Thursday, April 28, 2005

Skype is the new Google

Sometimes you just have to blog. Skype is a internet telephony service that now goes beyond anything else. Not only can you call free computer to computer. Not only can you call a normal phone from your computer (SkypeOut). Now you can have a phone # assigned to the client and people can call you at that number from any normal phone (SkypeIn). Not to mention voicemail.

Skypeout has 0.02 eurocents per minute for US-Europe and SkypeIn only costs 30euros per year to have this number. The time where all data will be broadcasted through the net is not far, and phone will be the first service to become obsolete. Television and movies will soon follow. Why bother having a TV when you stream everything off the net?

Saturday, April 23, 2005


It's 5:30 and we have to wake up to go from Brookhaven to LA. I realize that there are several days throughout the past 2 years that I've been in the US that I haven't slept at all for a night - and only once was that for work (the presentation of my loudspeakers). I can't sleep if I have done something important the day before or if I am about to do something important the next day. Today is one of these days. I haven't slept at all, I was just watching Friends [1.04 seasons] all night and I kept thinking and thinking. I was thinking about the exciting experiment we did, the problems we had, the solutions, Igor shouting "3,2,1 Fire!" and eagerly waiting the snapshot to appear on the screen. I am really excited and now I am very much into this thing and there is no way back. This experiment was the spark that will give me the strength to love again what am I doing - something that I believe I lost 2 years ago when I finished my undergrad thesis. But now, I can really see where am I going with this and therefore I can embrace it. Thanks!

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Liquid Early Universe

RHIC is another accelerator facility here at the Brookhaven Lab. They try to mimic the conditions of the first microsecond after the Bing Bang by forcing gold ions to collide together. In fact, they just managed to produce the temperature (150,000 bigger than the temperature at the center of the sun) and density that existed at that moment of Bing Bang creation. And while the theoretical models predicted that the elements there should behave like a gas (random rapid motions at several directions) they say something astonishingly different: that they behaved like a well defined, low viscosity fluid!

Fluid motion means that when you apply an excitation then the molecules tend to move in groups, affecting eachother and not at totally random directions. There is a collective effect from the interaction between them, which allows us to describe it with macroscopic fluid equations. This will yield tremendous data regarding what happened at the early stages of the universe - this is a time where no atoms are yet formed, it's just a soup of quarks and gluons.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Wanna play chess?

I was always annoyed in chess by the fact that there is no action. The game always ends if the king will be taken in the next move, or if the player quits because if he thinks he's weak. But in real life this never happens. The rest of the army will keep fighting even without their king (ok, maybe with fewer hopes), they don't just drop dead! So in our version of chess, it goes like that: even if a king is taken, you keep playing. The player that took the other's king, has the goal of vanquishing ALL of the opponent's army. Every single piece has to be captures for the game to end. The opponent of course still tries to capture the other player's king first before the other pieces. If both kings are taken, the fun part starts. Both players then fight until the weakest is dissapeared from the board. Try it, and you will see that it is a lot easier to capture a king than a whole army! In fact, because people usually sacrifice in order to capture the king, the opponent has an advantage right after capturing the king...
In our game I got Andrew's king first, then he captured mine, and then we kept playing until it was clear that I would never be able to capure all his pieces! He had only one horse left and even with my 6 pieces I couldn't restrict the horse to a corner and capture it... SO annoying!


Not much. Went to school , then spent $100 in target to upgrade our bathroom and get a soft toilet seat (hmmm...). Then to teh usc-ucla gradbar where I met the same people I meet in every gradbar: Erdem, our neighbours upstairs, Michelle+Laura (sometimes), Jung+Matt. Then back home we watched numb3rs 1x09 this show is so great.

Children are wormholes... There are portals into the unreachable future and the unattainable past.

Watched all 3 CSI's that were new this week. What the foock is wrong with them and they have chlidren making the murders in the last episodes? I don't get it. CSI:NY was once more the best. The people know what they are doing, they have grasped some otherwise very hard to put into film human emotions.. Well done.
The evening was devoted to watching Gattaca (2nd time). Why am I so sure that this movie will become true in most of its part sometime later on this century?

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Ο κ΄**λος του αλόγου

Απο τα ανεξάντλητα Newsgroups του ΕΜΠ:

Η απόσταση ανάμεσα στις δύο ράγιες των σιδηροδρομικών γραμμών στις ΗΠΑ είναι
4 πόδια και 8,5 ίντσες (143,5 cm). Μάλλον παράξενος αριθμός. Γιατί άραγε
έχει επιλεγεί το συγκεκριμένο διάκενο;
Διότι ο σιδηρόδρομος στις ΗΠΑ κατασκευάστηκε με τον τρόπο που είχε
κατασκευαστεί ο σιδηρόδρομος στην Αγγλία, από Άγγλους μηχανικούς που
μετανάστευσαν, και οι οποίοι θεώρησαν ότι θα ήταν καλή σκέψη, επειδή θα
επέτρεπε να χρησιμοποιηθούν υπάρχουσες ατμομηχανές από την Αγγλία.

Και τότε, γιατί οι Άγγλοι κατασκεύασαν τις ατμομηχανές τους έτσι; Διότι οι
πρώτες σιδηροδρομικές γραμμές κατασκευάστηκαν από τους ίδιους μηχανικούς που
κατασκεύαζαν τραμ, στο οποίο χρησιμοποιούσαν ήδη το συγκεκριμένο διάκενο.

Και γιατί αυτό το διάκενο; Διότι οι κατασκευαστές του τραμ ήταν και
κατασκευαστές αμαξών, που χρησιμοποιούσαν τα ίδια εργαλεία και τις ίδιες

Γιατί οι άμαξες έχουν αυτό το διάκενο; Διότι, παντού στην Ευρώπη, και στην
Αγγλία, οι δρόμοι είχαν λούκια για τους τροχούς των αμαξών και ένα
διαφορετικό διάκενο θα προκαλούσε διαρκώς βλάβες στους άξονες.

Και γιατί τα λούκια απέχουν τόσο μεταξύ τους; Οι πρώτες μεγάλες οδοί στην
Ευρώπη είχαν κατασκευαστεί από τους Ρωμαίους, με σκοπό να μετακινούνται
εύκολα οι λεγεώνες τους. Οι πρώτες άμαξες ήταν οι πολεμικές άμαξες των
Ρωμαίων. Οι άμαξες αυτές ήταν ιππήλατες: τις τραβούσαν δύο άλογα, τα οποία
κάλπαζαν δίπλα-δίπλα και έπρεπε να απέχουν μεταξύ τους, ούτως ώστε το ένα
άλογο να μην ενοχλεί το άλλο κατά τον καλπασμό. Προκειμένου να εξασφαλίζεται
η σταθερότητα της άμαξας, οι τροχοί δεν έπρεπε να είναι ευθυγραμμισμένοι με
τα ίχνη των αλόγων, ενώ δεν έπρεπε να είναι και πολύ απομακρυσμένοι, έτσι
ώστε να αποτρέπονται τα ατυχήματα κατά την διασταύρωση δύο αμαξών στην ίδια

Ιδού λοιπόν η απάντηση στο αρχικό μας ερώτημα! Το διάκενο στις ράγιες των
Αμερικανικών σιδηροδρόμων εξηγείται, αφού 2.000 χρόνια νωρίτερα, σε μιαν
άλλη ήπειρο, οι ρωμαϊκές άμαξες κατασκευάζονταν ανάλογα με το φάρδος που
έχουν τα καπούλια δύο αλόγων.

Και τώρα, το κερασάκι στην τούρτα: Υπάρχει και μια προέκταση αυτής της
ιστορίας με το διάκενο στις ράγιες και τα καπούλια των αλόγων. Αν δει κανείς
το Αμερικανικό διαστημικό λεωφορείο στην εξέδρα εκτόξευσής του, μπορεί να
παρατηρήσει δύο πλευρικές δεξαμενές καυσίμων που είναι στηριγμένες
εκατέρωθεν της κεντρικής δεξαμενής.

Η εταιρεία Thiokol κατασκευάζει αυτές τις δεξαμενές στο εργοστάσιό της στην
Γιούτα. Θα ήθελαν να τις κάνουν μεγαλύτερες, αλλά οι δεξαμενές αποστέλλονται
σιδηροδρομικώς στο σημείο εκτόξευσης. Η σιδηροδρομική γραμμή μεταξύ του
εργοστασίου και του Ακρωτηρίου Κανάβεραλ περνά από μια σήραγγα, κάτω από τα
Βραχώδη Όρη. Αυτή η σήραγγα περιορίζει το μέγεθος των δεξαμενών στο πλάτος
που έχουν τα καπούλια δύο αλόγων.

Έτσι, το πλέον εξελιγμένο μεταφορικό μέσον του κόσμου, το διαστημικό
λεωφορείο, εξαρτάται από το φάρδος του κώλου ενός αλόγου. Οι τεχνικές
προδιαγραφές και η γραφειοκρατία είναι αθάνατες! Επομένως, την επόμενη φορά
που θα βρεθείτε να κρατάτε στα χέρια σας παράξενες προδιαγραφές και θα
αναρωτιέστε ποιος κώλος τις επινόησε, θα έχετε θέσει το σωστό ερώτημα.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Future readings

I got a couple more books from Amazon today so that I read in the extensive flight time that awaits for me the next 2 months. First I got my feynman dose, "The letters of R.P. Feynman', a recently published book including many unpublished Feynman's letters (they didn't have emails or phones back then; maybe one day someone will publish 'The emails of E.Kallos" or "The blogs of E.Kallos' since almost no one writes anymore.

Second book is a classic , "Guns, germs and steel". I wanted to read that one for a while (~ 2 years) and now I found out it's the right time. The guy has 3 phds in 3 different areas, and he essentially explains why the various civilizations rised in the places they did and why that specific times and then why they vanished. He is one of the few guys in the world that has the width of knowledge to attempt something like that, but he seems to be successful.

However the next book in my queue to read is "Angels and demons", from Dan Brown (Da Vinci Code). It's not supposed to be as good as Da Vinci yet I want something light and fun.

10 hours of Prata

Prata... kill.... dizzy... night... sex... angels... souvlaki...

Since I am going to NY next week to complete the plasma experiment, I had to do the Prata homeworks before I leave (Sunday). So I decided to sit down today, and don't get up unless I finish. It was 5pm when I sat down, and now it's 3am the next day. That was 10hours of straight Prata, 21 pages of mathematical tricks and integrals and power densities and all the other goodies that force your mind to become a jelo after a few moments. I realized I was very productive and I had a clear mind all day long and that helped a lot, while other days I may work for a little bit and then procrastinate or defocus from the problems.

Even if the answers are not completely right, I am pretty sure I have at least 90% correct and I don't care so much about the last 10%. I stink so much since our bathroom is not draining that everything else smells so sweeet!

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Venice Beach

Venice Beach is right next to Santa Monica Beach, but they are the two opposites of LA. Santa Monica is home of the luxury and riches, with hot blond girls, chain stores, movie theaters, expensive malls and restaurants.

Yet if you want to see something interesting you need to go to Venice Beach. Mother of the first surfers, it encapsulates the anarchy part of LA. The most weird, cool, out-of-the-box people you can find. An outdoor gym, public restrooms, hip hop music, concrete basketball courts and hundreds of palm trees combine in order to produce a unique picture. When we got there we Stafanos we noticed about 200 people gathered around in the sand by the sea, and several of them were playing drum-like instruments and the rest were dancing barefoot on the sand as the sun was setting down - I had the most weird feeling ever. I am jealus of the people that live in the shitty rooms right on the beach - they all have at least a couple of beers by the windows and enjoy teh multiple views.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Viva Las Vegas

Now I see... I see why people call Vegas the entertainment capital of the world. It is the most weird luxurious place I have ever been. The pictures speak for themselves.

A nice portion of the strip, the main street in Las Vegas, This part is supposed to represent Paris. Please tell me a color that is not in the picture.

Bellagio rules the main part of the strip, and they use tons of water to prove it. I am still amazed by the stupendous amount of water they have brought in the middle of the desert. Amazing by night...

At the lower end of the strip lies the Stratosphere, a 350m tall tower with a sole purpose: force people to spend a lot of money while enjoying a truly spectacular view of the whole city of Las Vegas. We went there late (> midnight) so we had the best couches in the house with live music just for ourselves.

This is a typical hall in a typical luxury casino. Lots of ridiculusly expensive eye-catching decoration and lots of slot machines.

Here's my first attempt to score. I actually won $4 in this little piece of devil.

Just about 1 hour outside Vegas, in the borders of Nevada and Arizona, lies one of the modern engineering marvels of the world, the Hoover Dam. This piece of concrete holds 6.5 years accumulated water from the Colorado river, preventing flooding and extending the water resources for millions of people that live along the river. This 4 things that stick out of the water are the intake towers, responsible for generating electricity. What happens is that water goes into the tower, falls downward due to gravity and then flows throug pipes to the other side of the dam where the turbine engines are located, reaching them at a speed of 60 miles per hour, a huge momentum that converts to electricity.

There are also 4 towers on the dam. The rightmost one a Men's restroom being in Nevada, and the leftmost one a Ladie's restroom being in Arizona. Why would someone want women to pie in a different time zone?

Saturday, April 09, 2005

The Grove

The Grove is my favorite shopping place is LA so far. Nicely located close to our place, they have awesome enviroment, lots of shops, lots of food, lots of girls, lots of movie theaters. Plus an awesome day and night view from the roof of one of the best engineered parking lots in the world:

We watched SinCity in DLP. That is the recenlty favored digital projection system that theaters are starting to use. It is the same technique that our projector uses, just better quality and size. Only 92 theaters have DLP systems as we speak (21 in CA), but eventually all will switch since it makes distribution so much easier. The quality did not impress me, since the screen was so huge that I could see individual pixels in straight lines (same with our projector).

The Stang

Never had a picture of me and my car here before. Here it is then:


A mathematician, a physicist, and an engineer are riding a train through Scotland.

The engineer looks out the window, sees a black sheep, and exclaims, "Hey! They've got black sheeps in Scotland!"

The physicist looks out the window and corrects the engineer, "Strictly speaking, all we know is that there's at least one black sheep in Scotland."

The mathematician looks out the window and corrects the physicist, "Strictly speaking, all we know is that at least one side of one sheep is black in Scotland.

Sunday, April 03, 2005


Or why you shouldn't read other people's blogs (Ορέστη εσύ φταις!).

I mean, what the fuck? I really tried to put 100% of my consciousness to understand this movie while watching for the first time and knowing nothing about it, and I failed miserably. It left me with a very fuzzy feeling of what happened at the end. For a 78min $7K budget film with terrible acting, it was impressive. Having seen Memento, Donny Darko and Mulholland Drive, I thought it couldn't get worse. At least in Memento it was clear from the beginning what was the "key", so it only takes a couple of views to sort the movie out. In Mulholland Drive there is nothing special really, it's just that the various parts of the movie play in some order other than their natural one, plus it has to do with dreams so some things are symbolic and not everything is explained. A second watch with repeated pause/play is enough. Donny Darko was cool and it kept you wondering but again at the end it made some sense.

For Primer I will need to put a lot of effort to figure everything out. Not only they talk hardcore tech stuff, but the transitions at first glance aren't smooth and you are not sure whether something they just said is important or not. If you have an idea what's going on, let me know.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Numb3rs 1x08

Really good stuff in this episode. At last a question I had in my mind for years was resolved:

- How do we know that everyone has their own unique fingerprint?

- Because no 2 people have ever been found to have the same prints. It's an assumption we make based on 100 years of empirical evidence.

- How often does one part of someone's print resembles someone else's?
- We've never done this type of population surveys.
- Isn't random match propability the only way you have of knowing the likelihood of two prints matching?

- Random match is used in DNA analysis.

- Exactly. That's why when experts make a DNA match they don't say it's a sure thing. They say it is 1 in 4 billion chance that the DNA comes from the same person. But fingerprints don't have odds. They just match or they don't match...

Plus a small dose of Quantum Mechanics:

- It's like the evidence proves him rigth and wrong at the same time.
- Oh, yeah, the old paradox oh Schrodinger's cat. There is a cat in a box, 50-50 chance it's been poisoned. But now here's the paradox: until such time as we can open the box and observe the cat, for that time, that cat is both alive and dead.
- I fail to see the analogy though. In reality he can't be both right and wrong at the same time.
- No no no... The truth with Schrodinger's cat is that the question itself is meaningless until we look inside the box.