CLOSE
Original image
YouTube / MinutePhysics

The Basics of Parallel Universe Hypotheses

Original image
YouTube / MinutePhysics

In science fiction, we're often presented with "parallel universe" scenarios -- those in which the drama relies on there being more than one universe in which the action occurs. There are tons of examples, but a recent favorite is that from the dearly departed TV show Fringe (minor spoiler alert if you haven't seen past the first season!): the story involves at least two universes, in which parallel versions of events take place. Things get interesting when the universes collide and cross over, and we're often faced with fun things like the grandfather paradox, because if we're gonna have multiple universes we might as well throw in time travel too.

Whether you like science fiction or not, the question of whether parallel universes exist and, if so, how they work is an active question of science fact. In this five-minute video, Minute Physics reviews the three major models in which parallel universes might exist. If you've been wondering why your favorite sci-fi worlds operate differently, there might be some useful info in here for you. If you're a scientist looking for a super-hard problem to test, here's your ticket to fame. Enjoy:

Original image
iStock
arrow
video
This Puzzling Math Brain Teaser Has a Simple Solution
Original image
iStock

Fans of number-based brainteasers might find themselves pleasantly stumped by the following question, posed by TED-Ed’s Alex Gendler: Which sequence of integers comes next?

1, 11, 21, 1211, 111221, ?

Mathematicians may recognize this pattern as a specific type of number sequence—called a “look-and-say sequence"—that yields a distinct pattern. As for those who aren't number enthusiasts, they should try reading the numbers they see aloud (so that 1 becomes "one one," 11 is "two ones," 21 is "one two, one one,” and so on) to figure the answer.

Still can’t crack the code? Learn the surprisingly simple secret to solving the sequence by watching the video below.

Original image
iStock // nikolay100
arrow
technology
Watch How Computers Perform Optical Character Recognition
Original image
iStock // nikolay100

Optical Character Recognition (OCR) is the key technology in scanning books, signs, and all other real-world texts into digital form. OCR is all about identifying a picture of written language (or set of letters, numbers, glyphs, you name it) and sorting out what specific characters are in there.

OCR is a hard computer science problem, though you wouldn't know it from its current pervasive presence in consumer software. Today, you can point a smartphone at a document, or a sign in a national park, and instantly get a pretty accurate OCR read-out...and even a translation. It has taken decades of research to reach this point.

Beyond the obvious problems—telling a lowercase "L" apart from the number "1," for instance—there are deep problems associated with OCR. For one thing, the system needs to figure out what font is in use. For another, it needs to sort out what language the writing is in, as that will radically affect the set of characters it can expect to see together. This gets especially weird when a single photo contains multiple fonts and languages. Fortunately, computer scientists are awesome.

In this Computerphile video, Professor Steve Simske (University of Nottingham) walks us through some of the key computer science challenges involved with OCR, showing common solutions by drawing them out on paper. Tune in and learn how this impressive technology really works:

A somewhat related challenge, also featuring Simske, is "security printing" and "crazy text." Check out this Computerphile video examining those computer science problems, for another peek into how computers see (and generate) text and imagery.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios