This entry is devoted to those words that haunt conversation, correspondence and thought with clouds of virtual meanings. A cloud forms around denotations that can either enhance or impede communication. Indeed, many words and comments in the following list --which will be augmented via the editing function of this site-- are drawn from letters and discussions and will, for simplicity's sake, retain address form of "I" and "you". "You", where it appears, originally meant one or another specific person, but for our purposes now addresses anyone reading this blog. "I" remains a relatively unchanged quotient. In these textual divisions I is me. The idea is, meaning goes well beyond definition and I encourage you to pursue it too. In this sort of project, comments are especially useful and welcome.
ALIENS: Society in general has got so bad I consider good people and aliens as one thing. Those whose psyches subscribe to the extragalactic belt are our true relatives and seldom, if ever, number among our immediate kin. We are scattered across the universe! How do we find each other? Where are the aliens?
One good guess is ESL classes. ETs would go there to reconnoiter, plan the takeover of Earth and learn useful English phrases. Random audit is advisable. Special interest goes to students who give answers like "each thought is a prediction of itself" and "it's never been this late before". Real aliens are studious but do poorly on formalized exams. Also, we doodle a lot.
ADVANCEMENT: On a subjective level, progress is a nebulous term. We may think we are advancing as a society but are sometimes proven wrong by a broader review of evidence. A case in point: political scientists have, since the late 1990s, been summarily replaced by primatologists.
DEATH: I think there is, in my original construction, a line of peel towers --like those in England when folks feared marauding Scots-- that marks the borders of what I can know. They are used for other things now, but could, I suppose --because it's miserable not knowing answers-- be quickly pressed back into service. What smolders in their iron baskets is a thought I had long ago and have accepted as axiomatic: we take from each moment the future that best includes us. Death is a moment, an exceptional moment, but no more exceptional than the life from which the axiom came. I have much to learn about quantum navigation, but if you see the fires brighten in my direction, it means the process doesn't end and I have seen the answer --or the Scots are marauding again.
INVISIBILITY: Invisibility is one of those things I won't believe until I see it. Consult illustration here:
LIFE: I am always relieved to hear a live-food enthusiast is a vegetarian. Aren't you?
NETWORKING: I've never understood networking, which seems to be an entrepreneurial term mainly. I mean, when I had jobs, I'd do favors and call them in --or not-- later, which was useful but not really networking because the exchange was neither immediate nor implicit. Favors were governed by a very loose, flexible social contract, with no need for further mediation. I do remember friends over the years asking me in on some "networking" enterprise or other --usually concerning investment or diapers in bulk. I'd say no and they'd disappear into manipulative churches with basements full of Dinty Moore. So what's the term for people outside the give-me-what-I-want-for-crap-you-don't-want continuum?
OBSERVATION: Most people would not think there is much to be learned from a hen's muddy tracks on a pile of sugar, but those who did developed the use of moistened clay for whitening sugar in refineries.
PARTICI GRIDS: They compare favorably with fundamentals of Yoga, Tai-Chi and Qigong --all of which have adapted to modern medical discourse and so survived the occasional totalitarian government. Tyrannies tend to shut off religion with other utilities in an ongoing mission to improve humanity by making life really miserable. However, I see some problems with Partici grids being described as smaller than photons. We receive no direct information about reality smaller than a photon. So, even the most impressive technical description of how these grids behave must be deputed to faith, not science. Lesser obstacle is peoples' difficulty learning new things and further difficulty seeing their beauty. Until an embarrassingly short time ago I thought Feng Shui was a martial art, a misconception reinforced by the way I keep house in the absence of stern supervision.
VON NEUMANN PROBES: An electric field is a cloud of virtual photons. Energy propagation depends on virtual photons passing between charges --chicken or egg. Photons become real when shaken or stirred. This creates an imbalance, a little violation of energy-conservation law, which is tolerated only briefly if the kick is strong or, if the kick is weak, quite a long time. This is why the energy level of info coming to us from distant sources is always very low. What we learn from it depends on our ability to perceive and reason in new ways.
So I have a big problem with von Neumann probes. Despite the wonderful idea of probes that can set up anywhere and reproduce, they still couldn't detect anything outside their original programming. This serves only to compound the unknown of unknown regions. Also, after they take their million years to explore our one little galaxy, it would consume at least that time to complete their reports --and again that long for us to receive them.
Our expansion into distance is unlikely to depend on a big gas-fired gadgets shouting imbecilities from deep space. We need to evolve, to do more with less and weaker, subtler, forms of information. When we see light, we detect massless particles, things that aren't actually things --particles that don't exist in the way we define our own existence. Ghosts. That's got to change before we can explore much beyond our solar system.