Another restless wind inside a letter box

Okay, well, it’s Saturday, and I’m now, more or less, at the bus stop, waiting for the bus.

It’s mildly interesting that the Saturday schedule for my first bus of the day is the same as its weekday schedule.  That will get me to the Tri Rail station in time for the second train of the day‒they run on a reduced schedule on Saturdays‒which will board only about 20 minutes later than the one I’ve been catching during the week.  So that’s rather nice.  I don’t even really have to change my commuting schedule, even though it’s Saturday.

I appreciate not having to change my routine.

Speaking of not having to change my routine‒and of being “more or less” at the bus stop‒I’m not sitting down to write this because someone is using the bus stop bench as a place to lie down, or at least to recline.  I think it might be that shouty lady from earlier this week.

I’m quite frustrated that anyone is using a public spot, paid for to at least some degree by the people who ride the bus, as a place to lay out, but when I calm myself down, I can sympathize with the fact that she doesn’t have anyplace to go.  Still, why lie out at the bus stop at an intersection that’s busy even on Saturday mornings?

The main road is six lanes wide here, and though the crossroad is not as big, it’s still a pretty busy road.  I would think it would be preferable to go someplace where there was greater peace and quiet.

I suppose one might be more vulnerable in more secluded places, but one could pick a spot with relative care, and I would think it would be more pleasant.  Heck, just on the other side of the crossroad, there’s another stop with a bigger bench and a better shelter, where one would still be close to the intersection and protected by the relatively high traffic from at least any unobserved crime.

Sigh.  It’s so wonderful to have worked hard all one’s life and tried to do the right thing and be very highly educated and to have striven to be a benefit to the world and then be stuck at age 53 not being able to sit at the bus stop early Saturday morning because a homeless person is using it to recline…and to muse about the ins and outs and safety concerns for such a homeless person, because it’s not completely impossible one might be such oneself (I have been in close to that situation, sleeping in the back of a rental vehicle for which I was not paying on a few nights while out on bail).

I know that the universe promises us one thing and one thing only, and it certainly doesn’t make bargains or special deals with anyone.  But it’s still frustrating.  I feel like I’ve wasted so much time and effort.  I feel like I’m still wasting time and effort.

Of course, all time is wasted in some sense; in any case, it passes‒or we pass through it, or whatever‒no matter what we do in it.  And, of course, even the nature of time itself is unclear.  It certainly isn’t one vast, monolithic, singular thing that is the same for everyone in the universe.  As I’ve speculated before, it may even have more than one past-future orientation, just as up-down changes depending where you are on the surface of the Earth.

It’s partly because of that fact of time’s locality that one can actually model a universe that begins at a finite place‒say, the isolated collapse of a hypothetical inflaton field‒and yet becomes an infinite space to those within that bubble.  Because time is local and causality only proceeds at the speed of light, at least in our part of the universe, it can all depend on one’s point of view.

Of course, it’s by no means certain that inflationary cosmology describes the way our universe came to be, though it is internally consistent.  Other possible models include Roger Penrose’s Conformal Cyclic Cosmology‒which I like a lot, aesthetically*‒in which the accelerating expansion in a universe, leading to eventual increase of entropy to where nothing can really exist any longer, leads to or simply becomes the highly uniform, comparatively low entropy state of the next universe, just on locally small scales.  Entropy, after all, is not necessarily on a fixed, absolute measure, nor is space itself.  Entropy can be small in a tiny region that then expands to become a much larger one, still with low local entropy.

It’s a bit analogous, I think, to taking a number line and multiplying everything in it by two, so that the space between any two previously chosen points on the line is doubled, but the number line itself is just as infinite as it was before.

The nature of the real numbers being what it is, there’s an uncountable infinity of numbers between any two points on the real number line, and so there’s room to grow a universe of any size you might like from the space between any two locations on a number line‒or in a 4-D spacetime.

Penrose has posited that it would be conceivable for the residents of such a universe, if they knew and understood the kind of universe they were in, to leave behind messages in the very fabric of mass and energy arrangement in their universe for the people in the next universe‒nothing very complex, I would guess, but maybe just enough to make it clear that they had existed.

I’m not sure why people who were approaching the heat death of their particular universal iteration would bother with doing that, but maybe they would.  A bigger question to me would be, how would they target it?  If spacetime were expanding exponentially, as it seems to be doing even now, then every future “observable” universe would lie only within a tiny tiny tiny chunk of what was left of the previous universe.  So how would a previous universe’s intelligent life choose where to leave the message?  Would they try to encode it in every possible tiny region of their spacetime?  That would require engineering on a cosmic (but highly detailed) scale, and if you can do that, why not alter the expansion of the universe in the first place?

Of course, that’s not relevant to whether the notion of CCC is correct, just to the question of if such messages would be possible and how they might be carried out.  My more itchy question is, whence would the energy and particles of each new iteration of the ever-expanding universe arise?

In the Inflationary model of cosmology, all the immense energy that suffused our early universe was “created” when the hypothetical inflaton field underwent a phase transition and dropped to a lower energy state, so the local inflaton particles quickly decayed into all the particles of our more familiar quantum fields.

Inflation is not universally (ha ha) accepted, but certain aspects of it are certainly plausible and are supported by at least some data.  For instance, our universe is currently inflating, based on our best data and understanding.  That’s the Dark Energy stuff about which you’ve probably heard.

Exponential expansion is exponential expansion.  The doubling rate can change, but it still blows up at ever-increasing speeds.  If you compress or stretch your time axis, all exponential growth curves look the same.  It’s a little like that Conformal Cyclic Cosmology notion.

Anyway, as far as the source of the “reheating” of the universe in CCC as opposed to inflation, I doubt that Sir Roger Penrose has overlooked or missed that question.  He frikking brilliant‒even when he’s wrong he’s smarter than most of us are when we’re as right as we ever get**.  I just need to read a little more deeply into his model to figure out where that comes from.

Perhaps that will also allay my puzzlement about the “leaving a message” notion.  I simply haven’t finished his book on the subject.  It didn’t help that, as of last check, it wasn’t available in e-book format, and so I only have the paperback.  Not that there’s anything wrong with paperbacks, but it’s less convenient to carry 400+ of them around with you at any given time than Kindle format books, and so you’re less likely to have any one of them with you on any given day.

Oh, well.  I’ll see what I can do about learning more.  That’s rarely a waste of time, at least.

Wow, this post has really meandered from one thought to another, going truly across the universe‒and beyond, depending on how you define the word “universe”.  Perhaps it would be best to use “Omniverse” when describing the totality of all possible realities, as the wizard does in DFandD.

Speaking thereof, if any of you have read it and would like to make any comments about it, I’d be delighted to receive them, either here or on the blog post proper that entails my sharing of that story (so far).

In the meantime, my train should be here in 5 minutes (I rode the bus in between these two times).  My estimate of the schedule was correct, as is usually the case when I bother to check and when people and organizations keep to their own, voluntarily chosen schedules, on which numerous people act in reliance.  Don’t get me started on that topic.  I’ve already written way more than I would have expected from such inauspicious beginnings.

Have a nice weekend, all.  I won’t be posting tomorrow, barring the unforeseen, but I will be back on Monday‒again, barring the unforeseen.  Those unknown unknowns can strike at any time.  Take care, and be as prepared as you can reasonably be.

penrose by any other name


*This is no reason to think it’s more likely to be correct than any less aesthetically pleasing model, but it keeps it fun.

**He also looks rather a lot like my former Uncle Barney.  That’s neither here nor there, but I wanted to make sure I said it at some point.  So, there, now I have.

One Stone to bring them all and in Dark Energy bind them

Well, well, as the oil baron said, it’s Tuesday again, the 10th of January.  And two times five makes ten, so I guess this day has something to do with prime numbers other than just the year (the last 2 digits, anyway) and my age.

Of course, all numbers have to do with prime numbers, in a sense.  I’ve heard mathematicians say that prime numbers are the “elements” of the numbers (or of the whole numbers, at least, I suppose), comparable in a way to the entries in the periodic table.  But 1 (the number of this month, as it were, and surely the more fundamental building block of all the whole numbers) is not considered a prime, because of it were, then every number’s prime factorization could stretch to as long as you like, since any number times one, no matter how often you multiply it, is still the number with which you started.

Mentioning the elements/the periodic table reminds me of a joke that I sometimes see on shirts or mugs or similar that really irritates me every time I encounter it.  It might have been appropriate way back when someone first came up with it, but now it’s just too incorrect, given what we know, to be funny.  That joke is any version of the line, “Never trust an atom/element…they make up everything.”

It’s a silly little play on words, obviously enough, but the fact is, we know now that the elements/atoms don’t even come close to making up everything, so the joke doesn’t even work as a pseudo-nerdy pun.  Atoms, indeed all so-called baryonic matter (which to us might be thought of as “ordinary” matter*) make up only around 5% of the total mass/energy of the universe, according to the latest best estimates.

Another 25% (all these figures are rounded off a bit) of the universe’s mass/energy is so-called Dark Matter (which is dark only in the sense that the Ringwraiths are dark, being invisible, i.e. not interacting at all with light, nor with the strong force, nor (except neutrinos, if you’re counting them) the weak force, as far as anyone can tell).   They only definitely interact with gravity.  And, of course, according to General Relativity, gravity isn’t technically a force, it’s just the shape of spacetime**.

Speaking of spacetime, the remaining 70% of the mass/energy of the universe is what is called Dark Energy, though really that’s just a name that’s kind of sexy-cool, and it’s only “dark” in that it seems to have nothing to do with the electromagnetic fields (aka light).  This stuff, whatever it is, has characteristics consistent with the “cosmological constant” that Einstein supposedly considered his “greatest blunder”, though as it turns out, he was apparently right, albeit for the wrong reasons.

Yes, when you’re Einstein (you’re not, though) even your mistakes are remarkably fruitful, and eightyish years later they can end up being legitimate descriptions of the universe’s large-scale structure, function, and evolution***.

Of course, whether the Dark Energy is really that uniform energy of spacetime itself that creates a negative pressure throughout its reach and thus repulsive gravity, or if it’s some other process with roughly the same overall effect, we know it’s not what scientists had tried to describe using quantum field contributions, because that was too big by (if I remember correctly) about 123 orders of magnitude.  That’s a factor of 10 to the 123rd power, or a 1 followed by 123 zeroes.  That’s a number so big that if you set it down next to a googol in a form visible to the human eye, you wouldn’t even be able to see the googol.  It would be too vanishingly tiny.  So that’s not the right answer.

Anyway, that’s why I don’t like that joke about atoms or the elements.  It’s just too wrong to be funny.  And now that you know why it’s so wrong, you may be able to stop thinking it’s funny, too.  Am I not generous?  Are you not entertained?  I hope you’re not entertained by that joke, anyway.  People only tell that joke (or so I suspect) to try to make themselves look vaguely scientifically knowledgeable.  But in fact, they do the opposite.

Oh, well, I guess if they’re enjoying themselves…they’re not really doing too much harm…other than spreading misinformation regarding the structure and nature of matter and the cosmos, of course!

Ugh.  Why do I care?  What’s wrong with me?

Well, I know some of the answers to that last question, but knowing doesn’t help much.

I’m currently on the bus, by the way, approaching the train station.  It’s just another day.  Obviously, my recent setback has not resolved itself, and indeed, it may never do so to anyone’s satisfaction.  But I am at least just about done with this blog post in time for the train, which is now 5 minutes away.

I don’t think I’m going to be writing fiction again after this; I still haven’t even figured out how to check the results of the poll I put up (I haven’t tried, to be fair to me).  Oh, well.  Life is either so tragic that it’s comical or so comical that it’s tragic.  But then, at least, it’s over.

Of course, if the universe is infinite in space or in time (or both) at some level, any given life will just start over again, somewhere, somewhen, somehow, and no matter how big the distance between the two iterations, the individual won’t notice the passage of time.  Or it may be that our lives are fixed phenomena in a spacetime block universe as implied at least to some degree by General Relativity, and the instant our lives end, we may just start over again at the beginning, like a DVD (or Blu-ray) played on a loop, never doing anything different, never changing, never learning anything new we hadn’t learned the last time around.  It’s possible, in principle.  We don’t know if it’s true, though quantum mechanics suggests, at least, that it’s not the full picture.

Like the fella said, ain’t that a kick in the head?

einstein_sticks_his_tongue_1951


*As you can see, it’s hard to justify calling something that makes up only around a twentieth of the matter and energy in the universe “ordinary”.  You could be forgiven for calling it “familiar” matter, I would say.  That might be better.

**Maybe M. Night Shyamalan can make that movie.

***It’s a bit like the paper he did with Podolsky and Rosen that was intended to demonstrate that quantum mechanics was incomplete, i.e. that there must be “hidden variables” beneath the seeming randomness, using descriptions of what must happen to two particles produced by the same event but which head off in their usual opposite directions, and whose characteristics, due to conservation of charge, momentum, spin, etc. must be complementary.  Years later, J. S. Bell devised a famous theorem, a test by which one could ascertain whether Einstein was right in that there were hidden variables, or that the states of a particle truly happened randomly but that nevertheless the state of one constrained the state of the other of the pair, however distant.  And just last year, Alain Aspect et al got the Nobel Prize (it took a while) for their experiments confirming, using polarization of photon pairs produced by single quantum events, via Bell’s theorem, that Einstein was wrong, there are no hidden variables in the sense he suspected.  But Einstein’s (and Podolsky’s and Rosen’s) quite legitimate question set into motion the concept of quantum entanglement, a truly important idea in quantum mechanics, just as he had pioneered the early field of quantum mechanics itself in 1905 with his (Nobel Prize winning) paper demonstrating that light comes in what we call photons, the energy of each individual one was described by Planck’s equation of h time the frequency.  One of his other papers from that year used Brownian motion to demonstrate that atoms and molecules‒you know, those things that “make up everything”‒really must exist.  He also did a few somewhat interesting papers on the nature of the speed of light and how it relates to time and length and distance, and something about the equivalence of mass and energy****.  As Sabine Hossenfelder would put it…”Yeah, that guy again.”

****But of course, the paper “On the electrodynamics of moving bodies” didn’t win a Nobel prize, nor did it’s follow-up containing a certain formula relating “rest mass” to energy via the speed of light squared.  So those papers couldn’t have been that important.  Right?

And “prime” rib doesn’t come from the 13th rib, even though cows have that many*****

Well, it’s Tuesday, the 27th of December (in 2022 AD or CE) and I’m writing this on my phone because I didn’t feel like carrying my laptop yesterday.  I have to say, now that I’m not writing fiction anymore, I find the portable laptop more and more just useless and even irritating.  It was handy on Friday night, when I was at the hotel‒“free” Wifi that comes with the room and all that‒but that sort of thing is unlikely to happen very often.  In any case, I brought it with me on Friday specifically with that thought in mind.  But for other purposes, it’s just mostly an unnecessary and often unpleasant burden, rather like its owner (me).

I think it’s interesting that, come 2023, I will be (indeed, I already am) 53, a prime number, in a year for which the last 2 digits (23) are a prime.  2023 is not a prime, though it looks like it might be at first glance.  But it has prime factors 7 and 17 apparently; a nice pair, but the number they produce (by multiplying 7 x 17 x 17) is by definition not prime.  Still, that’s not many prime factors, and again, they’re particularly pleasing primes, though 7 and 13 would have been more fun.  But 7 x 13 x 13 would be 1183, I think…yes, that’s right.  I just went and checked my mental arithmetic and it was correct.  Phew, that would have been embarrassing to make that sort of mistake in front of all my readers.

So, anyway, 1183 is nice, but it’s 840 years ago next year.  So I’m a little late for that one, I’m afraid.  It’s 839 years ago this year, and 839 is a prime number, but neither 2022 nor 22 are prime, so what’s the point in that?  I wouldn’t even have looked at the number if not for my previous digression.

All that stuff is beside the point I intended to make.  The point is, my age is a prime, and the last 2 digits of the year will be prime, so if I die before my next birthday (but on or after New Year’s Day, of course), I will, in a sense, die “in my prime”.  It’s slightly forced, but as Michael Palin said in the role of a pet shop owner, “It’s as near as dammit”.  He was trying to pass off a terrier as a cat for the customer, who said it wasn’t a “proper cat”.

Anyway, that’s all slightly encouraging about next year’s prospects for me.  It’s about all I have to look forward to (or, rather, “all I have to which to look forward”), so I have to take what I can get, even if it involves squeezing a bit of the potential prime number relationships.

When you think about it, the numbers for the years are more or less entirely arbitrary, and even Darth Ratzinger* has admitted that the historical Jesus (assuming he actually lived) was born in about 6 BC, according to our current date system.  Which is kind of funny, when you think about it‒Jesus was born six years before Christ.  But then, we know he wasn’t born on Christmas, either, as I’ve mentioned before.  Hey, it was 2000 or so years ago, how accurate do you want people to have been**?

The next subsequent chance I would possibly have to die “in my prime” would not be until 2029, when I’m 59!  Although, 2029 is actually a prime number, and so is 29.  So that’s a bit tempting.  But I don’t even really want to imagine waiting six more years!!  And what if I died by accident some year in between?  What a waste that would be.

All of this is silliness, of course.  I like the idea because it’s playing with prime numbers and playing with words at the same time, and they are both things that I like to do.  But I’m not in any way committed to any numerological notions in any magical thinking sense.  If I were, then the 2029, 59 thing would be much more convincing, particularly since 2029 is the year the asteroid Apophis‒named for an ancient Egyptian god of chaos and destruction‒will come within 19,000 kilometers of Earth on April 13th.   That will be a Friday the 13th, by the way!  And if the asteroid passes through a very tiny gravitational “keyhole” (extremely unlikely) it will have its orbit altered such that seven years later it will hit the Earth***.  If I were dogmatic, committed to some quasi-mystical notion of prime numbers and the magical powers of some words, that would all be quite convincing.

But I don’t believe in any mystical or magical things, and I don’t think I’m wrong not to want to believe in them.  I’m well acquainted with metaphorical notions of magic (and fictional ones, of course) and am well acquainted with awe and with the numinous and with the state of being moved profoundly by wondrous things, from the contemplation of the scope of space and time on up to the births of my children.  But these don’t require belief, in the sense of conviction without justifiable evidence and reason.  Faith of that kind is a bug, not a feature, of the minds in which it resides.

So, no, I’m not convinced by the prime number/prime of one’s life coincidence.  I’m just very tired, and have nothing of real, deep value in my life, nor am I myself of any real, deep value.  But I enjoy prime numbers and word games, so it would at least be mildly amusing and satisfying‒or so I imagine‒to die in a year in which my age is prime and so are the last 2 digits of the year.  There’s nothing deeper to it than that.

There probably is nothing deeper than that, come to think of it.


*That’s the Sith name of Pope Emeritus Benedict.  Is he even still alive?  Also, why does “Sith” get the red squiggly underline of an unrecognized word, but “Jedi” doesn’t?  It’s blatant bigotry and hypocrisy by the Jedi, as should come as no surprise to anyone.  Well, I’ve added Sith to my local dictionary, at least.

**Of course, presumably God could have ensured precision and accuracy, but probably an omniscient, omnipotent, infinite being would not think our arbitrary dating systems‒or indeed, we ourselves‒were important in any way whatsoever.

***Of course, there’s plenty of time before then for someone who has, for instance, a private space program to send up a rocket that will gently nudge the asteroid, just a little bit, so that it hits the Earth in 2029…or in 2036, if that’s easier to pull off.  It wouldn’t need to be anything as dramatic as NASA’s recent asteroid deflection test thing, but it would require careful simulation and then application of force on a local scale.  Are you listening, Elon?  It wouldn’t be a mass extinction event, nor even a civilization-ending event, but it would be a global catastrophe such as hasn’t been seen since civilization began.  It might shake humans out of their idiotic Woke vs. MAGA type tribal bickering and make them take seriously the fact that they need to spread out off this planet, to colonize the moon and Mars and so on.  Or…was that actually the purpose of the rocket you sent toward Mars with a Tesla in it?  Is that camouflage for a mission to nudge Apophis to make it hit the Earth?  That’s it, isn’t it?  Oh, I knew you were an evil genius after my own heart!****

****Speaking of evil geniuses, I’ve seen recent videos that show, for instance, what the Death Star’s weapon would look like if it were accurate to real lasers, or showing how impractical it would be to use such a powerful laser, and regarding the apparent rebound energy if one fired a laser powerful enough to destroy a planet.  But the Death Star weapon is no more a laser than are blasters or lightsabers (though lasers may be involved in the workings of the devices).  Blasters and lightsabers are packeted plasma weapons of some kind, with the plasma perhaps constrained in highly shaped electromagnetic fields.  And the Death Star weapon is similar but of a different fundamental type.  I suspect it to be a highly energetic and dense plasma, but composed of anti-matter, and when the plasma strikes the planet at relativistic speeds, the matter/antimatter annihilation is what provides the incredible destructive force.  Or perhaps, alternatively, it is some form of plasma of W and Z particles, which cause massive, rapid nuclear decay in the atoms of the planets they strike, causing hitherto unprecedented fission events on a planetary scale.  It might even be a quark-gluon plasma, but generating that on such a scale seems boggling even to my jaded science fantasy mind.  Anyway, that’s neither here nor there, it’s just a pet peeve.

*****It can come from the 7th rib, though, and I guess you could request that specially.

Never seem to find the time…

It’s Tuesday now, and I’m writing this post on my smartphone, because I couldn’t be arsed to bring my laptop back from work with me last night.  Perhaps this entry will therefore be more concise than usual, but I wouldn’t lay heavy money on it.  It’s more likely than winning the $1.9 billion Powerball Con Game, but that’s not saying much.  Getting struck by lightning during a shark attack is probably more likely than that.

There’s a full lunar eclipse in progress as I write this, and the umbra has about halfway covered the moon.  I took a snap with my smartphone as I left the house and then more when I got here to the train platform.  I’ll share some of them below.  They are not of very good quality‒and the first one is just streaks of light, because apparently I was too excited to keep my phone still while taking the picture‒but then again, in the days before smartphones, I wouldn’t have been able to take such a picture at all.

The last time I recall watching a lunar eclipse with any degree of attention was back when I was in either junior high or high school, and I had a very cheap telescope on our back deck (This was quite a bit later than the reminiscence I described yesterday).  I have to say, the one happening now is quite a bit more impressive than the one I remember.  The shadowed portion of the moon is almost completely black, and the encroaching edge of the Earth’s shadow is quite, quite different than the usual arc of the moon’s own phases.  It’s fascinating.

I forgot again to work on editing my audio recording of thoughts about time yesterday.  I feel like I want to make some excuse, and there are surely reasons, or at least causes, but it doesn’t really matter what they are.  So, now I’m going to try to rehash those verbal thoughts to give you all either a preview or‒more likely‒a replacement for the posting of those spoken words.

I was triggered to talk about time when watching a science video in which someone pointed out, as people often do, that we are able to travel rather freely in any of the three dimensions of space, but that our direction in time seems entirely one dimensional, and we don’t seem able to choose our direction or speed through it.  But this is a slightly misleading characterization of the situation, I thought, and that thought is not entirely original nor unique to me, but this is my way of thinking about it.

It’s true that, if we were in deep space, especially in one of the gargantuan intergalactic voids (where light from all the surrounding galaxies would be too faint to be visible), there would literally be nothing to differentiate up from down, left from right, forward from backward, or indeed, any of these axes of motion from the others.  But that’s not the situation in which we find ourselves.  We are on the surface of a planet, in the presence of a rather strong gravity “well”, and that changes very much the way we experience the three dimensions of space.

Ignoring the facts of terrain, and thinking back to before we had modern technology, it’s clear that, while we are basically free to move forward and back and left and right‒and indeed, we can swap those axes out arbitrarily‒we are not free to move up and down at will.

Even birds and insects and bats cannot freely move through the up-down dimension, not in the way they can move along the curved plane of the surface of the Earth.  It requires great effort for them to change their height, and they are limited by that effort and by the density of the air through which they swim.  Because we are near a source of strong gravity, there is a clear directionality to one of the dimensions of space, and the only reason we don’t keep falling down is that there’s a planet in the way, but if it weren’t there would be nothing pulling us in one direction.

In a somewhat analogous sense, the only reason there seems to be a directionality to time is that we are near (in time) the presence of a region of very low entropy:  The Big Bang.  Since that time, about 13.8 billion years ago, entropy has been steadily increasing, as is its tendency, for fairly simple, mathematical reasons that make the 2nd law of thermodynamics among the most unassailable of all principles of physics.

All the processes that cause us to experience a directionality to time are driven by the tendency for entropy to increase, and that includes the clumping of matter under gravity, the growth of biological organisms, the accumulation of memory, and the development of technology.  Increasing entropy‒on the largest scales‒is all that allows temporary decreases of entropy locally.  Put poetically, it is only the inevitability of death that allows life to exist at all.

But of course, in the future, as entropy increases, life and local order will be no more possible than they would be in intergalactic space.  Once entropy increases enough‒and the vast majority of the existence of our universe will be in such a state, just as most of space is not near the surface of a planet‒there will be no way even to know which direction of time would have corresponded to what we now think of as past and future, because the laws of physics are locally time-reversible.  Time in that epoch would be no more uni-directional than space is in the vastness of an intergalactic void.

What’s more, it’s clear based on special and general relativity that time is not purely one dimensional.  Time and space bleed into each other depending on relative motion and local spacetime curvature.  That which can curve is not, strictly speaking, entirely one-dimensional in a Euclidean sense.

All this makes me wonder if, perhaps, the Big Bang era is not strictly a “plane” orthogonal to the time dimension, but might in fact be the surface of a sphere…or, well, some manner of hypersphere in space time, the surface of which is all at one “moment” just as the surface of a planet is all‒more or less‒the same distance from its center.

If so, then the Big Bang need not have happened merely in one direction in time.  Others have toyed with ideas like this*, with the thought that there might be a sort of mirror image universe to ours, extending the other direction in time from us, its future analogous to our past.  I’ve even occasionally wondered if the (very slight) relative abundance of matter over antimatter in our direction of time would be mirrored by a relative abundance of antimatter in that universe**.

But on further thought, I’m led to wonder if there need be merely two mirror universes, delineated by the Big Bang, heading in opposite directions.  Perhaps there is a continuum of such directions, just as there is a continuum of “up” directions from the surface of the Earth.  Perhaps our expanding universe has more in common with the expanding size of a sphere around the Earth’s center, which gets larger and larger as one moves away from it, and the Big Bang is not so much a beginning of time or the universe as it is a local area of low entropy in time, allowing the existence of phenomena‒including life‒near its surface that experience a difference locally between past and future only because they exist in an entropy gradient.

Perhaps, far out in the “future” of the universe, there might exist other local entropy minima, in any direction in time from us‒directly ahead or even at right angles in time to us, or any combination thereof.  Of course, “reaching” them would be harder than traveling out into intergalactic space, given that they would probably exist across unguessable gulfs of timeless “time”***.

How would we even measure or pass through time in a region in which entropy was near-maximal and time was without any inherent direction?  Perhaps if it were possible to accelerate continuously to near enough the speed of light that one’s personal time slowed ever more and more, one could survive to arrive at a place where entropy would begin to decrease.  But what would that even be like?  Would one enter such a realm as if a traveler from its future, moving‒to any local residents‒backward through time?

I could go on and on about these ideas, and maybe I’ll explore them more in future (ha) posts, but for now, I’ve taken enough time (ha ha).  This was certainly not a concise blog post, but I hope it was at least intriguing.  I’d be interested to hear your own thoughts on such matters.

In closing, I’ll just ask the following thoroughly fanciful question that just popped into my head:  What would happen to a werewolf during a lunar eclipse?


*For instance, The Janus Point by Julian Barbour, deals with some similar concepts.  I haven’t finished reading the book, but I thought of the ideas I’m discussing before I’d encountered it, and my ideas are somewhat different, though far less expert than his.

**Though they would surely switch the terms, calling our antimatter their matter.

***And reaching the portion of our universe that heads in the opposite direction in time would seem to require exceeding the speed of light, which appears to be impossible‒though perhaps wormholes might lead to such places, if they in fact exist.

If “November” is the 11th month, then is the “second” day number 4?

It’s 4:35 on Wednesday morning, November 2nd, 2022, and it’s already 80 degrees (Fahrenheit) at the Hollywood train station and very muggy.  I’m dripping with sweat just from walking as far as the bench to wait for the earliest morning train*.  It’s ridiculous.  For this reason and others, I wish I had never moved to Florida.  In my opinion, it’s overall a “nice place to visit, but you wouldn’t want to live there”.  Or as many locals say: “Come on vacation, leave on probation”.  It really is a shame, because there is a tremendous amount of natural beauty here, but much of even that has been ruined by invasive species, the main one being Homo sapiens.

It’s on hot and muggy early November mornings such as this that I truly miss being in Michigan, where I grew up.  Say what you will about the Detroit area, at least there are fewer humans there now than there were in the past.  It can be somewhat depressing to see that, but boy, in Autumn all the trees along the side streets in my hometown looked spectacular, and you could walk from your door to the street without sweating.

If the Detroit area is too sad for you‒or too flat‒then you could go to upstate New York, where I went to university.  That was amazing in the Fall.  Walking back to the dorm down Libe Slope after class at this time of year was like seeing a fifty mile wide fireworks display happening in slow motion, spread out over many weeks.  Of course Winter was quite cold, bitter, and snowy there, but if you were adventurous, you could take a tray from the dining hall and “tray” down Libe Slope.  I never did that, myself; there was a road right at the bottom of the hill, and though it was not busy, it was hard not to think about careening uncontrollably into some passing salt truck.

Actually, they really did an amazing job keeping the roads clear in Ithaca in the winter.  They had to keep them clear.  There were many slopes in town that could have served as ski jumps if you’d put an upcurve at the bottom, so these had to be cleared pretty much as fast as the snow could fall.

Of course, while I have my complaints about Florida, I did come here of my own free will**, and have had many good times and good life events here, the most outstanding of which was the birth of my daughter.  I can’t ever complain about that.

My son was born in New York (not Ithaca) but we left before he was old enough really to remember it.  Both of my children are Florida kids, effectively.  I wonder how they would feel if someday they moved up North and experienced Autumn there for the first time, beginning to end.  Would they be as wowed by its beauty as I always have been, or would they feel a homesickness for the heat of the Sunshine State as the weather cooled and the days shortened?

Of course, the days don’t literally shorten, just daylight hours.  There are subtle variations and even occasional tiny diminutions of the day, as happened recently, but overall, the rotation rate of the Earth is going very steadily and gradually to slow, barring other inputs, so days will become longer.  If nothing else, since the planet’s mass is not perfectly symmetrical, as it turns it must radiate some miniscule amount of energy away in the form of gravitational waves, and the Moon/Earth orbital pairing will radiate some, too.

When I say “miniscule”, I’m guilty of severe (and ironic) understatement.  The sun will surely long since have gone through red giant and on to white dwarf status before there would be any appreciable loss of rotational energy from gravitational waves alone.  I can’t give you the numbers‒if anyone out there can, please share‒but it’s tiny, it’s wee, it’s verging on infinitesimal.

Speaking of small things and their opposites, yesterday’s post ended up being unusually long and exceptionally dreary***, so I’ll bring this one to a close now.  Thank you for your patience, thank you for reading, and if you have any comments about reactions to autumn, or to major changes of local climate due to moves throughout life, I would be interested to know about them.  No pressure.


*Yes, I came for the 4:45 am train, but only because there wasn’t an earlier one.  I couldn’t sleep.

**So to speak.  I’m provisionally convinced that there is no such thing as free will.  I could be wrong, of course, but it doesn’t really matter all that much.  As I like to say, I either have free will or I don’t, but it’s not like I have any choice in the matter.

***But nonetheless true.  I can’t pretend that it was an exaggeration nor that really, my mental health is just fine.  It is not.  It’s horrible.

How strange or odd some’er I blog myself

Hello and good morning.

It may not be morning when you’re reading this, but it is morning when I’m writing it, and since the time any given person reads it is variable—it could be anywhen from noon back round to noon, and in any time zone—the only stable point from which to make departure is that time in which I am writing.  Thus, again:  good morning.

I’m using my laptop today, which is easier and faster, though it may lead to the post being more wordy and rambling than the ones I wrote on my phone.  Perhaps not.  Those who’ve said anything at all have said they can’t tell the difference.  It feels different, of course, but then, it would feel different, wouldn’t it?  A laptop and a smartphone are, despite many common attributes, very different devices with which to work.

I’m waiting for the second train this morning, rather than having gotten up for the first as I did the previous two days.  It’s not that I wasn’t up frequently during the night; I was awake well in time to come for the first train, but somewhat ironically, since I’m not feeling quite as physically ill, I was able at least just to lie there “in bed” and wait until five minutes before my alarm went off before getting up.

Of course, given my traditional greeting, in case you don’t know, it’s Thursday, the day I’ve long reserved for writing my blog posts, even when I didn’t write them any other day.  As with the time, you might be reading this on pretty much any day of the week, but I’m writing it on Thursday, and that’s not going to have changed, unless reality is far more fluid than it seems.  I’m pretty sure it’s not.

I’ll briefly relay an issue I had when I arrived at the office yesterday, already sick and uncomfortable, forcing myself to go in when I should have stayed in bed because it was payroll day.  Suffice it to say that I had to rush to the restroom when I arrived, only to discover that the toilet paper had not been maintained as I’ve always asked people to do, even in my absence, and I was caught rather short.

I decided to enact a temporary, prison-style system of people having to be responsible for their own toilet paper, since they couldn’t be responsible for looking out for each other according to very simple procedures of letting someone know when they take the last replacement roll from the cupboard.

I’ll revert to the old system today, for stability’s sake, but it’s frustrating that grown people don’t take simple steps to be considerate.  I wish I could fit everyone at work—including myself—with a shock collar, to activate when someone does something rude or inappropriate.  Of course, the person I have most complaints about is myself; the very fact that I get so angry about everything, and always feel so tense, just makes me hate myself more every day.

I have an electric stunner at the office—I bought it because in Unanimity, some characters use them for specific purposes, and I needed to know how they sound and look when activated, and how easy it was to get one.  I do various things to hurt myself when I’m either too angry at myself to hold back, or so stressed out by various things people do that I want to lash out, but I can’t allow myself to do such things, so I let it out where I can, at myself.

I’ve destroyed my own writing and art work, I’ve banged my head against desks and walls and tables until I bruise myself, I’ve punched walls—the first two knuckles of both of my hands are slightly bulbous from my having done this often over many years—I’ve thrown away precious items and books, and I’ve hurt myself in more extreme ways than these, but I won’t get too much into that*.  I don’t want to have to title another blog post with a trigger warning, especially not on a day when the title is supposed to be a minced Shakespearean quote.

The point is that I’ve never tried using my stunner on myself, mainly because I’m nervous about how it might interact with my chronic pain, which is at least partly neuropathic in character.  I don’t want to trigger muscle spasms or neural feedback loops or the like.  It probably wouldn’t do any bad or good, though; I’ve used TENS units with no particular benefit, even at very high power.

That’s the character of my life.  Each day is a loosely connected string of things I do to try to distract myself from chronic pain, tension/stress, sleep loss, dysthymia/depression, and deep inability to connect with anyone despite being profoundly lonely.  It’s a shitty ride, I’ve gotta say.  I’m not even going to give it one star on TripAdvisor.

People sometimes say** things like, “Hang on, keep going, there are people who care about you, you’re not alone.”  And that’s nice, and I’m sure there are people who care, at least in the abstract sense.  But it’s at least a bit like saying, “Hang on, keep going, there’s a supermassive black hole in the center of most galaxies!”  It’s true, and it’s interesting.  It’s something I care about.  But it has no apparent impact on my daily existence and the fact that I hate myself and hate my life.

I don’t have any answers for myself, in case that’s not obvious.  But I’m getting wearier and wearier of just plodding along, without any goal, and with no one nearby to talk to, with all the people I’ve cared most about not wanting to be around me.  Who can blame them?  You’ve read my writing; how much time would you want to spend with me?

Anyway, that’s enough for today.  I hope all of you out there are doing well, and have things for which to live, and people around you who love you and care about you and want to spend time with you.  If you do, please be grateful and treasure them.

TTFN

me distorted


*Although I will give a caution about one long-past event:  don’t hit yourself in the kneecap with a ball-peen hammer, even if you’re doing it to distract yourself from chronic pain.  Just…don’t.

**Or, to pick nits, they write such things.


This is an addendum, to be added to today’s blog post at the end.  The train I’m waiting for is delayed, and they keep running an automated announcement overhead that it’s delayed “10…15 minutes”.  But it’s already 25 minutes late, and according to the app that tracks the trains, it’s going to be at least 10 more minutes before it gets here, so the announcement is just wrong, and that grates on my nerves far more than it ought to do.  Of course, as always with delays, the train will be more crowded, because people who would have missed the usual scheduled time, or who arrive early for the next train, will be aboard.  I feel like I’m going to split in half because I’m so tense about it.  When the whole universe, or at least everything related to humans, feels like the Enemy, it doesn’t take all that long to become shell-shocked.  I feel that I have no escape and no comrades, like I’m the only member of my species in a strange, foreign universe.  I think I’m on the verge of some breakdown.  Hell, maybe I’m already in the midst of it.  I don’t know what to do.  I need help, but my need is no claim on anyone else’s abilities; my need is my own problem.  It’s a need I don’t think I’m going to be able to meet, and when one is unable to meet one’s needs, one deteriorates and/or suffers and/or dies.

Yet another blog post without a real title. What do you expect?

It’s Monday morning, and I’m at the train station ever-so-slightly later than usual*, because I slept a tiny bit later, having stayed up quite a lot later than usual last night.  That was because The Power of the Doctor was on BBC America starting at 8pm, and I was quite wide awake even after it was over.

It was pretty good, though not as good as The Day of the Doctor, but then again, that was hard to beat.  The ending was a real surprise…but I don’t want to give any spoilers, except to note that I like the fact that the thirteenth doctor stepped outside the Tardis to regenerate so she didn’t trash it.  I’ve already given spoilers for the presumed heat death of the universe, that’s more than enough.  And that’s okay because the chances of anyone alive today in the universe being around to see it and having their surprise ruined are so small as to make winning every lottery in the world seem a near-certainty.  At least, that’s my intuitive estimate.

Also, I could be wrong about the heat death of the universe.  It could end in some far more horrific fashion.

I just noticed something curious, speaking of time travel-related shows:  In the little Microsoft search bar at the left of the toolbar on the screen, just after the Windows symbol, there’s a little stylized jacket and skateboard from Back to the Future II, the least good of the three movies (in my opinion).  I wonder what that’s about.  But I don’t wonder enough to look into it.  If anyone reading this happens to know and cares to leave a comment about it, I’d be grateful, but it’s not important.

Nothing is important, really.  Or everything is.  Either one is the same statement, when you get down to it, or at least they’re equivalent statements.

Of course, importance is a relative measure.  There’s no absolute importance scale like we have for temperature.  Importance is also subjective.  What’s important to one person is different from any (and probably all) others.  Importance is also variable, it being an estimate in the mind of the beholder that varies from day to day, year to year, decade to decade, and so on, for any given person.  If you’re not convinced, try to think of the things that were most important to you when you were five, then when you were fifteen, then twenty-five, and see how your priorities have changed.

Hell, when you’re old enough, just being able to sleep through the night without having to get up to go to the bathroom several times can be amazingly important.  I have a head start on that, in that I wake up anyway, so I sometimes get up to go to the bathroom preemptively.  I’m clever that way.

Oh, speaking of being old enough, I want to send out a (belated) Happy Birthday to my cousin, Lance, who apparently reads this blog with some regularity.  I didn’t write any posts over the weekend because I didn’t go to work, but I hope he had a good birthday and enjoyed himself.

My own weekend was basically rather frustrating and annoying, but a lot of that was just because I was there.  Of course, that’s rather trivial when you think about it.  Any given person cannot be frustrated or annoyed unless that person exists and is “present”, whatever that might mean in any given circumstance.

I did do something rather funny, yesterday.  I made a note using my phone’s video feature about something that I have realized before but had never recorded:  microwave popcorn tastes quite nice, and is a pleasantly easy snack to eat while watching (for instance) the sixtieth anniversary Doctor Who special, but it leaves a smell that lingers in the air for hours, and that smell is rather reminiscent of nether bodily effluvia.

I think it’s funny that I used the video function to record me commenting about that.  I would normally** have used a voice recorder app rather than wasting video, which has the unfortunate effect of recording pictures of my face, but my new phone doesn’t have an easily used voice recorder app.  It has a recording app.  There’s an app simply called “recorder” and it has a waveform of sorts as its icon.

I don’t think it has anything to do with those wooden (or plastic) flutes they have you try to play in grade-school level music classes before you’re ready to use real instruments, but when I tried to use it, once, to record a quick note to myself, it asked me for all sorts of permissions and things, and I decided, “You know what?  If it needs to get clearance for all sorts of things that I have to give it clearance to do, then I don’t want to record my notes on this app.”  Honestly, why can’t it just be like the previous app, which recorded what you said, just like an old-fashioned Dictaphone, and stored it as a file named based on the date and time of the recording?

Apparently, the camera function doesn’t require any permissions of that sort, though it’s recording presumably just as much audio information, and a ridiculously unnecessary (in this case) amount of video information.

Oh, well, what are you going to do?  The world is stupid.  But, well, it would be, wouldn’t it?  It’s just a planet, after all, how smart could it be?  And so is human civilization stupid, or at least human society on the local, daily level.  I suppose that, taken as a whole, human civilization is the smartest thing that we know of in the universe, but that’s not saying very much.  Most of the universe is vacuum, filled (slightly) with whatever “dark energy” is, and that’s getting bigger all the time.

Dark energy really is bringing down the average cosmic intelligence, but it’s not as if it was high to begin with.  Or even to middle with.  As far as we can tell, right now, it’s as smart as it’s ever been, and that’s just because of human civilization*** is smarter than, say, the moon, or a star or a black hole or a nebula or “dark matter****”, or anything else.

Anyway, before I bring down your overall intelligence too much, or at least your mood, I’ll call it done for today.  I’m not that happy even still to be around for another week, if I’m honest with you (which, in that, I am*****).  Hopefully that won’t happen too many more times.  Some promising signs have occurred recently, but I’ve been disappointed before, as I was particularly for the last five days.

I hope you all feel more upbeat than I do.  It’s not a high bar to clear.


*By which I mean, I got here at my self-scheduled time, in time for the usual, second train.

**So to speak, anyway.  I don’t know what I’ve ever done “normally” in my life.

***You can watch my video about there being no life in the universe, effectively, if you want to explore these thoughts further.

****As far as we know.  We know so little about the substance of dark matter than I guess it could be amazingly intelligent.  But there are good reasons not to think that’s the case, so far.

*****Though I can make no promises about honesty at any other time.  How could I?  If I’m honest, the promise would be true by default, and if I’m dishonest, then the promise might be dishonest.  It’s a pointless promise to make, as are all too many promises.

The borogroves sure are mimsy today, aren’t they?

It’s Friday again, and another weekend approaches.

Yippee.  Huzzah.  O frabjous day.

I think I don’t work tomorrow—at least, I’m not supposed to—so there probably won’t be any blog post then (which will be Saturday, unless some hitherto unimagined catastrophe literally throws the days of the week out of order).

I may be posting a new video on my YouTube channel this weekend, though.  I haven’t made one yet, so there’s no guarantee that something won’t stop me from doing so.  I’m unlikely to be lucky enough to be involved in an asteroid impact between now and tomorrow, but there’s a functionally limitless number of things that could, in principle, stop me from recording a video.

Nevertheless, it is my intention to make a video, so I probably will.  This is a different type of thing than fasting; no physiological processes and neurological feedback loops are likely to interfere with my commitment to making a video.  Evolution is, so far, utterly blind even to the existence of videos…though that could change.

I’m still not sure what topic I want to address in the video, unlike last time.  I may literally just start my timer, start my video, start to talk, and see what happens.  If that sounds like an inauspicious way to start a video, well, you’re reading the written equivalent of it right now.  If you enjoy this, you’re proof that it can work.  If you don’t enjoy it, that’s not proof that it cannot work, since your lack of enjoyment doesn’t preclude anyone else from enjoying it.

People do seem to have trouble understanding that others can like things that they themselves find disgusting.  I can sympathize with that, and fall prey to the failing myself, but that doesn’t make it reasonable.

It’s true that all mammals, let alone all humans, have more in common than they have differences, but nevertheless, the potential differences just within a given species, given sexual recombination of genes and the sheer number of genes each individual has, is well worthy of the adjective “astronomical”, so we shouldn’t be surprised that others like things we find repugnant.  In fact, given that the number of possible combinations of gene pairs in human DNA alone is vastly larger than the number of (for instance) light years the visible universe is across*, maybe we should switch our use of the terms “biological” and “astronomical” to describe very large numbers.  Unfortunately, I think most people wouldn’t catch onto the nuance of saying that something was “biologically large”.

Oh, well.  It was a brief dream, swiftly shattered by the one who dreamed it.  Typical.

Anyway, so, I’m back on food again, more’s the pity.  I’m tired of having all these biological urges and needs and drives.  They’re very irritating.

Also, I’m tired of how stressed and angry I get about things people do at work.  Don’t get me wrong—the specific things I’m thinking about are worthy of anger.  But the problem is that I get so stressed, and so angry, and it just makes me hate myself more and more all the time, without any evident upper bound to the process.

I wish it were true to say, “I can’t stand it anymore”, but unfortunately, I’m able in principle to continue standing things for who knows how long.  I wish I would just collapse into a heap, and literally, physically, not be able to go on.  It would take so much out of my hands and would be such a relief.  Unfortunately, there’s no clear sign of that happening, though I try to sabotage my own health as much as feasible without being Baker Acted.

And here is another maddening thing that just happened:  the trains this morning, it turns out, were all shifted to one side of the track, as was the case last week once.  But this wasn’t announced early, unlike last time, so I went to my usual spot to start writing this while waiting.  Then, when the “announcement” was made, it was just posted on the overhead light board; there was no verbal announcement, though they give recorded verbal reminders about such things usually—they’ve been informing us, ever since Labor Day, that the system will be running on a Sunday schedule on Thanksgiving, which is in November, for those of you who don’t know.  Labor Day was in the beginning of September.

I only failed to miss my train because I always start getting ready to board five minutes early, and I looked up from my writing to notice that there was no one on my side of the tracks.  Only then did I see the notice that trains were all boarding on the other side.  I was able to take the elevator up to the bridge, but I had to rush down the stairs on the other side because my train was approaching, and my knees and hips and ankle were miffed about that.

It would have been nice for one of the people who always gets on the same train I get on to have said something to me, rather than just letting me sit there typing on one side of the track by myself.  I’d like to think I would have said something to them, were the situation reversed.  Maybe I wouldn’t.  Maybe it’s an instance of the bystander effect.  Maybe it’s one of those rare circumstances in which my reticence to interact with strangers is obvious to everyone, and I seem so unpleasant that no one wants to interact with me even enough to say, “Hey, all the trains are boarding on the other side for some reason…better cross over.”

Better cross over.  That’s the best idea I’ve heard today, that’s for sure.

Okay, well, that’s it for today’s disjointed meandering.  I hope you’ve found some modicum of joy in it.  It would be nice to be able to do at least something positive for the world, even if it’s small.  It would be far better than what I usually do.


*Using the particle horizon as the measured “distance across”. **

**Actually, since there are four bases in human DNA (guanine, cytosine, adenine, and thymine), if they were assigned randomly, then even a string of 1000 base pairs has 1.15 x 10602 possible combinations.  If memory serves, this is larger than the String Theory landscape, which number is already so vast as to lead many physicists to say it can predict anything and therefore it can predict nothing.  And human DNA is on the order of a billion nucleotides long.  My computer calculator can’t deal with billionth powers of four, but a billion is a thousand times a thousand times a thousand, so 41000 cubed should be about 101806 unless I’m missing something.  The diameter of the visible universe in Planck lengths is only 5 x 1061, which is not even close to the same order of magnitude.  Of course, the maximal information within a horizon the size of the visible universe is larger still, but then again, that’s a measure of the maximum entropy possible within that region, so that’s almost a given.  I think it’s 210^123 or something along those lines.  I may be getting at least some of this wrong.

Welcome to the October Country

Well, it’s October 1st, the beginning of a new month in 2022, a month initially meant to be the eighth month, based on its name.

I’m at the train station and, it being Saturday, the schedule is different than during the week.  There’s also some question of whether the trains are boarding on the usual side or not.  There’s a displayed “announcement” on the light boards that all trains are boarding on one side at this station until further notice, but it could be something left over from yesterday.  Also, the guard is not aware of anything regarding the change in sides.

Nevertheless, today was a day for ordering the monthly pass on the machines, and the ones on my usual side weren’t even working, so I’m on the other side for the moment, anyway.  I’m going to have to try to be vigilant as the time for my train approaches*.  If I miss one train, the next won’t come for another hour.

It’s hard to be vigilant, though.  I feel absolutely exhausted.  My brain feels like it’s barely running on one cylinder, metaphorically speaking**.  I’m just so very tired.

Thankfully, I can embed below my video, which I did end up posting on my YouTube channel yesterday afternoon, so that can provide some of the content and spare me a little writing today.  I might as well, since what I’ve written so far is about some of the most banal things imaginable.

Just a bit of clarification about the video, in case any is necessary:  Obviously I don’t mean to say there is literally no life in the universe, since that would be a contradiction (If there were literally no life, then I could not be speaking about the fact).

I just have always been irked by people who make the wide-eyed claims that it’s so amazing and quasi-mystical that the constants of nature are so perfectly designed to make life, and that must imply some sacred meaning or purpose to it.  That’s about as idiotic as looking at the location of a speck of dust in the corner of a school gym and saying how amazing it is that all the facts of nature conspired to bring that speck of dust right there at that point…it had to have been part of some greater purpose!  It’s drivel.  Only the case with life is even more unimpressive.

My biggest issue with this is that it leads to a kind of quiescence, an assumption that, if the universe was “designed” just so that life can exist, then life, and particularly intelligent life, must be important, and the universe will somehow arrange things to nurture us and protect us from extinction.  If you think that’s the case, then ask the dinosaurs, or better yet, any of the far greater numbers of life forms that went extinct in the Permian-Triassic “Great Dying”.

Oh, wait, you can’t.  They’re all extinct.

No, the universe is almost completely hostile to life, both in terms of its space and in terms of its time.  We are lucky beyond ordinary imagining, though I tried in the description of the video to give some notion of just how lucky in spatial terms, at least, by noting that life exists in roughly only 1.5 x 10-64 of the universe’s volume.

As far as time goes, well if you’re thinking of humanity alone, based on the time that has elapsed since the “Big Bang”, which may or may not be the literal beginning of our universe, the percentage is tiny enough, and others have demonstrated this handily, as in the “cosmic calendar” that Carl Sagan made famous in Cosmos.  But if you want to count all expected possible future time, well then our existence is some fraction of what could be infinity, which is pretty undefined, but might as well be called zero.  The limit certainly approaches zero as we extend the future further and further.

This is not necessarily a call for people just to give up and say “what the hell”, though you have that option, of course, and it is tempting.  I wanted to note that, if you would like for life to continue, and even to have some lasting, cosmic-scale impact, then you can’t take it for granted.  You need to work at it, and work hard, and work long.  The universe is not trying to kill us (contrary to Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s habitual way of putting it); if it were, we would be dead already.  But the universe is huge, and it does not even have the capacity to care what happens to life, except in the minds of that life itself.

All life is in the situation of a castaway on a desert island—there’s no preexisting infrastructure, there’s no one out there looking out for you or protecting you, or providing your light, your heat, your air-conditioning, your food, your clothes, your shelter, what have you.  If you want any of those things, you’re going to have to make and/or find them for yourself, and you’re going to have to keep doing it, for as long as you actually want them and want to survive.

Without much more ado, here’s the video***.  I forgot to ask when I made the video, but please give a “thumbs up” and subscribe and share if you are at all inclined to do so, for any colorable reason.  And feel free to check out the other stuff on my YouTube channel if it looks interesting to you.  If anyone finds this interesting at all, I’m hoping to make more such videos about topics that interest me, assuming the universe doesn’t eliminate me in the meantime (though it seems likely to do so).  Oh, and please let me know what you think, either in the comments below the video or here.

Thanks.  Here it is:


*Just a slightly later addendum:  They have announced overhead that my train is approaching in 10 minutes, and have confirmed that it is not on its usual side.  So I was right to be proactive.

**Of course, it’s a metaphor.  I don’t honestly think that any of you really believe that my brain is an internal combustion engine of some kind, except in the loosest of possible senses.  Apologies.

***I wore a mask and dark glasses in the video mainly because I don’t like how my face looks—it bears evidence of the many things that have happened to me in the last decade or so.  Maybe no one else can see it but me, but it is what it is.  Anyway, the glasses are awesome, I really like them, and the mask combined with them makes for a good look, I think.  Certainly better than my underlying face, anyway.

This is an untitled blog post…or IS it?

Okay, well, I’m back on the laptop again, today.  I think I did a decent job of gauging how long my post should be yesterday, despite using my phone to write it.  It did seem to take slightly longer to write the same number of words than it would have with the laptop.  It’s just easier to write faster when you’re using a (nearly) full-scale keyboard and more or less all of your fingers instead of your two thumbs to type.

Still, as I think I’ve noted before, I wrote a goodly part of my science fiction novel, Son of Man using a smartphone that was quite a bit smaller than the one I have now, and I think it turned out pretty well.  At least, the feedback I’ve gotten from the few people I know who have read it and who deigned to comment—one of whom has sadly died—was good.

Not much has changed since yesterday, though.  By which I mean I’m not sure why I’m bothering to keep doing this blog.  I don’t think it’s doing me much good.  As anyone reading regularly can probably tell, my mental health doesn’t seem to be improving at all despite the use of this unidirectional “talk therapy”.

I’m a creature of habit, though, so I’ll continue this until…well, until something stops me, or until I stop doing even this little bit of proactive stuff.  I’m sure that will leave the world no poorer.

The hurricane that’s approaching is not supposed to hit this part of Florida, but to make landfall along the central west coast, but it’s still been sloppy and rainy, and a bit windy, these past few days.  Sunday afternoon was sunny and clear, and I went for a long walk near the end of the day, but since then we’ve had wetness.  At least the modest windiness—which may have at least something peripheral to do with the hurricane—makes it feel less muggy.

It’s almost pleasant, and even has a slight autumnal feel to it.  It reminds me vaguely of the times in the year after school had started and as Halloween approached up north, when the leaves would begin changing—something that, alas, doesn’t really happen in south Florida—and you had to wear a light jacket against the breeze, but it wasn’t yet truly cold.

Of course, no jackets are required here in south Florida, unless you’re going to some high end club or restaurant, or unless you’re wearing one to keep off the rain.  But an umbrella works better against the rain here, in my experience, and it doesn’t leave you so sweaty.  However, if you’re riding a motorcycle, a good rain jacket is useful, and rain pants if you have them.  A good helmet is more than adequate to keep your head dry, and even keeps it warm in what passes for cold weather in south Florida*.

Here I go again, talking about the weather.  It’s rather pathetic, I know, I’m sorry.

I guess I could comment on political or scientific stories if you’d prefer.  I don’t know what happened with the NASA probe thing last night, the experiment to try to shift the orbit of an asteroid.  It’s a trial of concept, basically, to tease out the workings of the process of changing the long-term orbit of an asteroid, in case one ever appears to be headed for Earth.

The laws of motion and Newtonian gravity are more than adequate for us to tell well in advance where an object’s orbit will take it—if we know where the object is and how it’s moving—and what sort of change would make it no longer headed to intersect the Earth, if it were otherwise going to do so.  Given enough lead time, even a tiny nudge can be more than adequate to prevent collisions.

Of course, also given enough lead time, a tiny nudge and the same technology could alter the trajectory of a hitherto harmless asteroid and put it in a trajectory to hit the Earth.

Don’t think I haven’t thought about it.  Regrettably, I don’t have the resources to pull off such a scheme.  However, there are now at least a few people in the world who have their own private space programs, some capable of interplanetary travel.  I wouldn’t put it past Elon Musk to steer a modest asteroid toward Earth to cause just massive enough a catastrophe to support his point pushing for human colonization of other planets, as a sort of object lesson.

Okay, well, I don’t really think he would do that.  He has too much to lose, and it could be quite tricky to steer such an asteroid finely, so that it hit where on Earth you wanted it to hit.  But it might be a good way to unify the human race.  I’ve often thought that we need a real supervillain to bring the world together.  I would volunteer, but I don’t think humanity is worth the effort.  I’m more inclined just to steer a whopping BIG asteroid at Earth and do a planetary reset.

I wouldn’t do this for any ideological reason, and certainly not for any religious reason.  I believe the supernatural cannot exist by (my) definition**.  I just think it would be a good test, of sorts.  If humanity were able to come together to prevent the catastrophe, or to at least survive it and rebuild, they would have demonstrated their continuing worthiness.  And if not, well, then not.

Honestly, given the fact that life is more or less inevitably dominated by fear and pain***, I often veer toward anti-natalism, and even pro-mortalism (look them up).  Of course, given that I have children, and they are the most important two facts about the universe to me, by far, I can hardly be said to be a pure pro-mortalist or anti-natalist.  But then, I never claimed to be.

I don’t think it’s usually good to try to define oneself by any “ism”.  It’s vanishingly unlikely that any one given, finite ideology will have come up with reliable, complete, and final answers. regarding much of anything about life.  If it had, I suspect that fact would have become evident, if not obvious, by now.

Knowledge and deep understanding is gained incrementally, not revealed by some “authority”; the universe is extremely complex, at least on scales like the surface of the Earth at this stage of cosmic evolution.  We can’t expect any simple, easy-to-solve equation to describe even the eddies and whorls that take place when milk first begins mixing into coffee, and that’s more or less the stage of the universe we’re in right now (on a much bigger scale than a cup of coffee, obviously).

Okay, well, I don’t know how I got around to those subjects, but I guess that’s the sort of thing that can happen with stream-of-consciousness writing.  At least it wasn’t just a complete rehash of what I wrote yesterday.  Hopefully tomorrow will likewise not be a rehash.  Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow may creep on in this petty pace to the last syllable of recorded time (which record will eventually decay as time goes its interminable way), but each morrow will differ in its details, at least until all things are washed out by entropy.  It’ll be a while—on the mortal scale, anyway—before that happens cosmically.

Keep your eyes peeled and your ears pricked up, though.  It is coming.

Cloudy coffee


*To be fair, if you’re riding at 70+ miles per hour, even a low in the low fifties feels pretty darn cold, but that sort of weather won’t be back for months now, and goodness knows if I’ll ever ride again.

**By which I mean to say, even if there were such things as gods and demons and angels and spirits and so on, if they really existed, then they would in fact be part of nature, and would have a “lawful” existence of some type, and would therefore be natural.  Only imaginary things can be “supernatural”.

***I’m sure I’ve gone into this before.  It is essential for any successfully reproducing organism to have strong senses of pain and fear, to avoid danger and to avoid and seek to mitigate damage.  These must be more immediate and powerful—and potentially more enduring—than any sense of pleasure or joy.  All pleasure and joy must, by nature, be fleeting, or else an organism will not be driven to work to survive, to reproduce as often as feasible.  An organism that feels little to no fear or pain, and that experiences lasting and powerful joy from any given stimulus or circumstance, will live a blissful but short life, and will be outcompeted by fearful, aggressive, and pain-prone creatures.  It would not tend to leave many offspring, all other things being equal.