Archive for May, 2013

ὡς ἐν ἄλλῳ κόσμῳ. (As if in another world)

Sunday, May 26th, 2013

me long ago!And here we are, as if in another world. We wave imaginary hands across the hypothetical vastness of virtual space and appear to speak or at least type to each other. But it all happens inside the imagination of a computer.

We read news, we buy books, we watch movies — all in the imagination of a computer.

We meet friends, we socialize, we date, we make love — all in the imagination of a computer.

But this revolution will not be imaginary.  As technology brings us closer, new discussions are inevitable.  Mores shift. Governments change.

Welcome to the future.  There is no way to avoid it.

— MRK

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The State of Reality

Saturday, May 25th, 2013

meOnce in a while somebody should hold a State of the Reality address.

As far as I know, there are at least two new problems for modern physics now:

1. If the structure of spacetime is not as foamy as thought, as indicated by the two-photon observation, what is responsible for quantum jittering?

2. If neutrinos can actually travel faster than light as some experiments suggest, does this mean a total revision of General Relativity — or an exception for special-interest particles?

If we combine these, however: that space isn’t a bumpy ride even at trans-galactic distances and that some particles can go faster than light, then FTL drive or radio doesn’t look so far away.

—MRK

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A Tree Falls

Monday, May 20th, 2013

figure 1If a tree falls in the forest, and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?

Well, yes Billy, it makes several ’sounds’. The realms of the wood are disturbed on several levels. There is the pressure disturbance wave caused by the falling of the tree, the acoustic spillover, and there is the change in the local electrostatic field, in the gravitational world, and so on. But if there is no one present to hear them, are they sounds?

Answer: whether or not there are sentient witnesses present, pressure-wave disturbances would radiate from the tree fall through the compliant forest.

You might think I am optimistic, that voices on the Internet will not be heard, that dystopia will follow. But I don’t see it. Some of you will hear me. When enough do, all will benefit.

The measurement concept in quantum mechanics, that something is not real unless it can be detected, comes up against the transfinities of the Many Worlds Theory and runs into difficulties. These apparently infinite quantities of alternate universes or altered histories were brushed away in QED (Quantum ElectroDynamics) by ‘renormalization’. If you put them back in, however, and add a few other effects to balance them, I believe that a full Feynman sum over histories formulation without renormalization will be productive for unified field theories.

– MRK

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Aspartame is NOT Safe!

Wednesday, May 15th, 2013

me long ago!It’s time to talk about sweeteners.  If you’re like me this is a serious subject. I want to live a long life but not a boring one. I like my coffee, which some studies have shown cuts the risk of developing Alzheimer’s.  But I never learned how to drink coffee black and I can’t drink it without a sweetener of some kind.

Life is sweet, but life without ice cream or any other dessert? Yes, I like fruit as a source of fiber, but not as a replacement for dessert.

Years ago I started drinking a lot of diet Coke with Lime.  I prided myself on the fact that I was avoiding excessive sugar. My girlfriend, however, who worked in a neurologist’s office, told me that aspartame was not good for me. “That stuff eats your brain,” she said.  At the time I dismissed such warning as anti-technology alarmism.

Every few years a new sweetener rears its head and we are told it is safe. Remember saccharin? Remember cyclamates?

Now we are being told that Aspartame is safe. Reality check: who is telling us this? Doctors who care about our health? Or merchants who want to sell it to us? I think you know the answer to this.  Even Coca-Cola touts it on their new “Wellness” page.

Aspartame goes by the names Equal, Candarel and NutriSweet. Starting in 1974 the US Government began approving its use as an additive to dry foods; additional approvals followed. Now let’s not get started on the old conspiracy theory bandwagon. I’m not going there. I’m also not going to talk about cancer danger scares.  Let’s talk simple chemistry instead.

Aspartame is broken down in living cells into methanol.  My first experience with methanol or “wood alcohol” was in Introductory Physical Science where we learned you can make it by heating boxwood in a test tube after driving the air out. Methanol is poisonous. If you consume enough of it you go blind. Take even more of it and you will die.

But didn’t animal studies show that Aspartame is safe? Yes, in low doses, because in animal cells the methanol is broken down into formic acid.

But it is INVALID to use these studies as a model for human intake of aspartame. Humans lack a key enzyme that animals have. We don’t break the methanol down all the way into formic acid.

Would you like to know what the end product is in human cells? We break methanol down into FORMALDEHYDE.  This is a poison and preservative used to in embalming corpses.

I used to wonder why drinking soda with Aspartame in it gave me headaches. Now I know. it was because I was converting it to methanol and formaldehyde, both poisons.

Do yourself a favor. Don’t eat things your body will convert into poisons.  With all its pitfalls, sugar is safer. Honey’s even better.

—MRK

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A Day To Thank All Mothers. Especially my own.

Sunday, May 12th, 2013

momIs it too much to ask, a day of thanks — in return for a lifetime of love?

I am a man.  I will never know the pain of childbirth.  My mother went through it five times!

She met my father at a Maryland College For Women dance in the fall of 1948. About 55 midshipmen were bused in for the dance from the Naval Academy.  He cut in on a Plebe and never let go of her.  They were married eight months later.

We all miss him; he logged out of the game in 2003 from natural causes after 54 years of marriage.  But my mother is still with us, still giving and caring. She never remarried.

He was a hard act to follow. She lives on, still strong, still driving her own car, still running the church library and its computer.

After my B.S. degree and some graduate school at FSU I moved North for many years.  Maybe I am an ungrateful jerk, but there were reasons we don’t need to go into here and now; maybe later. This is not about me. I have to keep remembering that. This is Mother’s Day.

Let me tell you a little about my mother.

When her first first son William was an infant, schools warned parents not to meddle in the business of education. She listened to them — at first — and soon discovered Bill was just not learning to read.  So she decided maybe the “experts” were not getting it right. My mother bought 3-by-5 index cards and even made flash cards from the sheets of cardboard inside store-bought shirts. When you have five sons you get a lot of those.

my brothersShe started teaching us English in earnest, buying Dr. Seuss books to read to us along with the flash cards she drilled us with. Her second son James had no problems with reading. My younger brother David learned reading early, watching over my shoulder as I learned. All of us can read. We read well. When I reached 9th grade I was tested and found to have a 14th grade reading level! Thanks, mom. No one ever gave me a greater gift than that.

And my brother Bill, who struggled at first?  Bill has a PhD now, in machine learning. He teaches and works at George Mason University.

Almost all of our extra instruction came from my mom. You see, my dad was out at sea a lot of the time, on aircraft carriers like the USS Enterprise, CVN-65.  (He became the Air Boss of it.)

It is not easy being a Navy mother of 5 boys. It can be hard to cope with such a brood of little hellions with Dad away at sea a lot when they are young. But she did more than cope. Sometimes she tells me she should have done better at it, when I disappoint her.

But I think she did just fine. More than fine. None of us went to prison. All of us attended college. Most of us did time in the Navy. We are all still alive, like her.

We all owe her our lives and the stable family environment she provided us and our father.

Thanks, mom. If anyone deserves a day set aside to remember the sacrifices they made and the love they gave, it’s you.

I hope you know we all love you.

—MRK

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Differences

Saturday, May 11th, 2013

me at 13?I don’t look like this any more, but I like to remember a time when I was handsome.

Let’s talk about differences. Recently I said on a Facebook comment that I am *not* a conservative, to which someone replied, and I quote, “then your bad”.

I think I should explain myself, for those of you who even care about such labels. I am also *not* a liberal.

The words “liberal” and “conservative” can be deceptive, since they oversimplify.  It is pretty ridiculous to try to sum up a human being in one word, since we tend to have different takes on different issues. To some people, “liberals” are always in favor of change (even if it doesn’t help), and “conservatives” are always against change (even if it is needed).  Personally I cannot identify with either of those definitions. Though some deny it, there are good and decent human beings on both sides of politics. The terms imply more of a difference than there usually is.

For an example, take my father.  He was born in 1926 and served over 20 years in the U.S. Navy.  He was married to only one woman, for 54 years until he died. He also sang in the church choir, taught Sunday school, and was a Scoutmaster.  Add up all of these, and many would conclude he was a real conservative (definitely more conservative than me).

Oh, really?  Some of you might think that meant he must have also been a racist.  But you didn’t know him, and I did.  My father taught NJROTC at Crystal River High School in Florida, where I grew up after we moved there in 1971.  I was in his class for three years.  Would you like to know what I saw?

I’ll tell you anyway.  CRHS is in the Deep South, and had only recently been integrated when we got there.  There were a large number of African-American students.  When the school year was about to begin, a couple of these hesitantly entered his classroom to see what it was about, and if they could sign up for the class. As a result of what they encountered (my Dad), this trickle soon became a flood! He didn’t care what color a car was painted.

We had a drill team, and I was in it.  Was I the first commander of the drill team?  Nope. I barely got to do that before I graduated, three years later.  Before I got command, the CRHS drill team was commanded by Jack Hudson (the assistant NJROTC instructor’s son), Steve Hudson, Lemuel Watkins (an African-American), Cathy MacRae (a female student) and so on. You get the picture.  To my father we were all simply students, and he didn’t want to put me as commander of the team first because (a) I was only a sophomore, (b) he wanted older students to have a chance before they graduated, and (c) he was not going to show me favoritism — it would have been a bad example. So was he conservative or liberal? The answer is yes.

My father was fiscally conservative; the mortgage on our house was paid off early. But although he was a church-going man, you might be surprised at some of his attitudes.  When my older brother James once asked him “Do you believe we are living in the End Times (is the end of the world coming soon)?” My father answered simply, “No” — surprising my mother. Many of his beliefs and behaviors were not exactly what somepeople would consider to be truly “conservative” — he didn’t necessarily think all customs and beliefs should be conserved simply because they are old.

I am not the great man my father was, but I’d like to think I share some of his beliefs and nuanced stances.  Like many Americans, I am fiscally conservative — I hate to waste money.  I don’t buy things just because they are new. I drive a 2000 Honda because it still runs. When it starts dying, then I’ll look for another car. My computer runs Windows XP Professional.  I have paid extra to have Windows XP put on my computers instead of the newer versions Microsoft keeps churning out.  Why?  Because it still works and it does everything I need to do.

So I’m an old fogey, right? Think again.  I like MMO gaming, Trance music, and organic food.  Oh, so I’m a hippy, right?  Think again.  I also like Beethoven, Bach, Jazz…and Jethro Tull. Like most people, I’m complicated.

I have always parted my hair on the left.  It’s not a political statement, I’m just used to it. If I found a practical reason to change, I would.  I don’t change myself just to be different.  I change when I need to, when new information makes me realize that sometimes different is better. I believe in love and commitment.  I also believe in evolution, because of all the evidence for it. If scientific measurements told me that all the rocks in the Earth were less than 10,000 years old, then I would believe that. They don’t. I believe that a blip on the radar usually means that an object has reflected the microwaves.  I believe that radioactive decay really is a consistent process, and it doesn’t act weirdly just to fit Biblical notions of how old our planet is.

I believe there are good and honest people in ALL political parties, religions, and so-called “races” (there is only one human race, people!).

Let’s all grow up and stop using simplistic words and knee-jerk politics and religion to classify people as friend or foe.  People are people. Period.

Oh I am such a windbag!  Enough sermonizing. Let’s get back to more practical subjects.

—MRK

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