Wednesday, August 26, 2009

In Memoriam- and a little extra

So I'll start off this post with a dedication to the late Senator Edward Kennedy in recognition of his service and principled leadership in the United States Senate. He was, I believe, one of a rare breed of politicians- namely not a clown or a sideshow for media attention and cute soundbites. The loss of yet another politically influential Kennedy is truly a sad event, though we saw it coming. Leaving my own political beliefs aside, I think it is reasonable to say that Ted Kennedy was a relatively major part of this country's cast in the show that its second century of existence has been.

Another testament to the efficiency of government: I was at the local circuit court today trying to chase around a record that was recently modified. Seven or eight buildings, ten offices, and an hour and a half later, someone who seemed to know what she was talking about finally told me and my father that what we were trying to do wouldn't be possible for another few days (read: who knows how long) and that besides we'd have to complete a packet of forms, have it notarized, certified by the Court Clerk, and sent to Tallahassee to have an official there do something to it.

Needless to say, each secretary, clerk, public servant, and court police officer seemed to have his/her own opinion on how one went about getting the information we needed. Every one. So we made repeated repeat visits to several buildings, in which broken elevators eagerly slowed things down for us. Naturally, this is to be expected when one seeks something from such edifices of bureaucracy, but its still irritating. And, of course, I'm the only one who has to go through it. Right? I must admit, though, that I probably couldn't organize such a massive system of networked departments, offices, administrations, infrastructural records, and the amount of data implicit in the function of today's societies any better.

How and Why We Lie to Ourselves: Cognitive Dissonance

How and Why We Lie to Ourselves: Cognitive Dissonance

Monday, August 24, 2009

Gotta Run Before You Can Crawl...

Alright, I suppose this will be my first foray into the "Universe" factor on this blog. Bear with me, if you please, if you're totally lost a paragraph from now: I likely will be, too.

So what I'll be going into is a tangential strand of thought and theory- pretty usual for me, actually. I'll be exploring a global theory (unreinforced by any real mathematical or practical basis, needless to say) of and perhaps a simplification of the M-Theory, or Superstring Theory. To start off with, let's set the backstory, shall we? I, of course, have no way of knowing what level of prior knowledge or exposure any given reader will have to the topic, so we'll start from the beginning.

The basis of all of today's scientific proofs (but not progress) is, of course, mathematics. I'll begin at algebra. With this first foray into the world of theory as represented in the language of mathematics through the use of variables and constants. X, algebraically, is whatever one makes it out to be; x is the question. But to define x, we must have constants surrounding it- in other words, fixed reference points from which we can logically conclude the identity of x. It's a system of deduction, essentially. If this number is here and that there, and x is over there, what is its position relative to zero?

Upon the establishment thereof, we move onto calculus, a dialect in the language of mathematics which lay unknown to man until sought by Sir Isaac Newton as a system by which to represent change over time, if you will. In a way, integral calculus is simply algebra with one added dimension. Integration is like determining the most accurate measure of the outcome of a perpetually changing variable (whose change is represented by the phrase, f(x)) relative to a particular predetermined point, x. An easier way to understand the goal of integral calculus is- if I understand it correctly- to break change down into infinitely small increments without reaching zero, and thereby determine the most accurate rate of change. From there, the degree of change is determinable.

I don't mean to be overly technical, if I am; this article is not meant to be on mathematics which, when scrutinized on paper, if you will, are utterly incoherent, but I feel that we must establish a base of knowledge before moving into the realm of complete abstraction that theoretical physics is.

Ok, so from there we have an understanding of the language physics is written in (enough, anyway, to understand a few phrases). As some of you may know, a theory which has garnered quite a bit of attention in the past twenty or thirty years, is String Theory. Put simply, String Theory states that everything in our universe- energy, matter, everything- is composed of miniscule strings. These one-dimensional strings would be as tiny as 10-33, which I have heard compared to the size of one human to the entire solar system if the solar system were a proton. Small.

Naturally, this proposition raises some questions, and not just to me. Though String Theory is largely accepted scientifically, it, along with most of theoretical physics, is based on a leap of imagination that solves issues raised with the previously accepted scientific theory. The scientists, upon their own admission, filled in the math after the theory's generation. If I were to write a work of nonfiction on, say, Abraham Lincoln's life, and claim that he designed a spacecraft at age twenty-two, would it be validated if I then proceeded to explain precisely how he went about the design? I know that mathematics is a far more precise realm than language, one of the beauties of which is that a fallacy will present itself if one searches long enough for it. Before I go on editorializing, let me expand upon String Theory.

So once the fundamentals of String Theory are loosely understood, we can move on to the newer M-Theory. M-Theory was developed as an answer to a fundamental issue to String Theory's validity: it addresses and apparently reconciles all five of the competing String Theories. It also states that though strings are at the quantum level, they are at the unimaginably large level woven into a "membrane" which by its nature twists and curves in upon itself. Our universe would be to a membrane as a string is to our solar system; perhaps a microcosm of the- what, multiverse? Beyond that, these membranes woven of vibrating strings would be infinitely numerous. Hmm. Sounds like we've managed to reestablish what we fundamentally knew: infinity is infinity. ∞ to the ∞ power equals ∞. Perhaps we're a part of the vibration of a string on another level of magnitude. Maybe all the energy, mass, etc. in our universe is contributory to the vibration of our membrane which is a string to another universe. Who knows? I just think it's a rather audacious leap to put forth a theory which demands the existance of eleven dimensions, differing laws of gravity, etc. If we can have the faith to believe that unquestioningly; to say, "Well, just because it's far greater than I can understand doesn't mean it's not true" when a question arises, why do many people become so hugely offended and disgusted at the mention of a God? I'd think that if all the principles of String Theory are true, that would be about the most powerful argument for a God that there ever was. I was told recently that belief in the principles of science and belief in a God are mutually exclusive. They are not.

Again, please don't get the idea that I am one of those religious nuts with some crazy pro-ignorance agenda; I am not. I personally have very little use for organized religion. I feel that people have an unfailing tendency to take a message of thought and morality and pervert it. To make it a kind of magic or superstition. But that is man, not God. And if there's one thing that's clear in this day and age, it's that man is easily confused, blinded by illusion and vanity, and destroyed by his pride.