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.

There’s a black hat caught in a high tree top

Well, it’s Friday, the 13th of January, and I don’t have any idea what to write or what to write about today, but I’m writing anyway, as you can plainly tell.  That’s a metaphor for life if there ever was one, don’t you think?

Of course, I could write a bit about the fact that it is Friday the 13th, but I’ve mentioned that previously, and it’s not all that interesting.  There’s no such thing as an unlucky day or an unlucky number; that’s all just superstitious, magical “thinking” stupidity.  But there are numbers that are interesting, and the the prime numbers are interesting to me.  I feel a sort of peculiar, protective affection for 13, since so many silly humans think it’s an unlucky number.

For similar reasons, I’m slightly less fond of 7 than I am of most other prime numbers.  It’s sort of the numerical equivalent of Prince Harry or, to pick an older comparison, Paris Hilton*.  It’s already receiving plenty of attention and support, far more than it deserves, so I won’t waste my effort.

There was an update overnight to my phone’s operating system, and now some “buttons” such as the return key, are no longer slightly-rounded rectangles but are more precisely slightly rectangular ovals.  I don’t like it.  The background colors are also slightly altered, and that’s frustrating, too.

In addition, the app buttons are changed, including the text app, and the phone is trying to push all sorts of new apps that it recommends “for me”…but of course, it’s not actually for me (or for you in case you think otherwise) it’s actually for the companies that make the apps, who have paid a premium to have those apps promoted.  

The system forces you to go through their stupid update-based notice thingy to decide on new apps, and many are pre-checked, so you have to opt out of them actively.  Similarly with their “bookshelf” function or whatever it is, and when you close the apps, the screen doesn’t go away, you have to dismiss it separately, which makes no sense and was not that way before.  The people responsible for all this should be burned to death with flame throwers as soon as possible.

I don’t know why companies do that sort of thing.  Gmail has done it with its updates, turning all the nice, well-demarcated shapes with edges and corners into soft, gooey, Play-Doh looking things, as if they really are trying to “child-proof” the world.  I don’t enjoy change without good purpose, and I think there are good reasons not to enjoy it.  If something is functioning reasonably well, most changes will be for the worse, especially if optimality is something not simply and easily achieved.

Just look at genetic mutations to get a clear example.  In an organism that’s functioning well enough to survive and reproduce in its environment, most changes in general are not going to be beneficial.  That’s one reason I hate social movements that say they are pushing for “change”.  Well, what kind of change, in particular?  I mean, the global Covid pandemic was/is a change; the war in Ukraine is a change; the diminishing respect for rule of law and the constraints of the U S Constitution are changes; an asteroid impact that wiped out civilization entirely would be a change.

Well, that last one would be beneficial, so it’s probably a poor example.

Anyway, I wish that people like Android** and Google (are they part of the same company?) and Microsoft and all those would reserve their updates to those changes that are at least attempts to improve functionality, not cosmetic nonsense or transparent and pushy marketing.  It’s very irritating to get used to the color scheme and key layout of a computer system and then wake up to find that it’s different, as are some of the basic functions, and for no good reason.

Even the icons to start writing and to save writing on the Google Docs app are different colors.  Why?  I mean it would be one thing if the previous color were some frequency of X-rays, and using the app was causing cataracts and retinal deterioration and even ocular cancer.  But it was just a sort of neutral blue or gray color, and was reasonably pleasant.  Now it’s sort of a yellowy orangey beige that looks vaguely like something you might heave out after you’ve already vomited all the food contents of your stomach but your body still wants to throw up some more.

It’s unnecessary.  I don’t like surprises, usually even when they’re positive ones.  And this is not a positive one.

Oh, well.  What else is new (ha ha)?  I had a brief glimmer of hope that my enforced change of commute might come to an end today, but it looks like that isn’t happening.  I’m not really surprised, but I am mildly disappointed, and it doesn’t help my energy level.

Oh, I did have a slightly interesting thought about Friday the 13th, thinking of the movies by that name as compared to the Halloween movies.  I had thought for a brief moment that at least the Halloween movies are named after an actual holiday, and it was also one that comes around a bit more often than Friday…the…

…then I caught myself, because I know that any month that begins on a Sunday is going to have a Friday the 13th in it.  And on average, one in seven months will begin on a Sunday, and so there will be, on average, just under 2 Friday the 13ths every year‒the day, not the movies, thankfully.  And in non leap years, if February has a Friday the 13th, so will March!  So there are quite a few more Fridays the 13th than there are Halloweens.

Just imagine if we had 2 Halloweens every year.  Wouldn’t that be great?

Anyway, that’s a lot of writing about nothing. I apologize for the last few days, and for my foolish notions of seeking help, when I don’t think I deserve, or merit, or am worthy of help, or frankly that it would be a good use of anyone’s resources.  Also, I probably would/will not know how to accept help.  Sting had a great line from one of his songs*** that feels pertinent to this: “And I wriggle like a fish caught on dry land, and struggle to avoid any help at hand.”

Of course, if someone could offer me a goodly dose of Valium and Fentanyl that I could use in a pinch to make a basically painless exit, that might at least be worth keeping in my pocket, just in case.  But otherwise, I can’t really imagine doing anything that would involve serious changes.  I don’t like change, and I don’t like surprises, and I particularly don’t like phone calls out of the blue, especially from someone who has in the past made me feel guilty for being depressed.  It all just stresses me out and makes me feel worse about myself.

I mean, if my son or daughter called me, that would be a different matter.  That would be brilliant.  But I would be deeply ashamed if they did so out of a sense of obligation rather than just because they wanted to do it.

I don’t know what the hell I’m getting at.  Nothing much, probably.  Anyway, it’s Friday, and I don’t work this weekend, so you shouldn’t be seeing any new blog posts from me before Monday at the soonest.  If something catastrophic‒depending on one’s point of view‒happens and I don’t write anything even on Monday, well…that’s a change that most people wouldn’t find too unpleasant, unlike the stupid muddy, puss-like color and shape changes on the phone apps and keyboard.


*Interesting…both examples have “initials” P. H.

**And that name doesn’t makes sense.  Android means “man-shaped” and nothing about the operating system or the phones is man-shaped.  Even their little symbol isn’t really man-shaped.  I’m android.  Nothing about the phone system is.

***Be Still My Beating Heart

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?

For a minute there, I found myself

Wow, I’m really tired.  I had a terrible time falling asleep last night, even though, once again, I was tired and “shagged out” as if after a long squawk, in the words of Michael Palin’s pet shop owner from the dead parrot sketch.  And then, of course, when I finally did get to sleep, I didn’t even come close to sleeping through until my alarm‒though, rather amusingly, I fell back to sleep about half an hour before my alarm was due to go off, so I got to enjoy being awakened by it when I was thoroughly mired in unconsciousness and confusion.  Nevertheless, I did still get up and do three quick sets of (bad) pull-ups before taking my shower, getting dressed, and so on.  And here I am at the train station, waiting for the second train of the day.

I know all this must make for incredibly tedious reading, and for that I am truly sorry.  I’d prefer to write more about potential stories, and which ones, if any, my readers prefer, and about potential “podcasts”*, and all that stuff, with an eye to the future.  But when I revert to insomnia‒after an all-too-brief respite caused by a rather severe illness, the remnants of which are not even gone‒it’s just terribly discouraging.  It’s a special kind of teasing furlough, like getting a weekend off from being in prison, but having to go right back up the road after the weekend, for a sentence the length of which you don’t even know.  And there’s only one reliable way to escape.

It makes it hard to think about any future whatsoever.

Ah, well, it probably really doesn’t matter.  What do I want with a future, anyway?  I don’t have “a life” at all in any appreciable sense.  I can’t even read fiction‒including even comic books and manga for the most part‒anymore, and that’s long been one of the highlights of my life.

I’ve occasionally been able to watch some shows, most recently Wednesday, and I’ve even gotten through five episodes of The Rings of Power, the latter while I was sick.  And, of course, I’ve watched all of the episodes of the modern Doctor Who, most of them more than once, but these are the sorts of things that in the past I had always done with other people, with whom I could share the enjoyment, and even talk about the shows and so on.  It’s just not as much fun to do by myself, even when I watch some of the “reaction” videos of other people watching the shows for the first time, which is almost like watching with a friend, but not quite.

Even the prospects of getting healthier, sleeping better, trying to conquer dysthymia and to integrate into my self-understanding a probable diagnosis of Asperger’s all seem pretty unmotivating.  What’s the point, for instance, of seeking out an official, confirmatory diagnosis of the Syndrome Formerly Known As Asperger’s, at significant personal time and expense?  What, ultimately, would this even do for me?

What’s the point of trying to find a therapist with whom I can work, and that I can work into my schedule‒perhaps through BetterHelp or similar‒to try to mitigate my dysthymia/depression?  It feels better, so to speak, just to feel horrible constantly rather than to have brief respites of feeling a bit better, a bit more “normal”, only to have that feeling slip away again.

It’s even hard to pursue further learning in mathematics and physics, both of which I find deeply interesting.  I have tried to use Brilliant to work on my skills, but though their interactive, stepwise, animated approach is interesting, and I can see why it would appeal to many people, I find it boring after a very short time after I start to use it.  I think I just do better with textbooks, and with problem sets.  I even bought a copy of one of my old college calculus textbooks, the Thomas and Finney one, and started working through it to re-hone and improve my mathematics skills, with an eye toward moving to higher level mathematics after that.  But I haven’t gotten very far.

I also got a copy of Sean Carroll’s Spacetime and Geometry, and the huge tome Gravitation, by Misner, Thorne, Wheeler, et al, which not only is the bible of General Relativity, but is also an excellent demonstration of its own subject.  This is all in an attempt to improve my formal understanding, at the mathematical level, of General Relativity.  Special Relativity is pretty easy, and the mathematics to deal with it formally is/are rather straightforward.  But I don’t have a deep handle on tensors and matrices and higher dimensional geometries‒not at the mathematical level, anyway‒which I’d like to have to be able to approach the subject at a real, quasi-professional level.

I’d also like to be able to do the same thing for quantum mechanics, which is at some levels more straightforward than GR.  I got Susskind’s Theoretical Minimum book on that, but haven’t been able to sustain my attention for it.  That’s my fault, not the writers’.  Anyway, I really want more than the “minimum”; I want to get deeper into the subject, mathematically, because the concepts are all reasonably clear‒although often explained in rather wooly terms by many popularizers‒and I would like to be more formally and mathematically adept at the subject.

And I deeply regret not having done more in pursuit of furthering my pretty good initial exposure to computer science, both at the software and hardware levels.  Related to that, I would like to have done more in circuit theory and more general electrical engineering.

Of course, I did have a lot of my time and energy taken up by biology, chemistry, organic chemistry and the other subjects related to becoming a doctor.  And, of course, “helping” my now-ex-wife study (to the extent she needed help, which was, let’s face it, not very much) when she was in law school was quite fun.  But the time and effort put into both medicine and my marriage have turned out now to be moot and pointless, though they were worth the cost due to the fact that my children are here in the world now.

That fact would be worth almost anything.

Anyway, I don’t have any point** here with all this, and I’ve gone on long enough today.  I’m just tired, and if I can’t find a way to stop being so tired all the time, I really don’t see any good reason to try to keep slogging forward.  All the way up until my next birthday, my age and the two digit number for this year are both prime, and it’s sometimes better to leave while still in one’s prime than afterward, as I mentioned in a previous post.  Meanwhile, though, I’ll see if I can find any other answers.

Oh, P.S.:  Does anyone know off the top of your head how one checks the results (so far) of a poll one has arranged on WordPress?  I’m sure the answer is somewhere in the WordPress “help” functions, but it’s not amenable to a superficial and obvious search, and I’d rather not have to “chat” with one of their “happiness engineers”.  It doesn’t matter much, but if you know,  would you please leave a comment below?  Thanks.


*That’s one of those amazing terms that was a brand new thing based on an entirely new and revolutionary technology, but now that technology itself is already obsolete, but the term lives on.  I think the closest similar thing that readily comes to mind right now is the expression “running out of steam”, which I would guess arose from the era of steam engines, which are quite obsolete, but the expression remains common.

**Now there’s a pithy summary of a life 

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.

Fear no more the heat o’ th’ sun Nor the furious winters’ blogs

Hello and good morning.  You should know that it’s Thursday if I use some variant of that greeting.  I got started in that habit early in the course of writing my (then only Thursdays) blog, and got myself locked into the pattern mentally.  Now it would make me very tense and stressed if I were to write a Thursday blog post without that opening.  Likewise with the title being a slightly altered quote from Shakespeare.

I’m writing this on my laptop for the first time this week, because I decided to bring it back from the office yesterday.  It was our first decent business day this week, but I still felt thoroughly rotten, in the sense of being tired and in pain.  I’d been lying awake in “bed” during the night, looking at the clock, deciding when just to give up and get up.  I had seen the time getting to about 3:50 and started thinking about the various three digit numbers coming up.

I knew none of the even numbers were prime, and I knew 351 wasn’t prime, since the sum of its digits is a multiple of three*.  But 353 looked like it might be prime, so I started checking it in my head.  Obviously it wasn’t divisible by any even number, nor by 3, nor by any multiple of 5, so I started trying from 7, then 11, then 13, then 17, then 19, then 23, then 29…by that time I was getting suspicious.  The next prime was 31, and I tried that in my head, but it wasn’t divisible, because after you divide the first two digits by 31, you’re left with 43 remainder, which is clearly not going to be evenly divisible, so I stopped there with that.  And the next prime number was bigger than 35 (it’s 37), which started making it look like 353 might be prime.

I cheated then, turned to my computer and checked with Google if 353 was prime**, and it said it was.  That was good enough for me.  I decided to get up at 3:53, which by that point was about a minute and a half away.

Thus, I got on the first train, and luckily, there were no “trespasser strikes” or any other kind of delays, and my train arrived and left at the scheduled time.  I definitely am not going to kill myself by jumping in front of a commuter train (or probably any other train).  I don’t like hypocrisy, and to be worn out by delays only to cause them oneself would be petty and spiteful in a way that I would prefer not to be in my swansong.  I need to do something less intrusive.

That’s all unless, of course, I give up on trying to be polite and just act on some impulse that comes at the right time in the right place, and fuck all the humans if it causes them problems.

I’m sitting in a different seat on the train than I usually use, because I didn’t feel up to climbing to the top level.  I worry that I’m sitting in someone else’s usual seat, but it’s very non-crowded on the midway level of this train car, so I don’t think I’m causing anyone inconvenience.

It’s probably bothering me more than it would bother anyone else that I’m not in my usual seat, but I just didn’t feel like taking 8 more stairs up.  If it had been a prime number of steps, maybe I would have done it.  Probably not.  I only just now counted the stairs to see, but I hadn’t counted them before deciding I didn’t want to climb them.

It was eighty degrees out and quite muggy when I left the house this morning before five o’clock.  Don’t envy it.  It’s not as though people are going to the beaches or sitting out in the sun and sipping cocktails, or enjoying any other aspects of warm weather.  Everyone is scratching out their livings, going through their daily routines in a grimy, overcrowded urban environment.  One of the only visible effects of the warmth is that you’ll see people wearing things like basketball shorts to work—grownups who are not professional athletes wearing baggy, gaudily colored shorts in places of business.  How is one to take any of them seriously?

At least the people who run the Tri-rail trains all wear uniforms of one kind or another.  They are quite professional and serious—and pleasant and friendly to passengers***—and they do their jobs well and with enthusiasm.  There’s even a conductor who sometimes works in the evening on the train I catch leaving work who, as we approach my station (which is Hollywood) makes the announcement, “Now approaching Hollywood…Hollywood, California, now approaching Hollywood.”

I like this because it’s similar to my own usual thoughts when we approach the station, which is to recite the words of the man on the street in the beginning of the movie Pretty Woman, who calls out to no one in particular, “Welcome to Hollywood!  What’s your dream?” and so on.  That’s a moment or two before we see a young Hank Azaria in a bit part as a detective, investigating the murder of a prostitute, astonished that tourists are taking pictures of the crime scene.  It’s an unusually dark beginning to a classic romantic comedy.

Real romance rarely begins so darkly, though it often ends unpleasantly.  It does always end, eventually, even for those who stay together for the rest of their lives, because life is no more than 120 years (at the extreme maximum) for humans, and usually quite a bit less than that.

Sorry.  That’s dreary, even for me.  I’ll try to turn it around by taking a line from the…I think fifth series of modern Doctor Who, in which the Doctor describes a species of mayfly on some planet I can’t remember, saying that they live only twenty minutes, and they don’t even mate for life!

Time is relative in many senses.  I’ve had more than one day this week that seemed to last far longer than twenty-four hours.  The faster you think, the slower time will seem to pass for you, so it may be worth practicing that, if that appeals to you.  Users of psychedelics sometimes report their trips seeming to last for eons, and meditation and similar states can sometimes produce similar experiences.  We all know that dreams can give that impression.

So, as Tyrell says to Roy, “Revel in your time,” even if all those moments will be eventually be lost like tears in the rain.

TTFN

Hollywood_Amtrak_Tri-Rail smaller


*It’s actually also a multiple of 9, since its digits add to 9, but it’s 9 times 39 (9×40=360, take away a nine and you get 351), and 39 is 3 x 13, so we know that 351 is also 27×13.  The prime factors of 351 are 3x3x3x13.

**I do this sort of thing often enough that when I start typing, by the time I get to “Is 353…”, Google pops up the option (and the answer) for the question “Is 353 a prime number?”

***This is lost on me, I’m afraid, though I admire it.  When the driver waves out of his window toward passengers as he pulls in, I’ve never had the impression that he was waving at me until this morning when, for the first time, I thought it seemed like he might have turned a final wave in my direction after more obvious ones to other regulars—I always stand at the far end of the platform.  I just felt a bit frozen and stressed, like someone who’d been called on in class but hadn’t been paying attention to the lesson.  I tried not to look toward the window, but just kept kind of looking down-ish and toward my entrance to the train, and I felt like a fool.

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.

Tangents of tangents of tangents, oh my!

It’s Wednesday, the middle of the week based on our usual reckoning of things.  Welcome.

Of course, the universe at large doesn’t give any preference to days of the week, or months, or whatever.  Days, per se, are more or less natural units of time, as are years.  Both are related to regular, physical phenomena in the solar system*.  Now, one could argue that since the moon’s orbit around the Earth is roughly twenty-eight days, that seven days in a week is a sort of natural division, since 28 divided by 4 is seven.  That’s not an unreasonable thought, but it is derivative, unlike the measure of a year or a day.

Of course, rather irritatingly, the days don’t evenly divide into the years, nor do the months (orbits of the moon, which itself isn’t quite an even number of days), which means we have to do all sorts of mucking about with the number of days in months to get a reasonable number of them per year, and only one of them has 28 days, but even that changes every 4 years, except every hundred years when it’s 28 again, except every thousand years when it’s 29 again, and so on.  And then, of course, we have to add and subtract “leap seconds” on an irregular basis to adjust things to keep them consistent, lest the seasons creep steadily in one direction or the other relative to the calendar as the years pass, even as the times of day and night also shift.

If the period of the moon’s orbit around the Earth divided evenly into the orbit of the Earth around the sun; and the length of days on Earth** also evenly divided into the orbit of the Earth around the sun; and if those divided evenly, say, into the orbits of the sun around the center of the Milky Way; and then if the second, as we decided it, turned out to be some round number of oscillations of a cesium atom being pumped by a particular wavelength of light—say 9 billion exactly, when measuring a previously decided interval of one sixtieth of one sixtieth of one twenty-fourth of a day…that would all be quite a collection of coincidences!  That would make me start wondering if the whole thing was designed by someone.  As it is, though, it looks very much like it just all kind of happened, with no inherent direction or purpose or goal.  Which makes more sense of most of human history and the natural world than the alternative does.

It would also be quite a coincidence if, for instance, pi turned out to be 3.141618110112114…or some other regular pattern alone those lines.  Especially if some similar pattern of interest showed up when it was measured using other number bases, like base 2, base 16, whatever.  That would be something.  Or imagine if pi were an exact integer.  Of course it’s hard even to imagine what it could possibly be that could make the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter into an integer, how that could actually be achieved, since the number pi is something born of what appears to be fundamental geometry, constrained by internal logical and physical consistency.

Anyway, the universe looks very much like, as I said yesterday, a spontaneously self-assembled system.  For all we know, it’s just a collection of quantum building blocks of some kind that fall together in a bunch of spin-networks, if that was the right term, to form spacetime that acts like General Relativity when there are enough of them***.

And, maybe the other quantum fields are just emergent phenomena that develop as part of the properties of these conglomerated spin-networks, and the net result of their gross uniformity leads them to mutual repulsion, and then—rather like quarks being forcefully separated leading to formation of new quarks if you could do it, which you can’t—when spin-networks are stretched apart, they simply generate new, connecting networks in between, out of the energy from the tension of their repulsion.  Thus, spacetime can expand forever, generating new space-time as it does, and perhaps the other quantum fields, again, are mere epiphenomena that arise when enough spacetime exists.  And everything else, as we can already tell, is a bunch of epiphenomena overlying, or produced by, that.

Here’s a question that just occurred to me:  If spacetime can be continuously created by stretching of the preexisting network, in response to “dark energy” or “inflaton field” or whatever one might call it, popping little new nuggets of spin networks or whatever spacetime is made of into existence, can it, on the other end of things, be made to disappear?  Can quantum spacetime be unmade as readily as it is made?  I don’t think it would have to happen, say, in the “singularity” at the center of a black hole.  I can see that as potentially being a thin and narrow “tube” of spacetime stretching off and continuing to grow but only in one direction, like the function 1/|x| as it approaches zero, with a finite “volume” perhaps, but an infinite “surface area” that can keep growing indefinitely if spacetime really can just keep reforming itself.  Though maybe, if the chunks are of finite size, the tube can never narrow past some certain minimal “circumference”.  I wonder what the implications of that could be.

But can spacetime ever un-form?  Quarks that could be formed from, for instance, stretching the gluon field between two of them could, in principle, “un-form” if they encountered an anti-quark of the proper character.  They can even decay, I think.  But they wouldn’t simply disappear, they would convert into, presumably, some pair of high-energy photons, and maybe something else, too.  But spacetime itself doesn’t always obey the straightforward law of conservation of energy/mass, as GR has already shown.  Conservation of energy is a property of things within spacetime, and is born of the mathematical symmetry of time translation, as per Emmy Noether’s**** Theorem.  It doesn’t necessarily apply to spacetime itself.  So under what circumstances, if any, could it simply spontaneously disappear, and what affects would that have?

Well, that’s something I’m not going to figure out right here right now, I’m afraid.  But, boy, have I gone off on some tangents!  It’s rather like a moon or a planet suddenly released from the gravitational embrace of that which it orbits, to go off into eternity like a rock from a King David-style sling.  Or like the derivative of any continuous function, or the derivatives of derivative of derivatives, “most” of which end up settling out at some constant, if memory serves (but not the exponential function, ex!).

All this is, apparently, just what happens when one cannot stay asleep after three in the morning and so gets up very early and waits for the first train on Wednesday morning.  One thing leads to another, but with no inherent direction or purpose or goal.  Things just happen.

That sounds familiar.


*The rotation of the Earth and its orbit around the sun, in case you didn’t already know.

**Of course, there are different ways to define a day.  There’s a solar day, which—if memory serves—describes the time it takes for the Earth to turn until the same longitude line (so to speak) is facing the sun, which, because of the motion of the Earth in its orbit, is going to be slightly longer than a sidereal day, which—again, if memory serves—describes when the same longitude line returns to its place relative to the distant, “fixed” stars.  Of course, the stars themselves are not truly fixed, but their angular location changes so slowly that that’s an adjustment that doesn’t have to be made often.  I think there are other day measures, but they aren’t popping into my head right now.

***I realize that this is very loosely a description of loop quantum gravity, and that one prediction of one form of that model predicts that light speed even through a vacuum varies ever so slightly by frequency—and that our best measurements of light from distant quasars and the like seem to disconfirm that prediction.  But I don’t think the jury is completely in on that question.  And maybe that specific form of LQG is not quite correct, or the difference is smaller than expected.  I don’t know the subject well enough to opine.

****Look her up.  Einstein called her a mathematical genius.  Hilbert invited her to teach in the University of Göttingen (fighting against the powers that be that didn’t want a woman professor).  She should be a household name.  Her face should be on currency.  She should be bigger than every TikTok “influencer” combined.  That she is not should bring every human shame.