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Time Passages IV

By: Bogon , 6:37 PM GMT on February 13, 2012

The Past

A year ago I posted a series of three loosely affiliated blogs, which shared the same title and which discussed different aspects of the same subject. The first one talked about two trees newly planted in my yard. Both trees are potentially very long-lived, but what is their life expectancy here on this suburban lot? How much time will they be granted? You'll be pleased to hear that those trees survived their first year. They've had a chance to set roots. This (and each subsequent) year's summer heat and drought should pose less difficulty for them. There was a third tree, an Eastern redbud, which did not fare so well. It got struck by lightning. Wife and I had to replace not only the fatally zapped sapling, but also the main circuit board in our television. Ouch!

The second blog presented a personal overview of time. How do we speak about time? How do we experience its passage? The third installment addressed cosmology: time considered on the largest possible scale.

So what brings me back again after all this, uh, time? Well, life goes on. We live and learn. This year I learned of some new developments in physics. I am not a physicist, but I try to understand how the world works. It is the same curiosity about the world that brings me to Weather Underground. I'm not a meteorologist, but I like to learn what I can about the weather.

As long as we're talking about the past, it might help to set the scene by reviewing some history. It has been nearly a century since Albert Einstein announced his theory of relativity. General relativity remains our best tested and most trusted model of the operation of the universe at the large scales observed by astronomers and cosmologists. The theory describes the interactions of space, time and gravity. Einstein's equations treat space-time as a continuum which warps and flexes in response to the presence of mass and energy. The word 'relativity' refers to the way the theory relates moving objects. Each object has its own point of view. According to the theory there is no fixed background or point of reference. If two spaceships pass in the night, the passengers on each one will tell a different tale about what they saw.

At the same time Einstein was developing relativity, other scientists were working on quantum theory. This theory accurately models the universe at the very small scale of subatomic particles. Quantum electrodynamics describes the forces of electricity and magnetism perfectly (insofar as we are able to measure). There are also good working theories for the forces responsible for radioactivity and nuclear power. The word 'quantum' refers to the discrete discontinuous appearance of nature when viewed at the smallest possible scales. It's like when you zoom in on your computer screen you see jaggies and dots, the individual picture elements, that make up the displayed image. According to quantum theory matter is comprised of a small number of elementary particles, each of which has a fixed mass. Energy is exchanged in little packets. Events proceed stepwise. From any point of view those events are likely to look a little blurry, because there are definite limits on how finely you can measure. The act of measurement affects the thing being measured.

Throughout the remainder of the 20th century these two theories were tested and applied. Both work very well within the domain for which they were designed. For any real-world situation, physicists are obliged to choose one theory or the other or compare the predictions of both. Nobody has figured out a way to combine the two. The theory of relativity does not extend to situations involving high energy and small scales, and there is no quantum theory of gravity. The math is too hard. The techniques developed within one theory break down when applied to the other.

The Present

For the last few days my mother has been battling an eye infection. Her doctor prescribed some ointment and an eye patch. Mom complains that, when she goes to pour a beverage, without proper depth perception she's liable to miss the cup and spill her drink on the counter.

Physicists, too, are tired of peering at the universe through one eye or the the other. They think their view would be a lot clearer with full stereoscopic vision. So when I say there is no quantum theory of gravity, I mean there is no complete theory. The last ninety years have not been wasted. People are working on a variety of approaches. Some start with relativity and try to quantize it. Some start with quantum theory and try to develop a background-independent version which includes the graviton.

One approach that gets a lot of press these days is string theory. The basic idea behind string theory is that elementary particles should not be portrayed as dimensionless points. They are granted a finite size, which makes some of the mathematics more tractable. I say 'some' of the math; there is much more to string theory that is very hairy indeed. String theorists propose a group of elementary particles that have not been detected and postulate several extra spatial dimensions beyond the three that we observe. In support of their theories they offer weak circular arguments such as the anthropic principle. Whenever reality threatens to contradict the theory, they spawn a new version. In fact there are a zillion string theories with no obvious way of picking a winner.

From my point of view they are all losers. String theory is a monster that devours talented young mathematicians. It sucks up lifetimes and hefty research budgets and leaves nothing to show for them. It provides a convincing model for how to parley government grants into academic careers, but it has done nothing to shed light on how the physical universe operates. There are no verifiable predictions of string theory.

There are numerous competing theories that seem more promising. There's Roger Penrose with his spin foam and tensors. There's Lee Smolin, who champions a theory called loop quantum gravity. These guys are results-oriented. Unlike string theorists, they manage to refrain from wandering off into fanciful realms of elegant mathematical complication. They'll be content if they can explain known particles in three dimensions.

Loop quantum gravity theory asserts that space-time is quantized, i. e. there is some minimal unit of volume out of which space is constructed. Thus, on a very small scale it would be possible to view space as a kind of fluctuating grid. An elementary particle would have a finite size. It could be no smaller than a block in the grid. The particle would be represented as a set of properties (e. g. quantum numbers) assigned to some region of the grid. Gravity appears as curves and waves in the grid lines.

Here are links to two presentations from Perimeter Institute in Canada. You can watch Renate Loll describe causal dynamical triangulation, and/or view Fay Dowker as she expounds on the theory of causal sets. You may have noticed that the last two theories include the word 'causal' in their titles. That's where time enters the picture: the sequence of cause and effect. In addition to quantizing space, these theories add the notion that all the little grid lines must be aligned timewise. The arrow of time is built in from the start rather than being sought as an emergent property. That turns out to be a significant innovation. Calculations become easier, and believable results follow. If you listen to the videos, you'll hear how several lines of evidence from thermodynamics, information theory, black hole theory, astronomy and cosmology converge to indicate that these people may be on the right track.

The advantage of such theories is that they can reproduce some of the observed properties of three-dimensional space (plus time) with a minimal set of assumptions. A disadvantage is that each theory only provides an incomplete and unwieldy model. It is not an equation. It is an algorithm for simulating space-time. It runs on a computer much like one of the weather models here at WU.

The Future

None of these theories is ready for prime time. Progress is slow, because the problems are hard. Only in hindsight is it clear what questions to ask in order to get the right answers. Will it be easier to work from the top down by quantizing relativity? Or will the bottom up approach, adding the force of gravity to an existing quantum theory, yield the prize? Will it become possible to translate a computer-driven algorithmic model into a concise set of equations? Will string theory ever be good for something practical?

The goal of all this theorizing is perfect binocular vision. Physicists want a Theory of Everything. It doesn't mean that they'll immediately be able to solve all problems and write down all possible knowledge in a book. It means that we humans will finally have a single unified theory that accounts for all known particles and forces. Far from being an end to science, it will make a great beginning for whatever comes next.

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The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.

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Wow, heron photos. Great job Bogon! I have seen Egrets from time to time while vacationing, camping, ... They are so beautiful, especially the Blue Heron.

Happy Saturday to you.
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:

The same day I saw the heron Mrs. Bluebird was kind enough to pose for me. Her appearance seemed a good omen. This image has been cropped and modified to enhance the contrast.
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Nice catch, Sandi!

I am not a birdwatcher, but it's hard to ignore a blue heron. I most commonly spot them on the wing, when they are too fast moving and elusive to present a photo opportunity. Even if you have a camera handy, it takes too long to turn it on, fiddle with the buttons and focus.

The most favorable scenario would be one such as you describe. You're sitting by a body of water when the bird drops in for dinner. He comes to you; you don't have to sneak up on him. These skittish birds fly away if you approach them. You need a long lens to fill the frame, as you have done, from outside their defense perimeter.

My lens was maxed out, which is why there is so much grass and water in my photo. The grass is part of somebody's lawn. I shot my picture from a public street. Google Earth tells me the distance was about eighty yards.

The bird gave me time for three shots. Here's a cropped version of one of them.

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That may not sound like much, but I have been watching herons for years, and such chances have been rare indeed.
I did the same, I watched them for years and never managed the perfect shot, until one morning when I was down by the lake and this one landed in front of me, with not a care in the world! Bingo!!

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Hi, Prose, I owe you for the ode.

Not only does it brighten my day, but it illuminates the rhyme I left on your blog the other day. That bit of doggerel is something I heard my father repeat whenever spring rolled around. I was never sure if it was something he had heard or something he made up. Now it seems likely that it was a truncated or misremembered bit of this poem. It doesn't matter if the author is unknown. I feel that I know more than I did before about something near and dear.

I caught a glimpse of this big bird earlier this week:

I was happy, because it happened when I had my camera handy, and the bird remained unflappable and in sight long enough for me to bring the camera to bear. That may not sound like much, but I have been watching herons for years, and such chances have been rare indeed.

ycd - Your comment lends credence to my theory that ours is no longer a government of the people and for the people. It is a government of lawyers for lawyers.

This has happened because so many wise mothers have counseled their offspring to work hard in school to earn a law degree. The situation is a clear demonstration of the law of unintended consequences. So many lawyers, all the dang time...
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Morning Bogon: Your mention of the antibiotic quality of alcohol adds credence to the basic theory: Without brewing the human race would not be where it is today.
Somewhere I read someone lamenting the modern trend in business:
A while ago a million dollar contract would be sealed (and later honored) by a toast and an handshake.
Nowadays the sober lawyers sign the smallest contract and then head to court to fight about it.
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Ode to Spring

“Spring has sprung,

The Grass has riz,

I wonder where the birdies is?

The little bird is on the wing,

But that’s absurd!

Because the wing is on the bird!”

Hi Bogon. I have tried to find the author of this little poem but no one seems to know for sure who the author is. The two names that surface frequently are Ogden Nash and Spike Milligan, however no one has a definite answer. I guess we will have to enjoy the ditty without knowing who is the author. Thank you for posting this on my blog a while ago, I finally found a few minutes to do a littler research.

To answer the questions in the ditty, I know where the 'birdies is'. A chickadee is making her nest in my little birdhouse and I am ecstatic! That's where the birdie is!
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Oh, Shore, I hope you don't think I was coming down on you! Maybe I've been spending too much time trying to think objectively. It is a fun song (hence the 'LOL'). Thanks for bringing it by.

BriarCraft - Wife did not go to the brewery. She was otherwise occupied that night. She suggested I could do the brewery thing as a sort of bachelor's night out.

I went to the Grand Unveiling. I believe Tap Takeover was scheduled for the next evening at a place around the corner.

As for the four pints, the bartender provided a large plastic cup, which during the course of the evening I refilled three times. The last go around was for stout.

And no, this was not a typical week for me, which is why I brought it up. Most nights (like tonight) I stay home by the computer or the television.

The brewery was fun, and afterward I managed to find my way home again safely. I hope to sample Mystery Brewing Company's wares again sometime.

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I'm happy you and Mrs. Bogon made it to the great Tap Takeover. And you really drank 4 pints of brew? Very impressive. Did your eyeballs float? Was there really such a thing as Six Impossible Things Chocolate Breakfast Stout and did you have some? Hard to imagine just what that would be like.

I have to think that event was probably not what you do on a typical weeknight, but you went out and did something different, mixed things up a bit, and it sounds like a good time was had. Such an occurrence generally livens things up, but add 4 pints to the mix and I'll bet things were lively, indeed. Good for you!
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Oh, gosh. I guess sometimes I'm just not serious enough.

It's a fun song - and always has been. I've sung and played it for years, and I've never known anyone - including some pretty doggoned faithful folk - who ever thought it was anything more than a fine example of tongue-in-cheek bluegrass.

Shoot. I think I'll go turn up the volume and have another listen! ;)

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shore - I don't usually say, "LOL", but this time I'll make an exception.

People have surely tried a lot of things to "get in touch with God". The deity is reputed to be ubiquitous, so I'm not sure why people ever thought a radio would bring them closer. It's much easier to understand why a huckster, who depends for his living on contributions from the faithful, would ask his audience to gather near the speaker.

One frequently hears that the Lord is also omnipotent, which implies that, if He wishes to be in touch, He can surely reach out to you with no effort on your part. On the other hand, if He does not wish to be in touch, you won't be hearing from Him until He changes His august mind. That is, if change is possible for an omnipresent being. From God's point of view, Barefoot's theory that there is no space or time makes sense. Apparently it is only we mere mortals who can be sundered from what we need and love.

People think a lot of inexplicable things about God, though. If there is any single subject which can be guaranteed to make no sense at all, that's the one.
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Interesting about the use of gypsum. I can't quite get my mind around that, but I have friends who grew up in the Texas panhandle, and their accounts of what they call "gyp water" don't sound appetizing. They say it was so bad it barely was drinkable. I'm sure it can be treated now - their stories are from "the old days". Come to think of it, most of my stories are from "the old days". Music, too.

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ycd - The alcohol in beer may rightly be regarded as a toxin, but there is genuine nutrition in beer, too. For thousands of years the toxicity of alcohol guaranteed that brewers and their customers would enjoy a beverage that was safe to drink. Alcohol kills germs. It was only in the modern era of civil engineering that (treated e. g. by chlorination) water became a widely distributed and safe way to slake thirst.

Water remains an essential ingredient for brewing beer, coffee, tea, Kool-Aid or whatever. Wife is picky about her water. She pays for a home water filtration service. Our municipal water is not bad, but the filtered water we use to make coffee is better.

One of the spokesmen for Brakspear Brewery explained that they use gypsum (and possibly other salts) to condition the water used in their beer. My reaction when I heard that was, "Yuck!" Oh, well, I suppose that there are yucky intermediate stages in recipes for a lot of things I enjoy (when they're properly done).

Hmm, yes, consider the abattoir.

calpoppy - It's my opinion that great products are defined not by their number of bells and whistles but by their utility and fitness for a particular purpose. The Swiss army knife is nifty, but it's not great. The quality of implementation of each of its several functions makes it a mediocre tool at best. It's not very hard to find, for example, a better knife.
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Looks like we share the same coffee maker! The best coffee makers are simple and fast. We have everything set up the night before except for the grinding of the beans.
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In fact one of my mentors claimed that the yeast bodies provided B vitamins and proteins way back when these useful items were hard to find.
Possibly giving the early brewers an advantage over those who could not stomach moldy porridge.
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Good day to you, ycd.

I had to laugh when you described re-refilling your coffee maker in the dim hours of early morning. That sounds like something I might do. It's a good thing that we seldom precharge the coffee machine. I have a feeling that might just complicate things.

I've always been more than willing to leave beer brewing to the professionals. I had a roommate who tried home brewing once. He went to a great deal of trouble, and the result did not justify the effort.

For months I've been following the progress of Mystery Brewing on the Brewer's Blog. He talks at length about the trials and tribulations of recruiting backers, seeking financing and applying for all the necessary approvals, permits, stickers and seals. Knowing how to make good beer is necessary, but it is definitely not sufficient.

The best beer is unpasteurized and contains no preservatives. It's alive in the bottle. All those little yeast thingies are swimming around in there. Yum!
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Morning Bogon: Brewing both coffee and beer are subjects I respect. I was just reading your post over at BriarCraft's and comparing the Coffee Maker you have to ours. Ours is programmable but we rarely know what time it is showing let alone what time I will get up. Sometimes we do get it together to set it up with ground coffee and water the night before but I then stumble down and add more water and grind more coffee and overload the system.
But Beer Brewing is even closer to my heart: My mother made beer at home all the while I was growing and I took over in my teens. Called my construction company and my Dodge Panel truck "HomeBrew". Then in the early '80s construction pretty well stopped around here so I went back to school and teamed up with a business partner with the idea of building a Micro Brewery. We were a bit ahead of our time when we tried to get some financing in place. Liquor laws and taxes simply made the thing a pipe dream (B.C. still has an hangover from W.C.T.U.).
I went off to the U.K. to taste some beers there.
The best was:
Where the only Brewmaster on shift and I tasted together till another employee found him and herded him back to work.
And the worst was some "Real Ale" at Robbie Burn's favourite Pub in Dumfries, The Globe Inn. That stuff does not "Keep" long.
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Wet. Gray.

We got a warm front and a cold front all in the same long rain storm. There were a few rumbles of distant thunder, but mostly it was quiet vertical rain.

The yard is all smushy with puddles in the back.

Fortunately the rain is ending, and the forecast calls for sun emerging later today. That ought to make the flowers grow.
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Ah, shore, I like the Badger Beer blog. I'm with Sandy's witterings about flavored beers, though. Beer with too much added flavoring in it becomes like a liqueur. You might choose to mix a drink with it, but it's unlikely that you'd want to quaff the whole bottle straight.

When it comes to birds, all you need is big and blue to arrive in shoebill territory. I don't think the beak in the video was a proper match, but they got the smile right. All those other little flockers were Bluebirds of Unhappiness.
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Bogon! Do I have a link for you! I've been following this fellow for a while now, and he has the most interesting posts - like this one on Badger Beer Day!

And I must tell you how much I loved that video you posted at Sandi's. That big bird bears quite a resemblance to a shoebill stork, no?
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Tuesday night Wife and I drove to Chapel Hill for a food-beer pairing. It was a five course meal with small portions of chow served with five distinct liquid offerings from Lone Rider Brewery in Raleigh.

I don't recall that I'd ever heard of Lone Rider before, but the beer was good. Wife and I enjoyed the experience.

I have always been a beer man. When I met her, my wife was primarily a wine drinker. She introduced me to wine and wine culture. Now Wife is starting to develop a greater appreciation of the possibilities inherent in the world of beer.

Last night I attended the aforementioned opening of Mystery Brewing in Hillsborough. The town's mayor was there for a ribbon cutting ceremony. Enough other people showed up to pack the place. The brewmaster had four kegs of product on tap. I managed to sample a pint of each.

That puts me well ahead of my normal rate of consumption, which may have something to do with my choice of disc golf over yard chores today.

Think I'll probably stick with water or soft drinks for a day or two. ~:o]

   * * *

Forty years ago beer in America meant Miller, Bud, Schlitz. I drank my share of each, along with the other major national brands. They were all basically similar — pale, fizzy and restrained (some might say tasteless) in character.

Somewhere along the line I discovered imported beer. It didn't really matter where the bottle originated. Six-packs from all over the world offered a completely different experience from Miller, Bud, Schlitz. Even the clear, fizzy kinds delivered a punch and authenticity that were hard to match in the United States.

Apparently I was not the only one making this discovery, because it wasn't long before I began to hear about microbreweries and craft breweries appearing here and there across the land. Their goal was to make beer the old-fashioned way, the way people the world over had been making it for hundreds of years. It became possible to buy tasty lager, ale, porter and stout from domestic producers. When I discovered Sierra Nevada, I was in love. I made a pilgrimage to Chico to buy the t-shirt. They were a small local brewery then. They're nationwide now.

Shortly after I moved back to North Carolina from Texas our legislators repealed a law which had limited the alcohol content of beer to six percent. That opened the door to a whole class of delicious beverages that had formerly been banned. Now beer making in this state seems to be undergoing a renaissance. Craft breweries are popping up all over the place. There's even a guy who wants to open one in Saxapahaw.
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The weather station at the local airport reports that we got less than 0.1 inch of rain during the last twenty-four hours. Today March appears in ovine aspect, though there's a leonine wind stirring the equinoctial warmth.

Barefoot - Thanks for the sympathy. My uncle lived a long life, and I think it was probably a happy one, as such things are reckoned.

As for spacetime, at some point such discussions become philosophical. That seems to be the character of your argument. My philosophy -- and my intent in this blog -- are more practical. If it feels like time and looks like space, that's good enough for me. For me the simplest explanations are best.

With respect to time in particular, the idea that motivated this blog is the notion of causality. Events follow from other events in a timewise fashion. It seems to me that discarding the concept of time would make it harder to explain the causal chain. Why do our perceptions link together in this ineluctable fashion? Salt does not appear on your eggs until you pick up the saltcellar and shake it.

Why can you not cram escaped steam back into the tea kettle? Thermodynamics (entropy) figures into it, too. Time has a one-way arrow. You'll never step twice in the same stream.

Prose - When it comes to observing the niceties of life, you are as constant as the turning of the planet. Thank you for gracing my blog with your presence. :o)

shore - Right now I'm pretty sure it's the call of the disc golf course I'm hearing. The yard will still be here mañana. The weather this weekend is supposed to be cooler. That sounds like a better time to whack weeds and move mulch.
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Looks like you have a good start on that beautiful Thursday - 65 and clear is pretty close to perfection. Is that the yard I hear calling? ;)
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I just realized that your uncle passed away. I extend my condolences to you and your family.
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Hi Bogon,
Kinda skimmed through this time. Interesting discussions.

Sorry to hear about your uncle. Nice that you could make it to his services.

Re: the space time thing.
We have language to describe the passage of time, and we have even more language to describe motion from place to place. Some cultures do not have words for time. No Tuesday. No three months. We needed them, mankind made these words and devised calendars. Can't get omn the Mayan 2012 bandwagon, as you can imagine, because the concept is meaningless to me. Maybe I just don't understand it. I can see day and night, cycles of moon even. Beyond that, only existence. We just "are."

As far as space. Yes, we do have words, and then there are some words we have not yet found, like those for the space-less existence. That will come as the science discovers more and more universal truths. Makes me think of "warp speed, Scotty" for some reason.

Alas. Yes. I do make it for work and other obligations that have a "time." I don't like it, though, and I'm usually late. lol people who know me well accept this or tell me to be somewhere half an hour before the appointed moment. Even then... I do try though. lol

Night. Hope it's a good one. Sounds like you're going to get some rain.
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
We're having a cold front which is supposed to retreat later as a warm front. It's a bit rainish tonight, and it's supposed to be rainy again Friday. Meanwhile the prediction for Thursday is beautiful. Sunny, 75 degrees.

I think spring is here. The flowers are coming out. There have been things blooming (anomalously) since Christmas. Up to now has been early, but March 1st is open season. Frank Strait on Accuweather has given up on snow. The sun is coming back.

The bad news is that I really need to get out there and start working on the yard. The time has come.
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Rob, one reason I believe in some kind of objective reality is that it's too bizarre to be imaginary. Nobody could make this stuff up.

Not only that, but it's the same every dang morning. If people were making it up, they would surely change it up more. Some days the trees would be green, some days they would be pink, some days paisley. Nobody likes the same stuff every day. "Imagine greater."

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Be careful of "Mystery Brews", although it does sound intriguing!
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Yep, BriarCraft, Red Oak would fit the bill. Might have to go buy a growler.

...although the next few days promise to be warmer and dryer. If I get a chance, I hope to slake my thirst at a new brewery opening in Hillsborough this week.
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I didn't used to believe in reality. Thought it was all just a figment of my imagination. Then I realized that even I couldn't imagine anything as wacky as the world that we live in.

If reality is just a physical manifestation of our collective imaginations then some of you folks must be really messed up!

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Here's a bit of truth you might find provable.
Bock: best enjoyed on a cool, gray, rainy day. Or just about any day, for that matter.

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It's cool, rainy and gray in the north end of the Southeast this morning.

Outside on the lawn Wife's daffodils are putting on a show.

Does that mean it's spring?

Ylee, thanks for offering another example of a shared perception. See, the world does operate in a fairly reliable and consistent way. If it didn't, we probably wouldn't be here long enough to comment about it.
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41. Ylee
Unlike BF, I do believe in a symbiosis of space and time; the more time you spend at a buffet, the more space you occupy! ;-)

We too have daffodils blooming, the first time ever in February in my memory!
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Hi, BF! I guess the short answer to your question is that we evacuated. We drove right through the squall line 200 miles west to Mom's house over the weekend. The visit was planned come rain or shine.

We returned home this afternoon. I was somewhat gratified to see that home is still here. There was a tornado watch in effect when we left.

Well, as far as belief enters into it, I believe in objective reality. Most of us can agree that the clear sky is blue whether or not we agree on a reason why. We have language to describe the passage of time, and we have even more language to describe motion from place to place. I'm not saying that the world exists exactly as scientists (or anyone else) describe it, but I think there is something real being described.

We may only be seeing the tip of an iceberg, or we might be making a mountain out of a molehill. Our shared perceptions and the deductions and inferences based on those perceptions are the best tools we've got. If those fail us, then there is no reason to believe anything or do anything.

The success that we've had with science over the last few hundred years suggests that we're onto something, that we can make headway against our own ignorance, that we can learn about the world we inhabit, and that the knowledge we gain is worth seeking. Within that body of knowledge time and space remain useful concepts.

I understand that, despite your skepticism, you hold a job. I assume you somehow manage to arrive at the designated place at the appointed hour.
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Add: It took a while for the air to start stirring, but it's windy here today. At 11:00 o'clock the temperature was already 76°, and the forecast warns of 40 mph gusts, high fire danger and thunderstorms incoming. Sounds like Texas weather!

Was just checking to see how you fared with the weather Friday and I see you ain't been here!

Hope everything's going okay for you and yours.

Re: your blog entry... On space and time, I'm a skeptic. I don't believe they exist.
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It was warm in the northern piedmont Thursday afternoon, after the sun burned through lingering morning clouds. My car has a lot of glass around the passeger compartment, so the resulting greenhouse effect had me running the air conditioner in February. The owner's manual says it's a good idea to cycle the AC occasionally during winter. Generally when I fulfill that requirement it's because I need the defroster.

BriarCraft - Can I be rational without being a misogynist? I want to come down on the side of reason. Emotion is real, but it is a subjective thing. Reason can be shared objectively. Ability to reason is a thing that distinguishes Homo sapiens from other animals. Reason is our species' sharpest tool.

I don't want to dismiss emotion entirely. One can reason about emotion, and one can emote while reasoning. Both mental aspects have their place and purpose. We do well when we strike a functional balance.

As for laws and rules, sp is right that there is a category problem. In English we use the same word, 'law', both for physical things like gravity and thermodynamics and for social things like murder and speeding. No enforcement is required for physical laws. They apply always and everywhere. You can't break them if you try. Man-made laws, on the other hand, are readily flouted. All it takes is an action. (I started to say "a decision and an action", but one can break a social law without knowing or consciously trying.) Enforcement is spotty and reactive. Penalties may or may not ensue, depending on lawyers etc. We really ought to have two different words for these very different concepts. It would save a lot of conflation and confusion.

sp - With respect to gestation in space, I've been wondering whether there is any difference between aquatic and terrestrial species. Aquatic organisms are effectively weightless in water, although on earth they do exist in a gravity field: bubbles rise, fluids convect etc. Among land species embryos manage to develop normally, floating within their eggs (or wombs), with random orientation to the gravitational field. If there is some critical developmental stage determined by gravity, it's not obvious. In space it's possible to create alloys of metals that won't mix on earth. Perhaps that effect is enough to mess up embryonic growth.

One of the beauties of science is that we needn't wait for revelation. If you want to see the light, flip a switch. =o)

Rules are good for providing structure. Physical laws define the shape of the universe. Man-made laws shape society.

The thing to remember about social laws is that they are, in a sense, arbitrary. Different societies implement different laws. Each society changes its laws from time to time. In that sense these man-made laws are hardly sacred. They are only guidelines meant to help keep us out of trouble. They should be regarded with a reasonable suspicion for both their quality and their quantity. They should be enforced with discretion. The goal is not to inflict punishment on individuals but to foment a healthy society.

Rob - Thanks for taking the time to say howdy.

On my side of the family I have a mom and one aunt left. After they go, it will be my generation's turn.

On Wife's side things are more complicated. I'll leave it at that.


Don't forget to balance on your steady feet
Don't forget to listen to the ready beat


That's a catchy physical theory from Mr. Buffett. Over on WordPress I noticed you were trying your hand at technology review. Haven't finished reading your latest yet, and it may be a day or two before I Get A Round Tuit. Gotta go see Mom this weekend.

Add: It took a while for the air to start stirring, but it's windy here today. At 11:00 o'clock the temperature was already 76°, and the forecast warns of 40 mph gusts, high fire danger and thunderstorms incoming. Sounds like Texas weather!
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
Evening, Bogon,

Stopped by to see what was happening, and discovered you've had more "time passages" in your life. As you say, the journeys are for the living - I'm glad you were able to go to your uncle's funeral.

We have no rain or snow, but we have wind! A good bit of it, too. It started from the south last night and blew all night long. As I suspected, there's a front on the way. That's fine by me, except when it really cranks up I can't varnish. Ah, well. I'm used to it by now, but a little light grumping always seems in order.

I did find a word up above that I could relate to! Herewith: my science entry for the evening!

Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
Quoting Bogon:
I was in a place with no doubt or subterfuge. Even the politicians were honest.

The stuff of dreams!

Hey Boggy!

Just dropping by with a quick hello.

Yes, I lost 2 uncles who were very special to me in the last few years. Sorry to hear that you have experienced the same.
As you say, it's that time in life.
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
NASA's early quail egg experiments came up with really interesting results that did show problems in development without gravity. The article I was thinking of is more recent and covered a wider range of issues. The Chinese also did some chicken egg experiments, looking at protein expression (or something, mumblety, lol) on their recent flights. Squid embryos, too, have been sent to the ISS and, iirc, they did okay.
Sometimes I put links in a file instead of my faves so I'll go look there, at some point, and see if I can find it.
Doesn't matter - you see that there is much study to be done before humans start reproducing in low-g environments, which is all I wanted to say, with my usual amount of brevity.

Isn't checking for loose cables number 2 on the tech support checklist? After "Is the power on?" lol
And, yes, must run the experiments! The beauty of science - it may be slower than revelation but it tends to, eventually, get it right ;)

I like rules. I am entirely comfortable with accepting that, if I jump off a 30-story building (without support of any kind), I will most likely die as a result of the "rule" of gravity. Therefore, I don't go jumping off 30-story buildings. I wouldn't like living in a universe where gravity changes randomly. Well, that wouldn't even be possible. Rules are good ;)

I don't think one can compare physical laws to human-made laws. Some would like to, assuming that there are immutable laws governing society just as there are immutable laws that describe gravity (on a human scale). It's a category error. There are physical laws that describe the biology of humans which, in turn, may govern behaviors. That isn't the same as the laws humans make for them/our-selves regarding how we deal with those behaviors.
This ramble brought to you by: The Conscious Mind of the Procrastinator Commonly Referred to as "sp". Thank you.
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One hears such phrases as "rules of evidence", but for any set of rules there are people who refuse to be bound by them. In any debate listeners are as likely to be swayed by emotion as by reason.

More often when I was young, but still occasionally, I am one of those who refuse to be bound by rules. Especially seemingly arbitrary rules. I find it fun and often challenging to think outside the box.

I remember a semi-heated discussion with DH back when we were first dating. Well, not really. Actually, I don't remember what the discussion was about, but I do remember making a zinger that ended the debate and got us laughing. It also happens to be true. I announced rather emphatically, "That may be true for you, but I'm a woman and women are not constrained by logic!"

That might even be a provable truth. tee-hee!
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
Thanks for the sympathy, SP. My uncle's death was expected, as such things go. We've had years to get used to the idea that he was failing. The blow surely fell hardest on my cousin and her family. We made the trip more to support the living than to mourn the dead.

A loose cable, eh?

New data, however, will be needed to confirm this hypothesis.

Certainly wouldn't want to go off half-cocked. :o)
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
Hey! Thought you'd all like this - the FTL neutrino results may have been due to a faulty cable. Which is just funny, on several levels.

So sorry about your uncle, Bogon. You've had a time of it, lately.
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Oh, yeah, almost forgot.

It snowed while I was gone. I called up Wife on Sunday night. She looked out the window and exclaimed, because she hadn't realized that the intermittent rain, which had been falling all day, had transitioned to white flaky stuff.

It did not snow where I was in southeastern Virginia. I saw meager remnants of snow on north-facing slopes along the roadside as my cousin and I drove home yesterday. There was no snow remaining anywhere south of the state border.
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
Yesterday I had another funeral to attend, the last of my uncles. I reckon it's that time of my life.

BriarCraft - In the real world, most of the provable stuff is mathematical or logical. As a teenager I remember being disappointed by geometry class. I thought it would be about shapes, but it was about proofs. Those sorts of proofs are possible only if you narrow down your discourse to a set of axioms and rules for codifying observations. That's not very interesting to me. Perhaps it should be, but to me it smacks of cheating. The universe is larger than that. So what if you can 'prove' something within your narrow little playpen? In 1931 Kurt Gödel 'proved' that these logical systems are inherently limited and therefore suspect. When I heard about that (much later, certainly not in geometry class), I went "Aha!"

In our world we talk about proving things in a court of law. It strikes me that all too often what we 'prove' in court is, who retained the most expensive law firm.

In general it can be hard to prove anything to everyone's satisfaction. One hears such phrases as "rules of evidence", but for any set of rules there are people who refuse to be bound by them. In any debate listeners are as likely to be swayed by emotion as by reason.

The salient thing about my dream is that it was dream. I don't feel that I have to explain anything about it, because it wouldn't make sense in the real world. I was happy because I was in a place with no doubt or subterfuge. Even the politicians were honest.

I appreciate all the effort you put into researching your marvelous comment. I look forward to following your links and considering your verbal pointers at the first opportunity. For now, until morning, I'm moving toward the bedroom. Perhaps I'll have another memorable dream.

shoreacres - Well, our world is full of things that are probably true. At least, I think so. Lots of other people's mileage seems to vary. Some folks claim to believe things that I know are probably — even provably — false. Some claim to disbelieve things that to me are patently obvious.

sp34n119w - Thanks for bringing news of those egg hatching experiments, even if you can't supply a link. It's entirely possible that terrestrial biology won't function in space. I'm no expert. I do know that certain processes, such as diffusion and convection, work differently or don't work at all without gravity (or equivalent acceleration). Those sorts of processes are likely to be very important in the development of an embryo.

Please note that I am not saying that space-born humans would be what we earthlings consider physically normal. If living in space turns out to be possible, it will surely be different in all sorts of ways, not all of which we can anticipate.

Ylee - I don't know about crocodiles, but I always bite. :oB
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
29. Ylee
Hi, Bogon! If a crocodile can't stick its tongue out, how could it ever count how many licks it would take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop?

Give that question to the string theorists! :)
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
Howdy folks. Been out of town and off the internet for a couple of days. I'll get back to you later, I promise.
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
Oh this has gotten fun! Wish I had kept up.
On babies in space - it looks unlikely to happen. The experiments done on chicken embryos (they took fertilized eggs and watched them develop) indicate that gravity provides input to the development process. That is, gene expression is influenced by gravity, among so many other things. The embryos were so grotesque that, iirc, they ended the experiment (killed the embryos) long before they would have hatched, if they would have, for humane reasons.
Since humans continue developing for years after birth it also seems a bad idea to take children into a no- or low-g environment, at least until we know for sure what the effect would be.
I'll look for the article on the chickens - really good.
ADD: I can't find the article where I thought it was. Maybe it was a dream. If it was, it came with really cool pictures! lol

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Quoting Bogon:
Last night I dreamed I was living in the universe of Things That Are Provably True.

I was very happy there. :o)

This really is funny. When I first read this, I thought it was a mis-spelling, and you were talking about living in the universe of Things that are Probably True. It made perfect sense to me that you'd be happy there. ;)
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
Quoting Bogon:
Last night I dreamed I was living in the universe of Things That Are Provably True.

I was very happy there. :o)

Okay, so having an ever-curious mind, I got to wondering what, among the things we take as truth, are really, provably true. Certainly mathematical formulas, laws of physics. Anything in the scientific or engineering realm that doesn't have the word "theory" or "theorum" tacking onto it's name. And there are a lot of provable truths; more than this little mind can ever comprehend. But in the grand scheme of living my life in this world today, there's also quite a bit that I take for granted as true that may not be provable.

A search of "things that are provable" resulted in numerous links to sites about religion and the bible. Not what I had in mind. I did find an interesting discussion of science vs. culture which you might enjoy.

Segues being central to my being, I decided to search on "strange but true". Fun results. Here's something even my unscientific mind can get into. And they are definitely provable, you Bogon should be happy, too. Win-win!!

From Scientific American I found that:
identical twins' genes are not identical
fires can be extinguished with sound waves
snake oil really is a cure for what ails you
drinking too much water can kill
the Earth is not round

And then there is a strange site called pctechnician which really does prove that nerds are a species unto themselves and they know some really strange provable truths, such as:
a crocodile cannot stick its tongue out
the cruise liner QE2 moves only six inches for each gallon of diesel that it burns
a 'jiffy' is an actualy unit of time for 1/100th of a second
it's impossible to lick your elbow
wearing headphones for just an hour will increase the bacteria in your ear by 700 times
crocodiles never outgrow the pool in which they live, so if you put a baby croc in an aquarium, it would be little for the rest of its life

In theory, you should be a really happy man about now, but only you can prove it. Or can you? Isn't "happy" an unprovable, subjective, emotional concept?

And here I started by thinking what a blah world this would be if we only had provable truths to deal with and how could you possibly be happy about that? I think I just proved myself wrong.
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
Last night I dreamed I was living in the universe of Things That Are Provably True.

I was very happy there. :o)
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
Rob - All I can say is, it doesn't seem to bother the dog much.

Cal - The health question is still out there, because nobody has lived in space longer than a few months. So far everyone who goes to space wants to return to the blue marble. That means they have to somehow maintain a level of fitness suited to a one gee world.

If we keep trying, sooner or later space tech will improve to the point that somebody will be willing to cross the high frontier. Not long after that there will be a child born, the first human baby ever to begin life off-planet.

Without good medical evidence to the contrary, I would bet that people who choose to live in weightless or low-gee environments will survive, but they could find return to earth extremely difficult if not life-threatening. The kinds of places that look relatively easy to reach and colonize are low gravity planets, moons, asteroids or artificial orbital habitats. So if humans are ever to become a space-faring race, that is most likely where we'll start.
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Retired software engineer. "What is that?", you may ask. It's someone who has time to blog about the weather...

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