bacterial growth curve”. Illustration. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Web. 31 Oct. 2017. <https://www.britannica.com/science/bacteria?oasmId=127577>



Endless games (almost)

in this post I will write about two games that are under some conditions basically endless. If you play them normally you will win quite easily but there is version when you can play for billions of years, literally.

The one that is quite famous example is the Tower of Hanoi. In this “board” game you have three wooden rods. The first one has thin slices of wood on top of each other. The objective is to move the slices one by one on the third rod such that you lift only one piece at a time and bigger one is never on smaller one. Since these are quite simple rules you can quickly find out the best algorithm and its length. Here length means each turn of lifting piece and putting it down. The number of turns based on the number of pieces (n) is 2^n-1. This is exponential growth of course. This game is tiedwith one story about monks moving 64 of these disks. 2^64-1 = 18 446 744 073 709 551 615 which is a lot and even if you moved one disc per second you can extrapolate that this would be much longer than the age of Universe. Actually the story says that when they finish, the world will end which will apparently take some time but it is far less than what we would call the end of world like Big Freeze.

The second game might be a bit surprising at first. It is 2048. This game is played on usual 4×4 platform (it is computer game). You connect same numbers together to get bigger and bigger ones but only 2s (rarely 4s) are spawning. You need two 2s o get 4, two 4s to get 8, two 8s to get 16 and so on and you lose when you do not have anymore space. This is also exponential growth and to finish the classical game you need to make roughly 1024 moves. It can be played longer and the max you could theoretically get is 131 072 which takes about 65 536 moves. This would still be playable if you did not count in the probability of the last turns happening. Such a game would have a gameplay of several hours. On the other hand, here for example you can play on 8×8 field. This is just a derivative of the original game. Here it takes of course the same amount of moves to get to 2048 but the interesting thing is that you can go on from there. Actually, I would find it hard to believe that in serious 8×8 game anybody ever lost simply because it is so big and the biggest number that can fit there is 2^64 [1]. Half of that is the amount of moves you would have to make… here we are again at the Tower of Hanoi…

This is pretty simple, just exponential growth.[2]


[1] It is actually 2^65 since 4 can spawn too, but you have to be lucky.

[2] Try the game on this link if you are not sure how it works.

Finally watching ISS

today I am finally going to write about my first experience watching ISS, the International Space Station. I have probably seen it before it is just that I did not realize that it is not an airplane.

ISS is a space station (biggest that humanity has) orbiting around 400 kilometers above the sea level. There is lot of interesting stuff about it but in this post, we are going to concern ourselves only with the very simple part, just seeing it.

Do not get too cocky. With naked eye, it will look like a bright star, around the magnitude of Venus at its best. It moves fast and even the best flights above your place will take maximum of about 6 minutes. From my experience, simple binoculars do not make much of a difference, though telescope could and I am yet to see how it will work out with good one, for example if I am able to track it.

Now it might not seem as much but remember, you are seeing the ISS, 150 billion $ project! The upside of it is that the station passes everyday above your place. It will always happen at sunset or sunrise, that is because the station must be sunlit but you have to be already in the shadow of Earth.

Most internet sites will recommend you the NASA webpage but it is horribly done and I will rather link to this one: http://iss.astroviewer.net/observation.php

In the case you are the type of person who uses smart phone, you can also download some app like ISS tracker.


Note: even though ISS will pass over 95% of the world population it has over every place pauses for many days. This is because the Earth is rotating under it and it takes some time before it comes to “phase” again.

Tupper’s self referential formula not so referential after all

Since the point I found about the Heart equation, which is just an equation that when you plot shows the shape of heart, I was wondering what type of pictures one could create using just math symbols. Of course, when you have function you are quite limited since there cannot be two x’s above each other. In equation, it is better since you are not limited by this but functions like logarithm or sinus are not made for drawing pictures, usually just curves. I thought that anything more complicated would be basically impossible to figure out, until I found the Tupper’s self-referential formula.

It is just completely “epic” and here is how it looks:Tupper's self referential formula plot.svg

There are two things that you might have noticed. It is a plot, that is quite simple and yeah, this formula plots itself. When I first saw I could not believe my eyes though later I found out that it is quite fake.

What you see up there is plotted function but not smoothly, rather using the mod function and bunch of rounding to get actual pixels. This is quite cool idea. You can notice one more thing, there is no number specified on the y-axis. Therefore, the function loses some of its uniqueness.

The role of this function is to convert bitmap aka picture of the size 17×106 to constant k. For this special case k is very big number, this one:

960 939 379 918 958 884 971 672 962 127 852 754 715 004 339 660 129 306 651 505 519 271 702 802 395 266 424 689 642 842 174 350 718 121 267 153 782 770 623 355 993 237 280 874 144 307 891 325 963 941 337 723 487 857 735 749 823 926 629 715 517 173 716 995 165 232 890 538 221 612 403 238 855 866 184 013 235 585 136 048 828 693 337 902 491 454 229 288 667 081 096 184 496 091 705 183 454 067 827 731 551 705 405 381 627 380 967 602 565 625 016 981 482 083 418 783 163 849 115 590 225 610 003 652 351 370 343 874 461 848 378 737 238 198 224 849 863 465 033 159 410 054 974 700 593 138 339 226 497 249 461 751 545 728 366 702 369 745 461 014 655 997 933 798 537 483 143 786 841 806 593 422 227 898 388 722 980 000 748 404 719

If you use the number in some internet program it will be reversed, so that is why the axis on the picture are reversed. Since the formula maps all possible bitmaps of the size mentioned, it is just extremely long graph containing every possible option, even itself. This is interesting in its own way though it is not anymore very “self-referential”, it is like if you would make a program creating all possibilities of 10000 characters long string. It would also contain the code itself though there is nothing special about it.

Click here to see the beginning of the graph.


Picture source: By Larske – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=22421657

Taking closer look on Sun

today I will write about a unique mission that will go closer to the Sun than ever before (2018).

Something like 3.9 million miles will be the closest approach (should I rant about the imperial units or just convert them?). This means going through the Sun’s corona, that is the legendary region that is apparently not quite well explained, meaning, we do not know why is it hotter than the surface of the Sun, but I am no expert on that.

It is caller Parker Solar Probe, I am thinking that they named it after Matt Parker and the Parker square (anybody?). There are going to be top grade instruments on the board and these need to be carefully protected, aka. when you put 11.5 cm of carbon-composite “desk” around it, it will work.

This thing is going to be fast in its top speed, like 194 km/s, yeah that’s per second which is crazy fast. That would be less than 2 seconds to get from my home to Berlin, fun, I guess it would take some time to accelerate me to that speed (unless my life did not matter).

Another interesting thing that has an effect here and that I mentioned in other post, is that it is hard to hit the Sun since the Earth is traveling very quickly around and just because you get out of its atmosphere does not mean that you fall towards the center of its orbit. Parker Probe will use Venus to slow down to get there without such effort.


You have been clickbated!??!??!?

does a title like this increase the amount of people who get clickbated or the exact opposite because people are already so disgusted by clickbates? It is not that it would eliminate them, no not at all, there are just better clickbates that people do not notice.

I really like this video that is making fun of all of this:

Clickbates try to catch your attention and… thats it. One can illustrate the whole thing on YouTube where your “view” will count even if you discover that the video was not what the title was telling you. The key is to make a smart clickbate. There are certain phrases that you might see often like “most satisfying video” that is actually just video of normal things done throughout the day, top ten lists might be clickbates.. but hey who actually cares? It is just one click right? Well it takes away the credibility of things that might be actually done very well, like actual satisfying video (yup those exist) or videos/articles about “top ten signs of life in universe” vs actual video that has anything to do with reality.


Lovely Jupiter

today I want to do a short rewrite of some posts from NASA page about things happening lately in space, simply to understand and remember them better, makes sense huh?

I have got three things, Van Allen Probes, OSIRIS-REx and Juno (I am saving that one as last since it is simply best).

Van Allen Probes are two satellites orbiting Earth in 9 hour intervals (2 000 miles per second). They celebrated their 5th year anniversary. Such a satellite must be hardened against radiation, otherwise the high energetic particles would destroy its electronics. Throughout its life, it discovered for example that there can be 3rd radiation belt around the Earth.

I already wrote about OSIRIS-Rex before. It is rare mission, first of its kind because it will optimally return samples of the asteroid Bennu back to Earth. On September 22nd, it will pass couple thousand kilometers above Earth that will speed it up so that it does not have to use so much fuel. They had to make sure that the spacecraft does not hit some other satellite that is in the Earth’s orbit, it would be quite sad if this couple hundred-million-dollar project failed even before the landing (I guess it must be in this magnitude).

If you read my blog you know about the spacecraft Juno and that it got close to Jupiter (and started the mission after the long flight). I guess I do not need to say anything when I share those (color enhanced) pictures from the eight-close approach.Juno’s Eighth Close Approach to Jupiter


Sources are just those three NASA pages.