Archive for ed-lake.com
November 2018

Comments for Sunday, November 25, 2018, thru Friday, Nov. 30, 2018:

November 27, 2018 - That image of 5 planets in alignment from the NASA web site that I used in yesterday's comment has been on my mind.  I kept trying to visualize exactly what was happening.  I'd never thought about the planets being organized like a Ferris wheel which is viewed edge-on from the Earth, with the Earth being located near the center of the wheel.  I finally had to sit down and create an illustration of where the planets would be in their orbits in order for them to be aligned as seen in the image NASA used.

Planetary alignment - August 2016

So, it's somewhat of an optical illusion.  Mars and Saturn are nowhere near each other in reality, of course, and neither are Mercury and Jupiter.  Plus, while they are all moving in the same direction around the Sun, they move at different very rates, and in the situation shown in the NASA image, Venus is moving downward while Mercury is moving toward the Earth and the rest of the planets are moving upward.

I don't know if it will interest anyone else, but I had to create the illustration to clarify my thoughts.  Additionally, while studying what NASA wrote about the image, I happened to notice what they used on their web site to illustrate or explain the term "imaged together."  Here it is:

cat sleeping atop a dog
 
I guess that does represent "imaged together," and finding that picture somewhat justifies the time I spent on this comment.

November 26, 2018
- It's Monday and, as expected, there was another order in my email inbox this morning from a company that sells my books.  And, as with all their earlier orders, I'm just going to ignore it.  The only alternative seems to be to pay them $99 a year to join a program so they will stop sending me such orders.  Interestingly, they sold a paperback copy of "A Crime Unlike Any Other" yesterday.  It's the first sale I've had in over a month.  It was a "print on demand" book, which means they print a copy when someone orders a copy, so there is no reason to send me any order so they can restock.

Meanwhile, I went through a little demonstration of how the Right Brain works after I browsed through the latest paper by the Egyptian author I mentioned in yesterday's comment.  The paper contains a version of this image on page 17:

Fake picture of planets over pyramids
The paper said the three planets aligned above the pyramids were Mercury, Venus and Saturn.  The event was supposed to have happened on December 3, 2012.  And the author seemed to use the image as proof of his theory that planetary orbits are square, not elliptical. 

I'd never seen the picture before, and I couldn't believe it was real. I collect images related to astronomy, and I certainly didn't have that one.  Besides, when I thought about it for a few seconds, how could Mercury be in the image without it being sunset or sunrise?  Mercury is too close to the sun to be seen in darkness as shown in the image.

So, of course, I researched it.  The picture is a fake.  Mercury, Venus and Saturn did line up on December 3, 2012, but any such alignment seen from earth would have been seen as a vertical alignment, not nearly horizontal.  Plus, the image appeared on the Internet months before Dec. 3, 2012.  It was created by a blogger to illustrate what he imagined the alignment might look like.  The image was then passed around the Internet and appeared on hundreds of blogs as being real.  A Nature magazine blog article HERE explains the situation in detail.  It says,
There will be an event on 3rd December, 2012 and it will probably be quite special. However, according to Plait, the photoshopped image here has more than a few problems. To start with, the angle the photo is taken from is wrong. The picture is taken from the southwest facing the pyramids. However, in order to see the planet alignment, you must be northwest of the pyramids. From the angle the picture is taken from, the planets would be behind the viewer. 
Of course, other web sites argued that the picture was a fake.  As I stated above, I felt it was a fake as soon as I saw it.  It just didn't fit with the other images my right brain has stored.  And my left brain said it was not logical, since Mercury couldn't be far enough from the sun for the sky to be that dark.  But, by using mathematics, the Egyptian author confirmed it fit exactly with his beliefs. 

After writing the above comment, I wondered if there were any real pictures of the event.  So, I did some more research and found the image below, which is not the event in question, but from August 16, 2016. 

five visible planets

Evidently, according to astronomy.com, the five planets could also have been seen almost any night last month.  And they will be seen again in July 2020.  So, I'm not sure what the fuss was all about back in 2012.

November 25, 2018
- The other day, academia.edu sent me an email advising me of a scientific paper that they somehow assumed would be of interest to me.  The paper was titled "Solar Planet Motion Trajectory Is A Square And Not An Ellipse," authored by Gerges Francis Twadrous.

The paper is written in horribly bad English by an Egyptian who says he works as a translator.  The paper also says the author was a student at the People's Friendship University in Moscow, Russia, from 2010 to 2013, but the paper was written on November 9, 2018, in Cairo, Egypt. 

I'm not sure why I bothered to look at it, but it was probably because the title suggested that planetary orbits are square, not elliptical.  It makes this claim:
I provide here a clear claim …. let's summarize it in following:
1- The solar planet motion trajectory is a square and not an ellipse,
2- We see the planet motion trajectory as ellipse (kepler 1st law is correct)
3- The moon orbit geometrical structure prevents us to see the solar planet motion real trajectory (the square) and covers it by an imaginary trajectory (the ellipse)
So, he actually does claim that planetary orbits are square!  How does he prove his claim?  With complex mathematics, of course. 

Then another interesting part of the paper caught my attention:
This paper supports my claim against Nobel Prize Board Decision in physics 2018
The claim is written in my previous Paper
Kepler 3rd Law Explanation (a Claim Against Nobel Prize Board Decision in Physics 2018
Does it say what it seems to say?  Yes.  It seems the author sent a copy of his first paper about square orbits (dated October 4, 2018) to the Nobel Prize committee and asked for the prize.  In that paper, the author argued that if Newton's laws of motion were true, then Jupiter would have to be located where Mercury is currently located. 

For some unknown reason, the Nobel Prize committee turned him down.  So, he began protesting.  He wrote a second paper, dated October 6, 2018, which stated:
Nobel Prize Board faces the responsibility of Physics development support.
That's why I still claim against the decision because we need help to overcome the wrong concepts and repair the science, seeking to perform a progress in the solar group geometry understating…
Evidently, he heard nothing further from the Nobel committee, so he wrote the third paper, which is the one academia.edu wrote me about.

A little research finds that the author has actually written 68 papers, beginning with a 100-page paper written in September 2015 that has been downloaded by 1,013 different viewers.  (My most popular paper has been downloaded by 373 different viewers.)  In spite of the very bad English used in Mr.
Twadrous' paper, it has never been revised.  And it appears he never revised any of his papers. 

In a paper dated last Wednesday, he provides some very interesting information about himself.  It's a paper that says he's been trying for 24 years to get a degree in physics, and he hasn't succeeded.  So his paper requests:
I write my story with hope someone will try to make the physics 1st degree graduation process more easy!
I wonder who he expects will do that.  Regardless of whether someone will do it or not, the author is still writing papers.  He wrote a 32-page paper yesterday.  It is titled "The Moon Geometry," and it uses mathematics to prove something or other.  It also has a section about his "methodology" which says,
2- Methodology
I use the same method in all my researches, The Planet Data Analysis…
Let's explain the idea here again
In Pythagoras triangle we found that a
2+ b2 = c2, this rule we can conclude from the triangle data if its dimensions are 3, 4 and 5… so the data may show the geometrical rules….similar to that, I use the solar planets data analysis to conclude the main geometrical rules which explain the solar planets origin and motion…
I'm not sure why I spent so much time (probably about an hour) looking through the papers written by Gerges Francis Twadrous, but he seems to exemplify the idea that mathematics can be used to prove anything you want to prove.  All you need to do is ignore observations and experiments which show you are wrong.  However, Mr. Twadrous does go one step further.  He begins all of his papers with this:

IN THE ALMIGHTY GOD NAME
Through the Mother of God mediation
I do this research

So, it appears he not only has an unshakable belief in the infallibility of his mathematics, he is on a Holy mission to explain the universe to the rest of us. (That probably also explains why he never saw any need to revise any of his papers.)

And all I am doing is trying to make sense of things so that I understand them.     


Comments for Sunday, November 18, 2018, thru Saturday, Nov. 24, 2018:

November 23, 2018 - At about the 25% point on my Kindle, I gave up on reading "Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking," by Malcolm Gladwell.  It simply wasn't worth my time.  The author is preaching misleading nonsense, as far as I am concerned. 

When I decide I that I do not want to continue reading a book, I usually just move on to the next book in the queue without writing any comment on this web site.  However, "Blink" deserves a comment, since it not only seems wrong, but it seems it should be fairly easy to explain where it is wrong.  And writing out an explanation might help me think through the problems I have with the book.  I call it "thinking in writing."

"Blink" begins with the story of how, in September of 1983, an art dealer named Becchina tried to sell a statue to the J. Paul Getty Museum in California.  The statue was a "kouros," which means it was a Greek sculpture of a young male standing with his left leg forward and his arms at his sides.  About 200 such statues have been found, but most are badly damaged, since they were mostly carved during the 6th century BC.  Becchina's statue was in excellent condition, and he was asking just under $10 million for it.  Various experts hired by the Getty museum examined the stature for over a year and concluded it was genuine, so the museum agreed to buy it. 

Then one of the Getty museum's own experts, Frederico Zeri, looked at it and said it didn't look right.  There was something about it that was wrong.  But he wasn't sure what it was.  So, a new investigation began.  Gradually, Zeri began to realize the statue looked too "fresh."  Other "kouros" from that era were darker in color from having been buried for centuries or millennia.  The investigation also found that the documents detailing where the statue was found and who had owned it before Becchina bought it turned out to be fake.  Plus the statue seemed to have been carved by the same person who carved a known fake kouros.

The "moral" to this story, according to "Blink" seems to be that "gut feeling" can sometimes be better than detailed examination and actual evidence.  While true, the key word is "sometimes."  Plus, it took more detailed examinations and more actual evidence to confirm that "gut feeling."

Essentially, Zeri's "gut feeling" was his right brain telling him that the statue was somehow different from other statues he has seen like it, but his right brain didn't know what the difference was.  The right brain basically just stores and compares images.  The left brain has to go to work examine those images logically to find out exactly what is different, and whether or not that difference is important.

"Blink" claims that "gut feeling" is from the "unconscious mind," and logic is from the "conscious mind."  To me, that is an over-simplification, if not totally wrong.  The right brain's observations are "conscious" observations.  They are just tied to emotions instead of to logic.  Distrust is an emotion.  And if something doesn't look right, that spawns distrust.  The left brain then has to use logic to make sense of things and determine if the distrust is deserved or not.  The "unconscious mind" is the left brain working to figure things out while you are doing things that do not require much thought - like sleeping.  My unconscious mind sometimes figures things out while I am sleeping, and when I awake I realize what has been bothering me about some problem or issue.  Then my conscious mind takes over the handling of the problem.

"Blink" seems to advocate making your "snap judgments" be more accurate, instead of simply not trusting "snap judgments."  Here is one passage I highlighted from the book:
The part of our brain that leaps to conclusions like this is called the adaptive unconscious, and the study of this kind of decision making is one of the most important new fields in psychology. The adaptive unconscious is not to be confused with the unconscious described by Sigmund Freud, which was a dark and murky place filled with desires and memories and fantasies that were too disturbing for us to think about consciously. This new notion of the adaptive unconscious is thought of, instead, as a kind of giant computer that quickly and quietly processes a lot of the data we need in order to keep functioning as human beings. When you walk out into the street and suddenly realize that a truck is bearing down on you, do you have time to think through all your options? Of course not. The only way that human beings could ever have survived as a species for as long as we have is that we’ve developed another kind of decision-making apparatus that’s capable of making very quick judgments based on very little information.
As I see it, the only way to improve the accuracy of your "adaptive unconscious" is to gain experience.  There are no short cuts.  The key is what you do with the experience information.  Do you process it logically, or do you just record and remember the emotions that came with the experience?  If you were frightened by a clown when you were a child, you can remain afraid of clowns for the rest of your life, or you can logically conclude that it is just some silly man behind silly makeup and neither the man nor the makeup should frighten you.

"Blink" seems to advocate refining your fear of clowns.  Determine which clowns should be feared and which should not, and which way to run when a bad clown shows up, so that when the bad kind show up you can react and run away more quickly.  The author calls it "thin slicing," making better decisions with less information.  Wha?!  I would say that is much more difficult than making better decisions with better information.  Learn via logic which kind of information is better and more important, because making critical decisions with insufficient information is always risky and should be avoided - if possible.  If you collect the right information you can make better decisions more quickly.  It is a matter of quality versus quantity.  You can process less information, because it is higher quality and better organized information.

While it can be somewhat interesting, I think "Blink" is mostly a waste of precious reading time.      

November 22, 2018
- I wish everyone a very happy and peaceful Thanksgiving.


November 21, 2018
- This morning someone sent me a link to a New York Times article from a couple days ago titled "Does the Universe Still Need Einstein?"  The article begins by saying Einstein "has been dying a second death, if one believes a new spate of articles and papers bemoaning the state of contemporary physics."  And it provides a link to a June 4, 2018, article from Quanta Magazine titled "There Are No Laws of Physics. There’s Only the Landscape."  The article begins with this:
Scientists seek a single description of reality. But modern physics allows for many different descriptions, many equivalent to one another, connected through a vast landscape of mathematical possibility.
It then says,
Albert Einstein famously believed that, given some general principles, there is essentially a unique way to construct a consistent, functioning universe. In Einstein’s view, if we probed the essence of physics deeply enough, there would be one and only one way in which all the components — matter, radiation, forces, space and time — would fit together to make reality work, just as the gears, springs, dials and wheels of a mechanical clock uniquely combine to keep time.

The current Standard Model of particle physics is indeed a tightly constructed mechanism with only a handful of ingredients. Yet instead of being unique, the universe seems to be one of an infinitude of possible worlds. We have no clue why this particular combination of particles and forces underlies nature’s structure.
The author of the article, Robbert Dijkgraaf, views things from the point of view used by mathematicians:
The game changer that led to this switch of perspective has been string theory. At this moment it is the only viable candidate for a theory of nature able to describe all particles and forces, including gravity, while obeying the strict logical rules of quantum mechanics and relativity. The good news is that string theory has no free parameters. It has no dials that can be turned. It doesn’t make sense to ask which string theory describes our universe, because there is only one. The absence of any additional features leads to a radical consequence. All numbers in nature should be determined by physics itself. They are no “constants of nature,” only variables that are fixed by equations (perhaps intractably complicated ones).
And it goes on and on.  You cannot prove String Theory to be wrong, because you cannot prove the negative, so String Theory must be right. Yada yada yada, concluding with this:
Thinking of physics in terms of elementary building blocks appears to be wrong, or at least of limited reach. Perhaps there is a radical new framework uniting the fundamental laws of nature that disregards all the familiar concepts. The mathematical intricacies and consistencies of string theory are a strong motivation for this dramatic point of view.
But there are also 62 comments following the article.  The second one in the list says what I would have said,
Please name one thing that string theory has predicted that has been verified. "All the theoretical work that's been done since the 1970s has not produced a single successful prediction." See "Why Some Scientists Say Physics has Gone Off The Rails" for a counterview. 
So, the New York Times article just uses a provocative title and opening to show that there is a lot of disagreement between scientists (particularly physicists). The article concludes with variations on this idea:
If scientists want any gift for the holidays, it’s some new physics that would break the stalemate of these “standard models” and provide new clues to our existence.     
It seems to me that physicists aren't looking for clues.  They are looking for a new theory.  If they were looking for clues, they would be looking for ways to explain how a photon works instead of just saying that light sometimes acts like a particle and sometimes acts like a wave. And they would be looking for ways to explain how and why time ticks at a different rate atop a mountain than at the bottom of the mountain.  And how and why time ticks slower for a moving object.  Instead, they just argue, "It doesn't!" "It does!" "It doesn't!" "It does!"  It doesn't!" "It does!" "It doesn't!" "It does!" "It doesn't!" "It does!" "It doesn't!" 

If experimental facts and evidence say that time ticks slower at the bottom of a mountain than at the top, that should end the matter.  And if some mathematician argues without proof that it isn't so, then that mathematician should not be considered to be a scientist, he should be viewed only as "a mathematician with beliefs."  He can become a scientist again when he supplies experimental evidence undeniably confirming his beliefs.

Feynman quote about experiments  


November 20, 2018
- This morning I received an email notifying me that a book I had put on reserve at my local library was available for downloading into my Kindle.  The book is "Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking," by Malcolm Gladwell.  Without thinking, I downloaded it.  I think (via thinking) that it has been on my reserve list since June.

Looking through reviews of the book (which I apparently didn't think to do before reserving it), I found a lot of somewhat negative reviews, even though it was a "#1 bestseller."  It appears to take the opposite point of view from what I've been arguing.  I've been arguing for logical thinking, and the book "Blink" appears to argue for "trusting snap judgements."  It is very clear that Donald Trump does a lot of "snap judgements," and his thinking is largely crazy.  (I cannot believe Trump would be so moronic as to criticize the admiral in charge of killing Osama bin Laden for not doing it sooner!)    

I read Malcolm Gladwell's earlier bestselling book "The Tipping Point" back in December of 2015, and looking at what I wrote about it back then, it seems the book was about people like Trump who have the ability to get a lot of people to follow them.  Only the book didn't mention that morons and fascists can also gather a lot of followers.  The book seems to have assumed that only "good" thinkers would gather a lot of followers. 

Looking at the passages I underlined in "The Tipping Point," I have less than two pages worth.   Here is one passage I underlined:
Sesame Street was built about a single, breakthrough insight: that if you can hold the attention of children, you can educate them. This may seem obvious, but it isn’t. Many critics of television, to this day, argue that what’s dangerous about TV is that it is addictive, that children and even adults watch it like zombies.
Another:
Kids don’t watch when they are stimulated and look away when they are bored. They watch when they understand and look away when they are confused.  
And it is a lot easier to understand emotions than logic.  So, this reasoning can also be applied to adults:  If Trump talks about disliking people that his audience dislikes, the audience understands and pays attention.  If someone tries to explain to that same audience that their "dislikes" are illogical or hurtful, the audience gets confused and turns off the TV.
   
I'm not sure if it will be worth my time to read "Blink," but if I think about it logically, I might learn something from it, and learning is usually worth the time expended.   

November 19, 2018
- There was another email in my inbox this morning telling me:
You have a NEW order awaiting your confirmation. 
It was from one of the companies that sells my books.  The previous such email was received on Nov. 12, one week ago.  Except for the order number, email #31 is identical to email #30, and says,
We require you to confirm your orders in 24 hours. Please confirm the number of copies you will be able to ship and the estimated delivery date. If you cannot ship within the next 2-3 weeks, confirm the order with a "0" quantity, and wait for a new order. If your order is not confirmed in a timely fashion, it will be auto-cancelled.
And, of course, I cannot simply respond via an email.  I need to go to their web site, sign into my account, and enter information in the appropriate box in order to respond.  But, I cannot establish an account with them without first providing two phone numbers, one of which must be a mobile phone with the capability to run apps and to scan barcodes on products.  And doing that will allow them to bill me $99 per year for the privilege of having an account with them. 

So, I'm just going to continue to ignore their emails.  It's not a "scam."  It's a "hustle" to get me to set up an account.  And the reason they do not respond to emails is because they are one of the largest companies in the world, which means they would have to hire hundreds (maybe thousands) of people to answer all the emails they'd get.  So, the only way to contact them is to follow their established automated procedures - which begin by setting up an account.  If you don't, you'll just end up getting an email from them every week reminding you that they have an order for some of your books.

It really is like some science fiction story about dealing with mindless robots.

By the way, here is what a real email scam looks like:

email scam #1
All you need to do to fall for this scam is to believe that you can scam them by going along and by sending a response to a Chinese bank with a Japanese Yahoo email address.

November 18, 2018
- The question "What is a photon?" still bothers me, and I've been thinking about how to answer that question.  I've also been reading papers on the subject.  So, here it is Sunday morning, and I haven't prepared a comment, which means that I'm going to write this one from scratch.  It might as well be on the subject of: What is a Photon?

One thing I noticed is that the scientific papers do not use logic to find an answer.  They tend to argue that there is no way to answer the question.  One paper says,
Some say that a photon is a bundle of energy. This statement is not meaningful enough to be wrong. In physics, energy is one property of a system among many others. Photons have energy as they have spin and momentum and cannot be energy any more than they can be spin or momentum. In the late 1800’s some thinkers declared that all matter is made of one philosophical stuff that they identified with energy, without much empirical basis. The theory is dead but its words linger on.
That's an argument over words.  It's the kind of argument I would get into when discussing things on UseNet physics forums.  Instead of discussing science, they'd argue over word definitions.

I don't have any problem with identifying a photon as "a bundle of energy."  We know that a photon consists of energy, and we know that it is a "bundle" that moves from its source (emitter) to some atom somewhere where it is either absorbed temporarily or permanently.  We also know a photon is definitely NOT a continuous wave, nor is it a wave in some mythical aether.  It seems the only real question is:  What is the shape of that "bundle"?  Or to phrase it another way: What does a photon look like?  I find it difficult to discuss an object if I cannot visualize it.  And, if it is a "bundle" it is also an "object," even if it has no mass.

Here's the image I typically use when that question is asked:

a photon

According to that image, when viewed head-on the photon is + shaped.  It has an electric field pulsating vertically and a magnetic field pulsating horizontally.  Yet light photons can be polarized

When light is emitted from a lamp, the electric field in some photons oscillates up and down, some electric fields oscillate from side to side, and others oscillate at virtually every angle in between.  But you can put a polarizing filter in the path of the light that will allow only photons with electric fields that are oscillating up and down to get through.

polarizing light

That is the principle behind 3-D movies.  You use polarized lenses to view two images at the same time, one image where the photons oscillate up and down is viewed by the right eye, another image where the photons oscillate from side to side is viewed by the left eye.  (This is different from the 3-D images that use red and blue filters.)

3D glasses

Evidently, the filter only affects the electric field.  The magnetic field is not affected by the polarizing filter.  The magnetic field is still there, it still oscillates at right angles to the electric field, but the filter does not block it or alter it. 

The point is: This means that a photon is not just a point or particle that moves up and down in a wave pattern (which would give it height), a photon has length.  If any part of the photon - the front, the back or some part of the middle - hits the bars of the filter, the photon is stopped.  It is absorbed by an atom in the filter and probably emitted in some random direction away from the filter and back toward the source.  It's like a coin fitting into a slot.  It won't go through the slot unless it is aligned with the slot. 

That still doesn't allow me to visualize a photon.  In fact, it makes me want to visualize a photon as being ring-shaped (or coin-shaped or orbit-shaped), a spinning ring with its "wavelength" being one complete rotation.  That would explain how a photon would be absorbed by a single atom in the filter if the photon hits at the wrong angle.  The problem I have is visualizing a photon that is shaped like a spear that oscillates up and down while trying to pass through a slit that runs sideways.  I keep seeing the spear get partway through and then having the middle of the spear hit the side of the slit, which causes whole spear to be absorbed by an atom in the side of the slit.  It is certainly possible, but it's difficult to visualize.

And that brings me back to microwave ovens.  If microwave photons were coin shaped, they would be about 1.3 inches in diameter (assuming the wavelength is the circumference of the "coin") and certainly wouldn't fit through the tiny round holes in the screen that covers the door of the microwave. 
Instead, the photons bounce around, going from an atom in one wall to another atom in another wall inside the microwave until they hit a food item containing the oxygen and hydrogen atoms which form water molecules.  Those atoms absorb the microwave photons and turn the photons into heat energy.  Meanwhile, "coins" that are 400 to 650 nanometers in circumference (the wavelength of visible light) easily pass through the screen  holes that are about 2,540,000 nanometers in diameter (about 1/10th of an inch) and allow you to see what is happening to your pop tart inside the microwave. 

And it's now nearly lunch time.  That means I have to end this comment here.  I don't know if what I wrote makes any sense to anyone else, but it gives me something to think more about.


Comments for Sunday, November 11, 2018, thru Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018:

November 16, 2018 - While I'm still not working on anything, at least I'm not laying around listening to audio books, and I am thinking about scientific subjects.  One subject that keeps bothering me is that if you have three different types of atomic clocks working with three different types of atoms - cesium, rubidium and strontium - they will tick at three different rates:
      6,834,682,611 ticks per second for rubidium
      9,192,631,770 ticks per second for cesium
430,000,000,000,000 ticks per second for strontium
However, the time shown by the clocks will not drift.  They will all tick off each second in unison.  That says that time almost certainly relates to particle spin.  Otherwise, one clock would gradually start to accumulate more seconds than the other clock.  But they don't.  They all tick at a steady but different rate

Moreover, if you use the clocks to measure altitude or velocity, they will measure the same differences if they are in the same locations. If the rubidium clock ticks 10 more ticks per second when it is raised to the top of a mountain, the strontium clock won't tick 10 more ticks per second, it will tick hundreds of thousands more ticks per second.  It will tick faster by the same percentage as the rubidium clock.  So every different type of atom in my body is spinning at a different rate.  And all the carbon atoms in my head are spinning faster than all the carbon atoms in my feet due to gravitational time dilation, but each type of atom (i.e., carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, calcium, phosphorous, etc.) is measuring the same rate of time as the atom next to it, regardless of what kind of atom it is. 

I keep feeling there is something going on that explains time and time dilation in a way that would be clear and undeniable - if I just understood it well enough.

I also spent some time today going through web sites which identify "the biggest mysteries in science."  There are lots of them - examples: HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE - but no two of them list exactly the same mysteries, and none asks "What is Time?" although several ask why time flows in only one direction.  I wouldn't call that a "mystery," I'd see the "mystery" as being why anyone would wonder why time flows only in one direction.  It's got to be another one of those questions that make sense only to a mathematician who believes that motion is reciprocal.        


November 15, 2018
- Yesterday, I finished listening to another audio book on my MP3 player: "Unbelievable: My Front-Row Seat to the Craziest Campaign in American History," by Katy Tur.

Unbelievable by Katy Tur

Katy Tur is a reporter for NBC and MSNBC and was assigned to follow Trump around when he first announced that he was going to run for President.  Initially, she was the only reporter assigned to him full time.  But that gradually changed as it became more and more clear that Trump was actually serious. Then Katy Tur and reporters from other news organizations flew (via commercial airlines) to each place where Trump was going to give a speech and they were all in the "press box" watching him and the crowds he drew.  Then the media companies hired a private plane to haul the reporters around when that became cheaper than buying individual tickets.  Of course, the reporters would also periodically interview Trump, and they probably got to know him better than anyone outside of his personal team.  Katy Tur also seemed to get into personal feuds with Trump whenever he didn't like some question she asked.  Trump would point to her during his speeches and call out her name.  That also resulted in her fearing for her life when Trump's followers started yelling at her and even spitting on her.

I started listening to the audio book out of curiosity, and then ended up laying on my couch and listening to it for hours (7 hours 42 minutes total spread out over two days).  It was a very enjoyable and interesting book, and in audio form it is like having an interesting reporter tell you an amazing adventure story.  When I was about 2 hours into the book, she said something that I wanted to transcribe.  But before doing that, I checked my local library to see if they had a Kindle copy available. They did!  So, I downloaded it into my Kindle, zipped through it through to the place I wanted to transcribe and just underlined it.  That put it into the "My Clippings" file on the Kindle.  I ended up with about 7 pages of "clippings."  Here's one sample:
I’ve learned that Trump has his own version of reality, which is a polite way of saying he can’t always be trusted. He also brings his own sense of political decorum. I’ve heard him insult a war hero, brag about grabbing women by the pussy, denigrate the judicial system, demonize immigrants, fight with the pope, doubt the democratic process, advocate torture and war crimes, tout the size of his junk in a presidential debate, trash the media, and indirectly endanger my life.   
And another:
Some politicians have a gift for language. Trump is not one of those politicians. His sentences call to mind an aerial shot of a burning, derailed freight train. The syntax is mangled. The grammar is gone. “Donald Trump isn’t a simpleton, he just talks like one,” reads a Politico article from last August. “If you were to market Donald Trump’s vocabulary as a toy, it would resemble a small box of Lincoln Logs.” Every fourth word seems to be very, great, beautiful, or tremendous. He loves the word winning. In fact we’re going to have so much of it, Trump says we’ll get sick of it. His insults are even simpler. Our leaders are “dumb,” “stupid,” or “weak.” Our deals are “terrible.” His critics are “losers” and “haters.” The press is “scum.” Women he doesn’t find attractive are “disgusting.”
There's not much in those two samples that is news.  And the same with the other "clippings."  The ones that are "news" are too long to quote, require too much explanation, or may be of interest to no one but me.  An example is the occasion when Trump provided food for the reporters which included Trump wine, Trump steaks, Trump bottled water, plus copies of Trump magazine to read.  But none of it was actually Trump brand products.  They were all from companies that produce such products with your name on it for a fee.

I don't plan to sit around listening to any more audio books about Trump on my MP3 player, but I might change my mind.  The book in which 27 psychiatrists and mental health experts assess Trump looks interesting.  I have it in audio book form, but it is not available at my library in Kindle format.  That seems like a book in which I'd want to do a lot of highlighting.

I also feel that I know all that I want to know about Trump and the people who support him.  Watching him on the news as he constantly lies and makes enemies of long time friends of America is distressing enough.  I'm not going to write a book about him or his followers.  So, there's not much point in researching him.  Yet, he is fascinating.  That means I might change my mind tomorrow and start reading or listening to yet another book about him.  


November 13, 2018
- Yesterday, I finished reading an extremely interesting book titled "How The Right Lost Its Mind," by Charles J. Sykes: 

How the Right Lost Its Mind

I wasn't expecting to finish it until later this week, but it ended when my Kindle showed that I was 66% done.  The rest of the book is references and indexes. 

When I accessed the "My Clippings" files in the Kindle and copied all the passages I had underlined into a WORD file, the file was 31 pages long.

The author of the book, Charles Sykes, is a conservative and once had a right wing radio talk show in Milwaukee.  But he is also very anti-Trump.  So, his book has a lot of details about why he disagrees with all the "conservatives" who support Trump.  It's fascinating stuff, since I had no idea there were so many conservative radio talk shows, conservative web sites, conservative pod-casts, and other conservative media outlets out there.  I'd heard of Rush Limbaugh and Alex Jones, of course, but it's been many years since I looked at anything on the Drudge Report.  Yet, the book says,
If you want to understand the nature of the Right’s alternative reality, or its vulnerability to “fake news,” you need to start with Jones and Drudge. The Drudge Report consistently ranks as one of the top five media publishers in the country, often drawing more than a billion page views a month.  Media critic John Ziegler describes Matt Drudge as effectively the “assignment editor” for much of talk radio, many right-leaning websites, and a significant portion of the Fox News channel. “If Drudge wants a certain narrative to gain traction in conservative circles, he has more power to make that happen than anyone else,” he writes. The gravitational pull of the Drudge Report is so powerful, Ziegler notes, “that when it becomes clear what narrative Matt is favoring, a literal ‘market’ is created for stories which fit that storyline so that they might be linked on the Drudge Report.” Conservative media types were also reluctant to cross Drudge. “If … you can’t get your content linked on Drudge,” explains Ziegler, “or appear on Fox News, your career is, at best, stunted and, at worst, over.”
The book also describes Trumps many battles with conservatives: 
Charles Krauthammer was a dummy/loser/clown; George Will was “dopey”; Bill Kristol had “lost all respect”; Rich Lowry was the “worst”; and so on. Trump’s targets were unusual because they were not politicians or officeholders. But all of them were heirs to the conservative intellectual tradition and a culture that had once placed a value on thoughtfulness, experience, intelligence, and a coherent philosophy of man and his relationship to the state. What we were seeing was, in effect, a repudiation of the conservative mind.            
But gradually, the extremists took over the conservative agenda.  It became "us against them" and a form of tribalism.  Conservatives weren't "pro-Trump," they were anti-anti-Trump.  They were against those who were against Trump.  Another quote from the book:
The New York Times’s James Poniewozik notes that politics today” is attitudinal, not ideological. The reason to be for someone is who is against them. What matters more than policy is your side’s winning, and what matters more than your side’s winning is the other side’s losing.”
Another:
As the Right doubles down on anti-anti-Trumpism it will find itself goaded into defending and rationalizing ever more outrageous conduct, just as long as it annoys the Left.
There is probably no better example of that than the Christian Right supporting Trump, a known adulterer and moral scumbag.  Pat Robertson is a prime example.  However, the book also says:
There were powerful voices from within the church opposing Trump, including the magazine Christianity Today, which published a scathing editorial comparing support for Trump to “idolatry.” He has given no evidence of humility or dependence on others, let alone on God his Maker and Judge. He wantonly celebrates strongmen and takes every opportunity to humiliate and demean the vulnerable. He shows no curiosity or capacity to learn. He is, in short, the very embodiment of what the Bible calls a fool.  
I could go on and on.  Tribalism is the one aspect of pro-Trump voters that I'm most familiar with.  I have relatives who voted for Trump because their neighbors voted for Trump.  And when their neighbors changed their minds and no longer supported Trump, my relatives went along with that, too.  It seemed to have nothing to do with policies and right or wrong, it was just about supporting your tribe.  Us against them.  They seemed to have no idea why it was "us against them," they just wanted to remain part of "us."

November 12, 2018
- This morning, someone sent me an email mentioning an essay article by Isaac Asimov titled "A Cult of Ignorance."  A little research finds that it is from the January 21, 1980 issue of Newsweek.  Here's what seems to be the most frequently quoted passage from the essay:
There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there always has been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way throughout political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that "my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge."
That passage I highlighted in red should have been Trump's motto.  It seems to be what he constantly argues. 

Asimov's essay is primarily a lament over the lack of reading skills exhibited by the American public (and probably by the general public everywhere).  It caused me to turn around in my chair once again to look at the bookshelves behind me.  I recalled and found a book from 1980 titled "The Right Brain" by Thomas R. Blakeslee.  I have a hardcover copy that contains underlined and circled passages on about half the pages.  Here's a key passage from page 6 about some "split-brain experiments" done in the 1960s:
They found that each half of the brain has its own separate train of conscious thought and its own memories.  Even more important, they found that the two sides of the brain think in fundamentally different ways: While the left brain tends to think in words, the right brain thinks directly in sensory images. 

The two halves of the brain thus have a kind of partnership in which the left brain handles language and logical thinking, while the right brain does things that are difficult to put into words.  By thinking images instead of words, the right brain can recognize a face in a crowd or put together the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, which would totally baffle the left brain.
Ah!  That probably fits very well with the concept of "Thinking, Fast and Slow," where "thinking fast" means you see something that signifies danger and you automatically run away from it, or you see something that signifies pleasure, and your mouth starts to water.  "Thinking slow" means you see or hear something that seems strange or illogical, and you try to make sense of it.

One of the things that seems totally illogical is that anyone would believe anything Donald Trump says.  He's a conspiracy theorist who does not like to read and who evidently cannot think logically.  He clearly believes that any facts you can cite to support a finding he disagrees with can be directly challenged by "alternative facts" that he can simply dream up.  His ignorance is just as good as any knowledge you may have obtained by reading and doing research.

I could probably go on and on, but I want to get back to reading "How The Right Lost Its Mind."  

Meanwhile, this morning I received another email (#30) from one of the companies that sells my books.  The subject of the email is one I've seen a half dozen times before:
You have a NEW order awaiting your confirmation
And, of course, I need to sign into my account in order to respond to their email.  But, I cannot establish an account with them without first providing two phone numbers, one of which must be a mobile phone with the capability to run apps and to scan barcodes on products.  And doing that will allow them to bill me $99 per year for the privilege of having an account with them.  So, I'm just going to continue to ignore their emails.

November 11, 2018
- This is another one of those Sunday mornings when I'm supposed to write a comment for this web site, but I have absolutely nothing prepared.  I tried to start working on today's comment yesterday afternoon, but I just stared at the computer screen and wrote nothing. I wanted to write something about science, but I'm stuck on the problem that no one seems to know what a photon looks like or how it works.  To me that seems like an interesting problem that definitely needs to be solved, but to everyone else it seems to be an accepted situation.

I looked up "What is a Photon?" via Google Scholar and found lots of articles addressing that question, but most seemed to argue aspects of the question that are of no interest to me.  However, I also found a half dozen articles all in one place that seem to address the question logically.  One article begins with this:
Light is an obvious feature of everyday life, and yet light’s true nature has eluded us for centuries. Near the end of his life Albert Einstein wrote, “All the fifty years of conscious brooding have brought me no closer to the answer to the question: What are light quanta? Of course today every rascal thinks he knows the answer, but he is deluding himself.” We are today in the same state of “learned ignorance” with respect to light as was Einstein.
And it ends with this:  
To my mind, Einstein was right to caution us concerning light. Our understanding of it has increased enormously in the 100 years since Planck, but I suspect light will continue to confound us, while simultaneously luring us to inquire ceaselessly into its nature.
Another article seems to indicate that the problem was solved by accepting that photons seemingly have conflicting properties:
The conflicting views of the particle or wave essence of light were reconciled by the establishment of the quantum theory, with its introduction of the idea that all excitations simultaneously have both particle-like and wave-like properties.
Another article begins with this:
From the point of view of experience, “What is a photon?” is not the best first question. We never experience a photon as it “is.” For example, we never see a photon in the sense that we see an apple, by scattering diffuse light off it and forming an image of it on our retina. What we experience is what photons do. A better first question is “What do photons do?” After we answer this we can define what photons are, if we still wish to, by what they do.
But the article never gets around to actually defining what photons are.  That is probably because what photons do seems inconsistent.  I'm still stuck on conceptualizing how a microwave oven works.  How can a microwave photon be absorbed and then re-emitted by a single atom in the metal wall of the oven and yet be stopped by a screen that covers the window in the door of the oven.  The openings in the screen are far larger than individual atoms.  I do not think it is "illogical," I think there is something I do not yet understand that would make it "logical." 

Then I gave up and went into the living room to read a book on my Kindle.  I had temporarily given up on reading "Age of Anger" when I was only 10% completed, since it seemed to ramble and never get to the point.  I switched over to reading "How The Right Lost Its Mind."  I'm about 33% done with that book, slowed a bit by all the underlining I've been doing.  It's a terrific book, even though I think the author may have been viewing things from not quite the correct angle.  But he does make a good point when he shows that American politics has been going crazy for a long time.

And it makes the point that social media is making things worse.  No matter how idiotic your beliefs may be, there is someone out there who will agree with you and cite made-up "facts" to confirm it.  But, I'll go more into what is said in "How the Right Lost Its Mind" when I finish reading it.
 
All I need to do to confirm that things are becoming more and more complicated and confused is turn around in my chair and look at the bookshelves behind me.  One of the books on the shelves is "The Closing of the American Mind," by Allan Bloom, published in 1987.  My copy of the book has underlined and circled passages on about half the pages, often many of them on a single page.

Strangely, the book seems to argue that "the closing of the American mind" means that people (particularly college students) believe that "truth is relative."  It says on page 25,
The relativity of truth is not a theoretical insight but a moral postulate, the condition of a free society, or so they see it.    
And on page 26 it says,
The study of history and of culture teaches that all the world was mad in the past; men always thought they were right, and that led to wars, persecutions, slavery, xenophobia, racism, and chauvinism. The point is not to correct the mistakes and really be right; rather it is not to think you are right at all.
So, many students have supposedly closed their minds to the idea that anyone is more correct than anyone else.  That may be well and good when talking about tastes in food and music, but science isn't about opinions, it is about facts.  It isn't just a matter of opinion that the earth is a spinning globe moving through space in an orbit around the sun.  Solid scientific facts can demonstrate it. The Flat Earthers do not argue that it is just a matter of opinion, they argue that the earth is flat and that their facts confirm that.  But, their "facts" are not facts.  Simple experiments will show that their "facts" are really just mistaken beliefs.    

What the book "How the Right Lost Its Mind" explains in detail is how in today's Internet-powered world you can find support for virtually any screwball belief you can dream up, particularly if the belief is a challenge to authority.  Trump's argument that Barack Obama was a Muslim burn in Kenya is still accepted by many people.  Obama's birth certificate is simply dismissed as a forgery.  If you argue with the True Believers who hold that theory, they will just smile at you and chuckle over how dumb you are to believe a forged document.  They have "alternative facts" (i.e., unsubstantiated claims) to counter any facts you may have.

It all brings me back to the problem of people thinking emotionally instead of logically.  Many people believe the "facts" they like and that support what they believe, making them feel superior to the non-believers.  Instead of looking for correct answers, they are mindlessly competitive.

I am sometimes just amazed that we aren't killing each other more often than we are.  I'm seeing articles suggesting that we might be headed for another Civil War, but other articles show that today is very different from the 1850s.

It all reminds me of the curse the Chinese supposedly sometimes use: "May you live in interesting times."


Comments for Thursday, November 4, 2018, thru Saturday, Nov. 10, 2018:

November 8, 2018 - While staring at my computer screen this morning, trying to decide what I should work on or research, I decided to play another audio book, this time on my computer, instead of on my MP3 player or via CDs.  I listened to "The Pythons," an autobiography by the Pythons, i.e., Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones and Michael Palin. 

The Pythons

There are evidently different versions of the audio book.  The version I obtained from my local library and listened to was the "abridged" version.  It was just 2 hours and 31 minutes long (the main reason I chose to listen to it).  That was plenty long enough, since it seems the Pythons were in different locations during the recording.  John Cleese seemed to be in a gymnasium somewhere, since his voice echoed whenever he spoke.  And others seemed to be in an office or at home, since they were occasionally interrupted by a ringing telephone.  The first hour was just okay, with a lot of details of the early lives of Chapman, Cleese, Gilliam, Idle, Jones and Palin.  (Graham Chapman died in 1989, so his brother was at the recording.)  Then the Pythons got together and the audio book got a lot more interesting as they talked about their skits and the initial reactions from audiences.  I had to hunt down one of their skits on YouTube, since I didn't remember a skit where sheep were learning to fly (some would call it "plummet.")

   
All in all it was a better way to spend the morning than just staring at a computer screen trying to decide what to write about.

November 7, 2018 (C)
- At 11:35 a.m. this morning, I finished listening to the 5-part (5 hour, 12 minute) MP3 audio book version of "
The Great Gasbag: An A-to-Z Study Guide to Surviving Trump World" by Joy Behar.

The Great Gasbag 

I think it's the first time I've listened to an entire audio book on my MP3 player in years.  While it was a very enjoyable book, and extremely funny in parts, it also reminded me of why I stopped listening to audio books on my MP3 player.  I constantly feel I should be doing other things.  I love listening to audio books on my CD player while driving from place to place in my car, but listening to audio books while laying on my couch just makes me feel I should be reading the book on my Kindle instead.  That way I could highlight passages.  There were lots and lots of hilarious "one liners" in Behar's book that I would have liked to underline and save.  But the best I can do now is show some alternative titles Behar considered for her book.  I can copy them from the "Look inside" view on Amazon:
Moby Dickhead
Con with the Wind
Pride and Very Prejudiced
Catcher in the Lie
Not Such Great Expectations
The Age of Ignorance
Gullible's Travels
A Farewell to the Constitution
The Son-in-Law Also Rises
War and Hairpiece
The book goes through the alphabet A-Z with Behar making jokes that are often very serious jokes.  Example:
A is for Alternative Facts.  Alternative facts is an oxymoron, like diet soda, deafening silence, and Donald Trump.
That one also stuck in my mind because I should have mentioned the term "alternative facts" when discussing arguments some physicists have against the endless experiments which show their beliefs are nonsense.  It explains why they refuse to listen to facts.  They see it just as a trick, nonsense others use to claim something can proved to be true when they know it cannot possibly be true. 

It was a very enjoyable book, but while listening to "The Great Gasbag" I kept thinking I should be working on a book or a scientific paper. That's why I stopped listening to audio books on my MP3 player while exercising on the treadmill and on the exercycle at the gym.  That time is better spent thinking about what I'll write about in some book or paper.  


November 7, 2018 (B)
- I don't really have much to say about yesterday's elections.  My state got rid of Scott Walker, but we replaced Paul Ryan with another Republican instead of the guy with the mustache and a police record of 9 arrests.  Elections do not always present clear choices. 

November 7, 2018 (A)
- This morning there was another email in my inbox from one of the companies that sells my books.  It is email #28.  It says in part,
NEW orders recently sent to your company are waiting for your confirmation

In the future, please confirm your orders within 24 hours of notification. Orders which are not confirmed within 5 days will be closed.
And then it explains how I have to log into my account on their web site to confirm the order, and, of course, doing that requires that I supply them with two telephone numbers, one of which must be a cell phone with the capability of scanning barcodes and running apps.  So, I'm just going to ignore the email and wait to see what happens.

November 6, 2018
- It's election day!  At last!  That means, after today I won't be seeing attack ad after attack ad whenever I turn on the TV.  Plus, I'll find out if my local Congressman Paul Ryan is to be replaced by another Trump-supporting Republican or by a guy with a mustache who has been arrested 9 times.  That's one of the choices to be made on today's ballot at my voting place.   

I can't even think about science.  Yesterday, instead of working on a book or a scientific paper, I decided I should just lay around and listen to an audio book on my MP3 player.  But then I spent hours in front of my computer trying to decide which audio book to listen to, ending up listening to bits and pieces of maybe a dozen different books.  I have a few audio books about Trump, all of which seem interesting:

The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump Hacks
Unbelievable, by Katy Tur Trump Revealed

The most interesting is probably "The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President."  But, "Hacks: The Inside Story of the Break-ins and Breakdowns That Put Donald Trump in the White House" also looks very interesting.  On the other hand, Katy Tur's book "Unbelievable: My Front-Row Seat to the Craziest Campaign in American History" is supposed to be a short read and very enjoyable.  Lastly, "Trump Revealed: The Definitive Biography of the 45th President" was written shortly before Trump was elected President, and it got terrific reviews.  But, some days I think I know all I want to know about Donald Trump.  And "Trump Revealed" consists of 17 CDs, which means it will take me about a month to listen to it as I drive around in my car and listen to CDs for about a half hour per day.

But, when I get into my car to drive to the gym and drive to my voting place this afternoon, I'll be listening to CD #2 of a 14 CD set for a science/history book.  And after that I'll probably listen to a short book by some comedian before getting into one of the Trump books I mentioned above.  One book in particular looks right: "The Great Gasbag: An A-to-Z Study Guide to Surviving Trump World" by Joy Behar.

Hmm.  I just sampled bits of a couple chapters from that audio book and those bits were hysterical.  So, I'm going to end this part of today's comment, and I'm going to go lay down on my couch and I'm going to start listening to it on my MP3 player.

After listening to it during lunch, I took it with me to the voting place, just in case the line was super long.  It wasn't.  There were about 20 people ahead of me in line, and the wait was about 25 minutes, partly because three others who were too ill to stand in line were allowed to go ahead of everyone else. 

There was also an interesting mystery.  There were two lines, one for people with last names beginning with A through L, and the other for M through Z.  There were 20 people ahead of me in the A-L line when I arrived, and no one in the M-Z line.  While I was waiting in line, approximately another 20 people arrived, about 17 got into the line behind me, but only three went directly to the M-Z table, not having to wait at all.  A man about 10 places ahead of me in my line thought that was amazing.  I did, too.  I couldn't even begin to explain it.

I listened to "The Great Gasbag" at the gym, while on the treadmill for 30 minutes and while on the exercycle for 20 minutes.  And, I'm going to listen some more as soon as I finish typing this.

November 5, 2018
- There was another email in my inbox this morning from the robots at one of the companies that sell my books.  It's email #27 in the string that began on October 15.  The subject of the email is "You have a NEW order awaiting your confirmation."  It's undoubtedly a new order for books, but they do not say which books. (The only book it could possibly be is "Analyzing the Anthrax Attacks," which hasn't sold a single copy in years.)  The email says, in part,
We require you to confirm your orders in 24 hours. Please confirm the number of copies you will be able to ship and the estimated delivery date.
Of course, in order to do that I have to sign in and give them two phone numbers, including one phone number for a cell phone with the capability to scan barcodes on items and the capability to run apps.  My cell phone doesn't seem to have that capability, and I wouldn't give them the number even if it had, because it would obligate me to pay them $99 per year for joining their sales program.  They have no phone number for me to call, and no email address to respond to.  I have to go to their web site and sign in.  But before I can sign in, I have to join their program, give them two phone numbers, and pay $99.  And then I can fill in boxes with my response.

Their previous email, sent 5 days ago, said:
Orders which are not confirmed within 5 days will be closed.
I didn't confirm that order, and they evidently closed it and opened an new order for the same thing.  Does this mean I'll be receiving emails from them every 5 days for the rest of my life?  Time will tell. 

November 4, 2018
- Yesterday morning while eating breakfast, I finished reading Bob Woodward's "Fear: Trump in the White House" on my
Kindle, and shortly afterward I wrote a comment about it for this web site.  Then, it was lunch time, and after I sat down to eat, I turned on my Kindle and saw it was still in the Acknowledgments section of "Fear."  I hadn't yet decided what book to read next.  So, rather than thinking about it, I just picked the most recent book I had borrowed from my local library: "Unhinged: An Insider's Account of the Trump White House," by Omarosa Manigault Newman. 

It started out great, with a detailed description of the scary way Newman was informed that Trump had just fired her.  But, when lunch was over, I wondered if I really wanted to read another book about Donald Trump.  And, if I did, why not read "Collusion" by Luke Harding?  It was also in my Kindle, and it looked more interesting.  But the same was true for a book that really made me curious, "How the Right Lost Its Mind" by Charles J. Sykes.  It appeared to be about the thought processes of the people who voted Trump into office.  I'm still stunned that anyone in their right mind would vote for Trump.  But, also in my Kindle awaiting me to have time to read it was  "Age of Anger" by Pankaj Mishra.  While a search through that book shows it uses the name "Trump" 14 times, it seems to look at the social phenomenon that elected Trump from a much broader historical perspective, and it has been truly highly praised by book reviewers.

Unhinged by Omarosa Harding Collusion by Luke Harding
How the right lost its mind by Charles Sykes Age of Anger

I think there are probably a couple dozen other books about Trump in bookstores these days, including a few that praise him.  In theory, if I really wanted to know how anyone can think positively about Trump, I should read some of the books that praise him.  But, I don't have the stomach for that.  Most of them are written by Fox News reporters and hosts, some others by extreme right wing radio personalities.   I would be interested in what facts they might have, but facts are what they do not have.  What they have are opinions and beliefs.  They seem to view facts as tricks.  If you cite facts, you are trying to trick them into changing their mind about something they are absolutely certain is correct.

So, I am once again back on the subject of people who think logically versus people who think emotionally.  It's something that first came to my attention in May of 2015 when I read a book titled "Thinking, Fast and Slow," by Daniel Kahneman.  And it really stuck with me.  I see it everywhere.  I even see it when I discuss science.  Some people who claim to be physicists seem to think that experiments are tricks.  They claim all experiments prove their beliefs are correct.  When you challenge that and quote what the experiments actually proved, they argue that experiments do not really prove anything.  They claim that what experiments show could be or is just an illusion.  After all, you cannot prove it is not an illusion.  (You cannot prove the negative.)

Of course, you cannot simply divide people into two groups: those who think "fast" and those who think "slow."  Everyone does both, just in different amounts.  "Thinking slow" is figuring things out, putting the pieces together and thinking logically.  "Thinking fast" is reacting without much thinking.  It is reacting to emotions: mostly fear and anger, but also greed and lust. 

I did a bit of "thinking fast" about a week ago in the parking lot of the shopping center where my gym is located.  I was walking across one of the curved driveways toward the entrance to my gym and I heard someone gunning his car engine.  Then some guy in a Volkswagen came barreling toward me at about 50 miles per hour, engine roaring.  I was about half way across the driveway.  Seeing that I was in danger, I reacted without thinking and started to run to get out of his way.  But, instead of steering to pass behind me, the idiot steered to pass in front of me.  So, I was running toward where he was driving.  Again, seeing I was in danger and reacting almost without thinking, I stopped in my tracks.  And the guy passed in front of me, passing a good five or six feet away but clipping a curved curb with his left rear tire and knocking some concrete chips off of it.  Then, without stopping he roared on out of the parking lot.  I imagine he was cursing the "idiot" who almost ran in front of his car.

Here's the setting, with the dotted white line being my route from my car to the gym door and the dashed white line being the the route of the Volkswagen:

shopping
                    center and site of near accident

That experience involved two examples of "thinking fast."  I was reacting to fear. My brain simply told me to get out of the way.  And when I seemed to be headed into greater danger, my brain told me to stop.  "Thinking slow" is thinking logically, figuring out the correct and best way to do things.  There was no time for that.  And if I had the time, I probably would have done things the same way.

What was the guy in the car thinking?  He couldn't have been thinking logically, or he wouldn't have been gunning his engine and barrelling through a shopping center parking lot at 50 mph or more.  He had to have been thinking emotionally, probably angry at something and expressing his anger by gunning his engine to make everyone realize he was around and everyone should get out of his way.  

While sitting down to eat breakfast this morning, thinking logically, I decided to stop reading "Unhinged" and to start reading "Age of Anger."



Comments for Thursday, November 1, 2018, thru Saturday, Nov. 3, 2018:

November 3, 2018 - While eating breakfast this morning I was surprised to discover that I had just finished reading another book on my Kindle.  The book was "Fear: Trump in the White House" by Bob Woodward.

Fear by Bob Woodward

I was surprised because, when reading a book on a Kindle, there is no good way to tell how close you are to the end of the book.  The Kindle doesn't show page numbers, and it only shows what percentage of the book you have completed.  Most non-fiction books end at about the 80% point, and the last 20% of the book is references, notes, acknowledgments, the index, etc.  That was what I was expecting for "Fear."  However, the text for "Fear" ended at the 65% point.  Then there was about 5% that was just pictures of the different people mentioned in the book, before getting into acknowledgments, notes, etc. 

I was also relieved to have finished it.  It wasn't a particularly enjoyable read.  There are just too many characters to keep track of.  However, I have about 8 pages of underlined (and thereby saved) passages from the book.  Here's one:
Trump gave some private advice to a friend who had acknowledged some bad behavior toward women. Real power is fear. It’s all about strength. Never show weakness. You’ve always got to be strong. Don’t be bullied. There is no choice. “You’ve got to deny, deny, deny and push back on these women,” he said. “If you admit to anything and any culpability, then you’re dead. That was a big mistake you made. You didn’t come out guns blazing and just challenge them. You showed weakness. You’ve got to be strong. You’ve got to be aggressive. You’ve got to push back hard. You’ve got to deny anything that’s said about you. Never admit.”
Trump seems to use that procedure whenever he is accused of anything, which sometimes seems to be about 50 times per day.  If I do a search through the book on Amazon, looking for the word "culpability,"  I find that word is only used twice in the book, and the passage I quoted above appears on page 175.  Here's another passage from page 205 I saved because it shows Trump's methodology:
Priebus, Porter and others continued to try to persuade Trump to curtail his use of Twitter. “This is my megaphone,” Trump replied. “This is the way that I speak directly to the people without any filter. Cut through the noise. Cut through the fake news. That’s the only way I have to communicate. I have tens of millions of followers. This is bigger than cable news. I go out and give a speech and it’s covered by CNN and nobody’s watching, nobody cares. I tweet something and it’s my megaphone to the world.
Here's a disturbing quote from page 288:
Trump was always asking everyone their opinions of everyone else, seeking a report card. It was corrosive and could become self-fulfilling — undermining and eating at the reputations and status of anyone and everyone.
It wasn't an enjoyable book, by any measure.  It was a tedious read, because there wasn't much in the book that was surprising to me.  It shows Trump to be an incompetent sleazebag.  I already knew that.  But it did confirm that Trump does not think logically, he thinks emotionally.  He is driven by emotions, and any attempt to use logic on him it viewed by him as trickery and game playing.  It makes me wonder if there isn't some kind of test we should be giving politicians to determine if they understand logic.  If they do not understand logic, how can they negotiate anything?  All they can do is what Trump advocates: threaten them and attack them until they concede.  If they do not concede, destroy them.  It seems to be the same kind of thinking that motivates his supporters.  I am constantly stunned to see how many people think that way and support Trump.

I did highlight one passage on page 275 that was very surprising, but it wasn't about Trump:
In another discussion with the president, Cohn unveiled a Commerce Department study showing the U.S. absolutely needed to trade with China. “If you’re the Chinese and you want to really just destroy us, just stop sending us antibiotics. You know we don’t really produce antibiotics in the United States?” The study also showed that nine major antibiotics were not produced in the United States, including penicillin. China sold 96.6 percent of all antibiotics used here. “We don’t produce penicillin.”
Wow.  The book says nothing about how that situation came about.

While I certainly recommend the book, it is a depressing read. 

November 1, 2018
- As I was driving around yesterday afternoon doing some chores, I finished listening to CD #5 in the 5-CD audio book set for "Thank you for coming to Hattiesburg" by Todd Barry.

Thank you for coming to Hattiesburg

While I was able to get through the book, and it was definitely worth listening to, I tended to wish I had picked a different book.  I chose the book because I assumed it would be funny (since it was written by a standup comedian), and it seemed to also be a travel book, which I tend to enjoy.  However, Todd Barry's comedy style seems to be one of complaining about everything, and the "travel" part of the book was mostly about looking for restaurants in the small cities where he was performing.  (Barry seems to love Mongolian barbecue.)  When he visited local scenic attractions, he basically just noted that he had done it.  Mostly the book seems to be about the trials and tribulations of being a middle-level comic who plays in small cities, and that can be fairly interesting.  It is certainly not a "normal" lifestyle. 

Barry describes flying or driving from city to city, often with another comic who would be the opening act before Barry's main attraction performance.   Barry seemed to mention the size of every hotel or motel room he stayed in, the cleanliness of the toilets in the restaurants and bars in which he performed, how he got paid at the end of the performance, the number of seats available in the performance locations, and whether or not people in the audience were talking while he performed.  And after each show, as part of his working day, he would go into the lobby or outside and sell posters about his shows for $15 each.

If Barry was performing in a restaurant theater, it was a big problem for him if the waiters presented their bills and collected their money during the last part of his performance.  Barry wanted the waiters to wait until his performance was over, but management didn't like doing that because it always seemed to result in some of the customers leaving with the crowd before paying their bills.  So, having waiter present bills to diners and collect payments during the performance was the lesser of two evils for management.

While the book was certainly interesting in parts, I cannot recall any big laughs in it or anything I would want to quote here, and I was glad that it was only 5 CDs long.  
 






© 2018 by Ed Lake
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