All aboard. People I very much appreciate:

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Scary Halloween Story!!!

Best way to make a long distance call to the past is get an old telephone, like the Western Electric candlestick in the photo, and wire it into something that exploits quantum coherence --a rare Antarctic Albino Pumpkin will do. As we established in a previous post, cats also work but get annoyed with leads and soldering and won't stay put. Then you place your call:

"Hello Poppy! It's Geo. What are you doing in Antarctica?"

"I'm not doing anything there. I'm in Iceland."

"Close enough. How are things?"

"Not too good. I got sent here to interview Skallagrim, son of  Kveldulf Bjalfason,  historical berserker of the 9th century who figures in the Icelandic sagas as a werewolf. We walked and talked about his dad. Skallagrim just seemed like a nice young, prematurely balding farmer, then the full moon came up. I'm really glad you called."

"Kveldulf is Old Norse for "evening wolf" so you thought..."

"I thought he was a wolfman, but he wasn't. He was just very troubled."

"His son, however..."

"Yes! Oh Geo., Skallagrim and I were talking and he was bald and then I thought he was getting asthma or growling and then I looked and he suddenly had this huge hairy head. He shook it at me!"

"So how's it going, Poppy?

"I'm running through the forest because he's chasing me!"

"Ok, slow down. He can't outrun you. He was not growling."

"You mean?"

"That's right, I've researched him. That's why I'm using a pumpkin (have you any idea what land-lines charge for long-distance to the 9th century?).  He's as asthmatic as I am. Just look around you. What's on the ground?"


"Pick one up."

"Big one, right?"

"Certainly not! Somebody could get hurt. Find a small one that hardly weighs anything. Has he caught up yet?"

"Uh huh. I'm scared, Geo.!"

"Poppy, calm down and follow my instructions carefully. First, give Skallagrim a few moments to catch his wind, then throw the stick back toward the farm."

"Ok, what next?"

"Yell 'FETCH!'"

"Oh wow! He's chasing it. He's bringing it back!"

"Great. Keep doing that 'til the moon goes down."

"Won't it aggravate his asthma?"

"No Poppy, in defiance of all philosophical parameters, the wolfman is only immortal for a few hours every 28 days."

"But immortality is forever. Doesn't that mean always? Moon's full just once a month."

"Beats me. All I know is, when I was a teenager, he deejayed a radio show in Chula Vista. Sounded asthmatic to me."

"Takes one to know one, I guess."

"G'night Poppy."

"Happy Halloween, Geo!"

Monday, October 21, 2013

Teenagers, Us and Classical Physics

Since the previous post concerned quantum mechanics, I thought it apposite to do one on classical physics. It's not complicated. Strictly speaking there are several branches of physics: Newton's laws of motion, Lagrangian and Hamiltonian formalism, Maxwell's electrodynamics, thermodynamics and relativity etc. But once you get to thinking about quanta --to which size, distance and time are nearly meaningless-- everything outside of it is classical. Like classical music, it is not always easy to dance to but is less distracting and helps even me to think in our big everyday world.
This entry is hard for me to write because it's not inherently silly. I like being silly. I was raised by the silly and the silly prize love over all things. So when I reached the age of sentiment and fell in love, I kept notes. Consider this nearly 50-year-old  poem:

E Equals
Over treetops,
In the sky, we
See ourselves
By computation
In moonlit leaves
We are the
Square root
Of light.

I posted it in 2009 and friend Willie commented, "I like the rest of your poem after the title so much better than the traditional completion that Al gave us, mc squared."

By "Al", He was referring to Albert Einstein, who expressed his imagination in mathematics. I shall do so here: E= mc^2. E is for energy. "m" is for mass. "c" is for constant, which in this case is not a thing or idea but a velocity, the speed of light. "^", when used in mathematics on a limited keyboard like mine, is called a caret and indicates the next symbol is not a multiplier but an exponent-- in this case squared, ^2.

Every 14 year-old algebra student has probably tried to solve for m (because we are m). I did and it left me with a strange realization. Divide each side of the equation by c^2 and you get the last three lines of my old poem. Upshot is, if you want to define light, you have to use a velocity, and if you want to go the speed of light you have to be light. Light is made of photons.

We receive no information about the universe smaller than a photon.

Plants synthesize light. We eat plants. Animals eat plants and each other. We eat them. By a process of measured combustion, we grow and thrive, live our lives on energy from the stars. We weigh something in a gravitational field. We have mass, are mass. We are on both sides of the equation, and have the brains to know it. But do we know what we really need? Entrenched in a food and life cycle of devouring everything that doesn't devour us, burning with desire for love and acceptance, do we know? If we don't want this chaos of exploitation, nutrition and cognitive distortion, then what the heck do we want?

Danged if I know. Haven't really thought about it since I was a teenager. You?

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Introduction To Quantum Mechanics (1st of an occasional series)

It is time to discuss quantum mechanics, a branch of physics discovered in 1962 by my brother, Frankie. He came home from school one day and mentioned it with great enthusiasm as we enjoyed our daily afternoon recreation, which was squatting outdoors scratching out the secrets of the universe in the dirt with sticks. He drew a cloud of virtual photons that could be made actual by adding an electric charge. These irreducible units of energy would propagate and be received as a quantum wave function by photoelectric cells (or electric eyes as we called them then) or by antennas on radios. I scratched up a cartoon head with a brain in it and that isolated the enigma. Could an electrochemical device (brain) in living things respond to magnetic waves?

Could brain also, on its own, exploit some form of quantum coherence? Here is a more sophisticated, modern-day experiment and illustration:
What you see here are two nearly identical shapes. On the left is a barncat named Schrodinger. On the right is a rare albino pumpkin --captured at great cost by safari into darkest Antarctica where its protective coloring renders it invisible to lions, sabre-toothed penguins, fossil-eating troglodytes and other predators. They are the same shape because they receive the same quantum wave function and respond to it. How is this possible?

One might as easily ask how we get our names. Barncat has hunting rights in our barn and is a cat. Pumpkin could not take any other form and still be seriously named Pumpkin. Geo. is my name --a voiced velar fricative followed by a diphthong-- and indicates thought, but yes, the brain of Geo.! Barncat has a brain too, and does this:

He wakes up and thinks. He thinks: I shall pour myself off this bench and go where Norma won't disturb me with her camera. The pumpkin, on the other hand, does a very peculiar thing. Pumpkin does nothing, and that is peculiar. Pumpkin, as friend Delores might say, is too full of pumpkin mush to have room for brains.But from where do these instructions come? I believe Frankie and I solved that enigma in 1962.

There has been much scientific inquiry in the past 40+ years that substantiates our theory that all of human consciousness was heavily influenced by a borderblaster A.M. radio tower near Chula Vista, California, operating in excess of 100,000 Watts and heard over this planet's entire western hemisphere. We used to wear headphones in bed and listen to THE WOLFMAN, late at night (if you draw a blank here, I suggest Geo. Lucas's film, American Graffiti). Although my brother and I both have autonomous brains, Wolfman is probably the reason neither of us can endure morning sun until late afternoon.  

Monday, October 14, 2013

News From The Woody End

This past week or so has been devoted to seeing Summer out. We have, according to California's Chamber of  Commerce, "Summers of joyous warmth".  Indeed, the warmth was so joyous in our yard two big trees died of it. I've been cutting them down and bucking them into firewood but it's slow going. Hoodle is still out there --Hoodle is the hawk that got born back in February-- and watches me sternly from a fenceline treetop.

He tells me it is I who am slow-going, not the work, and I should leave his tree alone. How Hoodle can articulate all that in his only word --"hoodle!"-- is a great enigma. He is right though. It has been over a week and I'm barely half-done. But I am of an age where visits slow me. We had house guests and they stayed in rooms off Norma's end of the back porch. Her porch-end is not like mine. There's no washing machine or philosophical instruments in it, just a chair hung with rolled yoga mats and a view of morning sun, or an atomic bomb blast --both look alike to me.
Also, she dusts it. It is unfortunate I was outdoors instead of in there because I needed dusting badly this week.

So I have taken a break from lumberjacking this morning. I am in Norma's porch having coffee and collecting thoughts for future essays. One thought is about my adventures in the Woody End, cabling 60-foot trees to ratcheted come-along levers so they fall right, then running in sheer terror anyway when they do. I also collected some ideas about thought and quantum mechanics, which is another essay --one I shall discuss with Hoodle and get to after I have got dusted.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Truth And The Future Of Spray Cheese

This blog deals with enigmas. Umberto Eco believes the whole world is an enigma, "a harmless enigma made terrible by our own mad attempt to interpret it as though it had an underlying truth." Professore Eco's area of expertise is semiotics.

Semiotics is a branch of philosophy concerned with the study of signs, metaphor, the processes and mechanics of symbolism. My own studies have led me to close examination of the mind, the psychic construct composed of ego, super-ego and id. With special emphasis on the latter apparatus, the id, I have entered the field of idiotics. However, sometimes, what with mowing, plowing, harrowing and tantrums to be done, I just enter the field and do that.

This is one of those points at which Professore Eco's semiotic theories and my idiotic ones diverge. I believe he is fundamentally correct, but has neglected to consider cheese. Cheese began as bulky solid bricks and, by and by, was made slice-able, then  gelatinous and spreadable. Then came aerosol cheese which shoots out as a viscous liquid accompanied by yellow mist. It has transcended the three states of matter on a commercial level, but it wants to be further rarefied and there remains only one possibility --pure energy.

The energy-signature of cheese, its wavelength, has yet to be determined. Researchers in semiotics and idiotics alike have left the infinite frequency-possibilities of wave propagation undisputed.  What does it mean?
It means that soon, maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but someday and for the rest of our lives, cheese will be transmitted to cell phones all over the world --maybe all over the universe, the final frontier! If that doesn't qualify cheese as an "underlying truth" then I give up.

I like cheese, and when I got up this Sunday morning and typed in the title of my sermon, I had no idea the subject would clear the early blur and undergo clarifying installments throughout the day.

I went out and did  other things, but something always called me back to this table to complete the projection. It is a strong indication of a further aspect of the subject, the cosmic spirit of cheese, which semioticist and idioticist are both happy to leave to the theologians.

Go in peace.