Wednesday, August 27, 2014

It has been a while since I have written about the "Multiverse" concept. So I better write about it now, because it may soon be as fashionable and writing about the errors of Phlogiston Theory.
As the logical conclusion of prevailing assumptions, the multiverse hypothesis has surged in begrudging popularity in recent years. But the argument feels like a cop-out to many, or at least a huge letdown. A universe shaped by chance cancellations eludes understanding, and the existence of unreachable, alien universes may be impossible to prove. “And it’s pretty unsatisfactory to use the multiverse hypothesis to explain only things we don’t understand,” said Graham Ross, an emeritus professor of theoretical physics at the University of Oxford. 
The multiverse ennui can’t last forever.
After all the hype surrounding the search for evidence of the Higgs Boson, the search for additional particles appears to have come a cropper:
When the Large Hadron Collider at CERN Laboratory in Geneva closed down for upgrades in early 2013, its collisions had failed to yield any of dozens of particles that many theorists had included in their equations for more than 30 years. The grand flop suggests that researchers may have taken a wrong turn decades ago in their understanding of how to calculate the masses of particles.
When these particles went missing, some physicists went back to the idea of what is missing in the Standard Model and have advanced an idea called "Scale Symmetry."
This little-explored idea, known as scale symmetry, constitutes a radical departure from long-standing assumptions about how elementary particles acquire their properties. But it has recently emerged as a common theme of numerous talks and papers by respected particle physicists. With their field stuck at a nasty impasse, the researchers have returned to the master equations that describe the known particles and their interactions, and are asking: What happens when you erase the terms in the equations having to do with mass and length?
Nature, at the deepest level, may not differentiate between scales. 
So, at some basic level, size doesn't matter.

What hold Scale Symmetry back from full recognition? Ghosts!
However, the theory has what most experts consider a serious flaw: It requires the existence of strange particle-like entities called “ghosts.” Ghosts either have negative energies or negative probabilities of existing — both of which wreak havoc on the equations of the quantum world.
So, when Big Bang Theory returns with new episodes this fall, don't roll your eyes. Dr. Sheldon Cooper's new field of research might be hunting ghosts.





http://www.wired.com/2014/08/multiverse/

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

When Worlds Collide

The book, "When Worlds Collide" was one of my favorites as a kid. It wasn't until much later in life that I saw the George Pal movie adapted from the book.

The idea of a rogue planet seemed frightening as a child, but as I grew older is seemed more and more implausible. What mechanism would cause a planet to break free of it's stellar system? Sure, in the vastness of our universe there must be some rogue planets, but surely there couldn't be many?

Rogue alien planet

Well it turns out that not only have astronomers sighted a rogue planet, but that many models of our universe predict that there are twice as many rogue planets than there are main-sequence stars.  Urk.
Astronomers have discovered a potential "rogue" alien planet wandering alone just 100 light-years from Earth, suggesting that such starless worlds may be extremely common across the galaxy.
The free-floating object, called CFBDSIR2149, is likely a gas giant planet four to seven times more massive than Jupiter, scientists say in a new study unveiled today (Nov. 14). The planet cruises unbound through space relatively close to Earth (in astronomical terms; the Milky Way galaxy is 100,000 light-years wide), perhaps after being booted from its own solar system.
Rogue planets are Nature's way of asking, "How's that space program coming along?"

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Post Election Fury

So I know that the election is over. I have followed the advice of several conservative bloggers and taken deep, cleansing breaths.  I have walked the dogs outside in sunny fall weather and hugged my wife.

But here's my problem: I woke up this morning and nothing is settled.


Source: MorgueFile

Everything that was a pressing problem the day before the election is still a pressing problem. The economy sucks, unemployment remains persistently high, the fiscal cliff is coming in January, and this Administration has no plan to address any of these problems other than "Rinse and repeat."

Sure enough, all the bad news that was withheld before the election is coming out in a rush:

Boeing Telegraphs Layoffs in Defense, Space & Security Unit

Why US Economy May Be Headed for Another Recession

Loved ones tell me in relief that in electing Barack Obama they have "saved Social Security for their kids and grand-kids."

No, they haven't: News About Social Security Trust Fund Shortfall Only Gets Worse. Just a crazy right-wing alarmist?

This is from the Social Security Trustees:
Social Security and Medicare are the two largest federal programs, accounting for 36 percent of federal expenditures in fiscal year 2011. Both programs will experience cost growth substantially in excess of GDP growth in the coming decades due to aging of the population and, in the case of Medicare, growth in expenditures per beneficiary exceeding growth in per capita GDP. Through the mid-2030s, population aging caused by the large baby-boom generation entering retirement and lower-birth-rate generations entering employment will be the largest single factor causing costs to grow more rapidly than GDP. Thereafter, the primary factors will be population aging caused by increasing longevity and health care cost growth somewhat more rapid than GDP growth.
*****
However, the Disability Insurance (DI) program satisfies neither the long-range test nor the short-range test. DI costs have exceeded non-interest income since 2005, and the Trustees project trust fund exhaustion in 2016, two years earlier than projected last year. The DI program faces the most immediate financing shortfall of any of the separate trust funds; thus lawmakers need to act soon to avoid reduced payments to DI beneficiaries four years from now.
I would go on, but I must cook dinner now.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Cheat Codes

Almost everyone who was born after the Ford Administration knows what "cheat codes" are. But for my fellow boomers I'll explain that cheat codes are (generally undocumented) special inputs to video games that allow the player to gain an advantage. They usually consist of pressing controller keys in a very exact sequence. They reward the game player with a variety of goodies: special powers and strength for their game avatar, or in "shooter" games, new and more powerful weapons or unlimited amunition.

You can search the internet for game walkthroughs and cheat codes. Whenever a new game comes out, dedicated players try out different obscure combinations of a game controllers keys, trying to find the combination that will give them an advantage in the game.

Game creators are aware of this interest and will make sure that cheat codes are "accidentally" leaked to their most loyal fans. These loyal fans then pass this along to their friends. There is even a market for books detailing the cheat codes of various video games.

My favorite nephew passed this tweet along to me this morning:

I was knocked back on my heels by this bit off tossed-off wisdom.

Proverbs do encode shortcuts to wisdom gathered through hard experience. Proverbs don't substitute for actually thinking the problem through.

Note the many proverbs that seem to contradict each other: "Many hands make light work," vs. "Too many cooks spoil the soup." or : "All things come to him who waits," vs. "Strike while the iron is hot."

But I do love the word image of the tweet, "I think proverbs may actually be cheat codes."

I love the idea that these nuggets of wisdom give us access to advantages put into our lives by the designer; and that if I take advantage of this wisdom I will find myself boosted with new strength, longer life, and unlimited spiritual amunition.

Heh.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Ischemic Attack!

The word is out on the digital street that I was in the E.R. last night, standing in for George Clooney. That's not entirely accurate.

Last Tuesday I felt a tingling sensation in my right leg, as though my leg were asleep. After a couple of hours the feeling passed. Thursday the sensation returned and covered the entire right side of my body. Friday night I checked my blood pressure and it was high. So Mrs. Islander drove me down to the Island Emergency Room.

Checking into the ER when you don't have a broken limb or gaping wound seems a bit false, as though you are malingering. At those prices, though, it's no joke. I could feel the money flying out of my wallet.

Because the issues involved are your own health and life, yet you spend so much time alone in a strange room, time spent in the ER swings from boring to fascinating. Lying in a bed, connected to different monitors, I couldn't get up and walk around, so I had to devise my own entertainment.

The monitors to which the nurses hooked me up are set to sound an alarm if the patient's bpm drop below 50. I have a normally low resting heart rate (49 beats per minute). After responding to the third alarm, the nurse reset the monitor alarm to 45 bpm.

I laid back, relaxed, and slowed my breathing, timing it to my heartbeats. I dropped my heart rate to 44 bpm and triggered the alarm again.

Good times, good times.

I was given a diagnosis of TIA Transient Ischemic Attack (mini-stroke). A CT scan could see no lesions (brain damage), so I'm doing well so far. (No snide remarks from my siblings--I have doctor's proof of no brain damage. Do you?)

Monday morning I report into my own doctor's office and get an ultrasound of my neck and schedule an MRI.

I'll post more as events warrant. You are free to go about your daily lives.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Friday, December 25, 2009

Outgeeked

This Christmastide we had as guests my wife's sister and her husband, Jim. As guys do, we sniffed around a couple of topics to see if we were from the same tribe.

He mentioned that he liked classic Sci-Fi, and I asked him to name a couple of favorite authors. (Think of that scene in The Commitments: "Who are your influences?"

Jim allowed that he used to be a big Piers Anthony fan. I asked him if he liked my favorite Anthony novel, Omnivore.

Without a word he rolled up his shirt sleeve to reveal a tattoo of the fungal carnivore.

I was completely outgeeked.

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