sexta-feira, março 30, 2018

Hemingwayesque Style: "Frankenstein in Baghdad" by Ahmed Saadawi

Finished Ahmed Saadawi's "Frankenstein in Baghdad." Its worth contrasting with Shelley's Frankenstein. Shelley writes about Frankenstein's misuse of Science, i.e., galvanism, in creating an ultimately vengeful Creature, existing primarily in a Romantic world of wild nature, the background of which is the setting for the novel. Saadawi's Frankenstein in Baghdad, OTOH, is set in an urban hell of murders, car bombings, massacres and various varieties of sectarian warfare. His Frankenstein is a monster created from the parts of bomb victims, born out of religion and magic, caught up in a world of brutality and suffering.
There's been a minor debate about the quality of this book. With respect to those who did not like it, I think it works quite well, with clearly delineated characters and a fascinating narrative structure that at times almost turns in on itself, but not quite like the Arabian Nights.
I never doubted that it was a good idea. I just think it was terribly executed. Somehow Saadawi has written a book about war, monsters, car bombs etc and made it boring. It should have been rip-roaring but he gets far too hung up on making satirical points and forgets that it's supposed to be entertainment as well.
In the early part of the book I thought I detected a Hemingwayesque style but that faded out. I was most entranced about the depiction of Baghdad and thought it was more a portrayal of a city under pressure, I did feel about the last quarter of the book dragged a bit, but thought that might have bebn me, because by that time I was looking forward to Greene's Ministry of Fear.

I was going to continue reading some more Gothic novels, but over the years I've lost the taste for them. Am going to read some Graham Greene instead.

Homemade and Fermented Hot-Sauce: Habaneros and Bird's Eye Chiles - Part 2

(Ingredients to prepare the pasta: fermented chiles, curcuma, ginger, lemons, and cider vinegar)

After almost 3 weeks, my Habaneros and Bird's Eye Chiles were ready to be minced by Bimby (the white contraption in the background)...

Final product (2 jars):

And now it's time to try it with "Feijoada de choco":

("Feijoada de Choco com coentros frescos"/"Red Bean Stew with Scuttlefish and fresh coriander") 

Bloody Hell!!! This was frigging delicious!!!

quinta-feira, março 29, 2018

Follow-up on ∂S/∂t + H = 0: "Reality Is Not What It Seems" by Carlo Rovelli

"The world of quantum mechanics is not a world of objects: it is a world of events".

In "Reality Is Not What It Seems" by Carlo Rovelli

"Experimentation and transformation in both art and science spring from the same root - to understand, to encapsulate the world. This is why I've ever found reductionism (and scientism) drearily limiting and worthily pompous - that utilitarian speculation over what art 'is for', that misapprehension of art as a kind of elaborate trickery, only readable in the light of neuroscience or physics. The best writers of fiction, artists, composers and scientists are, I've long felt, the ones who see the 'divide' as porous, and are open to findings in both great spheres of endeavour and experimentation."

In "Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain" by David Eagleman

Rovelli is more than right to rail against the schism of art and science. Theoretical physics in some sense is the poetry of science; and science in its great evolution from the classical era on was intertwined with art (Galileo was a musician, Leonardo an anatomist and technological innovator; Piero was a geometer, while painters have ever worked at the edge of physics (light properties) and materials science (pigments and chemical properties), and so on). I have come across this author's work before and have found him to possess a really enlightening, critical yet accessible style. The work of his that I read and still stays with me is his "The First Scientist: Anaximander". It is a brilliant evaluation of the 'Earth as floating stone' thesis of the Greeks.

Just remembered the Hamilton-Jacobi equation ∂S/∂t + H = 0 is another way of describing a classical system. From which you can wiggle your way to the Schrodinger equation. I think particularly interesting is in a paper by Hiley, and de Gosson where they say, Schrodinger was led to his equation from his knowledge of the classical Hamilton-Jacobi approach which has a close connection with the eikonal of classical wave theory. They go on to derive the Schrodinger equation from classical mechanics using a very deep group and operator approach. The Hamilton-Jacobi equation is indeed a good motivation to get to the Schrödinger equation (and is already very similar to it).  Whichever way, you are motivated by classical mechanics, but you can't avoid the mathematical complexity of quantum mechanics. Classical mechanics is a good approximation in some regimes, but overall it's wrong and there's no "going back to classical" in physics.

This time around, I'm also struck that superdeterminist physicists think of correlations between widely separated points as "vacuum correlations", which are well-known to decay faster than exponentially at space-like separation. It seems better to consider correlations that are observed in experiments at widely separated points to be a consequence of experimenters taking months or years to set up and debug and tune their state preparation and measurement apparatus (which, moreover, is often constrained to an effectively 1-dimensional space of light guides or collimated matter or laser beams, so that the 3+1-dimensional vacuum is kept as far away as possible). Full of nonsense as usual, I am. Hey ho.

I think about the work of people like Einstein, Maxwell, Dirac, Heisenberg, Pauli, Fermi. The list is very long. Such as those could pull the physics right out of the math and make either predictions that can be measured or better yet people used the principles to make things like AM/FM radio, transistors, and more recently GPS from good old Einstein; the list is almost endless as I said. But some theoretical work seems very difficult to solidify. Maybe a 1927 style Solvay conference is needed to help the general audience understand where the focus is going on Quantum Mechanics, cosmology, particle physics, the hunt for dark matter, etc. Lots of great work is being done right now in condensed matter physics that may bring great practical applications but the money spent on the LHC thus far seems to be a dud. Other than the technology that went into it is remarkable but nothing truly remarkable came out yet (the Higgs boson; bah!).

I think Rovelli is closer than t'Hooft as Rovelli focuses on something that seems philosophically important to me. He talked about velocity as though it is meaningless to a particle unless it is measured in relation to another object. It implies that motion isn't a property as much as an observation. Space is relational and not substantival according to what I understood from Rovelli. I would argue that it is neither, but that might seem to "unscientific" to some, I'd imagine.

quarta-feira, março 28, 2018

Workmanlike Prose: "Rendezvous with Rama" by Arthur C. Clarke

Ah, yes. Rama. I actually read this with a torch under the blankets in an intense all-nighter back in the day. What I like about this book in retrospect is its complete lack of compromise as a work of SF. Characters? Who the frack needs 'em. Themes? Bah, pointless! All SF needs to be is an unbroken, brilliantly done description of an alien environment. I'm glad things have moved on since, but I'd still happily sit and read a book so single-mindedly in its purpose like this one.

In any genre of literature, you definitely have some people whose names tower above everyone else, and their influence could not be denied. However, people who like literature don't just read the so-called greats. Clarke certainly wrote some seminal works of SF, but he probably read many obscure works too, some of which may have influenced him. Readers don't just read the big name writers, but have a much bigger interest in the genre. A writer’s work only makes sense within a tradition and how it is situated along other people's work. It is all interlinked and some of the smaller voices may be bigger than critics acknowledge. For instance Clarke's influences aren't as well-known but what he learned from them is part of his work, so the voices remain powerful, and readers equally value preceding works. That doesn't mean that the big name writers don't deserve their place in history, but as fan of literature, I think sometimes, the bigger contributions are made by lesser known writers. I disagree with the assessment that Clarke left questions unanswered; world-building can get boring at the micro, non-plot-related level. This book was "sensawunda" in triplicate -- for the Ramans always did everything in threes. How about those tripodal cleansing things that whirled about? I'm not disappointed that Clarke had no sequel; when you look at 2001 on the screen, then read Clarke's rejected worlds, you realise that Kubrick was right to end with the “Star Child”. There must be mystery and open-endedness along with “sensawunda” to develop and explore. One writer cannot be credited with the continuity of ideas within a literary genre. I also enjoy reading it for the lack of artificial tension - there isn't a saboteur on board, the characters all seem decent and likeable (and sensible - no one behaves like an idiot for the sake of the plot), and only the fiery Martians stir things up a little. All the tension emerges naturally from their being on an alien artefact. It's as enjoyable and fascinating as watching the Edwardian Farm in space... And it's almost impossible to imagine a modern dramatisation without someone ruining it with loads of artificial, clichéd conflict. (Christ, even the remake of Hawaii 5-O has to start off with them all resenting each other and grudgingly gaining each other's respect. Yawn.)

I find Arthur C. Clarke to be a writer whose prose is pretty workmanlike, but where Clarke excels when he's at his best (he often wasn't) is in dramatic structure and for a novel which is all about a good idea it's that knowledge of how to explain an idea which holds it together. Enough is explained for it to make sense, but not enough as to require any utterly pointless sequels. A writer without the knack of explaining a grand idea without deep characterization would have fluffed it.

Not sure which SF I'd recommend to non-SF fans, because as well as the formula issue there's also the fact that the books tend not to take place in the world we see around us which raises a barrier of understanding for the casual reader. Anything by Lem might fit the bill though and of course some Phil Dick. "The Big Sleep” helped created the hardboiled genre. It did not adhere to a formula. When we get down to brass-tacks, I'd recommend it not just to any crime genre fan but to those who aren't fans of the genre as well. And for me “Rendezvous with Rama” is an example of still readable SF, being also an example that remains within the formula and so is one I'd recommend to any genre fan but not to anyone not into the genre.

In the Big Dumb Object competition I'll still take “Ringworld” by Niven, but there was some serious skull sweat involved with “Rendezvous with Rama”. It shows and it deserves respect for it. I also prefer Clarke's “Fountains of Paradise”. The story is a bit better and the engineering involved is somewhat mind blowing. There have been attempts to make it as a film, but they keep running into funding problems. It would be a huge undertaking, and really needs something with a breadth of imagination to create real, or virtual, sets which would need to rival the LOTR films in order to be convincing. Many of the ideas have been used elsewhere, though; for example, in Blake's 7, the concept of Xen insisting that the crew find out things for themselves has some echoes of “Rendezvous with Rama”.

NB1: What about the bicycle? The junior crewmember could've said something earlier, but he had smuggled the device on board and wasn't supposed to have it. Yes, even then the explanation is a bit weak, but the human spaceship isn't supposed to have any devices on it that can manoeuvre in an atmosphere because it doesn't have a mission that would require it (the ship is pressed into service when Rama is detected). But yes, I did wonder where their "Scotty" was, the bluff Scotsman who would rig together something--Clarke missed a chance to have a bit of fun with that. One thing that marked both Clarke and Asimov was their earnestness, and that serious tone of Awe at Marvels sometimes took away a bit of the fun. But I suppose they wanted SF taken seriously, after so many years of being relegated to laughable "monsters from outer space" clichés.

NB2: This novel always reminds me of J. G. Ballard's "Report on an Unidentified Space Station." Not sure why. Any ideas?

SF = Speculative Fiction.

terça-feira, março 27, 2018

Superstrings vs. The Brain: "Incognito - The Secret Lives of the Brain" by David Eagleman

"Experimentation and transformation in both art and science spring from the same root - to understand, to encapsulate the world. This is why I've ever found reductionism (and scientism) drearily limiting and worthily pompous - that utilitarian speculation over what art 'is for', that misapprehension of art as a kind of elaborate trickery, only readable in the light of neuroscience or physics. The best writers of fiction, artists, composers and scientists are, I've long felt, the ones who see the 'divide' as porous, and are open to findings in both great spheres of endeavour and experimentation."

In "Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain" by David Eagleman

I've experienced significant creative leaps in shorter timelines than 4 weeks I think because over many years I've become increasingly adept at recognising and leveraging useful elements and catalysts. However I also agree that deep, long-term immersion in a creative problem, descending into disillusion and the chaotic abyss and then often out of failure or accident finding a new path based on hard won knowledge and insight - is where real invention and deeper epiphanies reside. The first time I experienced the creative process at this depth was after months of investigation and it was life changing - not in terms of the creative result so much but because of my first hand experience of the creative journey itself. Sometimes, even Steven King takes thirty years to write a book. Often only a year or two. Sometimes he manages to pop one out in a couple of weeks. Some of his best-loved stories came about that way, inspired by events that would hardly be remarked upon by someone trained out of their natural creative instincts. Odd-beat thing happens, go home, drink a lot, do some cooking, and write compulsively until story done in a fortnight. It takes dedication. Temporarily obliterating the mind in the best of Hunter S. Thompson style is by no means a mandatory requirement, but Steven King shows us that for certain kinds of unputdownable stories it may play a key, amplifying part. And no one should be complaining.

I think anyone inspired to creativity through writing (rather than musical or dance languages, say), even Steven King himself, has to marvel in disbelief at the output of Isaac Asimov. He was a total Boss.

Witten aptly writes about consciousness in a way I absolutely can't. He distinguishes the brain's working from consciousness itself, so it's worth listening to Witten on this:

Witten: "Consciousness … I tend to believe that consciousness will be a mystery."

Q "Remain a mystery?"

Witten: "Yes, that’s what I tend to believe. That’s what I tend to believe. I tend to think that the workings of the conscious brain will be elucidated to a large extent, so I tend to believe that biologists and perhaps physicists contributing will understand much better how the brain works but why something that we call consciousness goes with those workings, I think will remain mysterious, perhaps I’m mistaken. I’ll have a much easier time imagining how we’d understand the Big Bang, though we can’t do it now, than I can imagine understanding consciousness."

Q: "Understanding superstring is easy compared to understanding how your brains are working…"

Witten: "When you say understanding how the brain is working, um, I think understanding the functioning of the brain is a very exciting problem on which there will probably be a lot of progress in the next few decades, that’s not out of reach. But I think there’s probably a level of mystery that will remain about why the brain has functionings we can see. Um, it creates consciousness or whatever we want to call it. How it functions in the way that a conscious being functions will become clearer but what it is we are experiencing when we experience consciousness I see as being remaining a mystery."

This is an interesting area and Eagleman's take on the nature of consciousness, AI, and creativity is quite impressive. Purely anecdotally, as someone who spends about half my working time in highly focused logical pursuits (IT) and the other half in the creative domain (Creating/Making Stuff), I sometimes find that spending a lot of time in one domain can have an adverse effect on the other, if only for a short time. It's not quite as simple as that of course. There is creativity involved in the IT work and any art is typically a combination of creativity and practical application.

sábado, março 24, 2018

Anomic Outsiders: "The Stranger" by Albert Camus

As a dilettante translator I find this book fascinating, even though I don’t read French.

Literary texts are sacred and you cannot alter them; translations on the other hand are a more or less faithful reflection of the original text, but can be altered, changed, or renewed. Did Proust write "Remembrance of Things Past" or "In Search of Time Lost" or “In Search of Lost Time"? My favourite is Gabrielle Roy's "Bonheur d'occasion" published in English as "The Tin Flute". As a general point, a translation transmigrates one text for another; often the "mistakes" don't matter (to the monoglot reader). On the other hand, the title is the only part of a work of literature known even to those who haven't read it. I note in passing that étranger “doesn’t just mean "stranger" but also "foreigner", and in the colonial context, that could have been a possibility too. It's a bit like 9 to 5 by Sheena Easton and 9 to 5 by Dolly Parton.

I am very much of the view that it is a disservice to Camus to read L'Etranger as an allegory of abstract existentialism. It is essentially a reflection on the unique colonial experience that was French Algeria, and, in that aspect, the book should be taken as underlining that that experience was tragic, as for the Pied-Noirs in general, and tragic in a personal sense for Camus himself. Camus was one of the greatest representatives of liberal universalism of the last century, and yet the liberal universalism that he expounded left him an outsider/stranger/foreigner within Algeria, once the war of independence began, and at the same time intellectually homeless in the France whose civilisation he was steeped in and to which he was culturally and politically committed. Had Camus lived to pass his 101st birthday, as with Herman Wouk, he might have felt vindicated by the collapse of Marxism-Leninism in Eastern Europe, but I am sure that he would have found the War on Terror to leave him feeling even stranger, foreign and an outsider in relation to the things that he cared about. When one surveys the horrors of the contemporary, who does not conclude that they stand as a stranger, outsider or foreigner as to what unfolds?

Meursault is a lonely, asocial, anomic outsider but (or because of it) he is also a foreigner, in that he is an European Frenchman in Algeria. Algeria is everywhere in the book and Algerians are glimpsed, as foreign characters themselves. Camus, an European Frenchman born to dirt-poor parents in Algeria, was acutely aware of that hiatus between perceived nationalities, which had yet to develop into the Algerian War. Camus saw himself primarily as a philosopher and a political writer. His novels always had to read from a political perspective - The Plague being a case in point. "The Foreigner" would be provocative, as the accepted notion then was that Algeria's inhabitants were French. But "L'Etranger" carried the same provocation, and IMHO on purpose. I would go for The Outsider as the correct translation, personally, but that's for three simple reasons:

Being also a "translator", I would by instinct (all due of course to personal experience) have opted for “Outsider” over “Stranger”...Meursault is part and not part of this world...he seems often to inhabit it in body only...his mine free, critical, questioning...he's far beyond those around him...outside of the expected norm... of course that could all be a subjective response on my part, due to the way i identify with the main character...In Spanish the translation of the book takes another direction altogether... El Extranjero... that is, the "Foreigner"... which in many respects could be both a stranger and an outsider...or perhaps even a fusion of both... A better title for the book could have been THE MISFIT, because the idea for the main character is that he doesn´t fit in the world where he lives and the morality of that society.

If Camus wrote it now, the book presumably wouldn`t be published, or at best would be torn apart by the critics. A book where the non-white, non-Christian locals barely get a look-in. How absolutely appalling.

NB: Despite being, since the 1930s, a staunch defender of indigenous Algerians against the injustices of the French colonial system, Camus was against Algerian independence, fearing that there would be no place for European Algerians in an independent Algeria ruled by the FLN, and that it would be disastrous for the Algerians too. While his hopes for a more enlightened French approach were illusory, his fears were not misplaced. The challenges of semiotics can be rather intense, especially in relation to geniuses such as Camus... It's one of my favourite novels, and my copy has always been the British translation.

quarta-feira, março 21, 2018

Grain Alcohol Physicists: "The Black Hole War - My Battle with Stephen Hawking to Make the World Safe for Quantum Mechanics" by Leonard Susskind

Mr. Leonard is head-over-heals enamoured of his views on string theory of being the underlying basis to a some greater reality and cannot in anyway be wrong. Einstein felt that way too, but there is a vast difference between Mr. Leonard and Einstein; most of Einstein's work could be for the most part tested in short order. The only detail left was gravitational waves which took instruments 100 years of development before being ready to capture their existence. With string theory the time scale before technology is advanced enough to test could be greater than the life of the universe. And of course if SUSY is not found at the LHC then string theory is so mathematically flexible that you can just claim "not enough energy". Maybe that is what Penrose is pissed at. The math puts forth unproven models as for example extra dimensions. No one sees this as puzzling but there is a huge chasm and string theorists fail to see it. Extra dimensions require faith? No way around it. The same faith one has in believing in a standard religion (I am all for religion). Religion transcends the physical but so do extra dimensions. They assume a fourth or fifth spatial dimension is as real as 3 dimensions without a physical way of seeing, feeling, testing or even imagining it. How is that for faith? You see my point. A particle moving in ordinary space has a considerable amount of information - its position in three dimensions, its velocity in three dimensions, its angular momentum about three axes, its mass, its charge, its spin, and so on. When it interacts with another particle, also with the same information set, the two particles information sets change, they go in different directions, for example. But from the new data sets, the old information can be reassembled. Nothing is lost, all the information about the original paths and particles is maintained between the two new information sets. In a black hole, this is not true (as previously understood). A particle entering a black hole affects the mass, angular momentum and charge of the black hole, and nothing else. Information about the linear momentum of the particle, for example, is lost. It makes no difference to the black hole which direction the new entrant was travelling in; the hole ends up exactly the same irrespective. By measuring the properties on the black hole before and after the new particle enters, we could determine what the mass, charge and angular momentum of the particle was. But nothing else. For reasons beyond any understanding, physicists call this the No-Hair Theorem. This is one of those areas of physics that gets... complicated. To put it mildly. Keep a bottle of Gem Clear handy for this next bit. You'll probably need it. An electron is a single, indivisible particle. Except that you're allowed to divide it. You can split an electron into two virtual particles. A virtual particle looks and behaves just like a real one, except that it's impossible. One of the virtual particles you get is a Spinon. That's pretty much all it is, spin. That's a particle of information. If you want a better explanation, take that bottle of Gem Clear and give it to a particle physicist. You can tell by googling about Spinons that nobody talks about them sober. Is the information now non-physical? For that, google "Mathematical Realism", the theory that physics, and the physical universe, is an emergent phenomenon from mathematics. At this point, please bear in mind that most of the scientists who developed these ideas early on all went completely insane...That's one of the reasons I gave up on my Applied Math College Degree and went into Systems Engineering...

Mr. Leonard's been going on about this for years (that information cannot be destroyed). In fact, Mr. Leonard insists that information cannot be destroyed, even by a black hole, which Hawking had argued did occur, at least back in the 70s (vide "The Nature of Space and Time" by Stephen Hawking and Roger Penrose - review in the works) or something like that. Reportedly, this argument will be taken up by the Ashley Madison lawyers in response to the class action lawsuit blaming them for not really erasing former member profiles. 

"We couldn't do it, the laws of physics stopped us!"

NB: His comments on Stephen Hawking's efforts are absolutely uncalled for. I won't bother looking them up, but they went on something like this (I'm paraphrasing): Hawking is a spent force. He hasn't come up with anything new in years. It is like Norma Desmond, retreating into her own world, watching old movies and dreaming of making a triumphant return. WTF! Basically, Mr. Leonard is full of shit: "My Battle with Stephen Hawking to Make the World Safe for Quantum Mechanics." Indeed.

domingo, março 18, 2018

Eigen-stuff Applied to Buridan's Ass: “Dichronauts” by Greg Egan

When I read an Egan's book I cannot tackle it on a purely literary level. Egan's fiction makes me think about things I didn't know I wanted to think about. This is another one of those novels with a mind-boggling universe.

Egan's world has far consequences:

The space won't be isotropic any more. Thus, things would behave differently if you rotate them around the zz-axis and any linear combination of xx and yy. The laws of the physics would behave differently in the different (space) directions.

On the Noether theorem, the symmetries of the Universe have a deep connection to its conservation laws. The isotropy of the space results in the conservation of angular momentum. In a non-isotropic Universe, the angular momentum isn't a conserved quantity any more. Any effect will be instant around any direction, for which dx2+dy2-dz2=0dx2+dy2-dz2=0. It would effectively mean, that moving any point-like particle on such an axis, you get the same system. This would be a new symmetry, which would result in a new conservation law, which doesn't exist in our Universe. To calculate, which conservation law is it, is complex but it doesn't require much more math/physics skills as in high school.

Note: this all depends on if the (non-curved) space-time of your Universe is still governed by the Special Relativity, as ours.

NB: Things would significantly change if you calculate what happens with gravitation, too. Gravitation changes the geometry of the spacetime, thus the distances wouldn't be calculated like ds2=dx2+dy2-dz2-dt2ds2=dx2+dy2-dz2-dt2, instead you have a tensor (essentially a table) for which
gn1n2gn1n2 is determined by the mass and impulse distributions, it is essentially the General Relativity analogy of the gravitational field. For small (much lighter as black holes) and slow (much slower as speed of light) you get the Newtonian gravitation from it.

It is possible, that near strongly gravitational objects the space-time would be multidimensional again. I think this universe is so remarkable, because most universes would not give rise to stars, planets, and intelligent life. From my perspective, this may be one of the crappier universes I’ve ever read. I personally think humans are a scourge. But the fact remains it required a great deal of fine-tuning of physical constants to produce a universe with stars, planets, and at least one intelligent life form. I am a true solipsist. I believe everything we experience could be a virtual reality that the universe we experience does not exist anywhere. Whereas, this is a distinct possibility, I would not say it is probable. If our universe was just a dream, mathematics would not be the helpful too it is. The universe would be more irrational. I am certain the universe we see only exists in our minds. Real objects in our universe do not possess the property of color. Our brains colorize the universe. Moreover, we see large solid objects, when reality is quite different. Every particle is in some manner of speaking is spread-out through all of space-time. We only see a limited number of dimensions. We don't perceive time as spatial dimension. The universe we see with our eyes is nothing the universe that really exists. More than likely the universe is a multidimensional complex field filled with colorless, odorless, tasteless, silent multidimensional waves, branes à la String Theory or what have you. Your body like most matter is mostly empty space spread-out over space-time…

There is no evidence anything infinite or infinitesimal actually exists. More than likely space-time is finite, but unbounded.

I believe micro-states increases with space-time inflation, and decreases with space-time deflation. It is, therefore, space-time inflation that gives rise to the 2LoT and the arrow of time. I believe the number of micro-states decrease, entropy increases, matter and energy congeals and unifies with space-time implosion that we could travel backwards in "time" without revisiting Earth history. Time started at the Big Bang, but there are many ways back to the Big Bang. Our past is only one of those ways. All black holes lead back to the Big Bang, and the beginning of time.

I imagined the nascent in the exact same predicament as Buridan's ass. Buridan's ass was a perfectly logical creature the starved to death between two equidistant bushels of hay.

From one assumption, I have been able to deduce a large part of modern physics. I assume the universe is perfectly logical, that the universe is not capricious, random, or arbitrary. I admit I can be wrong. This is merely a working hypothesis on my part. If it is true, then the universe had a near infinite number of equally good pathways it could have taken. If the universe was not conscious, if it did not have free choice, how could it choose one random path over a near infinite number of equally good paths? I concluded that like electricity, the universe took every possible pathway. Moreover, this is the only way Feynman's path-integral, sum-over-histories solution to QED makes any sense. It is the only way it could be true. Max Tegmark expands on this very concept, though he dismisses my analogy to Buridan's ass.

My conjecture explains why there is so much balance and order in our universe. According to it, the universe has to balance out. The multiverse must have zero energy. It explains why for every action there must be an equal and opposite reaction. It explains the laws of matter-energy conservation, and all the other conservation laws. I believe the universe is completely balanced, that there is a hidden symmetry, that the universe is a perfect unity, that the universe is not capricious, random, or arbitrary. Every scientific discovery with the exception of Borh's and Heisenberg's interpretation of Quantum Mechanics supports my conjecture, that the universe is completely deterministic, unitary, and holographic. "Entanglement" is more evidence for my overly speculative, wild conjecture. The existence of vacuum fluctuations would falsify my theory. Vacuum fluctuations and virtual particles appear to exist. I predict they will disappear as our knowledge of physics increases.

Bottom-Line: How about another 5-dimensional universe Mr. Egan like you did on “Diaspora”, but this time using 5-fold-eigenvalues? Greg Egan keeps on producing SF like no other. 5 stars for the physics, 0 stars for the story which is crap; rounded to 4 stars overall.

NB: Ah! It feels good to be back at reviewing books…

SF = Speculative Fiction.

sexta-feira, março 16, 2018

RetroWave: Fav2018

It's midnight and I am sitting in front of my vt220 green screen terminal and conversing with the UNIX machines from all over the world using nothing but pure text... listening to this music with headphones on (max volume!) and feeling like on Nostromo spaceship travelling through the deep space...

Or, it's the sound of rain-slicked neon city backstreets and nightclubs pulsing with swelling synth magic. But it's also the sound of a cool November night in a big Portuguese town, 1984. The shadows dance off of the sides of suburban houses, illuminated by the lights that you and your closest friends mounted on your bikes to explore the streets after the witching hour. Just marvelous all around.

Or, hanging out with the same friends.  Printed out into different eras, quantum computers were nothing compared to this tech. They continuously meet in non existent planes of timelessness. Love of friendship, of sharing. sharing a day together, making memories, picking up where you last left off. Laughing until the memory is now, just now.  Slow time kids - these are our times - they ran falling over and over into different dimensions meeting each other over and over learning and teaching others .....  the spirit of the native Lisboner in this dimension was awake and well. The yells were of joy, steam lodges lit up the city, beautiful tiny homes were the norm. Neon lights smoke in the air combined with solar panels. The diet was native to the land, business was free from politicians free from kings.. Honesty reigned. Fighting still happened but it was in the gym and never escalated.  Mycellium glows in the dark tech to light up the nights, vitamin D sunshine state oh honey tans beautiful mixed people, dark honey light honey .  forget the money it was something else in this dimension, something a peaceful person by nature would immediately feel, people were in shape, yoga studios, style dens and gyms in ever neighborhood, the people were flexible, strong and biological polished.  Healthy eating and pain management was learned from a young age. Singing was encouraged, the medicine man always asked when was the last time you sang? Fundamentally, this dimension is cool as fuck. Hopefully I get to visit again.

Or, I can picture  a 66 year old retired Sonny on the sailboat in Biscayne Bay. He's staring out into the twilight thinking about the old times, remembering Martin Castillo, remembering Gina Calabrese, Zito and Switek and especially his partner and best friend Rico Tubbs. Why this sudden surge of memories? The Sinaloa Cartel has approached him and offered him millions as a consultant regarding undercover operations in Miami-Dade County. He's old, he's tired, he's fighting prostate cancer and he doesn't know if he'll be around much longer. All he has in this world is his son and he would like to leave him better off than he is. So does he accept their offer? And if does, does he betray the badge or the Cartel?

Or, I am waking from a hyper-sleep pod, doing pull-ups in a PT montage, donning a yellow space suit and taking a 24-mile-long space elevator to the surface of a moon around a gas giant orbiting the star Beta Orion so that I can go to work in a mine and stumble upon alien technology that will unlock my mind and lead to the fulfillment of an ancient prophecy to bring about the galactic hegemony of the empire of mankind.

Or, cool white suit, white shoes with no socks, pastel coloured shirt, big shades, black Daytona Spyder or white Testarossa...and no speed limits on the street towards the sunset!

NB1: One thing I love about this genre, aside from being just great to listen to, is that at its heart lies a fundamental question.  Can something made now be more true to the spirit and style of a previous era than the very things left over from the era it's trying to emulate?  (Hopefully that sentence made sense.) I think 1986-1991 was hands down the best 5 years in music, narrowing it down to that time frame because that's about how long it lasted for the most part. It's nice to see that genre has finally come back again, full circle. On Repeat while watching "Halt and Catch Fire" TV Series, one of the best things I've watched on TV in a long time.

NB2: The compilation (2 hours) above made by yours truly. It's almost 2 o´clock in the morning...Over and out.

quarta-feira, março 14, 2018

Stephen Hawking, Good Luck, 1942 - 2018

"Whereas the rest of the animals were looking downwards at the ground,  he gave humans a raised face and ordered them to look toward the skies and lift up their erect head to the stars."

In "Metamorphoses" by Ovid

When Dr. Hawking's body started to fail him he said that one of the things he was challenged with was being unable to work out his formulas on a blackboard. He had to do them in his head instead.'fancy graphics and technology'? He was a physicist and mathematician. He had his brain. Very few of us can conceive of what that would be like.

I am humbled when I think of what this incredible human being achieved in his brief moment in time. He did not let the adversity of his infirmity detract from an incredible mind. He used his static position to explore the universe and bring the infinity of potential scientific knowledge to us mere mortals. He leaves an amazing legacy for the scientists of the future. And he showed that whatever comes our way, we all have something amazing to offer. As much as I beginning to admire Dr. Neil De Grasse Tyson (Saw Stephen Hawking on " Star Talk " with Neil Degrasse Tyson couple of weeks ago, the professor was very sharp and very informative), Dr. Hawking was one of the modern epitomes of the Theoretical Physicist (the other one is Roger Penrose). Hawking definitely believed his disability helped him mentally picture abstract ideas. How incredible to live to the age he did and what an extraordinary life. His cameo performances in the "Big Bang Theory" showed his sense of humour and took him to a younger generation of whom my daughters and son were one of them. Talking about multi-dimensional universes took the theory into possibilities rather than the pseudo-science it had always been dismissed as such. He was a definition of genius yet in his own universe he was a pupil looking curiously at the great design of the universe till the end of his last breath. It was curiosity to find reason behind a marvel that prompted him to go deep in sea of knowledge. All of his body was still as statue except upper important organ of human body that as his brain which gave us new dimensions, views and secrets of the universe, nature and stars!!!! But what makes Hawking a magician is a rare quality of him to dive in this universe which he has explored with the masses!!! He is solely responsible figure in modern times to bring science and especially cosmology to us! During the 80's people would buy and put "The Brief History of Time" in the home library without understanding; just to show-off that they did read Hawking! He was such genius who has made special space for science in the houses. Along with this, how can we forget to discuss his work which is a classic in itself? Even the name of his PhD thesis shows his mastery over a difficult questions of his time which is "the properties of expanding universe". Later on there was not a subject on cosmology that was left behind by Hawking like birth and death of black holes, possibilities beyond black holes, on the death and origin of our universe! Like millions of minds Hawking was also responsible to increase my interest in science through his famous discovery channel documentaries on questions of the universe titled as "Into the universe with Stephen Hawking". Today that man has died. And I am happy with this life who had given him and us such beautiful brain to shape us.

Everyone has the capability to find something in life that's worth living for. That doesn't mean people who don't are somehow weaker, or that they are failing, just that they have unfortunately been unable to find that thing. I my view, love is the thing that makes life always worth living, and I don't believe at all it was Hawking's exceptional mind that made life worth living. I think it was his exceptional love for science and the fact that he was still able to live for this love that meant his life continued to be one that is worthwhile. Love is not something that is inaccessible to those of us who are normal or not exceptional, love is something anyone can find in a myriad of different ways, but at the same time it can of course be nigh on impossible to see through the said despair. So unfortunately, not everyone finds a reason to live, but I still believe it means anyone can.

A personal note for what's worth. Hawking was one of the persons that made me believe there's God, as impossible as it may seem coming from an atheist Theoretical Physicist. He made me believe there's no way atheism stands up to any kind of scrutiny. Relativity demonstrates how space and time are observation dependent. Quantum mechanics demonstrates how our universe (a concrete noun) is built by abstract nouns. Abstract nouns are ideas and ideas don't "exist" without some thinker that is thinking of them. Every particle in the standard model, regardless of whether they are virtual or real particles are abstract nouns. This can be demonstrated by the double slit experiments. These particles are statements of probability until the observer changes their state of probability into a state of actuality. This implies that if we could eliminate all observers there won't be an actual universe. Obviously we cannot demonstrate that but atheism is based on the philosophical monism of materialism. Materialism cannot stand without local realism, non-local realism or naive realism being tenable. The violation of Bell's inequality renders local realism untenable and we, no doubt, know the rest. Religious believers have the satisfaction of thinking that their consciousness will be around to see themselves proven correct. Atheists believe that Stephen Hawking's consciousness is in the same place it was before he was conceived. Non-existence. That belief holds nothing to fear. There were nearly 14 billion years before he popped into existence, made the world a better place and increased our understanding of the universe. To each his or her own. 

It's amazing how a death of someone you don't know and have never met can still hit you. The guy was amazing in so many different ways. He understood things in a way most of us never will. Where many people would have given up on life battling those illnesses, Hawking continued on and adapted to continue learning and finding out new things. And among all this he still had the time and kindness to contribute to things like "The Big Bang Theory" on a few occasions where we've seen some fantastic humour from him.

How long until he is again "among" us...?
  1. 9 years to track down and debate all of the greatest minds from the dawn of time;
  2. 9 months of first hand studies on black holes, stellar phenomena, dark matter, worm holes, time travel, parallel dimensions, and the sub-subatomic intricacies of the multiverse;
  3. 1 month cataloging alien civilizations that may try to wipe out humanity and sabotaging their efforts;
  4. 1 month to locate the supreme AI in our galaxy, subdue it, make it his pet and name it Ezrium, and reconfigure it to prevent an Earth based AI from destroying all of the carbon units; 
  5. 10 days to write his new book "The Mysteries of Other Side. I was wrong, so what?"; 
  6. 10 days to debug the human genome, upgrade it and design a new corporeal biological domicile for his return;
  7. 9 days to rest, relax, reflect and drink copious amounts of space beer on the sun drenched beaches of New Paleokastritsa which orbits the distant star Tau Ceti; 
  8. 90 hours to study ancient Vedic knowledge, improve it, break the law of death and return to the land of the living.

I'd say RIP but I think he’ll not be resting but questioning and challenging. Good luck over in spacetime.

NB: In 2016 I had the fortune to be able to get my hands on his Reith Lectures. What a frigging book!

domingo, março 11, 2018

Homemade and Fermented Hot-Sauce: Habaneros and Bird's Eye Chiles


Because Spring is almost here, it's time for making hot-sauce...Love spicy food. Hotter the better. Subtlety works too. It depends on what you're cooking. I make soups nobody I know will eat they're that ferocious (with the exception of my friend João Claudio who's also an aficionado of "hot" food; he's even thinking of founding a hot-chile fraternity...before I start receiving hate email, "chile" is the country and the spice. Chili is the Homemade and fermented chile just gives that huge extra dimension to a meal.  I believe it's the rush that comes from eating hot-chile with my food that is so pleasurable. It enhances food and definitely makes it more interesting and more connected to what I'm eating.

My favourite sensation is when eating something "hot" and (not sure if I'm describing it properly or if others get the same) it feels like the pores on my head, under my hair, are opening up. It's almost like the sensation of just getting your hair cut then going outside on a windy day. Like a cold frisson type sensation couple with sweaty-red face. I don't quite know why I enjoy it so much, so it's good to have some research looking into it. I truly love the tastes of hot food, various curries, etc,; they're great cuisine in their own right. But it's the burn that really makes it for me, some weird thing where you love the tastes of the food, and can only just take the level of heat, and it's not entirely comfortable, and somehow that makes it better.

A downside of being into chiles is that you find a lot of food underwhelming if it's an North-and-Centre-European version of the real thing. In Portugal, because of the Mediterranean culture (food, weather, etc.), the chili aficionados are very knowledgeable... 

Fake chile shit with some horrid sauce. No thanks. 

  1. Habaneros [Scoville heat units: 100,000-350,000 (extremely hot)];
  2. Bird's Eye Chiles [Scoville heat units: 50,000-100,000 (very hot)];
  3. 3 large Onions (one for each jar);
  4. Ginger;
  5. 6 cloves (2 for each jar);
  6. 1 litre of Brine Water (35 grams of salt per litre);
  7. Gloves
  • Put on your only ever fail to wear gloves and wash your hands afterwards before going to the loo once...lmao;
  • Wash the habaneros and the bird's eye chiles in running water;
  • Cut them in half (the habaneros) and crosswise (the bird's eye chiles);
  • Insert the cloves and the ginger into each one of the jars;
  • Insert the freshly-cut habaneros and bird's eye chiles into each one of the jars;
  • Insert the onion ring on top of each one of the jars;
  • Top-up each one of the jars with the brine water (the top of the onion ring must be fully immersed in water!);
(From left to right: the first two, habaneros; the last one with the bird's eye chiles)
  • Cover each one of the jars with a plastic bag;
  • To make them air-tight, use a rubber band (or in my case, black hair bobbles) at the top and bottom of the glasses.
  • Wait at least 2 weeks for the concoction to ferment in a safe place.

NB: Follow-up post in 2 weeks' time.

domingo, março 04, 2018

Samsung Gear S3: My First Wearable APP Using the Tizen OS by MySelfie

Samsung Gear S3 showing what it can do...

0 - Install the Development Environment with the SDK Tools (Tizen Studio 2.2 with IDE installer, Tizen Extension SDK, Samsung Accessory SDK, and the Samsung Rich Notification SDK):

1 - Install the Tizen Studio IDE;

2 - In the Tizen Studio package manager, install everything for the 2.3.2 wearable;

Tizen SDK Tools:

3 - Install the Samsung Certificate Extension;

4 - Creating the App; I chose the watch because I like all things that glitter...

Some C code spinets of the Watch Gear S3 App:

5 - Running the emulator a gazillion times (from 11:28 in the morning until 2 o'clock in the afternoon...Wife calling for lunch...) until the frigging thing was ok:

(Linux emulator kernel loading) 

6 - Find the IP on your Samsung Gear S3 given by your router:

7 - Run sdb connect on the command prompt;

8 - Turn "debugging mode" on Gear S3;

9 - After the connection is established, use "device manager" on Tools in the Tizen Studio and install it. If you want to go the way of deploying the tpk, you can install the Watch App to a connected device with the tpk ("watchmaantao-1.0.0-x86.tpk"; (vide next screenshot). In the device list, right-click the device to which you want to install an application, and select Install app. In the file dialog, select the "watchmaantao-1.0.0-x86.tpk" file to install and click OK.

The application is installed and launched on the Samsung Gear S3:

(final version; app already with all the builtin bell and whistles that should come with every Watch app; the photos before this one belonged to the barebone version of my Watch App)

sábado, março 03, 2018

Black Thread: “Birthday Letters” by Ted Hughes

(Original Review, 2002)

Hughes acknowledged he repressed his own feelings for many years after Plath’s suicide. The poems he wrote before his death, Birthday Letters, were an outpouring of these feelings about his love for Plath. It was a top seller. If Hughes had published them as a younger man it would have helped his development as a great poet, but due to the repression, it did him untold harm, so he falls short of being a great poet. Plath was an extremely talented artist, writing both novels, childrens books, doing pictures. She wrote two main collections of poems, Colossus, where she writes very tight, word perfect poems, but she hasn’t found her true voice. Then Ariel, where she writes directly from the unconscious and unleashes power, tapping the roots of her own inner violence. As Alvarez said, this was not a therapeutic process: you’re dredging up material and making it more available to the conscious mind, where the artist finds him/herself living it out. Through expression comes no relief. No doubt the mental illness that had plagued her all her life, where she attempted to take her life several times was like a demon that pursued her before meeting Hughes.

Hughes had this mythic sense of his own identity through his sexual drive. It comes out in his relationships with two women, who both committed suicide, the 2nd realizing he was obsessed with his 1st wife. It also comes out in his general infidelity. You also get a good idea of this from his strange book, “Shakespeare and the Goddess of Pure Being. He related it directly to nature and the way he sees nature. In his poems there is a delight in violence and single-minded creatures and the egotism of survival. He thinks through these poetic creatures, denying conscience and self-consciousness, but also projects them onto human beings, faking both animals and humans, writing from circumscribed experience. Plath liked the confessional poets like Lowell and Berryman and in her last poems is swept forward by the current of immediate feeling, but she also handles the material very objectively. Alvarez was a friend to both poets and was involved with trying to help Sylvia at the time of her death; she also wanted a relationship with him but he was already married, so it didn’t go anywhere.  

There are lots of voyeurs out there. Yes, Hughes was devastated about his wife's suicide. This has been well-known for some time. And it could have been inferred, I would have thought, from the off. It is not news. And the reasons for suicide are always complex and can NEVER be whittled down to a simple "She did this because of that." Will now climb off soapbox.

Fevered with Love's Anxiety: "Phantom Thread" by Paul Thomas Anderson

This movie made think on one of Saint John of the Cross' poems.

At 3am the dragon set forth along the Caparica beach and stared out over the water, lit only with the full moon:

In an obscure night, Fevered with love's anxiety (O hapless, happy plight!), I went, none seeing me, Forth from my cave, where all things quiet be,” said the dragon, to no one in particular. But someone was there, creeping around in the shadows. Arthur, Arthur Scargill the vampire, twiddling his strangely long thumbs.

'Zombies! Zombies everywhere!' Cried the Dragon. 'Quick!' Said Arthur, 'Get in my futuristic looking Ford Sierra. Don't mind Stig he does that.' 'What's that thudding sound?' Said the dragon, 'Don't mind them. That's me killer robots.' Said Arthur as they crashed through some barriers and narrowly missed going over a cliff. 'What am I sitting on?' Said the dragon gloomily. 'That's just big bird.' Said Arthur.

Vampire Arthur Scargill wasn't in the mood for a moody Dragon, and had come to look up to the Beast, through the sunroof, as a source of inspiration. "You just turn that frown upside down, Laddie."

He stopped the car and told the Grumpy Dragon to look behind them; nothing but chaos, dust, and a shed on a tow-rope.
'Go and look in't shed, eh? I've got Mr. Sheen in there.' The Gloomy Dragon flapped his great wings, and whooooosh was half-way out of the sunroof in a second. Arthur had to push him through the rest of the way, but he made it and was at the Shed door. He was very excited and pondered to himself in Dragonspeak 'I dunno if I like Martin or Charlie the best... What if it's Michael? I bet it's Michael, it's gotta be Michael because Vampire Arthur Scargill'll have a love/hate relationship with him, he played Brian Clough, but he also played Blair... twice.'
The great Dragon tilted his head to listen for signs of life but all he could hear was an Australian shouting over and over... 'What's your country of origin? Where are you from, you foreign polish bastard?'
The door was opened and there in full Highland regalia was Mel Racist gripping a can of furniture polish, drunkenly spitting at it, in rage. 'I told thee I 'ad Mr. Sheen in the Shed' chortled Vampire Arthur Scargill, who watched in horror as the Dragon set light to Mr. Sheen, who set light to Mel Racist, who set light to Dan's home for over 30 years.
Dan peaked out of the boot of the futuristic-looking Ford Sierra for a few seconds (wearing his 'There Will Be Blood 'tache) before going back to method acting the part of an actor kidnapped in a futuristic-looking Ford Sierra) by Vampire Arthur Scargill, a Dragon, Big Bird, and the Stig. The nightmare didn't really end for anyone until they safely retired in Grimsby. Except Day-Lewis, who made another film 12 months later, then announced his retirement, once again.

The End

I've seen so many similar relationships of a man subjugated to his mother who never grows up and then plays games with woman ever after -- unable to commit to anyone not as cruel as the bitch who bore and raised him. The outcome is perhaps bachelorhood but -- in this case -- Reynolds swears he's waited all his life to meet the waitress who can remember a ridiculously-long list of breakfast food and how he likes it. But what seems truly arresting to him is her pronouncement that if he wants to stare her down, he will lose. And so the contest begins and he's apparently losing interest [as he always does] when she insists that a client who passed out in one of his dresses "doesn't deserve it" and that they should go into her home and strip her of the gown. THIS is spectacular to him and, I believe, that's the moment he realises he's FINALLY met someone as cruel as his own mother, as humiliating and terrifying. And suddenly he wants marriage and declares "love" which is actually just a sick need. And from the incident she discovers how to conquer and hold him. It's just a question of how vicious she's willing to be. And -- the perfect metaphor for the ultimately toxic relationship -- she discovers a way to poison him with mushroom in a delicious meal that just about kills him, but not quite, rendering him helpless, submissive and beaten. The apparent congruity with his childhood -- of being emasculated but never quite flattened -- is oh-so-familiar and comforting, allowing him to be revived and lash out into his creative world again and again, with the promise of being repeatedly humiliated and brought to his knees [quite literally] in a way that reminds him so of home-crap-home with his mother. To me it's the perfect metaphor with near-lethal co-dependence that sooner or later will prove miscalculated and deadly. And the script builds in an incredible way -- the clues having been there from nearly the first line.

But it's not the film, it is the Actor! Day-Lewis' character reeks of something deeply discordant and corrosive. A psychic entrapment that hovers as long as celluloid flickers. Nothing courageous, no self-denying ordinances just lust; deep dark and selfish lust decomposing morality and performing the diabolic tricks of Hollywood's controlling and abusive morality. Sheep deserve better. What a frigging Actor!