Cantabile: Notes From the Brothers

A Poem by My Son, age 14.

Quatrain II.

Since before I could remember
He was there as I would slumber
My brother in the top bunk
And little me just under.

I always got in trouble
When with his things I would fumble
Much more interesting than mine
At times we two would tumble.

I tried not to annoy him
Although I had a system
Which very often backfired
We’d each become the victim.

My brother soon will leave here
A thought that used to bring me cheer
Alone in our room at last
Nobody else’s presence near.

But now that time will soon arrive
I wonder if I can survive
Falling asleep alone
Don’t tell- I think that I might cry.

~:~:~:~:~:~:~:~:~:~:~:~:~:~:~:~:~:~:~:~
(c)GoshGusMusic(ascap) 2010

Strani eventi II: Time Travel Discourse By Our Resident Astrophysicist, Claude Plymate

Wherein Claude discusses his own fuzzy physics and sets things right.

“Okay, how about I take a stab at pointing out just a couple of the problems with the concept of time travel myself? It is almost trivially easy to “prove” time travel cannot exist. Let’s try a simple thought experiment:

Imagine you are a researcher who has come up with a concept for a time machine and after much labor, you’re just about finished with your first test prototype. This prototype is only large enough to send something about the size of a shoe back in time precisely one day. You decide that the first test subject should use some inanimate object like an old shoe. Tomorrow the machine should be ready for its initial test run. To prepare, you go to your closet, find an old shoe and set it next to the machine. Suddenly an identical shoe slides out of the back of the yet unfinished device! Absolute proof that it’s going to work! You excitedly continue work on the final details.

The grand day finally arrived; your time machine is ready to go. You look down at the two identical shoes sitting there and realize that the initial test has to be successful since your shoe already appeared from the machine yesterday. Why, you think to yourself, do I need to send the old shoe through as my first test since I already know that test was successful. So, you decide instead to skip ahead to the second test – sending a live subject through. You take a lab rat from its cage and drop it into the machine.

Hold on, what just happened? Let’s think about this for a moment. You just substituted the rat for the shoe! Where did the shoe that appeared yesterday come from and where did the rat just disappear to? Did you just vaporize the rat? Did the shoe simply appear out of nothing?? Did the rat turn into a shoe??? These are causality paradoxes that obviously can never happen! (So far, this is really just a variation of the infamous “grandfather paradox”.)

Now imagine that you realize these paradoxical questions shortly before dropping the rat into the machine. You hesitate then put the rat back feeling that you MUST put the shoe through to avoid these irrational problems. There is still the problem of a shoe appearing yesterday out of nothingness but you think perhaps the Universe can handle a temporary anomaly such as this so long as it’s paid back in due time, in this case by dropping the shoe into the machine and erasing it from the future timeline. Yes, there seemed to exist two copies of the shoe – but only for one day.

But now you’re not sure which shoe is which! If you drop the wrong shoe into the machine, you’re created yet another paradox. The shoe that appeared yesterday could be the shoe that you put into the machine today. In this case, where and when was that shoe created? It would have popped into existence out of nothing for one day and then simply vanished from the Universe. Another interpretation is that the shoe is stuck in an infinite time loop – appearing out of the machine, being dropped into the machine, going back to appear out of the machine, etc. forever. Just one more paradox without a rational solution! You hesitate again wondering what you should do. You ponder the conundrum until you realize that it too late. It’s now more than a day since the shoe came tumbling out of your time machine. You stand there with a shoe that apparently just came into being out of nothing…

In this scenario the Universe just gained mass in the form of an old shoe. To our understanding, this cannot happen! We know there is a set amount of mass/energy in the Universe that came out of the Big Bang. That’s all we get – no more, no less. (Keep in mind that mass and energy are equated through the handy expression e=mc^2.) A shoe could only appear at the cost of some other mass/energy. Here, the shoe simply appeared. This just can’t happen; there really is no such thing as free lunch in this Universe. (And just in case you missed it, that was a clue.)”

Comment by Claude — May 21, 2010 @ 7:29 pm

(c)GoshGusMusic(ascap)2010

Tesori? Laundry Lost and Found

Having fallen far behind in laundry chores, I made a deal with myself that if I focused on the task and made significant progress, I would indulge in one evening of not worrying. About anything.

Those of you closest to me understand my attachment to worrying, often about things over which I have little or no control. The worry is how I work at the problem, searching for some logical or rational solution, or even a smidge of greater understanding. It’s not a good habit and is often counter-productive.

Now I feel guilty for worrying. Oh, for Pete’s sake!

Because I am trying to get through the job, I hurried the first load, neglecting to check pockets before the wash cycle (yet another sin). As I pulled the stuff to go into the dryer, I found the following:
* pocket comb
* leather pouch imprinted with “Flagyl I.V., in which lives
a masculine manicure set- go figure
* Sephora lip gloss in Precious Pink
* Hohner “C” harmonica

And I made $20.00, freshly laundered.

P.S. Second load presented a hoodie with a disposable ice pack in the pocket. No complaints from the troops of any injury.

(c)GoshGusMusic(ascap)2010

Strani eventi: Physics of Precognition or Just Fuzzy Logic?

(At left, the Carina Nebula. Photo courtesy of NOAO.edu)

A few days ago, I had a metaphysical discussion with an old friend, Claude Plymate. Claude is an astronomer. A real astronomer who has spent his life massaging a very special observatory, the McMath-Pierce Solar Telescope atop Kitt Peak outside of Tucson. Claude has cred. His wife, Teresa Bippert is also an amazing astrophysicist who does crazy things with optics at the University of Arizona- things I can’t begin to understand. Both attended undergraduate school with me. Just so you know:

“The McMath-Pierce solar telescope is the world’s largest solar telescope, and the world’s largest unobstructed-aperture optical telescope with a diameter of 1.6 meters. Permanent instruments include a dual grating spectrograph capable of extended wavelength coverage (0.3-12 microns), a 1-meter Fourier Transform Spectrometer for both solar and laboratory analysis, and a high-dispersion stellar spectrometer.

Important discoveries include: detection of water and isotopic helium on the Sun; solar emission lines at 12 microns; first measurement of Kilogauss magnetic fields outside sunspots and the very weak intra-network fields; first high resolution images at 1.6 and 10 microns; detection of a natural maser in the Martian atmosphere.” (http://tinyurl.com/26vu3sc)  Smart folks, these friends of mine.

For me, our chat was a flashback to the days when a group of about eight to twelve of us undergrads sat around a large round table, drinking coffee and arguing and speculating over the Big Questions late into the night. We studied different disciplines, but among the many other things we had in common was one biggie: we were night owls. Students of astronomy & related sciences, writers and musicians. And there was the campus radio station in which we criss-crossed at various times.  People who were up awaiting  a celestial event, or the quiet in which to think, or the need to burn off energy from a rehearsal or performance. These were the people I loved most, and after all these years, know that I still do.

I got into the subject of precognition with Claude. Just like the old days. I told a story of an experience I had some years ago. I was on our sailboat, pre-kid era. We had dropped anchor and slept in Clipper Cove between Treasure Island and Yerba Buena Island, near where we berthed. In the early morning, I looked up at the Bay Bridge nearby, and pondered aloud to my spouse, “Do you see the ramp on the lower deck (eastbound) of the bridge by the bottom of the cantilever? It looks like one of those ramps kids use to launch their skateboards. Wouldn’t it be weird if a car drove up it and flipped into the Bay?”  The guy looked at me cock-eyed. He had learned by then that sometimes I say weird things that come true.

We had a lovely sail, tied up the boat and headed to the clubhouse to use the facilities. Walking up the dock, we heard sirens. Lots of sirens, and a Coast Guard helicopter zoomed over us to the south side of the bridge. We noticed traffic stopped on the lower deck.  We thought, “Oh shit. Bridge accident. Might as well go fix a drink and hang out until the thing is cleared.”  True, we were going back home into the City on the upper, western deck, but a serious accident will occasionally slow the whole structure.

In the clubhouse, actually “shack” was a more fitting description of the Treasure Island Yacht Club back then,  nobody was around. We turned on the television to see if there was information available.

Yes, there was.  A car had driven off  the little ramp, gone over the side of the bridge and into the Bay. There were fatalities. Spouse performed a double cock-eye at me. Meanwhile, I was trying to wrap my head around the big picture. Someone later asked me if I felt responsible. That never entered my mind.  Just absurd. I may practice certain spiritual rituals,  but overall I embrace empiricism. I have no explanation for this experience, or any of  the others. No way to prove or disprove. So I just let it be.

But Claude, being grounded in empiricism and the scientific method wrestles with these questions every day. Claude and I talked about my story and a few related matters, and this is what he wrote. It is used by Claude’s permission.


“I’d like to apologize from the start for the new-agey, pseudoscientific tone of this. Recently, I’ve been hearing about some experiments that appear to show test subjects responding stimuli a fraction of a second BEFORE receiving the stimulus! It is easy to ignore or discard such anomalous results as bad experimental technique or analysis. But what if the results are revealing a real effect? What if there is reproducible laboratory results showing people have some precognitive abilities? Is there any way we might concoct a reasonably conceivable physical explanation for such phenomena? Perhaps what some refer to as the “quantum foam” might provide some insight.

On the smallest scales, the so-called Planck length of around 10^-36 m (trust me, that’s REALLY small), space is expected to deviate from the smooth continuum we’re used to. The contour of space becomes rough or bumpy, changing randomly at each instant. This is where it gets its name quantum foam. In other words, our concept of position becomes fuzzy and even completely breaks down at the very smallest spatial scales. Presumably, time is equally distorted and fuzzy near its smallest divisions. The sizes of these deviations are randomly distributed but heavily weighted toward the smallest scale distortions. However, larger distortions in space/time must also occasionally occur. In this way, it is just conceivable that every once in a while some bit of information will pass from a moment in the future, into the present or even into the past! (Likewise, information from the past could find itself thrust into the future. This, however, would be of less interest and indistinguishable from the normal flow of time and causality.)

Such time/space distortions are happening continuously at every point in the Universe. Larger, even discernibly large, variations in time and/or space are statistically extraordinarily improbable but must occasionally happen. Now consider the brain – it’s made of a whole lot of neurons that are made of lots and lots of quanta. Every once in a while, some of these improbably events must happen in our brains. Could a brain neuron occasionally be triggered by an event that has yet to occur? If so, it would be expected that such occurrences would happen much more frequently for events from the very near future (small fractions of seconds) as apposed to from farther into the future. The ability to reacting to future events would clearly represent a strong survival advantage and would be very strongly selected for. Even if developing precognitive abilities were biologically expensive and/or quite difficult but just possible, evolution would demand that we developed the capability! Might it even be that evolution could have fine-tuned emotions to play the role of filtering out random noise while amplifying important signals? Perhaps this is why precognition tends to be associated with emotionally charged events”

(c) GoshGusMusic (ascap) 2010

For a better, very cool view of the Carina Nebula, check this link from Kitt Peak ‘s website:

http://nssphoenix.wordpress.com/2010/04/23/star-formation-in-the-carina-nebula/


Fermata: Sonnets and Apathy

Nobody understands apathy better than a fourteen year old eighth grade boy, especially such a boy who is an inmate in a boys school in the shadow of one of the most beautiful Anglican cathedrals in America.  Ironic apathy. With some instruction from pages 291-292 of Stephen Fry’s The Ode Less Travelled on the very topic of preparing a Shakespearean sonnet, and some assist from the Oxford Rhyming Dictionary, our gentleman scholar rocked the flighty picky English teacher. Said teacher of the low-cut tops and too short skirts whose charges spend more time in desk chairs tucked under their tables than they would in one of the Master’s classrooms.

My Sonnet

Sometimes, here at school, I feel apathy.
It is a feeling I try to disregard.
But teachers, they want a polymathy.
Sometimes, it feels as bleak as a graveyard.
To be all-knowing would be a blessing.
For a long time I have felt distress.
T’would be nice to see my problems passing.
Or have a life of fear much less.
For others who have a life uncommon,
and find themselves in disrepair,
To them I say, “Go see a Shaman”
If you find your life unfair.
Ya know, I really wish I had a getaway.
Oh, what the hell. Does it matter anyway?

(c) GoshGusMusic(ascap) 2010