Tag Archives: physics

selections from Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America by Barbara Ehrenreich

No one ever said that you could work hard—harder even than you ever thought possible—and still find yourself sinking ever deeper into poverty and debt. Continue reading

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selections from Elizabeth Kolbert’s The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History (2014)

“In life, as in mutual funds, past performance is no guarantee of future results.” Continue reading

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selections from Arcadia by Tom Stoppard

HANNAH: ‘I had a dream which was not all a dream.
The bright sun was extinguished, and the stars
Did wander darkling in the eternal space,
Rayless, and pathless, and the icy earth
Swung blind and blackening in the moonless air . . .’ (79) Continue reading

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selections from the second volume of Parerga and Paralipomena by Arthur Schopenhauer

SCHOPENHAUER. Essays and Aphorisms. Penguin Classics. Translated with an introduction by R. J. HOLLINGDALE. Continue reading

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the trip: https://maps.google.com/maps?saddr=San+Francisco,+CA&daddr=reno,+nv+to:Twin+Falls,+ID+to:bozeman,+mt+to:Livingston,+Mt+to:Yellowstone+National+Park,+Mammoth+Hot+Springs,+Park,+WY+to:Madison+Campground,+Yellowstone+National+Park,+Yellowstone+National+Park,+WY+to:Grand+Prismatic+Spring,+Grand+Loop+Rd,+Yellowstone+National+Park,+WY+to:Bridge+Bay+to:Black+Dragons+Caldron+to:Grand+Canyon+of+the+Yellowstone+to:Tower+Falls,+Yellowstone+National+Park,+Park,+WY+to:Yellowstone+National+Park,+Mammoth+Hot+Springs,+Park,+WY+to:Silver+Gate,+Cooke+City-Silver+Gate,+Mt+to:Lily+Lake,+wyoming+to:Red+Lodge,+Mt+to:East+Rosebud+Lake+to:Bozeman,+Mt+to:Salt+Lake+City,+UT+to:Cottonwood+Heights,+UT+to:San+Francisco,+CA&hl=en&ll=45.135555,-109.660034&spn=2.332783,4.927368&sll=44.085612,-111.346436&sspn=1.187668,2.463684&geocode=FVJmQAIdKAe0-CkhAGkAbZqFgDH_rXbwZxNQSg%3BFaEsWwIdVcnb-CmdoJKSrkCZgDGH9zh0zsXFQA%3BFZd1iQIdOXct-SmvbrLFpKOsVDGqwfgs7HfLJA%3BFQQTuQId_YBh-SkTiLpPTERFUzGqYDv3ZND1Yw%3BFeK8uAIdLP1o-SkjR6AnvhNFUzFMjIRaJjKWRQ%3BFWdJrgIdn9pm-SmTip7xDdRPUzEivO2MPaFCKg%3BFaw7qQIdLWRk-SHBkZCfc_PzXylp4V9GjMNRUzHBkZCfc_PzXw%3BFSlmpwId_b1k-SFEDigKVP2Vkyn1R8IPvOtRUzFEDigKVP2Vkw%3BFWGNpwIdhCNr-SkDg3iVAx1OUzEd4aKdP0elCw%3BFbrZqAIdaONq-Sk54oy7KB9OUzE57x-bctnMHg%3BFdX9rAIdtsxr-SmLJZWTozZOUzFW-0sS9T6UWA%3BFaAFrQIdAKBr-SnZG8ZgqDZOUzE6nzHh-HWx9Q%3BFWdJrgIdn9pm-SmTip7xDdRPUzEivO2MPaFCKg%3BFSTArgIdA7Fx-SnXSLRtWFROUzEXWfq8dJ9Jhw%3BFZnWrQIdkPB1-Sn7L_MIfPpOUzE4M1PUmK_Vrw%3BFfJ6sQIdmwZ9-Sn1_Eb3GSpPUzEL1yB19jWKtQ%3BFcGosQIdGvp2-SnBGDBmxRhPUzFD9bOX3UlzNA%3BFQQTuQId_YBh-SkTiLpPTERFUzGqYDv3ZND1Yw%3BFcv1bQIdma1U-SntMdGIlD1ShzHKMU1IoLdTWw%3BFUzJawIdm9FV-SknMety2mJShzFAIhqeYpUiBw%3BFVJmQAIdKAe0-CkhAGkAbZqFgDH_rXbwZxNQSg&oq=san+fr&t=h&mra=ls&z=8 Continue reading

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notes from 2012: The Return of Quetzacoatl by Daniel Pinchbeck

“Love never faileth; but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.” — 1 Corinthians 13:8 Continue reading

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selections from the Space Child’s Mother Goose

brilliant verses by Frederick Winsor (without the brilliant illustrations by Marian Perry) from The Space Child’s Mother Goose. Continue reading

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I know I’ve never completely freed myself of the suspicion that there are some extremely odd things about this mission.

Academician A.I. Oparin
Director, A.N. Bach Institute of Biochemistry
Academy of Sciences of the U.S.S.R., Moscow

“The origination of life is not an extraordinary event, a lucky circumstance, as has been a general concept until quite recently; it is an inevitable phenomenon, part and parcel of the universal evolution. In particular, our terrestrial form of life is a result of the evolution of carbonic compounds and multimolecular systems formed in the process of this evolution.”

Dr. Harlow Shapley
Paine Professor of Practical Astronomy Emeritus
Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts

“The thought is rather clear that we aren’t going to have life in our solar system, because of the temperature problem. We can’t have life without it being metabolic or metabolism-working–and it’s not going to work if the water is all frozen or steamed away. We need water in liquid state, and that we don’t think we have much of in this solar system, and so that is the argument that mitigates having life as we know life, as we practice life, in this solar system. But there are a lot of other systems which we could have life on. In fact, it would do for me to point out that our studies of the number of galaxies and the number of stars in galaxies in all lead us to the conclusion that there must be something like ten to the twentieth–at least ten to the twentieth power stars: ten to the twentieth, that’s a pretty big number, but if you write down one and put twenty zeros after it that would be the way it would look if you were expressing it in numbers. Well, that’s a whole lot of stars, and suppose we say that only one in a billion, one in a thousand million, is suitable for life, we’d still have a tremendous number–we would have a hundred thousand million galaxies and stars that might harbor life. If only one in a million were comfortable, we would still have an enormous amount of life.”

“We are peripheral–I like to use that word. I mean we are on the edge: we are not in the center of a galaxy, we are not important in a galaxy, we’re just here.”

“Of course, we ought to define life, shouldn’t we–we should define life–and many people take shots at it, but I think the simplest one is to say that life is an activity of replication of macro-molecules. The macro-molecules, when they divide up, are self-replicating and represent what we would call life metabolic operations.”

“If one of my graduate students twenty-five years ago had said, ‘I want to write or study on the origin of life,’ I would have asked him to close the door as he went out and do it quickly because you didn’t do that then; it wasn’t proper, especially for the young, to commence speculating in a big way about the origin of life or even the size of the universe.”

“There is a little point that we are now getting brave enough to discuss, and that is cosmic evolution. My idea about cosmic evolution is that everything that we can name–material or immaterial–evolves and changes with time. It goes from simple to more complex, or moves away.”

“We know how the elements evolve. Well, if the elements evolve that way and biology evolves that way and the stars and the galaxies evolve that way, we might as well go the whole distance–say there is cosmic evolution. The whole works evolve with time. Time is a factor in the matter–I don’t know what the end is going to be. Some people ask, ‘What will happen when we run out of this fuel?’ . . . I don’t know the answer to that.”

“Who is–what is, aware? Is a dog aware of himself . . . is a fish aware of himself . . . is this amoeba of mine aware? It knows that one thing is edible and digestible, and another is not. So intelligence, to me, is just a matter of degree.”

Gerald Feinberg
Professor of Physics, Columbia University
New York

“I think that in a million years the human race would be able to do anything one can think of right now, that doesn’t specifically violate the laws of nature; and, perhaps, many things that we think of as violating the laws of nature. So, by extension, I would say that some other form of intelligent life, which is already a million years ahead of us, would be able to do all of those different things.”

“Human psychology is a hard enough subject. Robot psychology I think is right now an impossible subject to speculate against. But I suspect that it may be easier to treat the mental diseases of machines than of people.”

F.C. Durant, III
Assistant Director, Astronautics
National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution
Washington, D.C.

“I think the mind boggles at the impact of discovery by man of an extraterrestrial civilization, or just extraterrestrial life in some form of development. Yet it is something which I think we will someday face. I think it will have the effect of bringing men closer together, certainly on our own planet. I suggest at that moment national boundaries might mean very much less.”

F.D. Drake
Associate Director, Center for Radiophysics and Space Research
Chairman, Department of Astronomy
Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y.

“The reasons why one believes there is intelligent life elsewhere is based on a body of knowledge which we have accumulated–this includes particularly the vast number of stars that exist in the universe, some one hundred million, million stars; the fact that most of these are like our Sun; the fact that we believe the existence of planetary systems is a very common thing in the universe; and, lastly, that the development of life on planets is not a difficult thing but rather something that occurs very easily when conditions are appropriate.”

“I think it’s clear that life will go through an evolutionary cycle everywhere. This is forced upon life–because no matter what planet life appears upon, there is going to be a limited supply of sunlight and therefore a limited supply of food–and this inevitably leads to a competition between species for this limited food supply–leading to the development of species that are capable of competing better for the available food. Now, it is more controversial as to whether intelligence is an inevitable result of this evolution. Some people believe it may not always appear in the course of evolution. However, if one examines the fossil record–the history of life on Earth–one sees that only one characteristic has continuously developed and improved throughout the history of life, and that is intelligence. Sure enough, animals have tried different numbers of legs–we’ve had six and eight legs and a hundred-legged things–we’ve had enormous creatures, such as the dinosaurs, and little ones; we’ve had winged creatures–everything has been tried. The only thing that has persisted and continuously developed is intelligence, and this argues strongly that intelligence will appear everywhere where life evolves.”

“There are no reasonable arguments that would lead us to believe that we are the only abode of life in the universe.”

“It is possible that radio signals of extraterrestrial origin are arriving at the Earth at the present time with an intensity which is detectable with existing equipment. We cannot say for sure that this is happening, and equally we cannot decide whether other civilizations are intentionally sending us such signals. There may be signals that other civilizations are using for their own purposes which are arriving at Earth. However, this is a very exciting and tantalizing thought, to realize that at this very moment perhaps detectable radio signals from other civilizations are passing right through this room.”

“Now there are some people who believe it might be dangerous to answer. Perhaps they will attack us. Perhaps we are the finest beef animals they have ever discovered. But the fact is, and this is something we should understand right now, that we already transmit enough radio waves into space that we can be detected if they want to detect us. We cannot keep our presence secret if other civilizations really want to find us, so we might as well try to answer back. It is no use trying to avoid the issue.”

Fred L. Whipple
Director, Smithsonian Institution Astrophysical Observatory
Phillips Professor of Astronomy
Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts

“When it comes to the problem of the complexity of life that we may or may not find on some other terrestrial planets, I speak with great conservatism. The older I get, the more I find that negative statements tend to be dangerous. It is quite true that the evidence, say, on Mars, suggests that you wouldn’t expect very large organisms, and this is very probably true. When one considers possibilities, he should speak very carefully, because it is quite possible that below the surface of Mars there might live sizable living organisms and, even conceivably but extremely unlikely, intelligent organisms. We are not sure enough in the case of Venus to state with absolute positivism that somewhere there isn’t a habitable area. So, I would say there is some chance that a paleontologist might be needed somewhere in the solar system.”

“Can we travel faster than the speed of light? It is fair to say, on the basis of all the physics that we know today, it is impossible. The relativity limit for ions and electrons is proven by our large accelerators. We, ourselves, are made of ions and electrons. Therefore, we cannot travel faster than the velocity of light. It is a difficult argument to beat.”

Philip Crosbie Morrison
Department of Physics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Cambridge, Massachusetts

“Talking about organisms of the size we are, anywhere between dozens of centimeters and a few meters, I think those organisms will never be able to dispose of anything much more than a few planets’ energy. Now, that’s a lot of energy, and it is enough to make a great many changes in the surround, but I don’t think it will enable them to change stars very much or to change galaxies appreciably–not to make a park out a galaxy–to make a park out of a planet, yes, quite easily; to double-deck the Earth–quite easily; to occupy the oceans–to travel from space to communicate–that would be no trouble at all; we will do that ourselves. But to move planets around, or to enclose the sun with a shell, or modulate the sun and make it send out signals–I am rather skeptical about that. It could be . . . but I take conservative views . . . I wouldn’t like to extrapolate that far.”

“The task of doing physical damage is so much heavier over this distance of space, so much heavier than the task of making yourself known by signals, that if they are capable of doing physical damage, they already know about us. The fact that they are sending a signal would be the best sign to me that they really want to make intellectual contact and not something voracious or hostile. If those fellows can do it, they’re so far ahead they don’t ask for you to talk. It is as though we had to worry about ants signaling. If you saw an ant signal at you, would you be more likely to step on him or to step on the other ants who didn’t show any signs of such intelligence?”

Norman Lamm
Rabbi, The Jewish Center, New York
Erna Michael Professor of Jewish Philosophy
Yeshiva University, New York

“It is quite possible that whereas on Earth the period of prophecy has ended, and direct revelations from God to man have not occurred for many, many centuries, that nevertheless, on some other planet, God not only has revealed Himself more directly but is at present in a state of a more direct dialogue with its intelligent inhabitants. There is no reason, according to the Jewish perspective, why this should not be so.” Continue reading

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I Don’t See It That Way [archive]

this post is all over the fucking place, so watch out.

a wise man once said, “When people censor themselves they’re just as likely to get rid of the good bits as the bad bits.” so here i am.

but still…

at first glance, it seems like there absolutely could not be a tinge of a flaw in this statement. you reflect on your own thoughts, and the thoughts of others, the hesitance of others, the brilliance of others, and you feel like it is so true. when a performer apologizes, “this song sucks i suck i’m sorry,” you yell out shut up you’re great just play the song! read the essay! show me the photograph! express yourself. it might suck. it might be great.

but Eno is saying 50% of the time it will suck, 50% it will be great. that’s where the problem is.

it took me a few seconds to realize the annoyance of that quotation for me came from the use of the words “good” and “bad.” subjectivity, the demon that has haunted my dreams since i acquired consciousness.

a good friend of mine used to say, “everything is connected,” while i argued against her, “nothing is connected.” these days, i am more inclined to her view, with the confused acceptance that the two possible universes described by each statement are actually the same exact universe: this one.

there’s a song by Spacemen 3 called “The Sound of Confusion” and it involves a drummer pounding the bass drum steadily throughout the whole song, swimming distorted guitar, and a man singing “wellllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll, here it commmmmmmmmmmmmmes, here comes the sooooouuuuuunnnnndd, the sound of connfuuusssiiooonnnnnnnn.” or something like that. and for five minutes, while you’re drowning in this nonsense, you wonder what the hell these guys are trying to say. well, i mean, it shouldn’t be so hard. he’s saying, well. here it comes. the sound of confusion. that’s it. confusion. they’re confused. that’s confusing. because i’m confused too. confused about so many things.

like ants. ants seem pretty successful at life. well, not individually. communally. like humans. but not exactly. we seem pretty alright by ourselves. seem. i don’t know. see, i’m confused. some people don’t think humans are evolving anymore. they say because our technology allows us to save the cripples and diseased that we are defeating evolution. that doesn’t make sense to me. i think they’re confused about evolution. but maybe i’m the confused one. seems to me that it’s impossible to stop evolution. what if a planet just crashed into ours? we’d be dead. all of us. all our medicine, cripples, and Arnolds. then the creatures who hated a nice cool, calm earth would thrive and humans would be dead. evolved. i don’t know maybe i’m wrong. evolution doesn’t move forward. it doesn’t move backward. it doesn’t move at all. it moves as much as the Earth moves. which is not at all.

this is what i’m getting at. there’s no standard, no one solid thing, nothing to compare everything to. i guess this is relativity but i’m too stupid to understand that. all i know is, people used to say the universe circled the Earth. then a couple geniuses said, no, the Earth circles the sun. then a couple genius geniuses said, well, yeah, but the sun’s moving too. they’re sort of moving each other, with each other, around each, through each other. the sun’s bigger though, which has something to do with why we got tricked again.

okay but what does this have to do with Brian Eno. well, he’s saying we got to keep expressing ourselves, even the bad stuff, so we don’t lose the good stuff. but there’s no core stuff to compare to. so the good stuff and the bad stuff could be the same thing or nothing at all! that’d be frightening.

i’ve heard people say communication is what makes humans special. we can discuss things and improve upon the past and sympathize with each other and generally move things forward. but we’re just a pixel of the dot of the e in evolution. and we know evolution doesn’t move forward, backward, or anywhere. i’m reminded of this dance:

actually, i’m reminded of dancing in general. i’m beginning to think more and more that dancing is the best form of expression. you don’t need to read a body of work before you start to do it. you don’t need to take theory, you don’t need to learn technique. you just sort of do it. i guess you could technically say this about any art form, but i disagree with you. you need to learn an alphabet to write. you need to learn a language to speak publicly. you need a paintbrush to paint. to dance, you need legs. most people have legs. actually, fuck that. people without legs can dance to. people without legs are as rare as the sun and the rest of us are as common as planets and meteors and pebbles, and we’re all dancing around the guy in the wheelchair. you can dance in space. actually, you don’t have a choice.

i’m nearing satisfaction. is this what Eno wanted? maybe he didn’t give a shit about the good bits or the bad bits. maybe he just wanted me to have satisfaction.

i hate relationships.

that’s obviously not a true statement. i frequently exhibit characteristic signs of happiness while involved in various kinds of relationships with family, friends, girlfriends, etc. okay, how about this:

When people kill other people they’re just as likely to kill good people as bad people.

is that a good bit or a bad bit? i don’t think it’s half-bad. about the same logic as Eno’s. except the implication in his is that expression isn’t really harmful, whereas killing is. hold on a second. let me try again.

When people sit down they’re just as likely to hide the good dancing as the bad dancing.

much closer. but much easier to disagree with. no one wants to watch a white person dance. okay i’m exaggerating, but that’s the hilarious stereotype. you know what i mean, though? if you’re reading this, you’re probably a human being. and if you’re a human being, you’re constantly judging all the other human beings. don’t deny it. you’re a judgmental sack of shit. but don’t worry, you can’t help it. you’re alive because you judge. but okay this is interesting.

i think, correct me if i’m wrong, it’s easier to offend somebody with a speech than a dance. “i fucking hate fags” will sooner get people riled up than a waltz. although… dances are often quite controversial as well.

still, i stand by that statement. it is easier to offend somebody with speech than dance. maybe simply because it’s easier to speak. i hate black white green orange gay straight religious atheist people. look at that. pissed off like ten groups in one moment. but if i got up and danced right now, no one would see. my mom might come in and say, ronny stop being silly. then i’ll record it and put it on youtube. i’ll get 10 views and 1 comment like “wow lol u fukn suk at dancing ha.” then i’ll go to a club and Lady Gaga will come on and i’ll bust out the same move, and people might start laughing or somebody will “accidentally” pour a drink on me but most likely people will just step aside so they don’t get hurt by me, and continue hunting each other. it’s dancing, once we laugh at it, we move on.

not so with speech. and here’s why i think this is the case. there is an implication in speech that it has captured some kind of truth. every time you throw your words out there, it’s like you’re throwing a pokeball and trying to catch a pokemon. if you’re talking to someone who agrees with you, you caught the pokemon. if you’re talking to someone who disagrees, the pokemon escapes. and you might try again and again until you catch it. so be it. you’ll keep on walking to Viridian City, and you’ll pass another stranger and you’ll throw out your pokeball and truth will zap out of it like lightning, so you think, but then the other trainer throws out her ball too, and lo, and behold, out pops her truth, similar to yours, but not quite the same. your truths battle and battle and battle, you might even throw out other truths latched onto your belt, to aid your first truth, and in the end, someone might feel defeated. maybe you feel victorious. maybe it’s a draw. maybe no one can tell. BUT THE POINT IS IT DOESN’T GO ANYWHERE. like evolution. not like. is. is evolution.

is evolution.

i used to like pokemon battles. but i don’t really engage in them anymore. but i do dance. i love to dance. i dance as often as possible, in as many places as possible, all the time, because because because because because because because. because dancing doesn’t presuppose any truth. it’s like sitting or walking or any sort of “doing.” dancing is dancing and that’s it. it’s a physical response to music. or lack of music. is evolution.

fucking christ. Adam just asked me what i was writing about, and i said, “expression, interconnectedness, evolution, physics, dancing, art.” he replied: “well, they are interconnected. thank you universe!”

thank you, universe! Continue reading

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