This site will present the basic physics theory arguments about what really happened on 9/11 in a way that
Perhaps I’m biased, but Fermilab is one of my favorite places. Not only is it home to the biggest kind of Big Science — the Tevatron — but it also manages to be the quirkiest of the National Labs. I went there for the first time as a science writing intern in the summer of 2005 and, as this trip should make clear, never really looked back.
A panorama showcasing Wilson's blue-and-orange color scheme and his self-designed π-shaped power poles stretching off into the distance.
Business Sprouts found this to be such an inspiration. It is a short video at TED of a Malawian boy who at the age of 14 build a windmill to power his family’s home. Now at 22, Willian Kamkwaba tells his story of how invention changed his life and saved his family during poverty and famine.
There are a bunch of topics that are of high interest to me, and I’ll be using this blog to talk about some of them.
My main passion and a dream job is no doubt game development. This will likely be the main subject of this blog, as well as other computer related topics. However, I’m also into things like psychology, philosophy, HCI/User Interfaces, physics theory, racing, driving, snowboarding, longboarding, RC cars, racing simulators, displays, pixels, portable devices, in arbitrary order.
I like cars in general, and anything that has to do with driving, racing or making them. One of my long term dreams has always been to create a playground realistic driving sim where I’m able to experiment with various car designs. Until then, I have LFS. I also tend to play around with some remote controlled cars that I have.
I also like to delve into contemplations about the meaning of life, and other philosophy/psychology questions. I might post some of my ideas on that here.
Anyway, I doubt I will talk about every single of my interests here, so perhaps throwing all those tags out wasn’t the best idea. Oh well.
Chad Orzel, who’s a physicist, is blogging today about Volume Packing of Breakfast Cereal. I’m not a physicist, but enjoyed his musings about how the small shapes of cereal fit into a space – like a bowl – anyhow.
Quisp was my personal favorite as a kid–I ate boxes of the stuff saving up boxtops for a stuffed toy (shades of Calvin and Hobbes and Chocolate Frosted Sugar Bombs…). Looking for a link, I discovered I can order it online. I wonder if I could stand that much sugar as an adult?
El observatorio de ondas gravitatorias LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave mechanics Observatory) requiere tecnologías punta al borde de lo imaginable. Sus investigadores han logrado un detector de ondas gravitatorias por interferometría capaz de medir desplazamientos de sólo 10−18 m. en una banda de 100 Hz. centrada en 150 Hz. Para conseguirlo han enfriado dicho dispositivo de 2.7 kg. a una temperatura de 1.4 μK. (microKelvins). ¿Imposible? Lo parece pero no, lo han logrado B. Abbott et al. “Observation of a kilogram-scale oscillator near its quantum ground state,” New J. Phys. 11: 073032, July 2009. Un objeto macroscópico que se comporta como un objeto cuántico que oscila únicamente con 200 estados cuánticos alcanzables (sólo 10 veces por encima del límite cuántico teórico). Raya lo imposible. Pero la detección de ondas gravitatorias así lo requiere.
I had arrived in the transitional plane in the midst of a torrential rain storm created by someone familiar, yet completely unknown to me. Before I could find out why the person seemed familiar, I was whisked into the paranormal section of a library where Keely, another guide greeted me.
Keely and I usually worked together during large crises or life-shattering events, so I was waiting anxiously for him to tell me why he called me here.
The news, when it came, was not pretty. A massive earthquake was going to happen in Indonesia within the next day, and hundreds, maybe thousands would die. I blanched.
“I know,” Keely said looking at me with undisguised sympathy. “But there’s nothing we can do except be there for them.”
I nodded, knowing he was right, but still my heart ached for all the people who would be hurt by this.
I had learned the hard way that once someone makes up their mind to be involved in some event, some life altering, life devastating event, that there was little you could do about it. So many times I would be called in and warned about some major event coming up—an earthquake, a flood, a plane crash—because we (the guides) were expected to come here and help the souls in the aftermath.
How many times did I rant about how unfair it was? How many times did I find myself despondent and hating my “job”? In fact, when I was younger and very new to this, I would try to “fix” things. I would get the “list” of victims, and then run around the transitional plane trying to get into their heads, usually through their dreams, and warn them. I spent so much energy and all for nothing. Most people don’t listen to dreams, and those that do, well, for the most part they had chosen to participate in the experience, so they ignored me.
Those times that I got back to the physical plane without forgetting, on a conscious level, what was supposed to happen, I would try to warn people. I tried to contact authorities—you know, airline officials, disaster officials, mayors, police, things like that—and warn them. Most times I came off sounding like a kook; however, other times, the authorities actually thought I was the cause of the problem. (I mean really…how could I have caused the earthquake in San Francisco? Even I don’t have that many connections or that kind of power!)
But most off the time planers don’t remember everything that happens in the transitional plane. And with a little help from the monitors—the guys who kind of guide the guides and get us organized for big happenings like the one coming up—we remember even less. They use their considerable influence to keep what happens on the astral planes from coming through to the conscious minds of the guides involved. You see, guides don’t need to remember when to show up, I like to (I think it gives me a more empathetic and professional quality), we feel a tug on our aura and we go.
A lot of times we have an agreement to be there with the person, so when they’re ready to go, they tug the agreement cord that links us and I go pick them up (though sometimes they will insist on meeting in the transitional, but that’s rare and rather frowned upon). This would be a little bit different, though, due to the magnitude of it.
In this case, one of the monitors would tug the cord, and we’d be directed to our clients. Some might need to be picked up from the physical plane and escorted across, others would be floating around having already jumped out of their physical body, but not knowing what to do or where to go. Still others, may have stepped out to avoid the pain, but without having decided whether to stay or go.
So, it’s a lot of hand-holding, explaining, and shoulder lending. We’re the ultimate grief counselors.
Anyway, when I planed back after this meeting, I would forget everything that happened here except for the fact that I would be very busy over the next few days. I knew it was better that way; it definitely made it easier for me to deal with my day-to-day life, but now, standing here in the construct of the library, I could cry for the all the souls being affected by this event.
What I didn’t count on once I planed back to my own bedroom and my own body, was the niggling feeling that kept digging at me of having forgotten something that I needed to do. This strange and annoying feeling was always immediately followed by a memory of rain.
I was taking a shower when the feeling first tickled my brain and was followed by the memory of a bad rain storm. I paused, simply standing beneath the warm water as my mind tried to find a connection between the two thoughts. When nothing came to mind, I shook my head and continued with my ablutions.
I was drying my hair when the feeling and memory came again. This time I tried to pursue the memory and remembered several rainy days when Katy and I had slogged through the wet mud to watch her son participate in a rodeo competition. Maybe I needed to call Katy, I thought.
I grabbed the phone and dialed her number at the place where she worked. While always glad to hear from me, she said she couldn’t really talk right then because she was on her way to give a presentation to a client (she’s in marketing and loves her work). We agreed to talk later and maybe set up a date for lunch, and she went to give her presentation and I finished drying my hair. However, the call didn’t alleviate the problem. The need to remember something, something about rain?, kept chewing at the edges of my thoughts.
Sitting at my desk I tried to work on some of my columns that had looming deadlines, but as the day progressed the dog-chasing-tail feeling of the need to remember followed by a memory of rainy days was leaving me edgy. I hadn’t managed to write anything worthwhile, and that was only adding to my anxiety.
Unable to focus on what I needed to do, and knowing full well that I would be sorry for not getting my writing done today, I headed outside. I needed motion and movement; I needed to use up some of my pent up energy. And who knew, I thought, maybe if I just let my brain go into neutral, it might find a connection between these two disparate and annoying thoughts for me.
Is it wrong to be religious? Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens would have us believe so. In fact I would say they are anti-religious extremists – and I am positive they would proudly agree with this statement. Its one thing to hear the religious extremists of Christianity and Islam talk firebrand language about the evil of non-believers, but to hear intelligent self-proclaimed atheists like Dawkins and Hitchens wax lyrical about the evils of religion is hard to bear. One would think that such men of science and intellect would know better than to further entrench divisions in an already fractured society. They are effectively shutting down any dialouge between those who believe in religion and those who do not. They are spreading a hatred amongst the population towards those that they accuse of spreading hatred. It is depressing, it is small minded.
Dawkins and Hitchens tell us that religion is the source of all woe in the world. That it is at the heart of pogroms against the Jews, homophobia, misogyny and general intolerance. Both essentially believe that all religion should be eradicated and replaced with a kind of international humanism that will function on a rational and scientific basis. There is merit to this argument. There is no doubt that when religious extremists get into power terrible things can happen. The Taliban in Afghanistan were/are a terrifying example of this. George Bush, a devout Christian, brought the world to a chaotic and war-torn position with his religious mania. But there have also been plenty of non-religious leaders who ruled with cruelty. Stalin was an atheist and he killed 60 million people in his Gulags. Pol Pot was also an atheist and his regime murdered 2 million Cambodians. Perhaps the point is not that religion creates cruelty and terror, but rather the possession of power leads to cruelty and terror.
In the West the State (political-economic system) is considered to be free of the influence of the church and is run on transparent democratic values. Yet the State is responsible for the incarceration of thousands in its cruel prison system. The State controls the military which is responsible for the killing of unknown numbers of people – think Iraq and Afghanistan. Anti-terror laws in Australia allow police to raid anybody’s house without permission, a law that spreads fear and anxiety through the population. All these activities are not religiously motivated - they are sanctioned by the State. My point is that pointing the finger at religion as the only source of cruelty is an extremist view that ignores the wider picture. Wouldn’t it be more worthy to ask what it is about human nature that causes such acts of cruelty and hatred in the first place?
Religion has created men and women of peace. Ghandi was a Hindu. Martin Luther King was a Christian. The Dalai Lama is Buddhist. These men have inspired millions, atheist and non-atheist alike. Nelson Mandela is christian and he pulled South Africa into the modern world, with a constitution free of religious interference that Dawkins and Hitchens would approve of. Yet here is what Mandela has to say about religion:
Religion is one of the most important forces in the world. Whether you are a Christian, a Muslim, a Buddhist, a Jew, or a Hindu, religion is a great force, and it can help one have command of one’s own morality, one’s own behavior, and one’s own attitude.
When I was young I read a book by Christopher Hitchens called Letters to a Young Contrarian. It was a book written for young radicals, giving them the courage to stand against popular opinion and to speak against what they did not believe in. Hitchens is no hypocrite when it comes to this matter. He is probably the most well-known contrarian on the planet. But his contrarian views have caused him to contradict himself. Hitchens was unusual in that he was one of the few people from the Left side of politics who supported Bush’s war on terrorism, including the bombing of Sudan. Hitchens supported it for the lofty idea that it was a war defending the humanist ideals of Western civilisation against the dark-age beliefs of Muslim extremists. But of course by giving his support to Bush he covertly gave support to religious extremism, because that was the basis of Bush’s war on terror. He went to war with Iraq because God told him to. How can Hitchens justify this? I’m sure he can easily, he is a clever fellow. But he lost me – his views have become farcical. He also lost some powerful friends from the decision to support the war on terrorism, including Noam Chomsky.
Hawkins comes from a different perspective. He thinks we should all reject religion because science is the only truth. Science is a truth indeed. It has brought us many positive things, especially knowledge. But it has also brought as the atom bomb, polluting machines, chemicals, refined weapons etc. And science in the past was used to justify Europeans superiority over other cultures which led to genocides around the world. Ironically it was religious missionaries who saved some indigenous cultures from complete annihilation (though they completed the process culturally by forcing them to convert to Christianity). Even today science has a limited sphere of viewing – it can only answer so many questions. This has already been resolved by the deconstruction of the Western mind by post-modernists such as Foucault and Derrida who left the door open to other ways of perceiving and understanding the world including mysticism, shamanism and dare I say it religion. Imperialistic statements that place one world-view above others is nothing but incendiary. Can Hawkins not see that his comments could lead to as much anger, resentment and hatred as any religious leader could invoke?
I personally know many people who are atheist and religious. They are all good people. While they don’t agree on everything, they are capable of getting along with one another and accepting that each other has different beliefs. Such people are likely to become uncomfortable with one another and may even become enemies with the rise of vociferous voices like Hitchens and Dawkins who, like any other extremists or propagandists, spread division amongst the population. Religion has the capacity to deal with questions that Science cannot answer. Science stops at the physical domain. In fact Science has broken beyond the physical domain into the realm of the mystical. There are plenty of examples of this. Read this quote from physicist Brian Swimme, a scientist who is attempting to bridge the gap between science and religion and offer the world something new, not just promote the same old divisions and hatreds.:
While this perspective (quantum physics theory) is new within the traditions of science, from another point of view we are arriving at an understanding that was deeply appreciated during the classical religious period of humanity. Thomas Aquinas and Meister Eckhart in the Middle Ages of Europe grasped intuitively that emptiness is the source of everything. This realization is echoed in the life and teaching of Buddha, who understood that all put-together things arise from emptiness and exist inseparably with emptiness.
Religion refuses to put humanity at the center of existence. In this way it gives its believers a realistic perspective of their own reality. That they are something small in something vast – a kind of awe and reverence arises from this understanding. Humanism while a worthy political aspiration can never offer the consolations and inner understandings of religion as it places humans at the center of existence which is essentially false. We need to see ourselves in relation to the vastness and mysteriousness of the universe in which we exist. That religion inspires nutters and murderers and intolerance is not necessarily the fault of religion. It is the fault of humanity. It is something in ourselves that we need to understand and overcome. Creating further divisions by dumping people who choose to believe in religion in the ‘bad person’ camp is just plain dumb. We should expect more from our intellectual and cultural (self-proclaimed) leaders. Yes Hitchens and Dawkins, I’m talking about you…
It’s probably because he’s Czech, or perhaps it’s despite that instead.
I have spent, some years ago, quite a long cumulative time in his country, probably more than anywhere else except here. And I found the Czechs, particularly the South-Moravians (whose accent and dialect I learned to fool people in Prague with) to be charmingly romantic, but maybe it was just the all-pervading afterglow of joy at being released from the Stalinist Jackboot.