The Mind Boggles

The mind’s going to boggle either way.  Either the universe and time itself was created in a big bang several billion years ago, and neither time nor space existed before that, as Neil DeGrasse Tyson keeps telling us, or, as I think, there had to be, before the big bang, other big bangs, and so far back into forever, ad infinitum, turtles all the way down.

(There might also be parallel universes and stuff, but I’m not even going to get into that here.  Some day, but for probably the next few thousand years or so, this universe will be enough.)

See, they keep saying time did not exist before the big bang, but I don’t see it that way.  Time is a term people use for the measurement of time, which is arbitrary, but it is a man made concept for measuring something that does exist.  Therefore, it exists.  And since it is an abstract concept, it existed just as much at a time before matter or energy or consciousnesses.

There was one second before the big bang, and there was a hundred years before the big bang.  Just because there was no consciousness to perceive it, no energy or matter for it to affect, doesn’t mean that amount of time didn’t pass, from the end of the last universe to the beginning of our own.

But, either way, there are vastnesses which are logically and emotionally incomprehensible to us.  The mind boggles.

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Loose Lipped Lindsey

Most of America’s ‘pundits,’ a class of people who apparently get paid money to guess about stuff even though their track record is no better than your crazy neighbor, seem to think that Lindsey Graham ( R-SC) committed a major gaffe when he was recorded as saying “white guys in male-only clubs are going to do great when I’m president,’  at a gathering of white males.

Lindsey "never going to be President anyway" Graham

Lindsey “never going to be President anyway” Graham

I don’t think so.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think Lindsey Graham would make a good president and I don’t think he ever will be president, but as long as we’re just talking horse race, he didn’t hurt his chances at all if he decides to run.

Since he’s not actually a candidate for president at this point, this will all be quickly forgotten.  Most people are more focused on the elections coming up Tuesday.  For that matter, people are more focused on Halloween than on anything Lindsey Graham said.

Also, he seems to be fairly successfully playing it off as just a joke.  He did not try to deny making the comment.  That’s smart.

Third, there is his base…I mean his real base, not the ignorant bozos who vote for him because years of listening to Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and worse have convinced them that Democrats are in league with Satan.  I’m talking about the wealthy donors.  He just told them they’d do great, and they knew exactly what he meant.

I hope I’m wrong.  I’d be very happy if his comment sparked a tsunami of outrage, destroying his career.  But I’m not holding my breath.

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Dumbass of the Day

Casey Nocket is an aspiring young artist from New York City.  She is also a nature lover, so it is no surprise that she wanted to tour America’s magnificent natural parks.  Yosemite, Crater Lake, the Grand Canyon, Zion, places luck that.  She is a groundbreaking, unconventional artist, not to be limited to

Acrylic on Rock, overlooking Crater Lake

Acrylic on Rock, overlooking Crater Lake

painting landscapes on canvas.  Casey Nocket decided to paint directly on the rocks.

She was so knocked out by her own artistic genius that she took photos of her colorful work, her addition to the natural landscape.  She posted those photos to Instagram.  Other people saw them and shared them to  places like Reddit and facebook.  Soon, many people had seen Casey’s art.

Some people did not appreciate her vision.  Some people called it ‘graffiti’ (because it’s graffiti) and ‘vandalism’ (because it’s vandalism).  Some people even reported her to the police,  who should have no trouble finding her, because she’s all over the internet.

Poor Casey.  “Maybe next time I’ll just paint on the tombstones in a cemetery,” she said.  “Maybe then people won’t get so excited.”

No, Casey.  Maybe next time you should try actually painting something on canvas.  If you are any good (which you are not) people will want to look at it.  And our natural heritage will be preserved.

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Mark Twain was Wrong, Maybe

When Mark Twain uttered his famous quote: “Everybody talks about the weather but nobody does anything about it,” it was funny because it was just obviously true.  Nobody could do anything about the weather because not only didn’t we have the technology, we were still so far away from it that nobody even imagined the possibility.weather

There is still very little we  can do about the weather.  A bit of cloud seeding here and there.  We could make the weather patterns a bit less disastrous  by cleaning up the atmosphere, but try telling that to the people who run the world.

For the most part, realistically, we are still limited to talking about it and reacting to it with as effective a defense as possible.

A new supercomputer in England ,however, is certainly going to make predicting it more accurate, and that’s halfway to doing something about it.  16,000 trillion calculations per second is a hell of a huge number of calculations.  A person can’t even count up to 16,000 trillion.

But, it gives me a chance to bring up my hypothesis, which is this: We will never be able to predict the weather 100%.  Here’s why.  People deal in real numbers.  1, 2, 3, etc…We can figure with numbers like 1.232465678, for instance, but it’s still not an amount that’s recognized by nature.  Nature doesn’t have ten fingers.  Nature doesn’t deal in real numbers.  Nature deals in critical mass, and forces acting on each other.  We can never know exactly and precisely where or how they will react, because they are not working with our number system, or any rational number system.

It also seems to me that you can never accurately determine the area of a circle, because we don’t know the true value of pi.  Math majors, feel free to correct me if I’m wrong.

Anyway, with regards to the weather.  Even if we can never get it perfect, the closer our estimate, the better.

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The First Whiff

There is just so much that’s so cool  about  the Rossetta Mission.

It was launched over 10 years ago, and it’s set to land a probe on Comet 67p/Churyamov-Gerasimenko, which cometary experts seem to have decided to call 67p, but I’ve been referring to as Chury-Gury, on November 12th.  That’s some serious forward planning, that is.

p67 Churyumov-Gerasimenko

p67 Churyumov-Gerasimenko

Also, it is multi-functional.  On its way  out to Chury-Gury, it circled around to have a look at a couple of other planetary bodies.  Not bad for a little spacecraft that is just a bunch of solar panels with a box  in the middle. a space going dragonfly with a giant brain (for a dragonfly).

It’s landing on a comet!  That is a whole lot more complex than landing on another planet, or even a reasonably sized moon.  This thing is not that big, it’s like a world in the story of The Little Prince, and shaped roughly like a leg of fried chicken.  So, that’s pretty amazing.

But, before touching down it did something amazing.  It deployed ROSINA, which stands for Rosetta Orbiter Sensor for  Ion and Neutral Analysis. (they have such cool names)  ROSINA’s nose, basically.  For real.

So far, scientists on Earth have been examining the data, and they say it stinks like a dead fish in a fat man’s sock.  “A combination of rotten eggs, alcohol and methane,” I heard

Amateur question here:   If it smells like rotten eggs,  alcohol and methane, is it possible that it harbors life of some kind or, at any rate, once did?  Doesn’t look that way, or scientists would be going nuts.

One mistake I think we should avoid making is to assume that because Chury-Mury is a stinking ball of space crap, that all comets will be stinking balls of space crap.

Maybe the next comet we land on will smell like honey and cinnamon.  The next will smell like steaks on the grill.  The next like marijuana. The next like a fish and chips shop.  The next like the smell of a sweet, grassy  meadow in spring time, after an overnight rain.

There’s no reason to  assume that all comets will smell alike.

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The Importance of Beating Ernst

Dear residents of the Great State of Iowa,

I haven’t lived there for four decades now, so this is your decision, not mine.  Nonetheless, I have two good reasons to write and urge you to vote for Bruce Braley for the United States Senate seat from Iowa.

Bruce Braley

Bruce Braley

First, although I no longer live there it will always be where I’m from.  When people ask me that question, I am quite proud to tell them Iowa.  Whenever I am talking to someone who actually knows where it is, or perhaps even has been there, they think of Iowans as decent people; friendly, mild-mannered, and, above all, sane and rational.  You know.  Normal folks.  The kind you’d like to have as a next door neighbor.  If Joni Ernst is elected, that image will be severely tarnished.  Some of her crazier statements have already given her a reputation, internationally, as a full on lunatic in the tradition of Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann.

Secondly, a United States Senator does more than just represent her own state.  He or she is a member of the  most powerful legislative body in the world.  He or she will have a say in who gets appointed to the Supreme Court.  Whether to go to war or not.  Important stuff.

We cannot afford to have any more gun waving, global warming denying, Social Security threatening, anti-health care, fanatic tea party ideologues in the Senate, House, or anywhere in American politics.  Not only are they a threat to the American way of life, they are a threat to life on Earth, period.

So, please.  For the sake of yourselves, the State of Iowa, and the entire human race, vote for Bruce Braley for U.S. Senate on November 4th.  He seems like a normal, sane and rational guy.

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Pumpkin Fest

The event (I overheard one minor debate over whether it was called halloween or the pumpkin festival) was a huge success. There were sixteen kids there. Probably about twice that number of parents, grandparents and assorted adult relatives. My costom was The Grim Reaper and it was my job to stand near the top of the hill, the last of five checkpoints where the kids got candy. My wife who organized the whole thing sent us out to wait and, I swear it was about an hour before she sent the kids. Fortunately it was a lovely cool evening. The view was spectacular and it felt great to be standing in the middle of a deathly still village road, contemplating the meaning of existence. Other highlights of the evening were the pumpkin carving contest, roasting sausages over the campfire and Helena’s applekin pie, which might have been called pumple pie but the apple flavor dominated. Also her pumpkin bread was awesome. A good time was had by all. Everybody wants to do it next year. I may try to add some photos tomorrow but this is being written on a phone, so that’s it for now.

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