Saturday, August 29

Empathy for Your Fellow Humans, Please

We went to the beach today, and as we were leaving, we passed by some schmuck that, instead of bringing his iPod and some headphones like a normal person, had brought his radio to the beach and inflicted it on everyone in a fifty yard radius.

Now I like music (I would even go so far as to say I love music), and in certain cases, I wouldn't mind listening to what he was playing.

I understand that some people like to bring their entire house to the beach, and I have no problem with that. Bring your fold up chairs, your umbrellas, your coolers and cookers, and even your volleyball net. Put down blankets so you don't have to get sand up your shorts. That's fine.

But when you lack the capacity to empathize with the two hundred people around you, and cannot fathom that maybe, just maybe, they would prefer to hear the sound of the waves crashing against the shore as their kids shout about seashells and sand castles, and their wives say, "This is such a great day," then don't be surprised when I tell you that we all secretly despise you.

We turn to our wives and reply, "Sorry, that jackoff brought his radio to the beach. What did you say?"

Friday, August 28

A Dividing Debate

I recently got in a debate with a global warming skeptic, and neither one of us could convince the other about anything. I linked various sources from Wikipedia, related the knowledge from the upper division class on climate change I took in college, showed that people who can put other people in space believe in it, and refuted every one of his accusations.

Still, nothing happened. It was as if there was a canyon between us and neither one of us had a rope, and even if we had, we wouldn't have used it. I am convinced that global warming exists. He doesn't. It's that simple.

Does it matter to him that there is a consensus among the leaders of the world that global warming is a real problem? Nope. It's a giant conspiracy by left wing liberals and greenies who want to line their pockets with cash. Apparently every scientific institution that matters is out to screw us over.

It must be that I have been brainwashed by liberals, and if I would only "think for myself" I should doubt every scientific paper in all the peer-reviewed journals that say global warming is real. I guess thinking for myself means I can't trust any scientist, politician, industry leader, environmentalist, or pretty much anyone.

In this crazy weird upside-down world it amazes me that I, as a proponent of the scientific method, would be advocating trust in people and institutions, and that the conservative Republican, whose ideals go hand in hand with dogmatic religion and unwavering support of the nation, would be advocating skepticism.

We are through the looking glass, and neither side can reach the other through the mirror.

Wednesday, August 26

Inefficiency = Moderation

Sorry, as I was vacuuming the carpet, I was thinking about efficiency in government, and that the quickest way to do things would be to have a dictator. I hear that fascists are notoriously speedy about things like public policy, suppression, and executions. It takes all of one second in a dictatorship for someone to go from exalted general to the chopping block. Talk about efficient!

Then it occurred to me that I like the democratic ideal, and that civil liberties and protection for minorities are worth the process of checks and balances. Dividing power between different entities, while allowing for transparency is a horribly slow way to do things. I guess we as citizens need to instead practice patience, at least when it concerns checking, rechecking, and limiting power for any one group of people.

Now I'm not saying that corruption and waste should be tolerated: there is a difference between prudence and profiteering, circumspection and crookedness. We should not mistake one for the other.

However, if the democratic process is slow to act, do not froth at the mouth, because the alternatives are far, far worse.

College Humor Rocks

Go here.

Mario gets finally gets what's coming to him. Minesweeper gets the treatment it deserves. Facebook as a movie device.

Not much to say today, consuming more than I'm creating, which isn't necessarily a bad thing.

Tuesday, August 25

A Couple Questions About Particle Physics‏

Professor ------

I'm sorry to trouble you. My name is Matt Coughlan, and I have been looking for answers to these questions in articles and online, and have been unable to find answers for them. I read all of your "Research Related Postings" and you are far more of an expert about this stuff than I am. If you could either answer these, or put me in contact with someone else who would want to, it would be most appreciated.

Thank you for your time!


1) In quantum physics, if we can't know where a particle is and where it is going at the same time, then how can we know when a particle is and when it is going at the same time? Meaning, if a particle is a probability cloud in space, then could it also be a probability cloud in time? Would this be conceivably measurable?

2) If virtual pairs of particles and antiparticles are coming into existence all around us, and then immediately annihilating, then are there virtual photons (and virtual energy) too?

3) If Hawking radiation is proven right, and these virtual pairs of particles/antiparticles are spontaneously created as real particles, then where are they coming from? Is the energy used to create these particles coming from nowhere, or is the virtual energy a part of spacetime? If this virtual energy is taken away from spacetime, and this energy is somehow tied to the expansion of it, does that mean spacetime slows down around black holes?

4) Right now matter either moves a 1sec/sec through time, or it can slow down to 0sec/sec by being light, or by jumping into a black hole. Meaning that matter can accelerate and deaccelerate through time within definite boundaries. (All relative to each other, of course. We can't objectively measure this, so these numbers are flimsy, I know, since every point in spacetime has its own ruler, so we are all really moving at 1sec/sec.) Hypothetically speaking, if a particle were to be moving backwards in time (say -1sec/sec relative to us), could we even measure it? Causality is a two way street, and when A goes to B goes to C, then C can also go back to B and A. (At least for particles. Not living things, of course.)

If we can't tell the difference between particles moving forward in time, and particles moving backwards in time, then could some of the ones we already know be those particles? Namely, could antiparticles be moving backwards in time? Maybe they have a negative "time spin?" Maybe matter is t1, light is a t0, and antimatter is t-1?

Anyway, I have more questions, and if these are interesting to you, then please consider them, and let me know the answers. Thanks!

-Matt Coughlan

Monday, August 24

Comic #6

Muses Aren't Amusing

One of the disturbing things about what I do is that I don't have any idea where it comes from. I've taken classes on "creativity" and more often than not, they focused on what to do after the initial kernel of an idea has been germinating in your brain.

Flashes of inspiration seem to be relatively random, however, the more time I leave myself to think without distractions, the more opportunities for creativity become available. That doesn't mean that I can hide myself in a cave and only think, since the interplay with established creativity is also important. Without a periodic intake of fresh ideas, I end up retreading the same paths over and over again.

The other frustrating thing is that a lot of what I think about cannot be accomplished by me (at least in this lifetime). I'd have to be a specialist to bring forth some sort of advance in whatever field I happen to be thinking about. Sure, I can make superficial contributions, or bring together aspects of different fields, but I will not be the best computer programmer, actor, physicist, or what have you, since I lack the focus. I'm not saying this to be self-deprecating: I understand that it's not my strength to single out one avenue for my creativity.

However, it doesn't mean that I don't get discouraged when I have an idea about spacetime, or a neat piano riff, or a particularly visual dream that would be great as a painting, movie, or video game. I'm not going to have the skills necessary to bring many of these kernels to maturation.

That's not the same as saying I don't have the skills to do anything (which sometimes my mind can get trapped in when I'm depressed). I can do lots of things passably well. But I don't mistake writing some electronic music with being a concert pianist. It's a matter of scale. (Pun intended.)

Added together, both of these impediments combine together to tie my creativity up in knots, until I'm so twisted that I can barely write a sentence. The fact that I don't know where and when it's coming from, and that I don't know what to do with it once I've got it, means that sometimes I get sucked into distractions, like video games, t.v., and the world wide web.

Though I highly doubt that I'll find what I'm looking for in any of those places.

Friday, August 21

Science Fiction Fan

As can be surmised from many of my posts, I love science fiction. The idea that we can foresee the future, and then plan our actions accordingly, then implement new strategies to dominate our environment is utterly intriguing. This has (thus far) been the entire history of our species.

At some point, every technology was fiction, from the creation of the wheel, to the harnessing of fire, to agriculture, and every aspect of our lives. Someone saw a need, and filled that need by applying some learned process. This type of methodology is unheard of anywhere else in the animal kingdom, and is the entire key to our success (and to our possible downfall).

Science fiction explores what it means to be human, and what it might mean to be human in the future.

It is my belief that anyone who says they don't like science fiction at a basic level, is destined to be a science dinosaur.

Wednesday, August 19

Toddler Debris

I have Doritos cheese all over my knees
No, I don't want your peas please
Great, now your sister sees where I keep my keys
Sure, you are free to pee whenever you need
As long as we agree to keep the stream in the potty
Sesame Street has a video about a tangerine tree?
Let me see. I guarantee that's an orange tree
Or a kumquat tree. I disagree with Snuffleupagus
He's hasn't got any tusks, what's up with this?
Harmony! Don't knock over the potpourri!
You're an africanized bee, you're the Adriatic Sea!
I've got my bachelor's degree! Can't you see?
I know the capital of Tennessee! What are we three
Going to do, you, he, and me? You are a wee flea
Don't scream like a banshee, this is my plea
How ever will I survive with such glee?

Can Trees Suffer?

Maybe it's my constant proximity to a three year old that forces me to reevaluate long held truths, and when my kid rips the bark off the tree I yell at him, "Stop hurting the tree!"

Obviously, I'm using the word "hurt" in a physical sense. Obviously, trees don't have feelings, since they lack the complex nervous systems that we possess, and so lack the capacity for self-awareness. Or do they necessarily need a knowledge of themselves to feel pain? Does an ant feel pain when I step on it? Does a bacterium feel bad when I kill it using an antibiotic?

Or do these creatures have a basic understanding of logic as well? Doesn't a microbe put one and one together, and alter its course toward a food source? Is that not A leads to B thinking, were B makes it happy?

Let's not stop there: didn't single cell organisms start off as a chain of molecules? Didn't they have a basic level of logic and feelings in order to shift their motion in such a way as to create life? Didn't their components, atoms, have some say in this? Do electrons and protons, hell, take it all the way to elementary particles like quarks, leptons, and bosons, do they all have a minute amount of logic and feeling, insignificant compared to us, and yet when added together, become meaningful?

Do the three quarks that make up a proton feel content together? Does light emitted from the sun have a logical track that it follows, sparkling radiant happiness all the while, then is bummed out when it hits my skin? (At least until it's emitted as heat energy.)

What if ripping the bark off a tree is the equivalent of picking on a deaf, blind, mute quadriplegic? We farm trees and cut down legions of blades of grass. We unthinkingly consume animals and plant matter alike, and divert nature to our whims.

To a certain extent, we are forced to do this. Actions that entirely negate our capacity for harm are unattainable.

My issue, I suppose, is not that we must compete with other lifeforms to survive. The problem is that I have a haphazard collection of experiences and half-truths, and nothing solid to explain to a kid. These values are vapor.

Inevitably the kid asks, "Why can't we hurt the tree?" and I don't have an answer.

Tuesday, August 18

Obama + Bush = Obusha

In response to this link:

Charisma only goes so far, then you need something else: Fear. I'm also not so much talking about the cheesy horror movie emotion, but about fear as respect.

Unfortunately, Obama needs to get a little bit Bushy personality-wise, and quit using primarily academic language in his speeches. The Golden Child might quickly become Weenie Man if he can't hold the party together, and sometimes this requires an iron fist mentality. (To a point, obviously, I'm not saying he needs to be the next Darth Sidious.)

Before you discount the idea, weren't we all just a little bit afraid of Bush? No one knew what that chucklehead would do... ;)

Right now, Obama could lose support merely by seeming weak. I'm not saying that he should wrest control of Congress and annihilate all opposition (literally), however, he can remain bipartisan, while at the same time grab the reins, be direct, and, instead of holding hands and singing Kumbaya, he can do his job:

He can lead.

Monday, August 17

Comic #4

American Royalty

This is fascinating.

In a list of the top two hundred wealthiest people throughout history, adjusted for inflation, how many of them are from the United States?

One hundred and twenty-seven. (I counted it twice.) Over half (63.5%) of the richest people ever, in all of human history, were born here (or immigrated here in the case of eleven of them), and through some combination of hard work, luck, and economic conditions, have accumulated obscene levels of affluence.

I am serious about the word "obscene" by the way. I'm simultaneously horrified and intrigued by this, since, as an American, I have some connection to these people, however tenuous. My thoughts range from this to this to this, with the Roman Empire being the obvious comparison.

Do I have a solution? Not a chance. I don't even know if there is a solution, or if I'm even asking the right questions. My net worth is closer to zero than a billion, so it would be easy for me to jump to a conclusion that something should change, however, these thoughts tend to lead to something equally appalling.

It gives me hope when billionaires can reevaluate their rise to power, and shift their focus to philanthropy, like Rockefeller and Gates, however, I wonder if a unilateral attempt at goodwill is at odds with the ideal of a democracy.

Sunday, August 16

Less Sleep FTL

I'm afraid of these.

Just a quick thought: what kind of society would we live in, where workers have to produce an extra four hours a day just to compete? Combine this with an escalation of workers (due to globalization), and the supply of labor increases, without necessarily increasing demand.

So the quality of life decreases for the majority of people, all because science comes up with yet another drug, not unlike these.

Now don't get me wrong: I'm a science nut. I dig all things tech. However, I'm also pragmatic enough to realize that just because it's science, doesn't mean it's good.

Saturday, August 15

Myers-Briggs

The problem is that these tests are taken by humans, who, for better or for worse, are subjective in the way they see themselves. Combine this with unclear delineations, such as T/J and F/P confusion, and I find many of these results to be silly.

For example: Sometimes people confuse terms like "feeling" with "random" and "logic" with "order". So someone who scores ISFJ may actually be an ISTP like their real life actions suggest.

Or they mark the test the way they would like to be, or how they see themselves relative to their ideal self. Like when my wife marks that she is "disorganized", because she is not as organized as she would like to be, however, objectively, she is ten times more organized than me, especially in her own head (which is what matters since she's an N).


Also, many people have misgivings and prejudices about some of the functions as inferior, especially S, F, and P. Sensing in particular, since I would imagine that many people would look at the numbers S 75%/ N 25% and quickly make the leap that S = "Stupid" and N = "Intelligent", and that in order to seem smart, they need to be an N (which is, to be fair, how it works in real life, since college-educated doctors, scientists, and computer programmers make more money than bricklayers.)

Or that feelings are generally looked down upon as being irrelevant and invalid, with thinking being "smart" and "logical". Or that unclean people who are constantly late are subject to ridicule as being "flaky", while our constant, structured, and punctual brethren get a promotion.

Or take the word "methodical", which has the dual meaning of being both "ordered" (J) and "logical" (T). Confusing...

The real issue is that this is an objective test, with subjective people taking it.

Friday, August 14

Comic #3

Radial Thinking

Humans have evolved to think in straight lines. Our eyes, nose and mouth face forward, and the limit of our gaze at any one time is about 108 degrees, good enough to discover danger as we trundle along.

It's as if we take a funnel and attach it to our face, and filter out the majority of our immediate surroundings. This is even worse when we focus, and that funnel becomes a garden hose. Then we become one dimensional beings, traveling along a line from point A to B to C.

Even in my thoughts, I can't make the picture a panorama, or worse, a sphere. In the virtual space of my brain, my neurons seem limited by the physical boundaries of my eyes. I can't have all around picture-thoughts, any more than I can attach new eyes to the back of my head.

I wonder what an intelligent radial creature with all around vision would be able to think about. I'm curious what sort of philosophies they would have, and how they would be able to think in ways that we can only haphazard a guess. Just as humans tend to think in one, two, and many, with our monisms, dualisms, and our universalisms, these creatures might have skipped over the idea of one and two, and began their search for truth with infinity.

Do trees and jellyfish sense in this manner? Do they "think" in a way unique to themselves, in which the universe comes to them, from every direction, without having to chase meanings on endless and futile paths?

Is there an alien race with these characteristics, that sees our thoughts and giggles when humans have the nerve to talk about the universal truths derived from causal logic? They may chuckle and speed away in their space ships, and mock us, because after all, how can we be so blind as to not understand the truths in circular logic?

Thursday, August 13

Memories as Ghosts

I live in my head often, where I am unanchored, aimless, purposeless, floating in the chaos of things that have been, might have been, and might come to pass. This jetsam reminds me of the Bermuda Triangle, where the ships and planes of my experience have crashed and sunk to the bottom of my subconscious sea.

If I pause, I can hear them. If I stare at the ceiling, I can see their faces mouthing words in the asbestos ocean. I've had a conversation with Abraham Lincoln as he strained in the plaster. Hundreds of faces coalesce into a caviar monstrosity, each wailing a soundless cry.

Sometimes they take on a reality again, with an email washed up on my shore, or a passing gossip from a friend of a friend of a friend. At this point, these ghosts are as real as Mars, which I have never been to, and yet pulls on me lightly from afar.

Sometimes these poltergeists can paralyze me, shackle me to the bed I have made, and again I am thrashing in a hurricane of my humiliations and embarrassments, the wreckage of my regret battering my psychic self. Nothing pierces my skin, and I am in such pain, these billions of ghosts, everyone who has ever lived and died, everyone who will ever think and feel becomes an infinite wave and I am so small, so insignificant, and I am lost, annihilated under their tragedies and triumphs.

Then a real life ghost appears, shrouded in a blanket. He smiles and growls, "I'm a monster!"

I say, "I love you kid," and I am exorcised.

Wednesday, August 12

Comic #2

Overpopulation

Such a loaded topic, I know. It's difficult to separate personal convictions from public policy from hard science, since all are inevitably intertwined. Instead of advocating a heavy-handed dictum for how everyone "should" act, I'll instead loosely brainstorm seemingly disparate themes. And so on.

Every environment has a carrying capacity, which is the hard limit that particular space can support life. This is not a dispute. Just as rats in a cage will breed to the limit of their space, food, and water, so too does any organism on the planet. For the large majority of Earth's history, species have been limited to their environments based on their physiology. That is, if a bird had a beak that could break the shell on a specific type of nut, then they could thrive by eating it. This is called adaptation.

Up until humans that is. We bent the rules. We have these brains that let us alter ourselves and our environments faster than evolution would normally allow. Instead of waiting a million years for someone to mutate with a claw that can crack a walnut, some smartypants came up with a nutcracker. Instead of scavenging the land for berries, somebody had the bright idea that if we planted all the berries in one place they could pick them a lot faster.

Humans have the evolutionary ability to increase our carrying capacity. It doesn't mean we don't have one, it just means that every good idea some brainiac comes up with increases this number.

The inverse is also true. Without the technologies that we currently possess, the carrying capacity of humans would plummet. Without nutcrackers and modern agriculture, billions of people would find themselves starving to death.

At this point, I want to take something from religion, without getting too dogmatic. This idea is the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. I'd like to discuss the Famine, War, Pestilence, and Death version. (The older version, in my opinion, was before they had a group consciousness about disease.)

The Four Horsemen seem an awful lot like personified regulating factors. (Just as God and Devil look an awful lot like personified Good and Evil.) That is, whenever humans start overpopulating, people starve, fight wars, get sick, or just plain die in all of the usual random ways. This idea is not new.

There is also the mistaken idea that we can somehow push back these factors forever, and that one day the carrying capacity of humans will be infinite. This ignores a fundamental fact: our ability to adapt is not perfect. There is a certain amount of compromise involved. Every technology we put forth has detriments, as technologies like the internal combustion engine, intensive farming, and nuclear power have shown.

Now it would be easy to say at this point, "Well, let's all just stop overpopulating. Let's use contraception." However, a disturbing popular culture reference to this idea is the movie Idiocracy, in which "smart" people stop breeding, and are overrun by "stupid" people. Or take a government imposed restriction on population like China, where the one-child policy leads to many ethical dilemmas. Even something as gentle as a one point difference in fertility rate has a huge effect on social policy. Check out the U.S. and Mexico on this map. It's no wonder why immigration reform is such a huge fiasco.

The elephant in the room is the uncomfortable idea that any group that applies self-regulation to their breeding will be replaced by those that don't. Which is why I refrain from cheerleading a solution when all of the options are distasteful, some more than others. This is a choice between many evils: allow the Four Horsemen to collapse wayward societies or implement immoral social policies? Do governments have the authority to make this decision? Do people have the rational self-interest needed to regulate their own urges? What about those that don't? Do we have the right to implement limits for "their own good?"

I fear any wellmeaning attempt that leads to a hellish dystopia, while at the same time I foresee a societal collapse on the horizon. Which is why this topic is bigger than any one person, me included.

Tuesday, August 11

Health Care Reform Opposition

The detractors of a public plan have two opposing claims against it:

A) The government can't run it right. (Long lines, other countries with public health care suck.)

B) The government can run it right. (The government will put private corporations out of business.)

If A) is true, then everyone with private health care won't be harmed, since their plan will be better than the government option. So if you can pay for a private option, you will get better care, but if you can't you will at least have the safety net of the government.

If B) is true, then private corporations are doing something wrong to begin with, and the people have been putting up with their horrible practices for too long as it is.

This disconnect is apparent when someone like this guy decides to have an opinion. (Check out from 4:15 on:)

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Bill Kristol
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorSpinal Tap Performance


Apparently the people that believe the government can't run anything right are the same people that advocate giving the government a blank check to buy weapons.

Monday, August 10

Comic #1

Virtual Worlds

I'm loathe to discuss this, since I have been periodically lost within digital spaces, however, I definitely think there is merit above and beyond addiction and delusive behavior in things like MMOs, and video games in general.

I'd like to specifically address MMOs, since I have been enthralled with one for about the last four years. One of the things that became apparent over time was that objects would have value to me (and anyone else similarly leashed by the game), but to everyone else, level and gold and gear and whatever else had absolutely no value. In fact, the more in game value I possessed, the less real world value I had. This makes sense from the outside, but when I was inside, somehow the virtual value equaled any real world value (time) I had traded it for.

Now before I jump to conclusions and say that no one should ever believe in virtual goods, I'd like to point out that every currency in the world is virtual. Every service provided by a person that doesn't result in the creation of an object is virtual. Every social contract we uphold, every generalization, and every idea we have in our head is virtual.

The difference is that everything I mentioned above can be traded in the real world. I can trade my services to you, and you can give me cash, which I can then use to purchase a taco.

MMO value, on the other hand, cannot (easily) be traded in for real world value. I can't sell a character for cash without breaking the rules. I can't "work" at a task in the virtual world, and then recieve real world value for that service. That's why these spaces are limited to MMOGs. I can't take my orc shaman, grind out some gold, and then convert that gold into real currency.

In order for these digital spaces to make the transformation from valueless "games" to legitimate "worlds," then some sort of exchange rate must be introduced, and trade barriers must cease. Just as goods and services cross national lines, so too must commerce cross between the real world and the virtual world.

Until then, these places will be valueless distractions, and nothing more.

Sunday, August 9

Mobile Rooms

I was thinking about yesterday's post, and wanted to envision a future with technologies we will soon possess, where we would never have to leave a building.

First off, imagine cars that drive themselves, like a future version of this article.

Now imagine that all cars are on a transportation system where there is no asphalt, only tracks to support magnetic levitation.

Then we can redesign cars to look less like cars, and more like mobile rooms. (Sort of how trains and subways are boxes stacked end to end.) These rooms could be utilitarian, like a public version for intercity travel, or luxurious, like a private land yacht with swivel chairs, a bar, and a jacuzzi.

Remove the driver, and many different possibilities for the "car space" open up, from office to eating quarters, to even bedroom. Why waste time watching asphalt when you can get a few more minutes of sleep? Maybe these mobile rooms will be modular, and "plug in" directly into your home, your work, even each other, like mini trains.

Do I think this is likely? Not really. By the time this technology is economically reasonable, the car culture we have created will be completely unsustainable. There just won't be enough land to support the number of cars people will need, regardless of their composition.

However, I do think that is the direction cars are headed, where "auto" stands for something different:

"Autonomous."

Saturday, August 8

Strollers

Whenever I see a baby or toddler or kid wrapped up in a blanket, cocooned in a stroller, docile and passive, generally sucking on a bottle, I always imagine a future not unlike the Matrix. It's the same vision that MMOs and headsets and power sleds come from, where walking is completely erased from our consciousness, and even at the earliest stages of development, every person is encased in a plastic shell.

I wonder how snails got that way, and I wonder if I'm seeing that same sort of evolution at work here.

Friday, August 7

Horizontal Specialization

At this point in my life, I have acted, built sets, written a screenplay, wrote poetry and fiction of all types, wrote a book, learned music theory, learned basic electronic music, been a radio DJ, assistant directed two films, edited video, shot photography, painted, drawn cartoons, made a card game and a roleplaying game, sung in a choir, sung in a band, wrote for the school paper, and in my seventh grade woodworking class, I made a duck out of wood. (I gave the duck to my mom, who broke it at the neck and glued it back together.)

I have studied the basics (if you call college courses basic) of art history, world history, national history, film history, anthropology, biology, both organic and inorganic chemistry, calculus up to linear algebra, physics, meteorology, philosophy, literature: of which I have over 200 units in college courses. It took me forever, but I have a B.A. in Creative Arts, which is pretty much the equivalent of saying that I have a degree in Artistic Chaos.

I can hike, swim, row a canoe, backpack, rock climb, rappel, pitch a tent, sleep the night in a forest using nothing but a plastic bag, shoot a bow and arrow, and shoot a rifle and a shotgun. I can cook. I can clean. I can drive a car. I can throw a baseball. I caught my two kids as they came out of my wife.

I'm not writing this so I can brag about how smart I am. In the sixth grade, my teacher wrote on my report card that I had a problem with "tooting my own horn," which is a perfect example of what I'm trying to say:

No matter what I do, I can't shake the feeling that I'm a complete idiot. When I look back on my life, I think "Holy crap, what did I do? Why did I say that? Why didn't I do this instead?"

I've always been at odds with the typical definition of knowledge, where a person is an

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Expert

and makes a lot of money doing whatever it is they happen to be specialized in. It seems like that type of vertical specialization is what we think of when we want a doctor, lawyer, computer programmer, piano virtuoso, or whatever we think of when we say someone is a genius.

On the other hand, I've always been more interested in the relationships between topics. I like summaries. I enjoy the interplay between science and art. I revel in combining aspects of one field with another, like computer biology, or video games (which are music, computers, visual art, games, and storytelling, all in one). Which is the definition of a

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polymath

though more often labeled as a

http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/dilettante

This sort of horizontal specialization is under-appreciated in our society. No one wants to hire a generalist for a job, since every worker has their place, like a cog in the machine, and they had better do that job at peak assembly line performance.

Again, I'm not saying that I am special, and that I'm an under-appreciated genius that deserves a fat paycheck. (Though I wouldn't turn down a large sum of money at this point.) Instead, I'm trying to say that there must be many people like me, floating along in occupations that don't really fit their abilities, who see the glue that holds all of these seemingly discordant specialties together.

Just as focus can be a virtue, so too is diffusion.

Thursday, August 6

Omnipotence

I've been thinking about what an all-powerful being would look like. My definition for omnipotence is the broadest possible. Meaning that such an entity would be able to do anything, including break any law of science or logic. This also includes omniscience, since the ability to perceive anything is necessarily within the abilities of an entity that can do anything.

(Our version of sight is to "catch" light and transform it into information, and any being that can do anything can certainly do this as well. Same goes for hearing, touch, smell, and taste.)

A truly omnipotent entity can defy logic. It can make a rock that is so big that even it can't lift it, and it can lift it. It can choose to not exist. (Kudos to all diehard atheists out there, any omnipotent being can choose to die, so technically, even if there is a God, He can be dead whenever He wants to be.)

So by my definition:

Omnipotence = an entity that can do anything

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Sometimes people toy with the idea that anything is possible. I will do the same here:

Existence (which includes our universe, and anything outside of that universe, plus thoughts, dreams, and the infinite infinities of everything) can either be a region in which everything is possible, or one where it can't. This is not a provable theory at the moment. Either a person believes that anything can happen, or they don't.

Let's assume for a moment that this existence is a region where anything can happen, then that statement becomes:

A region where anything can happen = Existence

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Let's put these two statements together:

Omnipotence = an entity that can do anything
A region where anything can happen = Existence

What exactly is an entity? What is a region? The difference between the two seems to be a matter of personification, where an entity is assumed to have some level of consciousness, whereas a region is a location only. However, in an omnipotent being, any part of that being can be a location without consciousness, and in existence, any region can be conscious (because anything can happen).

So we have:

Omnipotence =
an entity where anything can happen = Existence

---> Omnipotence = Existence

This means that if a person believes that we live in an existence where anything is possible, then they must also believe that there is an omnipotent being, which is exactly equal to all of existence.

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Now, that said, I have not proved that any specific version of God exists, or that He gives a crap about us, or that there is even a God to begin with (since we had to assume that this particular existence is one in which anything is possible). What I did show, however, is that in order to believe that anything is truly possible, one must also believe that our existence is an omnipotent being. Also, if you don't believe that an omnipotent being is possible, then you can't believe that anything is possible.

Wednesday, August 5

Internet Overload

The task seemed simple: I was interested in finding out how long soil has been on our planet. So I opened up Yahoo and typed in "soil age."

Thirty seven million hits.

Now I don't know about you, but I really don't have the time to search through that many links. I mean, isn't that the point of a search engine? Aren't they supposed to cut out the crap and only return the most useful pages? Possibly my topic had been too broad, so I switched to "determining soil age," and got a more reasonable eight million hits. Right.

Maybe the problem was Yahoo, since a lot of people chide me for using it. So I typed in "soil formation" in Google.

Two million hits. By this point, I'm getting frustrated. I understand that computers don't have the discerning power that humans have, but anything more than two hundred links is beyond my limits of patience. At this point, I don't care if the technology accidentally cuts out the best link ever, since I won't find it in link 1,538,239 anyway, since I'm not going to search that far.

So either the technology needs to get better, or it needs to pretend like it's better, because I sure as hell am not going to search through all 2.2 million hits when I type in "How old is all soil damn it".

Monday, August 3

Power Stilts

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Powerbocking

These are the coolest things ever. They are the equivalent of strapping a pogo stick to each leg, letting you jump five feet in the air, outrun a bus, and for the really talented, they can jump over cars, as shown:

http://www.doeswhat.com/2008/05/17/powerisers-2008-model-review/

The above video is done by a professional, however, the video below is a lot more realistic for the average user:



When this technology is fully realized, I have a vision of robotic reinforced stilts that will allow a person to run to work. Technologies this dramatic stimulate my imagination, and I hope this is not another over-hyped gadget, like:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Segway

Saturday, August 1

Reality

Sometimes I have difficulty believing that any of this exists.

We live on a giant rock, hurtling through space, while we slowly spin down a giant whirlpool with a mega black hole at the center of the drain. As far as we can tell, the known universe is billions of years old, and we have no idea what existed before or what will exist after it's gone. We don't know what is outside this universe, and if there is anything beyond that, and so on.

There are possibly infinite parameters in every conceivable measurement, from distance to time to size to knowledge and so on. Whenever we reach a boundary someone finds a way to shatter it. (Or at least question what is beyond.)

I have trouble believing in a universe that is this colossal. Reality dwarfs anything mankind can ever achieve on this earth. Buildings and governments, artworks and ideas, all we can hope to accomplish in our pitifully short lifetimes is absolutely meaningless in the grand scheme of things. No wonder many people turn to religion for solace when looking into the unknown. Or at least apathy. I suppose it's difficult to ponder the depths of infinity when the realities of hunger and pain are so absolutely certain.

I guess it doesn't help that churning our wheels while attempting to fathom the magnitude of the universe leads us nowhere. Only the application of a finite thought gives us a real solution, with an infinite number of problems to solve.

It doesn't seem to matter what I believe, however, because the universe seems to get along just fine without me and my suspicions.