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.