Archive for
January 2019

Comments for Sunday, January 27, 2019, thru Thursday, January 31, 2019:

January 30, 2019 - Hmm.  It's about 10:30 a.m. as I start this comment, and the thermometer on my balcony still says it is 20 below zero.  Officially, it is 19 below, and the temperature is supposed to get all the way up to 8 below later today.  Maybe I'll go outside then and check on how photons get polarized and bounce off snow horizontally to produce glare. 

Thermometer on my balcony showing 20 below

It seems I've got nothing better to do than think about photons.

Yesterday and this morning, I exchanged some emails about an article titled "Physicists Have Built a Machine That Actually Breaks Two Rules of Light."  One of the two "rules" that physicists think they have broken is the rule that
there's no difference to a light wave that runs forward or backward in time.
It seems like a pretty silly rule to me.  Why not just say that a photon or light wave looks the same whether going forward or backward?  They're just making a point that sound waves do sound different when received backwards, but, in theory, light "waves" would not show any difference.  In a related article, a physicist implies that there is a difference:
Francois Copie, scientist on the project explains: "When seeding the ring resonator with short pulses, the circulating pulses within the resonator will either arrive before or after the seed pulse but never at the same time."
Unfortunately, there is no detailed description for laymen of exactly how a ring resonator works.  But it seems to involve optical fibers.  Evidently, you send photons (or light waves) into a coil of optical fibers that eventually sends the photons back toward the source.  Then you compare what you emitted to what you received back.  Nothing goes backwards in time.  But the photons are evidently not received back in the order emitted. It's probably because the photons that moved through fibers on the outside of the coil had to travel farther than photons that moved through fibers on the inside of the coil.  And the experiment shows that two photons are never combined.  

Or I could just be misunderstanding the experiment.

The second "rule" the physicists claim to have broken is called "
polarisation symmetry."  The article explains,
Light waves wiggle perpendicular to the direction of their movement, just like a plucked string. The orientation of this wiggle is called its polarisation, and whether we're talking guitar strings or light waves, it tends to remain fixed as the wave moves.

Not so here. As the wave toured around the optical fibre, its orientation described a corkscrew 'elliptical' shape, breaking its usual rule of sticking to a single plane.
All that seems to indicate is that when light photons are forced to change their direction of travel inside an optical fiber, they change their orientation.  That probably means that, regardless of its orientation when it entered an optical fiber, a photon will be horizontally oriented when it comes back out. 

Or the forces that cause the photons to change directions as the photons are forced to travel in circles also cause the photons inside the fibers to travel in a corkscrew pattern - possibly as a result of outside forces (like gravity) affecting what happens inside a fiber.

Dammit!!  Life would be so much simpler if physicists just stopped writing about light as if it consisted of waves.  It doesn't.  It consists of photons.  And photons do not "wiggle perpendicular to the direction of their movement."  They are disk shaped, and the disks are oriented perpendicular to their direction of movement.  The up and down motion that physicists fantasize as waves is just the difference in the shape of a disk as it arrives traveling edge-on.  It starts as a dot, then gets bigger and bigger, and then gets small and smaller until it is a dot again. Then there is nothing, and you have to wait for the next photon to arrive.

Here's an image I created a couple days ago to show how disks set up end to end can be viewed as producing a wave pattern:

                    acting like waves

Light waves do not arrive end to end.  And neither do photons.  But if you lack imagination and idiotically insist on viewing light as consisting of waves, then you simply fantasize that light waves arrive end to end. 

Physics would be so much simpler if light was viewed as individual photons without any of the imaginary fantasies that make light seem like waves!   

January 29, 2019
- I spent all day yesterday working on a scientific paper about "The Importance of Understanding Photons."  Writing such a paper would probably be a lot easier if I understood photons.  I'm hoping that writing the paper will help me with that understanding.  I'm going through what is known about photons step by step to see where it leads me.

The problem is, I cannot make sense of many of the articles I'm reading as I do my research.  The process of polarization is almost always shown this way:
polarizing light

It's a confusing illustration since it shows many different waves (or photons) approaching the first polarizer, all at the same time.  And only the waves that are oriented perfectly vertical get through.  That's what the text says, too.  Here's part of the text that accompanies and explains the illustration:
The polarizers illustrated above are actually filters containing long-chain polymer molecules that are oriented in a single direction. Only the incident light that is vibrating in the same plane as the oriented polymer molecules is absorbed, while light vibrating at right angles to the plane is passed through the first polarizing filter. In Figure 1, polarizer 1 is oriented vertically to the incident beam so it will pass only the waves that are vertical in the incident beam. The wave passing through polarizer 1 is subsequently blocked by polarizer 2 because the second polarizer is oriented horizontally with respect to the electric field vector in the light wave.
But that is NOT TRUE.  Vertically oriented waves AND waves that are less than 45 degrees off of vertical will get through.  If only waves that were vibrating vertically could get through the first filter, that would be only a tiny fraction of the light that hit the first filter.  But about 1/2 of the randomly oriented light that hits the filter gets through. 

That suggests that the light photons (or waves) that hit the first filter can pass through if they are oriented vertically or less than 45 degrees off of vertical.  (Photons (or waves) that are horizontally oriented or less than 45 degrees off of horizontal are absorbed by the filter.) That poses the question:  Are the photons that are less than 45 degrees off of vertical adjusted to be vertical as they pass through the filter?  Or do they pass though just as they arrived. 

The answer seems to be that they are adjusted to be vertical. 

But how is that accomplished?  What is the cause of that effect?  I haven't been able to find any paper or textbook that even mentions that question, much less answers it.  It seems physicists can work it out mathematically without knowing cause and effect, so no one cares how it actually works.

I care. 

The answer seems to be in the quoted text above.  Here is that part again:
The polarizers illustrated above are actually filters containing long-chain polymer molecules that are oriented in a single direction. 
Hmm.  So, the polarizers are nothing like what the illustration shows.  An explanation in a video I watched says that you create a polarizing filter by stretching a piece of transparent plastic (a polymer).  That evidently orients the molecules in the direction the plastic was pulled, like picking up strands of cooked spaghetti or a bunch of pearl necklaces.  The space between the spaghetti strands or strands of pearls will not be as even as shown in the illustration above.  They should be more like the illustration below:

hanging pasta     

And that seems to say it isn't the width of the spaces between the barriers that determines how much light gets through, and how that light is oriented, it is the electromagnetic properties of the strands that orients the photons (or waves).   It's like the photons are passing through a waterfall.  Only photons that are vertical or nearly so can get through the waterfall.  Photons that are hit by the water while in a horizontal position (or near horizontal) are destroyed.

problem is "circular polarization."  Some sources say it relates to the problem I discussed in my December 24 comment

light through a 45 degree filter
50% of the light from the source on the left gets through the first filter, which is oriented vertically.  50% of that light gets through the filter oriented at 45 degrees, and 50% of that light gets through the filter that is oriented vertically.  But, if you removed the 45 degree filter, NO light gets through to the meter.  It's all stopped by the vertical filter.

Some explanations of "circular polarization" say that putting the 45 degree filter between the horizontal filter and the vertical filter somehow gives the photons (or waves) some "spin."  And that is why some light passes through the horizontal filter.  It is "circularly polarized."  To me, "circularly polarized" seems like an oxymoron.  It's like saying a line can be "vertically horizontal."

So, I just spent the whole morning writing this comment, instead of working on my paper.  And I spent all of yesterday afternoon working on the illustration below, which was intended to show photons of different orientations hitting the strands of a vertical filter.

                      hitting a vertical filter
The problem is that the illustration seems too complicated to explain, particularly since it shows one vertical photon hitting a filter strand head on and being destroyed.  I think I need to show one photon at a time as it hits the filter.  Plus, the leftmost photon seems like it isn't moving edge-forward as the others are.  It's a bit flat side forward.

Sigh.  As this comment shows and demonstrates, I still have a lot to figure out, and I can spend all day writing something that just rambles without saying anything important.  But, I didn't know that would be the case when I started.

January 27, 2019
It's another one of those Sunday mornings when I have absolutely nothing prepared for this Sunday comment.  So, I'm going to have to write something totally from scratch.

I tried to get started on writing something yesterday afternoon, but I just stared at the computer screen for about an hour before giving up and going into the living room to read for awhile and then to listen to some old time radio shows I had put on my MP3 player.  Here's what my MP3 player looks like next to a cigarette lighter for size comparison (although I never smoked, I was given the cigarette lighter as an award for "Airman of the Month" in the Air Force long long ago):

My MP3
I bought the MP3 player from Best Buy in 2015 and then immediately bought two different sets of speakers from Amazon to use when it isn't necessary to use headphones.  (I only use headphones when I listen to my MP3 player while on a treadmill or Exercycle at the gym.)  The first set of speakers looks like this:

                    player speakers - set #1
These speakers work fine, but the the actual speakers are made of metal and are fairly small, so the sound is a little tinny.  I used these speakers for years because they connect to an electrical outlet for power, and the other set of speakers I bought only uses batteries.  I didn't want to be buying batteries all the time.  That second set of speakers looks like this:

                    player speakers, set #2

These speakers are about 5 inches tall by 4½ inches wide.  The picture above shows the speakers closed.  They can be sealed shut with a zipper. There is another speaker on the other side, but one side definitely produces more sound than the other side.  Below is a shot of the speakers open, but with the speakers on the opposite sides so that the interior can be seen. 

                    player speakers, interior view

The batteries fit in a plastic box behind the lettering on the left, and the MP3 player usually goes into the net covered pocket on the right.  Carrying these MP3 speakers is about like carrying a paperback book, only lighter.  The great thing about these speakers is that they sound like a regular table-top radio, with fairly good bass sounds.  And I can easily carry the speakers with me if I move from room to room for some reason.  There is no electrical cord to worry about. 

It is these speakers that I've been using for the past month or so to listen to old time radio shows and audio books.  The speakers run on 2 AA batteries, and the set still contains the batteries that came with the speakers when I bought them in 2015.  So, my concern about constantly draining the batteries was baseless.  I've probably had to recharge the lithium battery in the MP3 player at least five times in the past month, but the speakers' two AA batteries keep working fine.

An interesting thing about listening to audio books and old time radio shows is that your subconscious can still be working on other things.  It can be figuring out problems, and your conscious mind can occasionally join in briefly.  But when reading a book on my Kindle or in paper form, my mind is totally occupied with converting printed words into ideas and images.  I cannot be thinking about something else at the same time.  That probably explains why it is so enjoyable to listen to audio books while driving.  My Right Brain can be focused on searching for visual signs of danger while my left brain listens to someone reading a book to me.  And, unlike having some actual person talking to me while I'm driving, I can hit pause on the CD player if I get into a driving situation that requires full focus.

While listening to old time radio detective shows I've been thinking about how radio signals bounce off the ionosphere to reach distant locations beyond the horizon - even on the other side of the globe.  Exactly how does that work?  The only descriptions I see in books describe the radio signals as waves.  I can find no book which describes radio signals as photons.  And the books do not really explain much.  Wikipedia says this about radio photons:
According to quantum mechanics, electromagnetic waves can also be viewed as streams of particles called photons. When viewed in this way, the polarization of an electromagnetic wave is determined by a quantum mechanical property of photons called their spin[citation needed]. A photon has one of two possible spins: it can either spin in a right hand sense or a left hand sense about its direction of travel. Circularly polarized electromagnetic waves are composed of photons with only one type of spin, either right- or left-hand. Linearly polarized waves consist of equal numbers of right and left hand spinning photons, with their phase synchronized so they superpose to give oscillation in a plane.
Is a radio signal really a "stream of photons"?  The transmitter transmitted photons in all directions.  Like so:


The descriptions also show the situation depicted below:

radio signals
Either way, the antenna just receives photons in the same order they were transmitted.  There is no "stream."

Does a photon really spin "
about its direction of travel" as the Wikipedia article says?  That suggests that the photon is coming at you like a flat trashcan cover coming face-on, but spinning as it travels.  So, the flat side hits you like a wave.  But polarization says that the signal is coming at you edgewise, either polarized horizontally or vertically.  IF it is not polarized, it can be coming at you in any orientation, but it is still coming edgewise.

The last part of the Wikipedia quote is just gibberish.  "
Linearly polarized waves consist of equal numbers of right and left hand spinning photons"?  Waves consist of photons?  "With their phase synchronized so they superpose to give oscillation in a plane"?  That seems to be saying that the "top" of their spin will be coordinated to be in the same place whether spinning to the left or to the right. That causes the photon to act like a wave.

To me it is just forcing a photon to act like a wave in a way that agrees with some mathematics.  You get the same results if a photon is disk shaped.  The disk appears very small when it first arrives, it then grows in size as more of it arrives, until it reaches its full diameter, and then it decreases in size down to nothing as the rest of it arrives.  There is nothing oscillating, nor is there anything spinning.

Unfortunately, I need to create some complicated illustrations to make the differences clear.  But how would I know for certain that my illustration of two counter-rotating trashcan covers coming at a detector face-on is really what is meant by this part of the Wikipedia quote?
Linearly polarized waves consist of equal numbers of right and left hand spinning photons, with their phase synchronized so they superpose to give oscillation in a plane.      
And if they mean something else, what do they mean?

It seems to me that something I see as very simple is being explained as something incredibly complicated in order to give photons some "wave-like" properties.  The spin is required in order to give a "frequency" to the waves. 

With coin shaped photons, the diameter of the photon is the frequency.  Radio receivers are tuned to receive photons of a particular diameter, and it is simply fantasized that the coin-shaped photons are being received edge to edge, which provides their imaginary "wave frequency."  Like the red wave below:

edge to
                    edge coins viewed as a wave

Groan!  It's after lunch time, and that means I've reached the end of today's comment.  I've basically just been rambling (something like a Spider Robinson story), writing down my thoughts as they occur to me.  And there is something in what I wrote that I never even thought about before.  Is that really how mathematician physicists view radio signals?  As spinning and coordinated trashcan covers arriving face-on.  It's crazy! 

Or maybe it is just how I visualize what Wikipedia says, and the actual explanation is something that no one has yet been able to illustrate - or intelligently describe in words, but which makes perfect sense as a mathematical equation.   

Comments for Sunday, January 20, 2019, thru Saturday, January 26, 2019:

January 25, 2019 - Either Monday or Tuesday, while I was at the gym, I sat down on an Excercycle next to a beefy middle-aged guy who was talking with someone on the other side of him.  I didn't like the look of the guy, but there was only one Exercycle that wasn't being used, and that was the one I took.  While I peddled and watched the latest news about Trump on CNN, the guy started watching the news, too.  And suddenly he barked at the TV, "Why do you just talk about it, why don't you do something about it?!"  Then he looked at me, but I just continued to look at the TV and said nothing.

I wanted to ask, "Who are you talking about?" and "What do you want them to do?"  But, I felt that anything I said would start an argument, and he didn't look like someone I wanted to argue with.

He left while I still had about 10 minutes remaining in my 20 minute session.

Then, yesterday morning, when I turned on the TV to listen to CNN Headline News while preparting breakfast, I couldn't get CNN.  I couldn't get anything except local stations.   No Turner Classic Movies, no Smithsonian Channel, nothing except Milwaukee stations.  I assumed it was some kind of temporary glitch and didn't think any more about it.  I just turned off the TV.

Then, when I went to the gym in the afternoon, the gym's TVs which normally show CNN were showing some ESPN channel.  And the TVs which normally show the FOX channel and FOX News were both showing a CBS show.  I had to wonder if it was connected to the problem I had with getting CNN at home.

Could Trump have declared that CNN and news shows were the "enemy of the people" and shut them down?  How could that happen without the local channels talking about it?  Whatever was happening, it was a permanent thing at the gym.  They wouldn't be showing CNN or FOX anymore.  It was a major operation for them to change networks on their TVs.  I knew that from past experiences.  They still haven't figured out how to stop their cable system from using the "energy saver" option to turn off most of their TVs every 24 hours, often while I am there.  Then gym employees have to run around turning them all back on again.  And that has been going on for over a year.  (Check my October 27, 2017 comment.) It happened while I was on the Exercycle yesterday. 

The alternative explanation was that that guy who yelled at the TV and others like him had caused the gym's management to stop showing news channels out of fear that those guys might start fights.

When I got home from the gym, CNN was available on my TV once again.  And so were all the other channels I watch.  Whew!  So, it was just a coincidence that the problem I had that morning had happened the same day that the gym stopped showing news channels.

I guess the moral of this story is that when the President is angry, it can make a lot of other people angry, and angry people don't think straight.  They can be very scary, and that affects a lot more people who just don't want trouble.

I'm looking forward to seeing what Mueller's investigation comes up with.  And I'm looking forward to the 2020 elections.  

January 24, 2019
- I'm still trying to focus on writing a scientific paper about understanding how photons work, but when I have a lot of unclear thoughts to sort through, I'm easily distracted by other things.  On Monday, I browsed through the audio books that were currently available for downloading from my local library, and I found a "book" called "Sounding Off! Garrison Keillor’s Classic Sound Effect Sketches featuring Fred Newman."

Sounding Off!

I was curious as to what it was all about, so I listened to the 4-minute sample the library provided.  The first bit was hilarious, about a radio sound effects expert telling his son what he does for a living.  So, I downloaded the entire audio "book" (which consists of only 1 hour and 12 minutes) into my computer.   I then listened to the whole thing, enjoying all the silly stuff involving sound effects very much, and I returned the "book" less than 2 hours after I borrowed it.  I spent the rest of the day thinking about photons.

The next morning, Tuesday morning, I was notified that an audio book I had on reserve at the library had become available.  It was "Variable Star," by Spider Robinson and Robert Heinlein.  It's 11 hours and 11 minutes long.  That's 352 pages in print format, a fairly long book. 

Variable Star

I immediately downloaded it, put it into my MP3 player.  As soon as my morning chores were done, I started listening to it.  I listened to about 5 hours worth on Tuesday, mostly in the evening.  On Wednesday, I listened to the rest, finishing it at about 5 p.m.  Like Robinson's short stories that I read last week, Variable Star is told in "first person" and seems to ramble endlessly.  It's like someone telling you a story over drinks in a bar. 

Variable Star takes place several hundred years in the future, when man has colonized the moon and Pluto, has terraformed Mars and some moons of Jupiter, and is in the process of sending colonists to planets around other stars.  The main character, 18-year-old Joel, has a fight with his billionaire girlfriend, Jinny, whose grandfather is one of the richest humans in solar system, and Joel hops aboard a space ship headed to colonize a planet around a star that is 85 light years away. 
We were making a jump of about eighty-five light-years—at such a hair-raising fraction of c that the trip would seem to us to take twenty years, total. But back in the normal universe, clocks run faster, thanks to Dr. Einstein’s Paradox. To an observer at, say, Tombaugh Station around Pluto, our voyage would appear to take roughly ninety and one-half Standard years.      
The book has a lot of descriptions of how time dilation works, and how the space ship Sheffield works.  The ship accelerates constantly to give the 500 passengers 1G of gravity.  And, thus its speed gets greater and greater until it reaches about 99.794% of c midway to its destination.  At that point the ship will turn around, and decelerate at 1G.  Here's the plan for the first 10 years of the journey:
By that point in our voyage, six months out, we were already beginning to use Dr. Einstein’s Clock instead of Sol.  [I.e., ship-board clocks instead of the Sun.] Lorentz contraction had set in, and we were aging just measurably slower than the people we had left behind.

How much slower? Not a lot—yet. At the instant when those of us in the Sheffield passed the six-month mark of the trip, residents of the Solar System were only about seventeen and a half hours older than we were.

But it would get steadily worse as our velocity mounted up. And constant boost mounts up fast.

At the one-year mark, the differential would be about seven days and seven hours.

At two years, it would be more than fifty-eight days.

By the five-year mark, the divergence of our clocks and mankind’s would surge up to almost three years. We would be traveling at more than 0.938c.

And when I had been traveling for ten years, and was twenty-eight years old, more than forty-five years would have elapsed on Terra. Behind me Jinny would be closing in on sixty-four.

And receding at 99.794 percent of the speed of light.
In a normal sci-fi novel, you have some kind of crisis and you keep on reading because you want to know what happens next.  The way Robinson writes, there is no initial crisis, and you keep waiting for something to happen. And when it does, it is something totally unexpected that changes the whole direction of the story.  Then you wait for something else to happen, and when it does it again changes the whole direction of the story.

I won't summarize the whole book here, but the first crisis is when the engine quits and everyone floats in zero gravity for awhile until they get the engine working again.  That doesn't really change the direction of the story, but it keeps you reading.  (And it sets you up for the next time the engine stops and can't be restarted, which means they cannot slow down.)

Then comes the BIG event.  Behind them, the sun goes nova when the Sheffield has been traveling for only about six years.  The sun, Earth and the other planets are all obliterated and there is a wave of lethal gamma rays chasing the Sheffield, traveling at c while the Sheffield travels at about 99.5% of c

It is virtually impossible for a star the size of the sun to go nova.  Plus, there were no prior indications of anything being wrong.  That means something or someone must have caused the sun to go nova. 

That should be enough to make clear why I kept reading.  The book also has a real Earthly quote of some kind at the start of every chapter.  Here's the quote that starts Chapter 16:  
During this period, Tesla spoke out vehemently against the new theories of Albert Einstein, insisting that energy is not contained in matter, but in the space between the particles of an atom.
—Tesla, Master of Lightning PBS-TV documentary, Dec. 12, 2000
Hmm.  I think I understand what Tesla was saying.  In a sense, photons exist between particles of an atom.  I'm going to have to mull that over.

Variable Star was an enjoyable book to listen to.  I have no way of knowing if it would be as enjoyable to read, but I thank the reader of this web site who mentioned it to me.    

January 21, 2019
- I learned a little history lesson this morning.  Mostly, it is a lesson I taught myself.  (Those are usually the lessons you never forget.) 

On January 18, I created a poster that said:

If you impeach
Donald Trump
you will make
Mike Pence
And Pence is even
worse than Trump!

In order to show that poster as part of my January 18 comment, I had to put it on some web site, so that I can use the link.  I put it on  It's easier than putting it on my own web site.  I've been putting images on for the past 8 months.  On the 18th, however, I did something I had never done before.  Instead of putting the poster on Imgur for just my own use, I put it there as a public posting so that others could use it, too.

The instant I did that, I started getting comments about it.  The first comments advised me that impeaching a President doesn't automatically mean he will be removed from office. 

So, I quickly created a new poster that said, "you may make" instead of "you will make" Mike Pence President.  That also started a whole new discussion that is still going on.  As part of that discussion, I had to do some research today, and I learned that Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton were both impeached by the House of Representatives, but the impeachments were not confirmed by the Senate.  So, neither was removed from office.  (Richard Nixon resigned before he could be impeached.)  I probably knew all that, but just forgot the details.  Now I will never forget them.

The second Imgur discussion was mostly about whether Pence would or could be worse than Trump.  Someone argued that no one could be worse than Trump.  I think Pence could be worse, but it would be a different kind of worse.  Pence is not dumber than Trump, but Pence shows all the signs of being a religious fanatic.  (I'm currently reading "The Shadow President -  The Truth about Mike Pence" on my Kindle.)  The conversation then turned to whether Trump would resign if impeached by the House, or would he wait around to have his impeachment confirmed by the Senate and be officially removed.  I tend to think that Trump's ego would never allow him admit to doing anything seriously wrong, so he'd never resign.  If he was removed, he'd just argue that it was a "witch hunt" and that his removal was unjustified.  He'd fight it. 

The key point is that, if Trump was impeached and removed, it would probably be a process that could take a long time.  And Mike Pence would only be President for a short period (unless he is subsequently elected to a full term).

Either way, the whole situation is scary to think about. 

January 20, 2019
While eating lunch on January 18, I finished reading the Kindle version of Stephen Hawking's last book, "Brief Answer to the Big Questions."  (Hawking died on March 14, 2018.) The "Big Questions" in the title are things like, "Is there a God?," "How did it all begin?," "Is there other intelligent life in the universe?," "What is inside a black hole?," "Is time travel possible?," "Will artificial Intelligence outsmart us?," etc.

Here's a quote from page 37 that provides Hawking's answers to a couple of those questions:
And just as with modern-day black holes, floating around in space, the laws of nature dictate something quite extraordinary. They tell us that here too time itself must come to a stop. You can’t get to a time before the Big Bang because there was no time before the Big Bang. We have finally found something that doesn’t have a cause, because there was no time for a cause to exist in. For me this means that there is no possibility of a creator, because there is no time for a creator to have existed in.
He's relating black holes to the Big Bang.  And he's saying that time stops inside a black hole.  I fully agree.  Just as traveling at the speed of light stops time, so does gravity when it reaches some critical point.  As I see it, time is particle spin, and particles cannot spin when gravity is too intense.  The "Big Question" that I have that Hawking didn't answer is "What is Time?"  I think it is particle spin, but I'd certainly like to have someone with Hawking's expertise agree with me.  

The parts of the book that interested me the most were the part about black holes and the part about problems with getting people interested in science.  Science is vastly more important to people today than it was in bygone days.  He says we need more and better teachers, and we need to avoid alienating students by requiring that they do "rote learning" (memorizing), particularly of mathematical equations.  From page 202:
Most people respond to a qualitative, rather than a quantitative, understanding, without the need for complicated equations.
In other words, most people respond to good and simple explanations rather than long and complex explanations.  I agree.  I think a lot of scientific explanations are much more complicated than they need to be.  When I ask, "What is Time?", I want to know what the facts and evidence say.  I'm not interested in what someone in 435 BC believed the answer to be.

What Hawking wrote about black holes is mostly just what everyone else writes.  Of particular interest to me is the belief that light cannot escape from a black hole.  I think I'm slowly coming to the conclusion that light cannot be created in a black hole.  Gravity slows time by slowing particle spin and atomic processes.  Inside a black hole, time stops because the atoms and their particles have stopped all movement.  Thus the atoms cannot emit or create light.
  And that is why a black hole is black.  The atoms and particles within it have stopped moving and cannot create light.  So, light escaping from a black hole is not an issue.

That also means that the center of a black hole is NOT a singularity (which is just another mathematical absurdity).  It is a different form of matter - possibly "dark matter."  Hawking says that heat can escape from a black hole, although he doesn't phrase it that way.  He wrote on page 113:
My calculations predicted that a black hole creates and emits particles and radiation, just as if it were an ordinary hot body, with a temperature that is proportional to the surface gravity and inversely proportional to the mass. This made the problematic suggestion of Jacob Bekenstein, that a black hole had a finite entropy, fully consistent, since it implied that a black hole could be in thermal equilibrium at some finite temperature other than zero. Since that time, the mathematical evidence that black holes emit thermal radiation has been confirmed by a number of other people with various different approaches.    
The implication is that heat emitted from a black hole is not in the form of photons. But, I need to study and think about that a lot more.

On page 78, Hawking says that people today are no stronger nor inherently more intelligent than cavemen were.  What makes us so different is that we now have books and can pass information down to future generations.  And he says this on
page 208
I believe the future of learning and education is the internet. People can answer back and interact. In a way, the internet connects us all together like the neurons in a giant brain. And with such an IQ, what cannot we be capable of?
The problem is that we still have the instincts and aggressive impulses that we had in cavemen days.  On page 80 Hawking says,
Aggression, in the form of subjugating or killing other men and taking their women and food, has had definite survival advantage up to the present time. But now it could destroy the entire human race and much of the rest of life on Earth.
Hawking has also worked with Elon Musk to warn people of the dangers of relying too much on artificial intelligence.  Hawking ends his chapter on artificial intelligence this way:
Why are we so worried about artificial intelligence? Surely humans are always able to pull the plug? People asked a computer, “Is there a God?” And the computer said, “There is now,” and fused the plug.
This is from page 147:
The Earth is becoming too small for us. Our physical resources are being drained at an alarming rate. Mankind has presented our planet with the disastrous gifts of climate change, pollution, rising temperatures, reduction of the polar ice caps, deforestation and decimation of animal species. Our population, too, is increasing at an alarming rate. Faced with these figures, it is clear this near-exponential population growth cannot continue into the next millennium.
Hawking believed it is clear we will someday have to move to other planets.  We just have to avoid killing ourselves before that becomes possible.

Comments for Sunday, January 13, 2019, thru Saturday, January 19, 2019:

January 19, 2019
- Yesterday evening, using my MP3 player, I listened to the remaining tracks of the audio book version of "Callahan's Secret," which is the final volume in "The Callahan Chronicals," three collections of short stories by Spider Robinson.

Callahan's Secret
The Callahan Chronicals

While I enjoyed listening to the audio book, I don't know if I can recommend it.  Spider Robinson's short stories are mostly rambling philosophical discussions which take place in a bar on Long Island in the 1970's.  It's a friendly bar inhabited by humans and aliens.  The discussions are generally enjoyable and loaded with puns.  However, a lot of the discussions mention things that happened in previous stories.  So, you need to read or listen to them in the order they were written (which I did).  I don't plan to listen to any more of Robinson's short stories, but I might listen to the audio book version of a time-travel novel he wrote based upon an idea by Robert Heinlein.  I have it on reserve at my local library.

January 18, 2019
- Yesterday morning, after I finished writing my comment about the phone conversation I had with a TV producer about the anthrax attacks of 2001, I sat down on my couch and read from my Kindle for awhile.  I wanted to stop thinking about the anthrax case and get back to thinking about science.  Later, during lunch, I finished reading "Brief Answers to the Big Questions" by Stephen Hawking.

Brief Answers to the Big Questions

It was a very enjoyable and interested read.  I was tempted to wait until Sunday to write about it, but I can write something now and write more on Sunday. 

I'll comment on the science in my Sunday comment.  Today I'll comment on other things in the book. 
It's a science book, of course, but, interestingly, Hawking also mentions Donald Trump four times.  Three mentions are worth repeating.  On page 146, Hawking writes about the "Doomsday Clock" which supposedly tells us how close humanity is to destroying itself and bringing and the end of the world, and he says,
It is now closer to Doomsday than at any time since then, save in the early 1950s at the start of the Cold War. The clock and its movements are, of course, entirely symbolic but I feel compelled to point out that such an alarming warning from other scientists, prompted at least in part by the election of Donald Trump, must be taken seriously.
Later, on page 175, Hawking writes about how long it takes "information" or light to travel from place to place, and he says,
Forty years on, our most intrepid explorer, Voyager, has just made it to interstellar space. Its speed, eleven miles a second, means it would take about 70,000 years to reach Alpha Centauri. This constellation is 4.37 light years away, twenty-five trillion miles. If there are beings alive on Alpha Centauri today, they remain blissfully ignorant of the rise of Donald Trump.
And, lastly, on page 202 he says this about today's students learning about science:
Unfortunately, we cannot go back in time. With Brexit and Trump now exerting new forces in relation to immigration and the development of education, we are witnessing a global revolt against experts, which includes scientists.
That fits with what I wrote yesterday about people who make decisions based upon facts and evidence (like most scientists) versus people who only care about opinions and beliefs (like Trump).   If you are being driven by your emotions to impeach Donald Trump, consider the facts and evidence.  You might change your mind.
                  about impeaching Donald Trump.
January 17, 2019 - Yesterday, I talked on the phone for about 25 minutes with the TV producer who sent me an email on January 9 about possibly doing an interview about the anthrax attacks of 2001.  Before the phone call, I combed my hair and put on a nice shirt in case he might also want to also talk via Skype.  That didn't happen.  It was just a phone call.  It was about a possible 4-part TV series that he was thinking of pitching to various networks.  If some network likes the idea, the network would then pay to have it produced - probably for the fall season.  Filming (and Skyping) would take place this summer. 

It occurred to me that if someone wanted to do a different kind of TV show about the anthrax attacks, they could do a show about how some people look at facts and evidence, while others are only concerned with opinions and beliefs.  That was how I got interested in the case.  I was looking at the facts and evidence (and putting them onto my web site about the case), because I had gotten into endless arguments with people who only had opinions and beliefs.

And now we have a President who is only interested in his own opinions and beliefs, and who has no interest in (or understanding of) facts and evidence.  He was elected by people who were evidently thinking emotionally, not logically.  I'd definitely like to see a documentary TV series titled "The Dangers of Thinking Emotionally Instead of Logically."  One danger: You might blame an innocent person for a crime he didn't commit (like those who pointed at Steven Hatfill in the anthrax case).  Another danger: You might elect a President who is totally unfit for the office.   

“When I think I’m right, nothing bothers me.” - Donald Trump

January 16, 2019 - Yesterday evening, I did something I think I've only done once before in my life (and that was the previous evening): I listened to parts of an audio book instead of doing what I "normally" do in the evening, like watching TV.  Using my MP3 player, I listened to a couple short stories from Spider Robinson's book "The Callahan Chronicles."  I thought the book contained three complete volumes of Robinson's sci-fi stories.  But suddenly and unexpectedly I finished the second volume, titled "Time Travelers Strictly Cash."  It contained only 4 stories.  That was much shorter than the first volume.  Too much shorter.

This morning did some research and I compared the indexes of "The Callahan Chronicles" and "Time Travelers Strictly Cash."  I found that "Chronicles" only contains four of the twelve stories that are in "Cash."  And I saw the index for "Chronicles" has these as the entries for the 3 volumes/parts:
PART I: Callahan's Crosstime Saloon                                        1
PART II: From Time Travelers Strictly Cash                          153 
PART III: Callahan's Secret                                                    227
So, the book has the complete volumes for two books and just four out of twelve stories from one book.  Does that mean I can say I read "Time Travelers Strictly Cash"?  No.  But, I can still show the cover:

Time Travelers Strictly Cash

The four stories were enjoyable, but, if I could do things over again, I would have listened to the 12 stories instead of just the 4.  However, my library doesn't have the audio book or Kindle or paper version of "Time Travelers Strictly  Cash," so I'm just going to mark it down as one of Life's minor disappointments.

January 15, 2019
- I don't know if that TV interview about the anthrax attacks of 2001 that I mentioned in my January 9 comment will happen or not, but I'll probably know by Thursday.  It won't be like any other TV interview I've ever done.  Previous interviews were done by camera crews and an interviewer who came to my home, or by me going to their studio.  If this one happens, it will be done via Skype.

I've never used Skype.  It's in my laptop because my laptop uses Windows 10 which contains Skype, but I always turn off Skype whenever I start or restart my computer.  For the past couple days I'd been researching Skype and puttering around with the laptop camera.  I took the picture below using my regular camera.   

Me at
                      my compter using the computer camera

Normally, I use the large screen in back and turn off the laptop's screen.  It is better for my eyes and neck if I look straight ahead at a screen instead of looking down at the laptop screen. When I just use the large screen, the laptop screen is pushed all the way back as far as it will go to get it out of the way, which means the camera is pointed upward and you can only see the very top of my head.

Here's a shot of me taking a photo of the two screens using my regular camera:

                      a picture of a picture of myself

I found it interesting how the laptop camera finds faces in the image and puts white or blue boxes around them.  You can see a white box around Audrey Hepburn's face and a blue box around my face.  It seems the laptop camera is all set up to do facial recognition.

It occurred to me that there might be a copyrights problem with showing Audrey Hepburn's image on a TV program.  So, after I took the photo above I switched that poster with a poster of the cover of my book "A Crime Unlike Any Other."  The last time someone asked me to do a TV interview, it was going to be done with a TV camera crew, and they would be shooting toward the wall with the window, so I switched the Audrey Hepburn poster that was on that wall with the book poster to get my book cover in the TV interview, and I never switched them back - until today.  (The Audrey Hepburn picture came with the frame.  I was going to put a photo of the cover of another one of my books into the frame, but I just never got around to doing that.)

So, even if the TV interview doesn't happen for some reason, I've learned a lot about Skype and my computer's camera.  I also know that others with expertise about the anthrax attacks have been disinclined to do TV interviews via Skype.  They told me it was because they would have no control over what would end up in the program.  But you never have that kind of control anyway, when doing TV interviews.  Plus, it is easier to turn off Skype than to throw a whole crew of people out of your home if you don't like the questions they ask.  I think their refusal may also be because they never used Skype and just didn't feel like learning how to use it.  Any day you learn something new is a good day.

January 14, 2019 (C)
- This morning, at around 7 a.m. as I lay in bed waiting for it to be 7:25 and time for me to get up, a bunch of ideas suddenly came together.

I was thinking about the time dilation situation I mentioned in my January 3 comment.  It's the situation where you have a mirror one light year away from Earth and you send a pulse of light to it.  It takes a year for the light pulse to get to the mirror and another year for the pulse to return to Earth.  According to Einstein's Theory of Special Relativity, if you travel at 99.995% of the speed of light to that mirror and back, instead of taking you 365 days get there, it will appear to take just 3.65 days, and another 3.65 days to get back.  When you return, you will have aged 7.3 days, but everyone on Earth will have aged 2 years and 7.3 days.

I been thinking for the past 10 days that I should incorporate that example into one of my papers, but I wasn't sure which one to add it to.  Then, this morning, I thought maybe I should turn it into a new and separate paper titled "The Ultimate Twin Paradox."

As I thought about it, I wondered what the space traveler would see if he looked back at the Earth.  Would he see the Earth spinning once every .24 hours?  No, that would require light to travel instantly.  Looking back while on his way to the mirror the traveler would see the Earth hardly spinning at all because he would be almost outrunning the photons traveling from the Earth.  On the way back, the photons would be arriving at almost twice the speed of light, and he'd see the Earth spinning almost a hundred times a day.

Then it hit me: On the way back to Earth, the photons traveling at the speed of light would be reaching the traveler at c+v, where v is the traveler's speed.  It is also what my paper "An Analysis of Einstein's Second Postulate to his Theory of Relativity" is all about.  But what I hadn't been thinking about was how the photons would appear to the traveler at that speed.  While traveling away from the Earth, the photons would appear red shifted - in the harmless infrared range.  However, when going toward the Earth, the photons would appear extremely blue shifted. If a photon of yellow light is normally 600 nano-meters long, when you hit that photon while traveling toward it at 99.995% percent of the speed of light, the photon will appear 6 nano-meters long. That puts it in the X-ray range.  Its energy combines with your kinetic energy just as is done when a photon from a radar gun hits a photon in the front end of an approaching car.  If you look at the Earth while traveling toward it at 99.995% of the speed of light, it would be like looking into an X-ray machine.  Will the front end of your space craft be receiving light photons from Earth and emitting X-rays back toward Earth?  What happens to a space craft that is bombarded with so many X-rays?  

Another question: If a photon is coin shaped, a normal yellow light photon will have a diameter of 600 nano-meters and a normal X-ray photon would have a diameter of 6 nano-meters.   But, if you hit a yellow light photon while traveling at 99.995% of the speed of light, it's length might appear to be 6 nano-meters, but it will still have a height of 600 nano-meters.  So, it could be 100 times more powerful than a normal X-ray photon.

There might be something in this that I'm not understanding or don't know about, and it all might all be nonsense, but at the moment it seems right.  I definitely need to start writing it down and thinking it through.  It seems to have all kinds of implications I have never seen in any scientific paper.  And it really requires some understanding of: What is a photon?  

January 14, 2019 (B)
- This morning I received another email order from one of the companies that sells my books.  It's the first such order I've received from them since December 3.  The email is an exact duplicate of the one they sent on December 3 except for the order number.  And, except for the order number, that email was an exact duplicate of the emails they sent me on October 15th, 22nd and 29th, plus November 5th, 12th, 19th and 26th. 

As usual, there is no way for me to respond without joining a program they offer that will cost me $99 per year.  I cannot even ask which book they are ordering. 

I think I need to visit Callahan's Place and tell the guys there about my problem:  Robots are already taking over parts of the Earth.    

January 14, 2019 (A)
- Yesterday afternoon, I finished listening to an audio book version of Spider Robinson's collection of short stories titled "Callahan's Crosstime Saloon."

Calahan's Crosstime Saloon

Technically, I'm listening to "The Callahan Chronicles," which combines three volumes of Robinson's short stories into one.  I finished the first volume and started on the second.

It was a truly enjoyable listening experience, since the person reading the book was able to mimic different voices for the different people (and aliens) in Callahan's Place, a fictional bar on Long Island in New York state.  All the stories are told by patrons of Callahan's Place during the 1970s.  The patrons are all friendly and talkative, even the aliens.  The philosophy is "shared pain is lessened and shared joy is increased." Anyone who gets belligerent when drunk is not allowed in the place.  And they all love puns.  Tuesday is "Punday" at Callahan's, a day when everyone tries to out-pun everyone else.  Here's a sample:
This one night in particular had used up an awful lot of alcohol, and one hell of a lot of spiritual fortitude. The topic was one of those naturals that can be milked for hours: “electricity.” It was about one-fifteen that the trouble started.

By this point in a harrowing evening, the competition was down to the Doc, Noah Gonzalez and me. I was feeling decidedly pun-chy.

“I have a feeling this is going to be a good round Fermi,” the Doc mused, and sent a few ounces of Scotch past an angelic smile.

“You’ve galvanized us all once again, Doc,” said Noah immediately.

“Socket to me,” I agreed enthusiastically.     
The stories are about things like time travel, telekinesis, mind reading, living for thousands of years, and alien visitors.  There are no visits to other worlds, unless it is someone at Callahan's telling the rest of gang about such a visit.  It is a fast paced book, since most of it is dialog.  I really enjoyed listening to the audio book version and highly recommend it.  I don't know if reading it would be as enjoyable.  I may try reading one of the short stories just to find out.

January 13, 2019
I'm not currently working on any scientific papers because I think I need some kind of new idea to get me motivated.  The easiest way for me to get a new idea, of course, is to work on a paper about some unsolved problem.  So, I need to work on a paper to get an idea and I need an idea to motivate me to work on a paper.  Meanwhile, I'm doing nothing - except enjoying reading and listening to some very good books and arguing with people about other things.

One of the audio books I'm listening to has a chapter about how gravity works, and by coincidence on the same day I listened to that chapter someone posted an interesting question to the Astrophysics and Physics Facebook group.  The question was in the form of an illustration:
Physics problem about gravity
About 50 percent of the people responding said the answer was zero.  About 30 percent said the answer was 200 N (Newtons).  The remaining 20 percent said the answer was 100 N.  Most people didn't explain their reasoning.  The first person to claim the answer was zero and give his reasoning was obviously a mathematician, since he stated:
The two forces are in opposite direction.which gives the total force,f,as f1-f2=200-200=0N
The first person to claim the answer was 200 N and give his reasoning explained:
200 N cause the weight on the right further pulls the scale apart.
The first two people who claimed the answer was 100 N and who also provided explanations wrote:
Sridhar Ambati Its 100..u can imagine a situation where spring blance is hung vertically with 100N weight. the rigid support which is attached to the hook will offer 100N reaction force. But spring balnce will show only 100N
Mohamed Ahmed 100 N, one mass acts as a support and the scale only reads the weight of the other one. This situation is similar to mass hanging vertically from a spring attached to a scale hanging on the wall.
I agreed that 100 N is the right answer, but I thought a longer and clearer explanation was needed, so I wrote:
The answer is 100 N, but the problem is describing WHY it is 100 N.

It is 100 N because gravity is being measured, and you cannot measure gravity unless you have something to measure gravity against.

If the scale was nailed to the table, only the weight on the left side would be measured. It is the one pulling on the hook that measures weight.

In the illustration, the weight on the right takes the place of the nail. It holds the scale in place while the scale weighs the weight on the left.

If you added a gram to the weight on the left, the gram would pull the scale over to rest against the pulley, and the scale would measure 100 N and 1 gram. Add a gram to the weight on the right, and the scale would still show 1 N plus 1 gram, but you would be able to position the scale back in the center of the table again.

The only way the scale would measure 200 N is if the scale was nailed to the underside of the table and both weights were hanging from the hook.

The only way the scale would measure zero is if it had hooks on both ends and zero was in the center of the scale.
I immediately started getting people "liking" my post.  But I felt I needed to explain further.  I also felt that the illustrated question needed to have some scale readings.  So, I created this version of the question:
Gravity test version 2
And I wrote,
The question still is: Why would the scale register zero or 200 N?
That got an immediate response that I put the zero on the wrong end of the scale.  And then someone else complained that I should use more numbers and not put 100 N in the middle, because that would make some people think equal weights would give the middle number.

They were both right.  So, I created this version of the illustrated question:
gravity question - version 3

And I wrote this:

Here's a new version of the illustration. The question is: What will the scale show? zero, 100 N or 200 N?

The question is NOT how much weight is the table holding up. That would be 200 N plus the weight of the scale, ropes and pulleys.

The question is NOT whether the weight on the left side is equal to the weight on the right side. Obviously it is.

The scale will show 100 N.

The scale would show 200 N if the scale was nailed to the table and both weights were hanging from the hook on the scale. But that isn't what the illustration shows.

The scale CANNOT show zero, since it is obviously holding up some weight.

The scale shows 100 N because the 100 N on the right side is keeping the 100 N on the left side from falling to the floor and taking the scale with it.

It takes 100 N of lift to keep 100 N from falling. The scale just measures the lift required to overcome gravity and keep the weight from falling.
My explanation didn't stop the debate.  They are still arguing.  There were at least 37 posts overnight, and most of them are just posting answers without explanations.  And one person is posting a video over and over, at least ten times so far.  Here's the video:

The video shows the experiment being performed in a classroom, and it shows the answer would be 100 N.  (In the video, the teacher uses 10 N weights.) (You can view part 1 of the lesson HERE and part 2 HERE.)

I also see one responder in the thread complaining that the answers should just be a number without any explanation, because no one has time to read long explanations.  His comment is in response to a multiple part, long winded answer that doesn't say whether the answer is zero, 100 N or 200 N.

In response to my answer and final illustration, I had a conversation with someone named "James Quick" that went like this:

QUICK: I have a problem trying to figure out why so many people are having a problem with basic physics I mean BASIC !
LAKE: That's a psychology question. My answer would be that some people think logically with the left side of their brain while others think visually and emotionally with the right side of their brain. The weights in the illustration LOOK equal, so they seem to balance each other out. The two weights are both pulling on the scale, so they LOOK like the scale should weigh them both.

You need to know how gravity works and how it is measured to understand the logic of the problem. To measure gravity you need to pull AGAINST something. The left weight is pulling against the scale which is held in place by the right weight.
QUICK: That being said, this is a physics group right?
LAKE: Right, it's a physics group. But people who are interested in physics do not always think logically. Many physics students are taught to think mathematically. They claim that mathematics IS logic or that logic can be replaced by mathematics. If you try to get them to explain something, they can only explain with mathematical equations. They only understand math. What is actually PHYSICALLY happening is of absolutely no interest to them.

The illustration looks like a mathematical equation with equal weights on both sides. So, mathematically, the answer should be zero.
QUICK: So if you're a physicist you have to abandon all logic? 
LAKE: They don't think that way. They just think about the math and don't think about the logic. They also believe that "cause and effect" is no longer part of physics. Physics is just math. Period. If you argue logic with them, they just think you are stupid because you aren't phrasing things in mathematical terms.
Quick responded to that last post by just indicating that he "liked" my answer.  That was the end of the discussion except for a post by someone who I assume is a mathematician, since he wrote:
Mahima Romanoff: Remember there questions come with important info like--"weight of strings, pulleys, and spring is 0". The whole concept of these type of questions is the equilibrium. The only way this will work is if the pointer scale null is in the middle of the scale. Suppose the distance between 0 and 100N is 'x' and distance from middle of scale to weights is 'y' then , the left side length is y+x while the right side length is 'y'. Whoa.

Your math is blowing my mind. 
After that, the thread is just more arguing between other people, plus a lot of people just giving their answers in the form of a number.  As of this moment, there are 167 posts and 126 individuals have indicated that they like, love or are amazed by the thread.  I just added my name as someone loving the thread. 

I think I might create a version of it for my Facebook group on Time and Time Dilation.  It would be off topic, but it's my group, so I can break the rules if I have a good reason.  I might also start a thread about "What is a Photon?"  Maybe someone will give me an idea that will get me going on writing about that subject again.

Comments for Sunday, January 6, 2019, thru Saturday, January 12, 2019:

January 9, 2019 - I think I may make a belated New Years resolution to stop mentioning photons on this web page until I actually have something to write about.  I've tried about 15 times to get started on a scientific paper about how photons work, but I never get beyond the first couple pages before I realize that I didn't start in the right place, and I need to explain something else before I write what I started writing about.

Last week, someone mentioned to me a science-fiction book about time dilation, and, when I gave up on the latest try at my photon paper, I researched the sci-fi book.  It's called "Variable Star" by Robert Heinlein and Spider Robinson (actually, 99.999% of it was written by Robinson, but Heinlein gets top billing because he had the original idea and his name sells more books).  It looks interesting, but as I browsed through the first part of it I became more interested what it said about Spider Robinson and the books Robinson wrote by himself.  Of particular interest was a book titled "Callahan's Crosstime Saloon."  I checked my local library and, by pure happenstance, they had a book titled "The Callahan Chronicles" available in audio book form.  It contains three books by Spider Robinson, the first of which is "Callahan's Crosstime Saloon."  So, I borrowed that book and started listening to it on my MP3 player.

It turns out it is a book of short stories.  I listened to "The Guy with the Eyes," which is the first story Robinson ever had published (in 1973) and the first one in the book.  It's a very different sci-fi story, all of it taking place in a bar called "Callahan's Place" on Long Island, probably around 1973.  The sci-fi element comes out as part of the discussions between patrons of the bar.  The next short story in the book was "The Time-Traveler."  It also takes place entirely within Callahan's Place.  There isn't really any science fiction in it at all.  It's about someone who comes into the bar after having been locked up in a Central American prison for ten years with no access to news from the outside. When he was locked up in 1963, it was an entirely different world.  There was no war in Viet Nam, no one was even thinking about traveling to the moon, the Kennedy brothers were alive and well, no one was taking LSD, etc., etc., plus the guy's wife was still alive.  It's a fascinating story of how much the world can change in ten years.  It is as if the guy had time traveled 10 years into the future.

It made me wonder about how Donald Trump's hate mongering is changing the world.  It seems you won't have to wait ten years to see all the differences he is making.   None for the better. 

Each short story took about an hour.  I'm tempted to listen to many more.  The audio book consists of 18 MP3 files, and I've only listened to the first two.           

Meanwhile, someone just contacted me about possibly doing a TV appearance to talk about the anthrax attacks of 2001.  That also breaks my train of thought.  The on-camera interview may never happen, but then again it might.  Time will tell. 

January 7, 2019
- I awoke this morning thinking I was going to start working on a paper about light, a paper tentatively titled "The Logic of Light," where I would step through what is known about photons and how the pieces of what we know seem to fit together.  But then, while eating breakfast, I decided the book I was reading on my Kindle wasn't worth my time, and I switched over to start reading another book - a book I borrowed from the library yesterday.

The book I stopped reading was a psychology book John Cleese mentioned in his autobiography.  I found the book just too tedious, filled with paragraphs that go on for more than a page and just say the same things over and over.  To make matters worse, the first 7% of the book is all about reactions to the first edition of the book.  Who wants to read about reactions before reading what was being reacted to?  Plus, the book wasn't about what I thought it was going to be about.  I thought it was going to be about different ways of thinking (logically versus emotionally), but instead its about different types of intelligence (i.e., skills).   

So, I stopped reading it and started reading a science book about how automation is affecting society that I borrowed from the library a week ago, because it seemed interesting and it had been a New York Times bestseller.  Then, when I signed onto my computer after breakfast, I found another library book I'd place on hold awhile ago had been automatically borrowed.  It's another psychology book, and another book that made it to the New York Times' best seller list.  It's about how habits we acquire can be very beneficial.  I probably thought it would be an interesting read because I deliberately develop habits that are beneficial for me, such going to the gym four times a week, going to bed at the same time every night, eating a healthy breakfast and lunch, etc. 

So, do I want to stop reading the automation book and start on the habits book, or should I read something else entirely?

I recently stopped listening to the audio version of a comedian's autobiography that I had burned onto CDs and tried twice to get through.  I stopped the first time after CD #2, and the second time in the middle of CD #4.  It's just 7 CDs long, but I just don't like it.  It isn't funny enough and too much of it is about things that are of absolutely no interest to me.  So, I switched over to a science book that I had at the top of my priority list for audio CDs.  I created the priority list when I realized I regretted burning CDs for the comedian's autobiography.  

But I never created a priority list for the books on my Kindle.  I've got 38 books on my Kindle that I want to read.  I have books about science, travel, humor, writing, moving making, psychology, politics and history, plus some biographies.  Plus, I've got another 20 books that I had started to read at some point in time but then shifted over to some other book for some forgotten reason.  Many of those still seem interesting.

So, instead of working on my paper about "The Logic of Light," I just spent the last 3 hours writing this comment about books.

I think it's because there are still things about photons that I need to understand before I can start writing about them. 
Why do exactly half of the photons get stopped by a polarizing lens while the other half of the photons go through the lens?  There has to be some logical explanation for that.  And the best way for me to figure out the logic is to start writing about it.  But where do I start?  And why aren't there already many books and papers addressing that question?  It seems a question every physicist interested in optics should have already asked and answered.  But, instead, they just write about light consisting of waves, not photons, and they don't seem to care about details that involve photons.  


January 6, 2019
I think I'm done with browsing through old radio shows to see what I might want to listen to when I've got nothing else to do (usually in late afternoon).  So, once again I am waking up in the morning thinking about science mysteries, specifically what a photon looks like and how it works.

The main problem seems to be that there is too much information and even more misinformation to sort through.  And when I find something that seems like it might be worth studying, it quickly becomes clear that the book or paper doesn't always view the problem from the right angle.  Or it is just plain wrong.

I have some basic questions.  For example: Isn't it clear and obvious that photons are crisscrossing paths all the time, but they never collide?  Photons that were emitted by stars billions of years ago travel trillions of miles to reach the Hubble telescope, and they do so without ever changing course and without ever colliding with other photons coming from other directions.  Why don't photons collide with other photons?

Doing some research, I found a source where it is asked why laser beams do not interfere with one another,
No, there will not be an interference pattern. You can find interference patterns at the point where two lasers meet. After the laser beams crossed, you will not observe any effects of the crossing since there are no elemental photon-photon interactions.
That says something about photons.  They do not collide with one another, but there will supposedly appear to be an "interference pattern" at the point where the laser beams cross.  How can you have an "interference pattern" at the point where the beams cross each other, but have absolutely no sign of there having been "interference" along the way when the beams reach their destination?  It seems they somehow went around each other without altering their trajectory.  How is that possible?

Further research finds that others have asked that same question.  It says this on page 3 of the 1990 edition of the book "Polarized Light in Optics and Spectroscopy" by Kliger, Lewis and Randall: 
The corpuscular theory of light was attacked in the mid-1700s by people like Euler and Young. They proposed instead a vibration theory of light. There were several arguments put forward to attack the corpuscular theory. Principally, these were that (1) the mass of the particles composing the light rays would have to be exceedingly small; (2) when two light beams intersected they do not affect each other; and (3) one did not observe "wastage" of light. By wastage it was meant, for example, that one can observe sharp images of stars. If rays of light from the stars were made up of particles, however, they should, over the large distances traveled, impinge on many other particles. This should smear out the image of the star and make stars appear fuzzy.
And this on page 5:
The introduction of the concept of photons produced a dilemma for a theory of light. It appeared that to interpret some experiments one needed a wave theory of light, whereas to interpret other experiments a quantum, or "particle," theory was needed. The solution to this dilemma came from DeBroglie. He pointed out that each of these experiments does not directly demonstrate a property of light per se but demonstrates how light interacts with the experimental apparatus. Thus, light exhibits both wave properties and particle properties, depending on what it interacts with. This view of the wave-particle duality of photons is the view of light most commonly held today.
Hmm.  That's a new view of things.  A photon does not collide with another photon, but it will interact with experimental equipment and thus appear to interact with another photon!

The book then describes a 1985 experiment carried out by Philippe Grangier, Gerard Roger, and Alain Aspect of the Institute of Theoretical and Applied Optics in Orsay, France.  They sent individual photons through a beam splitter, and 50% of the photons went straight while 50% went off at a 90-degree angle, which is the way you would expect particles to behave when hitting a beam splitter.  Then they used Mach-Zehnder interferometer to see if the two beams of photons would interfere with one another if they were brought back together again.  They did, just the way you would expect waves to behave.

So, the photons did not interfere with one another except when put into a device designed to show wave interference.  In other words, the photons did NOT interact with each other, they merely interacted with the experimental device.

The beam splitter part of that experiment brought polarization back to mind.  Why do exactly half of the photons get stopped by a polarizing lens while the other half of the photons go through the lens?  The experiments with 45 degree angle polarized lenses (as described in my December 24 comment) indicate that the photons that are 10 or 20 or 30 or 40 degrees off of vertical do not get stopped, but they evidently do not pass through the lens unaltered.  They must get reoriented in some way, because 50% of those photons will pass through a polarized lens that is angled at 45 degrees.  

But why are light photons so evenly divided between vertical and horizontal?  That doesn't seem natural.  There should be some randomness to it.  Or is there some other aspect to a photon that causes 50% to do one thing while 50% do something else?

I think I need to do what I began doing in last Sunday's comment.  I need to create a list of
things we know about photons.  Last Sunday's examples:
1. We definitely know that light is not a wave like a sound wave.

2. We definitely know light is not a solid particle, like a grain of dust.

3. We know light only exists when moving at "the speed of light."

4. We definitely know light can be polarized at specific angles.

5. We definitely know light partly consists of electrical energy.

6. We definitely know light partly consists of magnetic energy.

7. We know light has a "wavelength" that varies as it is absorbed.

8. We think light has a height that is the same as its wavelength.
And there are a lot more. 

This seems like a good place to mention the science book I'm currently listening to in my car as I drive from place to place.  The book says this on page 8:
Science isn’t just about collecting facts; it’s a logical process for working things out. The point of science is that everyone can look at the data and come to a reasoned conclusion. At first, those conclusions may differ, but then you go and collect more data that helps you decide between one description of the world and another, and eventually the conclusions converge. This is what separates science from other disciplines – a scientific hypothesis must make specific testable predictions. That means that if you have an idea about how you think something works, the next thing to do is to work out what the consequences of your idea would be. In particular, you have to look hard for consequences that you can check for, and especially for consequences that you can prove wrong. If your hypothesis passes every test we can think of, we cautiously agree that this is probably a good model for the way the world works. Science is always trying to prove itself wrong, because that’s the quickest route to finding out what’s actually going on.

You don’t have to be a qualified scientist to experiment with the world. Knowing some basic physical principles will set you on the right track to work a lot of things out for yourself. Sometimes, it doesn’t even have to be an organized process – the jigsaw pieces almost slot themselves into place.  
That seems to be the situation right now in my study of how photons work.  I've got a few pieces that don't seem to fit.  But if I find more pieces, they may actually "slot themselves into place."

Comments for Tuesday, January 1, 2019, thru Saturday, Jan. 5, 2019:

January 3, 2019 - The new year is starting slow.  I just can't get to working on a new paper about light photons.  I keep getting side-tracked.  Yesterday, someone posted a silly argument on the Astrophysics and Physics Facebook group.  The comment began this way:
Travelling at FTL it would take 4.2yrs to reach the nearest star Proxima Centauri. Can we devise a Scale of Travel to gauge the distance travelled to reach a point in the cosmos in a life time.
"FTL" is supposed to be an abbreviation for "Faster Than Light," yet the comment says it would take 4.2 years to reach Proxima Centauri, which is 4.2 light years from Earth.  If you are traveling faster than the speed of light, how can you discuss anything without saying how much faster? 

A couple people responded with comments about "warp speeds" on Star Trek, which didn't help clarify anything.  So, I wrote this:

According to Einstein, the faster you travel, the slower time passes for you, until you reach the speed of light. At the speed of light TIME STOPS. You cannot travel faster than the speed of light.

Proxima Centauri is 4.243 light years from Earth. So, if you could travel at the speed of light to Proxima Centauri and back, you could do it in no time at all. You wouldn't even know you did it, since your brain would not have time to register a single thought. So, what would be the point? Meanwhile, of course, all the people on Earth would have lived their lives and aged 8.486 years (8 years, 5 months and 27 days) while you were gone.

If you traveled at 99.995% of the speed of light, however, you could experience the trip. It would take you 15.5 days to get there and another 15.5 days to get back. So, you would have had a month to enjoy the trip and observe the sights. When you return, you will have aged just 31 days during the trip.

Meanwhile, everyone on Earth would have been waiting for you for 8 years, 6 months and 28 days.
That got me into a discussion with someone else, a discussion that didn't go anywhere.  Meanwhile, the original poster clarified his question somewhat:
FTL means faster which can be by a factor of 10^2 x lightspeed or a few feet per second more the lightspeed. We're trying to figure out the scale of travel, either x? or 10^? to better grasp the system
So, it is evidently a mathematical question?  I couldn't make any sense of it, and I just dropped out of the discussion.

Meanwhile, I was also wasting time by listening to samples of old radio programs.  I downloaded a bunch of them onto my MP3 player.  And I found that the best way to play them is via a portable speaker that makes it sound like it's actually playing on a radio.  You get the bass sounds, instead of just the higher pitched sounds.  There are hundreds of different radio series available, dating from the 1930s to the 1990s.  I was fascinated by something called "Star Terk 2," which is evidently a British comedy radio show from 1987 and 1989.  There are only 12 episodes available, and each begins with an often hilarious parody of "Star Trek" before turning into a totally different comedy show that has nothing to do with Star Trek or science fiction.  I ended up listening to it for hours, but mostly just the first parts.  The second part of the show is mostly comedy sketches, and Captain Kirk and First Officer Spock keep trying to stop that part of the show from taking control.  But the sketch show always takes over.  

This morning I tried doing research into polarized light, but I couldn't find anything that captured my interest, so I ended up browsing through more radio shows, particularly detective shows.  There are 743 episodes of "Yours Truly Johnny Dollar" available, and I'm tempted to download a hundred or so into my MP3 player.  But there are also 118 episodes of "The Adventures of Philip Marlowe" and 83 episodes of "The Adventures of Sam Spade Detective."  And 200 episodes of "Broadway is My Beat."  Each requires about 30 minutes of listening time.   

I need some kind of inspiration to get me started on some science project that will truly grab my interest for awhile.  I won't get that inspiration from listening to old detective shows.  I could try some old science fiction shows.  There are hundreds of those available, too.  I remember listening to "Dimension X" when I was a kid.  And I think I also listened to "X Minus One."  I haven't sampled any of those shows.  When I think about doing so, I immediately start realizing that it probably isn't the best way to spend my time.

Part of the problem may be that I also check Google News several times a day to see if President Trump has just done something really disastrously stupid.


January 1, 2019
- I wish everyone a very happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

© 2019 by Ed Lake