Thursday, March 31, 2011

Angels and Strange B Mesons: The Title of Dan Brown's Next Book?

Through further analysis of data collected on the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) last fall at CERN, a group of scientists are beginning to study a collection of tiny subatomic particles called mesons. In particular, they are finding different rates of decay for the matter particles (called Strange B) when compared to the antimatter particles (called B-bar). Since it is believed mesons were around after the big bang, this group suggests these studies will illuminate the reasons our universe is composed predominantly of matter. That is, after they can provide some evidence that there actually was a big bang.

You can go here to read the press release, or just wait for Robert Langdon to explain it during his next adventure.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

If you're happy and you know it post on Facebook...

In many ways, the internet has brought us all closer together. The use of WebLogs and various social media sites make it possible to instantly interact with people around the world. Despite this and other benefits, there can be some drawbacks. For example, a study recently published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin suggests that social networking sites such as can have a negative impact on an individuals self esteem and overall feeling of well being.

Through a series of studies, Jordan and coworkers found that when someone is feeling down, those feelings can be enhanced when an individual perceives others around them to be happier and problem free. The researchers suggest this perception can be prevalent in social websites where users have complete control over the public image they project. Although the various investigations in this work had a fairly limited sample size (between ~60-300 participants for the various portions)it is certainly worth a read and some thought.

If you're interested in learning more about psychology and ways to combat problems with negative thinking, there are some excellent articles and resources at my wife's psychology blog.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Put the .conf back in Xorg

Recently, after installing Ubuntu 10.04 LTS in a Virtual Box VM, I was left after booting with a very tiny 800x600 OS in the middle of a huge black screen. There were not other options in Monitor configuration besides 640x480. Even better. In the past, I have had similar problems with older Linux installs on actual hardware and was able to resolve the issue with modeline edits in /etc/X11/xorg.conf.

But there was no such file in my OS! It seems the newer versions of Xorg no longer use the configuration file. After a bit of frustrated hunting and searching across google, I was hit with an idea. What if I make my own xorg.conf and just specify monitor resolution? Well that is exactly what I did, and after a reboot, the new resolution options were available under System -> Preferences -> Monitors.

Here is what the contents of my /etc/X11/xorg.conf looked like:

# /etc/X11/xorg.conf

Section "Screen"
Identifier "Default Screen"
Monitor "Configured Monitor"
Device "Configured Video Device"
DefaultDepth 24
SubSection "Display"
Depth 16
Modes "1028x1024" "1024x768"
SubSection "Display"
Depth 24
Modes "1028x1024" "1024x768"

There may have been a better way to fix this, but for me it worked well and hasn't yet caused any noticeable problems. I'll continue keeping my fingers crossed.

About Your Author

Please see my updated About Page. Thanks!

Cbeck is a Research Scientist that enjoys playing guitar, reading books, and spending time with his family. Even the vicious little dog. Staying abreast of trends in social psychology and technology are persistent hobbies, despite his lack of expertise in these areas. The former of those hobbies has been developed thanks to fascinating conversations with his wife, who is a professional counselor. Cbeck also has a problem with referring to himself in the third-person and the plural tense. His wife is working on him with that. We are also not sure if "plural" actually is a tense or not.