Monthly Archives: July 2016

The Map of the Universe in Your Head

 

So, you get born, born as in popping out of your mommie’s tummy. Your little earsies hear some noise, your whole little body is wet and cold, and, if you were born long enough ago, your little butt hurts and you’re dizzy, because some one has dangled you by your feet and smacked your little bottom.

But what is your eensie, teensie, but rapidly growing and developing brain doing, the brain in which your mind is hiding? Why it’s busily trying to assemble all this noise and wet and cold and aching little butt into a map of the universe.

Look in your head. Now. Do it. Don’t pick up a hammer or a drill, use your mind’s eye, use your sense of self, the ability to focus your attention outwardly through your senses, or inwardly on your mind. Look in. What is going on in there? Probably too much at one time, but look, down under that, there’s map!

It’s a map in the sense that, while you grew up, as you had all that sensory input, all those experiences you have had, have been assembled into a map of those experiences. You usually don’t think of it that way, but you have linked all that sensory data into mass of memory, with connecting bridges, overpasses, underpasses, cloverleaves, sidewalks, escalators, stairways, hallways, and short cuts, all to make a coherent map of your world.

And it’s not a 3-D map, it’s fully four dimensional! The past is known and the future is under construction, but you’ve started working out that future road in your imagination, haven’t you?

And what was the way you made the map, starting right from that wee baby brain? You did it, usually unconsciously, by hypothesis. You still do it. Your mind groups the data, makes an assumption, tests the assumption, and you get your little fingers burnt when you assume that the pretty light is so pretty it can’t hurt you, and you stick your hand in the fire. A few years later, you stick it in the light socket to see what makes the lamp turn on. Your hypothesis has been tested. You either revise the hypothesis, test it, and redraw that part of the map, or mama finds you toasted to a crisp when you stick your whole arm in the fire, or finds you lying on the floor needing a defibrillator for your little heart.

This is the basis of science. You just have to start consciously testing and improving that map in your head, and presto change-o, you’re a scientist!

This is assuming, of course, that you weren’t born with your head up your ass. If that is the case, your map will be quite small and provincial, and very self centered. Observing almost any politician will prove my point.

 

First shared on the Squatcher’s Lounge Podcast:

Sasquatch responsible for headless corpses in Canada – SLP4-23

We See the Wee Folk and They Ain’t that Wee

Way back in high school, some friends and I went to hang out at a coffee house that was only open on Saturday nights. They always had one local folksinger or another performing. It was in the basement of a convent.

A few hours after we got there, one of us went out for a bit of fresh air. A few minutes later, he came rushing back in, all oddly excited and perturbed. He said we had to go out in back, where the parking lot was, and look at the trees at the back edge of the property. He wouldn’t tell us what we were going to look at, he just wanted to see what we thought was going on. There was a good singer wailing away on his guitar so we said no. Our friend sat down and fidgeted until the song was done, and then compelled us to get outside.

It was dark, there was no moon up. It was summer, but no special day. We got to the back edge, where there were some trees. We all stood there quietly, looking at the trees, because our friend said that was where he saw it. It looked like a very dark grove of trees.

Gradually, though, the scene changed. Just past the trees you could see a meadow, with a pond in it. The area was lit up as though the moon was full and high. Wisps of fog drifted about. You could hear music playing, a bit like bagpipes, but much sweeter and enchanting. A drummer was playing, a medium quick beat, sounding a bit like an Irish bodhran.

A few minutes later, next to the pond, a circle of dancers appeared, not fully visible, but like a misty, foggy, circle of dancers, dancing in long diaphanous robes. The dancers and robes were indistinct, but had the glowing, blue-white color of the full moon. They appeared taller than us and slender.

We watched, gob smacked speechless, for maybe five minutes. I then started to walk down toward the dancers. Suddenly, a fear began to rise up in us. It felt like something off to the right of us, in very dense woods, just noticed us being able to see the dancers and was very pissed off about it.

We turned tail and ran to the car, jumped in, and hauled ass out of there. For several miles it felt like something very tall and dark was watching from the convent grounds, looming toward us, making unclear but very dire threats as to what would happen should we come back.

Now, we had only ever gone to the coffee shop after dark, so we never had really seen what the property behind the convent looked like. A few weeks later a couple-three of us convinced each other to go have a look at the forest and pond in broad daylight.

There was no pond. There was a narrow thicket of trees and then a farmer’s field. There was no dense forest off to the right, where the guardian of the fairy dance had stood guard.

First shared on the Squatcher’s Lounge Podcast:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HEYgLxAEH-M

Schrödinger’s Cat and the Trousers of Time

At the end of last week’s quasi-theory, I made the mistake of mentioning Schrödinger’s cat. I have been told by a higher authority, i. e., the Reverend Jeff, that I should somehow expand on Schrodinger’s famous thought experiment, even though I specifically said that, and I quote, “I refuse to explain Schrödinger’s cat.”

Erwin Schrödinger devised his thought experiment in 1935 to illustrate a problem in applying a quantum mechanics idea to larger, complex systems. The idea was, that at the atomic and smaller level, quantum systems, like electrons, atoms, protons and such, the actual state of the system is a sort of superposition of all possible states that that system could possibly have. It isn’t until an outside observation is made that the superposition of all possible states collapse into one specific state. The observer can be anything from another quantum system getting close enough to interact with the system under consideration, to a real experimental physicist, who does real things, and doesn’t just play around with mathematics all day. Schrödinger named this weird ass connection between the observer and the observed, “entanglement”, although, being Austrian, he actually named it “verschränkung”, which means, oddly enough, entanglement.

So, Schrödinger thought that this whole entanglement thingy was absurd, especially since it surely didn’t seem to be happening to anything in the normal world. He took, purely in thought, his cat and stuck it in a box. He put a mechanism in the box with the cat, presumably in way that the cat couldn’t play with it and thereby muck up the thought experiment. The mechanism had a bit of radioactive material, a Geiger counter, a trip hammer, and a vial of hydrocyanic acid. When the Geiger counter detects the decay of an atom of the radioactive material, it triggers the trip hammer to smash the vial, the hydrocyanic acid evaporates and becomes cyanide, and presto change-o, the cat is dead. There’s only a teensy bit of the radioactive stuff, so there’s only a small chance at any moment that The cat will be killed.

Now, if the whole quantum entanglement theory works on big things, too, the radioactive decay, will, or won’t, happen, until we open the box. The cat is therefore both dead and alive until we take a peek in the box.

Here’s where it gets weird. Quantum entanglement has been experimentally shown to be real. It has been shown to be real in experiments using around ten million electrons, as well as ten million photons.

And here’s where the trousers of time enter the scene.

We have all become familiar with the idea that, at any given instant, when we make a decision to do one thing or another, our timeline splits, like the legs of a pair of pants, thereby producing an alternate universe. There’s a timeline where we had chocolate instead of vanilla. There’s a timeline where we chose strawberry instead. If we are picking from amongst Ben and Jerry flavors, with Baskin-Robbins thrown in, the legs of the trousers of time become more like pants for a millepede.

Schrödinger’s cat had only two choices: alive or dead. I ask you, is that poor kitty therefore a zombie?

My thanks to the late Terry Pratchett for the beautiful trousers of time metaphor.

First shared on the Squatcher’s Lounge Podcast:

Rerun on the Squatcher’s Lounge Podcast:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hbQwDu7hXDY

For the reading impaired, an audio version of this quasi theory may be found here:

https://youtu.be/Qw_F1YjI6_Y