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Science

Carbon Legacies

There is an industry which concerns itself with helping to create these when Mother Nature isn’t quite doing her job. But it needs to be regulated, you know. It really does. Even Mr. Wesley J. Smith, of whom more below, says so, though he otherwise disagrees with Ms. Cristina Richie, whose views are our topic today. (The gentleman’s remark rather sounds as though he approves of “regulation,” and disapproves of its lack, on principle.)

Anyway, it turns out that Carbon Legacies, even when naturally occurring, are not an unmitigated good. Indeed, one might question whether they are a Good Thing at all, even as others are delighted with theirs, or with the prospects of acquiring such.

Here is the abstract of an article from the Journal of Medical Ethics by Cristina Richie, Theology Department, Boston College, which argues that since every human “emits carbon” into the environment,

Evaluating the ethics of offering reproductive services against its overall harm to the environment makes unregulated ARTs unjustified….

“ART” stands for “Assisted Reproductive Technology.” It includes such things as fertilization in vitro and artificial insemination, as well as methods of having babies where the child might be born with AIDS, surrogate pregnancy, and more.

(WikiFootia has a good overview.)

From Ms. Richie’s article:

A carbon footprint is the aggregate of resource use and carbon emissions over a person’s life. A carbon legacy occurs when a person chooses to procreate. All people have carbon footprints; only people with biological children have carbon legacies.

(I have had some non-biological “children,” but only in a figurative sense, such as patterns of words set down on paper or sent into cyberspace. But it seems to me that actual non-biological children are probably rather rare.)

Now ask me what I think. C’mon, you know you want to! *g* Well, lest the multitude of Kounting Kitties hereabouts get to yowling from the suspense….

Views in which “the environment” is seen as of higher moral value than human beings as such — whether conceived in delight or after a fight, or both, or neither — are perverse in the strongest and most serious sense of the word. (Compact OED, Print Ed., 1971, = 1933 OED plus addenda, gives various definitions, several of which boil down to “turning away from right to wrong.”) To me, the word has a connotation of DELIGHT in turning from right to wrong, and a deliberate inversion of right and wrong, so that the evil is embraced as good and the good, as evil.

All I can say is, I place a very high value on my own personal Carbon Legacy, who in early middle age continues to provide joy, light, and warmth to my life. Besides, this person grows houseplants and, in summer, tomatoes and peppers, so I figure that offsets the inevitable “emission of carbon.” (Whatever does Ms. Richie think that means? There’s a huge variety of carbon-containing molecules that are “emitted” by a huge variety of sources, most of them “natural.”) Personally I think that once we’ve gotten fluorine out of the way by banning it (per a suggestion by some doofus over here), we should simply ban carbon. That would solve everything. At least from the human point of view, which would no longer exist.

. . .

I will let Mr. Wesley J. Smith, of LifeNews.com, have the last word. He has a piece on this entitled “Population Controllers Call Babies ‘Carbon Legacies,’ a Threat to the Environment.” Per Mr. Smith:

And Jesus said, ‘Suffer the little carbon legacies to come onto me’….

Revolutionary Rocket Could Shuttle Humans to Mars

VASIMR VX-200 Plasma Engine:

A novel plasma engine could slash travel time to Mars — now approximately three years — to just 39 days.

By Steve Nadis|Friday, April 18, 2014

Traveling to Mars is not easy, which may be why no one has ever tried. It would take a good six to nine months to get there with today’s chemical-fueled rockets. Along the way, according to a 2013 study, you’d get dosed with the radiation equivalent of a whole-body CT scan every five to six days, increasing your lifetime cancer risk above the limits set by NASA. Upon reaching the Red Planet, you’d wait up to two years for Earth and Mars to be at their closest before your return trip, which would last another six to nine months. If the cosmic rays didn’t get you, the long layover might.

But what if there were a better way — a new kind of rocket that could transport you to Mars in less than six weeks?

[Snip]

Growing up in Costa Rica, [Franklin Chang] Díaz became fascinated with all things space in 1957, when the Soviets successfully launched Sputnik, the first artificial satellite. He was 7 years old. Eleven years later, he secured a one-way plane ticket to the United States and arrived in Hartford, Conn., with just $50 in his pocket. He barely knew a word of English. He stayed there with distant relatives to attend high school. After earning an undergraduate degree from the University of Connecticut, Chang Díaz enrolled as a graduate student in applied plasma physics at MIT, where he began research in nuclear fusion.

[Snip]

To Texas, and Beyond

After receiving his doctorate degree in 1977, Díaz continued to investigate his rocket concept, while maintaining his interest in space itself.He was accepted as a NASA astronaut, on his second try, in 1980. When his training at the Johnson Space Center in Houston got serious, he found it difficult to keep up the monthly commute to MIT, so he moved his rocket laboratory to Johnson. He went on to fly seven shuttle missions, logging more than 1,600 hours in space over the next few decades, all while maintaining an active research schedule, devoting time almost every day to work on his rocket engine.

Díaz retired from NASA in 2005 to form Ad Astra, his rocket company.

[Snip]

Ad Astra’s 20-foot-high structure [in Webster, Tex., a suburb of Houston] is tucked behind a Japanese restaurant and flanked by a Brazilian steakhouse and a tattoo parlor. Its drab, gray facade blends in with the parking lot around it. The building’s interior looks like typical open-plan office space — until you pass through a set of double doors and enter the laboratory. That’s where you might notice something out of the ordinary: a metal cylinder, 15 feet in diameter and 35 feet long, big enough to drive a school bus into. The cylinder is a vacuum chamber that simulates conditions in space. Inside lies a smaller vacuum chamber — about the size of an MRI machine — that contains the rocket’s magnets.

[SNIP of lots more, including cool diagram and photos]

Quote of the day.

We have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night.

- Tombstone epitaph of two amateur astronomers.

I recall it from “Cosmos” by Carl Sagan.

Leonard of Quirm has not left the building…

Well, us European types are going to build an extremely large telescope in the Chilean desert. Good news. I can’t say, as a libertarian, I’m entirely in favour of gubermunt spending but a billion quid between quite a few nations for something that actually matters warms the cockles of my astronomer’s heart. I mean it’s only 2% (if that) of HS2 and this will show the limits of the observable Universe. HS2 will get me to Birmingham slightly quicker. Well, put me on an astral plane or whatever but I know where I’d rather my monies went. And it ain’t in early C19th tech to get me to Brum.

I know a bit about the ESO in Chile. A lad I knew went out there and brought back some mighty fine wine (he was observational, I was theory) and we voted him a capital fellow at the second bottle. The Atacama Desert apart from anything else is remarkable. It never rains for a start and seeing as I live in NW England that is a bonus. Anyway it is currently home to the European VLT (Very Large Telescope) due to be overtaken by the European ELT or Extremely Large Telescope.

They really need someone to name these things. Maybe it is linguistic but we really need to put in a hint of effort. The University of Chicago has a Tevatron now that sounds suitably SF. A Large Hadron Collider just doesn’t. I mean it is big and it collides hadrons… but… I want it to sound more Trekkie. “Number One, engage the Tevatron”. That works. I want Dan Dare and instead we get B&Q! The first movie I ever saw at the cinema was Star Wars Episode IV. As hard SF it is junk – basically a Western/Fairy Tale in space but we didn’t have Han Solo flying “The medium sized smuggling ship” did we? Did “Sailor” Malan fly the “Small combat aircraft”. No, he flew a Spitfire. Even when George Stephenson built his engine he called it “The Rocket” and not “The convenient new means of getting from Liverpool to Manchester”.

Show some imagination people!

Having said all that a certain icon of the Battle of Britain came within an ace of being called the Supermarine Shrew. What would that have done? Nag the Germans to death?

It’s important to have vision

Nasa's Warp Drive Concept Ship

This is NASA’s idea for a warp drive spaceship, capable of interstellar travel. It’s not a fantasy sci-fi ship but a concept based on the equations of Dr. Harold White—lead at NASA’s Eagleworks Advanced Propulsion Physics Laboratory—who also works in ion engines and plasma thrusters.

This is NASA’s new concept spaceship for warp drive interstellar travel

Although my preference is for the next stage of space exploration to be undertaken by private enterprises, there is still a place for the research of fundamental technologies which will underpin our journey beyond the solar system. The only question is should such research be undertaken under the aegis of NASA (a notoriously bureaucratic organisation) or independently at a private institution.

Given the enthusiasm with which wealthy entrepreneurs such as Elon Musk have entered the race for genuinely transformational technologies I think it is time that the dead hand of government was gradually removed from the space technology arena.

NASA Starts Work on Real Life Star Trek Warp Drive

Working at NASA Eagleworks—a skunkworks operation deep at NASA’s Johnson Space Center—Dr. White’s team is trying to find proof of those loopholes. They have “initiated an interferometer test bed that will try to generate and detect a microscopic instance of a little warp bubble” using an instrument called the White-Juday Warp Field Interferometer.

Home Build Hybrid Rocket Demo

Space Shuttle Launch

One of the inherent problems of space craft utilising Solid Rocket Booster technology (such as the now retired NASA space shuttle) is premature or alternately asymmetric ignition because unlike liquid propellants (hydrogen/oxygen, hydrogen peroxide, etc.), the burn cannot be controlled or shut off, an SRB will simply burn until there is no fuel left, it explodes or it self-destructs. In all of these scenarios catastrophic loss of both craft and any crew is almost guaranteed.

(more…)

Midweek Humour

An infinite number of Mathmaticians

New Drugs May Transform Down Syndrome

It’s rather shocking to me how many presumably-intelligent people say neuroscience is “quack science.” In the first place it’s still a young science, as sciences go. But if many theories (or “sub-theories”) turn out to be wrong, or severely incomplete, that doesn’t disqualify the validity of neuroscience, which is the study of how the nervous system — including the brain — works. Scientists develop theories about this, and prove, improve, or disprove them depending on new discoveries that they make. And then, of course, we utilize the results.

Great stuff has already come out of neuroscience. And speaking from personal experience, that includes some of the much-maligned anti-depressant medications, which can turn a life that has become extremely unpleasant into one that can be downright enjoyable and experienced as being worth the living.

This is wonderful news indeed.

From Scientific American.

New Drugs May Transform Down Syndrome

Recent breakthroughs may lead to pharmacological treatments for the chromosomal disorder

Mar 1, 2014 |By Jenni Laidman

‘People born with Down syndrome have always been considered to be incurably developmentally delayed—until now. In the past few years a number of laboratories have uncovered critical drug targets within disabled chemical pathways in the brain that might be restored with medication. At least two clinical trials are currently studying the effects of such treatments on people with Down syndrome. Now geneticist Roger Reeves of Johns Hopkins University may have stumbled on another drug target—this one with the potential to correct the learning and memory deficits so central to the condition.

‘Down syndrome occurs in about one in 1,000 births annually worldwide. It arises from an extra copy of chromosome 21 and the overexpression of each of the 300 to 500 genes the chromosome carries. “If you go back even as recently as 2004, researchers didn’t have much of a clue about the mechanisms involved in this developmental disability,” says Michael Harpold, chief scientific officer with the Down Syndrome Research and Treatment Foundation. But all that has changed. “In the past six or seven years there have been several breakthroughs—and ‘breakthroughs’ is not by any means too big a word—in understanding the neurochemistry in Down syndrome,” Reeves says. [ ... ]‘

Scientific American The article continues with a description of the subject research.

Wolfgang Pauli…

Wolfgang Pauli, Nobel Laureate, was a stunningly good physicist by any metric. He discovered (invented – we can debate this ’till the cows come home) the “exclusion principle”. Now this is true. Full on true. Basically it means Fermions can’t occupy the same energy levels but Baryons can. For this he won the Nobel*. So did Barack Obama. It really is a fucking laughing academy. Anyway, Pauli made the Universe (or discovered it) and that matters. Apart from getting pissed and having sex that was kinda what I did at College. I once had to do this. If that sounds dull, it was.

I also wrote a thesis on Kurt Gödel, He had some interesting views on GR (I’m a bit of a spesh on GR). Seriously! And time travel and formal logic – I am very dull. Well, I’m a Whovian so… I mean what is the effing point of having degrees in physics and astrophysics if you can’t build a time machine? None! I did this to understand the Universe and not be carted round as a spacka. That is a terrible thing to say but I said it. I also have a shed and no time machine. Possibly because it’s impossible. It is BTW.

Tonight I’m off to the Royal Exchange Theatre to see Orlando starring the TARDIS. Yes, that is me. She is also known as Suranne Jones. But she is still the TARDIS. And bow-ties are cool.

Always the TARDIS for me. Well, I don’t watch Corrie do I? So should be fun seeing Idris and the Royal Exchange is a lovely theatre. It really is but then I guess you expect that in what to all extents and porpoises is our second city – Glasgow is Jockulent and Brum is well, Brum. I live in abouts Manc for a reason. I mean we have a proper China Town and stuff. We have a Gay Village and not just a street as Newcastle has. Having said that Newcastle does have the best named gay bar ever – “Camp David” – always cracks me up. That is the work of Genius. My bro pointed it out to me and I was Laughing and Grief for like 20 minutes. A few years back the council tried to pursue the “pink pound” to risible results. Nobody – gay, straight or whatever goes on holiday to Newcastle. They just don’t. I mean I might be tempted to go see Stephenson’s Cottage and his first railway but that is walking distance from my Mum’s house and that is not exactly a holiday is it? I’ve walked there with my wife – actually every girl I have dated. I am a hot date! I’ll also use it as an opportunity to get onto the theory of thermodynamics – upon which I can bore for the Commonwealth. It is quite amazing I happen to have spent the best part of the last twenty years in relationships with girls.

H/T to Samizdata for getting me thinking on Pauli. Now, the Pauli quote is “ganz falsch”. Literally “quite wrong” with the meaning in German of, “Not even wrong”. Or in Geordie, “best bollocks”.

* Dear Joe Stalin objected. He believed Pauli was trying to prove Fermions refused to collectivise. Seriously. Of course. They have half integer spin! This has nowt to do with politricks. This is truth. This is just the way things are. No quantity of Marxist-Leninism changes reality.

Pauli wasn’t just a great physicist (though he was – money quote comes from Richard Feynman – he get’s doorstepped at the Nobel “do” and asked by a press fella to explain in five minutes what he did to win the Nobel, “Right, pal, if I could explain in five minutes it wouldn’t have been worth a Nobel would it?” I guess not). He was a great critic of physics. You utilise sloppy thinking in a seminar and Pauli is there and mutters “ganz falsch” you have met a stranger in the Alps.

D. Greenfield / Sultan Knish: The Green Socialists of Mars

A most interesting, longish piece in which Daniel Greenfield discusses the place of Climate-Alarmism, and of turn-of-the-20th-century SF, in what one might call “The Project for Social Change” (cue the Usual Suspects). Follow the Kitties to Zanzibar: Read the whole thing.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Green Socialists of Mars

Posted by Daniel Greenfield @ the Sultan Knish blog — 14 Comments

We live in a strange world in which the weather is a subject of furious political debate. People have been arguing about the weather ever since the first rainstorm caught the first man without the umbrella that he did not yet know how to make, but they didn’t hold political debates over it.

For the last fifty years, the anti-weather side has been insisting that the world is headed toward a Frostean apocalypse of ice or fire. …. The end of weather was here.

[ ... ]

The original error of climate researchers was their assumption that planets were more fragile than they truly are and could be undone by a nuclear exchange or even by a few coal plants. Carl Sagan, who had done much to popularize unscientific paranoia about nuclear winter and global warming, warned that the Gulf War’s oil fires would lead to a miniature nuclear winter.

They did not.

The mingling of philosophical paranoia over a godless universe and political pacifism disguised as science shaped not only Sagan’s musings, but the entire ideology of weather apocalypses which derived from the conviction that ungoverned man was bound to destroy his environment.

[ ... ]

Socialist science fiction had become a booming field in the late 19th century. Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backward had envisioned time travel to a Socialist American utopia in the year 2000. It was a bad book, but a popular bestseller because it used the frame of pseudoscience to depict Socialism as both a practical model and inevitable. …

Novels such as “Politics and Life in Mars”, “Unveiling a Parallel”, “To Mars via the Moon”, “A Prophetic Romance” and “Red Star” envisioned culturally superior Martians demonstrating their advanced Socialist societies with income equality, planetary labor unions and pacifism to the human race.

In the Russian “Red Star,” the Lowellian canals are a Communist triumph over inhospitable nature anticipating the USSR and Communist China’s disastrous dam projects. The German writer of “Two Planets” envisioned the advanced Martians invading Earth to impose their superior Socialist society on human beings.

The Martians, like Global Warming, were a tool of radical social change.

[ ... SNIP]

Ken Ham takes his dogma for a walk

Bill-Nye-vs.-Ken-Ham-Debate

Periodically, the intellectual conflict between science and religion comes to a head in the form of a debate and the results of such debates are often quite interesting and lead into areas of enlightenment that are surprising. Those who say scientists should not take part in such debates are fascists, morons and idiots.

I classify myself a lapsed-Catholic agnostic atheist (that is someone who fundamentally does not believe in god, but as a good scientist cannot prove or disprove his/her non-existence, it’s a very good form of rhetorical macramé), as such the debate between Bill Nye, the Science Guy and Ken Ham CEO of the Creation Museum piqued my interest.

At 2½ hours it is quite a long debate, but you need to go through it all to get a real flavour of the thing, the excerpts simply do not do it justice. As you would expect, neither side expected to win over their opponents, but this was a genuine debate for serious stakes, with the minds of children in classrooms at stake.

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BBC: Yellowstone Volcano’s Size Underestimated

 

For a change of pace, here’s something beautiful, fascinating, and, of course, a bit scary.  That’s Mother Nature for you!   After you ogle the photos, the writeup is pretty interesting.  (Excerpts below.)

 

Yellowstone supervolcano ‘even more colossal’

By Rebecca Morelle

10 December 2013      Last updated at 20:36 ET

Yellowstone hot spring Hot springs are surface evidence of the huge magma chamber that sits beneath Yellowstone

The supervolcano that lies beneath Yellowstone National Park in the US is far larger than was previously thought, scientists report.

A study shows that the magma chamber is about 2.5 times bigger than earlier estimates suggested.

A team found the cavern stretches for more than 90km (55 miles) and contains 200-600 cubic km of molten rock.

[ ... ]
If the Yellowstone supervolcano were to blow today, the consequences would be catastrophic.

The last major eruption, which occurred 640,000 years ago, sent ash across the whole of North America, affecting the planet’s climate.

[ ... ]

 

Yellowstone ash plume It is unclear when the Yellowstone supervolcano will erupt again

 

The team found that the magma chamber was colossal. Reaching depths of between 2km and 15km (1 to 9 miles), the cavern was about 90km (55 miles) long and 30km (20 miles) wide.

[ Continued ... ]

 

Darwin, Pauli & Stuff…

I have a strong interest in biology. I actually started a biology degree but switched to physics. I have some issues with Darwinism. No I am not a creationist but I tend to think the views of folk like Lynn Margulis got side-lined and I can’t stand Dickie Dawkins. OK Margulis was mad as a box of frogs on some stuff but whatever! She was almost certainly right with symbiotic development of eukaryotic cells. And then some weird stuff in evolution is down to maths more than just pushy little replicators slugging it out (that’s quite a good joke, actually – though not at a club at 2am which is packed with sluggy and pushy little wannabe replicators). Yes, slime molds are fascinating examples of self-organisation. They ain’t pretty but neither are engine rooms. I have a maths book somewhere which deals with the way they organise. Apparently it is dead easy to write a computer program to model them. Basically they operate more like a society than a single organism. Truly bizarre but then so is a jellyfish which you can stick in a blender and then can spontaneously reform.

Biology is very strange. And we are only now starting to be getting the full sp and it is hideously mathematical (and I like maths). A maths student I knew at university was doing a PhD on cancer angiogenesis – cancers developing their own blood supply! I saw his talk on it and left feeling not 100% – and I was not alone. Like I said down in the basement there are some very unpleasant things. To say nothing of the woodshed. I guess at some level I kinda thought if I stick with biology I might get a disease named for me (and probs a very unpleasant one) but physics! Ah, you can get a star named for you. I was a romantic youth. Still am.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not dissing Darwin who had a truly profound insight into the Universe. But of course he didn’t get the full toffee apple – nobody ever does. Not even Newton and in many ways Darwin was biology’s Newton. Before him it was all myopic vicars hunting butterflies and pinning them up or some such. Chemistry is mainly buggering about and trying to make epic pongs – which is why we have mainly left it to the Germans. As a kid I did a chemistry masterclass thingie in the Easter hols at Newcastle University and some student at some point had scrawled in a way that suggested some form of abysmal moral torment the phrase, “Chem is wank” on my desk. Oh, it’s useful and I’m glad other people do it but A-level was my limit and I guess seeing my teacher blow the bejesus out of the fume cupboard doing the thermite reaction (now banned in schools) straightening his tie and saying in very calm tones, “Um, quite a vigorous reaction” was enough. But this is getting off topic. It was hilarious though. And he was a good teacher. 25 years later I recall that lesson. If only we’d had facebook then that moment would have been immortal.

Anyway…

This blog has collected a load of comments by creationists from tweets, blogs and whatever. The unmitigated pignorance of them astounds me. It isn’t so much they are wrong. They are in the words of Wolfgang Pauli, “nicht ganz falsch”. They are not even wrong. Hey ho! Let’s go!

@Yhwh_TheLord so then why do women have babies if we can just evolve fRom um whatever you think we evolved from?

You to old to believe in evolution. If we came from monkeys, why are there still monkeys. are they the stupid that couldn’t evolve?

I’ve never seen an animal or a micro organism become a human. So that evolution shit is out the window for me.

Evolution is atheism. It’s not science, but an impossible, unrealistic, unbiological, invented process in order to remove God from equation.

And it goes on. And on.

So why am I blogging it? I have a long-term hatred of what can be called the science/religion debate. Putting the two in opposition has never made any sense to me. It doesn’t stop folk though. I’m sat having lunch at Lenton Hall University of Nottingham in 1993 and this git sidles, yes, sidles up to me and gets chatting. Well he’s a missionary and he rapidly turns around the meet and greet into, “Well if you come back to my room I have an excellent 20 minute defence of religion against science.” I politely but firmly declined. Should I have added that many people on my physics course were religious? Nah, that obvious fact never works with these folks. Then there was the head of the Christian Union who used to organise five-aside footy and at half-time once came out with, “You know in many ways God is like a football”. What fatuous guff! How precisely is God like a football? I mean some of the greatest minds of all time have wrestled with the question of the existence and nature of God and he comes out with that utterly meaningless toss! So fuck you Descartes! God is like a football because Robin said so (he was a twat BTW – an epic twat – a twat’s twatter of a twatting twat). There was a nervous silence and a lot of folk looking at their boots until someone suggested we just get on with the second half – thank God! Need I say quite a few of us were Christians. Not me but a few of the lads. They were even more deeply embarrassed. God is like a football – oh Pity Me! (a village in County Durham BTW).

There is no real clash between science and religion because fundamentally they are about different things. I can tell you (roughly) how a hydrogen bomb works but a priest can tell you whether it should be used. It’s very much like asking a plumber about the wiring. This is not to say I don’t have ethical viewpoints and it is not to say the priest might not have a strong interest in scientific matters (note vicars and flutterbies -as my Gran used to say) it is just that they aren’t the same thing and when people attempt to conflate religion (or especially quasi-religions such as National Socialism or Communism*) with (usually pseudo) science very bad things tend to happen.

Science says how things are and how to do ‘em. It should have next to no input in the moral dimension. It doesn’t say what ought to be done. That is for all of us as moral human beings to decide. By the same token religion (and moral stuff in general) ought to take note of science and not see it as a threat. Moreover the fusing of the two is a terrible idea and the instrument of totalitarians because it makes us objects to play with in the lab. And an invented (note I reffed Pseudo science earlier) lab at that. Science and religion fill two very different human needs and arguing the toss about which is better is like arguing whether pizza is better than Coca-Cola. You might ask a bishop in a moment of spiritual doubt but you’d ask an engineer or physicist if your PWR looked shonky. And vice versa. And the same applies to all religions (or moral codes) as it does to the sciences. You wouldn’t (even though she was a scientist) ask a botanist to look at your iffy PWR any more than you’d ask a nuclear scientist to tell you the best way to get rid of the crop-infection on your farm.

Science versus Religion is possibly the greatest nicht ganz falsch in the history of thinking. Yet it goes on.

H/T Infidel753

* The Sovs were not exactly into “racial realism” but did some bizarre stuff. They had women volunteer to be inseminated with gorilla semen because Stalin wanted to cross-breed a race of invincible Planet of the Apes style warriors and workers. And yes, I do mean they genuinely volunted for the socialist cause which is the really spooky bit. Utterly bent out of shape. Here’s your monkey baby says the midwife before taking it off to the research facility 214 for “studies”. Of course it didn’t work because “perverse science” is never “correct” in any sense of the word. The very idea that Darwinism leads to communism is twisted because communism lead to Lysenkoism and attempts at disgusting cross species mating (which can’t by definition work anyway – OK up to a point it can: mules, ligers etc but human/gorilla is really pushing the envelope). Anyhoo it doesn’t take away from my point that science is morally neutral. It is. It can be twisted though. Not to put too fine a point on it this is exactly why we need different modes of thought – not just science or pseudo-science. That is why religions and other moral concepts exist and need to. Because to put a very blunt point on it any quantity of knowledge on the structure of the atom or the structure of DNA says nothing about why you shouldn’t rape, murder or steal. That is a moral question and just as religion should keep out of science science has nothing to say about religion or morality and nor should it try to. And as to “science” impinging on politics – God help us!

What happens when a Turing Machine meets a Blackhole?

A while back I promised to write this. It has taken some time.

Well the short answer is nobody knows. In principle. Let me explain…

But seeing as this is not QI and I am not the curly haired loon Alan Davis I’d best try to explain why…

There are questions that are unanswered and there are the unanswerable.

Magic don’t exist. Science does and it is a kinda magic (or is that Queen?). Robert Oppenheimer certainly proved that. Well, with his pencil he certainly wielded more power than Dumbledore did with a twig. Real science is magic and it is magic beyond anything these sort of numpties could dream of.

In 1995 at Nottingham University a geezer dressed in a manner that would make Arch-Chancellor Ridcully look under-dressed handed me a piece of paper that was the official recognition of my getting the keys to the Universe. It was emotional, I can tell you. It was a BSc in Physics.

So what I am getting at in this preamble is that magic is real and it’s magic because it doesn’t always make “common sense”.

So, to the point!

Black-holes are essentially collapsed stars that have all their mass within their Schwarzchild radius. This is the radius which even classically, light can’t escape from because as you know Neil, Buzz and Mike had to go rather fast to get off this rock but seeing as the speed of light is a cosmic speed limit once the gravity of a collapsed star gets to that having an escape velocity above that of light then you are in it for the duration. By the way I’m sticking with the non-charged, non-rotational solutions here. Hence Schwarzchild will suffice.

If you really want to muck about with Kerr-Newman metric then knock yourselves out. We’ll keep it without angular velocity (or charge). Now I appreciate the revolutions of Beyonce’s twerking her fundamental singularity as much as the next person but for the current porpoise the entertainer on the stage might as well be Noel Coward in a dinner-suit singing some old nonsense that the late Queen Ma would like.

Because the simple truth is black holes have a property which is awesome. It brings information theory (one of the grandest achievements of C20 maths) into a kind of conflict with one of the grandest achievements of C20th physics. And it’s dead simple. By which I mean it lacks complexity. Now, modeling weather is complicated because modeling multiple processes is. This is a different kind of hard. It does not involve the kind of recursive computation that gets a Julia Set on screen. It is conceptually hard rather than computationally so. Hold that thought – it will matter. There are incredible complicated things that are hard and there are simple things that are hard. Things can be hard in qualitatively different ways.

Now, in the 1930s Alan Turing came up with a theoretical model for computers. I’m typing on one now. Now Turing proved (as did Alonzo Church) by a different route (and Kurt Gödel had a look in too) proved this. Now some of this was purely formal such as the disproof of Peano Arithmetic which set out to prove essentially that the mathematics of integers can be based on a single finite and logically consistent axiom-set. That this was a bit of an embuggeration (especially to David Hilbert) is to say the least. Hilbert had proposed a program in which he hoped all mathematics could be reduced to a single axiom set. Peano Arithmetic was a jolly good punt at that. Essentially he’d proposed an idea to develop something much like the characteristica universalis of Leibniz. Essentially an attempt to reduce everything to rule-following. The idea was this…

When the Peano axioms were first proposed, Bertrand Russell and others agreed that these axioms implicitly defined what we mean by a “natural number”. Henri Poincaré was more cautious, saying they only defined natural numbers if they were consistent; if there is a proof that starts from just these axioms and derives a contradiction such as 0 = 1, then the axioms are inconsistent, and don’t define anything. In 1900, David Hilbert posed the problem of proving their consistency using only finitistic methods as the second of his twenty-three problems. In 1931, Kurt Gödel proved his second incompleteness theorem, which shows that such a consistency proof cannot be formalized within Peano arithmetic itself

That’s from wikipedia

So it is entirely a bust flush. Or is it?

Anyway, I realized I’m hundreds of words in and haven’t answered the question! Sorry, but I had to foreground and the essential problem is to do with words like “definable”, “consistent” and especially “infinite”. Now the final one is the impenetrable. Now way back when Galileo realized infinity was a tough nut to crack when he put as an aside the idea (which is true) that the set of Naturals had exactly the same cardinality as the set of Perfect Squares. Now the first set is {1,2,3…} and the second starts {1,4,9…} but both have the same number of members. Huh? You might be thinking there are more of the first because of the gaps in the second? But as Galileo argued and Cantor proved the cardinality (the size of the sets – sort of) can be proven to be the identical for both because both can be put in an exact 1-1 bijection – essentially for each member of the first set there is a one on the other side – kinda like the perfect tea-dance – with integers He (Cantor) called this number Aleph-null. The first of the transfinite cardinals (there are many more cardinals – more than they have in Rome – and some are fucking enormous – a technical term I owe to a Leeds University number theorist). I am getting a bit OT here but I must mention a collection known (and I know this sounds rather “Father Ted” but there are, amongst many others, ineffable cardinals. Please read this because it conveys the total Woo-Woo.

Yes, there are numbers that are infinite in ways that can’t be uttered but must exist, logically. Yes this sounds mystic and it is but it is provable. This is not homeopathy. This is reality.

What was that paragraph about? Well it was really about trying to say (and this is relevant) that there. In an arguably similar way General Relativity contains solutions (such as those due to Kurt Gödel which include the possibility of time-travel but whilst mathematically impeccable do not pertain to our Universe, but could in principle, just don’t). Now that is interesting. So interesting I wrote an MSc thesis on it. What was dear old Gödel up to? Fuck knows! I don’t know fuck so I don’t. It is all a piggy-rotten mystery and no mistake. It’s like Windows 8. No bastard groks that one.

Anyway Blackholes are simpler. Once you cross the event horizon you is doomed and I mean proper Frazer doomed. Not only are you not getting out but you can’t really communicate out either. Because nothing can get out of an event horizon. It’s kinda like dropping car keys down a toilet. Now I’m on my uppers here (but promised to write this piece) but my understanding is that in the vicinity of an event horizon time slows as seen by an external observer but seems the same for the subject falling in. They also get gravitationally red-shifted and dim into the IR. So if you chuck your mate into a blackhole and they wave back at you it seems ever slower and ever redder until you can see nothing of them. Now this time dilation is kinda like working a 36hr day and then a 48hr day and then a 72hr day so you get more done. Essentially any computable problem accelerates (i.e. breaking a code and not whether Miley Cyrus ought to wear pants) because the effective time the Turing machine’s rate of knots has becomes asymptotic because time has slowed for it – though not for the observer at a safe distance. So it can actually solve or get round the likes of the Entsheidungsproblem

Except. As the Turing machine (and if you are reading this – you have one – just not a local blackhole – I hope) hits max and goes infinite it is going beyond the event horizon so you never get to know the results. I know. It sucks. Of course you could leap in after it but you’d never be able to get the data out so what is the point?

Now I have no idea whatsoever where my trash goes. But if it were to be chucked in a blackhole then nothing of it would remain to the external observer other than mass, electric charge and angular momentum. This applies to anything. This applies to pork bellies, gold ingots, the works of Shakespeare and your Aunty Gladys. All meaningful information is lost to the Universe. In a very real sense that is why blackholes are something else. And that is why a Turing machine can achieve infinite speed (even that dreadful Acer you bought five years ago) but anyone outside the hole can do nothing with it. And if you are past the event horizon neither can you.

And for my next trick I have this cat and this box ;-)

Higgs

So the discovery of the Higgs boson has earned François Englert and Peter Higgs the Nobel for physics. Top news! To have a theory experimentally confirmed half a century later is something else. Apparently Prof Higgs was unavailable for comment having gone on holiday sans phone due to the media attention. Fair play. Way back when Richard Feynman won the Noble he was copped by a press man and said – approximately – “If I could explain what I did to win the Noble Prize in physics in five minutes it wouldn’t have been worth the Noble Prize”. Quite.

There is a quiet lament though. Englert’s colleague died shortly before CERN announced that the LHC’s Atlas had clocked the Higgs Boson. And two Americans and another Brit came within an ace of publishing before Peter Higgs… Ah, well.

At least they won’t have to deal with fame!

And despite the video at the top I have always been annoyed by the Higgs Boson being reffed as the “God particle”. So apparently has Prof Higgs who has taken-up cudgels against Prof Dawkins on the matter.

It is a solution to one problem – a massive one (joke intended) – but one problem. There is always plus ultra. But it is a mighty achievement and a wonderful thing that two old men will die knowing they were right.

Because I always worried that Peter Higgs (who is 84) would die before he knew he was right and he has waited nearly 50 years to raise a glass over this. Well, I have raised a glass to him tonight as well. And does it need saying he is a Geordie by birth? Of course he is!

François Englert and Peter Higgs – I salute you both.

The physiology/medicine prize seemed to go to three good sticks for something that is also cool. I await chemistry – sort of.

Excellent news so far.

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