quarta-feira, novembro 28, 2018

M87: "Einstein's Shadow: A Black Hole, a Band of Astronomers, and the Quest to See the Unseeable" by Seth Fletcher

“The so-called hair-theorem maintains that they can be entirely described by three parameters: mass, angular momentum, and electric charge. They have no bumps of defects, no idiosyncrasies or imperfections – no ‘hair’.”

In “Einstein's Shadow: A Black-Hole, a Band of Astronomers, and the Quest to See the Unseeable” by Seth Fletcher

“There are actually three principles that come into conflict at a black-hole horizon: Einstein’s equivalence principle, which is the basis of general relativity; unitarity, which requires that the equations of quantum mechanics work equally well in both directions; and locality. Locality is the most commonsense notion imaginable; everything exists in some place. Yet it’s surprisingly hard to define locality with scientific rigour. A widely accepted definition is tied to the speed of light. If locality is a general condition of our universe, then the world is a bunch of particles bumping into one another, exchanging forces. Particles carry forces among particles – and nothing can travel faster than the speed of light, including force carrying-particles. But we know that locality sometimes breaks down. Entangled quantum particles, for example, would influence one another instantaneously even if they were in different galaxies. […] And after all, the whole reason black holes hide and destroy information is because of the principle of locality – nothing can travel faster than the speed of light, and therefore nothing can escape a black hole. If some sort of non-local effect could relay information from inside a black hole to the outside universe, all was well with the world.”

In “Einstein's Shadow: A Black-Hole, a Band of Astronomers, and the Quest to See the Unseeable” by Seth Fletcher

“The 20th century produced two spectacularly successfully theories of nature: general theory of relativity, and quantum theory. General relativity says the world is continuous, smoothly evolving, and fundamentally local: influences such as gravity can’t travel instantaneously. Quantum theory says the world is twitchy, probabilistic, and non-local – particles pop in and out of existence randomly and see to subtly influence one another instantly across great distances. If you’re a scientist who wants to dig down tot eh deepest level of reality, the obvious question is: which is it?”

In “Einstein's Shadow: A Black-Hole, a Band of Astronomers, and the Quest to See the Unseeable” by Seth Fletcher

Fascinating stuff but once again inspires some readers with more questions:

1. The silly one. Is it possible that Black-Holes are actually a life-form simply moving through space? 
They have found a way to attract, trap and ultimately consume what they need to grow.

2. What is the nature of the material ejected (by M87) as opposed to the material ingested?

3. If different, what material, if any, has been left behind inside the Black-Hole, M87?

4. Probably also silly. If the jet of material is shooting out from the Black-Hole (M87), does this mean that this material is traveling faster than the speed of light? We have been told that even light cannot escape from a Black-Hole;

5. What about the sexual connection? (This question always pops up when talking about Black-Holes. Why?).

My answers:

1. Yes very silly. Complete nonsense;

2. Ionised matter accelerated to relativistic speeds. It's not stuff being ejected from inside the black hole itself it's matter and energy ejected from the excretion disc. Black-holes theoretically can evaporate over time via hawking radiation in the form of thermal energy;

3. Not really understood however since no information about what has fallen into the black-hole is retained so in that sense it has to be different;

4. Nothing can travel through space-time faster than the speed of light. Actually light has nothing to do with it. It's the speed of causality;

5. Spout I must. Since I first learned about black-Holes many eons ago in my teens, they've seemed most compelling as emblems of obscenity (literally, off scene) and extremity, paralysis and paradox. There is some kind of human projection into understanding the universe (vide Willard Quine on under determination of scientific theory), and black holes seem like a high watermark of human interest sneaking into developing hypotheses using mathematical and objectively measuring tools. How can that happen, you ask? Somehow, the full proof wall develops a crack and human reality--you might liken it to Kierkegaard's infinite interest, without his theological bent--rushes in. (Another powerful example from classic lit is the door opening at Garcin's demand in “No Exit” by Sartre) Black-Holes are teasingly and luridly sexual, gapingly and irresistibly dangerous, appallingly and exquisitely frightening, puzzlingly and perturbingly unfathomable. The bizarre end of the empirical quest through modern history is something you "a priori" can't directly see. Our math either has to make uncomfortable moves to accommodate them while retaining some sense of a "finite" universe, or give up the ghost of such a universe and joyride the slippery slope into metaphysics. They have a human face--I'm wagering more than they do not. As so many on the social sciences side of the fence see it, reality is social reality, and that seems truer as I age. There!

With my reviews of physics’ books, I get all sorts of questions regarding Black-Holes. Because I can’t be bothered to answer them as they trickle in, here’s a summation of some of them (with my answers to the best of my knowledge):

1. Do we have any evidence regarding the interactions of black-Holes?
Answer: There is speculation that at least some forms of 'gamma ray bursts' (intense but short term bursts of radiation high energy radiation detected by satellites) may be due to colliding black holes formerly in binary systems. Some bursts are probably due to binary pulsars so it is possible some arise from colliding black holes. Surprisingly nothing more dramatic than an even larger black hole is theorised to develop after the collision;

2. How does space-time behave when two black-Holes interact at a distance? Can this interaction provide interesting ways to move through space-time: without getting trapped or ripped apart?
Answer: The options for using variations on black holes as gates for space travel don't look hopeful but are under theoretical investigation;

3. How do black holes influence matter-energy in our solar system, beyond maintaining our orbit around Sag A? Can we exploit this interaction in any way?
Answer: The black-Hole at the centre of our galaxy isn't that influential. It is rather lightweight compared to the total mass of our galaxy. If it disappeared today we would still travel around the galaxy's centre. Whether the black hole there formed there and drew mass progressively around it to form the galaxy, or whether it formed elsewhere and drifted into the centre isn't certain, though the former case is favoured. But its mass is relatively insignificant compared to the rest of the galaxy - it just happens, for whatever reason, to be at the centre;

4. Is it possible that what we see as the death of many solar systems results in the birth of a universe?
Answer: Vide point above;

5. Can the preponderance of black-Holes account for some of the missing mass of the universe?
Answer: Black-Holes, of a smaller size than those in the centre of galaxies, have been postulated as the 'missing mass' but the required number hasn't been found using a number of strategies. It is more likely the missing mass is due to currently undetected new fundamental particles. But you never know....

Bottom-line: As a side note, until all of the information is properly correlated, and all error sources identified, namely with the data coming from the South Pole Telescope, we won’t get any direct confirmation of the existence of Sagittarius A* or M87 black-Holes via radiation imaging. So, hold your horses.

domingo, novembro 25, 2018

ΔE Δt ≥ ℏ/2: "Quantum Mechanics: The Theoretical Minimum" by Leonard Susskind, Art Friedman

I was on a train the other week and I was sitting opposite Einstein who asked me if I would mind changing seats because he liked to see where he was going for a half a journey and then he liked to see where he had been for the other half of the journey and I told him I didn't mind changing seats and I asked him if he minded me asking him if he was dead and he said, "When?"

Why was the universe in such a low entropy initial condition? As many have pointed out, that might be even more unlikely than random macroscopic decreases in entropy. Also, if the universe had a low entropy initial condition, might it have a similar boundary condition at the other end? If so, then someday, entropy will start to decrease!

The public is always excited about quantum mechanics, and consequently there is a potential for careless journalists to exploit that, by mentioning all the exciting parts (e.g., quantum teleportation - people often think this 'spooky' phenomenon violates special relativity), but omitting all of the constraints (e.g., the fact that non-random information in quantum teleportation is actually transmitted at the speed of light or even less). The old Carl Sagan quote is very relevant on all things quantum (and throughout the totality of human thought, in fact):

“Where we have strong emotions, we're liable to fool ourselves.”

I show that, within a quantum mechanical framework, all phenomena which leave a trail of information behind (and hence can be studied by physics) are those where entropy necessarily increases or remains constant. All phenomena where the entropy decreases must not leave any information of their having happened. This situation is completely indistinguishable from their not having happened at all. In the light of this observation, the second law of thermodynamics is reduced to a mere tautology: physics cannot study those processes where entropy has decreased, even if they were commonplace. Meaning: "The past exists only insofar as it is recorded in the present."

Problem: what about phenomena which "leave a trail of info" (say 100 bits) behind, but (going in the reverse time direction) leave a trail of info (say only 50 bits) behind? Plainly it can be "studied by physics" in either direction, and also the "past exists" in either direction. So, no, it wasn't a tautology. But anyway, plausibly there is something wise here (and for that matter, plausibly there was something wise in H. Everett's many worlds interpretation from the 1950s); I just think all this stuff is basically speculation and not rigorous. Maccone uses words like "I will make these ideas rigorous" but that is bunk. There is not a single theorem and proof in the paper, it is all "proof by example" and by assertion (e.g. "the eventual correlations in all macroscopic systems are practically impossible to control and exploit" he asserts, with zero justification). Non-rigorous arguments are ok, but falsely saying they are rigorous, is not.

What really puzzles me in the realm of probabilities is that events with an infinitesimal chance of happening do occur: The ball hitting the gate post instead of going goal, the coin falling on edge and into a crack instead onto the infinite floor space around, or bird`s poo on my car and not on the other hundreds of cars around mine. The interesting point is that although the probability of entropy decreasing events, and other physical events, is infinitesimally small, it is NOT zero and therefore just might occur. Interestingly is that one cannot measure x and p simultaneously for a quantum particle. So we cannot know if a particle doesn't have x and p values at the same time. In the Bohm (ontological) interpretation, particles have defined paths which cannot be known accurately. 

The vacuum and ΔE Δt ≥ /2 (c.f. Δx Δp  /2); why not have definite energies, but which cannot be measured, in the same sense? It seems there is ambiguity in the meaning of what's going on in the vacuum and perhaps looking at all interpretations of QM would help (or not!).

I find the meaning of what's going on here very difficult because one is importing classical physics ideas, time, energy, position, momentum into quantum phenomena. You can calculate with it all and build computer chips etc. but the meaning??? I still believe a version of one of the "hidden variables" interpretations like Bohm's will prove to be a better understanding of what’s going on at the Quantum level. There is no real evidence that there are discrete packets that form particles in EM - rather the discrete packets are the atoms in our measuring instruments.

The "hidden variable" idea (e.g., "the photon DOES have a well-defined position and momentum, we just can't measure it") was around from the beginning of quantum theory, but it was discounted in the 60s and by many experiments since (c.f. Bell's Theorem in Becker’s book). It's a complicated one to explain, but the gist of it is that you can send a photon through three polarized screens, one of which (at least) should stop it if it has a well-defined polarization. It doesn't however, the photon seems to be able to flick back and forth between DIFFERENT polarisations in between each screen. It's complicated to get your head around, but the evidence seems to show there are no hidden variables, it's not an artefact of our measuring systems; it’s just the way the universe is. If you don't mind spending a little time scratching your head, it is well worth watching the first QED lecture that Feynman did in New Zealand. It's advanced stuff, but Feynman does have a way of explaining things that I find extremely helpful. He also helpfully advises viewers at the very start of the lecture that they will probably not "get" most of it, but “not to worry about it.”

Teachers don't spend enough time on the particulars of the slit experiment.  What EXACTLY is used to measure the photons on the back screen?  What EXACTLY causes the slight randomness of the photons going thru ONE slit?  Is it the frequency shift of photons coming out of the "laser", is it the human error in designing a perfect laser shooter?  Is it the photons nicking the inner sides of the slit?  And then in the advanced notion of the slit experiment which talks about measuring WHICH slit the photon goes thru, which alters the results (from quantum mechanical, back to mechanical expected results), how is the slit-choice ACTUALLY measured, perhaps the device is affecting the result? Also, I think the fluid physics dudes should always chime in on slit experiment presentations with talk about carrier-waves, which after many, many decades STILL hasn't been proven wrong.  

Physics teaching is so bad nowadays, and so one-sided, new students get bad education, thinking they know something, when in fact due to being presented the questions and solutions wrongly, the education system has actually created a barrier for those trying to ADVANCE human knowledge.  If teaching something, like the way Susskind does in this book, do it right, do it completely, and spend some actually time on it, rather than trying to get to a pre-determined endpoint. Could Susskind have given us a more objective visualization of quantum mechanics if we had an interactive emergent process unfolding photon by photon? This idea is based on: (E=ˠM˳C²) ∞ with energy ∆E equals mass ∆M linked to the Lorentz contraction ˠ of space and time. The Lorentz contraction ˠ represents the time dilation of Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. We have energy ∆E slowing the rate that time ∆t flows as a universal process of energy exchange or continuous creation. Mass will increase relative to this process with gravity being a secondary force to the electromagnetic force. The c² represents the speed of light c radiating out in a sphere 4π of EMR from its radius forming a square c² of probability. We have to square the probability of the wave-function Ψ because the area of the sphere is equal to the square of the radius of the sphere multiplied by 4π. This simple geometrical process forms the probability and uncertainty of everyday life and at the smallest scale of the process is represented mathematically by Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle ∆×∆pᵪ≥h/4π. In such a theory we have an emergent future unfolding photon by photon with the movement of charge and flow of EM fields. This gives us a geometrical reason for positive and negative charge with a concaved inner surface for negative charge and a convexed outer surface for positive charge. The brackets in the equation (E=ˠM˳C²)∞ represent a dynamic boundary condition of an individual reference frame with an Arrow of Time or time line for each frame of reference. The infinity ∞ symbol represents an infinite number of dynamic interactive reference frames that are continuously coming in and out of existence (this is just wishful thinking on my part…lol).

sábado, novembro 24, 2018

XXXVII St. Cecily's Lisbon Choral Festival

(Our choir in a red box)

(My beautiful blue bracelet we've received in the festival) 

(the artists...)

After 5 weeks of rehearsals, three of the chants that I like the most we sang today (tenors, as always, shining bright...):

("O cordeiro que foi imolado"; composer: A. Cartageno)

("Cordeiro de Deus"; composer: Teodoro Sousa)

("Glória"; composer: A. Cartageno)

sexta-feira, novembro 23, 2018

Closed Time-like Curves: “Brief Answers to the Big Questions” by Stephen Hawking

“Is there any point in hosting a party for time travelers? Would you hope anyone would turn up?
Hawking’s answer: In 2009 I held a party for time travelers in my college, Gonville and Caius in Cambridge, for a film about time travel. To ensure that only genuine time travelers came, I didn’t send out the invitation until after the party. On the day of the party, I sat in college, hoping but no one came. I was disappointed, but not surprised, because I had shown that if general relativity is correct and energy density is positive, time travel is not possible. I would have been delighted if one of my assumptions had turned out to be wrong.”

In “Brief Answers to the Big Questions – The Final Book” by Stephen Hawking.

I'm not really asking a question - a lot of what Hawking talks about really isn't even theoretically testable. Theoretical physics does tend in that direction - often it talks about ideas that are not testable yet, and may not be for a long time, or which are mathematical speculation as much as observation. These kinds of ideas get included in "science" because historically they have often born fruit within the limits of science over time. It's part of the process.

Some ideas, however, are not even theoretically testable. (I'm not sure why you'd think they were as that is not something anyone who studies theory of science will tell you, or any good scientist.) They really are just mathematical speculations, and as such they are not science at all. Mathematical speculations about the nature of the universe are philosophy, not science.

As for science being the only way to advance understanding, science depends on the assumption of a rational universe, which has all kinds of implications outside of science itself. Science certainly doesn't make any claim of that kind. What you are talking about is logical positivism, which is a pretty controversial, some would go so far as to say discredited, philosophical position (not a scientific proposition btw, that being part of the reason it's got problems.)

Firstly, theoretical physicists come up with theories, and on the very edge of the subject come up with concepts, but even these concepts like the multiverse are based on sound theoretical reasons. Experimental physicists devise ways in which these theories and concepts can be tested. The ideas are included in science because they are science and the reason they often bear fruit is because they are based on sound principles to begin with. And science assumes nothing other than what it already knows to be true. It works on the principle that the laws of physics are universal. And logical positivism came about to stop confusion of the very sort you seem set on introducing. And no it's not controversial, and it's certainly not discredited, it was part of a process of logical thought which was derived from previous processes and added to by subsequent processes.

It's really unbelievable what Stephen Hawking achieved in his life. From formulating an entirely new form of energy, completely theoretically, and getting it named after him, to making the most bizarre objects in the cosmos, black holes, common discussion subjects for lay people. To do all this while suffering a death sentence from his degenerative motor neuron disease is a stupendous achievement.
Whether his views on God or AI have any relevance is debatable. His understanding of God is no more or less valid than anyone else's, and his predictions on AI are pure speculation.

NB: Closed Time-like Curves = Time Travel.

quinta-feira, novembro 22, 2018

Dilettantes at Heart: "Deep Work" by Cal Newport

D Work?

Hang on a second, I just need to head over to the RTP1 to check on the weather. The rain that was forecast ten minutes ago might not be coming after all. Oh look, there's a cat juggling mice. I wonder what Donald Trump is up to. And there's someone talking shite about gun laws in the USA. He's wrong, he needs to be corrected. He's wrong again. And again. And again. What do you mean, it's tea time? Focus on what? Oh, look, a squirrel!

There is so much that's fascinating (albeit often unverifiable). Perhaps we all are dilettantes at heart.
I should get back to work, but can't help myself writing this review and then writing a comment on here just because I can. Argh. Concentration on one thing is impossible these days. I've wasted 7 minutes already. Oh well. Better just check my emails before I get back to the thing I need to do.

Another switch of perspective: stop taking “breaks from distraction” and instead take “breaks from focus”. Don’t think in terms of shutting off email or Twitter for an hour; make shut-off the default, and make sporadic forays into connectivity. Good advice ah? But would welcome further advice as to how to achieve this in an open plan office! On the other hand, this open plan office wank has gone too far!!! Bring back the Madmen days! Whisky, short skirts, long lunches, ahhhhhh those were the days.

Dvorak used to compose music at his kitchen table, surrounded by the noise and bustle of his family. No need for a shed in the garden (Roald Dahl used a shed too, I believe) or some specially insulated "focus box". Some people can tune out distractions and concentrate on the task at hand. Bach too (Patently Bach was focused upon something...). He had something like 26 children from two wives. Dylan Thomas, once successful, got that hut overlooking the bay in Laugharne to write his poetry and then dried up, sometimes only changing one word in a line some days.

I smoouked marrigerwaana every day fur ten ears and it made not a jot of indefferunce to my IQ. I confess to lookin at my phone like clockwork every two days. Dunno why, its a landlines....

quarta-feira, novembro 21, 2018

In böser Absicht: "Ethical Porn for Dicks - A Man’s Guide to Responsible Viewing Pleasure" by David J. Ley

“But many more people are told today that watching porn makes them a bad person, and it’s something they should be ashamed of. We are told that watching porn is bad for society, women, and women’s role in society. It warps kids’ brains and is destroying all that is beautiful about sex and love. Basically, we are told that every time we watch porn, a baby seal gets strangled with XXX-rated videotape. […] But I believe it is possible to be a gentlemen and watch porn. It’s possible to be an ethical, responsible person and treat oneself and others with dignity and integrity, AND to watch hot, no-holds-barred sex on screen.”

In “Ethical Porn for Dicks” by David J. Ley

Did you hear the one about Hugh Hefner going to his doctor?

Hugh: "Doc - I have a personal problem"
Doc: "What’s up?"
Hugh: "Well, Every day I sleep with three women. When we get up in the morning and after breakfast we do it till lunch time. Then, a spot of lunch followed by a bit more action round the pool. Then we have dinner and usually invite a few friends over for an orgy until about Midnight or so".
Doc: "And what’s the problem?
Hugh: "It hurts when I w*nk"

The war on pornography strikes me as a game authoritarians play ... an ideology of embedding dependence, infantilisation and aversion to risk and pleasure in society. In this case, the problem is not the porn but what makes young males and females so conflicted about sexual representation that one walks out just because another is interested in sexual representation as pleasure. Removing pornography appears now to be necessary to ensure that we remain a sex-negative culture dependent on priests and their social science surrogates. Sad really.

So, I am not saying that I know what is making persons miserable but I am saying that we do not know that it is the porn that is contributing to their misery rather than being a symptom of misery which is only more plausible because we can observe such cases of porn being used to distract from conditions of failed intimacy around us every day. Faced with the impossibility of a desired intimacy on their terms, males will retreat into fantasy, their last refuge from obligations where the balance of power is now firmly in the hands of the 'other'. As with so much ideology, there is a lack of imagination in considering the complexity of human responses to the world. If every man is interested in porn (and the truth is that any man who says he isn't is probably a liar or under the cosh of some external system that has terrified him into submission), then it is a natural thing for men.

Women are being oppressive in demanding that this private vice be eliminated - and indeed oppressive to those women who actively choose under conditions of informed consent and without coercion to provide it. There is much talk of the 'war on women' but this is a 'war on men' - or rather we have a 'war of all on all' instead of an acceptance and respect for difference and desire.

To deny a male and female access to visual erotic stimulation without judgement may be regarded as a form of rape of the soul that, in its creation of an atmosphere of fear and submission, is not dissimilar to the fear of bodily rape that might emerge amongst women because of 'superior' male strength. The tolerance of 'male soul rape' is now embedded in our culture much as tolerance of female bodily rape was tragically embedded in past cultures.

The issue here is not the porn but a culture of judgmentalism and control - once allegedly patriarchal (though always more complex) and now in danger of becoming 'matriarchical' (though far more complex than that because much of this is about class and not gender as it was with prohibition of alcohol in the US in the last century). The issue here is not the research but the use to which the research is put by people of 'in böser Absicht' on the one hand or people of limited intellect and strong conviction on the other.

My thesis (which I think more plausible than that pornography intrinsically causes harm on the basis that there is observable evidence that it causes pleasure without harm in many cases) is that the attempt to control 'vices' misses two points:

1 -  that the 'vice' is only a vice if it does harm and the point of universal as opposed to particular harm is unproven; and
2 - that the person engaged in a 'vice' that has harmful consequences has fundamental personal issues on the one hand or is fundamentally oppressed by social conditions on the other so that dealing with personal issues (my 'getting religion' might be one solution) and dealing with oppressive psycho-social conditions should be the focus of interest and not trying to engage in authoritarian social control of what are mere tools.

Authoritarian 'liberalism' creates a cocoon of ideology (much as religion does) which may offer an individual solution but which becomes oppressive when imposed on those who do not have such personal issues and are in control of their desires and are 'self-medicating' the human condition successfully. The extension of the 'self-medication' of the disturbed authoritarian personality to society as a whole merely spreads the disease of ideology outwards.

Ley successfully attempts to define what porn is and actually what it relates to. I agree with him that we need to be more specific than just a reference to this vague nebulous 'thing' since even now nobody really understands what it means. When hearing the term 'porn' people tend to focus on things they don't personally like. Some see it as degradation of the female - others as something emotionless - others as 'disgusting' fetishes that they can't stomach - others as some kind of promotion of violence. All of these are wrong in terms of a definition - they may be part of it, but never the entire picture. There are no boundaries between 'porn' and sex education and 'porn' and art - and even 'porn' and politics and 'porn' and feminism. And perhaps not even 'porn' and the real world. So just what is it people are addicted to so destructively and what particular part of things is causing problems? The question should not be 'is porn harmful', it should be 'what part of porn are we doing wrong? And why?' In the absence of any kind of real exploration or debate like that, most articles don't really add much. There's some interesting points here, but it is let down rather by the all-too-familiar 'postmodern prudery' that surrounds the subject. If one wants to explore the psychology of porn, maybe one should get in there, explore the online communities and 'scenes', the good the bad, and experience firsthand what makes them tick, what good they can do and what damage they can cause. Then maybe we could do more with the subject than just benevolently frown down from on high! Trust me - they know more about it than you do! At the same applies to politicians who want to control something they have no understanding of whatsoever.

I think the one thing you can guarantee about anything sexual is that it is more complex and multilayered than you think. Our relationship with real-world sex is hardly very good, even now, and whenever I read something about 'porn' being harmful I am left wondering just what is doing the harm? Porn or our still phenomenally bad interrelationships with ourselves and others. How do you differentiate the two? What's the cause and what's the symptom? I don't know. Sometimes we can get too damn clever for our own good in seeking to understand the human mind, the good the bad, the light, the darkness. Not unlike Pandora's box, and once out, albeit the seed of an idea, you can't put it back. I just like women, and am content with that.

Millennia ago Socrates thought literacy was the big problem. Of course he might have been right. Literacy might have enabled all sorts of advances because information could be recorded, instructions and orders relayed etc. But pre-literate organised societies with complex cultures meant that people used their brains differently, had to memorise things far more effectively and carefully, for example. And there is no question that the internet, Google, Wikipedia, etc., have produced another shift in the way we function that might not all be positive. But on the other hand it doesn't really matter because in another ten years twitter will have devolved us all to the cultural level of gibbons anyway!

segunda-feira, novembro 19, 2018

Self-Reflective Frisson: "Venice" by Jan Morris

I wanted to say I have finally just about finished reading Jan Morris' Venice and the one thing that struck me more strongly about it than any other impression, was how much it reminded me of Hemingway's Death in the Afternoon. Of course, Morris is frequently in the business of evocative, poetic prose, something Hemingway would never allow himself, but the everyday prose style is very similar. Also the way in which the subject is examined from a number of different points of view, not necessarily making a single complete story or narrative of it, but genuinely adding texture and layer of detail until the whole becomes a sort of onion, skin over skin over skin. Finally, both have the feeling of someone who has not entirely been drawn in, not lost her or his identity to the subject, but has definitely looked deeply into it and loves it dearly.

Tourists set great store by "authentic" experiences but the previous generation's were always more authentic. Jan Morris makes it clear that even sixties Venice was subject to crap that 19th century tourists wouldn't have had to put up with. Yet the city still exercises a powerful attraction for many. I don't think the charm of twisty, cobbled streets is simply to do with their appearance or their age; I think we bring additional cultural meaning and expectations with us when visiting such places, and when thinking about them. Particularly, I think places like Venice create a self-reflective frisson for us- I am here. It isn't, I don't think, purely an aesthetic experience- part of us is bound up personally in how we experience places like this. They seduce us with the weight of history, with their complexity, their own self-containedness. We thrill at becoming a small part of them, for a little while.

And then we go and get a coffee at Starbucks to recover.

Yes, the weight of time and history, and our being a small part of them, work on us, as much as the aesthetic. If I ever make it back to Venice (I went there last year on a cruise) it will almost certainly be as a dreaded tourist which is mostly about how much time you dispose of. Some places, like Venice, Machu Picchu, or the Great Wall were part of my imagination long before I ever got there in their own shadowy way.

For what it's worth I think Venice is closer to "Invisible Cities" or Borges than it is to a "Lonely Planet Guide."

sábado, novembro 17, 2018

Quantum Entanglement Radio: "Gate Crashers" by Patrick S. Tomlinson

“The Quantum Entanglement Radio is one of the great accomplishments of mankind, although it had so far failed to supplant sliced bread for the top spot in popular colloquialism. The QER operated through the principle of quantum entanglement. At the core of each set of devices sat a pair of neutrons. Once entangled, these neutrons precisely imitated each other’s behavior instantly and over any distance as if by magic - which, if you’re honest, is all quantum mechanics is, minus the hats, rabbits, and bisected lovely assistants, but only because these things don’t exist at subatomic scales. The rest of the device was comprised of an impossibly small gravitational manipulator that controlled the spin directions and speed of the particle, and very sensitive Heisenberg detectors to record the reply. These functioned by surreptitiously observing the entangled particle from behind a nanoscale newspaper and dark sunglasses, so as not to arouse suspicion.”

In “Gate Crashers” by Patrick S. Tomlinson

““Naïve realism” and “good old commonsense” of causality based world outlook (the “view of understanding” for Hegel) on which the edifice of physics was built; now lies in ruins after the recognition of “biological evolution” and the “quantum phenomena” in Nature. Thus physics (like everything else in the world) through its own phenomenal developments has reached the inexorable nodal point, where what was true and certain now proves to be false and uncertain and vice versa. This is palpable in the despair and outrage of physicists like Einstein and philosophers like Bridgeman:

In Einstein‘s own words: “Many physicists maintain - and there are weighty arguments in their favour – that in the face of these facts (quantum dynamical, F.H.), not merely the differential law, but the law of causation itself - hitherto the ultimate basic postulate of all natural science – has collapsed”. A. Einstein, “Essays in Science”, p. 38-39 (1934)

The American mathematician and philosopher P.W. Bridgman laments in despair that the quantum principle means: “nothing neither more nor less than that the law of cause and effect must be given up, the world is not a world of reason, understandable by the intellect of man”. Quoted in C. Suplee Ed., “Physics in the 20th Century”, N.H. Adams Inc. N.Y., p. 88 (1999).

So, what is to be done? Should physics remain dazed and perplexed and try to rebuild the shattered edifice following the same principles of causality and the old notions of rationalism? This is impossible, as Immanuel Kant found out in philosophy (and long before natural science) that objective reality is a mess of unknowable things-in-themselves, full of logical contradictions, a horrible mixture of opposites – good and bad, true and false etc. that lies in the very unit of a thing or a process! The only alternative to deal with reality for philosophy, Kant posited is to take recourse to the thought world and subjective idealism of his logical categories and impose these on the messy objective reality to bring order! At the advent of these new developments in natural science, Einstein, following Kant, took recourse to the same thought world of mathematical idealism to comprehend objective reality.

The fact of the matter is that Kant was absolutely right about logical contradictions in objective reality! This IS the real characteristics of objective reality and one must accept it as such to be able to comprehend it. Contradictions are the very reason there are self-induced change, evolution, developments etc. in Nature, Life, Society and Thought. This also leads to the fact that things and processes in the world are mediated not by “cause and effect” of the old world outlook that conventional physics and philosophy relied on, but through the dialectical contradiction of “chance and necessity” – a fact that the quantum phenomena so dramatically demonstrates.

The quantum phenomena show that at micro-level Nature is inherently in-deterministic and is mediated by chance, but with an iron necessity that is inherent in chance itself! The uncertainty principle quantitatively formulated by Heisenberg in not due to uncertainty in measurement alone or a mere statistical problem only, as is commonly assumed; but Nature at micro-level is inherently uncertain and follows the laws of dialectics. Attempts by modern official physics to subjugate the “evil quanta” within the norms of the old world outlook through the fantasy of “realism” of “multiverse” or through the “certainty” of idealism, positivism, solipsism etc. will lead physics nowhere.

Only a dialectical synthesis from this nodal point, can rescue physics from the lowest point that Einsteinian mathematical idealism has led it to; the same way the dialectics of Hegel rescued philosophy from its own lowest point it reached with Kantian subjective idealism. The recognition of the fact that innumerable contradictions of chance and necessity at the micro-level are resolved and average-out at macro-level to give net results that is approximated by our good old commonsense and causality; is the kernel of the dialectical world view. To understand Nature and Life, science has to follow and understand the specific and deciding contradictions at each nodal point and how these contradictions are resolved through discrete qualitative leaps, leading to change, evolution, development etc. Causality as it is practised in modern physics will either lead it to a Kantian unknowable mess of reality or to the mystery of a “first cause”; which in fact is our well known God of theology!

Someone in this universe waving and screaming at my doppelgänger:

”Sometimes the cream puff for a clodhopper returns home, but a ruffian always can be kind to an accurately saintly bubble! Another debutante plans an escape from a girl the bubble bath related to a ballerina. Unlike so many bonbons who have made their surly marzipan abhorrent to us, toothpicks remain sprightly. An unseemly clock hibernates, and the dahlia reads a magazine; however, a ménage à trois underhandedly negotiates a prenuptial agreement with the ridiculously likeable toothpick!”

quinta-feira, novembro 15, 2018

Modern Meditations: "12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos" by Jordan Peterson

Ok. I'll give the first 3 a whirl:

1: Approach the world with the semblance of confidence and in a manner that implies you are worthy of respect. 

My version: smell bad!, be surly, give off the air and demeanor of an anthropomorphic cockroach, the world will respect you because of your inner charm!!!

2: How would you help someone in your situation, education, moving to a place with better employment prospects, asking for a promotion or raise, looking for a better job?

My version: Treat yourself like crap; it’s all meaningless and you should definitely drink more/eat more/stay with that abusive partner etc, because changing would mean admitting you were doing something wrong now?

3: Surrounding yourself with people who are happy to assist you (and you them), those whom you think it’s a good idea to learn from or emulate for reasons such as contentment, material success or even stress relief.

My version: Bazza the drug dealer is my mate, johhno the publican is awesome as well and Louie the pimp looks after me so well. I should definitely let them assist me through my life...

OK. Let me put it this way. Peterson decries the rights agenda and the railing against patriarchy, partly with the argument that Western society is the least partiarchal and the most free there has ever been. But he never asks himself why this is so, because the answer of course is that those freedoms have been won by people in the past railing against oppression and proclaiming their own right to a place at the trough - workers, women, minorities. If there hadn't been those 'progressive' moves, for want of a better word, we would still have slavery, we would have less worker representation than we do (though we're heading the wrong way again), women would still be tied to the home, and so on. He doesn't patriarchy because he doesn't suffer from it, only benefits. He prizes the individual because in the old formulation the concept of a sovereign individual was formulated by people just like him. It's no accident that libertarians tend to be white men who feel insulted at the thought that others might lump them into a group - whereas women and minorities tend to feel the sharp end of group identity through years of being treated as a member of a group first and an individual second. And I'm a white man to whom his message has strong appeal. But it's a flawed message. As St Paul said, first take out the log in your own eye. Peterson, the biblical scholar, should think on that. 

It is incredible that an obviously clever and articulate bloke like Peterson actually has so little to say when you boil it right down. And that he takes such a long time to say it.

In terms of unintentionally funny right wing diagrams, Peterson's yin yang chart is up there with Sebastian Gorka's terrorism diagram. It actually equates 'femininity' with 'chaos', 'night' and 'the unknown'.

Bottom-line: Most of Petersons stuff isn't particularly new; it's a version of Stoicism in many respects, and the absolute antithesis of the modern collectivist "therapy culture" which seeks to label you as part of a victim group under attack from the world at large.

“Waste no more time arguing about what a good man should be. Be one.”