Category Archives: Scientist

The Catalyst of Distruptive Innovation

English: 1.2 MB 2.88 MB floppy disk drive

Do you know what this is? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A colleague pointed me to this article on disruptive innovation and how businessman and author Clayton Christensen recognized how disruptive technologies really work: They don’t compete with the etablished technologies at the high end. Rather they attack the low-end (less expensive, and often less performing) and eventually supplant the high end by getting better and better.

Here’s a great quote from the article, entitled “Disruptive Genius.”:

The theory of disruptive innovation lies at the core of his success. It grows from the distinction between sustaining technologies and disruptive ones. The former produce incremental improvements in the performance of established products: disk drives, for example, might offer faster speeds and greater memory storage. In contrast, disruptive technologies are “innovations that result in worse product performance, at least in the near term,” he wrote in The Innovator’s Dilemma. Yet, “Ironically…it was disruptive technology that precipitated the leading [disk-drive] firms’ failure.”

He explains that disruptive products are typically “cheaper, simpler, smaller, and, frequently, more convenient to use.” They tend to reach new markets, enabling their producers to grow rapidly and—with technological improvements—to eat away at the market shares of the leading vendors. In his book, Christensen shows how, between 1975 and 1990, successive generations of disk-drive technologies—14-, 8-, 5.25-, 3.5-, and 2.5-inch drives—disrupted the markets of their predecessors, and then were themselves disrupted. When 8-inch drives emerged, for example, their smaller capacities held no interest for mainframe-computer manufacturers, the principal customers for 14-inch drives. But the smaller drives matched minicomputer-makers’ needs—and with annual gains in performance, they eventually made inroads into the mainframe market. A similar pattern recurred with 5.25-inch drives and desktop computers, 3.5-inch drives and laptop computers, and 2.5-inch drives and notebook computers. Established companies are “held captive by their customers,” in Christensen’s phrase, and so routinely ignore emerging markets of buyers who are not their customers.

It’s not the customers you have, its the customers you didn’t know you had who wanted something a bit different than what you were offering.

Physicists look for neutrons hopping universes

My own (yet unpublished) novel, “The Left Hand of Light,” has a lot in common with this article from Popular Science.

Now that scientists are looking for evidence of matter moving between universes, I need to find an agent quick!

From the article:

The notion of multiple universes is one that cosmologists like to theorize about but generally don’t relish proving, mainly because doing so would be very difficult. But a team of researchers that showed a few years ago how matter might travel between our universe and others now think they ought to be able to observe this phenomenon in action using existing technology, lending credence to the multiverse theory.

Consider this: If matter can move between universes, so can information. What we call spirits and ghosts may well be simply energy, beings, or remnant information leaking into our own universe.

I Gotta Get One of These!

3D printers have come a long way in the last couple of years. They were cute when they could create 3D objects, but were mostly art deco doo-dads. No longer! Now one can print objects with moving parts!

With a printer like this, who needs a hardware store? Computer too slow? Print a new one! Well, someday…

To Calculate the Edges of a Polyhedral

I’m sure this math is trivial to most statisticians, physicists and mathematicians, but some friends and I determined how to calculate the edges of any 3 dimensional polyhedral. We used my AD&D dice to verify.

(E * F) /2


E = the number of edges on a single face of the shape, and
F = the number of faces on the shape.

For example, a six-sided die has 12 edges, a 20-sided die has 30 edges.

Bug fungus

After watching the Earth series of videos, I was struck by the fantastic mix of science and surreal science fiction of this piece. Imagine a cordyceps fungi that attacks humans…

Ant-eating Fungi

Yes, this is a dead ant with a fungal mushroom pseudo-pod coming out of its head. Its nothing like the video though. Be sure to check it out. All your ant are belong to us!

Thanks to for the pic.

A Case for Malignant Spirits

Years ago I was driving on a San Diego freeway. It was raining something terrible and visibility was poor. Before I knew it, the traffic ahead of me had stopped and I slammed my brakes and veered into another lane to avoid collision. My car stalled and the vehicles behind me narrowly avoided me.

A week later, not far from that very location, a friend got into a car accident that totaled his car and one that hit him. That got me to thinking about the possibility that a dangerous spirit, unsatisfied after my near-miss, continued until it had achieved its evil purpose.

Then I read with wonder about the U.S. Airways plane that crash landed in the Hudson river with no casualties. It was certainly a miracle to those on board!

Now we hear that another plane has gone down in Buffalo New York not far (relatively speaking) from the first crash site. Many have died.

I can’t help but wonder whether there was an unsatiated spirit frustrated by its first failure that caused the destruction we have witnessed.

Perhaps some forces can only be placated by negative energy?

The Dread Artificial Intelligence

A friend pointed me to an pessimistic view of technological superhuman intelligence.

The main thrust of the article is that in the very near future humankind will develop technology that will create computers that are superhumanly intelligent, resulting in the demise of the human race. Written in 1993, this article was six years ahead of The Matrix.

While the more cynical of us may believe that if and when computers can think they will naturally conclude humankind is worthy only of extermination, there are of course, other possibilities.

Will great networks of computers suddenly “wake up” once a certain critical mass of programming and information has been input? Unlikely.

However, as more human beings interconnect with technology to each other, via mobile devices and even blogs like this one, I see communication becoming more like an ocean, with tides and swells and currents. Information–ideas–will flow in predictable and liquid (or perhaps viral) fashions.

I see computers and humankind becoming inherently dependent on each other. Someday philosophers may ask, “Where does the computer end, and the mind begin?”

Until then, let’s not fear the unfortunately named “Singularity” (for which physicists must be slapping their foreheads!). Let us embrace the possibility that the sum of the knowledge collected by the human race may one day be available at our fingertips, resulting not in a super intelligence, but in an efficient repository of collected memories that enhance–not replace–our individual genetic ancestral memories.

And never forget that no amount of intelligence is a replacement for wisdom. The ability to creatively and thoughtfully apply knowledge is as important as the knowledge itself.

The Solar Winds of Change

As you may know, the Mystic Nebula is dedicated to the study of the natural, the unnatural and the supernatural. I try to avoid politics. You have other blog sites for that nonsense. Let me state here that I have no doubt the Earth is warming and has been for at least the last 10,000 years. I also have no problem reducing the environmental damage caused by humans if it is done in a reasonable manner and not used as an excuse to control human behavior ala 1984.

Therefore I present the following story from the BBC with only this word of caution. It is risky to presume we understand the nature of the universe, or even the Earth. Extremists on all sides debate Global Warming without all the relevant information.

Now we learn that the solar wind is at a 50 year low. The solar wind part of what impacts the flow of cosmic rays around our planet. We believe we understand the ramifications the increase of cosmic rays will have on electronic equipment. But we have no idea how this has impacted the climate of the planet over the years.

The problem with this kind of data however, is that one can’t tax cosmic rays or file a lawsuit against the sun. There’s no money in blaming these for climate change. The larger question is whether reasonable scientists and politicians will consider all available data when tackling the climate change issue, and whether we are more concerned with politics than with the environment.

Count me on the side of the environment and those that truly put her first and not their egos or their pocketbooks.

Science in Rap

Give it up to Alpinekat. We need more science in rap. You go, girl! This one’s about the Large Hadron Collider at CERN.

What Our Ancestors Believed

Its amazing how ignorant we believe our ancestors were. They drew strange images on cave walls of creatures no one has seen. They told stories of monsters that exist in the dark, just beyond the light of the tribal campfire. Colorful explanations abound. And because of their wild and vivacious imaginations, we accuse them of somehow believing what they drew was real. That what they spoke of and sang about were all true.

Can modern humans assume we are so much more enlightened? Do we not tell stories of creatures that we have never seen? Do we not draw pictures of creatures both fantastic and demonic? Does this mean we believe? That we think it true? Have we not yet learned that one cannot trust everything just because it is written? Does this wisdom apply any differently to our ancestors?

Scholars and academics should take heed. A thousand years from now, should humankind be fortunate enough to still exist, what will our children think of us? Will they look at our strange pictures and hear our strange stories and think that we must have not know better? That because we revealed our imaginations in a tangible form that we thought it a complete and total reality?

A part of me does believe. Despite science and religion I do wonder at worlds we cannot comprehend. But I trust future generations not to scoff as if I were a brainless caveman with no sense of my own because cavemen were not brainless and our very existence proves it. I prefer our future kin realize that those that came before them had rich imaginations that not only entertained but informed, ignited new visions, and perhaps changed the way they look at their world, their universe, reality itself.

Do not belittle me because of my imagination. Do not belittle the caveman for his. His imagination is the root of the ancient racial memory that binds us all to our past just as our collective imagination is what binds us to our future. Our ancestors believed in exactly what they needed to believe to bring us this far. We must believe what will take us along the next leg of our journey.