Archive for
May 2016

Comments for Sunday, May 29, 2016, thru Tuesday, May 31, 2016:

May 30, 2016 - I recently watched Part 1 of a PBS series called "Genius by Stephen Hawking."  Part 1 was titled "Can We Time Travel?"  I recorded it on my DVR a couple weeks ago, but didn't have time to watch it until two days ago.  (The entire show is available for viewing on-line by clicking HERE.)

It does a fairly good job of explaining how Time Dilation works, and how we can travel into the future but not into the past. They point out that traveling into the past would require creating another you out of nothing, since you in the past would be there with you from the future, which is totally against all we know about science. (No, the universe wasn't created out of nothing. We just don't KNOW what was there just before the start of the Big Bang.)

Traveling into the future doesn't require creating another you. You travel one second into the future every second of your life.

In the PBS show, two of the three experimenters take an atomic clock to the top of a mountain. After spending the night there, the third experimenter brings up another atomic clock which had spent the night at the bottom of the mountain. They find that the clock that was on top of the mountain is 20 nanoseconds (billionths of a second) ahead of the clock that was at the bottom.  It's proof and a demonstration of time dilation.

comparing atomic clocks

It means that the two people who spent the night atop the mountain aged 20 nanoseconds more than the experimenter who stayed at the bottom of the mountain.  OR, you might say that those who went up the mountain traveled 20 nanoseconds into the future.

That was simple enough to understand, but then one of the two who had stayed the night atop the mountain said something that made things really complicated and confusing for me.  She talked about using binoculars to look at people at the base of the mountain and how, "technically, they are in the past."


Are they? If they are in the past, then the experimenter who spent the night at the bottom of the mountain was also in the past.  And people from the past will be mixing with people "from the future?" when everyone goes back down the mountain to mix with the people who live at the bottom of the mountain.

That's nonsense.  No one is looking into the past when you look down from atop a mountain at people living at the bottom of the mountain.  (Yes, light takes time to travel that distance, so in a sense you are looking back in time when you look through a telescope, but that works the same both ways - looking down from the top of the mountain and looking up from the bottom.  It's not time dilation.)

Yesterday, I created a blog thread about this as I pondered the situation.  It's titled "What is Time when Everyone is Time Traveling?"  Writing things down helps me think things through.

This morning I awoke still thinking about it.  I visualized two people yelling at each other, Person-A standing on the street and Person-B leaning out the window on the third floor of a building next to Person-A.


Because Person-A is closer to the center of the earth's mass, Person-A is moving through time at a slightly slower rate than Person-B on the third floor. Yet they have absolutely no problem communicating with each other. 

Obviously, "now" is the same for both people.  Both are moving into the future!  No one is moving into the past!  The situation illustrates something I wrote in my "scientific paper" about "Time Dilation Re-visualized."  I wrote this about the "twin paradox": Neither twin was ever behind or ahead of the other in time."  And the same holds true with two people yelling at each other from different heights.  Neither is behind or ahead of the other in time, even though time is going faster for the person who is farther from the center of the earth.

How can this be?  It can be because of something I wrote about in my 2nd "scientific paper," which was titled "What is Time?"  I wrote: "time is particle spin."  If Person-B is on the third floor, the sub-atomic particles that make up his body are spinning faster than the particles that make up the body of Person-A down at street level.  They are both in the "now," which means they can talk with each other even though time is going faster for Person-B than it is for Person-A.

The main problem is putting this into words that can be easily understood.  Is it something that others have pointed out thousands of times before, or is this a new way to view Time?

Obviously, the person on "Genius" was wrong.  You are not viewing people in the past when you stand atop a mountain and look through a telescope at people at the bottom of a mountain.  You are both in the "here and now," even though time is moving at different rates for everyone.  What you are doing is viewing someone who is aging at a different rate than you are because of his location.

Does that make Time just a "concept"?  No.  It makes Time a local effect or process, specific to an individual sub-atomic particle.  It ties Time to entropy and decay.  Clocks, seasons, and the regular motions of the sun and moon are how we have decided to measure time.  And, for convenience, and because we didn't fully understand how time really works when we made those decisions, we all agreed to use some common clock or repeating astronomical system to measure and discuss time, instead of using our own personal "atomic body clock."

I need to think about this some more.  Clearly Person-B in the building is not looking into the past as he looks down at Person-A on the street.  Nor is Person-A looking into the future as he looks up at Person-B. Yet, they are moving through time at different rates.  What they both perceive is NOW.

And what I perceive most of all is a need to explain all this in a better way.

May 29, 2016 - On Tuesday, I started listening to a new library audio book while working out at the gym.  It's "Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World" by Adam Grant.  I almost turned it off when the "Forward" became cloying and tedious, but I stayed with it, since I didn't have any easy way to pass over the "Forward" in an audio book while on a treadmill.

When the actual book started I was captivated.  I immediately identified with the "non-conformists" who switched to FireFox as their browser instead of sticking with Internet Explorer or Safari, the browsers that come already installed on Microsoft and Apple computers.   Most people do not even question whether the browser that came with their computer is the best one for their needs.  And, even if they wonder about it, they don't want to take the minor risks associated with making such a change.  (I'm now a very rare person who uses SeaMonkey as his browser.  I switched from FireFox to SeaMonkey because SeaMonkey has web site composer capabilities which I need.)

But the part in Chapter 1 that really grabbed me was this from page 6:
[Political psychologist John] Jost's team developed a theory of system justification.  It's core idea is that people are motivated to rationalize the status quo as legitimate -- even if it goes directly against their interests.  In one study, they tracked Democratic and Republican voters before the 2000 U.S. presidential election.  When George W. Bush gained in the polls, Republicans rated him as more desirable, but so did Democrats, who were already preparing justifications for the anticipated status quo.  The same happened when Al Gore's likelihood of success increased: Both Republicans and Democrats judged him more favorably.  Regardless of political ideologies, when a candidate seemed destined to win, people liked him more.  When his odds dropped, they liked him less.
Wow!  Does this explain why so many people support Donald Trump?  They see him as a "winner," and they like to support a "winner" even if the "winner" is the dumbest and most incompetent demagogue to ever run for office in this country?

I wondered if it was a chicken or egg type of thing.  Is Trump a "winner" because the people like him, or do they like him because he's a "winner"?  I can see how the answer must be that they like him because he's a "winner."  He's a billionaire, which classifies him as a "winner" to a lot of people, regardless of the stupid things he's done.  Plus, he defeated 16 other Republican candidates during the primaries.   

And, do so many people dislike Hillary Clinton simply because she's still losing races against Bernie Sanders, even though she seems to have the nomination locked up?  She's losing races, so she's a "loser."  Yes, Trump also lost races, but everyone running against him has given up, which makes him a "winner."  It doesn't make any difference what happened in the past.  Only now is important when measuring winners and losers.

What else could explain Trump's popularity?  I'm just amazed by it.  And it scares me a bit, too.  How could so many people be so mind-boggingly stupid?


Yesterday, I finished listening to CD #10, the last CD for the audio book version of "Lost on Planet China: One Man's Attempt to Understand the World's Most Mystifying Nation" by J. Maarten Troost.

Lost on Planet China

It is a very different view of China from that described in "China Road," by Rob Gifford, another book about traveling through China that I finished listening to on April 10.  Gifford spoke fluent Chinese and had lived for many years in China, so he was totally at ease hitchhiking alone across China.  Troost read "Chinese for Dummies" before going to China for the first time, alone.  Troost had to endlessly haggle with Chinese taxi drivers when he wanted to go somewhere.  He also had to endlessly haggle for the best price when staying at hotels and when shopping, and he thoroughly disliked haggling. 

One thing Gifford and Troost fully agree upon is that the Chinese government is incredibly corrupt at virtually every level.  Waiting in line for your turn is simply not done in China.  You may wait in line, but when the gate or opportunity opens, the line disintegrates and it is every man for himself.

While Troost sees much beauty in parts of China, much of the book seems to be about the terrible air pollution present in most cities, about how the air pollution causes men to be constantly coughing up "loogies" and spitting them on the sidewalk, and about how disgustingly dirty the public toilets are in many places, particularly on trains.  Troost describes old men defecating in the gutter on the main street of Beijing, and women helping their babies to pee into ash trays in plush Chinese restaurants because diapers are unknown in China. 

Troost is constantly accosted by prostitutes at the entrances to hotels and train stations, and he describes horribly mutilated children begging for money in the streets, very much like one might expect to see in Bombay, India.  When Troost tells of riding a donkey through breathtaking mountain passes in Tibet, he describes how beautiful the scenery is just before describing how the trail is one long trough of donkey crap.

And yet, "Lost on Planet China" is a very funny book and very interesting.  What it does best is show some of the same territory as seen by Rob Gifford, but viewed from a very different angle. Gifford was in familiar territory and avoided most of the problems.  Troost, on the other hand, wandered around in territory that was totally new to him, and he seemed to tumble face-first into every pitfall.

Comments for Sunday, May 22, 2016, thru Saturday, May 28, 2016:

May 24, 2016 - Since I've already broken my new "rule" about writing only one comment per week, I might as well mention that yesterday afternoon I finished listening to the audiobook version of Robert A. Heinlein's "Adventures in Eternity." 
Assignment in Eternity by
                  Robert A. Heinlein

It's an anthology of 2 novellas and 2 short stories, and listening to it reinforced my feeling that I should stick to listening to non-fiction books while working out at the gym.  It's too difficult to enjoy fiction when you listen to it in 20 and 30 minute segments four times a week.  It's never the right time to interrupt the story and turn off the MP3 player when a session on a treadmill or Exercycle is complete.  And continuing to exercise while waiting for the right moment to stop listening doesn't seem to work very well either, particularly if the next day is a day off or a weekend off from exercising.  That's particularly true if the book isn't particularly interesting, as was the case with most of "Assignment in Eternity."

By the way, this morning I noticed two headlines about the crash of EgyptAir Flight 804:
Human remains suggest explosion brought down EgyptAir plane, forensics official says
Egypt rejects report that crash evidence points to explosion
And I might as well mention noticing a news story about the so-called "replica" of Noah's Ark being built in Kentucky:

My jaw dropped open when I first saw a picture of it.  It appeared to have a bulbous bow, which is very modern technology only used on ships that move at relatively high speeds nearly all the time.  Since the ark doesn't seem to have any means of propulsion, it's difficult to judge what its top speed would be.  However, after researching further, I found that that's supposed to be a "fixed rudder" at the back (stern) of the ark.

Noah's ark

The attraction will be called Ark Encounter and is due to open this July. Things may or may not go smoothly, as the organization is currently drawing fire: They've announced that they will only hire Christians to staff the park, a policy that seems to flout anti-discrimination hiring laws.  I also noticed that it's somewhat controversial for other reasons, too.  But, the articles about it make interesting reading while I'm waiting for my MP3 player to get fully charged.

May 23, 2016 - While browsing through the Huffington Post this morning, I took the time to watch a very informative and very interesting 14 minute video of John Oliver discussing the American primary voting system.

It's amazing how screwed up it seems.  And it probably really is screwed up.  But what really fascinated me the most was that there were so many different ways to chose delegates for the national conventions.  It's like a bunch of experiments to find the best way, and each experiment shows what some particular group, after a lot of debate, finally agreed on was not the best way to pick a candidate, but only the best way they could all agree upon.  In other words, its the screwball result of compromise - apparently mostly between party bosses and voters.

It's a demonstration of the Winston Churchill quote, “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.”

Getting any mixed group of people to agree on anything is virtually impossible, but we still need to keep trying.   

This morning, someone asked me why my "Sunday comment" yesterday wasn't about the EgyptAir Flight 804 disaster.  My reason: I have nothing to add, and there's been too much speculation already.  Moreover, when I researched it this morning, I noticed a questionable new claim by the media:
French television channel M6 says pilot Mohamed Said Shoukair, 37, had “a conversation several minutes long” with Cairo air traffic control about the presence of smoke in parts of the aircraft and said he would attempt an emergency descent to try and clear the air.

The M6 report cites unnamed French aviation sources and the claims have not been confirmed by the French air accident investigation agency, the BEA.

The New York Post reports that after the flight vanished, an EgyptAir spokesman said there was a distress call from the aircraft, but the statement was later refuted by the Egyptian military and subsequently withdrawn by the airline.

Reading between the lines, I see an implication that the pilot may have done something very dangerous to get rid of some of the smoke in the cabin, and that may have made matters worse.  If so, that means that EgyptAir and the Egyptian government will want to squelch all rumors and theories until the black boxes are recovered and the accident investigation is completed.

I feel the same way.  I'm content to wait and see.  I have no opinions about it.

May 22, 2016 - Uh oh.  Once again I have absolutely nothing prepared for today's comment.  So, I'm going to have to start from scratch.

I've been cleaning out my closets, and I found that I have five unpublished novels and the beginnings of a sixth one in boxes and binders.   And that doesn't include the two relatively new sci-fi novels in the 3-book series I've been trying to complete.  The books I found were written in the 1970s and 80s.  A week ago I threw out about 30 short stories I wrote in the 1950s and 60s.

The unfinished novel is a true story of Henry Walke, a Civil War era naval officer whose adventures and actions fascinated me for a decade or more.

Henry Walke

I first tried to write a non-fiction book about him, digging through libraries and studying the book he wrote about his own life.  I then tried to write it in the form of a novel, and finally ended up completing it only in the form of a screenplay, which my agent at the time was unable to sell.

A big part of my fascination with Walke and his adventures during the Civil War had to do with the fact that he was dealing with a new technology: ironclad warships.  Walke was fighting battles using ironclads months before the Monitor and Merrimack made history by being the first two ironclads to fight each other.  And Walke was also an artist.  His pen and ink sketches are the only illustrations we have of some key Civil War events. 

The Carondelet at Fort

The sketch above shows his ironclad, "Carondelet," at Fort Donelson on the Cumberland River.  A few days earlier, the Union had won a tremendous victory at Fort Henry on the Tennessee River.  Fort Henry was on the bank of the Tennessee at water level, which meant that cannon fire from the ironclads would either hit the walls of the fort directly, or they'd skip on the water and then hit the walls.  The Rebel cannonballs, on the other hand, would simply bounce off the slanted iron plates of the ironclads and do little harm.  It was a major victory for the Union, allowing Grant to move up the Tennessee and deep into the heart of the South.

Shortly after the battle for Fort Henry was won, Walke and the Carondelet were sent to reconnoiter Fort Donelson on the Cumberland River.  As the sketch shows, Walke discovered the fort was on a high bluff, which meant that cannon balls hit the slanted iron plating on the Carondelet at a right angle, knocking some of them loose.  And, unlike at Fort Henry, fire from gunboats on the river could easily miss and simply hit the bluff or go over the fort.  Walke advised his boss, Admiral Foote, of the situation.  However, because Foote had just won a tremendous victory at Fort Henry, Foote thought he and his new ironclads were virtually invincible. ("As ye believe in God, also believe in gunboats," he preached at a Sunday sermon after his victory at Fort Henry.)  So, he rushed to Fort Donelson and his fleet of ironclads got thoroughly clobbered.  General Grant finally had to capture the fort by attacking it from a different direction.

Then the battles to open the rivers into the South moved to the Mississippi where Walke's actions and the Carondelet truly made history.  

Someday someone will write a great book about it all.  I'm surprised that no one has written it already.  When I asked historians about it, they seemed to view Admiral Foote as the Naval hero on the Western Rivers, and they saw Henry Walke as a subordinate who was more of an insubordinate.  The whole concept of people trying to understand the new technology of ironclad warships never seemed to enter their minds.  But that was what I found truly fascinating.

Another one of my unpublished novels, one that I actually completed, was about some kind of crime using computer technology in the 1970s.  The cover page for "The Quarter Million Dollar Program" indicates it was typed on a typewriter with one carbon copy.  I remember nothing about writing it.  It looks boring and I'll probably toss it in the trash later today.  I can't see any reason to keep it.

Another novel in a 3-ring binder is titled "Track of the Dragon."  It's 291 pages long, and there's a hand-drawn map of Northern Japan after the cover page.  Skimming through the first few pages, I can see it's about an American living in Japan who gets involved in some kind of caper.  I remember absolutely nothing about it, but it looks interesting.  So, I'll try reading it when I find some time.

"Breakpoint" is some kind of action story.  I remember nothing about it.  But, I'll try reading it before I toss it out.  I have a pretty good memory, so when I start reading it, the memories will probably start coming back.

"The Rule Breaker" is 290 pages (70,000 words) and another book I might remember after I start reading it.  I have no idea what it is about.  It's different because the 3-ring binder it's in also contains about 20 rejection slips from book publishers, dated from mid-1985 through early 1987.  It's also computer printed instead of typed on a typewriter.

Another novel is titled "Three Times Dead."  It was also printed on a computer. There's a handwritten note on the cover page in my handwriting that says, "5th Draft.  As sent to Doubleday on Jan. 4, 1989 & to no one else."  It's only 258 pages, 60,000 words, which is the bare minimum for a novel.  I vaguely remember "the gimmick" used in the story to cause the main character to "black out" during key periods, but that's all I remember.

I'm also going to give about a dozen of my oil paintings to Goodwill.  I painted them in the 1960s, and I sold some of them.  Click HERE to read a news article from August 1967 which mentions me as a "realist" artist.  For some reason, I had a fascination with sailboats, even though I've never been aboard one.  Three of the paintings I still have are of sailboats, which I probably copied from photographs in some magazine.  Most of the paintings are scenes of Japan, paintings I did of photographs I'd taken when I was there.  Example painting:

painting of Nikko, Japan

Below is the original slide I took in Nikko, Japan in 1964 (it darkened over the years, and I had to artificially brighten it a bit):

Nikko, Japan
If I want to put something on my walls, think I'd rather enlarge and frame the photo than continue crawling over the paintings when I need to get something from a shelf in my closet. 

While digging through my closets I also found 13 decks of playing cards, most still in their plastic wrapping.  They may be from the year I spent as a riverboat gambler. 

riverboat casino

Actually, I probably spent more of my time during that year (circa 1982) in Indian Reservation gambling casinos, plus one or two trips to Las Vegas.  I played blackjack and thought I might do well at it.  But, over the course of that year I found that I had no stomach for betting big, even if I was on a winning streak.  So, I ended the year only $200 ahead.  That was after subtracting all expenses.  After that year, I lost all interest in gambling.  (Some of the books I gave to Goodwill last month were books on gambling and how to win at blackjack.)

And so I've completed another Sunday comment.  I'm really going to have to figure out some pattern to follow with these comments.  It was easy when I was involved in analyzing the anthrax attacks of 2001, but today I've got so many things going on that there's nothing to focus upon. 

Maybe I'll figure out something before next Sunday.

Comments for Sunday, May 15, 2016, thru Saturday, May 21, 2016:

May 15, 2016 - On Friday I finished listening to a very interesting Robert A. Heinlein novella on my MP3 player.  It's title is "Gulf", and it was originally published in Astounding Science Fiction magazine in 1949.  It's about a secret society of geniuses who act to protect humanity.  I was surprised this morning while researching it, to find that it and many other Heinlein stories and novels are available on line as pdf files.  Just click HERE to read "Gulf." 

While the story Heinlein tells in his novella is just okay, included within the story are some very interesting conversations about the human race that really make it a classic.  Below is the beginning of one particular conversation in the story that I found to be fascinating.  It begins at the bottom of page 27 in the pdf file:
     “Joe, what is a superman?”
     Gilead did not answer.
     “Very well, let’s chuck the term,” Baldwin went on. “It’s been overused and misused and beat up until it has mostly comic connotations. I used it for shock value and I didn't shock you. The term ‘supermen’ has come to have a fairy tale meaning, conjuring up pictures of xray eyes, odd sense organs, double hearts, uncuttable skin, steel muscles – an adolescent’s dream of the dragon-killing hero. Tripe, of course. Joe, what is a man? What is man that makes him more than an animal? Settle that and we’ll take a crack at denning a superman – or New Man, homo novus, who must displace homo sapiens – is displacing him – because he is better able to survive than is homo sap. I’m not trying to define myself, I’ll leave it up to my
associates and the inexorable processes of time as to whether or not I am a superman, a member of the new species of man – same test to apply to you.”
     “You. You show disturbing symptoms of being homo novus, Joe, in a sloppy, ignorant, untrained fashion. Not likely, but you just might be one of the breed. Now – what is man?  What is the one thing he can do better than animals which is so strong a survival factor that it
outweighs all the things that animals of one sort or another can do much better than he can?”
     “He can think.”
     “I fed you that answer; no prize for it. Okay, you pass yourself off a man; let’s see you do something. What is the one possible conceivable factor – or factors, if you prefer – which the hypothetical superman could have, by mutation or magic or any means, and which could be added to this advantage which man already has and which has enabled him to dominate this planet against the unceasing opposition of a million other species of fauna? Some factor that
would make the domination of man by his successor, as inevitable as your domination over a hound dog? Think, Joe. What is the necessary direction of evolution to the next dominant species?”
     Gilead engaged in contemplation for what was for him a long time. There were so many lovely attributes that a man might have: to be able to see both like a telescope and microscope, to see the insides of things, to see throughout the spectrum, to have hearing of the same order, to be immune to disease, to grow a new arm or leg, to fly through the air without bothering with silly gadgets like helicopters or jets, to walk unharmed the ocean bottom, to work without tiring –
     Yet the eagle could fly and he was nearly extinct, even though his eyesight was better than man’s. A dog has better smell and hearing; seals swim better, balance better, and furthermore can store oxygen. Bats can survive where men would starve or die of hardship; they are smart and pesky hard to kill. Rats could –
     Wait! Could tougher, smarter rats displace man? No, it Just wasn’t in them; too small a brain.
     “To be able to think better,” Gilead answered almost instantly. “Hand the man a cigar! Supermen are superthinkers; anything else is a side issue.
It then goes on to discuss various degrees and levels of "superthinkers" and how they are different from others around them.  It reminded me very much of a terrific psychology book I read awhile back, "Thinking: Fast and Slow."  Heinlein's novella seems to be saying somewhat the same thing as was said in that book: Some people do mostly "fast thinking," which is mostly automatic actions, like clicking on your car's turn signal when you are preparing to turn, even if you are in the middle of a prairie and there's obviously no other cars within miles of you.  Other people do an unusual amount of "slow thinking," which involves logic and reason.  Heinlein's novella is about a new "species" of humans who can do "slow thinking" very fast, i.e.,
the man who can and does reason at all times, quickly, accurately,
inclusively, despite hope or fear or bodily distress, without egocentric bias or thalamic disturbance, with correct memory, with clear distinction between fact, assumption, and nonfact. 
I seem to do a lot of "slow thinking" very slow, and a lot of it is probably not very accurate.

For example, on Wednesday evening I watched a TV program about dark energy on the Science Channel.  It was an episode of "Space's Deepest Secrets."  Dark energy was something I'd never paid much attention to before.  Suddenly, I found the subject to be fascinating.  Looking around the Internet, I found some key information HERE about dark energy:

Assuming the existence of dark matter and that the law of gravitation is universal, two teams of astrophysicists—one led by Saul Perlmutter, at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the other by Brian Schmidt, at Australian National University—set out to determine the future of the universe. Throughout the 1990s the rival teams closely analyzed a number of exploding stars, or supernovas, using those unusually bright, short-lived distant objects to gauge the universe’s growth. They knew how bright the supernovas should appear at different points across the universe if the rate of expansion were uniform. By comparing how much brighter the supernovas actually did appear, astronomers figured they could determine how much the expansion of the universe was slowing down. But to the astronomers’ surprise, when they looked as far as halfway across the universe, six or seven billion light-years away, they found that the supernovas weren’t brighter—and therefore nearer—than expected. They were dimmer—that is, more distant. The two teams both concluded that the expansion of the universe isn’t slowing down. It’s speeding up.

The implication of that discovery was momentous: it meant that the dominant force in the evolution of the universe isn’t gravity. It is...something else. Both teams announced their findings in 1998. Turner gave the “something” a nickname: dark energy. It stuck. Since then, astronomers have pursued the mystery of dark energy to the ends of the Earth—literally.

The program made it very clear that no one really knows if "dark energy" really exists.  They call it "dark" energy because they don't now what it is, not because it is somehow dark in color.  Everyone seems to realize it could very easily be that they are just looking at things from the wrong angle. 

On the Internet I'd previously argued with people who believe that "the aether" is slowing down light coming from distant galaxies, or gravity from dust particles is slowing down light.  To me, using "fast thinking," it seemed "obvious" that some misunderstood factor about Time and/or the speed of light was causing the phenomenon.  There are lots of things we do not know those subjects, so why assume that it is something totally new that is behind what is being observed?

Of course, my ignorance of these subjects is very great, but what I do know says that it makes no sense to assume that anything like "dark energy" actually exists.  Unlike "fast thinking" Science Truthers, however, I'm not prepared to argue that the idea is wrong simply because it makes no sense to me.  What I am prepared to do is some "slow thinking" to try to figure out why it makes no sense to me.  Maybe there is something the Nobel Prize winners know that I do not know.  That certainly seems possible.

First of all, I know the official "speed of light" is the speed of light in a vacuum.  And I know that the speed of light is slower through water.  In a vacuum the speed of light is 299,792,458 meters per second, while in water it is 225,056,264 meters per second.  And that means that, if the light from a supernova is somehow going slower when it arrives, it would merely appear that the supernova is farther away than it really is, because scientists used an incorrect measurement for the speed of that specific light.     

If it is not possible for light to go slower simply because it is coming from an object that is moving away at a very high speed, then the question becomes: If an object is moving through Time at a relatively slow rate, won't the light it emits be in that same time speed?  Could we detect a difference between light that travels at a slow speed and light that moves at its maximum speed through a slow tunnel of time?  Does that question even make sense?

Time for more research.  I did a Google search for "how is the speed of light measured" and found this question and answer:
Is The Speed of Light Everywhere the Same?

The short answer is that it depends on who is doing the measuring: the speed of light is only guaranteed to have a value of 299,792,458 m/s in a vacuum when measured by someone situated right next to it.
Hmm.  Groan!  When I get some free time, I'm going to have to try to find out how the people who dreamed up "dark energy" eliminated all the other (seemingly) possible explanations for why light from a supernova shows that the universe is expanding faster than faster.  When you have an explosion, doesn't the material that ends farthest from the point of the explosion get there because it traveled faster than the other material involved in the explosion?  And who says that the universe has had sufficient time for gravity to start slowing things down?
And what should I do with all the old paintings I have in my closet, paintings left over from my artist days?   I'm tired of climbing over them whenever I need to get something on a shelf on that side of the closet!

I need Time to slow down so I can catch up on all the things I want to do!

Comments for Sunday, May 8, 2016, thru Saturday, May 14, 2016:

May 8, 2016 - Someone advised me of a news story last week about the police thwarting a "planned anthrax attack" in Kenya.  (Click HERE for one article about it.)  Last year there was an outbreak of anthrax at the Lake Nakuru National Park in Kenya that killed about 100 buffalo and two rhinos.  So, some veterinarian in Kenya probably has some anthrax samples. But, if they tried to weaponize it, they'd more likely kill themselves before killing anyone else. 

A little research finds a chart showing a "Summary of historical attacks using chemical or biological weapons," and it shows only one anthrax attack - the anthrax attacks launched via the US mails in 2001 in which Dr. Bruce Ivins killed 5 people and injured 17 others.  But, there was another anthrax "attack" in July 1993, when the Aum Shinrikyo religious group sprayed a liquid suspension of Bacillus anthracis from the roof of an eight-story building in Kameido, Tokyo, Japan.  Due to a variety of factors (clogged spray nozzles, sunlight killing the germs, etc.) no one was even sickened by the Aum Shinrikyo anthrax attack.

Digging further, you can find that Finland used anthrax to kill Russian horses during the First World War.  And anthrax was supposedly used to contaminate food supplies in Rhodesia in 1978-80, killing about 200 people. 

There's good reason anthrax is rarely used in terrorist attacks: There are a lot of other dangerous bacteria and chemicals that are much easier to work with.  The best proof of that is the accidental release of anthrax spores into the air from a bioweapons plant in Sverdlovsk, Russia, in 1979 that killed 200 people in the town.

But, anthrax is definitely a "terrorist's" weapon, since the mere possibility that someone might be planning to use it is enough to terrorize a lot of people.

I've probably written about most of the incidents mentioned above several times over the years on my old web site, but every time anthrax gets mentioned in the news there is a spike in visitors to both of my web sites and to my anthrax blog.  That fact was made more interesting last week because, currently, while working out at the gym four times a week, I'm using my MP3 player to listen to the audio book version of "The Google Story," by David A. Vise.  I hadn't really thought much before about how Google was different from prior (or alternative) search engines such as AltaVista, Excite, InfoSeek, Lycos, Magellan and Yahoo!.

The book explains that when you did a search for words like "anthrax attack," most other search engines would give you the web sites that use those two words most often.  Google, on the other hand, gave you the web sites containing those two words which people linked to most often.

I remember using some old search engine and constantly getting junk web sites which used whited out and thus invisible popular search words like "anthrax attack" as background or borders in order to trick the search engines that looked for those words.  Google wouldn't find those sites because no one would provide links to them.

When I got home from the gym, just out of curiosity, I tried a couple of the other search engines.  One of them pointed me to news articles, including one about Trump University

So, I was off on another side track.  The article was titled, "Trump To Face Trial In Trump University Lawsuit After Election."  It says,  

Donald Trump will go to trial in a class-action lawsuit against him and his now-defunct Trump University after the presidential election but before the inauguration, setting the stage for a president-elect to take the witness stand if he wins the White House.

U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel on Friday scheduled trial for Nov. 28 in the suit that alleges people who paid up to $35,000 for real estate seminars got defrauded. The likely Republican nominee planned to attend most, if not all, of the trial and would testify,Trump attorney Daniel Petrocelli said.
That's interesting!  Why haven't I heard more about this?  I'd undoubtedly seen on TV that Donald Trump was being sued for some reason related to Trump University, but I'd never before paid much attention.  The article I had found, however, got me interested.  I looked for other articles and found one from the National Review titled "Yes, Trump University was a Massive Scam."  It says,
First thing first, Trump University was never a university. When the “school” was established in 2005, the New York State Education Department warned that it was in violation of state law for operating without a NYSED license. Trump ignored the warnings. ...

The free seminars were the first step in a bait and switch to induce prospective students to enroll in increasingly expensive seminars starting with the three-day $1495 seminar and ultimately one of respondents’ advanced seminars such as the “Gold Elite” program costing $35,000.

At the “free” 90-minute introductory seminars to which Trump University advertisements and solicitations invited prospective students, Trump University instructors engaged in a methodical, systematic series of misrepresentations designed to convince students to sign up for the Trump University three-day seminar at a cost of $1495.

The article also says,
The New York lawsuit alone represents some 5,000 victims.

Meanwhile, Trump — who maintains that Trump University was “a terrific school that did a fantastic job” — has tried to bully his opponents out of the suit. Lawyers for [one of the victims] Tarla Makaeff have requested a protective order from the court “to protect her from further retaliation.” According to court documents, Trump has threatened to sue Makaeff personally, as well as her attorneys. He’s already brought a $100 million counterclaim against the New York attorney general’s office.
The article also provides a link to an article in The Atlantic which says,
Every university has admission standards and Trump University was no exception. The playbook spells out the one essential qualification in caps: “ALL PAYMENTS MUST BE RECEIVED IN FULL.” Basically, anyone with a valid credit card was “admitted” to Trump University.
I'm totally amazed that Americans could elect someone like Donald Trump to run for President.  Who are these Americans?  I don't see any possibility that they represent any kind of majority, but they certainly seem fired up and dedicated.  And I certainly could be wrong about how many there are.  On TV they seem to be angry bullies, reminding me once more of the followers of fascist leaders in the mid 20th century.  Mussolini had his admirers and followers, too.  When I talk with my Republican relatives, all they will talk about is how much they dislike Hillary Clinton.  It's as if they are embarrassed to be supporting the Republican candidate, but they seem to feel it's their duty to make sure Hillary Clinton isn't elected.

I can understand that position a bit, since I feel it's my duty to do everything I can to make sure Donald Trump isn't elected President.    

By the way. the most interesting search engine I found was one that just searched for animated gifs.  It's called Giphy.      

Donald Trump animated

Trump animated gifs

Comments for Sunday, May 1, 2016, thru Saturday, May 7, 2016:

May 2, 2016 - While working out at the gym this afternoon, I finished listening to another book on my MP3 player.  I suppose I could just wait until Sunday to mention it, but I'm writing the comment now, so why not upload it now?  Maybe it will mean I won't have anything to write about on Sunday.  But, maybe I will.

The book I just finished was "Upon The Dull Earth - and other stories" by Philip K. Dick. 

upon the dull earth

As the title suggests, it's a book of short science fiction stories.  The five stories in the book appear to have been written in the 1950s and 1960s, since a couple of them relate very clearly to the Cold War and what life would be like if the Cold War turned into a Hot War that virtually wiped out the entire Earth.  Listening time is only 4 hours and 20 minutes.  None of the stories was particularly memorable, but it was a good way to pass the time while exercising.

May 1, 2016 - Last week was another week spent wanting to get started on my 3rd sci-fi novel, but doing other things instead.  I read arguments on Facebook and occasionally put in my two cents worth.  One argument I read led to the discovery of an amazing article from the Sept.-Oct. 2001 issue of American Spectator magazine.  It's an interview with Carver Mead, a former colleague of Physicist Richard Feynman.

The article contains some annoying "typos" which appear to have originated when the published article was optically scanned to convert it into text.  But, it's very much worth reading, because it contains a detailed description of why so many college-educated people these days seem to be "anti-physics."  It seems to explain the "philosophy" of all the "Science Truthers" I had been arguing with since the middle of last year.  It relates to the conflict between Relativity and Quantum Mechanics.   Here's a quote from the interview:
Einstein's basic point was that unpredictability does not mean intrinsic uncertainty. His other complaint was that Bohr was removing understanding from the field of physics. Bohr argued quite passionately that intuitive understanding was just not possible any more, and that you were old-fashioned if you insisted on it.

And so mathematical description was substituted for understanding?

Absolutely. It's conceptual nonsense. You can calculate stuff with the theory, but the words people put around it don't make any sense. That had the effect of driving the more conceptually-oriented students out of physics. We have ended up with more and more mathematicians in the physics departments. Don't get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with mathematics--it's the language we use to express the precise relations of physical law. But there is an increasing tendency to mistake the language for the physics itself. Once we lose the conceptual foundations, the whole thing becomes a shell game. There are very few conceptual workers left in the field. Feynman was one of the last ones, and he wasn't willing to take on the Copenhagen clan.
A lot of that is what I have been saying.  Mathematicians are using nonsense like "singularities" to "explain" things that really cannot yet be explained because we simply do not yet know enough about how the universe works.  On an impulse, I ordered a used copy of Mead's book "Collective Electrodynamics" via Amazon.  Hopefully, it will help me understand more about how and why Relativity is a better explanation of the universe than Quantum Mechanics. 

Meanwhile, I also did more housecleaning last week.  I threw out a foot-tall stack of material related to the anthrax attacks of 2001, including copies of various documents and two early manuscripts for my book "A Crime Unlike Any Other." The documents had been sitting and collecting dust on a desk in the corner of my office, and I could see no reason why I would ever again need any of it.  While Truthers and Conspiracy Theorists continue to crusade to convince others of their beliefs about the case, it's no longer of much interest to the rest of the world.  The case has been solved, even if it hasn't been solved to the satisfaction of Truthers and Conspiracy Theorists.

Yesterday, shortly after eating lunch, I completed reading a science book called "The Beginning of Infinity: Explanations that Transform the World" by David Deutsch, which I'd been reading on my Kindle during breakfast and lunch since late February.  It's 496 pages in the paperback edition.

The Beginning of

I probably highlighted hundreds of interesting passages.  Here's the first passage I highlighted back on March 2:
In this book I argue that all progress, both theoretical and practical, has resulted from a single human activity: the quest for what I call good explanations.
And here's a passage from near the end of the book that I highlighted yesterday:
Never before in the history of human thought has it been so obvious that our knowledge is tiny and our ignorance vast.
To attempt to predict anything beyond the relevant horizon is futile – it is prophecy – but wondering what is beyond it is not. When wondering leads to conjecture, that constitutes speculation, which is not irrational either. In fact it is vital. Every one of those deeply unforeseeable new ideas that make the future unpredictable will begin as a speculation. And every speculation begins with a problem: problems in regard to the future can reach beyond the horizon of prediction too – and problems have solutions.
The book covers a lot of territory, including the best explanation of "memes" that I have yet read.  It made me wonder if I'm somewhat immune to "memes."  Most people in this world seem to be tuned into "memes" and automatically adopt habits and practices from others around them, including their parents, so that they can fit in and easily mingle with others.  I tend to just wonder why anyone would do such a thing.  Smoking is the best example.  When I was young, people around me were always smoking.  But I could see no point to it.  Today I see people standing around and talking for an hour or more about the weather or about sports.  I can't discuss either one for more than 15 seconds without running out of things to say.  Yet, I can spend hours talking about science, a subject of absolutely no interest to anyone I know personally.  So, I have to do it on the Internet.   

The book also gets into the area of alternate universes, which the author seems to accept as the best "explanation" for a lot of unsolved mysteries in science, but which I see as just an idea that cannot be verified or debunked, and therefore serves no purpose except to generate arguments that cannot be resolved.

It appears that "alternate universes" is a possible explanation for certain currently unexplained phenomena.  David Deutsch accepts it as the "best explanation" that is currently available.  It may be.  But, to me, if there is no way to confirm or disprove an hypothesis, then it's not something I want to spend any significant time thinking about.  There are just too many other absolutely fascinating things that really interest me in this world.  


While working out at the gym on Tuesday, I finished listening on my MP3 player to the audio book for "Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho," by Stephen Rebello.  It was a very enjoyable book with a lot of information about every step in the making of the movie, along with fascinating details about mass-murderer Ed Gein, the psychopath who inspired the book "Psycho" by Robert Bloch, and details about the 1959-1960 time period when the movie "Psycho" was made. 

Alfred Hitchcock and the
                  Making of Psycho

As the paperback book cover above illustrates, the book was made into the movie "Hitchcock" in 2012.  So, of course, I also watched that movie again.  It's very different from the book.  A word search through Amazon's copy finds only 10 mentions of Hitchcock's wife, Alma, in the entire book.  But, played by Helen Mirren, she's a major part of the movie.   


On Friday, while driving to the gym, I finished listening to the last of 6 CDs for "What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions" by Randall Munroe. 

What If? by Randall

It was only mildly interesting.  A few examples of the questions are: "What would happen if you tried to hit a baseball pitched at 90 percent of the speed of light?" and "How long could a nuclear submarine last in orbit?" and "What would happen if lightning struck a bullet in mid-air?"

One of the more interesting questions was about who was "the loneliest human in history?" i.e., who was the human who was farther away from every other human than anyone else has ever been.

The answer was: the astronauts who traveled alone in their spacecraft in orbit around the moon while their two fellow astronauts were walking around on the moon exploring.  The book contains two quotes from those "loneliest humans in history."  The first quote is from Apollo 11 command module pilot Michael Collins as his orbit took him into the far side of the moon:
I am alone now, truly alone, and absolutely isolated from any known life.  I am it.  If a count were taken, the score would be three billion plus over on the other side of the moon, and one plus God knows what on this side.   
But, I found the comment from Apollo 15 command module pilot Al Worden to be even more interesting:
There's a thing about being alone and there's a thing about being lonely, and they're two different things.  I was alone but I was not lonely.  My background was as a fighter pilot in the air force, then as a test pilot - and that was mostly in fighter airplanes - so I was very used to being by myself.  I thoroughly enjoyed it.  I didn't have to talk to Dave and Jim any more ... On the backside of the Moon, I didn't even have to talk to Houston and that was the best part of the flight.
So, the "loneliest human in history" was just happy to have a few minutes of peace and quiet.

© 2016 by Ed Lake