KSA, Supercomputers, and Science!

21 10 2008

Well, here’s an interesting news to open up the blog after a month of total absence: Sixth most powerful supercomputer coming to Saudi Arabia

It really shocked me to hear about that. Not only because I never thought an Arabian country would ever get a supercomputer, let alone the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, but also because I never read an article putting the words “Science” and “KSA” in the same sentence!!

I mean, it’s a great move for them, and the KAUST project looks so damn promising to the point of disbelief! A university for both sexes is a first for the KSA, a supercomputer in a university is a first in the whole Arab world. But having a “…huge, nearly unlimited resources for research work…” is a shocker!!

So, congratulations to the KSA, and hats-off to you guys for diverting all that money from the skyscraper business to the educational sector. I only hope they will not use it to calculate prayer times in the entire solar system for the next 10 centuries!!… No, that was a joke, so, chill..

Seriously, I hope they put it to good use, maybe something that would benefit the entire region, or their fellow Arabs as a whole.

Anyway, as with ‘most’ of my posts, this one has a purpose. The purpose of this post is to remind the Syrians that, to this moment, we STILL don’t have any kind of scientific research in our universities. Which is a VERY, VERY disturbing fact, considering that research is a major role-player in a country’s cultural and scientific state.

Just as an FYI, I’m not implying that we need supercomputers, or unlimited resources, or any of that fancy stuff. Because I know we don’t have that kind of advantage. But, I think I can prove that we COULD do some kind of research with what we have. Let’s just do some research. Nothing fancy, I’m not talking AI or bioengineering, I’m talking simple stuff. We can do it theoretically, we can at least look at our options taking into account our limited resources. I’m quite confident it could be done.

You have to forgive me for being so pushy about this thing, it just saddens me to go through the whole 5 years of engineering school without doing any kind of valuable work. I know many others of my colleagues who are just as enthusiastic as I am. The only thing we need is projects and support (maybe spiritual support), both of which are in the hands of our college professors. So, obviously the whole system has to be reconstructed to account for all the variables. So it is not an easy story. But change is always hard. The most important thing we need to do is take the first move toward that goal.

And, as long as we don’t see any sign of a first move, one thing will remain certain: we’re not moving forward. The KSA has taken a HUGE step forward, in a massive scale too. I know it looks shiny and makes for a great news headline, but we don’t need all that. All that matters is: usage, and outcome. Everything else is just paparazzi stuff..

The Thin Red Line Between Faith, And Fiction!

11 09 2008

Before continuing with this post, I urge you to read some of the comments posted in the following page:

The Top 10 Intelligent Designs (or Creation Myths)

The interesting thing here, is the never ending battle between science and faith. This battle has been raging ever since people started talking to each other.

In my opinion, faith equals fiction. In a general, grand scope of things, it’s as simple as that. But allow me to elaborate a bit.

Mankind’s most valuable instinct is the desire to explore, to ask and look for answers. Of course, one wouldn’t be more happier to exist on planet earth. Where questions are virtually unlimited.

At the same time, mankind enjoys a more important basic instinct; the instinct of survival. Some would call it the fight or flight effect. Basically, this instinct helps us with our most desperate situations (fighting a wild bear, or maybe staring at a pistol’s barrel pointed right at your forehead), it helps us to decide whether to fight the situation, i.e. physically struggle for survival, or fly, i.e. run away from the situation as fast as one could run.

So, going back in time to pre-fire ages, mankind is faced by a natural-born fire in the woods nearby, and it’s heading right at him. This being a desperate situation, the fight or flight kicks in, and one chooses to run away from the fire.

Mankind survives the threat of fire, but now comes the other instinct: “What the hell was that?!??!”, one would ask. The fire was -at that time- unexplainable by conventional methods. And here comes the myth of the mighty God of Fire.

I know the example is a bit childish and TOO simplified to be true, but it makes a sense in one way or another. Fire represents the fictional element. Which, eventually, turned into a matter of gods and myths, the essence of faith.

A while later, fire is explained, and suddenly, the gods perished from existence. And skipping some thousands years later, here comes another mystery: “Who created the stars, the galaxy, the planets??”, and once again, gods come again to provide the simplest answer to the most sophisticated questions; “everthing around us simply exists to show off the gods’ ability to create and manipulate stuff at their comfort!” And that’s all you need to know, now get out and pray for forgiveness!

Read the rest of this entry »

Jurassic Park Comes To Life?!

21 05 2008

It’s weird. But nevertheless it’s in the news.

According to an article by Dailytech, a group of scientists at the University of Melbourne have made a progress towards bringing an extinct species (The tasmanian tiger) back to life!

In an exciting, successful new experiment, researchers at the University of Melbourne report that they have taken DNA from the extinct thylacine, commonly known as the Tasmanian tiger, and inserted it into a mouse embryo which continued to grow with the thylacine gene in place. The process represented the first time DNA from an extinct creature was inserted into an embryo, effectively bringing “back to life” in part the extinct species.

(Read the full article here: “Jurassic Park” in The Real World? Scientists Inject Extinct Mammal DNA Into Mouse)

That’s actually VERY exciting. It’s really amazing how genetics is proving to be a vital component to the future of mankind. The ability to manipulate genes could (and hopefully would) help to cure most diseases before they even happen.

Genetics brings out a cool concept. Let’s hope it’ll be put to good use! We don’t want any “Godzillas” wandering around in the streets. Or do we?!

Spread The Word

17 05 2008

But what kind of word??

I’m writing this after watching 5 mins. of the Syrian private satellite channel (Cham TV). It’s obviously spreading a word. But not the right word IMHO.

We are living in a world where the single, most important factor in cultural supremacy is SCIENCE. And, because we’re actually well behind the other part of the world in science and technology, I’d say the right word to spread is science, not religion.

If we really want to compete with other countries, we need to encourage every man, woman, and child to learn and love science. This doesn’t mean that we should forget about religion, but I have yet to see any mention of science in our local TV channels, and that’s bad. If we intend to close the technological gap separating us from the rest of the world, we have got to start moving NOW, not tomorrow, not later, but NOW. And TV would be a very good starting point.

So, everybody, spread the word, the word of science. For a better future for all of us.