March 21, 2007


This post isn't exactly related to programming; nevertheless it does offer something that may be of interest to programmers: science, video and a break from work.

NOVA, The Elegant Universe

I just stumbled across some videos on the web that I really enjoyed and I highly recommend taking some time out of your busy schedule to view them. The videos are part of a short series on PBS called, The Elegant Universe [1], which is available on the web for free. The series is really entertaining and quite informative, with beautifully rendered 3D visuals to guide you through some complicated theories and facts relating to an ultimate theory of everything (TOE), such as the general theory of relativity, quantum mechanics and string theory. String theory, a TOE for which some scientists are hopeful will tie together Einstein's explanation of gravity with the chaotic world of quantum physics, is explained with a level of detail that I haven't seen elsewhere (due to the cool visual effects and the fact that I haven't really looked anywhere else ;). The videos are peppered with historical facts about scientists such as Einstein and Newton, some of which are junior-high level, but most are interesting anyway.

The entire series is hosted by Brian Greene [2]. Several physicists also appear in the videos as interviewees to offer some insightful information and opinions. One thing I like about the videos is that competing ideas about string theory are presented, so you can decide for yourself based on evidence from both sides whether string theory seems like a viable candidate for a TOE; although, the video does seem to lean towards string theory being the most plausible option at the moment, whether that's true or not. One interesting fact mentioned is that we have no way, currently, of physically experimenting with string theory – it's purely theoretical at the moment since it cannot be observed using the technology that we have.

A Note about Viewing

The order that the videos are listed in [1] is a bit unintuitive, IMO. The series is divided into 3 hours worth of programming with each hour represented by a single column. There are, therefore, 3 columns. Each column has the same number of chapters, aptly labeled, making it appear that you can view any given chapter by watching each video in the same row from left to right, but that's not the case. Each video, in its entirety, represents one whole chapter that is distinct from chapters with the same label in any of the other two hours.

To watch the entire series in order you should start at the top-left and watch each video downward in the same column until you reach the bottom. Then, start again at the top of the next column to the right. I recommend viewing them in order or else you may end up doing what I did, which is to choose the videos that seem the most interesting to you at first and then end up watching the whole series anyway once you're turned on to it. If you do it that way and don't mind watching some of the same episodes twice then just ignore me :)

Off-topic Rant: Blogging and Downtime

I mentioned in a previous blog entry that I was upgrading to a new version of Community Server. Well, I finally got my blog updated. This post, and all of my subsequent posts, will be written and published using MS Word 2007. Unfortunately, I lost some of the site statistics such as referrers and post view totals along with the upgrade, but I still think that the change was worth it. Blogging in Word is much easier than the way I was doing it previously: a combination of notepad, Visual Studio and the Community Server interface.

For over a month I wasn't able to access my blog due to an issue that my ISP blamed on my website host, who blamed the issue on AT&T. I was recently able to access my website again after calling each company a few times over the course of about a month and a half to 2 months, while having only limited and random access to my own website and email (limited, meaning that I had a total access time of only about 3 or 4 days in the last month and a half to check my email and view my blog). This is why I haven't been posting anything :( Calling the companies seemed to produce absolutely no results, BTW. I think, ultimately, my ISP changed my dynamic IP address, which they claim was causing the issue with my website host, who claimed no responsibility and didn't even acknowledge that there was a problem even after my ISP created an official statement that relinquished fault to my website host, by name. Obviously I've been quite bitter about this whole experience, but since I'm able to access my website and email again and since I've completed the upgrade to Community Server I think I'm happy now :)


[1] NOVA, The Elegant Universe
Full Screen:

[2] NOVA, The Elegant Universe, Credits