Sporting Times

Sport in childhood. Association football, show...

Sport in childhood. Association football, shown above, is a team sport which also provides opportunities to nurture social interaction skills. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We as a race spend a lot of time on what is loosely called ‘sport’. From the ad hoc beach cricket and ‘touch’, through the more organised school age sports, through the grade sports all the way up through the local and national representative sports, both individual and team.

The individual and team sports pull in a huge number of supporters, officials, organisers and so on, so it is rare individual who has not been in some trivial or profound way involved in sports at one time or another.

Strongmen event: the Log Lift & a referee (bac...

Strongmen event: the Log Lift & a referee (backwards). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sport is obviously of great importance to the human race. I don’t know of any animal that indulges in activities that could be called sports. Of course, males of many species battle other males for dominance and control over females or territory, and their young do seem to practise for these battles, but there is no sense in which these battles are fought for pleasure. They are too serious for that!

Great Battle

Great Battle (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The roots of sport can be found in interpersonal contests of course, like arm wrestling to see who is the strongest, or quizzes to see who has the best memory and so on, but human contests don’t usually have the serious implication of battles between animals of other species. Very often they can be cooperative contests as training exercises so that the group as a whole can perform better.

Two young men arm wrestling

Two young men arm wrestling (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This would be very useful indeed to hunters, who as a group would be benefit from the increased accuracy with the spear or the bolos, or even the simple thrown stone.

The technology would also have benefitted from such practice contests. Each contestant would have seen how his fellow contestants had improved the technology. That’s no doubt how the woomera or atlatl came to be invented, in a contest before the hunt.

Mokare with spear and woomera, another woomera...

Mokare with spear and woomera, another woomera lies at his feet. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sport can also serve as a way of defusing or sublimating a dispute between rival groups. The tests of skill replaced an actual contest, and rules of procedure were imposed on the contest, so that, mostly, no one actually got killed.

The smallest group of humans is probably the family, which has a flexible definition. It could be as few as two people or as many as twenty. The concept of the nuclear family, mum, dad, kids is fairly new, inspired by cheap or affordable housing, and the ubiquity of affordable transport.

English: Indian family in Brazil posed in fron...

English: Indian family in Brazil posed in front of hut – 3 bare-breasted females, baby and man with bow and arrows. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Anyway, whatever the size the family team ‘competes’ usually in a more or less friendly fashion with neighbours. However neighbourhood families ally themselves in competition with other neighbourhoods to form villages, suburbs, cities and so on up to countries. Only at the highest level is there no global group, though the United Nations aspires to that title.

United Nations - New York

United Nations – New York (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sports give humans the chance to compete, and they seem to enjoy it. How else can one explain the rise of sports like snooker, card games, and contests which don’t rate the name of sport, such as beauty contests? Is car racing a sport? Obviously some people are better at these marginal sports, so is the contest the key? It seems so.

When there is no one else around humans will compete against themselves or against chance. Solitaire, a card or peg game for a single person is popular and automatically installed on most computers. It is used in cartoons to characterise a lazy or disinterested employee.

The initial layout in the solitaire game of Golf.

The initial layout in the solitaire game of Golf. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Often a person may not be particularly proficient at a sport but may still enjoy it. They may enjoy it particularly at one or two removes, as spectators.  Spectators may identify strongly with the sports person or team in which they are interested. If they come across supporters of some other person or team, they may interact adversely with them, even to the point of fighting with them.

English: Angelic Supporter used in Heraldry

English: Angelic Supporter used in Heraldry (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Parents are notoriously partisan supporters, yelling support from the sideline to their offspring, often I suspect to the embarrassment of their children. Parents also tend to overestimate the abilities of their kids and tend to push them more than they should. Sport for kids should be fun, but pushing them too hard can spoil their enjoyment of sport, which is a shame.

English: Wildman Supporter used in Heraldry

English: Wildman Supporter used in Heraldry (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Those who continue to enjoy their sport and become good at it can become heroes to a large number of fans. The All Blacks are almost revered in New Zealand and the national team who play the national sport can not only receive adulation but can also be paid a lot of money.

Of course if the national team fails that can lead to a sense of devastation for their followers. Failure can be losing to another team or simply not winning. Recently the New Zealand All Blacks drew with the Australian team and it was almost as if they had lost! Fortunately the All Blacks won well the next weekend, otherwise the country might have sunk into depression.

All Blacks v Wallabies

All Blacks v Wallabies (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sports stars in the most part realise that they are representatives, but the stresses on top sports people is tremendous. The All Blacks are a good example of this. One or two of the top echelon of the rugby players in New Zealand have not succeeded in withstanding that pressure and have had issues with alcohol and violence. In a lot of ways it is unfair to expect exemplary behaviour and expertise at the top level of the sport.

Nevertheless, a surprising number of top sports people do appear to be genuinely nice people. These days, the team captain, winner and loser, has a microphone stuffed under his or her nose and is expected to give an instant analysis of the game, and to their credit most appear to come up with something intelligent about the game, congratulating their opponents, win or lose.

English: interview

English: interview (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Interestingly, after the drawn game I mentioned above, both teams were disappointed, but for slightly different reasons. The All Blacks were expected to win, and were expecting to achieve a record number of wins, and their disappointment at not winning was obvious. There was a sense of let down. The Australians, however, obviously believed that they had missed a great chance to beat the All Blacks.

Shows All Black haka before a match against Fr...

Shows All Black haka before a match against France, 18 November 2006. The All Blacks won the match 23-11. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

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Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

Today Is Yesterday

Today Is Yesterday (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Beatles sing “Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away, now it looks as though they’re here to stay….”. Lennon and McCartney capture the essence of our relationship with time in just a few words. The singer was happy, things happen and he is no longer happy. From the point of view of the now, he looks back on the past and reflects on the unfortunate changes, and looks forward to a future which is less appealing than it was when, in the now that he was in then, he was happy.

English: Engraving of Council of Troubles

English: Engraving of Council of Troubles (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In Lennon and McCartney’s words is encapsulated the feeling that the past is fixed and the future only partially knowable. Also it contains the idea that things change – the singer WAS happy, at some time in the past, and is no longer happy in the now.

Actually, since the singer is reflecting on his unfortunate position in the now, the change must have happened in the past. There was some past now when the change happened. Words begin to get a little tricky at this point.

English: I-ching

English: I-ching (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

From the point of view of the current now (tricky!) it is evident that change happens, but it is also apparent that barring time travel and the consequential paradoxes, the past is not changeable. How does that happen? How can it both be true that the past is fixed and that changes have happened in the past?

Alternative version of image:Wooden hourglass ...

Alternative version of image:Wooden hourglass 2.jpg. Wooden hourglass. Total height:25 cm. Wooden disk diameter: 11.5 cm. Running time of the hourglass: 1 hour. Hourglass in other languages: ‘timglas’ (Swedish), ‘sanduhr’ (German), ‘sablier’ (French), ‘reloj de arena’ (Spanish), ‘zandloper’ (Dutch), ‘klepsydra’ (Polish), ‘přesýpací hodiny’ (Czech), ‘ampulheta’ (Portugese). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This issue is related to the issue of the now. Evidently every point in time is a now point. If you consider what you were thinking or doing 10 minutes ago, you will realise that you considered that point then to be the now, not the current now.

However, if you consider that the past is unchangeable,  you could consider some future now and you will realise that from that future now, the future from the current now to the future now is the past from that future now and therefore unchangeable. So it appears that the future is also unchangeable. This leads logically to a strict determinism.

Mind Travel

Mind Travel (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A certain change happens at some time or other, a particular now. It is possible, though unlikely in my opinion that mind, either of man or animal, may affect things after all. If that is so, then for consistency the change must propagate into the future and into the past.

Piano sheet music Theme from Let It Be, A song...

Piano sheet music Theme from Let It Be, A song By The Beatles Sample (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If space is represented by one dimension for simplicity and time is represented by another dimension, then space-time can be represented by a sheet. A change would distort the sheet a little. It would be as if a single point on the sheet moved sideways pulling the sheet with it, and in doing so neighbouring points would be moved as well, including points on time axis before and after the point where the change happened.

Time dilation spacetime diagram05

Time dilation spacetime diagram05 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

However as I say, I don’t think that the mind can affect things in this way. After all the state of the mind, and hence the choices that the mind makes are predetermined, so no choice can actually change anything.

There’s a saying – “Today is the tomorrow you worried about yesterday”. This phrase also encapsulates one way that we think about time. It has a tinge of inevitably about it, as it implies that tomorrow always comes whether you like it or not. It depends on the situation as to whether or not this is a hopeful saying or a statement of inevitability.

English: John Lennon and Paul McCartney at Ken...

English: John Lennon and Paul McCartney at Kennedy Airport.}} (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

However the main idea that this saying conveys is similar to the idea that the Beatles’ quote above – tomorrow always comes, from the moment one is born until one dies.  Well, actually, tomorrow always comes, whether or not one is alive.

Both sayings have a sense of the now moving towards the future. One concept of the now is as a sort of “cursor” travelling over the time dimension from the past into the future, but I can’t see that this is a helpful analogy. Each and every instant is a now and appears to a person as the unique now when they are experiencing it.

Print shows a futuristic view of air travel ov...

Print shows a futuristic view of air travel over Paris as people leave the Opera. Many types of aircraft are depicted including buses and limousenes, police patrol the skies, and women are seen driving their own aircraft. 1 print : lithograph, hand-colored. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Another problem is that a rate of flow of time (or the rate of movement of the cursor) is logically suspect. The time dimension is used to measure rates of change so to have a measure of a rate of movement in the time dimension requires a further time-like dimension to measure the rate in. It reminds me of the apocryphal scientists who commented that we all travel through time at one second per second.

Linné crater color coded shaded relief map detail

Linné crater color coded shaded relief map detail (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Our view of time is the now, sandwiched between the behemoth of the past and the behemoth of the future. We rarely “live in the now”, but spend a lot of our time looking towards the future or reflecting on the past. Yesterday is the source of our plans and the future is the target of our plans and aspirations.

We view the past and see how things happen, then we use that knowledge to set our plans with the intent of increasing the possibility that things happen in ways that are beneficial to us. This is a form of inductive reasoning which, while it doesn’t always work, works reliably enough for us most of the time.

The Triumphs of Fame, Time, and Eternity (cass...

The Triumphs of Fame, Time, and Eternity (cassone panel) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The past is a burden on us as we cannot change it. All our mistakes are set in the concrete of the past, as are all our successes for that matter. In the now we try to determine what happens in the future by using the lessons of the past. We want things to be better in the future, and we project all our hopes and fears on to it.

English: The Triumph of Fame over Death is one...

English: The Triumph of Fame over Death is one of Petrarch’s six Triumphs. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The now is a sliver of time between the monoliths of past and future, representing, if we believe in choice, a chance to improve the future for ourselves. If we are determinists, the now is an illusion that occurs in our brain that merely serves to separate the past from the future at that instant in time in our consciousness. It is not unique, like a cursor sweeping over the timeline, but is a timeless experience at every point in time.

Brunfelsia australis - yesterday, today, and t...

Brunfelsia australis – yesterday, today, and tomorrow plant (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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Grand kids

English: A typical Deutsche Bahn railway stati...

English: A typical Deutsche Bahn railway station clock (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This post may be a little late this week, as we took the grand kids to a local “wildlife park”. Which leads me not so subtly into the topic of the week.

Peacock sitting on grass. Photo taken in Stagl...

Peacock sitting on grass. Photo taken in Staglands Wildlife Reserve, New Zealand. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As kids we used to go to Granny and Grandpa’s house quite frequently. I recall sleeping over at one time, and in later years my sister lived with my Granny. I recall it being fun, but that was mostly because we could poke around in their house and garden. They had a long garden with a goldfish pond, a few apple trees, a garden and a large wooden shed.

Guinea Fowl at Staglands

Guinea Fowl at Staglands

What I don’t remember is being taken out to “wildlife parks” or similar by my grand parents. In fact, I don’t remember going out with my grand parents anywhere. I’m pretty sure that we must have gone out with them, but it must have been rare and we probably only walked around the block or something.

We did use to have big family parties and I do remember my Granny being at my Uncles and Aunties’ houses during family parties. My Grandpa died fairly young so I don’t remember him at them.

Part of the park.

Part of the park.

It’s different with our grand kids. I don’t know if it is because we are much more active than my grand parents were or because we are able to drive them to places. Neither of my grand parents drove that I can remember.

In contrast we fairly often drive our grand kids on trips to various places, sometimes in conjunction with their parents, sometimes without.

Kaz, Tim, Louise, Hamish, Duncan

Kaz, Tim, Louise, Hamish, Duncan

On Sunday, their uncle (my son) and his wife decided to take my grand kids to a local “wildlife park”, called Staglands. I went along and so did my daughter, their mother. Staglands is a fair way out of town, in a beautiful picturesque valley. My daughter drove the kids there, and I drove my son and daughter-in-law.

The sole survivor of presumably a brood of ducklings.

The sole survivor of presumably a brood of ducklings.

We didn’t stop to take photos of the valley on the way there, as we travelled independently and didn’t want to keep them waiting. As it turned out, we got there first. The road is a secondary route between a major north-south valley (the Hutt Valley) and the  Coast Road.

Tracey's Cave

Tracey’s Cave

It is a fairly quiet road, most of the time, so is a favourite road for serious cyclists, the ones with lycra suits who are not afraid of some fairly serious hills. I’ve no problem with them, but they did make it difficult on the narrow road at times.

Toasting Marshmallows with Hamish

Toasting Marshmallows with Hamish

Staglands is 17km up this road, so that part of the trip took a while, but we got there and parked, waiting for my daughter and the grand kids. They all hopped out the car and admired the guinea fowl and peacocks which roamed the car park.

A handsome Kune Kune

A handsome Kune Kune

I was informed that the brown peacocks were the female ones then we paid the entry fees and went in. The path bypassed the café and wound down to a couple of small lakes, with the usual wildfowl, mainly ducks, including one small survivor of a presumably larger brood.

Sparrow on Top

Sparrow on Top

On the way it passed a small cul-de-sac with a “cave”, Tracey’s Cave, with a constant splash into a pool of water which created interesting ripples.

Kea, too busy tending the plumage to chat.

Kea, too busy tending the plumage to chat.

We then followed the main path up to a barn where there was a fire burning in a barrel. Did I forget to mention that we bought small packets of marshmallows and sticks at the gatehouse? Ooops. Great fun was had toasting the marshmallows, something that I’ve never seen the point of, until now.

Trout pool

Trout pool

Just down from the barn was a small paddock with a number of Kune Kune pigs. These are fairly small, hairy pigs. Kune Kune are friendly and docile animals although I would not like to be in the paddock with them. The kids, Hamish, Duncan and Louise, loved feeding them out of the small packets of feed that we bought at the gatehouse.

Tim, Hamish, Duncan, Louise and Kaz, with parakeet

Tim, Hamish, Duncan, Louise and Kaz, with parakeet

A walk-in aviary was next, which contained Kea. These are a large alpine parrot, which in the wild are attracted to people and  their cars. Naturally people stop to see them and the Kea respond with thievery and destruction. They pinch sandwiches and pull the rubber bits from cars.

Hamish on the Swing Bridge

Hamish on the Swing Bridge

The Kea in the aviary were less exuberant than that preferring to preen out of reach, but other birds, small parrots, were friendlier and would sit on one’s hand. A passing sparrow stopped by overhead on the chicken wire roof.

Duncan on the Bridge

Duncan on the Bridge

The stables contained horse, donkeys and small lambs and goats, all of which got a ration out of the small bags of feed. It almost seemed that these larger animals were taking the small portions simply to be friendly.

Louise at the Bridge

Louise at the Bridge

Next was a larger aviary, planted with toe toe, a large tussocky grass with plumed flower heads, much like “Pampas grass” which is well known in some other countries. Small birds, such as finches, cockatoos and budgerigars live in this aviary.

Facade with creepers

Facade with creepers

The kids all love the “swing bridge” which connects one half of the park with the half on the other side of the stream. The first area is a mock recreation of small settlement from around the 1900s, which has been used as a set for films. Up from there is a large pond with a walkway, with on one side, a wooden railway with a push cart, usually a hit with kids, but for some reason unused today. Though I did push Duncan along in it.

The inevitable scars of forestry, which should quickly heal.

The inevitable scars of forestry, which should quickly heal.

After the pond was a large open paddock with deer, sheep and goats. A notice on the gate mentioned that the animals in the paddock could be “quite pushy”. A quick scramble and Hamish, Duncan and I had a glorious view of the valley, only slightly spoiled by a large logged area on the opposite side of the valley.

Hamish with sausage rolls

Hamish with sausage rolls

Then it was back down to the gatehouse and the café for re-fuelling. Hamish managed a couple of large sausage rolls (a mistake – I got the order wrong, it should have only one!) and was still hungry. Duncan went for a more sophisticated hot dogs and chips, while Louise claimed to be satisfied with an ice-cream though she did help herself to he mother’s chips. Tim (my son) and Kaz (his wife) both had nachos. I had a bacon and egg panini.

Duncan rides the stagecoach

Duncan rides the stagecoach

Staglands is a great place for that sort of trip and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. It is great to be able to spend time with the grand kids, and it a shame that, for whatever reason, we didn’t get to do similar with our grand parents.

Louise and Duncan on the stagecoach

Louise and Duncan on the stagecoach

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Sports by proxy

San Diego representin'

San Diego representin’ (Photo credit: San Diego Shooter)

We sit in our chairs and watch sport. We watch the news. We catch up on what friends are up to on Facebook and Twitter. Very few of us actually do anything. This is both worrying and amazing.

I’ve been watching the Commonwealth Games from Glasgow in Scotland. Sitting on the sofa I see the Silver Ferns of New Zealand play England at netball in the semi-final. (I’m glad the Silver Ferns won, of course, but you can’t help feeling sorry for the English team.)

The Official Logo of the Fiji Commonwealth Gam...

The Official Logo of the Fiji Commonwealth Games Association (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The team members are healthy, fit and professional in their attitude towards the game, and I include both teams in that assessment of course, and they take it seriously. You can see the joy on the faces of the New Zealand team and despair on the face of the English team who came so close.

US Navy 031004-N-9693M-847 Navy fullback Kyle ...

US Navy 031004-N-9693M-847 Navy fullback Kyle Eckel celebrates a rushing attempt against Air Force (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Then I look at myself. I’m reasonably fit, reasonably healthy, but I’ve not dedicated my life to a sport. I possibly could have been a reasonably good runner had I pursued my inclinations at school, but there was always someone better than me. I did enjoy running for its own sake though.

English: Usain Bolt at the World Championship ...

English: Usain Bolt at the World Championship Athletics 2009 in Berlin (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So given that not everyone can be a top sports person, why do we spend so much time watching sport? We hope that our support and the fact that the sports people that we are supporting are aware of our support and that it helps them.

Hmm, I’m not so sure. When a Silver Fern player is trapped after the event by a media person, they will quite often acknowledge the support of the “people back home”. On occasion a sports person will dedicate a match to a relative who may have recently died, or to close family, wife and babies, or even the general supporter who stays up late to catch the broadcast of the event.

English: A Silver Fern flag, a proposed new Ne...

English: A Silver Fern flag, a proposed new New Zealand flag Deutsch: Silberfarn-Flagge, eine inoffizielle Flagge Neuseelands (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But I still wonder. When I have played in sport in the past,  the sheer involvement of playing the game drives out all thoughts of supporters or other spectators. The roar of the crowd is not heard, the sideline cameras are invisible and the only thing that is experienced is the game, team mates, opponents, match officials. OK so I’m extrapolating more that a little here, but I think that it is true!

I’m not saying that support does not help a team. It definitely seems to but not at a conscious level as the conscious level of the brain is fully occupied by playing the game or it should be.

English: The Liverpool County Football Associa...

English: The Liverpool County Football Association Senior Cup, usually referred to as the Liverpool Senior Cup. Photographed in September 2011 in the boardroom of then-holders, Southport FC. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sports people who are interviewed after a game do credit the support from people “back home” and friends and families, and I believe that in a way the support does help a team play well. A visiting team is always at a disadvantage because of the home support.

Sports men and women, after a game are asked for a snap diagnosis of the game. The best will credit the supporters for helping them win, and the best losers will accept the responsibility for the loss, which is slightly unfair if you think about it, as they cannot pass any responsibility for the loss to the supporters.

English: A television reporter interviews Univ...

English: A television reporter interviews University of Alabama head football coach Nick Saban. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It is true that the best teams attract the most fanatical supporters, but equally, fervent supporters can help to create success for a team. So what do the supporters get out of it?

Well, there are active supporters and passive supporters, by which I mean that some supporters actually go along to the game, and some watch it on television. Both types of supporter may collect “memorabilia” of the team and this can be very lucrative for the team, and possibly help to provide the team with equipment to help them succeed.

English: Fourth quarter of a college football ...

English: Fourth quarter of a college football game between the visiting No. 6 USC Trojans and the Stanford Cardinal at Stanford Stadium on November 15, 2008. It was the first sold out game at the new Stanford Stadium, which opened in 2006. USC would win, 45–23. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But the “memorabilia” and the support provides the supporter with a feeling of belonging or association with the team. Some supporters purchase team shirts with name and number of their favourite player, thus associating themselves with the player. I believe that this is not really an attempt to be that player, which would be delusional, but to tell the world of their association with their favourite player in a way that is instantly recognisable to another fan.

Liverpool Fans

Liverpool Fans (Photo credit: joncandy)

However, what televised sports give to the supporter is an idea of what it is to be a football player or a racing driver, or even a manager or a coach. Every change to a team or the support staff is avidly reported in the press or television. Supporters then take the information and discuss the pros and cons.

For the supporter, it is almost like being a coach or manager. He or she sees what it is to be a coach or a manager, at least to some extent. An avid supporter of the team may know almost about as much about the team as some people on the staff of the team, or so they would like to think.

English: Enrique Meza [left] with his assistan...

English: Enrique Meza [left] with his assistant coach and technical manager son: Enrique Maximiliano Meza [right] at their training session for Cruz Azul (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A good manager knows this and may put out bulletins on an injured player’s recovery and coaching staff may provide limited access to training sessions. This is done to provide a rapport with the fans, so that the fans support the manager.

When the team takes the field, spectators at the ground get a feeling of participating at an event. There is a crowd noise, a sort of voiceless roar, modulated at times by team songs and cheers and groans when points or a goal are scored. I recall being at a netball match, though I can’t recall why. The crowd noise there was headachingly high-pitched.

Lacrosse

Lacrosse (Photo credit: Leo Laporte)

The way to become the centre of the event is to become a player, but most people don’t have the skill to take part in sport at a high level. With the television cameras and other technology that is available today, a spectator at home can almost come to believe that they are on the field of play.

In car racing this is taken to the next level, with cameras in cars that show, pretty much, the view that the driver sees. In field and other sports slow motion replays allow the viewer to see more than even the on field officials can see. An official might have a tenth of a second of action on which to base his decision, but the slow motion replay allows the armchair supported the luxury of several seconds and several different angles from which to view the incident.

Formula 1 Rd5 Barcelona 2011

Formula 1 Rd5 Barcelona 2011 (Photo credit: julien.reboulet)

All of which give a supporter the feeling of being at the event and of being part of it. Not everyone can become David Beckham or Usain Bolt, but being a supporter can almost get you there in a way.

English: Richie McCaw, New Zealand rugby union...

English: Richie McCaw, New Zealand rugby union player, in London. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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The Negative Universe

Dandelion(negative)

Dandelion(negative) (Photo credit: tanakawho)

 

If cosmologists are to be believed the Universe came from nothing and is likely to return to nothing. This is odd as there seems to be an awful lot of it! There are between ten to the power 78 and ten to the power 82 atoms in the observable universe, according to some estimates. There’s also a huge amount of energy out there in the universe, and as Einstein said, this is equivalent to matter, according to his famous equation.

Maxwell's Equations

Maxwell’s Equations (Photo credit: DJOtaku)

 

It is likely that the enormous amount of matter and energy that we see out there is balanced by an equivalent amount of “negative” matter and energy somehow. “Negative” is in scare quotes because it may not describe what is actually going on. Anyway, the negative matter and energy may be incorporated into this universe somehow, which means that on average half the universe is this sort of energy. We can’t see it anywhere so far as I know, so it is a bit of a puzzle.

Large Format Doha Panorama Portra 400

Large Format Doha Panorama Portra 400 (Photo credit: Doha Sam)

We can see evidence everywhere for “normal” matter and energy, and we should be able to see evidence of “negative” matter if it is anywhere near us. As I understand it, “negative” matter would behave differently to “normal” in various ways and should be detectable. I’m not sure in what ways it would be different – I can guess that there could be a gravitational attraction between particles of “negative” matter, just as there is between particles of “normal” matter, but there could be a gravitational repulsion between “negative” matter and “normal” matter for example.

Galaxy NGC 720 (NASA, Chandra, 10/22/02)

Galaxy NGC 720 (NASA, Chandra, 10/22/02) (Photo credit: NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center)

But my ignorance is almost total. I do believe it is true that “negative” matter should be detectable.) Since we can’t see or detect “negative” matter within our locality (ie “the observable universe“) it may be grouped elsewhere in the universe. If so, it may not have any observable effect in our neck of the woods, but inevitable it will have an effect at some time in the astronomical future.

Español: es la misma imagen que aparece en el ...

Español: es la misma imagen que aparece en el articulo en ingles: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sloan_Great_Wall (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The reason that I say this is that the universe doesn’t seem to be expanding faster than the speed of light so any effect such as (possibly) gravity which does appear to have a “speed of light” effect will eventually affect our corner of the universe. But the situation is complex, and as the Wikipedia article says,

Due to the non-intuitive nature of the subject and what has been described by some as “careless” choices of wording, certain descriptions of the metric expansion of space and the misconceptions to which such descriptions can lead are an ongoing subject of discussion in the realm of pedagogy and communication of scientific concepts.

In other words, there are many misconceptions and misinterpretations around this topic. However any effect of the possible existence of “negative” matter on our little neck of the universe is likely to be felt a long time in the future, even on a cosmological time scale, I feel. “Negative” matter could have created a negative universe, I guess, which mirrors this universe.

Photo of a printout of the Wikipedia Copyleft ...

Photo of a printout of the Wikipedia Copyleft reflection in mirror, with pen (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In a negative universe at least one dimension would be reversed but all other dimension would have the same polarity as our universe. If an odd number of dimensions were reversed, would all but one cancel out? I’m not sure but a cursory mathematical examination would indicate that this would not be so, but I lack the time to explore the concept in depth.

Dimensions

Dimensions (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In our universe things tend to a state of disorder. If one partition of a closed system contains all the matter (in the simplest case, as a gas) and the partition is removed then eventually the matter is eventually dispersed through the whole system. In a negative universe, possibly the opposite would apply – gas dispersed through a system could tend to bunch up in one part of the system. Maxwell’s demon could watch benignly without lifting a finger.

Demonio Maxwell 2

Demonio Maxwell 2 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Our view of this is that it is extremely unlikely – would a glass spontaneously rise from the floor, gathering the scattered wine and land on the table complete with wine? Perhaps this is a parochial view, only true in our universe. In some alternate universe, this may be the normality – entropy may tend to decrease, order may tend to increase. Such an entropy twin may simple be the time reversed twin of the original universe. Or the original universe perceived from a time reversed perspective.

The Grand Canyon Time-Zero Project

The Grand Canyon Time-Zero Project (Photo credit: futurowoman)

If the universe sprung out of nothing, then the sum of the universe is zero. Any object has its anti-object. Any event has its anti-event. Maybe the universe has a partner, an anti-universe if you like, or even a mirror universe. Time in our universe runs from the zero moment into the positive future. In a mirror universe would presumably (and debatably) run in the opposite direction from the zero moment and all spacial dimensions would be reversed.

Plus-Reversed,-1960

Plus-Reversed,-1960 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This would correspond to a point reflection in time and space, which may or may not be the same as a rotation in time and space. I’m not sure. Some of complexities can be seen in this Wikipedia article on “parity”. In particular some interactions of elementary particles may display chirality, which means that they come in left and right handed versions, like gloves or shoes. All of the above means that if a person were to be point reflected into an anti-universe and all the elementary particles of his body were switched with their anti-particles, there may be no way for the person to tell that the switch had occurred.

different flowers from same plant

different flowers from same plant (Photo credit: ghedo)

Sure, time would be reversed, but so would literally everything else, so a left-handed glove would appear, in the point reflected world, to still be a left-handed glove even though, if we could see the glove it would appear to us, from our point of view to be right-handed. Of course I’ve assumed for much of the above that the reflection that transforms a universe to its anti-universe is a point reflection.

Axial chirality

Axial chirality (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In mathematical terms that means that all variables are reversed. That is x is replaced by -x, y by -y, z by -z and so on. It may be that the reflection may be in a line and the x dimension stays the same while the others are negated. Or it may be a reflection in a plane (a mirror reflection) where 2 dimensions are unchanged. Or it may be a reflection in a higher number of dimensions.

English: Upper Yosemite fall with reflection

English: Upper Yosemite fall with reflection (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As you can see, the subject is complex and I’ve not got my head around it (obviously!), but I believe that if we were switched into the anti-universe (including all out particles) it would not look any different from this universe. In fact we would probably find ourselves discussing our anti-universe, which would be our original universe. In fact it would not matter which universe we called “the original” because they both would have come into existence at the same time and there would be no meaning to the term “original”.

A face.. (the original OMG Wall)

A face.. (the original OMG Wall) (Photo credit: eworm)

 

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Classification

"Father! Father! / Tell me what ails thee...

“Father! Father! / Tell me what ails thee? / With dismay thou art filling thy child!” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Oh, wow, drat and other words of dismay. I haven’t thought of a topic for this week and it is time to write my post. Time to get started.

OK, people seem to like classifying things. This can be so that they can find one item in a large collection of things, or it may be simply a means of bolstering prejudices that they might have. Or any of a myriad number of other reasons.

Garbage Can

Garbage Can (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When faced with a profusion of things, the human impulse is to classify them. One of the most famous classification systems is that of Carl Linnaeus, whose classification system is used for the not so trivial task of classifying all living things. His system, with modifications is still the basis for biological classification of all organisms.

Digitally improved version of Alexander Roslin...

Digitally improved version of Alexander Roslin’s painting of Carl von Linné. This particular version has had dust and missing specs of paint deleted. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When Linnaeus started his classification, it is likely that partial schemes would likely have been in place to classify small groups of organisms, but Linnaeus extended this to all organisms, in an organised way. When someone states that mankind’s scientific name is “Homo Sapiens”, he or she is using the Linnaeus system, at least partially.

“Homo” represents mankind’s Genus, and “Sapiens” is mankind’s  Species, but the species is merely a leaf on the classification tree, which is rooted in the Animalia Kingdom, and descends through Phylum, Class, Order, Family, and Tribe, (which I’m not going to list here) and finally to the Genus and Species.

Darwin's tree of life

Darwin’s tree of life (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Linnaeus’ system is still in use today, but the emphasis has changed somewhat. When he was doing his work, the classification was based on appearance, and while that is often a good guide to an organism’s place in nature, emphasis has now shifted to the genetic make up of organisms to determine their correct classification.

Agapornis phylogeny

Agapornis phylogeny (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This has sometimes resulted in whole chunks of the classification tree being moved from one branch to another as knowledge of the genetics of the organisms has come to light. It is obvious that if two organisms have similar genetic make ups, then they must be closely related. Also, it implies that they almost certainly have a common ancestor, and such an ancestor is also fitted into the tree of life and given a species name.

Horned Dinosaur Phylogeny

Horned Dinosaur Phylogeny (Photo credit: Scott Wurzel)

This adds a time dimension to the genetic tree, turning it from a static representation of living organisms into a dynamic picture of all life over all time. The tree of life is evolving.

Another great classification system is the Dewey Decimal Classification system, a proprietary library classification system used to classify books. Every book in a library is assigned a number, which in most cases would not be unique. The number consists of two parts separated by a period (‘.’). Most library users would be aware of the system, and will have used it to locate books.

Spine Books Label show Call Number for Dewey D...

Spine Books Label show Call Number for Dewey Decimal Classification. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

While the system can classify books in great detail, merely by extending the number after the period to many decimal points, most libraries classify their books in much less detail, using only two or three digits as a suffix. This results in groups of books receiving the same number, with the books in a group sharing a common topic, while differing in detail.

get to know the dewey decimal system

get to know the dewey decimal system (Photo credit: susannaryan)

For instance a particular number may be assigned by the library whose topic might be the geography of the country of Bolivia. (The actual number is 918.4). The library might have only one or two books on the subject of the country of Bolivia, so that number is sufficient to locate any of them.

In the country of Bolivia itself, however, there will almost certainly be many more books on the topic and the Dewey Decimal Classification almost certainly contains more detailed classification numbers which would have to be used in Bolivia libraries to classify the geography books. (I’ve not checked this “factoid” but it is probably true).

Shelf of Books on South America

Shelf of Books on South America (Photo credit: pkdon50)

So the Dewey Decimal Classification system can be hair-splittingly  accurate or broadly general in its application and this flexibility is ideal for libraries. Sometime libraries use a sort of hybrid system, probably driven by the need for a sub-classification where some books have been already more generally classified, where some books are classified as “something.12″ and other books are classified as “something.123″. In most cases this inconsistency doesn’t matter.

Topographic map of Bolivia. Created with GMT f...

Topographic map of Bolivia. Created with GMT from public domain GLOBE data. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve just realised on writing that, that it may not be inconsistency at all. Instead the “something.123″ books may be more specific than the “something.12″ books, which would therefore be more general.

An obvious difficulty with the Dewey Decimal Classification system is that there is no cross-reference possible. In the Bolivia example, a book may cover the topic of the geographic causes of distribution of various related Bolivian species of some organism or other. Is this to be classified as biology and be assigned to a class in the 500s (Pure Science), or should it be classified as geography and assigned to a class in the 900s?

English:

English: (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Nowadays one can do a computer search and come up with a bunch of numbers that fit the topic that is being researched. In the days before computers there were card-based “Topic Catalogs” which would also provide the searcher with a bunch of numbers. The trouble is, many searches would result in multiple numbers, either as a result of a card search or a computer search.  One would then have to go to several locations to decide if the required topic was covered by this Dewey Decimal Classification number or one of the others. I make it sound bad, but really, it wasn’t, and the issue is more a user confusion about what was covered by each topic in the system rather than an issue with the system itself.

Banner for Wikipedia:WikiProject Lists of topics

Banner for Wikipedia:WikiProject Lists of topics (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A computer search (on Google for example) will provide a list of possible references to a search term, but as anyone has used a computer search is aware, a search term can refer to many topics. A search for the word Socrates gave me a list including a Wikipedia article on the philosopher himself, a list of quotes taken from his work, a biography of the philosopher and a site where his philosophies could be discussed. And that is just the first four items out of an estimated 6 million or so.

Google

Google (Photo credit: warrantedarrest)

Classification of things seems to be a trait of humans. I think that we classify things to simplify things for ourselves, to make it easy to identify threats and possibilities. As such, it is probably an inherited trait possessed by at least the more developed organisms on the planet. However classification can add complexity if one is searching for something, so it is something of a trade off.

google_logo

google_logo (Photo credit: keso)

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Ethics and Morals – the Ten Commandments

Ethics and Morals: Timeless and Universal?

Ethics and Morals: Timeless and Universal? (Photo credit: stephenccwu)

I’ve been thinking about ethics and morals over the past week, as preparation of a sort for writing this post. I’m not quite sure what got me started on this topic in the first place though. It would be more accurate to say that it is the basis for ethics and morality is what is interests me.

Religious people don’t have an issue, really, because their religion sets the rules for interactions with others, and any such rule is inviolate because it is supposedly handed to humans by “the powers that be”. The rule base is generally given as the word of god.

Sexta/Viernes/Friday-POSER-Deus - Dios - God

Sexta/Viernes/Friday-POSER-Deus – Dios – God (Photo credit: Caio Basilio)

Laws underscore ethics and morals, as they define what should happen if a person offends against another or the state or establishment. If it is not ethical to steal from another, what should be done? A law defines both the crime and often the punishment.

In the past, when religion had total control of peoples’ lives the religious establishment, the priests or other religious officials generally administered the secular laws and at the same time administered religious matters. In fact there was little difference.

Priest reading

Priest reading (Photo credit: Matthew Almon Roth)

The laws of those times, at least in England and Europe and probably in most of the rest of the world reflected a vengeful deity. The basic ethic was “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth“, with the added spice of an implication of sin.

English: Coat of Arms of His Eminence Jaime Ca...

English: Coat of Arms of His Eminence Jaime Cardinal Sin. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sin is an offence against god, so trumps the mere earthly transgression of the theft or whatever itself, resulting in penalties which would seem far too harsh in this day and age. For instance amputation for theft, deportation, banishment, or death for similar offences was common. Apart from the punishment of the perpetrator, a reason for the severity of the sentences was intended to underline the power of the establishment and to deter others from committing similar crimes.

Ten Commandments

Ten Commandments (Photo credit: glen edelson)

In Christian and Jewish religions there are the Ten Commandments (or Sayings in Judaism). To Christians they are the ten commands of God, and in Judaism they are ten of 613 commandments of God.

Pomegranate heart- corazon de granada

Pomegranate heart- corazon de granada (Photo credit: LifeAsIPictured)

There are three parts to the Ten Commandments.

Firstly, there are four commandments relating to God. From an ethical point of view, if you believed that God was overseeing your life, then you had better do whatever you could to make him happy. A good start is to believe in Him, and then to keep Him happy by worshipping him in appropriate ways.

Detaill of page 130 in section 'Notes to Kent'...

Detaill of page 130 in section ‘Notes to Kent’ of Notes on the churches in the counties of Kent, Sussex, and Surrey The image is a reproduction of a foundation stone of the Plaxtol, ‘abbreviated’ with marks to superficially read ‘This church was built for the worship of God. Anno Domini 1649 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Secondly, there is a commandment relating to parents and teachers, in other words, those with authority over one. Again, it makes sense to keep those in authority happy.

Finally, there are five commandments relating to relationships with other people, things such as stealing from them, sleeping with their wife and daughters and so on.

Don't Steal My Coat

Don’t Steal My Coat (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Outside of the Ten Commandments, it appears that the early Israelites had some ethical beliefs involving animals, as the tale of Balaam’s donkey reveals. Balaam’s donkey complains in a very human way expressing her hurt at Balaam’s treatment of her, and Balaam apologises to her.

Rembrandt's Balaam and his Ass

Rembrandt’s Balaam and his Ass (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So a religious person has a basis for his assessment of what is right and wrong from the above framework. It was considered right to follow the teachings of the Ten Commandments, and this was reinforced by the society of the time.

Moses with the tablets of the Ten Commandments...

Moses with the tablets of the Ten Commandments, painting by Rembrandt (1659) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As with all ethical frameworks, there are times when the framework doesn’t quite seem to fit the situation. When you are starving could it be wrong to steal a loaf of bread, particularly if the bread in question will otherwise go to waste? When your family is starving, could it be wrong to steal to feed them? Obviously if the rules are applied strictly it IS wrong, and often, in the times when religion was paramount, they often were.

Bread Thief

Bread Thief (Photo credit: frankdouwes)

Of course, those who do not have a belief in a deity can still be guided by the Ten Commandments, if they are in fact relevant to them. So let’s have a look at the Ten Commandments from a secular point of view.

Obviously, the four commandments relating to God, don’t apply? Or do they? In dealing with religious people, a non-religious person should be aware of and make allowances for the non-religious person’s belief, so long as they don’t cause a conflict with the non-religious person’s belief. For instance a non-religious person may happily attend a wedding but may object to any attempt to indoctrinate his children with religious beliefs through the child’s schools.

Funny Religious Sticker

Funny Religious Sticker (Photo credit: Amarand Agasi)

An unquestioning following of the fifth commandment may also conflict with a non-religious person’s ethical beliefs. While a non-religious person may accept the authority of the government and of the police, he or she might disagree with the correctness of their actions. Occasionally, though, a non-religious person will disagree with the authorities so much that he or she will rebel against them.

Nobody expects... The Spanish Inquisition!

Nobody expects… The Spanish Inquisition! (Photo credit: Ochre Jelly)

The rest of the commandments deal with relationships with other people, and a non-religious person may well believe that these are ethically correct instructions. They describe how a person might want others to behave towards them, so ethically that is how a person should treat others.

English: Golden Rule, Smithy Brow, Ambleside L...

English: Golden Rule, Smithy Brow, Ambleside Lovely old traditional pub in Ambleside, just across from the main car park. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This ethical principle, of “do as you would be done by”, has a long history and is sometimes known as “the Golden Rule“. There is a second part to this principle which “do NOT treat others in a way that you would not like to be treated”. This principle is the basis for the two characters,  Mrs. Doasyouwouldbedoneby and Mrs. Bedonebyasyoudid, from the story “The Water-Babies” by Charles Kingsley.

Cover of "The Water-Babies (Books of Wond...

Cover of The Water-Babies (Books of Wonder)

The Golden Rule seems to be a very good basis for a set of ethical rules. Of course it is too simple to explicitly and accurately cover every eventuality, as the example above of the starving family demonstrates. It also does not make allowance for differences in beliefs, and there are others issues with it, but it can be seen that it is implied in the Ten Commandments.

English: "Mrs. Bedonebyasyoudid." Il...

English: “Mrs. Bedonebyasyoudid.” Illustration for Charles Kingsley’s The Water Babies in charcoal, water, and oil. (New York : Dodd, Mead & Co., 1916), p. 236. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Ten Commandments themselves inherit the issues of the Golden Rule. As given, one should not harm another person, but what if you need to harm someone to save their life? Surgeons do this every day, but one can extend this to the killing of someone. Few people would argue that a policeman who guns down someone on a killing spree, as happens fairly often these days, has acted unethically.

Nevertheless, the Ten Commandments and through them the Golden Rule, provide useful hints and guidelines to good ethical behaviour, even for a non-believer.

Scan of illustration in The water-babies: a fa...

Scan of illustration in The water-babies: a fairy tale for a land-baby (1915) Boston: Houghton Mifflin (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

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