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By Lee Pullen Astrobiology Magazine/

Some of the most interesting places in our solar system are also the most difficult to reach.
Areas hidden under thick layers of ice such as the polar caps of Mars, Saturn's moon Enceladus and Jupiter's moon Europa are prime examples. Drilling through ice on Earth is complicated enough, but on another world the task becomes almost impossible.
The notion of exploring thick sheets of ice isn't new. Probes built and used in the 1960s were strictly Earth-bound, tested in places like Greenland and Antarctica, and the theory behind them was fairly simple.
A long and thin probe penetrates straight down into the ice. A drill on the tip cuts through the ice, scientific equipment in the main body records data and a long cable trails out behind, all the way up to surface equipment. Heavy and complex equipment is needed on the surface to provide the vast amount of power needed by the large drill, which rules it out for all but the most ambitious missions to other worlds.
A different and more modern method of drilling uses a hot drill tip to melt ice, rather than cut through it.
One such probe, called Cryobot, was recently tested in Antarctica. As the drill tip uses heat to melt ice, the probe sinks deeper and deeper. Melting sounds good in theory, but if the probe hits something embedded deep in the ice, like a large rock, it will get stuck. Unable to melt through, the mission would come to an end.
The best of both worlds
Peter Weiss is a scientist experienced in the field of sub-sea robotics. Together with his colleagues from the Hong Kong Polytechnic University and the Institut fuer Weltraumforschung in Graz, Austria, he has devised a novel way of combining drilling and melting methods. The prototype "thermal drill" system they put together excelled in tests, as detailed in the July 2008 issue of the journal Planetary and Space Science. Armed with a series of blades and heaters in the tip, the thermal drill could be the answer to exploring below the ice on distant worlds.
But how does it work? Weiss explains, "Our thermal drill is like a 'classical' melting probe, equipped with two propellers that drill into the ice. We mechanically open up the hole in the ice, and by this move the ice particles backwards where they will be melted. The slurry of water and ice will be pushed backwards by the weight of the probe."
Weiss's thermal drill combines the best of drilling and melting techniques. "One advantage of melting is that you can produce heat directly to melt through the ice, so there are no losses due to the translation into mechanical power," he says. As for the drill encountering layers of dust or other material that cannot be melted through, Weiss says that "Integrating a drilling mechanism will avoid your melting probe from simply getting stuck into a layer of sand while penetrating the ice - a scenario likely on the planet Mars, for example. A hybrid thermal drill will be able to penetrate even layers that cannot be melted."
The heat created also has the useful side-effect of sterilizing the probe, an essential consideration when exploring places where no one has been before. The environment should be kept pristine because contamination from the probe itself could ruin any experiments to such for certain chemistry or even signs of life. The constant production of heat also keeps the scientific equipment warm enough in very cold environments to work effectively.
Destined for the solar system?
Many areas of our solar system are ideal candidates for thermal drill exploration.
Says Weiss, "This study was done targeting the planet Mars and Jupiter's moon Europa. But since then spectacular new knowledge has been gained on worlds like Enceladus or even Titan where scientists speculate about sub-surface oceans."
Weiss and his colleagues have so far tested their prototype thermal drill using large blocks of ice in a lab. Testing the drill under vacuum conditions to simulate alien environments is a logical next step. They'll also want to test just how deep the probe could delve.
Despite high hopes for the thermal drill, Weiss isn't sure whether one will feature on any upcoming probes. He says, "ESA and NASA were discussing a future mission to icy Europa, but it is uncertain if there will be a landing or impacting probe onboard. But sending an orbiter without lander to Europa would be like going to a candy shop without bringing money to spend."



Discover the Power of Positive Thinking

By Lucy Danziger/ Yahoo Health

I am a glass-is-half-full kind of person. I don't let the rain spoil my long runs, nor do I let bad news send me to bed sulking. I used to think it was just my personality, but now I know that perhaps it's my self-protective nature, too.
Turns out, people with positive emotions are 34 percent less likely to become ill when exposed to a virus and report fewer symptoms when they do succumb, research published in Psychosomatic Medicine notes.
Feeling happy releases hormones and proteins that bolster the body's immune reaction to infection.
Being optimistic can also help you save money, according to a study from Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. The reason: Debbie downers assume they can't control the future, so why stash cash?
I know adopting a cheerful frame of mind doesn't always come easily, and I'm not suggesting you adopt a perennially Pollyanna perspective. But considering the plus side of things will keep you happier and healthier. Try these sunny-side-up strategies:•
Be proactive:
Rather than blame yourself for a problem or feel pity, do something about it. Burned the lasagna? Toss it and order sushi, and tell yourself it's healthier anyway.• See the light: Suffered a setback at work?
Ask yourself what you learned from the experience and what new opportunities may arise because of it. Then see this forced freedom as a chance to reinvent yourself.• Start a journal: Jotting down things you're grateful for can help you feel happier about your life.
Do it right before bed each night so you go to sleep with a smile on your face.• Leap over tripwires: If you face an obstacle, remind yourself that it's simply a difficult moment that you can, and will, overcome.
Remember you will learn from your mistakes. A study from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville suggests that when you think specifically about a recent flub and how it made you feel, you're likely to do a better job the next time


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by Daren Fonda
1. "You may think I'm rich, but I don't."
A million dollars may sound like a fortune to most people, and folks with that much cash can't complain — they're richer than 90 percent of U.S. households and earn $366,000 a year, on average, putting them in the top 1 percent of taxpayers. But the club isn't so exclusive anymore. Some 10 million households have a net worth above $1 million, excluding home equity, almost double the number in 2002. Moreover, a recent survey by Fidelity found just 8 percent of millionaires think they're "very" or "extremely" wealthy, while 19 percent don't feel rich at all. "They're worried about health care, retirement and how they'll sustain their lifestyle," says Gail Graham, a wealth-management executive at Fidelity.
Indeed, many millionaires still don't have enough for exclusive luxuries, like membership at an elite golf club, which can top $300,000 a year. While $1 million was a tidy sum three decades ago, you'd need $3.6 million for the same purchasing power today. And half of all millionaires have a net worth of $2.5 million or less, according to research firm TNS. So what does it take to feel truly rich? The magic number is $23 million, according to Fidelity.
2. "I shop at Wal-Mart..."
They may not buy the 99-cent paper towels, but millionaires know what it is to be frugal. About 80 percent say they spend with a middle-class mind-set, according to a 2007 survey of high-net-worth individuals, published by American Express and the Harrison Group. That means buying luxury items on sale, hunting for bargains — even clipping coupons.
Don Crane, a small-business owner in Santa Rosa, Calif., certainly sees the value of everyday saving. "We can afford just about anything," he says, adding that his net worth is over $1 million. But he and his wife both grew up on farms in the Midwest — where nothing was wasted — and his wife clips coupons to this day. In fact, most millionaires come from middle-class households, and roughly 70 percent have been wealthy for less than 15 years, according to the AmEx/Harrison survey. That said, there are plenty of millionaires who never check a price tag. "I've always wanted to live above my means because it inspired me to work harder," says Robert Kiyosaki, author of the 1997 best seller Rich Dad, Poor Dad. An entrepreneur worth millions, Kiyosaki says he doesn't even know what his house would go for today.
3. "...but I didn't get rich by skimping on lattes."
So how do you join the millionaires' club? You could buy stocks or real estate, play the slots in Vegas — or take the most common path: running your own business. That's how half of all millionaires made their money, according to the AmEx/Harrison survey. About a third had a professional practice or worked in the corporate world; only 3 percent inherited their wealth.
Regardless of how they built their nest egg, virtually all millionaires "make judicious use of debt," says Russ Alan Prince, coauthor of "The Middle-Class Millionaire." They'll take out loans to build their business, avoid high-interest credit card debt and leverage their home equity to finance purchases if their cash flow doesn't cut it. Nor is their wealth tied up in their homes. Home equity represents just 11 percent of millionaires' total assets, according to TNS. "People who are serious about building wealth always want to have a mortgage," says Jim Bell, president of Bell Investment Advisors. His home is probably worth $1.5 million, he adds, but he owes $900,000 on it. "I'm in no hurry to pay it off," he says. "It's one of the few tax deductions I get."
4. "I have a concierge for everything."
That hot restaurant may be booked for months — at least when Joe Nobody calls to make reservations. But many top eateries set aside tables for celebrities and A-list clientele, and that's where the personal concierge comes in. Working for retainers that range anywhere from $25 an hour to six figures a year, these modern-day butlers have the inside track on chic restaurants, spa reservations, even an early tee time at the golf club. And good concierges will scour the planet for whatever their clients want — whether it's holy water blessed personally by the Pope, rare Mexican tequila or artisanal sausages found only in northern Spain. "For some people, the cost doesn't matter," says Yamileth Delgado, who runs Marquise Concierge and who once found those sausages for a client — 40 pounds of chorizo that went for $1,000.
Concierge services now extend to medical attention as well. At the high end: For roughly $2,000 to $4,000 a month, clients can get 24-hour access to a primary-care physician who makes house calls and can facilitate admission to a hospital "without long waits in the emergency room," as one New York City service puts it.
5. "You don't get rich by being nice."
John D. Rockefeller threatened rivals with bankruptcy if they didn't sell out to his company, Standard Oil. Bill Gates was ruthless in building Microsoft into the world's largest software firm (remember Netscape?). Indeed, many millionaires privately admit they're "bastards in business," says Prince. "They aren't nice guys." Of course, the wealthy don't exactly look in the mirror and see Gordon Gekko either. Most millionaires share the values of their moderate-income parents, says Lewis Schiff, a private wealth consultant and Prince's coauthor: "Spending time with family really matters to them." Just 12 percent say that what they want most to be remembered for is their legacy in business, according to the AmEx/Harrison study.
Millionaires are also seemingly undaunted by failure. Crane, for example, now runs a successful company that screens tenants for landlords. But his first business venture, a real estate partnership, went bankrupt, costing him $20,000 — more than his house was worth at the time. "It was the most depressing time in my life, but it was the best lesson I ever learned," he says.
6. "Taxes are for little people."
Most millionaires do pay taxes. In fact, the top 1 percent of earners paid nearly 40 percent of federal income taxes in 2005 — a whopping $368 billion — according to the Internal Revenue Service. That said, the wealthy tend to derive a higher portion of their income from dividends and capital gains, which are taxed at lower rates than wages (15 percent for long-term capital gains versus 25 percent for middle-class wages). Also, high-income earners pay Social Security tax only on their first $97,500 of income.
But the big savings come from owning a business and deducting everything related to it. Landlords can also depreciate their commercial properties and expenses like mortgage interest. And that's without doing any creative accounting. Then there are the tax shelters, trusts and other mechanisms the superrich use to shield their wealth. An estimated 2 million Americans have unreported accounts offshore, and income from foreign tax shelters costs the U.S. $20 billion to $40 billion a year, according to the IRS. Indeed, "an increasing number of people want to establish an offshore fund," says Vernon Jacobs, a certified public accountant in Kansas who specializes in legal foreign accounts.
7. "I was a B student."
Mom was right when she said good grades were the key to success — just not necessarily a big bank account. According to the book "The Millionaire Mind," the median college grade point average for millionaires is 2.9, and the average SAT score is 1190 — hardly Harvard material. In fact, 59 percent of millionaires attended a state college or university, according to AmEx/Harrison.
When asked to list the keys to their success, millionaires rank hard work first, followed by education, determination and "treating others with respect." They also say that what they absorbed in class was less important than learning how to study and stay disciplined, says Jim Taylor, vice chairman of the Harrison Group. Granted, 48 percent of millionaires hold an advanced degree, and elite colleges do open doors to careers on Wall Street and in Silicon Valley (not to mention social connections that grease the wheels). But for every Ph.D. millionaire, there are many more who squeaked through school. Kiyosaki, for one, says the only way he survived college calculus was by "sitting near" the smart kids in class — "we cheated like crazy," he says.
8. "Like my Ferrari? It's a rental."
Why spend $3,000 on a Versace bag that'll be out of style as soon as next season when you can rent it for $175 a month? For that matter, why blow $250,000 on a Ferrari when for $25,000 it can be yours for a few weekends a year? Clubs that offer "fractional ownership" of jets have been popular for some time, and now the concept has extended to other high-end luxuries like exotic cars and fine art. How hot is the trend? More than 50 percent of millionaires say they plan to rent luxury goods within the next 12 months, according to a survey by Prince & Associates. Handbags topped the list, followed by cars, jewelry, watches and art. Online companies like Bag Borrow or Steal, for example, cater to customers who always want new designer accessories and jewelry, for prices starting at $15 a week.
For Suzanne Garner, a millionaire software engineer in Santa Clara, Calif., owning a $100,000 car didn't make financial sense (she drives a Mazda Miata). Instead, Garner pays up to $30,000 in annual membership fees to Club Sportiva, a fractional-ownership car club in San Francisco that lets her take out Ferraris, Lamborghinis and other exotic vehicles on weekends. "I'm all about the car," she says. And so are other people, it seems. While stopped at a light in a Ferrari recently, Garner received a marriage proposal from a guy in a pickup truck. (She declined the offer.)
9. "Turns out money can buy happiness."
It may not be comforting to folks who aren't minting cash, but the rich really are different. "There's no group in America that's happier than the wealthy," says Taylor, of the Harrison Group. Roughly 70 percent of millionaires say that money"created" more happiness for them,he notes. Higher income also correlates with higher ratings in life satisfaction, according to a new study by economists at the Wharton School of Business. But it's not necessarily the Bentley or Manolo Blahniks that lead to bliss. "It's the freedom that money buys," says Betsey Stevenson, coauthor of the Wharton study.
Concomitantly, rates of depression are lower among the wealthy, according to the Wharton study, and the rich tend to have better health than the rest of the population, says James Smith, senior labor economist at the Rand Corporation. (In fact, health and happiness are as closely correlated as wealth and happiness, Smith says.) The wealthy even seem to smile and laugh more often, according to the Wharton study, to say nothing of getting treated with more respect and eating better food. "People experience their day very differently when they have a lot of money," Stevenson says.
10. "You worry about the Joneses — I worry about keeping up with the Trumps."
Wealth may go a long way toward creating happiness, but the middle-class rich still can't afford the life of the billionaire next door — the guy who writes charity checks for $100,000 and retreats to his own private island. "What makes people happy isn't how much they're making," says Glenn Firebaugh, a sociologist at Pennsylvania State University. "It's how much they're making relative to their peers."
Indeed, for all their riches, some 40 percent of millionaires fear that their standard of living will decline in retirement and that their money will run out before they die, according to Fidelity. Of course, it may not help if their lifestyle is so lavish that they're barely squeaking by on $400,000 a year. "You can always be happier with more money," says Stevenson. "There's no satiation point." But that's the trouble with keeping up with the Trumps. "Millionaires are always looking up," says Schiff, "and think it's better up there."





Information in the Holographic Universe

Theoretical results about black holes suggest that the universe could be like a gigantic hologram
Scientific American August 2003
An astonishing theory called the holographic principle holds that the universe is like a hologram: just as a trick of light allows a fully three-dimensional image to be recorded on a flat piece of film, our seemingly three-dimensional universe could be completely equivalent to alternative quantum fields and physical laws "painted" on a distant, vast surface.
The physics of black holes--immensely dense concentrations of mass--provides a hint that the principle might be true. Studies of black holes show that, although it defies common sense, the maximum entropy or information content of any region of space is defined not by its volume but by its surface area.
Physicists hope that this surprising finding is a clue to the ultimate theory of reality.
Ask anybody what the physical world is made of, and you are likely to be told "matter and energy."
Yet if we have learned anything from engineering, biology and physics, information is just as crucial an ingredient. The robot at the automobile factory is supplied with metal and plastic but can make nothing useful without copious instructions telling it which part to weld to what and so on. A ribosome in a cell in your body is supplied with amino acid building blocks and is powered by energy released by the conversion of ATP to ADP, but it can synthesize no proteins without the information brought to it from the DNA in the cell's nucleus. Likewise, a century of developments in physics has taught us that information is a crucial player in physical systems and processes. Indeed, a current trend, initiated by John A. Wheeler of Princeton University, is to regard the physical world as made of information, with energy and matter as incidentals.
This viewpoint invites a new look at venerable questions. The information storage capacity of devices such as hard disk drives has been increasing by leaps and bounds. When will such progress halt? What is the ultimate information capacity of a device that weighs, say, less than a gram and can fit inside a cubic centimeter (roughly the size of a computer chip)? How much information does it take to describe a whole universe? Could that description fit in a computer's memory? Could we, as William Blake memorably penned, "see the world in a grain of sand," or is that idea no more than poetic license?
Remarkably, recent developments in theoretical physics answer some of these questions, and the answers might be important clues to the ultimate theory of reality. By studying the mysterious properties of black holes, physicists have deduced absolute limits on how much information a region of space or a quantity of matter and energy can hold. Related results suggest that our universe, which we perceive to have three spatial dimensions, might instead be "written" on a two-dimensional surface, like a hologram. Our everyday perceptions of the world as three-dimensional would then be either a profound illusion or merely one of two alternative ways of viewing reality. A grain of sand may not encompass our world, but a flat screen might.

The Entropy of a Black Hole
The Entropy of a Black Hole is proportional to the area of its event horizon, the surface within which even light cannot escape the gravity of the hole. Specifically, a hole with a horizon spanning A Planck areas has A/4 units of entropy. (The Planck area, approximately 10-66 square centimeter, is the fundamental quantum unit of area determined by the strength of gravity, the speed of light and the size of quanta.) Considered as information, it is as if the entropy were written on the event horizon, with each bit (each digital 1 or 0) corresponding to four Planck areas.
A Tale of Two Entropies
Formal information theory originated in seminal 1948 papers by American applied mathematician Claude E. Shannon, who introduced today's most widely used measure of information content: entropy. Entropy had long been a central concept of thermodynamics, the branch of physics dealing with heat. Thermodynamic entropy is popularly described as the disorder in a physical system. In 1877 Austrian physicist Ludwig Boltzmann characterized it more precisely in terms of the number of distinct microscopic states that the particles composing a chunk of matter could be in while still looking like the same macroscopic chunk of matter. For example, for the air in the room around you, one would count all the ways that the individual gas molecules could be distributed in the room and all the ways they could be moving.
When Shannon cast about for a way to quantify the information contained in, say, a message, he was led by logic to a formula with the same form as Boltzmann's. The Shannon entropy of a message is the number of binary digits, or bits, needed to encode it. Shannon's entropy does not enlighten us about the value of information, which is highly dependent on context. Yet as an objective measure of quantity of information, it has been enormously useful in science and technology. For instance, the design of every modern communications device--from cellular phones to modems to compact-disc players--relies on Shannon entropy.
Thermodynamic entropy and Shannon entropy are conceptually equivalent: the number of arrangements that are counted by Boltzmann entropy reflects the amount of Shannon information one would need to implement any particular arrangement. The two entropies have two salient differences, though. First, the thermodynamic entropy used by a chemist or a refrigeration engineer is expressed in units of energy divided by temperature, whereas the Shannon entropy used by a communications engineer is in bits, essentially dimensionless. That difference is merely a matter of convention.

Limits of Functional Density
The thermodynamics of black holes allows one to deduce limits on the density of entropy or information in various circumstances. The holographic bound defines how much information can be contained in a specified region of space. It can be derived by considering a roughly spherical distribution of matter that is contained within a surface of area A. The matter is induced to collapse to form a black hole (a). The black hole's area must be smaller than A, so its entropy must be less than A/4 [see illustration]. Because entropy cannot decrease, one infers that the original distribution of matter also must carry less than A/4 units of entropy or information. This result--that the maximum information content of a region of space is fixed by its area--defies the commonsense expectation that the capacity of a region should depend on its volume.
The universal entropy bound defines how much information can be carried by a mass m of diameter d. It is derived by imagining that a capsule of matter is engulfed by a black hole not much wider than it (b). The increase in the black hole's size places a limit on how much entropy the capsule could have contained. This limit is tighter than the holographic bound, except when the capsule is almost as dense as a black hole (in which case the two bounds are equivalent).
The holographic and universal information bounds are far beyond the data storage capacities of any current technology, and they greatly exceed the density of information on chromosomes and the thermodynamic entropy of water (c).
Even when reduced to common units, however, typical values of the two entropies differ vastly in magnitude. A silicon microchip carrying a gigabyte of data, for instance, has a Shannon entropy of about 1010 bits (one byte is eight bits), tremendously smaller than the chip's thermodynamic entropy, which is about 1023 bits at room temperature. This discrepancy occurs because the entropies are computed for different degrees of freedom. A degree of freedom is any quantity that can vary, such as a coordinate specifying a particle's location or one component of its velocity.
The Shannon entropy of the chip cares only about the overall state of each tiny transistor etched in the silicon crystal--the transistor is on or off; it is a 0 or a 1--a single binary degree of freedom. Thermodynamic entropy, in contrast, depends on the states of all the billions of atoms (and their roaming electrons) that make up each transistor. As miniaturization brings closer the day when each atom will store one bit of information for us, the useful Shannon entropy of the state-of-the-art microchip will edge closer in magnitude to its material's thermodynamic entropy. When the two entropies are calculated for the same degrees of freedom, they are equal.
What are the ultimate degrees of freedom? Atoms, after all, are made of electrons and nuclei, nuclei are agglomerations of protons and neutrons, and those in turn are composed of quarks. Many physicists today consider electrons and quarks to be excitations of superstrings, which they hypothesize to be the most fundamental entities. But the vicissitudes of a century of revelations in physics warn us not to be dogmatic. There could be more levels of structure in our universe than are dreamt of in today's physics.
One cannot calculate the ultimate information capacity of a chunk of matter or, equivalently, its true thermodynamic entropy, without knowing the nature of the ultimate constituents of matter or of the deepest level of structure, which I shall refer to as level X. (This ambiguity causes no problems in analyzing practical thermodynamics, such as that of car engines, for example, because the quarks within the atoms can be ignored--they do not change their states under the relatively benign conditions in the engine.) Given the dizzying progress in miniaturization, one can playfully contemplate a day when quarks will serve to store information, one bit apiece perhaps. How much information would then fit into our one-centimeter cube? And how much if we harness superstrings or even deeper, yet undreamt of levels? Surprisingly, developments in gravitation physics in the past three decades have supplied some clear answers to what seem to be elusive questions.
The information content of a pile of computer chips increases in proportion with the number of chips or, equivalently, the volume they occupy. That simple rule must break down for a large enough pile of chips because eventually the information would exceed the holographic bound, which depends on the surface area, not the volume. The "breakdown" occurs when the immense pile of chips collapses to form a black hole. Black Hole Thermodynamics
A central player in these developments is the black hole. Black holes are a consequence of general relativity, Albert Einstein's 1915 geometric theory of gravitation. In this theory, gravitation arises from the curvature of spacetime, which makes objects move as if they were pulled by a force. Conversely, the curvature is caused by the presence of matter and energy. According to Einstein's equations, a sufficiently dense concentration of matter or energy will curve spacetime so extremely that it rends, forming a black hole. The laws of relativity forbid anything that went into a black hole from coming out again, at least within the classical (nonquantum) description of the physics. The point of no return, called the event horizon of the black hole, is of crucial importance. In the simplest case, the horizon is a sphere, whose surface area is larger for more massive black holes.
It is impossible to determine what is inside a black hole. No detailed information can emerge across the horizon and escape into the outside world. In disappearing forever into a black hole, however, a piece of matter does leave some traces. Its energy (we count any mass as energy in accordance with Einstein's E = mc2) is permanently reflected in an increment in the black hole's mass. If the matter is captured while circling the hole, its associated angular momentum is added to the black hole's angular momentum. Both the mass and angular momentum of a black hole are measurable from their effects on spacetime around the hole. In this way, the laws of conservation of energy and angular momentum are upheld by black holes. Another fundamental law, the second law of thermodynamics, appears to be violated.

Holographic Space-Time
Two universes of different dimension and obeying disparate physical laws are rendered completely equivalent by the holographic principle. Theorists have demonstrated this principle mathematically for a specific type of five-dimensional spacetime ("anti­de Sitter") and its four-dimensional boundary. In effect, the 5-D universe is recorded like a hologram on the 4-D surface at its periphery. Superstring theory rules in the 5-D spacetime, but a so-called conformal field theory of point particles operates on the 4-D hologram. A black hole in the 5-D spacetime is equivalent to hot radiation on the hologram--for example, the hole and the radiation have the same entropy even though the physical origin of the entropy is completely different for each case. Although these two descriptions of the universe seem utterly unalike, no experiment could distinguish between them, even in principle.
The second law of thermodynamics summarizes the familiar observation that most processes in nature are irreversible: a teacup falls from the table and shatters, but no one has ever seen shards jump up of their own accord and assemble into a teacup. The second law of thermodynamics forbids such inverse processes. It states that the entropy of an isolated physical system can never decrease; at best, entropy remains constant, and usually it increases. This law is central to physical chemistry and engineering; it is arguably the physical law with the greatest impact outside physics.
As first emphasized by Wheeler, when matter disappears into a black hole, its entropy is gone for good, and the second law seems to be transcended, made irrelevant. A clue to resolving this puzzle came in 1970, when Demetrious Christodoulou, then a graduate student of Wheeler's at Princeton, and Stephen W. Hawking of the University of Cambridge independently proved that in various processes, such as black hole mergers, the total area of the event horizons never decreases. The analogy with the tendency of entropy to increase led me to propose in 1972 that a black hole has entropy proportional to the area of its horizon. I conjectured that when matter falls into a black hole, the increase in black hole entropy always compensates or overcompensates for the "lost" entropy of the matter. More generally, the sum of black hole entropies and the ordinary entropy outside the black holes cannot decrease. This is the generalized second law--GSL for short.

Our innate perception that the world is three-dimensional could be an extraordinary illusion.
Hawking's radiation process allowed him to determine the proportionality constant between black hole entropy and horizon area: black hole entropy is precisely one quarter of the event horizon's area measured in Planck areas. (The Planck length, about 10-33 centimeter, is the fundamental length scale related to gravity and quantum mechanics. The Planck area is its square.) Even in thermodynamic terms, this is a vast quantity of entropy. The entropy of a black hole one centimeter in diameter would be about 1066 bits, roughly equal to the thermodynamic entropy of a cube of water 10 billion kilometers on a side.
The World as a Hologram
The GSL allows us to set bounds on the information capacity of any isolated physical system, limits that refer to the information at all levels of structure down to level X. In 1980 I began studying the first such bound, called the universal entropy bound, which limits how much entropy can be carried by a specified mass of a specified size [see box on opposite page]. A related idea, the holographic bound, was devised in 1995 by Leonard Susskind of Stanford University. It limits how much entropy can be contained in matter and energy occupying a specified volume of space.
In his work on the holographic bound, Susskind considered any approximately spherical isolated mass that is not itself a black hole and that fits inside a closed surface of area A. If the mass can collapse to a black hole, that hole will end up with a horizon area smaller than A. The black hole entropy is therefore smaller than A/4. According to the GSL, the entropy of the system cannot decrease, so the mass's original entropy cannot have been bigger than A/4. It follows that the entropy of an isolated physical system with boundary area A is necessarily less than A/4. What if the mass does not spontaneously collapse? In 2000 I showed that a tiny black hole can be used to convert the system to a black hole not much different from the one in Susskind's argument. The bound is therefore independent of the constitution of the system or of the nature of level X. It just depends on the GSL.
We can now answer some of those elusive questions about the ultimate limits of information storage. A device measuring a centimeter across could in principle hold up to 1066 bits--a mind-boggling amount. The visible universe contains at least 10100 bits of entropy, which could in principle be packed inside a sphere a tenth of a light-year across. Estimating the entropy of the universe is a difficult problem, however, and much larger numbers, requiring a sphere almost as big as the universe itself, are entirely plausible.
But it is another aspect of the holographic bound that is truly astonishing. Namely, that the maximum possible entropy depends on the boundary area instead of the volume. Imagine that we are piling up computer memory chips in a big heap. The number of transistors--the total data storage capacity--increases with the volume of the heap. So, too, does the total thermodynamic entropy of all the chips. Remarkably, though, the theoretical ultimate information capacity of the space occupied by the heap increases only with the surface area. Because volume increases more rapidly than surface area, at some point the entropy of all the chips would exceed the holographic bound. It would seem that either the GSL or our commonsense ideas of entropy and information capacity must fail. In fact, what fails is the pile itself: it would collapse under its own gravity and form a black hole before that impasse was reached. Thereafter each additional memory chip would increase the mass and surface area of the black hole in a way that would continue to preserve the GSL.
This surprising result--that information capacity depends on surface area--has a natural explanation if the holographic principle (proposed in 1993 by Nobelist Gerard 't Hooft of the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands and elaborated by Susskind) is true. In the everyday world, a hologram is a special kind of photograph that generates a full three-dimensional image when it is illuminated in the right manner. All the information describing the 3-D scene is encoded into the pattern of light and dark areas on the two-dimensional piece of film, ready to be regenerated. The holographic principle contends that an analogue of this visual magic applies to the full physical description of any system occupying a 3-D region: it proposes that another physical theory defined only on the 2-D boundary of the region completely describes the 3-D physics. If a 3-D system can be fully described by a physical theory operating solely on its 2-D boundary, one would expect the information content of the system not to exceed that of the description on the boundary.
A Universe Painted on Its Boundary
Can we apply the holographic principle to the universe at large? The real universe is a 4-D system: it has volume and extends in time. If the physics of our universe is holographic, there would be an alternative set of physical laws, operating on a 3-D boundary of spacetime somewhere, that would be equivalent to our known 4-D physics. We do not yet know of any such 3-D theory that works in that way. Indeed, what surface should we use as the boundary of the universe? One step toward realizing these ideas is to study models that are simpler than our real universe.
A class of concrete examples of the holographic principle at work involves so-called anti-de Sitter spacetimes. The original de Sitter spacetime is a model universe first obtained by Dutch astronomer Willem de Sitter in 1917 as a solution of Einstein's equations, including the repulsive force known as the cosmological constant. De Sitter's spacetime is empty, expands at an accelerating rate and is very highly symmetrical. In 1997 astronomers studying distant supernova explosions concluded that our universe now expands in an accelerated fashion and will probably become increasingly like a de Sitter spacetime in the future. Now, if the repulsion in Einstein's equations is changed to attraction, de Sitter's solution turns into the anti-de Sitter spacetime, which has equally as much symmetry. More important for the holographic concept, it possesses a boundary, which is located "at infinity" and is a lot like our everyday spacetime.
Using anti-de Sitter spacetime, theorists have devised a concrete example of the holographic principle at work: a universe described by superstring theory functioning in an anti-de Sitter spacetime is completely equivalent to a quantum field theory operating on the boundary of that spacetime [see box above]. Thus, the full majesty of superstring theory in an anti-de Sitter universe is painted on the boundary of the universe. Juan Maldacena, then at Harvard University, first conjectured such a relation in 1997 for the 5-D anti-de Sitter case, and it was later confirmed for many situations by Edward Witten of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J., and Steven S. Gubser, Igor R. Klebanov and Alexander M. Polyakov of Princeton University. Examples of this holographic correspondence are now known for spacetimes with a variety of dimensions.
This result means that two ostensibly very different theories--not even acting in spaces of the same dimension--are equivalent. Creatures living in one of these universes would be incapable of determining if they inhabited a 5-D universe described by string theory or a 4-D one described by a quantum field theory of point particles. (Of course, the structures of their brains might give them an overwhelming "commonsense" prejudice in favor of one description or another, in just the way that our brains construct an innate perception that our universe has three spatial dimensions; see the illustration on the opposite page.)
The holographic equivalence can allow a difficult calculation in the 4-D boundary spacetime, such as the behavior of quarks and gluons, to be traded for another, easier calculation in the highly symmetric, 5-D anti-de Sitter spacetime. The correspondence works the other way, too. Witten has shown that a black hole in anti-de Sitter spacetime corresponds to hot radiation in the alternative physics operating on the bounding spacetime. The entropy of the hole--a deeply mysterious concept--equals the radiation's entropy, which is quite mundane.
The Expanding Universe
Highly symmetric and empty, the 5-D anti-de Sitter universe is hardly like our universe existing in 4-D, filled with matter and radiation, and riddled with violent events. Even if we approximate our real universe with one that has matter and radiation spread uniformly throughout, we get not an anti-de Sitter universe but rather a "Friedmann-Robertson-Walker" universe. Most cosmologists today concur that our universe resembles an FRW universe, one that is infinite, has no boundary and will go on expanding ad infinitum.
Does such a universe conform to the holographic principle or the holographic bound? Susskind's argument based on collapse to a black hole is of no help here. Indeed, the holographic bound deduced from black holes must break down in a uniform expanding universe. The entropy of a region uniformly filled with matter and radiation is truly proportional to its volume. A sufficiently large region will therefore violate the holographic bound.
In 1999 Raphael Bousso, then at Stanford, proposed a modified holographic bound, which has since been found to work even in situations where the bounds we discussed earlier cannot be applied. Bousso's formulation starts with any suitable 2-D surface; it may be closed like a sphere or open like a sheet of paper. One then imagines a brief burst of light issuing simultaneously and perpendicularly from all over one side of the surface. The only demand is that the imaginary light rays are converging to start with. Light emitted from the inner surface of a spherical shell, for instance, satisfies that requirement. One then considers the entropy of the matter and radiation that these imaginary rays traverse, up to the points where they start crossing. Bousso conjectured that this entropy cannot exceed the entropy represented by the initial surface--one quarter of its area, measured in Planck areas. This is a different way of tallying up the entropy than that used in the original holographic bound. Bousso's bound refers not to the entropy of a region at one time but rather to the sum of entropies of locales at a variety of times: those that are "illuminated" by the light burst from the surface.
Bousso's bound subsumes other entropy bounds while avoiding their limitations. Both the universal entropy bound and the 't Hooft-Susskind form of the holographic bound can be deduced from Bousso's for any isolated system that is not evolving rapidly and whose gravitational field is not strong. When these conditions are overstepped--as for a collapsing sphere of matter already inside a black hole--these bounds eventually fail, whereas Bousso's bound continues to hold. Bousso has also shown that his strategy can be used to locate the 2-D surfaces on which holograms of the world can be set up.
Researchers have proposed many other entropy bounds. The proliferation of variations on the holographic motif makes it clear that the subject has not yet reached the status of physical law. But although the holographic way of thinking is not yet fully understood, it seems to be here to stay. And with it comes a realization that the fundamental belief, prevalent for 50 years, that field theory is the ultimate language of physics must give way. Fields, such as the electromagnetic field, vary continuously from point to point, and they thereby describe an infinity of degrees of freedom. Superstring theory also embraces an infinite number of degrees of freedom. Holography restricts the number of degrees of freedom that can be present inside a bounding surface to a finite number; field theory with its infinity cannot be the final story. Furthermore, even if the infinity is tamed, the mysterious dependence of information on surface area must be somehow accommodated.
Holography may be a guide to a better theory. What is the fundamental theory like? The chain of reasoning involving holography suggests to some, notably Lee Smolin of the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Waterloo, that such a final theory must be concerned not with fields, not even with spacetime, but rather with information exchange among physical processes. If so, the vision of information as the stuff the world is made of will have found a worthy embodiment.
Jacob D. Bekenstein has contributed to the foundation of black hole thermodynamics and to other aspects of the connections between information and gravitation. He is Polak Professor of Theoretical Physics at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, a member of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, and a recipient of the Rothschild Prize. Bekenstein dedicates this article to John Archibald Wheeler (his Ph.D. supervisor 30 years ago). Wheeler belongs to the third generation of Ludwig Boltzmann's students: Wheeler's Ph.D. adviser, Karl Herzfeld, was a student of Boltzmann's student Friedrich Hasenöhrl.
In the 1950s, while conducting research into the beliefs of LSD as a psychotherapeutic tool, Grof had one female patient who suddenly became convinced she had assumed the identity of a female of a species of prehistoric reptile. During the course of her hallucination, she not only gave a richly detailed description of what it felt like to be encapsuled in such a form, but noted that the portion of the male of the species's anatomy was a patch of colored scales on the side of its head.
What was startling to Grof was that although the woman had no prior knowledge about such things, a conversation with a zoologist later confirmed that in certain species of reptiles colored areas on the head do indeed play an important role as triggers of sexual arousal.
The woman's experience was not unique. During the course of his research, Grof encountered examples of patients regressing and identifying with virtually every species on the evolutionary tree (research findings which helped influence the man-into-ape scene in the movie Altered States). Moreover, he found that such experiences frequently contained obscure zoological details which turned out to be accurate.
Regressions into the animal kingdom were not the only puzzling psychological phenomena Grof encountered. He also had patients who appeared to tap into some sort of collective or racial unconscious. Individuals with little or no education suddenly gave detailed descriptions of Zoroastrian funerary practices and scenes from Hindu mythology. In other categories of experience, individuals gave persuasive accounts of out-of-body journeys, of precognitive glimpses of the future, of regressions into apparent past-life incarnations.
In later research, Grof found the same range of phenomena manifested in therapy sessions which did not involve the use of drugs. Because the common element in such experiences appeared to be the transcending of an individual's consciousness beyond the usual boundaries of ego and/or limitations of space and time, Grof called such manifestations "transpersonal experiences", and in the late '60s he helped found a branch of psychology called "transpersonal psychology" devoted entirely to their study.
Although Grof's newly founded Association of Transpersonal Psychology garnered a rapidly growing group of like-minded professionals and has become a respected branch of psychology, for years neither Grof or any of his colleagues were able to offer a mechanism for explaining the bizarre psychological phenomena they were witnessing. But that has changed with the advent of the holographic paradigm.
As Grof recently noted, if the mind is actually part of a continuum, a labyrinth that is connected not only to every other mind that exists or has existed, but to every atom, organism, and region in the vastness of space and time itself, the fact that it is able to occasionally make forays into the labyrinth and have transpersonal experiences no longer seems so strange.
The holographic prardigm also has implications for so-called hard sciences like biology. Keith Floyd, a psychologist at Virginia Intermont College, has pointed out that if the concreteness of reality is but a holographic illusion, it would no longer be true to say the brain produces consciousness. Rather, it is consciousness that creates the appearance of the brain -- as well as the body and everything else around us we interpret as physical.
Such a turnabout in the way we view biological structures has caused researchers to point out that medicine and our understanding of the healing process could also be transformed by the holographic paradigm. If the apparent physical structure of the body is but a holographic projection of consciousness, it becomes clear that each of us is much more responsible for our health than current medical wisdom allows. What we now view as miraculous remissions of disease may actually be due to changes in consciousness which in turn effect changes in the hologram of the body.
Similarly, controversial new healing techniques such as visualization may work so well because in the holographic domain of thought images are ultimately as real as "reality".
Even visions and experiences involving "non-ordinary" reality become explainable under the holographic paradigm. In his book "Gifts of Unknown Things," biologist Lyall Watson discribes his encounter with an Indonesian shaman woman who, by performing a ritual dance, was able to make an entire grove of trees instantly vanish into thin air. Watson relates that as he and another astonished onlooker continued to watch the woman, she caused the trees to reappear, then "click" off again and on again several times in succession.
Although current scientific understanding is incapable of explaining such events, experiences like this become more tenable if "hard" reality is only a holographic projection.
Perhaps we agree on what is "there" or "not there" because what we call consensus reality is formulated and ratified at the level of the human unconscious at which all minds are infinitely interconnected.
If this is true, it is the most profound implication of the holographic paradigm of all, for it means that experiences such as Watson's are not commonplace only because we have not programmed our minds with the beliefs that would make them so. In a holographic universe there are no limits to the extent to which we can alter the fabric of reality.
What we perceive as reality is only a canvas waiting for us to draw upon it any picture we want. Anything is possible, from bending spoons with the power of the mind to the phantasmagoric events experienced by Castaneda during his encounters with the Yaqui brujo don Juan, for magic is our birthright, no more or less miraculous than our ability to compute the reality we want when we are in our dreams.
Indeed, even our most fundamental notions about reality become suspect, for in a holographic universe, as Pribram has pointed out, even random events would have to be seen as based on holographic principles and therefore determined. Synchronicities or meaningful coincidences suddenly makes sense, and everything in reality would have to be seen as a metaphor, for even the most haphazard events would express some underlying symmetry.
Whether Bohm and Pribram's holographic paradigm becomes accepted in science or dies an ignoble death remains to be seen, but it is safe to say that it has already had an influence on the thinking of many scientists.



Ricky Martin becomes a dad

Tired of living "la vida loca," Latin American singing sensation Ricky Martin has become the father of twin boys through a surrogate mother and will take time away from his career to raise them, his spokesman said in a statement.
The boys were delivered "via gestational surrogacy," but no further details were released.
"Ricky is elated to begin this new chapter in his life as a parent and will be spending the remainder of the year out of the public spotlight in order to spend time with his children," said the statement issued by his New York-based spokesman.
A native of Puerto Rico, Martin, 36, first gained fame as a singer in boy band Menudo. His 1999 album Ricky Martin and its smash hit song Livin' la Vida Loca (living the crazy life) made him a widely recognised pop star. Other hits for the top-selling artist include She Bangs.
Martin's 2006 CD MTV Unplugged debuted at No. 1 on Billboard's Top Latin Albums chart, and he was honoured as the 2006 person of the year by the Latin Recording Academy


Futuristic car designs that actually were never produced

After World War II General Motors let their designers pretty much go hog wild with automotive concepts.

They featured these futuristic designs in a series of eight auto shows called GM Motorama, punctuating the new feeling of prosperity and optimism sweeping through the USA at that time. The result was an absolutely mind blowing collection of some of the greatest and strangest concept vehicle designs ever created.


Officials told to look for Fake Emergency vehicles !

By EILEEN SULLIVAN, Associated Press Writer/Yahoo

WASHINGTON - The federal government is telling emergency managers to be on the lookout for fake emergency and commercial vehicles, as security tightens in the two cities hosting this year's presidential conventions
Terrorists could used these "cloned vehicles" to conduct surveillance or to carry out an attack, according to an Aug. 21 bulletin from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Cloning a vehicle is easy and relatively cheap, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau.
For about $2,000 someone can use a computer, color printer, typewriter, barcode label printer, an electric tool for cutting and an engraving pen to fake vehicle identification numbers, stickers and titles.
The Secret Service does not have any specific information about these cloned vehicles being used for surveillance or terrorist purposes at the Democratic convention in Denver and the GOP convention in St. Paul, Minn., Secret Service spokesman Eric Zahren said. But the agency is aware of this type of potential threat, Zahren said.
"We work closely with our law enforcement and public safety partner agencies to identify emergency vehicles in advance for access to secure areas," he said.
Earlier this month, the Homeland Security Department told its employees that the country is considered to be in a period of heightened alert lasting until next summer. The Aug. 8-24 Beijing Olympic Games, presidential nominating conventions, November elections and transition to a new administration pose opportunities for terrorists to attack.
The FEMA bulletin cites examples over the past few years in which 18-wheelers were disguised as Wal-Mart trucks and were eventually impounded. For instance, in 2006, Texas authorities stopped a fake Wal-Mart truck that was carrying 3,000 pounds of marijuana and about 450 pounds of cocaine, according to a report on cloned vehicles issued earlier this year by the Florida state intelligence fusion center.
The bulletin, called an "infogram," is distributed to emergency management officials across the country. Officials are advised to know how to verify markings on government and military vehicles.
Imaging systems that can see inside trucks as well as radiation detection equipment will be used in both convention cities to prevent anything dangerous from getting near or inside the venues.
Thousands of federal, state and local law enforcement officials will be working to secure the conventions, as will airport screeners, nuclear weapons experts and intelligence analysts.

Scientists use Sunlight to split water

Australian-led scientists say they've replicated a key photosynthesis process that may lead to using sunlight to split water into hydrogen and oxygen.
The scientists, led by Professor Leone Spiccia, Robin Brimblecombe and Annette Koo of Monash University, developed a system they say might revolutionize the renewable energy industry by making hydrogen cheaper and easier to produce on a commercial scale.
"We have copied nature, taking the elements and mechanisms found in plant life that have evolved over 3 billion years and recreated one of those processes in the laboratory," Spiccia said. Although scientists have been able to split water into hydrogen and oxygen for years, "we have been able to do the same thing for the first time using just sunlight, an electrical potential of 1.2 volts and the very chemical that nature has selected for this purpose."
The research that included Gerhard Swiegers of Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization and Professor Charles Dismukes of Princeton University appears in the journal Angewandte Chemie.