Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Schrodinger's Santa

It's that time of year when a young physicist's heart turns to modeling Santa.

This year is no different. Note the Santa Physics site below.

However, not limited by being a physicist, I think they're all wrong.

If Santa approaches the speed of light he can actually transit to all of the necessary spots he needs to get to. And there might be some contraction effects that might help or hinder. But get real. If he's going to move that fast he's starting and stopping a lot. That's a lot of energy he has to consume to hit every chimney equivalent on the planet. Not to mention that if he's moving that fast, time slows down for him. Sure, he can transit all of his targets. But his relative time is so slow he can't deposit any presents.

I think Santa is a quantum effect.

Each of Santa's visitations is a single state event. Santa can occupy any of them. However, according to quantum theory, all of these states exist simultaneously. Therefore, Santa is simultaneously leaving on a track to the target, depositing the presents and returns. The time involved for all trips is equivalent to the time involve for a single trip. Santa can easily accomplish his task without ever risking the dangers of relativity.

This is why it's bad luck to observe him. If you observe Santa, it collapses the Santa eigenstates into the single observed Santa, so that a single child gets a single present at the cost of all other children. Hence, we bed the children down since no child can be trusted to not get that single present.

As Heisenberg calculated one Christmas evening, you can observe Santa's delivery or you can have the presents. You can't have both.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Kickass Kwanzaa and Nominal Newtonmas.

Political Links

Links of Interest
Blindsight: Here. Here.


Christmas, Today - 40

I remember Christmas Eve 1968.

I listened, as the crew of Apollo 8, Jim Lovell, William Anders and Frank Borman, took turns reading Genesis.

My Dad worked on the booster and had gone to Kennedy for the launch. He was back by Christmas and with us at home when the broadcast came. I had an intimate connection with the program. I had visited my Dad on base. I had listened (felt!) the tests of the first stage from ten miles away. I was as proud of being my Dad's son as I was of being an American. I knew I was a witness to something great.

In 1968 I was sixteen years old. I had ceased thinking about being a minister but I hadn't yet given up on the idea of God-- that would come about a decade later. The mind that I have now, forty years later, cannot be the mind I had then. Too much has happened; too much has been learned.

So, I cannot truly recapture the effect on me of those voices coming from across space. That sixteen year old child is gone.

Human beings are amazing and we should dare to do amazing things. Heal the sick. Care for the poor. Cure the planet. Reach the stars.

We should expect nothing less from ourselves.
Political Links
Creationism in Europe
Cheney Infallible

Links of Interest
Happy Birthday Earthrise
Trading Favors with orangutans
Pound Sound
Bert Simons
Steampunk NERF Rifle
The Future of Man
New Battery

Introduction to Blacksmiting

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Environmental Capital

I just finished Jared Diamond's Collapse. It's a fine book and a wonderful analysis of how systems (countries/states) make decision that ultimately bring about their downfall.

I'm not going to go into the book here. It's worth reading.

But he does bring out a point I'm going to bring up here. The first and primary one is to turn a common statement around to show its true meaning. The statement (or something like it) goes like this:

We must balance the encomony and the environment.

This statement implies the environment is some sort of luxury that we'll pay for if we can afford it without too much trouble. Diamond turns this around completely: we'll balance the economy if it doesn't cost us our environment. The reasoning he presents (the whole book presents, not only in modern times but in past civilizatiosn as well) is that 1) degrading the environment is the highest cost to society and 2) a functioning environment is necessary to the economy. Underlying this is an old economic argument: don't spend capital. Spend profit. Modern agricultural, energy, etc., is spending capital. When it's gone you're bankrupt. To place it in a more timely category: spending the environmental capital to present consumers with goods is, in effect, a Ponzi scheme.

I very much enjoyed the book-- I've played a little in this arena in one of my previous (unpublished) books. But I want to go a little farther.

The above statement about the economy and the environment purports to be an economic concept. It is nothing but. It is a political statement. As always, politics is theater and political statements are made with an audience in mind. Further, the audience of political statements must be either opponents of the politician or constituents (or potential constituents) of the politician. To rephrase the statement in this light, it becomes:

My constituents will not tolerate the short term costs of paying for the long term recovery of the environment.

Bush's constituents are obvious-- look at his record. Look at what he's doing right now. He wants his constituents to be happy and we can tell by his behavior who his constituents are. Hint: It's not voters.

We must be willing to demand changes to environmental policy. We must be willing to pay for htem.

We must be the constituents to whom politicians must respond.
Political Links
Naomi Wolf: It can happen here
Bush: So Little Time, So Much Damage

Links of Interest
A Wonderful Waste of Power
Smokers Brain Power Declines Faster with Age
SwarmBots! Attack!
Current Human Evolution
The Inability to Change
Hiccups and Hernias
Coney Island History Project
Environmental Bamboo
Spontaneous Orangutan Whistling
Cretaceous Extinction Redux
Bonobo Hunting
Lighting Up Dark Energy
Breaking Bad

Paper Reindeer Decorations
A Glass Whiteboard
Worm Farm
Green Gift Guide
Build Blocks
Sticky Buns

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Republicans: Not the Party of Ideas

Bobby Jindal, current governor of Louisiana, is the Great Brown Hope for the Republican Party. If you don't believe me, read what pundits like to say about him here, here, here and here. So, given this, if you examine his policies and governing you'll get an idea of where the Republican Party wants to be.

Personally, I'm not a big fan of ineffectual government-- what is actually meant by the words "small government". I like government that does its job. I lived in Massachusetts under a collection of Republican governors and watched them let the bridges and roads turn to mush and schools decay in the name of "small government". But the USA is a big place and there's room for disagreement.

Where I cannot compromise, where I start calling people about as useful as a beef jerky, is when it comes to science. Specifically, in this case, when it comes to evolution. Last June Jindal signed the latest creationist nonsense into law. You can get the play-by-play in this SciAm article here.

Science is about the world as it is. It presumes that what the world appears to be is a fair approximation of what it is. That's what drove Newton, Kepler and Copernicus. When the world presents data that flies in the face of what scientists think is true, it is the scientists that must change, not the world. The world of physics broke apart in the face of data at the turn of the 19th century: there was no ether. The speed of light appeared to be constant no matter in what direction it was measured-- an impossibility in the Newtonian model. Einstein came along and presented a new model that cost physicists dearly: if c is constant, time was not.

This is the scientific point of view: models (and theories) adapt to fact, not the other way around.

It is not the point of view of physicists. It is not the point of view biologists. It is not the point of view of Darwinian evolutionists. It is the point of view of scientists and those that deny this point of view are not scientists. They might be theologians or humanists or politicians but they are not scientists.

It follows that if you are going to teach science, this is the point of view you must present. Jindal is compromising that.

But the problem is deeper than just evolution. This is more than anti-evolution or even anti-science. It goes against critical thinking itself.

For example, let's say we have a theological model that God pushes electrons around the nucleus. That's the way we explain electromagnetism: God does it. It is, therefore, beyond our understanding. What's the result? Well, if it's beyond our understanding that's all there is to it. Consequently: no CAT scans. No computers. No TV. Only primitive electric lights.

I don't care if someone believes the earth came into being 4 billion years ago or 4 thousand. To me, the world could have come into existence forty seconds ago, as it is, and I'd never know the difference. But it came into the world as it is, not as we wish it to be. Those lights out there are far, far away, just as if they ignited a billion years ago. It's possible God created them as is but even if he did, they still appear that old. The bones in the ground still look like dinosaurs. There are known fossils that sure look like us. The physics that governs electric lights, nuclear power plants, photosynthesis, carbon-14 dating and the sun is the same. Even medicine must be viewed in a scientific light. Medicine is the art of applying biology to human health concerns. That means evolution. (See here.)

And regardless of what idiotic laws they pass, facts are out of Louisiana's jurisdiction .

Political Links
Blunderbanking: The Liquidity Trap

Mad Scientist Alphabet Blocks

Homemade Cheese and Cider Press
Coffee Table Upgrade
Van de Graaff Generator
Light Bulb Snow Globes
Bright Bike
Vertical Farming