Parallel worlds or a Continuum?

Spooky Cat

Spooky Cat

A cursory search on the Internet doesn’t tell me one way or another if Erwin Schrodinger owned a cat. Nevertheless he could have owned a cat, so the existence of Schrodinger’s actual cat is unknown to me. David Deutsch might possible argue that Schrodinger’s decision to own a cat or not own a cat resulted in two parallel worlds.

The above is obviously a play on the original scenario outlined by Schrodinger, the famous Schrodinger’s Cat thought experiment. The cat’s state before the box is opened is a strange state, referred to as a superposition, where the cat is both alive and dead. When the box is opened it is argued that this state is somehow resolved with cat being definitely alive or dead.

It's a trap!

It’s a trap!

Suppose that we install a detector in the box with the cat which determines whether or not the cat is dead and notes the time when  it dies. Does this resolve the paradox? After all, if the detector says that the cat died three minutes ago, then we now know exactly when the cat died.

This doesn’t resolve the issue, though, as the detector will also be in a superposition until the box is opened – we don’t know if it has been triggered or not. Of course, some people, including Schrodinger himself, are not happy with this interpretation, and it does seem that, pragmatically, the cat is alive until the device in the box is triggered and is thereafter dead.

Superposition of waves

Superposition of waves

However the equation derived by Schrodinger appears to say that the cat exists in both states, so it appears as if Schodinger’s “ridiculous case” (his words) is in fact the case. Somehow the cat does appear to be in the strage state of superposition.

If we look at the experimenter, he (or she) has no clue before opening the box whether the cat is dead or not. Nothing appears to change for him (or her), but in fact it does. He (or she) is unaware of the state of the cat, so he (or she) is in the superimposed state : He (or she) is unaware whether or not the cat is alive or whether it is dead, which is a superposition state.

Dead Cat Bounce

Dead Cat Bounce

Yet we don’t find this strange. If we remove the scientific gadgets from the box, this doesn’t really change anything – the cat may drop dead from old ages or disease before the box is open. Once again we cannot know the live/dead status of the cat until we open the box.

So, what is special about opening the box? Well, the “when” is very important if we consider the usual case with the scientific gadgets in the box. If we open the box early we are more likely to find the cat alive. If we open it later it is more likely that the cat will be dead. Extinct. Shuffled the mortal coil.

Mortal Coil

Mortal Coil

So it is the probability of atomic decay leading to the cat’s death that is changing. It may be 70% likely that cat is dead, so if we could repeat the experiment 1000s of times 7/10th of the time the cat is dead, and 3/10th of the time the cat is still alive. Yeah, cat!! (There’s also a possibility that the experimenter gets a whiff of cyanide and dies, but let’s ignore that.)

But after the box is opened, the cat is 100% alive or 100% dead. Apparently. How did that happen? Some people claim that something mysterious called “the collapse of the waveform” happened. I don’t think that really explains anything.

 

Collapse of the waveform

Collapse of the waveform

The same thing happens in the real world. If I don’t check my lotto tickets I’m in a superposition state of having won a fortune and not having won a fortune. When I check them I find I haven’t won anything. Again! I must stop buying them. They are a waste of money.

The many worlds hypothesis gets around this by postulating the splitting of the world into two worlds whenever a situation like this arises. After I check my lotto ticket there are two worlds, one where I am a winner and one where I am not. How can I move to the world where I’m a millionaire? It doesn’t seem fair that I stuck here with two worthless bits of paper. does it?

Lotto tickets

Lotto tickets

And what does the probability mean? In the lotto case it is 1 in an astronomical number that I come out a winner and almost 1 that I get nothing. In the cat case it may be 60/40 or 70/30, and in the cat case it changes over time.

If the world splits every time a probabilistic situation arises, then the probabilities don’t actually mean much. What difference does it make if a situation is “more probable” than another situation if both situations come about in the multiverse regardless? It doesn’t seem that it is a meaningful attribute of the branches. What does it mean, in this model that branch A is three times more likely than branch B? Somehow a continuum (probability) reduces to a binary choice (A or B).

Spectrum

Spectrum

We could consider that the split is not a split at all, but that reality, the universe, whatever, has another dimension, that of probability. Imagine your worldline, a worm travelling through the dimensions of space and the new one of probability. You open the box and lo! Your worldline continues, and the cat is now dead or alive, but not both.

But which way does it go? That is determined purely by the probabilities, by the throw of the cosmic dice, but once it chooses a path, then there is no other possibility. In the space dimensions you can only be in one place at a time. If you are at A you cannot be at B, and similarly in the probability dimension, if you are at P you cannot be at Q.

Alphabet

Alphabet

However any point P (the cat is still alive!) is merely a point on the probability line. There are an uncountable number of points where the cat is alive and also an uncountable number of points where the cat is deceased. But the ratio between the two parts of the line is the probability of the cat’s survival.

Many Worlds

Many Worlds

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Virtually real

Antonin Artaud

Antonin Artaud

Reputedly the French avant-garde playwright Antonin Artaud took the view that illusion was not distinct from reality, advocating that spectators at a play should suspend disbelief and regard the drama on stage as reality. We do, in fact do this all the time.

From the slightly different perspective as spectators we watch our films and our soaps and our nature programs and we enter the reality shown on the screen while ignoring , to a large extent, what is going on around us. We even turn down the lights so that the brighter reality on the screen dominates. We cry for the characters, we laugh for and at them, we cheer their successes even though, at some level we realise that they are not “real”.

Movie Theatre

Movie Theatre

When we go to the cinema, we get the same thing only stronger, bigger and brighter. The theatre sound system knocks dust from the pelmets and detaches spider from the roof. The screen is so wide and we are so close that we are thrust deep into the action. The 5 metre high image of a face 15 metres away makes the same angle in the eye as a 200mm high face at arms length.

But we don’t need technology to enter a different reality. In a book we read of heroes and heroines, ogres and business men, of warfare and love making, of atoms and galaxies, of amoeba and star clouds. We use our imagination to enter their worlds and we get lost in them. We may beg, buy, borrow or steal a “page turner”, a book that we have to read through to the end, to find out the fate of the characters in it. We may purchase a travel book and visit in the imagination lands that we will never physically visit.

Books

Books

Photographs draw us in, religious books promise us heaven or hell, text books inform us and guide us, map books (or GPS) show us the way from A to B. Our games enter us into a different reality, sometimes one where it is kill or be killed, or where we get lost in a maze, or where we simply have to solve a puzzle. Games introduce us to a multilevel reality – we first enter the reality of the computer or PlayStation or XBox, or Nintendo, then we enter the reality of the game within the device.

Of course we may prefer old style board games like chess. Imagine a world that consists of 32 black and 32 white squares and black and white player pieces, which, quantum like, can only exist in one square at a time and when captured, cease to exist, so far as the reality of the chessboard is concerned. Players enter this reality in their minds and navigate their pieces in a war of black versus white, which starts with a given configuration and ends when the contest is decided, then returns like a cyclic Big Bang to the original configuration.

Big Bang

Big Bang

The fact that we can embed one reality (the fictional) inside another (the real) leads to the idea of an infinite regression of realities. In “The Matrix“, which I have never seen(!), Neo’s supposed reality turns out to be a simulation, and the real world is much more unpleasant than the supposed reality (not that unpleasant things don’t happen to Neo and others in the supposed reality).

The mathematician, the logician, the philosopher says “Only two?” If there are two realities, could it be possible that there are more? Maybe the real world of the Matrix is itself a simulation. Maybe that simulation is a simulation.

Wake up Neo

Wake up Neo

So we end up with the possibility of an infinite series of nested realities. There is one thing about the realities that I’ve been talking about though and that is that they are in our minds. If that pattern were to apply, every one of the nested realities would be in a mind. In the case of the Matrix Neo’s reality was imposed on his mind from outside, as it was for every other human in the Matrix.

The really clever thing about the Matrix was not that it was imposed on every human’s mind, but that it integrated all inputs from all the human minds into a consistent whole. For instance, if Neo sees a door and opens it, this information has to update the Matrix, and get downloaded into the minds of all the others in the Matrix, such as Trinity, who is waiting on the other side of the door.

Trinity (Matrix)

Trinity (Matrix)

That’s an impressive feat! The updating of the Matrix by all the human minds and the broadcasting of it back to all human minds is a much more impressive task than creating the Matrix in the first place. It is several orders of magnitude harder.

For instance, consider the immersive and interactive virtual realities which we have built and which generally involve the wearing of special gear such as VR helmets and VR gloves and connection to a fast computer which holds the information about the VR “world”.

VR Helmet

VR Helmet

If there are two individuals using the VR “world” at the same time, when Player One raises his hand, the information is fed to the computer and updates the VR “world”. Player Two’s view of the world has to be updated to show the avatar of Player One with his hand raised. If there are even more players all moving around the problem becomes much worse. Each player’s updates need to be fed to all other players (or all the “close” players to each player). The traffic rises exponentially.

But most of the time we don’t need fully immersive virtual reality to achieve a virtual reality. A simple book can do it. A movie can do it, probably even better. A play will do it too. All it requires is the suspension of disbelief, and the ability of the mind to draw pictures and fill in the gaps. It may be apparent to a person who walks in on the performance that Inspector Goole is only an actor, as are the member of the cast. The set is not really the sitting room of the Birlings, but a roughly painted lath and hardboard approximation.

An Inspector Calls

An Inspector Calls

But in the minds of the audience, for the duration of the play, J. B Priestly gives them a view into a different reality. One that is not fully immersive, but which uses the power of the human mind.

Phrenology

Phrenology

 

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Trickle, Brook, Stream, River

Rain

Rain

When it rains water collects in little puddles and hollows in the uneven earth. Sometimes the water sinks into dirt until the dirt can hold no more and the water forms the puddle. If the rain continues to fall it forms a surface, rippled and blown by the wind. The puddle may be muddy, or it may be clear depending on whether the water is stirred enough by the wind or by an animal or maybe by a child, wrapped up for the weather and wearing rubber or plastic boots.

Some rain falls at altitude in mountains or hills and falls on rocks, trickling down into cracks and crevices. Some rain falls on plants and is absorbed or runs down to the roots and is absorbed by them. Such rain takes the shortcut back into the air as the plant pumps it to the leaves and it is expired into the air.

Rain on grass

Rain on grass

Much of the rain that falls is not seen again for a while. It trickles through the soil, through open spaces between and within rocks. Some it soaks into cracks which take it deep within the earth to aquifers which can hold the water for years, decades, or centuries. Some it soaks into soft and soluble rocks like limestone and can form caverns underground. Sometimes this water evaporates underground and creates the beautiful rock forms that we can stalactites or stalagmites.

Some of the water remains on the surface and is joined by water seeping through the soil or the rocks to form little streams. The visible part of the stream is not all there is to a stream. Most streams have rocky or pebbly beds, or gravel or sand beds and water flows through those, as well as the free-flowing visible water. Indeed, some streams are not visible at the surface with the water running under the pebbly bed. Unless the stream is in flood that is, when the water fills the channel perhaps to overflowing.

Wet rocks

Wet rocks

Up in the mountains or the hills the small trickles of water tumble over or under the rocks and gradually merge to form small streams. Water oozes from wet soil and sometimes springs from rocks where the aquifers reach the surface. Rocks stick up through the water, little waterfalls chute the water in glistening curves and air mixes with the water to produce little white water patches. Vegetation hangs over the little streams, moistened by the stream and dripping water back into. Water loving mosses abound, and trees dip their roots.

The stream is continually renewing. This is not the same steam that you saw here yesterday. That water has flowed on perhaps by now reaching the sea. This water was yesterday floating in the sky in the form of a fluffy white cloud, or a grey dense cloud, or merely as an unseen vapour, measured only by humidity. Gravity’s imperative call pulls the water down from the hill.

Moss

Moss

There may be life in the water. Small insects and similar tiny organisms survive in the tumbling water, and even smaller little animals, from single cells animalcules to tiny  multi celled beings live in it. They creep over the rocks and pebbles, feeding on debris that falls into the water or on little plants that also cling to the rocks, or each other.

As the stream progresses downhill it gathers more and more water from tributary trickles and merging flows. It deepens and flows over rocks which higher up it would have flowed around. Pools form and pools make it easier for life to exists. Maybe crustaceans and fish could now be lurking in the pools and even in the deeper less turbulent flows. Such life would also attract birds such as ducks.

Mandarin ducks

Mandarin ducks

All this life lives on a knife edge. A sudden storm upstream may swell the flow to many times the normal rate, moving rocks and boulders and even reshaping the banks of the stream. This would be a disaster for the wildlife in the stream sweeping it downstream and out of its usual environment into areas to which it is not adapted. Such storm events shape the little streams much more than the every day trickle.

A stream which I’m describing has a steep course. It may sweep past last stones and boulders and drop many metres for each dozen or so metres traversed. In many places it will reach places where the underlying geology changes and a waterfall forms or a cascade. A cascade is where the stream drops several metres in a short distance and the bed is full of boulders and rocks which may be totally or partial covered by the stream.

Cascade

Cascade

A waterfall usually drop into a pool caused by the water falling on and removing rocks and boulders. The spectacle of the drop and the pool makes it very attractive and people will sometimes hike for miles to see a waterfall.

As the stream becomes a river it becomes more placid. More life lives in it, it is broader and deeper. We can fish in it, float boats on it, and use it as a highway. We often live by rivers as they generally follow the easiest route through a sometimes tricky landscape. Large cities are more often than not found on rivers for this reason. Farmers on the banks of a big river want to trade with people up of downstream.

City of Vladimir

City of Vladimir

We tend to forget, in these days when we travel mainly by road, that rivers were once the prime highways, and indeed our principle roads frequently follow the route of a river.

As a river reaches lower altitudes it become more placid, as I have mentioned. People live next to it, and so they are in danger of flooding if a storm hits up river. A river is constrained by nature banks, but these many be breached. Consequently we have tamed many rivers, building large earthworks to constrain it to its usual course in the case of floods. However, the flooding of a river and the bursting of its banks deposits nutrients on to the soils around the river.

Floods

Floods

The ancient Egyptians knew this and worked with the annual flooding of the Nile. They developed geometry and mathematics to reinstate farm boundaries after floods. They also developed a legal system at least in part to legislate the inevitable disputes.

Nile floods

Nile floods

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Makeup Your Mind

English: Green Dragon fantasy hair styling com...

English: Green Dragon fantasy hair styling combined with air brush body make-up (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

(I’m close to reaching my goal of 250 posts. What happens then? I don’t know).

I’ve just read a story about someone who went for 30 days without makeup. I’m not sure why I read it as I, like most men, don’t wear makeup. I have a beard so I don’t even shave. The idea of makeup if foreign to me. Even my wife doesn’t bother, except for special occasions.

The interesting thing for me was that the article recounted how her self-esteem plummeted. For the first few days it was “no one has noticed”, but later on it was “they’re all avoiding me”. She retreated from all social contact which interfered both with her work and in her personal life.

Exfoliation (PSF)

Exfoliation (PSF) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Even though her husband took two weeks to notice, she couldn’t really believe that it didn’t make any difference to him. She was surprised that he supported her in her goals, and wondered if it would help her marriage for her to go without makeup!

It seems to me that she is guilty of shallow thinking. She’s lived with this man for long enough that they are married, but presumably without children. (More on that later). They must have passed the initial attraction phase, and moved on to a deeper understanding of each other. In other words, they don’t judge the book by its cover any more. She could probably remove the wig and the false leg and it would not faze him. (I’m exaggerating of course – there’s no mention of such in her article).

Cold Cream

Cold Cream

Having, as she sees it, dropped her standards a little, she continues to drop them, first letting her hair go, and then letting her wardrobe go. At this stage she’s convinced that she is getting strange looks from the bank teller, who if he was a man probably wouldn’t have noticed anything, and her dry cleaner, who I’d bet was a woman.

She ends up getting called into his office by her boss. My take on the conversation was that it was about her clothes. It seems that she had come to work in clothing that was too informal for the office. The boss didn’t (as reported) mention makeup, just her outfit. It is most likely, in my opinion that he had noticed the changes in her behaviour – coming to work in sloppy clothes, avoid contact with other staff and wanted to know what was going on. A good boss always notices such things as they can sometimes be precursors of trouble.

Clothes Rack

Clothes Rack

Women in general seem not to like doing their makeup in the mornings. A Google search turns up many articles on how to “look good” without makeup. This one starts with a recommendation that the woman starts with “exfoliation”. Exfoliation for you blokes out there is a process that literally scrubs the skin off the face (or where ever. I’ve no idea if it is used elsewhere on the body. I don’t think that I want to know).

Of course young girls and boys see their mothers putting on makeup and they want to do it too. It’s fun painting your face. Boys are often discouraged from doing it, for no really good reason, but girls are often encouraged to make up their faces. Of course if the kids go out in public with makeup on, someone is going to be outraged at the “sexualisation” of young girls, which is a bit silly really. It’s only practise. Now if a young boy were to go out with makeup on, all hell would break loose, the heavens would fall and it would be the end of the world.

English: Face Painting at South Estes Farmers'...

English: Face Painting at South Estes Farmers’ Market in Chapel Hill, NC (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

To get back to exfoliation – it remove everything, including the supposedly “dead skin”. It removes all the natural oils from the skin, so once the outer layers of the skin are removed, “moisturisers” and “serums” and so on have to be rubbed into the skin.

All traces of skin hair apparently have to be removed. There are various methods for this ranging from shaving to waxing, from really painful to the merely expensive. Women have body? Shock, horror! Of course I’m an excessively hairy male with beard and some body hair, so it is no wonder that I don’t understand the obsessions with body hair. The only hair that I remove is the long nose hairs that meet with my moustache – they tickle.

English: Mr Bauer, ca. 1870. Serious portrait ...

English: Mr Bauer, ca. 1870. Serious portrait of Mr Bauer, who has a beard and short hair. He is wearing a high collared jacket. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There are 20 tips in that article, all of which sound expensive, the lotions and serums and face masks, and the whatever. I know that a hairdo may cost a woman up to $200. And they all seem so time consuming! A face mask takes time to do, and then the woman has to lock herself away for an hour or so for it to work. The article was on how to “look good” without makeup, but reading through the list, I’d suspect that most women would do at least some of these things, makeup or not.

Kids! I’d suspect that women who do most of the things mentioned above have no children. Of course having children doesn’t stop women doing these things, wearing make up and the rest, but time is precious when you are a mother, assuming that the responsibility for their day to day care devolves on the mother. Some of the things I mention above naturally fall by the wayside.

Mum's Lipstick

Mum’s Lipstick

That’s why articles like this probably reflect more closely how women with children feel. Dropping kids off at school and at kindergarten, doesn’t leave a woman much time for makeup. Morning is all about wrangling kids out of bed, into clothes and into the car (back out of the car to pick up the packed meals that are sitting on the bench, also a coat for one child who seems oblivious to the temperature) leaving no slot for makeup, let alone exfoliation.

The rest of the day is washing and cleaning and removing the toy cowboy stuck in the vacuum cleaner. Of course she could wear a face mask while hoovering, but then she’d sweat under it with dire consequences. Then it’s time to pick up the kids again, and start preparing a meal.

Face Mask

Face Mask

So, makeup. The spouse probably doesn’t care. The spouse sees the woman, not the makeup, believe me. It’s absurd, really, that going without makeup could damage a woman’s self esteem. It’s just not that big a deal.

Makeup

Makeup

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Taking to the Air

Bristol Freighter

Bristol Freighter

This week I am going to do something different. I’m not a big fan of aeroplanes, but a few planes appear to me to stand out from the rest. These are the planes that, to my mind, represent the high points in aviation history.

The first one I would like to mention is the “Bristol Freighter“. This little workhorse was introduced in 1948 and was only produced for eight years or so, but it was so useful that it was in service for many decades after that. I recall seeing one chugging through the skies of Wellington and that must have been in the 1980s. Sadly, I don’t think that there are any still flying, though some grounded planes may still be seen in exhibitions and the like.

Bristol 170 Mk.31 Freighter, Liverpool 1961

Bristol 170 Mk.31 Freighter, Liverpool 1961 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I recall seeing them flying when I was a child. We used to go to Hastings, in what is now East Sussex for holidays, and often went to Lydd Airport to spot the planes. The little Bristol Freighters used to load on cars and passengers (through the two large nose doors) and hop across the English Channel to Le Touquet in France. Then they would turn around and come back again. We could watch a plane going out and see it return while we were there.

One of the planes was called “Fourteenth of July”. On the other side of the fuselage it bore the name of “Quatorze Juillet”, which is of course, the same name only in French. All the Bristol Freighters at Lydd bore both the French and English versions of their names which is appropriate for these channel hoppers!

Short Sunderland

Short Sunderland

The Short Sunderland “flying boat” was an amphibious plane first produced in 1938 and which was produced for around 8 years. I’ve unfortunately not seen one flying, since I believe that it has been a while since any flew. It took off from the water there were a few issues that didn’t arise with conventional planes.

For instance, if the sea was too calm pilots found it difficult to take of as the “suction effect” on the hull prevented it breaking free from the water surface. It took off best in slightly choppy conditions and sometimes a boat had to be used to chop up the water surface so that it could take off.

Taking off

Sunderland flying boat taking off

Although it took off and landed on water, it had wheels which could be attached so that it could be dragged onto the land, for maintenance and cleaning. As the hull was in the water most of the time it suffered from the growth of marine life on the hull, like any other marine craft.

Concorde

Concorde

Concorde was a supersonic plane and one of only two supersonic models that have ever been produced. It featured a distinctive narrow delta shape, and to assist with takeoff and landing the nose could be lowered to improve forward vision.

It was produced by the British Aircraft Corporation in Filton, Bristol, England and Aérospatiale in France. Parts were flown between the two sites operated by the companies in a transport plane with a huge fuselage, known as the Super Guppy, and I recall seeing the Super Guppy several times flying into or out of Filton.

The last ever flight of any Concorde, 26th Nov...

The last ever flight of any Concorde, 26th November 2003. The aircraft (G-BOAF) is overflying Filton airfield at two thousand feet to take a wide circle over the Bristol area before the final landing on the Filton (Bristol) runway from which she first flew in 1979, and from which the first British Concorde flew in 1969. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

During the building and testing of Concorde in Filton, some “escape tests” were done in the outer areas of the airfield. These tests were done on an actual Concorde fuselage which was occasionally set alight. Apparently all the testers escaped successfully! The area could be seen from the road, so the spectacle provided some entertainment for the locals.

The big engines for Concorde were tested by mounting them on a Vulcan Bomber. That was quite a spectacle too. The Vulcan was reaching the end of its life at that time and reputedly finished the testing with only one set of tyres left.

English: at the 2009 , being flown by Martin W...

English: at the 2009 , being flown by Martin Withers, the pilot of Vulcan XM607, the first Vulcan to bomb Port Stanley airfield in the Falkland Islands, in One (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The initial flight of Concorde was quite a show, with the two first Concordes taking off “simultaneously” from Filton and Toulouse. A bit of gamesmanship went on with the French pilot delaying his takeoff run a little, intentionally or otherwise, which meant that the pilot of the British Concorde was a little in advance of the French plane and was nearly forced to abort his takeoff.

The result was that viewers at the end of the runway at Filton, on a low hill overlooking the airport, saw the British Concorde start to travel down the runway, disappear into a dip, and finally reappear over the crest near the end of the runway.

The official handover ceremony of British Airw...

The official handover ceremony of British Airways first Concorde following it’s delivery from Filton the previous day. The location is North Bay, Technical Block B at the BA engineering base. This aircraft operated British Airways first commercial Concorde service six days later to Bahrain in the hands of Captain Norman Todd, Captain Brian Calvert and Senior Flight Engineer John Lidiard. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The two Concorde took off pretty much at the same time with the British version actually having plenty of spare runway, but it passed over the hill on which spectators were watching at a fairly low altitude, letting them experience the full power of the Rolls Royce Olympus engines. This was before they were modified to make them quieter! I saw the Concorde from my place of work in Bristol city centre as it circled the city before heading to Fairford for fit out.

Lockheed C130 Hercules

Lockheed C130 Hercules

The silhouette of the Lockheed Hercules is distinctive, with its high tail. This aircraft first flew in 1954 and is still in use 63 years later. It will continue in service all around the world until at least 2020. In my opinion it is likely that they will be around for some time to come.

The key reason for the Hercules’ success is its flexibility. It can carry cargo or drop bombs. It can carry troops and it can carry supplies. It can act as a tanker and spread water or chemicals over large areas. If you can’t land you can chuck stuff out of the back with parachutes of course and troops often parachute out of the back of the plane.

English: A Polish C-130 Hercules, Radom Air Sh...

English: A Polish C-130 Hercules, Radom Air Show 2009 Polski: Polski C-130 Hercules, Radom Air Show 2009 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Hercules was able to take off from short and unprepared airstrips so was a really versatile tool for armed forces everywhere. Apparently it is a noisy aircraft to travel in, with no real creature comforts. Nevertheless its ability to fit stuff in and operate under marginal conditions means that it remains a very popular aircraft to this day.

Well, I’ve only got through four aircraft and I have some more in mind, so I may come back to this in a future posting.

Paper Plane

Paper Plane

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Fake News

News

News

All news is fake to some extent. When a reporter watches some event unfold he or she will have their own in-built and acquired biases, no matter how hard they try to keep them under control. Those who watch or read the news report will also have their own leanings and belief systems. In addition they will tend to view only those sources which fit with their world view.

Although I attempt to show that “news” as such is a severely distorted view of events, and that everyone has their own viewpoint on news events depending on their innate beliefs and acquired biases, this phenomenon is not restricted to news and the events that get reported by the news media. We filter all that we see through the sieve of these beliefs and therefore what we see conforms to our world view and naturally this acts to confirm these beliefs in our minds.

Beliefs Knowledge and Truth

Beliefs Knowledge and Truth

Back in 1991 Jean Baudrillard said that “The Gulf War did not happen“. Of course, he did not mean that the events referred to as “The Gulf War” or “The Liberation of Kuwait” did not happen, but that the events as reported by the US authorities and others were highly edited and presented in a way that but the US and its allies in the best possible light. Baudrillard also contended that the so-called war was not a war in the usual sense as the American troops did not directly engage in conflict with the opposing forces.

I am not arguing on the rights or wrongs of the Gulf War, as that is not the main purpose of my posting here, but that what was reported by the Western media was a distorted view of the events that happened during that war. As I live in a “Western” nation, the view that I and billions of others had was highly tilted in the direction of the United States. If I had been able to see the reporting of the Iraqi media, I am sure that I would have a very different view of the events. Similarly it too would also be highly distorted.

Destroyed tank

Destroyed tank in Gulf War

Neither viewpoint could be considered “right” or “wrong”, as such. Neither is intended to be an accurate record of what actually happened, while the events as reported happened, the interpretation of the events may omit or emphasise some aspect over others. One report may record that several “insurgents” or “terrorists” were killed, while another report of the same event will record that some “freedom fighters” were killed. One report may leave out the fact that “non-combatants” were killed while the other may call them civilians and children.

In recent times though, so-called “fake news” has had some attention in the media itself. Kellyanne Conway used the phrase “alternative facts” to explain the claim that President Trump’s inauguration had the “largest audience to ever witness an inauguration – period – both in person and around the globe”, when less partial estimates put the crowd at a much lower level than it was at the previous three inaugurations. She was widely ridiculed for this, though, to be fair, she maybe meant to say “alternative information” or “incomplete information”, as she has claimed.

Presidential inauguration

Presidential inauguration

Unfortunately for that interpretation, she later referred to something that did not happen. This may again have been a slip of the tongue or incorrect remembrance of the event referred to, but two such slips probably indicates that she should not be doing the job and should let other handle the interaction between the White House and the media. However while the media is focusing on her missteps they are not focusing on the President, and that may be the whole point.

Of course, “alternative facts” or alternative interpretations are not found just in politics, but in many walks of life. How many people have watched a sports match and have been surprised by the interpretation of the way that the match went that appears in the media. One group of supporters may think that the referee was biased in favour of the other team, while the opposition’s supporter might believe that the referee made the right calls. Of course it may depend a great deal on whether or not your team won!

Referee (Massimo Busacca)

Referee (Massimo Busacca)

However, in spite of all that I have said above, there has been a rise in recent time of true “Fake News” sites. These sites publish news items which are simply not true and the intent of these sites is to deliberately confuse and deceive those who read it. One interesting consequence is that China supported Americans who accused Facebook of spreading false news.

The most controlled regime outside of North Korea pointed out that in the free for all of democratic and liberal societies anyone could set up a web site and promulgate false news and views. In China however any site which published fake news would be hit by the full weight of the state. Of course the issue with this is that any site publishing views opposed by the state would be shut down immediately whether or not the news was actually fake.

The article on Chinese support for the opponents of fake news on Facebook come from the Huffington Post, and as such contains its own biases of course. Therefore the amount of credence that you put on the above article will depend on your political stance. However, it is likely that while the Huff may post satirical articles, it is unlikely, in my opinion, to post out and out fake news. Just use your brains when you read it, and be aware of your own and the site’s political biases.

The same goes for sites which promote miracle cures, or medicines which are outside of the mainstream medical province. Sites which promote anti-abortion, anti-vaccination, anti-fluoride, anti-folic acid, and other fringe beliefs really annoy me because they either ignore medical evidence or call into question by invoking conspiracy theories (“Big Pharma” anyone?) Beliefs like homeopathy and many other alternative medical beliefs belong with beliefs in psychic powers – in the rubbish bin of history.

Rubbish bin

Rubbish bin

Posted in Blogging, General, Internet, Miscellaneous, Philosophy, Politics, Religion, Society | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Photography – Yet Again

Gum Grove path

Path to Gum Grove

I wondered if I had ever written a post about photography. So I checked. The answer was that I’ve done quite a few. Oh well, it’s a big subject!

I don’t count photography as a hobby of mine, but more as an interest. I’ve got a camera, but it is only an enhanced point and shoot, and I sometimes even use the camera on my cellphone. I haven’t bought any camera gear and I probably won’t. Handheld is good enough for me.

Of course photographer want the best picture that they can get, so better cameras and lenses are the way to go, and probably a tripod would be the next buy. Special filters and accessories enhance a photographers art and this can get expensive. Not to mention bulky and hard to carry around.

Fungi

Old and New

I have nothing but admiration for those photographers who will hike kilometres and wait for hours for the right light to capture a particular shot. I’m usually constrained by a number of things that need doing, plus I usually have a dog attached to me when I have the opportunity to snatch a picture.

Nevertheless I try to take good pictures. I might spot the opportunity of a picture and I wrap the dog’s lead around a convenient tree while I compose and take whatever has caught my eye. I usually take a few shots of the same subject to enhance the possibility of one of the pictures being an acceptable one.

First Bridge

First Bridge

Usually I don’t fiddle with the camera settings, some of which are meaningless to me anyway, but occasionally I will experiment with the shutter timings and the aperture settings. I say “shutter” but I’m pretty sure that my camera doesn’t have a shutter.

I have to trust the autofocus as there is way on my simple camera to easily adjust the focus. I can lock in the distance setting by partially pressing the button, and I have done so in the past, with variable results.

Lichen on trees

Lichen on trees

One consequence of the digital revolution is that the potential picture is displayed on a LCD screen rather than through a viewfinder, and these are often difficult to see and compose a picture in. I sometimes take a few pictures of my subject from different distances and different angle, but composing a picture is still difficult.

Fortunately my camera is pretty clever, and the focussing is usually better than I expect. Composition is pretty hit and miss for the reasons I mention above. Usually there is at least one photograph from the many that I take which is acceptable and many are better than I could hope for from my somewhat random shooting method.

Kereru

Kereru on New Zealand Pigeon

It’s not quite a “Monte Carlo” method of taking photographs, but it is close. It’s not often that I get a picture which is better than merely “good”. But even then the picture will not be razor sharp, and serious photographers would probably look down on them. That’s OK, as I don’t aspire to having them blown up to A4 or even A3 and hung on a wall.

So, why do I take photographs? Well, I do post a lot of them on Facebook, so I must feel the need to get others to look at them, and hopefully they will like them and if they like them or don’t like them, hopefully they will say so.

Above the bridge

The stream from above the bridge

My Facebook pictures are public, but most comments come from friends and family, which is understandable as I don’t do anything to publicise them. When friends and family comment on them, others may see the pictures so they do find their way out there.

Facebook and other “social networking” apps have changed photography for me and for millions of others. Without Facebook taking a photograph of oneself is a bit pointless. Who would ever see it? But “selfies” allow the photographer to include his/her self into a picture.

First Bridge

The First Bridge

It’s a form of bragging. The selfie taker is boasting : “Here am I and here are my friends, and we are having fun, in this indiscernible location, and we are drunk as skunks”. OK, well, some selfies are taken in recognisable places and the selfie taker is not under the influence of alcohol, but many, many are.

So the pictures that I and other serious and not so serious photographers post to social media are usually not selfies and most often don’t contain babies, other children, pets and people grinning at the camera. The pictures that I and other posts are in the minority, and of course there is a huge number of pictures that fall into both categories, the trivial and the hopefully not so trivial.

Autumn Colors

Autumn Colours

For instance, the pictures of dogs running where you can’t see their legs and so they appear to be floating are funny, essentially trivial, but make a good photographs, even if it transpires that the pictures were serendipitous. The stunning picture of a sunset taken on a honeymoon, may be snapped on an iPhone, and is arguably less trivial.

I mostly like to take pictures of fungi, flowers and trees, not to mention insects and other small animals. I see beauty in a spider or beetle or slug and often try to bring this out in my pictures. Also in fallen leaves or leaves with autumn colours, or the small flowers that others refer to as weeds, but which repay a closer look. Often the structure of such small plants is amazing.

Basket Fungus

Basket Fungus (Ileodictyon cibarium)

I also take pictures that I think of a “records”. Such as the time when the stream turned into a raging torrent during a big storm, or the moment when a Monarch butterfly hatches from it pupa. While some of these may transcend being a record of the event, many are interesting but less of a photograph and more of a picture. The lighting many be wrong and the image fairly dark, but it still shows the insect expanding its wings from mere sacks to the beautiful wings of the complete insect.

There’s nothing wrong with selfies and other similar photographs, but one would hope that the selfie taker would graduate to something better eventually. If what I might term a “proper” photograph is actually better in any real way.

Large Fungi

Large Fungi

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