Monday, December 29, 2008

Hamas Mess

I am not an Israeli, and I am not a Palestinian, therefore I can probably have no authority in commenting on the horror of wars in the Middle East between Arabs and Jews (and so many other entities.)

But I do have an opinion, as unwelcome as opinions may be. It has been 60 years since the creation of Israel after the fall of the Nazis and the Jewish war with the Arabs to obtain a homeland. I have not witnessed any of those things directly, since I was not born yet when they occurred. I will most likely be dead when and if there is ever an end to the wars. So far they have occurred during my whole life.

The Arab perspective is always from the point of view of someone whose land has been occupied by outsiders. Naturally they feel wronged, displaced and oppressed. It is probably not fun to be an Arab in Israel or the Palestinian territories. However, there are also other Arabs -- not just Jews -- who contribute to the bad lifestyle of the Palestinians. And they also have themselves to blame. Much foreign aid has gone into those lands, only to be transformed into weapons or gangster kingdoms instead of a better lifestyle for the intended people.

The Israeli perspective is always from the point of view of people without a homeland, driven from every land they wound up in over the centuries, and with many exterminations and atrocities committed against them by their host peoples. This started long before there were any "Palestine" borders. Between the Greeks and Egyptians and Romans and, in modern times, by the Nazis and Soviets, the Jews had always been slaughtered and displaced, and in far worse conditions than the worst of the modern Palestinians.

Although I am American, and therefore am hated by all parties for various reasons, (both true and false,) I still have my point of view. I was born into America, and I had no choice in the matter -- no differently than a Jew in Israel or an Arab in Gaza -- to be born into that world whether one likes it or not is not a choice, it is a matter of circumstance. To be hated merely because I was born here is strange, but more common amongst the world's primitive societies.

If Hamas had a nuclear weapon capable of destroying America, there would be little hesitation before it was used. I am afraid they have such deep hatred for Israel they would use it immediately, right next door to Gaza, even if the effects would destroy most of Palestine as well -- one of those "martyrdom" operations that also wipes out unwitting women and children in a brilliant splendor of religious fanaticism.

Unfortunately, there are such nuclear weapons in the hands of precarious Islamic countries, although in Pakistan the balance of power is mainly between themselves and India, another precariously ruled nuclear power composed of several other religions. Both of those countries are consumed by religious extremism, however there are some rational people in control of the weapons launch apparatus -- so far.

In Iraq and Kuwait, at least partially radioactive materials are laying about on the ground in the form of depleted uranium, used by anti-tank weapons, A-10 Warthog munitions, and the armor of tanks and other vehicles.

I am not sure how easily one can collect such stuff, and fortunately it is "mostly depleted" and cannot be formed into nuclear weapons or power station fuel pellets. It is radioactive, however, especially when collected into unshielded piles. It is especially dangerous when vaporized and breathed, since it is also quite toxic - like many other heavy metals.

People who are living in poverty may be quite happy to collect the stuff for small amounts of money, obtained by some bad actors who may be more capable of using it in a dirty bomb, or making their own armor piercing weaponry. We should always be careful what kind of stuff we take out of Pandora's Box and scatter about in foreign lands.

I do wish that Israel and Hamas would find some sane balance, in which both entities could live more peacefully. But I know it is just a wish, some mistaken belief that people everywhere can be rational, to live and let live. Since my wish cannot come true, then, since Hamas only feeds the fanaticism of terrorism, which is also directed toward my children and my future -- I can only hope that Israel quickly "wins" their war.

But I know it will be just a temporary win, on whichever side, and in some future time it will be perhaps my grandchild who writes a similar opinion as this, in a future war of insanity, only to be followed by another, and another.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

$100 Toilet Paper Bills

There are many issues that peeve me in today's chaotic world, but the recent wave of economic disasters have gone far beyond the minor worries of yesteryear. There are bail outs for the super-rich, bail outs for the banks, bail outs for the crooks who spent our tax dollars on lavish bouts of prostitutes and murderous rampages (otherwise known as the War on Terror), and bail outs for everyone except the people who work for a living and generate the taxes.

And none of these bail outs will really work. Why? Because the problem isn't like a boat that is taking on a little water, where bailing out the water will keep the boat from sinking. These bail outs are like pumping gasoline into a fire, expecting to put out the flames. Or spraying the crops with herbicide to kill the weeds, but killing all the crops along with them.

We are spending money that isn't real, wasn't real and never will be real. It is fake money, made by printing presses, with fancy lettering and counterfeit-proofing and the signatures of government officials. But it is no more real than Monopoly money. It is just a certificate of value, but is based on nothing but promises. The same promises that politicians repeat to get elected, but never keep. The same promises that party boys use to get into the pants of young ladies.

But there are real things in the world -- food, medicine, houses, cars, computers and lots of other things. Those things have real value, but only relative to each other. Let me trade so many potatoes for a bottle of blood pressure pills. This computer that I'm typing this on must be worth at least as much as a set of tires for my car. And my car is worth at least a years rent in an average apartment.

But in terms of dollar bills? I have no idea what this computer is worth. Someone might pay $100, someone might pay $500. I don't really know what it is really worth in dollars, because I don't know what a dollar is worth. It keeps changing. It might be that today's dollars are about the value of a dime when I was a child. Maybe only a nickel. I don't even use pennies anymore -- they are a nuisance when shopping. I suppose if you saved enough of them they might be worth their weight in watermelons.

Yet, a penny is really worth more than a dollar bill. That is because I can pound a penny into some shape, like a strip or a wire, and it will conduct electricity. I can use the zinc or copper in the penny for some chemical purpose. About the only thing I could do with the dollar bill (or even a hundred dollar bill) would be to roll it up into a tube and snort something with it. Or I could burn it and keep my hands warm for about 10 seconds.

But, just recently, there was a wall street guy who admitted that he was a crook, and that his $50 Billion business was only a Ponzi scheme. Just a pyramid ripoff. The only good thing about that is that mostly rich assholes were burned by that guy. I certainly don't make enough with my software jobs to invest in that kind of stuff. Lucky for me. I may be poor, relative to those jokers, but if you got nothing, you can't lose much. Imagine losing like $7 Billion, or "only" $100 million. What does that feel like?

I will die soon enough -- I'll live another a decade or two at the very most. But my grandchildren will probably die of old age before our debts (created by the rich assholes that are stealing us blind today) are ever paid off. They may never be paid off. But even if they are paid, someday, it will only be in those worthless scraps of paper anyway. Go ahead, roll off another billion sheets of those hundreds, guys. And pay off the Saudis and Chinese with that stuff.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Those Darn Terrorists

This is the age of terror. No doubt about it.

Dr. Theodore John Kaczynski was the "unabomber" and he considered that technology was basically the bane of mankind. His writings, in the form of a manifesto (which was written sometime within the 1980 to 1995 range), described a future world where terrorists use high technology. That is a great problem, of course, and the governments of the world would use any and all high technology of their own to counteract it.

Of course, this technology would give police states ever increasing policing ability, thereby able to relieve man of all freedom, permanently. The unabomber manifesto was extremely detailed and seemed to ramble or rant, at least in my opinion. It was not inaccurate, in fact it seemed pretty much on target so far as the world of bad guys is concerned.

But the manifesto was definitely the work of somebody with a personality disorder, not to mention being exceptionally critical of capitalism and authoritarianism (although that was not his madness, only his politics.) Certainly, he was paranoid, at least in the street meaning of the word. Supposedly he does have real disorders of the mind, but anyone who feels like murdering other people on some whim of a manifesto must be implicitly irrational.

I don't want the terrorists to win - nobody wants that except them. People that murder other people indiscriminately can't be allowed to keep doing that, no matter what. In Texas they might say, "they need killing" - obviously the terrorists need to be terminated. Yet, anyone who could terminate all the terrorists would surely be able to terminate anyone at all, at whim. Those who did such things would become terrorists by definition.

If someone was fighting a war in our back yards, and if our children were harmed in any way, it seems that just about any technique that can "get those guys" would be acceptable. Yet, any actual success would probably result in a similar number of their children being harmed. The cycle of revenge would thereby repeat indefinitely.

The war is actually in our front yards, where the WTC stood and the damaged but repaired Pentagon still stands. It is something we cannot ignore. It is a real danger to our survival. The only fly in the ointment is that we have to only fight a war that wins, not a war that kills everything on the planet. Nor do we wish to live in a world similar to THX1138, where all aspects of emotion and mind are controlled by biochemical and cybernetic means.

If wars can be won without shooting, such as by countering their logistics or confounding their communications, and so forth, then that must be tried as far as it will work. It can at least minimize the amount of shooting necessary.

In terms of bullet cost alone, it would be cheaper to kill only those terrorists who are actually guilty of terrorism. The problem with that is that it may be extremely costly to put the one bullet to use, needing extremely difficult pinpoint locating techniques. In that case the solution tends toward using larger, less accurate bombs.

So we cannot win a war with an unremitting enemy, who will not fear death nor be deflected by rational argument, unless we become as unremitting and free of deflection. We must always become as terrible as our enemy or we will be defeated by them, one or the other.

If we must be defeated, but merely serve as the vanquished and not be tortured (perhaps we treated the Japanese as such after WWII) then defeat would not be so important. The Japanese have not suffered so badly at our hands. They have thrived. It would be better than death, at least, even in the spirit of Samurai.

The more likely result from defeat at the hands of Islamic extremists would be a bloodbath, with mass beheadings, etc. And all in the name of some weird sect of Islam that doesn't make any sense to the rational mind, and indeed pours gasoline on all fires.

Religions can be good or bad (from a certain frame of mind) but they cannot be rational. Anything that demands belief without some degree of proof seems to be sheer folly and cannot be rational.

If one wishes to believe in invisible pink bunnies then that's OK, but believing that Allah wants my head on a stick is not OK. To me it is a very clearly defined problem. I already have problems dealing with modern religions, which, though irrational, usually have found ways to live with each other peacefully. I can never live with an irrational AND violent religion.

The modern, peaceful religions are usually merely argumentative, however, not prone to hack off my head at the hint of disbelief in their particular view of Allah. I am not so afraid that Lutherans will bomb my house if I express some doubt in the views of Luther.

We will not win using religion, such as Baptists vs Sunnis. That has never worked. They will use any technology as a weapon, believing that Allah has blessed any and all weapons, however demented, against us. So we must use even greater technology as a shield, to protect us from such irrational extremists. But where the best or only shield might only be an even more demented weapon, then the irrational extremists will ensure that we must use it against them.

That is suicidal of them, no doubt. Ours is a choice then, between the bodies being either us or them. We may or may not be deserving of victory, but I think we must make sure that the bodies will be theirs. Hopefully I am wrong, and that rationality might prevail - no need to light up the nukes.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Soul

There are myriad stories in history about the Gods, hints of forces of nature that cause all events big and small, plain or mysterious, for pauper or king.

At some point, perhaps in Sumeria or Babylon or somewhere else in the ancient birthplaces of civilization and language, there became the concept of the "soul".

Many definitions of the soul involve a kind of separate being than our physical body, that lives inside it, or borrows it for at time. Others merely suggest that it is the motive spirit, that which makes our body move and feel and want to do things.

Yet, as a container of "holy spirit", such as in the Bible, the soul has been elevated to some divine place, where one's life after death will be lived, whether in eternal damnation or in eternal bliss. This seems a bit excessive, both in scope and content. I do not personally think of myself as being divine in any way. I have no connection to God that isn't shared by trees, insects and galaxies.

Spirit is an abstraction, so the soul is nonsubstantial. It was once "weighed" in the sense of having some mass, which upon death, was lost. Of course, simply expelling one's last breath would also expel some mass of water vapor which could account for this "soul" mass.

People are so attached to their ideas about the soul. It is an insult to suggest that it is just the same stuff that you feel in your brain somewhere, much like vision and sound. There is no physical "mind", only the temporary states of atomic interactions, the chemical soup of the brain as it is orchestrated by the fibers of nerves and neurons.

Upon death, one's soul may be lost forever, not to be missed by the previous owner, because there would be no consciousness to feel the loss. Otherwise, the soul may be passed on to the next generation, or just live in Heaven or Hell or some other place, in between, in a Purgatory.

But I do not believe anything. I only know that I am alive right now, and my "soul" exists as my mind and feelings right now. Whatever happens after death has never been proven to me, one way or the other. And I am patient. I will find out soon enough.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Bonfires of The Universe

On the surface of the planet Earth, in the 5 billionth year of the existence of its parent star, the Sun, on the edge of a continent near a vast ocean of saltwater, in a little house upon a hill, a man sits in a little room rattling the keys on a computer. In this man's head are trillions of little fibers, little organic wires, that interconnect all the billions of neurons and myriad worker cells. Collectively, these fibers and cells are called the brain. The man does not concern himself so much for this brain, except that it provides for his experience of life.

Inside the computer he clatters upon are thousands of little parts, and within the parts are thousands of other parts, and thousands more within those, until there are billions of little bits of dirty sand which bounce quadrillions of electrons back and forth to create the illusion of mathematical precision required to induce the colored surface before his eyes to display an image. That image is the picture of these very words.

Within the man's brain, somehow encoded by all those trillions of tiny fibers, there is also an illusion upon which the display of imagination is played. That illusion is the same whether the man is asleep or awake, and it is sometimes difficult to know whether the dream is real or reality is real, or if neither is real. The fleeting bits of light in our imagination combine into a picture of the world so realistic as to compete with the actual world itself for the label of reality.

Only a few fleeting lifetimes before his, there was no knowledge of this thing called the brain. Certainly it was known to be connected to life somehow, and in some ways it was thought to be a place where devils might reside, whispering evil deeds to the witless owner. Conversely, it was a place where God might whisper holy commands to counter the evil spells. Yet, more weight was given to the heart as the seat of consciousness, of life, of emotion and thought.

In truth, there can be no life without both the heart and brain. And even with both intact, life can be hard to maintain – there must also be blood and stomachs and all manner of bones and complicated devices, all working in concert to provide for our lives. Life is the unification of all the cells and mineral deposits within our bodies, and all the electrical signals which operate them, and all the conceptualizations we perceive in our spirits. There are only very tiny differences between the body of a healthy conscious man and that of a dying man in a coma.

Although many wish to deny the fact, we are a kind of animal. The concept of animal is often limited to beasts, such as dogs or cows. No one likes to think of themselves as a kind of ape. But there is no denying that we share nearly every aspect of our lives, our bodies and our minds, in one manner or another, with the other animals on this planet. We have blood, we have cells, we have molecules of DNA, we have pains and pleasures, we have hunger and fear. We share all those things and more with the other living creatures, and moreover we share many of them with plants and even microbes.

Then, to dispel the unpleasant concept that we are merely animals, we try to distinguish ourselves by the differences. Primarily, above all else, it is said, we have souls. Animals do not. We alone in the world gathered our souls around bonfires to celebrate and wonder of the mysterious facets of life.

I cannot prove whether or not other living things have souls. But, to avoid needless argument, I will just concede that a soul is unique to mankind. Surely there are qualitatively superior methods to our survival that no other living things seem to master. We can build cities and machines, alter the climate, repair our bodies with medicine and surgery. We certainly are a clever kind of animal, no doubt. The vast complexity inherent in being a human is certainly beyond casual comprehension. We seemed blessed by God, indeed.

But termites and ants can build cities. They, as well as mere microbes and plants, alter the climate. Our bodies and theirs have always been able to repair themselves within limits, or to supplement themselves with herbs and minerals to aid in healing. The main difference is that we can be aware that we are doing those things, rather than just accidentally doing them as a result of the trial and error of cellular evolution over billions of years. Instead, we can pass our observations directly to our children in the form of codes and signals, such as the words in this document.

That mere collisions of quadrillions of quadrillions of atoms accidentally clumped into something like ourselves is difficult for some to grasp. However, we are quick to attribute that effect to bacteria or viruses – mainly because we can watch it happen. It is too slow to watch it happen in more complex creatures. Yet, there is no line which absolutely, neatly divides the continuum from organic molecules to astronauts. The line seems to exist between living things and machines, although machines are merely an extension of our human bodies, like our bones and muscles are extensions of our nerves and organs.

Still, no other animal other than mankind (and whatever little critters hitchhiked with us,) has been able to travel across the deadly radiation and void of space to the moon and back, alive. That is something, certainly, that widely separates us from the other animals and plants of Earth. It is a grand accomplishment that no dinosaur or whale or tree had ever done in the billions of years of ever changing lifeforms before us.

Yet, with all our intelligence and curiosity, perhaps unique amongst the vast expanses of our galaxy, (or perhaps not,) we might be snuffed out in an instant by the random passage of some leftover rock careening about the local star system. Or we might snuff ourselves out in millions of degrees gamma ray bursts with our nuclear weapons. Or we might just starve to death by poisoning the world with garbage. I hope not, of course.

Beyond those possibilities, every day another star snuffs out somewhere amongst the heavens. Perhaps another is born from the vast clouds and ashes of other snuffed out stars to take its place. But whatever lifeforms, similar to ourselves or not, which may have called that dead star their Home, will have been snuffed out as well. All their art and history and cities will have vanished, completely erased from reality, just as mysteriously and completely as before they were ever created.

Unless we can reach into the heavens, and spread our fragile thread of life amongst the galaxies, amongst the life-giving and life-destroying bonfires of the Universe, our future in life is doomed as certainly as the day turns to night. This may be God's will or not, I don't know. Yet so far, though it seems very, very difficult, God has not prevented us from at least trying.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Stock Markets and Pigs in Pokes

The American people never cease to amaze me. After centuries of the patricians shitting on the plebians, they sit there and wait for more. 

I am not a Democrat, only an Independent. However, I think there has been a definite negative impact on America -- not only by terrorists, not only by Wall Street thieves and stingy tax avoiders and religious nut flakes. But by the entire populace of every place in America that makes up the Republican base. 

There has been a take over by the stupid. The pigs have taken over the farmer's house. There are lunatics in power, voted there by even stupider lunatics that have no common sense, no ability to imagine the future, and no ability to learn from the past.

They have been sold a pig in a poke. And they want to blame someone, anyone, but themselves.

Well, I won't be voting for a single, solitary Republican -- not even  a local yokel with no one else on the ticket.  This time I am an extremely angry voter, but I will not let my anger color my thinking -- and I know who was in power for the last decade, and who could have run the country in a far better way. I will vote out all the boogers.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

9/11 To Me

Today is the 8th 9-11 counting that fateful day.

I have been affected deeply by the event, almost as if I had been there, yet I lived almost as far from NYC as possible in the US, in northern San Diego. I did not see the early stages of the events of that day, live. However, I woke up around 8 or so, and by habit I turned on CNN to help wake me up for the day. I can't remember the exact times of anything, only that from that moment on my life was changed.

I turned on the TV just in time to see one of the towers coming down. I was still blinking and trying to wake up, not quite understanding what I was seeing. I didn't realize that it really was the WTC, or even that it was NYC, only that it was some building coming down in a cloud of debris as if it had been demolished by explosives. I didn't realize, at first, that it was because of jet airliners ramming the buildings.

But as my consciousness took in the sight and I realized what I was looking at I began to fear that I might have a heart attack. My heart was pounding as if a bear was attacking me. But it was only just the sight of this event on TV. And it was not until the news reporters tried to explain what was going on that I realized we were being attacked by terrorists. The same, raving lunatic terrorists that do every despicable act -- mad men.

Of course, what followed, the 2nd tower coming down, the wrenching agonized faces of people who crawled through the rubble covered with powdered concrete, steel, carpets, furniture and people -- this nightmarish scene burned itself into my soul. It has never left, and probably never will.

The sight of people jumping to their deaths a thousand feet below was horrifying beyond description. To have to make this choice -- burn to death or jump to death -- utterly horrible.

I knew immediately that it was Arabs. I didn't know who, I didn't yet know about the Pentagon, or about Flight 93, and didn't know that much about Osama Bin Laden or his terrorist organization. But I knew immediately, from the choice of weapon, who it was. It was Arabs. Only they, of all the people on the Earth, would do something like this, to kill innocent people for their stupid, fucking Islam religion.

I wanted an immediate response. This was war. I was in the US Navy during Vietnam and knew what war was all about. I wanted more than that -- not just a few bombs falling on Hanoi, or in the jungles of Vietnam. I wanted Mecca to be melted into a glass pool. I wanted a nuclear weapon to destroy their entire worthless "civilization", if you could call primitive morons such a thing.

All my humanity had left me. There was nothing called mercy, nothing called understanding, nothing. There was nothing but the need to wipe out the assholes that did this. I didn't care if it left a hole the size of the moon in Mecca, I wanted those sick assholes to die at the hands of the USA, using our most powerful weapons. Maybe this is what the idiots expected. Maybe it was in their plan. I don't know. But, to this day, I am sorry we did not do it.

We are in 2 wars. We haven't got but a handful of the cockroaches that did this. We haven't gotten Osama Bin Laden, and we killed Saddam instead, who was not part of the plot. Maybe he needed to go, too. I don't know. But that is not what I wanted. I wanted Osama Bin Laden's head on a stick. We have nearly bankrupted our country. We have idiots running our government, wasting the lives of our military personnel. And they will spend whatever deep pocket money they gotta spend to get re-elected, so they can keep on fucking this thing up.

Yes, I am angry today. I was reminded of the events of that day and I am fucking angry. No doubt about it. Tomorrow I may calm down again. The next day I may just do my work like every other day. But today I am fucking angry. I want the Islamic bastards that did this -- disemboweled with their heads on sticks -- at Ground Zero.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Why Blog?

A few years ago, as an out branching of technical capability and enormous increases in storage and processing capacity, the “blog” was developed.

"Web logging" or "blogging" is merely writing things down on a web page in a more or less regular fashion and perhaps linking to other sites that seem relevant or interesting.

My blog(s) are not all that interesting. I know this is true. I could purposely make them more interesting, certainly, such as by filling them with slander and obscenities, or posting gruesome images, or simply telling lies. I could write stories, post pictures of horribly mutilated bodies, or just babble on about programming futuristic computers, or write something else that would attract a specific category of person to this website.

But I am not a journalist, nor a novelist, nor a teenage boy filled with angst or a need to express gutter talk or whatever jargon of the hideous is in vogue. I am not looking for love, nor looking for hate – I really don't care all that much for emotional tripe and drama. I'm too old to get into flame wars and too young to just stop all this writing to just watch the grass grow.

I am a scientist, but I reserve true scientific journaling to another set of documents, or inside computer software, or recordings of the drawings on white boards, that sort of thing. I don't want to take the painstaking care to write symbols and taxonomies and attributions in such intricate detail when I write in a blog. Whatever readers this blog might have are most likely not very interested in such pedantic detail, although I can't ever be completely certain.

I still like to write about scientific things, or at least about technical things. I don't want to just lie about stuff, so I never claim to invent things I never invented. At the same time I don't want to simply give away the things I really have invented, so I won't write so much about such things in this blog.

But I would write about things in which simple opinion might be more fitting than pedantic obsessions. Such things as Global Warming fit that bill, of which I have some interest but have no academic degrees in those specific branches of study. So far as the climate is concerned, I don't think there is any question that pollution is a problem, and that mankind has done a terrible thing to our home planet.

Some may argue whether CO2 or Methane will accumulate to a catastrophic level, or whether simply driving too many gasoline engine vehicles is causing global warming, or any kind of change in the weather. Perhaps the central star in our system is the “guilty party” if the climate changes, or perhaps the climate just changes all the time for myriad complicated reasons having nothing to do with mankind. Certainly, the climate has changed many, many times before, and without humans to blame.

But arguing about those things is merely politics. Republicans tend to believe that oil is good and CO2 is not a problem. Democrats tend to believe the opposite. After all, the Bible does not talk about oil, or the climate, so it must not be important.

Politics, whichever side you are on, is the most certain evil. It creates bad blood and hostility between groups of people. That is what is certain and what is deadly, and no one can deny it.

It is also true that pollution is bad and that mankind is polluting everything in a destructive, suicidal manner -- regardless of its effect on the climate. It doesn't matter what happens to the weather, hot or cold, if we poison the entire world, kill all the fish, burn all the forests, reduce everything to a mass of decomposing goop – all in the name of rampant consumer capitalism and rich oil companies.

Communism is really no better than capitalism. Socialism (a more generic form of Communism) is no better than Tribalism or Militarism. All these belief systems do is temporarily change the behavior of vast numbers of people, and then return to the old habits that humans have always had, regardless of the good or the bad.

When we were just small tribes it was OK to burn stuff and move on, since we were too few to hurt the whole world. But even small tribes, over time, could kill off all the mastodons and woolly mammoths -- therefore we have always altered the world in some way. The problem is not a philosophy of good or bad – it is about survival. It is evolution, and about whether or not our species, or any species at all, can keep surviving.

Many people have been murdered in the name of one "ism" or another. Religion is famously guilty of hypocrisy, and many wars, executions, tortures and imprisonments have been performed in the name of some mental concept that really has no bearing on physical survival. When the whim of a sadistic king or the ravings of a maniacal holy man can result in the disemboweling of young children, then there are problems the the setup.

Making sense out of the world is a very difficult exercise. Elephants and lions and crocodiles also have to make some sense out of their respective points of view, and man is merely another sort of animal. Man does have a far more complex point of view, however, given the recursive effects of technology upon our impact on the world, so there is no pretending that we can just live our lives with the same disregard as sparrows and be able to survive fat and sassy. For that matter, even sparrows must obey the rules of flight and select just the right objects to eat, or they will not survive, either. They must also figure out how to adapt to a world that we have altered.

But the world is so incredibly complex that it seems to disobey the laws of entropy. Entropy does cause things to become disordered, or mixed together in hopelessly inseparable jumbles. So in that sense, entropy causes complexity. Yet this kind of complexity is mostly useless (but not entirely, as I will write of...), since the usual value in something, say gold, is because it has been refined and concentrated. I can give you an ounce of gold by giving you billions of gallons of seawater, but you would not be happy with that gold (and nearly every other element) since it is hopelessly mixed together with useless salts and slag and huge amounts of H20.

How could a machine sort gold from seawater? The act of sorting is a non-entropy function. The goal is to create order out of disorder. Not to mention the desire and mechanical intelligence humans have to sit there and sort things, it takes energy to sort things.

Heat can be used to melt things, and thereby separate heavier, denser materials like gold from lighter things like water, salts and other grime. The water would evaporate when hot enough to melt gold, so that problem would be easy – the vapor floats up into the clouds. Other things, like salts, might not melt easily, although they might be washed away with hot water, but not so much with gold.

So nature already has such means to separate gold from seawater. The underground geothermal cauldron mixes hot magma with wet sea floor and produces all kinds of metal precipitants, as well as minerals and other valuable materials, in addition to gold. However, there are also other complexities involved, such as the way volcanoes form, the releases of gases at different temperatures and pressures, and from the way solid rock cracks and fissures from the forces of tectonics.

Man is able to mechanically re-create these forces in miniature, sometimes, and thereby synthesize the formation of gold. Yet, even today, there is much more cost involved to chemically process huge masses of seawater compared to just digging a hole and finding solid lumps and veins of gold. Similarly, it is much simpler for me to just walk by the sea shore and pickup various seashells and stones than it would be for me to re-create such things with machines.

As time goes on, however, and all the easy places to find gold are completely panned out, then it may indeed be easier to chemically process seawater to obtain gold.

Food is considerably more valuable than gold. It is sometimes hard to believe, since any given weight of food is probably worth less than the same weight in gold, that is only an economic issue. An animal could be surrounded by pure gold and starve to death, so the animal sees no value whatsoever in gold.

Copper is another metal that is easier to get than gold, as well as being more common in seawater and other mixtures. For one thing, copper is able to recombine with other elements to form other chemicals and minerals. Gold is not so easily combined. Gold does have oxides, but the chemical bonds are so weak that the oxygen can be sucked away by static in the air. Conversely, copper sulfate is so tightly bound as copper and sulfur that only great effort and energy would be able to unbind them (yet, not so difficult as separating silicon and oxygen.)

Gold is better than copper for many reasons. Gold is heavier, it is less corrosive, it carries an electrical current with much less resistance and it is generally a prettier color (to human eyes.) Yet, so far as history is concerned, copper – in the form of bronze – was a more useful tool than gold. Many arrow heads, knives, swords, spears, shields and machine parts were constructed using the copper and tin mixtures called bronze.

Gold is also better than steel or even silver and most of the same things. Steel can be made as an alloy that is “stainless” similar to gold, however the main element iron is found almost everywhere on earth in large quantities, and almost no gold can be found by comparison. Iron is in our blood, in many stones, in dust and soil, and is mostly known as rust or reddish colored soil.

Iron is also at the heart of our planet in the form of a massive molten core (or at least very very hot, but at the pressure found there it may be nearly solid). Iron gives us the magnetic fields and protection from certain amounts of radiation. Yet, the radiation at the center of the Earth is probably very high too, in the form of nuclear fission by uranium and other radioactive elements. This radioactive stuff is thought to be running down, leaving our planet both somewhat cooler and without a protective radiation shield at some point in the relatively near future. Don't count on that to save us from “global warming”.

Yet, there will always be some convection currents of melted rock mixed with molten iron around the core for millions of years to come, so I think the effects will be very gradual, and probable that the sun will have come to a bad state before then. We will be dead long before then, though. Extinction of all life will eventually come, like a battery that runs down, without able to be recharged, no matter what we do.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Killing People

I have never killed anyone, never in Vietnam, never in an automobile accident, never in any place. I never (knowingly) killed anyone.

On the other hand, as a country, we have killed people. Lots of people. Millions of them. I am not exactly happy about it. It certainly is not something to brag about, especially since a lot of those people were Americans. They were killed by other people, other Americans -- either in wars, medical accidents, automobile, train or airplane accidents, or in myriad crimes, blunders, and corporate monetary decisions.

The Civil War alone killed about 600,000 Americans. Whether they were Union or Rebel soldiers, they were still Americans, and we killed them -- we killed our family members over belief systems and basically over the right to own slaves -- which we also killed, although they were not "considered Americans" by those who did the killing.

Medical experiments, hospital errors, doctor blunders, pharmacy mistakes, etc, etc, have killed millions of people over the years. Some might have died of disease or pre-existing injury anyway, eventually. Yet that isn't much to brag about.

Cigarette companies have truly murdered hundreds of thousands of Americans, millions of people worldwide, every year for decades. They don't call it murder, of course -- its business. So many people made so much money from killing so many people, they just couldn't help themselves.

Conversely, even trying to kill people in Japan during WWII, we were only able to kill a couple hundred thousand using our atomic bombs, counting those who died over the years from complications of radiation poisoning. I'm sure we could do better today. Our nuclear warheads are thousands of times more powerful and cities are many times more closely packed with people.

In Vietnam we suffered almost 60,000 dead. They suffered at least 4 million, however Americans were not the only ones doing all the killing. We tried real hard, but the Vietnamese themselves proved to be the winners of the killing contests. I think we might have killed close to 1 million, but it's hard to be certain.

The Nazis, the Japanese, the Russians, the Chinese, the Cambodians, and lately, the Muslims, have killed uncountable millions of people in the name of war, politics or religion. For the Nazis it was just "technically necessary" to kill all those who opposed them, including some 6 million Jews who just happened to be the scapegoat for all Nazi problems. The other warmongers and ideologically driven madmen like Stalin and Mao had to kill off all the "intellectuals and deviants" for the sake of the state. The Muslims have Jihad -- the holy necessity to kill everyone who believes differently than them.

I think the current, worldwide issues like religion, oil or water resources, food and living space -- all contribute to an increase in the number of people being killed. There might be lulls in the killing in some years compared to others. There may be actual ends of wars, agreements over resources, decisions to decrease the killing, and even accidental failures to kill people, that keep the population climbing. Yet, the more people that are born, the more people that are killed.

What do I want? I certainly don't want more killing. I don't want to be killed, nor do I want my children and grandchildren to die before their natural time. I just want peace and quiet. Why do so many people feel that killing others is the only solution to problems? I have no idea.

Am I a Pollyanna? Nope. I'm smart, cynical, skeptical, suspicious -- and I'm a good shot, I can use a gun, knife or even my bare hands if I ever have to. I look at the news and see stories about madmen in other countries trying to kill us all, and imagine that someday, somehow it may come to the necessity of self-defense. We may be forced to, once again, kill millions of people to keep them from killing us.

I am especially troubled by Muslims and countries with nuclear weapons (or both combined, especially...)

I imagine some great horde of Muslims, whipped into a frenzy by hate speech spewing zealots, trying to kill every non-Muslim in the world. It is part of their religion, part of their history, e. g. the Ottoman Empire and the Persian Empire. They want to conquer the entire Earth and convert or kill everyone who stands against them.

Likewise, there are those with very powerful weapons, including ourselves, who feel that the solution to every problem is to turn some city into a pool of melted slag. I'm not sure that it is even possible to end a war completely using such a method, but certainly it is possible to ignite a conflagration which could destroy most of the life on this planet. I think the resulting deaths of billions of people and trillions of plants and other animals would not be the desired end.

Yet, when I think of the current problem between "us and them", namely between the Western Civilization and the Islamic Theocracy, I am not on the Islamic side. I am on the side of Western Civilization, nothing less. So, if it comes down to them killing billions of us, or for us to kill billions of them, I am for the latter.

In other words, I see a future where conflicting belief systems, similar to those of the Civil War, the various world wars, and endless conflicts throughout history, will result in killing a very large number of people. Necessary? I don't know. Inevitable? Maybe. Horrible? Certainly. Stupid? Of course. That is what people are all about.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The TRUTH about UFOs

The simple fact is -- that there are no UFOs, at least that is the fact as dictated by many government agencies and understandably skeptical technical people. Many blue collar beer barrels simply assume the whole subject is just so much "[expletive deleted], as well."

But these are not the people who have seen them. Surely, a person might still perceive a mystery craft in the sky where there is nothing. The mind may construct optical illusions or hallucinate things and the person does not need to be mad or flawed in any way. Just looking at the sky can cause the eye to reveal all kinds of little things that go unnoticed during normal daily viewing.

But the devices may actually be real. Then one of the mystery things can be either some normal device that is mistaken as to shape or purpose, including those famous "Venus as a flying saucer" sightings. The Moon has also caused many people to be convinced that a machine of some kind was following them.

The parallax effect of vision is obvious to some people but not necessarily to everyone. Any bright star or planet in the sky can then be mistaken to possess a "following" motion. This is simply the effect of far distant objects having less apparent motion than closer objects. The bushes beside the highway seem to rush by whereas the distant mountains pass much more slowly.

There may be, however, actual devices in the sky other than objects in space that cause the sightings, whether flying saucers, airplanes or helicopters.

There are also experimental military machines, or at least test machines of SOME kind. Even unclassified industrial experiments might be held in secret in order to lessen the knowledge gained by competitors. The military is more secretive, of course, and once things sink into the military industrial complex they become mired in thick layers of obfuscation. Even unnecessary things become covered up by military personnel simply to avoid responsibility for anything whatsoever that might go wrong. Order too many boxes of toilet paper? Cover it up.

Now there still exist the possibility of exotic machines that lie outside all the above attempts at explaining them. But since there is always the probability of error in every report of such machines (unless they just stop and allow people to crawl all over them, taking copious pictures), there can never be absolute scientific proof. It might be 50% true, or even 90% true, but never 100% true. This is often the case in legal cases, both criminal and civil, although it would seem that 100% truth would be preferable in death penalty cases.

To a person who has seen them (and whom I have talked with directly,) there is none of this wishy-washy explaining away of things. They saw a machine which was obviously metallic, with glass windows or portals, and it was able to hover and move in ways no regular aircraft can move. This does not mean they are "alien space ships" or whatever, only that they are not obviously any known kind of machine within that witness's knowledge base.

The people who claim that the creatures flying these machines are alien might be a bit overreaching or they might actually be telling the truth, although I have no way to prove them wrong, nor are they able to prove themselves right. There are many cases of sightings and they might range from "automatic electronics set on autopilot" to "humanoids from The Xanadu Galaxy." I don't know what is really true about that but I would bet money that it is not the latter.

But I will listen to whoever has anything to say about these things, without jeering, pointing fingers, hurling derision or inflicting humiliation. Nothing of it has been proven conclusively, true or false, although much has certainly been debunked. (Swamp gas IS NOT a substantial substitute for a real explanation!)

The burden of proof is still on the witness in these cases, yes, but one cannot prove a negative, either. It is much like the Atheists versus the Theists. Both are believers in something which cannot be proven. Yet, if God decided to talk to me, I'd listen. Even if it was all in my mind.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The End Of Machinery

This idea, that there would ever be a time when there were no more man-made machines, seems nearly obvious and nearly unthinkable. Man is so completely dependent on technology of one kind or another that to rid the world of machines first depends on ridding the world of us.

It might be harder to get rid of us than to get rid of tyrannosaurus rex, but much easier than getting rid of ants. And ants would be easy to exterminate compared to primitive bacteria. And short of increasing the minimum temperature of Earth from space to 20 miles deep into the crust to 1000 C, I'm not sure there is any way of killing off every sort of life.

However without stone axes and other primitive tools, humans would probably have died out. We are not so tough as other apes, and there are few environments on the Earth where we could run around naked all year round. Surely just a few humans could strip the land bare of edible plants, and indeed our ancestors had to migrate long distances to find or hunt food, even with tools.

But what if no one alive knew how to fix a car? What if no one understood electricity or computers? Would we be able to transport ourselves and feed ourselves if all the special jobs were unmanned? The only way this could work is if machines did all the work. A machine would have to know about fixing machines and how electricity worked and how to get us from point A to point B.

I don't think it is completely out of the question that humans someday forget everything we know, and that some system of machines would survive by providing us with our sustenance. We would kill them all if they were completely useless, which might be true even if they were indispensable. The proof is that no matter how tiresome it might be to manufacture arrowheads and stone axes, we didn't throw away the technology -- we passed it down the generations.

The facts are slightly different with computer technology. For instance I know a great deal about computers, enough to design and program very complex systems, Yet I do not know every aspect of the technology in order to build a Pentium chip from scratch. I would need some chemists, metallurgists, electronic engineers, logic designers and so forth. If my job ever required such knowledge I would have learned it, but it never came up. I could just go buy such chips.

I do not know how to grow coffee, or make leather shoes, or weave cotton into a green shirt, or most of the things I use every day. Certainly I have no idea how to build plastic computer keys or LCD monitors in order to write this message. I could learn most of those skills individually, although some people may have a knack at things I might suck at. In fact I think most people could iron a shirt much more neatly than I could.

I actually have sat around and chipped away at rocks, trying to make arrowheads, mostly just making broken gravel and nicking my fingers until they were too sore to even touch a rock. I guess the ones I made would serve the purpose in a pinch, but I imagine the average cave man would have me beat solid.

I can also kill and skin animals. I don't like to, and I would probably be happier eating more vegetables and less meat if I had to do it more often. Yet I could survive in those conditions. I don't think I could learn all that stuff and be able to write endless amounts of computer programs, too. And I think it gets more and more complex to interact with all the technology we have, until it is hopeless for any one person to ever keep up. At what point do we just give up?

Friday, August 1, 2008

The Anthropic Principle

The Anthropic Principle derives from the fact that our Universe is so well balanced, whether by intelligence or by accident, as to provide exactly for the conditions of our own existence. It is always annoying to butt our noses into everything the Entire Universe is doing. We are such nosy monkeys -- and we insist that everything be "about us."

Yet, any theory which describes the mechanisms of the Entire Universe must also describe our own existence, at least that of minimal life forms, as a subset of all the universal mechanisms. So far we haven't even described a theory that accounts for 5% of Everything. This is not so bad, though, since there is no "law" which states the Entire Universe must make sense to humans.

It may be the case that humans are not necessarily too stupid for such knowledge, but that "Everything" simply does not make any sense at all, even at the most fundamental level of existence. The existence of a tiny "particle" such as a photon may itself depend on the existence of everything else, and certainly there are ratios of the masses of electrons to protons which are constants -- as though there were gear teeth in which one turn of a proton would equal some exact number of turns of an electron (this is not a true analogy, of course, just an example of ratios...)

Yet, there are also no obvious laws that state it should be preordained that anything at all exist, let alone that all this fantastic complexity of stuff that we experience around us. It is as if we won the cosmic lottery -- the prime miracle. So, the prime miracle is that energy, space, matter and time (thus all of us who are comprised of such stuff) have the audacity to simply exist.

It is only a further, tiny deviation from that prime miracle that gravitational force must have an exact ratio with electromagnetic force and that the strengths of all forces (that we know of) are so exactly intertwined in such a way that humans and stars are possible to form -- or even that any single subatomic particle could form at all.

My usual tendency, when stuck on some process of vast complexity, is to rely on evolution to find a non-entropic method of existing within an overwhelmingly entropic Universe. It is as if a butterfly could somehow exist within an atomic explosion.

It is easier to think that the whole of space/time might be filled completely with almost entirely diffused heat -- but due to the huge space and limited heat, almost at absolute zero temperature. We would all lose our warmth and freeze up, never to move again, except as possible cinders to collide with other such cinders -- each increasingly rarer collision providing a little more energy, postponing the eventual icy end, but beyond any hope of returning to a life sustaining state.

Certainly, if the Universe was just a box full of cats in totally empty space, there would be a brief chaos of rapidly moving warm fur and claws followed by an eternity of frozen solid, motionless fur and claws. The "Big Bang" can be thought of as suddenly creating a very, very large box of cats in this analogy. If the current theories of the Cosmos are correct, and the Universe is expanding with ever increasing swiftness, then the distance between clumps of atoms (such as galaxies and stars) will presumably increase indefinitely, stretching the fabric of space so thin that it would be only infinitesimally significant (as if space had a measurable thickness.) Space would then be utterly transparent yet utterly black, supporting no photon propagation whatsoever, since all atoms would be frozen and cease emitting photons at all. Nothing could then be seen to move again, since there would be no time left to measure movement against.

If all atoms and other particles stop moving, then the Universe must stop as well. Yet, into this cold death would be the remains of the Entire Universe, like the ashes of a mighty fire that can burn no more. The ashes would be the blackened frozen dwarfs, tiny remnants of once mighty stars which shine no more, so far apart that even gravity has no meaning. All the once fearsome black holes, the crushers of everything into nothing, will have decayed as well, like popped bubbles of time, to crush no more. This doesn't matter, really, unless you believe you will somehow live forever.

But the meaning of all this is that, in the end, the Anthropic Principle will have evaporated with the substance of the Universe itself. No animals, no bacteria, no living things of any kind would remain once the Great Heat Death enveloped them. And if life depends upon water, then the Great Death would have occurred very long before the final stars snuffed out.

There does remain, however, the question of whether other Universes exist, Anthropic or not, in which existences come and go for all eternity (a term which is recursively dependent on the existence of time.) It could be that our "little" Universe is only one of countless others, bubbles of who-knows-what cosmic physics where time may only briefly exist or space may remain an infinitesimal pin point, or might become vastly inflated but entirely empty.

There is also the possibility that this is the only Universe to ever exist, (which most people probably assume,) and once all things have passed, then that is that. If that's true, then there is the question of how all this stuff like ourselves just happened to beat zillions to one odds against us -- lottery which would make winning the California lottery seem like an absolute certainty.

Did energy, space, time, quarks and atoms just evolve randomly from the meaningless ether? I suppose it is possible, since we are speaking of very, very unlikely things in the first place. It could also be that the "big bang" was actually a very long, complicated bang which only seems compressed into a tiny time slot by our looking back upon it from billions of years since. In such a situation, within the great "Big Bang" could have been zillions of "little bangs", each a tiny experiment, with the penalty of non-existence sufficing to end the experiment.

Obviously we exist now, so there must have been at least one "little winner bang" to eventually become us.

Now, I cannot assume that I know everything about physics, nor about metaphysics, so that I have "left out" the question about a supreme being having created all this stuff, including ourselves. I am not really leaving out anything, since I am also assuming that there are "dark matter and dark energy", which I know nothing about since no one knows anything about such things.

God, assuming there is such a being, is simply a part of the Entire Universe, and as such is not available as an external factor in the creation. The question of where existence came from, or where God came from, remains intact no matter which theory of creation one pursues. You just can't get around the fact that "something" came from "nothing", whether God created Himself, or if God simply existed forever and ever, long before the Universe as we know it existed. This is like the "turtles all the way down" response to the ancient idea of what holds up the "Turtle that carries the World."

Infinity is another issue I have long argued -- unless one can actually count infinity sheep, then there is no such thing as infinity. Whether one replaces sheep with atoms, space points, time points, or whatever, is immaterial. The point is that no human can count that many things. The definition of infinity as being "indefinite" or "countless" is probably OK, and certainly the mathematics of canceling out infinity by division is still valid, since any variable X can be handled algebraically, regardless of its content. But the actual concept of a number called "infinity" is bogus.

To assume that there is such a number "infinity" and then to have an "infinite number of infinities" is just further folly. No matter how many times one multiplies infinity by infinity, there is only one infinity left in the answer column. I bring up infinity because it has caused so many problems for scientists or scholars in the past.

The "electric field" was once thought of as a continuum, and as such could be divided into an infinite number of points in a sphere (regardless of the size of the sphere itself). This turned out to be false, and that electrical charges are finite, and there is a maximum number of divisions one can make of the electrical field until a definite amount of charge is encountered which cannot be divided.

The idea of an infinite space for the Universe seems to run into this same problem. Early ideas about space seem to think of it as a continuum which can be infinitely divided, just like the electric field. If one holds a cubic millimeter of space in a container, then it should have exactly infinity points within that container. Expand the container to hold the Entire Universe and there are still exactly infinity points within.

This is silly, since there are also quantum jumps -- point-like locations in which particles can exist or not, which some theories invoke finite numbers of tiny "strings" or "space vortexes" as explanation. At any rate, when attempting to understand the Universe's "Big Bang" beginnings, there either has to be some kind of preexisting room into which the bang expands, or the space itself is created along with the stuff that is expanding.

Since normally things can only go the speed of light, it seems like the absolute distance the presumably spherical Universe's edges could be apart would be whatever X age of the universe is (i.e. 13 billion years or so) times 2 -- some 26 billion light years, depending on X.

Some ideas about this initial expansion include a "special time" in which the expansion can go extra fast, so to beat light particles and matter, otherwise it is difficult to understand the boundary conditions between existence and non-existence if something like a photon is butted up against the edge of the Universe as it propagates.

Since there is this stuff called "dark stuff" -- dark energy, dark matter, whatever it is it's dark -- there is plenty of room for speculation. We know little about the dark stuff other than it must be there and have some amount of mass and so forth, in order to explain the behavior of galactic spirals and lensing effects observed through telescopes.

It is fun to speculate that the Universe is composed of lots of little "dark dots" of some kind, but I really don't know what good it does unless it actually explains something precisely. One thing dark stuff would be good for, assuming a few magical quirks, is to "expand more rapidly than light", and thus allow light, atoms, gravity, and so forth to propagate within as the Universe expands without.

Another manner of explaining things is also conjecture -- such as imagining that the Universe was always the same exact size and that everything is merely shrinking inside that preexisting, finite shell. If we are getting smaller or the stuff our leptons are made from is getting more crowded together, how could we know any more than know if we were getting bigger? Without an external frame of reference, which we don't have, there is no way to know.

For all we know we might be inside a kind of giant dark black hole made from enormous amounts of dark matter, but which envelops us within a bubble of local physical space/time laws. The laws might not always be "Anthropic" in each bubble, so it may be just lucky we are in the bubble we are in. The bubble may be the Entire Universe, or it might only be something completely local like a galactic star system. However, observations of far distant objects shows a consistency and continuum of red shifts, blue shifts and other phenomena related to energy interactions with matter. If there is a bubble effect on the laws of physics, it does not seem to be localized.

The other problem with infinite expansion: is there an absolutely unbounded "place" for the Universe to expand within -- preexisting space? Even if it was a "dark place" or a regular space/time place, what does it matter. We cannot get outside to measure it or to find whether there is an edge or not. Or does it eventually butt up against some other limit, such as the edge of another Universe?

If there is some Universe Foam -- like a sea of bubbles, of super universes -- that would be OK, but it does take the concept of the "special status" of Earth to extreme depths. We are not only NOT the center of our star system, nor especially of the Universe, but we may only live in one of zillions of universes, and not necessarily the "Boardwalks and Park Places" amongst them.

Whatever, I guess it doesn't matter until the properties of dark energy and matter are pinned down. All the speculation in the world adds up to less than a pebble of reality. The fact the we exist is puzzling and the probability of our existence having emerged at all may be very near 0.0, yet the fact that we exist is 1.0. So all the probability analysis in the world may not amount to a hill of zeros.

Friday, July 25, 2008


It is always intriguing to think that "I know a special secret", but it is so often untrue. Usually, everything I know is pretty boring -- everybody else already knows it, nobody wants to hear it.

So it is with my opinion of conspiracies. Everybody already knows that JFK was killed by [insert villain here], and that UFOs come from [insert planet here], and that [they] are putting fluoride in our water, and that [some international cabal] is controlling the world, etc, etc.

The problem is that I don't really know the truth about any of these things. I suppose the truth of each subject in which conspiracies are proposed is probably pretty boring. There probably was nobody but Oswald who schemed to kill JFK. There probably aren't any aliens from anywhere and there are very few international groups which can effectively control the world, although Lord knows they try.

Yet, even choosing the most boring possibility is no guarantee of throwing cold water on a conspiracy theory. That's the beauty of them -- they are always proposed in such a way that no one can prove anything about the conspiracy -- that is unless the actual villains come out and admit their scheme, complete with proof beyond a shadow of doubt.

No one can disprove the JFK conspiracies, because it is always possible that Oswald had accomplices who got away with it. It may not be proven that any extra bullets were needed, it is possible that just the 3 shots from Oswald's gun was enough. The only other issues would be the motive. It seems nebulous to me as to why Oswald would shoot JFK. Just for the hell of it? For money? As part of the CIA? Who knows?

Aliens are a crazy bunch. They fly around the star systems, looking for poor, unsuspecting sentient beings on various planets -- subjecting them to invasive probes in the most private of areas on their bodies and casting them aside like so many used prostitutes. OK, I suppose that could be chalked up to scholarly pursuits. Kind of creepy really, yet there no proven kidnappings by aliens -- just a kind of speculation about what might have happened to many missing persons.

I won't bore the reader (myself?) with an endless stream of examples. But perhaps I could simply create a conspiracy of my own. I need another person, of course, otherwise it is merely a secret. There must be more than one person in a conspiracy. So I could select my wife as a (possibly) willing co-conspirator. Our subject could be that I know a woman that is selling a house for less than its market value. She will demand a deposit, I will perform a "credit check". Then she disappears with the deposit check, but I actually perform the credit check and determine that his credit is [whatever it is]. I have the person's trust, but my wife has the deposit check.

So, I promise to retrieve the check from this "rogue" woman, but only the portion greater than the credit check (some arbitrary fee which is greater than the fee charged by an Internet credit service.) I return the partial amount of money and pocket the difference. The person is glad to get away with their shirt and the knowledge that their "credit is good."

I do not have the actual courage to do some illegal thing like this -- the payoff would be way too small to risk some kind of long prison sentence for fraud and conspiracy. And certainly I would not want to also risk my wife's freedom too. So the motivation to actually insufficient.

Instead, if the motivation was to hide alien technology from stupid humans that would use it in the least responsible way immediately (as is usually the case in stories about Genies granting wishes...), then a conspiracy of secrecy might actually be in order -- so long as the group truly was responsible and did not simply hog the technology for themselves. That is probably the more likely outcome of such a conspiracy. Yet that very fact is what might make such conspiracy hold together, even over a large, multigenerational group of people.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Washington Times is a Moonie

About the Moonies that populate our country. I am usually not involved so much with religions, avoiding most like the plague and the rest seem merely unnecessary. But there are some religions that are outright psychotropic propaganda, with much ado about finances in virtual pyramid schemes.

My feelings are usually "Who cares?" Let the nuts whack themselves silly. Yet there are aspects, especially regarding children or people with weak constitutions who may be completely converted into "Moonies", "Devotees" or Scientologists -- whatever they are called or labeled. They leave friends and family, seemingly for good, to devote themselves to whatever "great master", "Father", etc., (usually a male), and hand over all money, belongings and future duty to "His" cult.

But, in the case of Moonies, I really don't like the King Ant of Korea to come milling around in America creating Moon Zombies and right-wing operators for the God-Ordained Republicans. He can only do this by using huge sums of zombie money and the convenience of right wing courts.

And don't bother trying to convert me or pester me with religious tripe. I'm too old to learn any "new tricks." If I am going to Hell -- so be it. At least I will be able to see His Royal Heavenliness, Reverend Moon, every damn day.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Aliens in the Universe

There are few encounters between living creatures that would be as severe as those between aliens from a far distant world and ourselves. Of course there have been fictional stories, fictional movies, and even the so-called "non-fiction" writings of people convinced that such an event has already happened. I don't know for sure, of course, but it does seem rather far-fetched to believe such aliens have visited us already.

There are millions of stars within a few thousands of light years of Earth. Most of those stars are able to be home to many planets, and some of those planets might have some conditions which allow life to either evolve from scratch, or to be colonized by preexisting life forms. So the idea that there might be other beings on some planets is not far-fetched at all.

Not all stars would be as homey as our little Sun, which glows pretty much in a stable, medium simmer. Our world benefits greatly from stellar energy from our Sun, but it would not be such a great thing if the Sun were 100 times brighter or larger, or if our orbit was a hundred times closer. Aliens might be imagined to be able to evolve in very extreme conditions compared to our own, yet there seem to be limits where temperatures are measured in thousands of degrees or more, or where the radiation from the star destroys any organic molecule before a life form could ever make use of them.

Plus there is little hope that the laws of physics can be warped in such a way as to prevent space-time and energy relationships from killing any creatures brave enough to attempt a visit to our neighborhood. This presumes that humans in our current state can derive the true laws of physics and the limitations thereof regarding space travel are true. From what I personally know about particle/energy physics, it does seem pretty hopeless to expect anything like "warp speed" or other science fiction concepts. Yet it is not necessarily utterly hopeless. There may be some glaring mistake in our current scientific knowledge which makes our own understanding of physics like that of a small child.

Aliens might have lived for many thousands or millions of years longer than our civilization. It is not a slam dunk, of course, but there are animals on our own planet that have outlived humans by hundreds of millions of years. Plus, if one counts unicellular life forms, then we have been outlived for billions of years. Those simple life forms have not been so successful as humans at technical feats such as reaching the Moon for a short visit and returning alive. Yet, we owe our very lives to the relentless work of those tiny, ancient living things for converting the Earth into a place which can support animals like us. Likewise, there are many other plants and animals upon which we depend for food. This pyramid of life forms is a package deal, without the base at the bottom, there can be no apex supported at the top.

It may be true that humans on Earth are alone in the Galaxy. If this is true, then there is absolutely no hope that we would be visited by any aliens, even if there are such beings on planets around the stars in other galaxies. The closest major galaxy to our own is the Andromeda Galaxy, some million light years away. And most other galaxies are billions of light years away. I am not very keen to spend a billion years in a space ship traveling at light-speed, just to visit a hellish planet where some bacterial or fungal growth has evolved intelligence.

Before jumping to far off galaxies, we would be better off examining our own first. Even within our home galaxy, the Milky Way Spiral, there is a kind of "pleasure zone" or "Goldilocks Effect". where the density of stars is not too high and not too low. We need a dense enough gas presence from which our Sun could be formed (after possibly 1 or more generations of star death.)

We do not need intense amounts of gamma radiation which occurs in denser "boiling" regions of the galaxy where stars are often being swallowed by other stars or where black holes form from heavier and heavier stars.

We would never have evolved on the planets of slow burning small stars that rarely convert their hydrogen fuel into metals and other heavy elements during supernova explosions. That part of the galaxy is more or less "frozen." The elements of life must, at a minimum, involve carbon and hydrogen, and the carbon element is not easily formed without a supermassive star's alchemical fusion death.

So maybe there is a 1/3rd of the galaxy where we could possibly live in, or at least have naturally formed within. Maybe this is true for other beings in the Universe as well. Perhaps the bands can be mapped onto the selection of stars we examine for life signatures. There would be no need to waste telescope time outside of the "life band" of the galaxy. So our efficiency at finding life planets can be multiplied by 3 or more. Other tricks, such as ignoring stars greater than a certain size or temperature, can increase the chances even more. No significant life forms can evolve around a star that can only exist for a few percent of the time that the Sun has existed.

We can only assume that any "real aliens" out there have already discovered such techniques, and perhaps developed greater refinements and much finer tools for the task of finding living planets. That ability would seem to be a evolution technique in itself -- only those beings who can transcend their home planet might survive some life-ending catastrophe that planets often suffer. If the aliens cannot transcend their dying world, they will die along with it.

Aliens could possibly visit our planet -- using "magic" of course -- but only at very great expense. Unless aliens find some manner of using absolutely limitless and costless energy, then any trips from one part of the galaxy to another will require vast cost. For instance, traveling in a 10 ton spacecraft (hopefully enough food, water and fuel for the trip) from the Sun to Alpha Centauri at the speed of light would cost far more than all the energy we have used since the birth of humanity.

Tricks like sucking up waste hydrogen that atomically zips around through otherwise empty space might help save costs. We would only need to take food and water. If we were satisfied only sending some robots, then the costs could be reduced even more, expelling the need for food and water, however still needing some kind of power sources for the robots. Yet, even after reducing everything down to the minimum, the energy costs would be quite high, far higher than all our currently accumulated space launchings combined. Just communicating with these robots would be difficult, since, while traveling at light speed, they would be like photons themselves, reducing the signals to ultra-low frequency grunts, and while stopped in orbit around the target star, the time for a signal to reach us from that star would take many years.

Worm holes, hyperdrives and other exotic science-fiction concepts might someday become possible, or at least less fantastic, and this would mean that not only us, but the aliens, could benefit. In fact, the aliens may have already discovered such truths.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Linux Continues @ Home

I've been a Unix guy from many years ago, long before any 32 bit OS from Microsoft ever jammed itself into the world. Although when Windows NT came along I was temporarily lulled into putting up with it's massive complexity -- a legacy from a time when Win16 was the ruler of Dinosauria, which when mixed with Win32 NT, produced a Chimera called Windows 95/98 et all.

At least I could use native 32 bit addressing, arrays greater than 64K, and increasingly more full sized arithmetic operands in both integer and floating point right in Intel hardware. Yet, even when writing programs which would run identically on Unix and Windows (for the most part...), it became an increasingly more difficult chore to do this when things like .NET came along, which bastardized the C++ language to be something MS calls "CLI" Common Language Interface.

Now, with the advent of greater numbers of Linux systems that have bloomed into full scale Desktop systems that rival (but don't quite exceed) the experience of Windows XP or Vista. Of course, XP and Vista are not merely advanced forms of Unix GUI systems -- they are totally MS controlled, secret source based complexities beyond any hope of simplification. In fact, MS purposely makes things as complex as possible so there is no possible way for any kind of open source XP or Vista to ever happen. Any pretenders would simply be copies or reverse engineered mutations of XP or Vista.

Unix never had a fixed "look and feel" like Windows that would need to be copied exactly. There were many flavors of Unix -- SunOS, Solaris, Aix, Hpux, ScoUnix, and several others, each very different than the others. Some used Motif, some used straight X, some used the Sun Gui, etc. In those days there was hardly a thought about anything like Gnome or KDE for windowing systems.

However, Windows XP, Vista and Apple's MaxOs, OS-X and Sun's various systems all affected those who would later write the various layers of Linux GUIs. Linux also had to adapt to the same huge number of variations that made Windows so difficult -- a hodge podge of GPUs, CPUs, memory sizes, disk hardware, and so forth. There are still problems with some drivers.

On top of that there are various flavors of Linux -- openSUSE, Devian, RedHat, Ubuntu and Xandros, just to name a few. Each has a few little things different enough from the others that are sometimes nicer or not, sometimes prettier or not. Certainly they make for different documentation.

In some ways this is a good thing. Perhaps Windows XP would have been very much better if there was a Brand-X XP and a Brand-Y XP in addition to MS. Yes, there would have been duplication of efforts, and possible incompatibilities from one to another -- but perhaps XP would be everything that Vista pretends to be -- except about 5 years earlier.

Anyway, that never happened. What did happen, however, is that I have openSUSE and Ubuntu Linux systems on some of my home computers -- complete with Wireless Networking (a weakness in earlier versions...) Also, one of them is a modern Dell with fast hardware, lots of disk, memory. The other is on a older Toshiba with far less capable devices. But the both behave very decently under Linux.

I can mix them into the home Windows XP/Vista network, as well. Everyone can get to everyone else's shared network files.

Linux has made me young again. For this reason, I'm sure Linux will fail, and waste the last good years of my life. Perhaps I should merely step into the Vista brain-smasher and become a Microsoft Weenie for the remainder of my life -- like most good little programmers.