|Comments for Sunday, June 28, 2020,
thru Tuesday, June 30, 2020:
June 29, 2020 - I spent about 2 minutes this morning verifying that I can just as easily use my radar gun to measure the speed of the blades in my floor fan with a spatter screen between the gun and the blades as I can do it without the spatter screen. There is no noticeable effect caused by putting the screen between the gun and the whirling blades.
So, I know I can measure traffic speeds if I hold the spatter screen between the gun and the passing cars. The photons pass through the tiny holes in the spatter screen almost as easily as they pass through the air.
Presumably, some of the photons hit the wire of the screen and are defected or absorbed. But I would need a photomultiplier to measure how many photons are deflected by the wires in the screen compared to a test without the screen, and I don't have one. The gun emits billions of photons and it expects to receive back only a very very tiny fraction of them. So, losing a few that get deflected by the screen has no effect on the gun's ability to measure the target speed.
However, it made me wonder what would happen if I turned the screen at an angle between the gun and the target. I first tried it by just looking through the screen as I turned it to make the holes smaller and smaller (actually narrower and narrower). The answer was that I could still see through the screen as I made the angle smaller and smaller. More and more of what I was looking at was blocked by wires, of course, but I could still see the target when the angle was so small that photons from the radar gun would likely get to the spinning blades without going through the screen, going past it instead, like putting a pencil in the way.
This morning I looked over my paper on "Radar Guns vs Wave Theory" to see if mentioning the spatter screen test would improve the paper. I don't think it would make any difference. The paper already describes how photons must travel through the wire mesh that surround the whirling blades. Adding a wire mesh with smaller holes adds nothing to the experiment. The dispute is how waves get through the mesh - regardless of the size of the openings in the mesh.
The problem is that I cannot get anyone to explain how waves get through the screens. One mathematician argued that it wouldn't happen if the screen was made of copper, but he refused to explain how that would make a difference. Another mathematician argued that it works because radar guns emit "standing waves," but that makes no sense at all, since you only get "standing waves" when two waves collide and "standing waves" do not move.
I need to figure out some way to get people to discuss this simple experiment. Maybe the only way is to do the "Type-1" radar gun experiment. The experiment described above just requires an explanation from mathematicians, and they can simply ignore my questions. The "Type-1" radar gun experiment would do something they consider to be totally impossible. That is a lot harder to ignore.
June 28, 2020 - Hmm. I awoke this morning thinking about spatter screens.
How could I have not thought about them before!??? When I used my TS-3 radar gun to measure the speed of a car on the street below through my balcony screen door, I wondered how I could use that screen door to measure traffic speeds at a better angle. I then measured the speed the blades of a floor fan through the metal screen that covers the window in my microwave door.
Spatter screens would not only be easier to use, they have much smaller holes, which helps when arguing that radar guns emit photons, not waves. The holes in the spatter screen I use to avoid spatter while frying and to drain macaroni appear to be one half the height and one half the width of the holes in my screen door. That makes them even smaller than the holes in my microwave screen. And the spatter screens I have appear to be aluminum, although ads show that some are also made from stainless steel. I've got three in a cupboard under my kitchen sink, one well burned, another that is almost new, and one that is still in its plastic wrapping. (I know such an experiment won't change the mind of the scientist who argued that the screen must be made from copper, without being able to explain what copper would do that aluminum doesn't do equally well.)
So, I need to take my radar gun out for some more experiments which will measure traffic speeds through a spatter screen. And then I need to get back to work on a paper about radar gun experiments. I'm now tempted to title it "The Radar Gun Conspiracy." Radar gun manufacturers must know that radar guns do not work the way they are claimed to work. They do NOT emit waves, and they do NOT perform two external speed measurements, one to measure the speed of the gun (the "patrol speed") and one to measure the speed of the target. Logic says only the speed of the target is measured externally. I just need to put that logic in writing so that everyone can read and study it.
I also awoke this morning realizing that if I bought a "Type-1" radar gun on eBay for $700 or so, I could reduce that cost by selling the gun on eBay again after I was done experimenting with it. If the government sends me another stimulus check, I may be stimulated to do exactly that.
Meanwhile, I'm really tempted to write a paper about that rash I had on my hands from the anti-bacterial liquids they use on grocery car handles. I've got day by day photos, which I doubt anyone has ever produced before.
Meanwhile, I listened to science podcasts most of yesterday afternoon and all of last night - until about 10:35 p.m. They made me want to write another science paper about how our solar system was formed. I think the way text books claim it happened is illogical. Or, more accurately, the text books are incomplete. It seems totally obvious that our solar system is the second version since the time of the Big Bang. The first one ended as a supernova.
I could be totally wrong, of course. I'm looking hard for some way to show that I am wrong. Just telling me I'm wrong or showing me what some textbook says won't change anything. I need to find out whose facts and explanations best explain what we see today.
On June 26, I listened to three episodes of Astronomy Cast, which got me thinking about something I read about in a book recently - how the solar system was formed. The book described things in a very different way from what I've read in countless other books about space, but it was a novel about some God creating the universe. So, I didn't take it too seriously. However, two of the Astronomy Cast podcasts hit on the same subject. Episode #545 is titled "Weird Issues: Are comets asteroids or are asteroids comets?" Episode #546 is titled "Weird Issues: Planetary Migration." #545 suggests that the only real difference between comets and asteroids may be where they are located. If they are located too close to the sun, like most in the Asteroid Belt, heat from the sun will cause them to dry out. But they are still rocks that are in some orbit around the sun, and some event can turn an asteroid into a comet by knocking it out of its normal location. Episode #546 explains how there doesn't seem to be a "standard model" for solar systems. The planets we are now finding around other stars use a totally different model. Some have gas giants very close to the star.
Last night I listened to episodes 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, 12, 13 and 14 of the "Space Nuts" podcast. Current episodes (the latest is #208) seem to average about 50 minutes in length, but back when they started in 2016 the average episode was more like 25 minutes. The podcasts originate in Australia and consist of humor filled discussions between "world renown and respected Astronomer At Large Professor Fred Watson and Broadcaster/Journalist Andrew Dunkley." Episode #2 talked about how our solar system extends half way to Alpha Centauri, and how there appears to be a very large planet somewhere beyond Pluto. That episode and others brought up the subject of "Trojan asteroids," which were totally new to me. They are asteroids in the same orbit as Jupiter, either trailing behind or leading ahead, and there seem to be about the same number of them as there are asteroids in the "Asteroid Belt" between Jupiter and Mars.
The next biggest bunch of asteroids is the Kuiper Belt, which is about at the same distance as Pluto, and beyond that is the Oort Cloud, which is probably the biggest bunch of asteroids in our Solar System. There could be trillions of asteroids in the Oort Cloud. And they form a sphere around the sun, instead of being part of the orbital plane, like almost everything else.
According to Space Nuts podcast #7, there's an asteroid between Saturn and Uranus that has two rings around it, similar to Saturn's ring. It's called 10199 Chariklo and has a diameter of about 188 miles. It's the only known minor planet with a ring system.
My problem with all this is that I do not understand how ROCKS can form in outer space. There simply isn't enough gravity for a rock to form from scattered debris left over from the Big Bang. All those rocks (a.k.a. asteroids) in our Solar System must have been part of some larger entity at some time. And there doesn't seem any reason to believe that that larger entity was some distant star that went supernova, which is the standard theory. It seems far more logical that everything in our solar system was once part of a massive star that was located right where the Sun is located now, and it went supernova. And over the course of millions or billions of years, the pieces from that supernova have turned into our current sun, our current planets and all the current scattered debris.
It's just a theory, but it seems to make sense. When I find the time, I might turn it into another scientific paper.
|Comments for Sunday, June 21, 2020,
thru Saturday, June 27, 2020:
June 27, 2020 - At about 1 p.m. yesterday afternoon, I finished reading another book on my Kindle. The book was "The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir" by John Bolton.
Too my pleasant surprise, the book's text ended at the "53% completed" point. From there on it was just pictures and indexes.
While I detest Bolton almost as much as Trump, the book was very enlightening. It shows - better than any other book I've ever read - just how complicated diplomatic relations with other countries can be. The book is an avalanche of names and places and their interrelationships with other names and places. You get the feeling that, as Trump's National Security Advisor, Bolton had to fly to some distant land to discuss issues or solve problems about three times a week. Meanwhile, Trump was trying to solve problems by either pretending they didn't exist or by choosing the cheapest solution. Throughout the book, Trump is viewing things from a financial angle. Here's one stunning passage:
Trump repeated one of his hobbyhorses, namely that it was cheaper to rebuild the World Trade Center than to fight in Afghanistan, inconveniently ignoring the loss of life in the 9/11 attacks, not just the cost of rebuilding. It also ignored the reality that a Trump withdrawal, followed by a terrorist attack, would be devastating politically.Throughout the book, Trump is also constantly viewing things as an isolationist. There should be no fighting with any foreign country unless that country launches an invasion of the United states by storming the beaches of New Jersey or Virginia or California. Trump seems incapable up understanding that having troops in South Korea or Germany means that an attack upon America will not require that we launch a counter-attack from U.S. ports. As Trump sees things, having troops in South Korea or Germany means we are protecting South Korea and Germany, and South Korea and Germany should pay for that protection. In effect, that means the U.S. military should consist of mercenaries who get paid to fight for whoever can afford to hire them. And America collects a manager's fee.
For Trump, it seems the only other reason to use the military is to force foreign countries to do what we want them to do - or to protect American interests. And he believes that our intelligence agencies should be able to predict just about everything that can possibly happen anywhere in the world. This passage is from around page 341 in the book:
We now knew the ships under attack had been lying at anchor in the Gulf of Oman, off the United Arab Emirates port of Fujairah. Information was still spotty and sometimes contradictory, such as reports of explosions in Fujairah itself, which the city government promptly denied and which turned out to be untrue. One ship was likely Norwegian, two Saudi, and one Emirati, and the attacks were by either frogmen who had attached limpet mines to the tankers’ hulls, or perhaps short-range rockets fired from small naval craft. By the end of Sunday, the frogman option seemed the most viable, and that was confirmed in subsequent days by US special operations personnel.While Bolton often seems to want to bomb anyone who doesn't agree with us, Trump seems to want to pretend that problems in other countries are none of our business, and if there were a way to build a wall around the entire country, he'd be 100% in favor of it. If foreigners need our help, we should present them with a price list for the actions we are willing to take. If they don't pay, the hell with them. America is a profit making business, not a charity.
June 26, 2020 - About the only thing I watch on TV these days is the NBC Nightly News and three late night talk shows: The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon and The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. Last night on the Nightly News they showed a Covid-19 conspiracy theorist wearing a "Trump Girl" T-shirt while ranting about something at some kind of meeting, and then later that evening I saw the news clip on Trevor Noah's show along with a second ranting conspiracy theorist, also a woman. They start ranting at about the 3 minute 25 second mark in this video:
Watching it again this morning, I see there is a third woman between the two conspiracy ranters, an elderly woman who seems barely able to breath as she complains that the commission is throwing "God's wonderful breathing system out the door." The scene took place at a Commissioner's Meeting in Palm Beach County, Florida, where wearing face masks had just been unanimously voted be be made mandatory.
Researching further, I found a news story titled "‘The devil’s laws’: Florida Christians fight mask rule at wild meeting" where names are given and a reference is made to a "Plandemic" conspiracy theory that has been around since at least early May:
Facebook, Vimeo, YouTube and Twitter are taking steps to slow the spread of Plandemic, a viral video clip in which Dr. Judy Mikovits pushes a wild collection of baseless and potentially harmful conspiracy theories about the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. Mikovits is a discredited scientist with a history of promoting falsehoods around vaccines.On Steven Colbert's show on Wednesday night, guest Jon Stewart talked about how these people should yell at their doctors when they go in for surgery, telling their doctors that they are all government pawns because they wear masks.
I never cease to be amazed at the crazy things some people believe. But then I remember the Flat Earthers. Which belief is more absurd, that Covid-19 is some kind of government plot, or that the earth is flat? I think Flat Earthers still take first prize.
June 25, 2020 - Yesterday, after spending much of the afternoon and into the evening reading John Bolton's book "The Room Where It Happened," I didn't want to continue reading by artificial light, and I wasn't in the mood to watch TV, so I decided to listen to some podcasts. One podcast I listened to was an Astronomy Cast episode about "The Ethics of Commercial Military Space Flight." At one point, Pamela Gay said this to Fraser Cain:
But right now, Tom Cruise is looking to partner with SpaceX to partner with NASA, and this has been tweeted out by NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine. They’re gonna film a not Mission Impossible but certainly an impossible mission on the International Space Station.Huh? Tom Cruise is planning to make a movie on the International Space Station? It was the first I'd heard of that, but a little research shows that it has been in the news since last month, and maybe longer.
In an episode about "In Situ Resource Utilization" this discussion took place:
Fraser: You talk about the power, yeah. Let’s say you don’t have to carry your liquid hydrogen, liquid oxygen. You don’t have – you also don’t have to carry the fuel to carry the liquid hydrogen, the liquid oxygen. So, there is this huge multiplier for every kilogram that you’re trying to carry to the surface of Mars. Many kilograms of propellant to get you there.I've got "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" on my MP3 player, but I've never listened to more than a few minutes of it. Now I think I need to give it another try.
I also listened to a terrific episode of The Infinite Monkey Cage from July 2018 about "The Immune System." Did you know we now eat 100,000 times as many tomatoes as we were eating in 1918? I recall reading or hearing somewhere that tomatoes were once thought to be poisonous. A little research shows that they were once called "The Poison Apple," and it wasn't until the Italians started using them to make pizza around 1880 that people started eating them in other preparations.
Live and learn. What better things do you have to do?
June 24, 2020 - Yesterday evening, I finished listening to the audio book version of "The Next 100 Years: A Forecast for the 21st Century" by George Friedman.
I can't exactly say "I finished listening to CD #10 in the 10 CD set for the 9 hour 42 minute audio book," since when I drove into my garage yesterday afternoon after doing some grocery shopping, I still had 20 minutes left on the final CD. But, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, I may not drive my car again for 2 or 3 days, so I decided to listen to those last 20 minutes on my MP3 player.
I think I can say that, without any doubt, "The Next 100 Years" is the craziest book I've read in many years. I'm amazed that anyone would classify it as a "non-fiction" book! Unfortunately, because I was listening to it in short sections spread out over nearly a month and a half, I remember very little of the first half of the book. What I remember is sometime in early June suddenly wondering "What the hell am I listen to?" It seemed to be science fiction, about a war in which the United States is fighting against Japan and Turkey in outer space! Or, more accurately, around 2050 the United States will have many "Battle Stars" in earth orbit and Japan and Turkey will start shooting them down.
Japan and Turkey? And Poland will somehow become a major power and an ally of the U.S. in keeping Russia at bay. Then, late in the book, Mexico also becomes a major power and an enemy of the United States. Here's a passage from near the end of the book:
Outside the United States two powers will be thinking about space. One will be Poland, which will be busy consolidating its land empire and still smarting at its treatment under the peace treaty of the 2050s. But Poland will also still be recovering from the war and surrounded by American allies. It will not be ready for a challenge. The other country thinking about space will be Mexico, which into the late 2060s will be emerging as one of the top economic powers in the world. Mexico will see itself as a rival of the United States, and will be stepping onto the continental and world stage, but it will not yet have defined a coherent national strategy (and will be afraid of going too far in challenging American power).And later there is this:
In the 2080s, anti-American demonstrations will begin taking place in Mexico City—and in Los Angeles, San Diego, Houston, San Antonio, Phoenix, and other cities in the borderland that will have become predominantly Mexican. The dominant theme will be ethnic Mexicans’ rights as American citizens. But some will demonstrate for annexation by Mexico. A small radical faction of Mexicans in the United States will begin carrying out acts of sabotage and minor terrorism against federal government facilities in the region. While not supported by either the Mexican government, the state governments dominated by Mexicans, or most Mexicans on either side of the border, the terrorist acts will be seen as the first steps in a planned insurrection and secession by the region. The American president, under intense pressure to bring the situation under control, will move to federalize the National Guard in these states to protect federal property.Researching the book, I found that in 1991 the author, George Friedman, also co-wrote a book titled "The Coming War with Japan." In that book he evidently figured Japan would have attacked the United States sometime in the past 29 years. And China would have fallen apart.
While listening to "The Next 100 Years" certainly wasn't a waste of time, it's main value is to hopefully make me more cautious of what books I burn onto CDs in the future. It doesn't cost anything to put a library book on my MP3 player, but it costs 15 cents per disk when you put a book onto CDs!
June 23, 2020 - This morning, I thought for awhile that I was going to give up on John Bolton's book "The Room Where It Happened." I had read the first 4 chapters, and I felt fed up - probably because my Kindle was telling me I was only 13% completed. I'm not sure what I was expecting, but it's an excruciating book to read. It's a crazy war monger's incredibly detailed description of working for a incompetent idiot. It's page and page after page after page of mind-numbing details, almost as if it was copied from a daily journal. And it also seems much longer when the "percentage completed" number at the bottom of the screen seems to take forever to change.
Then, as I started writing this comment, I had to look at Amazon's information about the book. They informed me that the hardcover edition is 592 pages long, but when I checked other sources I found that the actual text ends somewhere around page 445. Then you get 23 pages of photos of John Bolton with various important people at various locations, followed by 100 pages of Notes and Indexes. That meant that, while my Kindle was telling me that I was only 13% done, in reality I was closer to being ¼ finished. So, during lunch I continued reading.
June 22, 2020 - This morning, I obtained a Kindle-compatible copy of John Bolton's book "The Room Where It Happened." So, I'll set aside the library book I had been reading and I'll start on Bolton's book during lunch. I put a folding chair on my balcony yesterday, and I was thinking of maybe reading out there this afternoon, but the sky suddenly got dark and I'm hearing rumbles of thunder. Maybe its "a sign" of some kind.
Meanwhile, for the second day in a row I had NO attempts by hackers to post crap to my web site. I can't be absolutely certain, but I don't even recall any other day in years when there were no attempts by hackers to POST to my site.
To make things even more puzzling, on the 15th I found 26 identical hack attempts where the hackers were attempting to post a xmlrpc.php file to my web site.
The screenshot above shows that exactly half of the attempted POSTs came from locations using 185 as the first part of their IP address. I block every attempt to access my site from a 185 IP address, because it seems that only hackers use such IP addresses. That's why those attempts get a 403 error code, which means they are "forbidden" to access my site. The 404 error code means "file not found," which means they couldn't post or find any such file.
A little research found that the xmlrpc.php file is used by people who use Wordpress software to build their web sites.
I don't use Wordpress, but about 37% of all websites are built using Wordpress software. It sometimes seems that 100% of the hackers attempting to post to my web site are assuming that I use Wordpress. I'm hoping that the unusual activity on the 15th somehow showed them that I don't use Wordpress.
What puzzles me the most is why that kind of hacking cannot be stopped.
June 21, 2020 - Okay, once again I have nothing written for today's comment, so I'm going to have to write one from scratch. I must have spent hours in front of my computer on Friday and Saturday trying to write something. But I didn't write a single word.
I'd bought a new supply of face masks yesterday. Just about every store seems to have them in stock now, so it was just a question of finding the best price. I bought a pack of 20 blue masks for $11.99 at Kroger. That's 60 cents each. At Walmart they were selling 25 for $17.95, or 72 cents each. Other stores had higher prices. The first pack I bought on May 20 cost $17.99 for 5 masks. That's $3.59 per mask. But those were KN95 masks, which are okay to use in surgery rooms. Presumably, the 60 cent masks aren't.
That "rash" I had on my hands has gone away. I took pictures of my hands every day, starting on May 30. I keep thinking I should write a "scientific paper" about it. I can't be the only person who developed problems from touching the handles of shopping carts that were freshly sprayed with some anti-bacterial liquid that basically destroyed most of the outer layer of skin on my hands. (I seem to recall that getting rid of the outer layer on skin on your hands is some kind of beauty treatment. My hands today look much better than they did before the problem.)
Yesterday, while staring at the blank screen, I somehow started wondering if I could do some more "Google Street View Time Traveling." I visited several towns in Northern Japan, trying to match pictures I took while there in the mid-1960's to what things look like now, but, in most cases, I had no idea where I was located then, so there was no hope in finding the same street today. In Aomori, I just started from the train station and walked around. The same in Hakodate, only there I started from the pier where the ferry boat from Aomori docked. I had no idea what the names of any of the streets were. The only place I could find a good match was in San Francisco, the corner of Powell and Sutter. Here's what it looked like in 1963 when I was on my way to Japan:
And here is what that same intersection looks like today:
About the only thing I thought was interesting was that the building on the far right corner no longer has outside fire escapes. Ho hum.
This morning I was also curious about what kind of crowd Donald Trump managed to gather for his rally in Tulsa last night. I was pleased to find that there are more people who think logically than I thought. Trump couldn't even fill the stadium, much less have an overflow crowd outside to talk to afterward. When you look at pictures of his audience, only about 1 in 20 seems to be wearing a mask, and those that do seem to be clustered together, like they arrived together and agreed together that they'd wear masks.
I suppose we should all be happy that the crowd was fewer than expected. First, it may mean that some of Trump's popularity is fading (as the polls show it is). Second, hopefully it means that fewer people will have contracted Covid-19 while at the rally.
|Comments for Sunday, June 14, 2020,
thru Saturday, June 20, 2020:
June 18, 2020 - Groan! I really wish there was someone who I could talk to about the logical observations I make in my scientific papers. On Tuesday I tried emailing a well-known physics professor, hoping he might be willing to discuss the idea of using a "Type-1" radar gun to demonstrate Einstein's Second Postulate. No response.
Looking at what is being posted to the sci.physics.relativity discussion forum, it doesn't appear that I could get any kind of discussion going there, either. More than ever, that forum has become a place where people state some personal theory about something, and then they're attacked by trolls and by others who have a different theory. No discussions.
As I see it, I don't really have any theory. I'm just trying to find out why people - specifically mathematicians - have been arguing about Einstein's Theories for over 100 years. Einstein's theories seem fairly straight-forward, and they have been validated countless times by experiments, so why are there still endless arguments? How can people argue that "Einstein didn't mean what he wrote"? That's just an opinion that can generate nothing but opinion-versus-opinion arguments. And there's no point in arguing facts against opinions.
Of course, everything is made worse by the Covid-19 pandemic and the recent events which have put the police on the defensive. They were suspicious enough before when I tried to get them to discuss radar guns, basically always assuming that I was just trying to beat some speeding ticket by showing that their guns either didn't work properly or the officers didn't use them correctly. Now their suspicions are undoubtedly magnified a hundred times.
As I see it, every physics teacher should have a Type-1 radar gun to demonstrate Einstein's Second Postulate. Instead, we have physics teachers who refuse to believe how such a gun works. And, if it does work as I (and the manufacturer) say it works, that means their textbooks are wrong and the physics professors have been teaching nonsense for their entire careers.
If I turn out to be wrong, I'll certainly admit it. Since I've never actually handled a Type-1 radar gun like the Stalker II SDR, it's certainly a possibility that the manufacturer and a police officer lied to me about how it works. But my experiments with my TS-3 Type-2S radar gun clearly show that radar guns emit photons, not waves. That by itself should be enough to cause scientists to want to explore further. But it seems no one is interested. No one wants to risk their careers by performing some experiment that seems to work one way but actually works in a different way that they failed to understand.
So, I listen to science podcasts in hope that one of them will give me an idea on how to resolve this dilemma. But, even if I find a way to do that, it will probably still have to wait until the current crises are over. Until then, no one is going to listen. They all have other things to think about.
June 17, 2020 - The news this morning says that the Trump administration has sued to stop the publication of John Bolton's book "The Room Where it Happened." Evidently, however, the book has already been published. It just hasn't been sent to book stores and libraries. On Monday night's episode of "A Late Show with Stephen Colbert," Colbert held up a copy he received from somewhere. I have a copy on reserve at my library. I'm #7 on their list, and they expect to get 10 Kindle copies, so I should be able to borrow a copy as soon as my library gets it. It looks interesting. I'm currently reading a different book about Trump on my Kindle, and I'm about 20% done with that one.
But, sometimes you need to take a break from reading and hearing about Trump, and so yesterday evening I finished listening to another travel book by Simon Winchester. The 7 hour 56 minute audio book is titled "Outposts: Journeys to the Surviving Relics of the British Empire."
The audio book version is abridged, which in this case means that Winchester didn't include chapters 7, 8 and 9 from the paper edition, specifically the chapters about Hong Kong, Bermuda, and the British West Indies. Instead the audio book version includes only the chapters about less familiar current and former British possessions, such as Diego Garcia, St. Helena, Ascension, Gibraltar and Pitcairn, to name a few.
Simon Winchester visited all these locations as part of writing the book. He traveled to some by sail boat, others by steam ship, and some by air. He sailed in his yacht to Boddam Island in the middle of the Indian Ocean, then to Diego Garcia, which has a top secret U.S. Base where some conspiracy theorists believe Malaysia Airlines flight MH-370 is being held. Winchester describes what he was able to see of the place (in 1984), which was mostly just fuel storage tanks and ships of the U.S. Navy.
In the Atlantic, Winchester traveled by ship and plane to visit Tristan da Cunha, Ascension, St. Helena and the Falkland Islands. Tristan da Cunha is basically just a volcano sticking out of the ocean with a tiny village on the northern shore. There's no harbor, nor any airport, just a jetty built of rocks. St. Helena, of course, is where Napoleon was put in exile. Here's a picture of the place:
If you want to go from the village at the top of the hill to Jamestown in the valley below, there's a stairway with 699 steps called "Jacob's Ladder."
Those islands are in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, about midway between South American and Africa. Pitcairn Island is about midway between South America and New Zealand in the Pacific Ocean. It's where nine mutineers from HMS Bounty went ashore and set fire to their ship. The book also contains a lot of information about Gibraltar, which the British took over in 1704.
It's difficult to recommend "Outposts," since it not only contains a great deal of information about places most people never heard of, it also contains a lot of information about the difficulties of getting to such places. But, if you are stuck at home due to the Covid-19 pandemic, reading or listening to travel books might get your mind off of current events for awhile.
June 15, 2020 - Last night at about 10:35 p.m., I finished listening to another audio book I'd obtained from my local library. The book was "The Man Who Loved China: The Fantastic Story of the Eccentric Scientist Who Unlocked the Mysteries of the Middle Kingdom" by Simon Winchester.
It took me two days to get through the 9-hour, 14-minute unabridged audio book (the paperback edition is 352 pages). I'm not sure why I decided to listen to that particular book, but I was probably just in the mood for a travel book and/or a history book. It's both. And it's also a biography of Joseph Needham, a British biochemist, historian and sinologist known for his scientific research and writing on the history of Chinese science and technology. I don't think I ever heard of Needham before reading this book. Simon Winchester depicts him as one of the biggest jerks in history and an amazing researcher and respected historian.
While married to a British woman, Needham's Chinese mistress taught him to read and write fluent Mandarin Chinese. His wife and mistress remained loyal to him for 50 years. Needham went to China for the first time in the early days of World War II, while Japan was trying to conquer China. Just getting to China took three months. Traveling from Cambridge via Lisbon, Malta, the Suez Canal, Bombay and Calcutta, then over the Himalayas in a U.S. Army cargo plane to Chongqing, he traveled as a British diplomat to help promote scientific cooperation between China and England. Chongqing was in ruins, having been bombed by the Japanese 200 times in the past 3 years. As the war raged mostly in the eastern part of China, Needham visited laboratories and colleges all over western China. He collected papers and books which he later turned into a 15 volume book series titled Science and Civilization in China, a history project that is still underway. (Needham died in 1995.)
The book is filled with interesting facts about China. A sample:
The three inventions that Francis Bacon once famously said had most profoundly changed the world—gunpowder, printing, and the compass—Needham found had all been invented and first employed by the Chinese. And so, he discovered, were scores of other, more prosaic things—blast furnaces, arched bridges, crossbows, vaccination against smallpox, the game of chess, toilet paper, seismoscopes, wheelbarrows, stirrups, powered flight.Needham was trying to answer what is known as "The Needham Question": How did China, which invented so many things first, fall so far behind the Western World which had to re-invent those same things hundreds of years after they were first invented in China. Appendix I in the book lists hundreds of inventions that were first described in Chinese papers dating back to the 15th century BC when the process of making grain alcohol was first documented.
I could go on and on. One final quote:
The entire municipal entity that is known as Chongqing incorporates both the crowded inner city and an officially city-governed semirural hinterland, the two together occupying about the same area as Maine, a little bit less than Austria, slightly more than Tasmania. The population of 38 million puts it in a league not so much with other cities as with entire respectably sized countries—it is more populous than Iraq, for instance, bigger than Malaysia, bigger than Peru.I've put myself on the waiting list for some other books by Simon Winchester. "The Man Who Loved China" is difficult to recommend because the central character is such a jerk much of the time, but the story is told in such a way that you are constantly learning fascinating new things about China and the world, which makes me wonder if Winchester may have also done that in his other books.
June 14, 2020 - Some things seem to be returning to "normal" around me. Most of the stores in the two strip malls down the street from me were closed for over two months, and then, last week virtually every one of them re-opened. That includes a hair salon, a nail parlor, a game store, a uniform store, T.J. Maxx, Hobby Lobby, Michael's Art Supplies, a shoe store, a Barnes & Noble book store, and a vape shop.
I didn't even know there was a vapery within walking distance of where I live. I spotted a cigar store that sells vape products on the other side of town when I was out experimenting with my radar gun, and I was surprised that it was out in the open and advertised its products on the front of the store. Then a couple months ago I went for a walk and found there was a vape shop between a Cousin's Subs and a Gyros Express about 2 blocks from where I live. Checking on-line, I also found that there are more two vape shops downtown on Main Street, about a block apart. Live and learn.
The McDonald's about 150 feet from the vapery has been open for drive-thru during the pandemic, but now you can also enter the store and buy take-out food. When I went for a walk a few days ago, I stopped in and bought a vanilla ice cream cone. It was the first time I'd done that since last summer. It takes me just about the same amount of time to finish the cone as it does to walk back home from there.
Last week I also stopped in a gym that is within walking distance. I just checked their prices and contracts. The gym I had been going to for years is permanently closed. So, while the one within walking distance is closer but smaller, I still don't feel that it is safe enough to go to a gym just yet, regardless of what "safe distancing" rules they may have. Newspaper headlines still proclaim that my county has the highest infection rates in the state.
Meanwhile, I listened to a couple terrific episodes of The Infinite Monkey Cage recently. The first was from January 21, and it was about conspiracy theories.
It viewed conspiracy theories from a slightly different angle, explaining how a lot depends upon what theory you hear first. That also means that the more educated you are the less likely you are to believe in conspiracy theories, because you are more likely to already know facts that indicate the conspiracy theory is most likely untrue. And, when you research the subject, you will more likely look for evidence to confirm your understanding. You are more likely to know where to look for such evidence.
One thing I really like about listening to podcasts is that they often mention things I never heard of before. The conspiracy theory episode mentioned a book titled "The Irrational Ape: Why Flawed Logic Puts us all at Risk and How Critical Thinking Can Save the World" by David Robert Grimes. I immediately searched for and obtained a copy for my Kindle. I'll start on it as soon as I finish the book I'm currently reading.
The other Infinite Monkey Cage episode that I really enjoyed was about "Quantum Worlds." It's from February 10, 2020, and Cal-Tech physics professor Sean Carroll was a guest. Carroll explained that the Schrodinger's cat thought experiment was originally intended to show how absurd such an experiment would be. (The cat is in a box and is killed if a random sub-atomic event occurs, but lives if the event does not occur.) But it now seems that mathematicians (like Carroll) accept that the cat might be alive in one universe and dead in another.
If all you care about is the results of measurements, which seems to be the case with mathematicians, then reality becomes a philosophical discussion. Math says that multiple universes exist. Physics says there is only one universe, but physics cannot prove the negative. It's an extremely complicated subject, but that episode makes it clear that mathematicians seem to love beautiful equations more than anything else, and if a "beautiful equation" says there are multiple universes, then that is what mathematicians will believe until someone proves the negative.
While I still have a hard time remembering what day of the week it is, living during a pandemic certainly gives you time to read books and listen to more books and podcasts. And podcasts can tell you about all sorts of interesting things that you never heard of before, things you may now have the time for.
|Comments for Sunday, June 7, 2020,
thru Saturday, June 13, 2020:
June 11, 2020 - For some unknown reason, this site has been getting a lot of visitors from Sydney, Australia, for the past couple days. The IP addresses in my log file suggest that they might be from some school. Adding to the mystery is the fact that some of my papers on Academia.edu have also been getting readers from Sydney, Australia. A third mystery is why my paper on "Simplifying Einstein's Thought Experiments" on Vixra.org is suddenly getting a surge in readers that so far has spanned 3 days. Unfortunately, there is no way to tell where those reads came from. They might also be from Sydney.
If there is someone in Sydney, Australia, who knows what is going on, I'd appreciate it if you'd send me an email with the explanation. Thanks.
June 10, 2020 (B) - At about 1:50 this afternoon, I finished reading another book on my Kindle. The book was "Einstein's Dreams" by Alan Lightman.
As I stated at the end of today's (A) comment, the novel was first published in 2004, has been translated into 30 languages and is considered to be a "modern classic." It's "a fictional collage of stories dreamed by Albert Einstein in 1905, about time, relativity and physics." It took me about 5 hours to read its 144 pages. While interesting, it turned out to be very different from what I expected.
I was expecting and hoping for some insights into how Einstein came up with his theories via his gedanken, or thought experiments. Instead, it's a book about what the world would look like if time worked differently. I read for at least an hour before making my first note. That note was about a world where everyone understands that time ticks significantly slower at higher altitudes, which is just the opposite of what really happens in our real world, where time ticks slightly faster at higher altitudes.
In this world, it is instantly obvious that something is odd. No houses can be seen in the valleys or plains. Everyone lives in the mountains. At some time in the past, scientists discovered that time flows more slowly the farther from the center of earth. The effect is minuscule, but it can be measured with extremely sensitive instruments. Once the phenomenon was known, a few people, anxious to stay young, moved to the mountains. Now all houses are built on Dom, the Matterhorn, Monte Rosa, and other high ground. It is impossible to sell living quarters elsewhere. Many are not content simply to locate their homes on a mountain. To get the maximum effect, they have constructed their houses on stilts. The mountaintops all over the world are nested with such houses, which from a distance look like a flock of fat birds squatting on long skinny legs. People most eager to live longest have built their houses on the highest stilts. Indeed, some houses rise half a mile high on their spindly wooden legs. Height has become status.My next note is about a world where time has a center, and time moves faster the farther you are from the center. The next note is about a world where people have no memories, so time has no meaning. The next note is about a world where time moves in fits and starts, not evenly. The next note is about a world like ours where time moves more slowly for things moving fast, but it's not like ours because everyone lives in moving houses and is constantly moving in order to stay young. The next note is about a world where time moves backwards. Then a note about a world where time is a sense, like sight and smell. Then notes about a world where time doesn't exist, a world where there is no future, a world where the future is fixed, and a world where time moves at a different rate in every town.
The author doesn't explain why he imagines all these worlds, but their purpose seems clear: There's no place like home. There's no world where time works as amazingly as it works in our world and our universe, and virtually every variation on how time works could be a nightmare. I suspect that a lot of people like the idea of fantasizing about what things would be like of time worked in a different way. To me, I'm very happy with the way time works, even though we could certainly use improvements in the way people think and act.
June 10, 2020 (A) - About 8:30 last night I finished listening to the audio book version of "Mr. g: A Novel about the Creation" by Alan Lightman.
The audio book was only 4 hours and 53 minutes long, so there was no problem getting through it on the same day I borrowed it from my library.
"Mr. g" is God, but not exactly God of the Bible. Mr. g lived in the void with his Aunt Penelope and his Uncle Deva until Mr. g got bored and decided to create some new things in the void. He created time, space and matter. That resulted in unintended consequences as the matter formed into stars, planets, animate matter, consciousness, and intelligent beings with moral dilemmas. And then another god-like being appeared in the void. His name was Belhor, who demanded that Mr. g explain all that was happening.
The story focuses on a universe that Mr. g names "Aalam-104729," one of many universes He created in the void. ("Aalam" is Arabic for "Universe".) That universe, of course, is identical to our own. Why 104729? "Because it's the ten thousandth prime number in base ten." And that makes it easy to remember. (?) In Aalam-104729 Mr. g establishes "cause and effect." The plot of the book is about Mr. g's efforts to let his favorite universe develop without hurting anything or anyone. That proves to be impossible.
The book is a novel because it explains science as if someone was inventing it and developing it. Here's a passage I transcribed from Amazon's "look inside" print version:
Energy begat matter which begat energy which begat matter. It was a spectacle.I found it very interesting that time was invented when Mr. g invented particles that vibrated. Each vibration was a unit of time. And, in the book, from then on time is measured in particle vibrations. That is very much like how I explain time in my paper "What is Time?"
Also very interesting to me was the idea that our sun and planets didn't form from debris material floating through space from distant supernovae, it formed from debris of a supernova that occurred in the same location as our sun. That makes a certain amount of sense. It seems to explain why there is such a great expanse of emptiness between the Sun and Proxima Centauri, the Sun's nearest neighboring star. The hydrogen atoms that formed after the Big Bang collected into pockets, where gigantic stars formed. Nuclear fusion in those giant stars turned hydrogen into heavier atoms. Then, because there was so much collected matter in one place, the star turned into a supernova and exploded. But gravity was still focused on the point of the supernova, so gradually the debris recollected. Only now the debris also consisted of a lot of heavier atoms. It's quite possible the process was repeated, creating even heavier atoms and larger debris objects. But then the debris did not fully collect back into another new star again. Instead, enough debris was left circling the star to form planets and to leave the star as a relatively stable entity that would not become a supernova.
I don't know if that is a common theory, but I don't recall reading anything about the Sun going through repeated "steps" to become what it is now.
Yesterday evening, after finished listening to "Mr. g," I searched the Internet and obtained a Kindle-compatible copy of Alan Lightman's earlier novel, "Einstein's Dreams." First published in 2004, it has been translated into 30 languages and is considered to be a "modern classic." It's "a fictional collage of stories dreamed by Albert Einstein in 1905, about time, relativity and physics." It's just 144 pages long. I started reading it during breakfast this morning.
June 9, 2020 - After lunch yesterday, instead of listening to podcasts, I sat down on my couch and finished reading another library book on my Kindle. The book was "The Accidental Universe: The World You Thought You Knew" by Alan Lightman.
It's a fairly short and enjoyable book, only 176 pages long. When reading on a Kindle, you only realize that you are reading a short book when the "percentage complete" number changes more often than usual during a reading session. It may be a short book, but I still highlighted more passages than my Kindle would allow to be stored. The first note I highlighted is from page x in the Preface:
We now know that time is not absolute, that the ticking rate of clocks varies with their relative speed.I could include that quote in arguments on the sci.physics.relativity forum where the consensus is that time is absolute and does not vary. Alan Lightman is a physicist who has served on faculties at Harvard and M.I.T., so his words cannot be so easily dismissed - although the people on that forum will probably just claim that Lightman didn't mean what he wrote.
Here's another interesting passage from page 46:
Years ago, when I was a graduate student in physics, I was introduced to the concept of the “well-posed problem”: a question that can be stated with enough clarity and precision that it is guaranteed an answer. Scientists are always working on well-posed problems. It may take researchers decades or lifetimes to find the answer to a particular question, and science is constantly revising itself in accordance with new experimental data and new ideas, but I would argue that at any moment in time, every scientist is working on, or attempting to work on, a well-posed problem, a question with a definite answer. We scientists are taught from an early stage of our apprenticeship not to waste time on questions that do not have clear and definite answers.I don't think I've ever seen experimental science boiled down to such a simple idea before.
I highlighted another short passage that might be well-known to everyone else in the universe, but was totally new to me. This is from page 68:
Cut an apple in two, and you will find that its five seeds are arranged in a pentagonal pattern.I eat an apple with my breakfast cereal nearly every morning, including this morning. This morning I cut the apple core in half, and sure enough, there was a perfect pentagonal pattern of pockets, each containing one seed. Live and learn.
That passage in the book was part of a series of observations that help illustrate that there appears to be a clear symmetry to the universe. And scientists work to find that symmetry. From page 74:
Symmetry also reduces complexity. A physical system with right-left symmetry, for example, needs only half as many parameters to specify it as a system with no symmetry. In the symmetrical case, specify the right side and the left side is known. Theoretical scientists, whether they be physicists or chemists or biologists, prefer economy in their theories of nature, prefer theories with the minimum possible number of parts and parameters and principles. The fewer parameters and principles needed to specify a system, the greater the understanding.From page 76:
A beautiful illustration of some of the ideas above is the beehive. Each cell of a honeycomb is a nearly perfect hexagon, a space with six identical and equally spaced walls. Isn’t that surprising? Wouldn’t it be more plausible to find cells of all kinds of shapes and sizes, fitted together in a haphazard manner? It is a mathematical truth that there are only three geometrical figures with equal sides that can fit together on a flat surface without leaving gaps: equilateral triangles, squares, and hexagons. Any gaps between cells would be wasted space. Gaps would defeat the principle of economy.That one floored me. I knew that bees created hives with perfect hexagonal patterns, but I never thought about bees having a reason for doing things that way.
A lot of Lightman's book has to do with conflicts between science and religion. I generally try to avoid books that get into that area (like nearly everything written by Richard Dawkins and Bill Nye), but this book opened my eyes to a new angle on the subject. This passage is from page 111:
The change of religious belief from the polytheism of the ancient Romans and Egyptians and Babylonians to the monotheism of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam must have played a role in the understanding of the laws of nature. The laws of nature are the polar opposite of capriciousness and whim. With many gods, each with his or her own personality and whims, there is much more room for unpredictable divine behavior and consequent surprises on Earth than with a single god. With a single god, we human beings need to understand only a single divine consciousness.Hmm. While reading the book, I didn't feel that I was getting so many new and interesting ideas. But, when writing about them here, all the ideas are examined in a short period of time and you realized there are lots of them and they are very unusual and unexpected. So, is it proper to say that the book was far more interesting than I thought it was?
This morning, as I checked my local library's web site to see if any of the books I'm waiting to borrow were ready for downloading, I decided to check to see if they had other books by Alan Lightman, specifically "Einstein's Dreams." They didn't have any copies of it, but they had an audio book copy of another novel by Lightman that I could borrow immediately. I did so. It's only 5 hours long. If it can hold my attention, I might write a review of it tomorrow.
June 8, 2020 - I probably spent close to 7 hours listening to podcasts yesterday morning, afternoon and evening. All were science podcasts. I decided I needed to listen to something other than The Infinite Monkey Cage for awhile. While The Infinite Monkey Cage is still my favorite podcast, I haven't really thoroughly evaluated many other podcasts. Many that I've listened to I would classify as "interesting," but I also wanted to find some that had the enjoyable and funny elements of The Infinite Monkey Cage.
I began with some Astronomy Cast episodes. The first episode I listened to was titled "Extreme Binaries," which is #571 on their list of 572 episodes. The show is hosted by Fraser Cain and Pamela Gay. Pamela Gay is an astronomer, writer, technologist, and a Senior Scientist at the Planetary Science Institute. Fraser Cain is "the publisher of Universe Today," which appears to be a science web site where it appears he has his own podcasts (I just downloaded a half dozen to check out later).
The "Extreme Binaries" episode began with a few minutes of personal chatter of no interest to me, but then it got down to business and they discussed a lot of interesting information I was totally unaware of. They introduced me to a new term, "Extreme Binaries." It applies to binary stars (two stars which orbit around a point somewhere between them) which include a black hole. The black hole could be the second "star" in the binary system, or it could be a third body with a second star orbiting around it. Each black hole has the mass of 5 to 15 average stars. Evidently, astronomers have recently begun to find a lot of "extreme binaries." And they are right here within the Milky Way galaxy, which suggests to me that other galaxies are also loaded with "extreme binaries."
All could think about while I listened was that such things might help explain "dark matter." Those relatively small black holes (compared to the giant one at the center of the Milky Way) cannot be seen, and they only reason they were found is because they cause the star to appear to wobble. So, they are deduced to exist, since there is no other explanation for why a star will appear to move back and forth or up and down. If you had two small black holes in binary system, there would be nothing to see. The same thing holds true for a single black hole. So, it seems to me that there could be billions of small black holes in a galaxy that cannot be seen, but would affect how the galaxy rotates.
When I finished listening to that episode, I listened to episode #540, which about how planets do (or do not) form. The main fact that I learned from that podcast is that the mathematical model physicists have been using for solar system formation works for our solar system, but does not work for most of the distant systems that have been found in recent years.
I then listened to episode #504, about radar, lidar and sonar (which contained some wrong information about lidar), and episode #542, about the age of the universe. The main point I learned was that there are several telescopes being developed which will show us more of the universe than we've ever seen before.
I then decided to listen to a couple Flash Forward podcasts. While the episodes were filled with interesting details, I didn't particularly like the overall task of listening to just one person (award winning science journalist Rose Eveleth) talk. I prefer podcasts which involve discussions.
So, I then listened to Space Nuts podcasts #201, #10, #148, #182, and about half of episode #178 before it was time to go to bed. I think I'll label Space Nuts as my second-favorite podcast. It's an Australian podcast with Astronomer At Large Professor Fred Watson and Broadcaster/Journalist Andrew Dunkley exchanging facts and ideas. Perhaps most interesting to me, was the fact that episodes #182 and #178 contained more information about "stellar black holes" and how they can be part of a binary star system. They talked about how the smallest black holes found so far do not emit X-rays, which was thought to be a signature of all black holes. And some black holes that are part of a binary system do not interact with the other body, meaning that they do not suck energy from the other body.
The image above is of a binary system where the black hole both sucks energy from the star and emits X-rays into space. It was thought to be the standard type of binary system with a black hole, but it could be just one of many types.
I have no particular interest in black holes, but I am very interested in finding a simple explanation for dark matter. If there are a lot more black holes in galaxies than astronomers have been assuming, that could explain a lot.
June 7, 2020 - As the Covid-19 pandemic continues, it's becoming more and more difficult to find something to write about. I suppose I could write about the pandemic, but any reader of this web site can certainly find better places to get information on that subject. Mostly what I think about is the different ways people react, and how it seems to separate everyone into that same old two-group pattern of thinking logically versus thinking emotionally. News stories seem to recognize that there are two groups, but they do not discuss logic versus emotions, even though the stories make clear that there are two modes of thinking. They just don't make comparisons. For example, they only describe the psychology of those who refused to wear masks, making no comparison to those who do wear masks. Here are some quotes from a recent CNN article:
Most Americans have never had to wear a mask for their health before, let alone while they shop for groceries or go for a run.I don't see it as "forced conformity." I see it as just the opposite. People do not normally wear masks, so they are conforming to the standard of not wearing masks. Then the government asks them to do something different, i.e, to STOP conforming to the pattern they've followed all their lives, and to do things that others around them may not be doing. They are being asked to STOP doing what the rest of the herd is doing. To conformists that can be very upsetting.
Here's another passage from the CNN the article:
To some, wearing a mask means admitting a fear they may not have consciously confronted yet, said David Abrams, a clinical psychologist and professor of social and behavioral science at New York University's School of Global Public Health.That is most definitely an emotional response, rather than a logical response. And the bigger and meaner the person is, the more that person will dislike and fight against the idea of showing fear by wearing a mask.
And when the leaders of the country say one thing and do another, that just tells everyone who thinks emotionally that they need to wait to see what the rest of the herd does. Should they do as the leader says or as the leader does?
There are also mixed messages at the federal level: While the CDC recommends the public wear masks, President Donald Trump didn't wear a mask during a visit to a Honeywell mask factory. Vice President Mike Pence apparently flouted hospital policy when he visited the Mayo Clinic without a mask on.Later in the article it contradicts what it initially said about conformity, and agrees with my view:
"When people are told what to do, and it's not the conforming, usual way to behave, there's a tendency to question that and to resist," he said. "It's the psychological tendency to react to people telling you what to do."That last paragraph hits me where I live. Those rubber bands that fit behind the ears are too tight on my big head, plus my glasses keep fogging up when I wear a mask. Fortunately, I only need to wear a mask once or twice a week when I go to the grocery store, and then I put on my mask just before entering the store and remove it immediately upon leaving.
Starting last Friday, I also began putting on white cotton gloves just before entering the store if I need a shopping cart or if the store requires that I use a cart (to make "social distancing" easier). I'm 98% certain that I had an allergic reaction to the disinfectant liquids they spray on the handles of shopping carts, particularly if they spray the handles and do not adequately wipe them down after the spraying.
Some day we'll all look back on these times and laugh at the crazy things we had to do to avoid catching Covid-19. And maybe we'll wonder if "natural selection" didn't play a role in eliminating a lot of people who thought emotionally and refused to do things that didn't conform to what they normally did. Thinking logically definitely seems better for survival of our species.
|Comments for Monday, June 1, 2020,
thru Saturday, June 6, 2020:
June 5, 2020 (B) - I got a call from the Wisconsin Department of Health at about 1 p.m. this afternoon advising me that I tested negative for the Covid-19 virus. Meanwhile, I'm now wondering if I haven't developed an allergy to the products they use in stores to clean the handles of shopping carts. I've got a rash on both hands. So, as of today I will be wearing soft white cotton gloves when I shop.
June 5, 2020 (A) - While I was writing yesterday's comment about podcasts, I was also looking around for a page of notes that I'd mislaid. I didn't find it -- until this morning. While listening to podcasts, I write my notes on an 8 inch by 5 inch "legal pad." Here is one side of the page I failed to locate yesterday:
At the top of the page are my notes from The Infinite Monkey Cage podcast titled "To Infinity and Beyond," which initially aired on December 9, 2013. Here's their description for that 29 minute episode:
This week on the Infinite Monkey Cage, [particle physicist] Brian Cox and [comedian] Robin Ince are joined by comedy producer John Lloyd, mathematician Colva Roney Dougal and writer Simon Singh, to explore the universality of mathematics, the nature of infinity and the role of numbers in everyday life.If you can't read my notes, here is what I wrote:
About mathematics. Math is a study of patterns? They talk about math being beautiful. Math is the language of physics, BUT math doesn't necessarily represent reality. Infinity plus 1. Infinity is a concept, not a number. Math "games" to get beautiful but useless answers. Great stuff about questions being solvable and unsolvable.Listening to it again as I type this, at the 6 minute mark someone talks about mathematics being "an art." "Creating a great mathematical theory is like creating a symphony." At the 21 minute mark they talk about "narcissistic numbers," giving 8208 as an example. If you raise each digit to its 4th power, and then add all the numbers together (4096+16+0+4096), you get a result of 8208. So, "it's a number that is in love with itself." My question would be: Who cares? The answer would be: Mathematicians care, because it's "beautiful."
My notes for the July 8, 2014, episode of The Infinite Monkey Cage titled "Numbers Numbers Everywhere" are as follows:
Interesting. Lots of stuff about how mathematicians think. They don't care about what use their games have. What mathematicians LOVE is total crap to others. WHO CARES? It's like game playing.So, in some ways it is more of the same, but I still find it fascinating that mathematicians can talk about this stuff as if they were talking about some computer game they totally love, but which no one who isn't a mathematician would ever care about. It can't be called "a waste of time," because once in a while that kind of game playing produces some worthwhile result.
But, in one of the episodes they talk about how the "worthwhile result" can be explained in layman's language without mathematics, but mathematicians generally cannot be bothered with doing that.
June 4, 2020 - Lately, I've been listening to a lot of podcasts about science and related subjects, and I've been taking notes. I'm not sure what purpose the notes will serve, but I think that taking notes helps me remember things. Plus, if I ever want to recommend a podcast to someone else, my notes will help me remember which podcast I felt worth recommending.
In a way, podcasts can be like listening to lectures in college - only more so. On podcasts they mainly just talk about the really interesting stuff, stuff I often never heard before. You can't ask questions, but there is usually someone else on the podcast who is asking just about every question imaginable.
I listened to an October 30, 2018, RadioLab podcast about Orson Wells' "War of the Worlds" radio broadcast in the late 1930s that caused panic around America. I thought I knew all there was to know about that incident, but I was definitely wrong. I didn't know that some radio station in Quito, Ecuador, repeated the idea on February 12, 1949. They created such panic that the guy responsible for the show had to leave the country. When the public learned it was just a "joke," they burned down the radio station. 6 people died. And then, in 1968 the idea was tried again in Buffalo, New York. No one died as a result of that one, but it also created wide-spread panic.
I also listened to about twenty excellent podcasts from "The Infinite Monkey Cage." Since it's my favorite podcast, I'll probably listen to every one of their 137+ podcasts eventually. But the one that generated the most notes so far is their January 20, 2017 podcast titled "Science's Epic Fails." They discussed the observation that there seem to be more and more people in the world who do not care about facts. And it was stated that "The fact that we demonize failure is BAD for science." In science we learn from mistakes. Being wrong can be a certainty, but being right can only be temporary. My notes show that someone said, "All models are wrong, but some can be useful."
For the past couple days I've been listening to episodes of "The Origins Podcast" with Lawrence Krauss. It's a totally different kind of podcast, mostly consisting of Mr. Krauss interviewing someone. His two hour interview of Noam Chomsky from last year was particularly interesting. The description is:
In this episode, Lawrence talks with public intellectual, linguist, and political activist Noam Chomsky. Together, they discuss topics ranging from American exceptionalism and foreign policy, to North Korea and Brazil, as well as free speech and Donald Trump.While Chomsky thinks Donald Trump is a "narcissistic megalomaniac," and that Republicans only pretend to be anti-abortion in order to get the Evangelical vote, the discussion about Brazil was particularly interesting. It was once a terrific place, but now it is a chilling dictatorship. And, although it wasn't mentioned in the podcast, Brazil is now second to the United States in the total number of Covid-19 cases, and they seem to be rushing to catch up.
I've been filling up my MP3 player with podcasts, listening to them and deleting each one as I finish it, then doing another fill up. I have a collection of podcasts in my computer that is the fill-up source. I think I have enough to last for many months. While I'm learning a lot of things, I'm hoping that some podcast will trigger an idea that will get me started on some new plan to do the "Type-1" radar gun test without spending a lot of money. But the podcasts seem to indicate that even if I can demonstrate that virtually every college physics textbook is wrong, no one will care. The demonstration will just be about facts, and only opinions seem to matter in today's world. And everyone has plenty of those.
June 3, 2020 - While I haven't had any of the standard symptoms of Covid-19, like a cough, fever, difficulty breathing, or even the less common symptoms like bluish lips or face, chest pain, slurred speech, etc., yesterday morning I decided it was time for me to get tested for Covid-19. When I checked to see where the testing sites were in my county, I found that they had just opened a site in a high school parking lot in my town that morning, and it was less than a mile away.
There were two lines of cars when I got there, with maybe 15 cars ahead of me in both lines. I joined the nearest line, and the wait was almost exactly an hour. When I finally reached the first stop next to the first of two test tents, the process consisted me giving my name, address, age, etc., and then answering a lot of questions about possible symptoms and to swear on my life that I won't sue anyone if they use the results of my tests in a published Covid-19 analysis. Then, after they tucked the completed forms under my windshield wiper, I drove about 30 feet to the second tent where they took the forms and then had me blow my nose before they swabbed deep inside both nostrils.
Then they gave me 4 pages of information about Covid-19, and that was it. Now I have to wait 3 to 7 days for them to give me a call about my test results.
I wish I had taken my camera with me, or that I'd thought to use my cell phone camera, but I didn't. So, I went back this afternoon and took this shot from the lawn of the high school:
According to my comments on this web site, I've been wearing a mask whenever I go to the grocery store since April 4. But I got this strange feeling that if I get Covid-19, I'll get it in a way that no one else in the world ever got it before, and the symptoms will be different from those suffered by anyone else. That just seems to be the way I generally operate.
June 1, 2020 - Shortly after lunch this afternoon, I finished reading another library book on my Kindle. The book was "Thanks, Obama: My Hopey, Changey White House Years" by David Litt.
I chose the book because the reviews indicated it would be a very funny book, since it was written by one of Barack Obama's speechwriters, a writer who was specifically focused on adding humor to Obama's speeches.
After graduating from college in 2008, David Litt almost immediately joined the Obama Presidential campaign. In 2011, Litt became one of the youngest White House speechwriters in history. He wrote on topics from healthcare to climate change to criminal justice reform. But, until he left the White House in 2016 to move on to other things, he was President Obama’s main comedy writer, notably taking the lead on writing speeches for the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, the so-called “State of the Union of jokes.”
The book wasn't as funny as I expected, since it is largely about how things outside of the White House changed while Obama was President. While Obama accomplished a lot of good things, it was while he was President that the Republican Party truly turned into a hate group. People who think emotionally just cannot stand people who think logically, like Barack Obama.
By 2013, thanks to backlash against a Spock-like president, even logic itself had become partisan. More and more, the Republican Party was defined not by arguments but by articles of faith: Climate change wasn’t real. Voter fraud was rampant. Deficits were rising instead of falling. More guns meant less gun violence. President Obama’s economic recovery plan had yet to create a single job. That these ideas were demonstrably untrue was not, in and of itself, a problem.The problem was
The conservative movement had undergone a transformation. The Republican Party had become a kind of church. This did not mean its members were in complete agreement. As with any self-respecting religious institution, a million sects and subgroups vied for control. It’s impossible to classify every denomination.There's nothing funny in that. And, while the book is about how a speech writer works in the White House, which is very interesting in itself, the whole story takes place at a time when hatred was growing rampant among conservatives. And it was that hatred that enabled Donald Trump to be elected President when Obama's eight-year term was over.
It was a very interesting book with lots of humor, and I can definitely recommend it, but it isn't the humor that you remember when you finish the book. You remember the festering hatred that helped elect someone like Donald Trump.