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

 

What’s the probability?

 

transparent_die
Transparent die

We can do a lot with probability and statistics. If we consider the case of a tossed die, we know that it will result in a six about one time in six in the die is not biassed in any way. A die that turns up six one time in six, and the other numbers also one time in six, we call a “fair” die.

We know that at any particular throw the chance of a six coming up is one in six, but what if the last six throws have all been sixes? We might become suspicious that the die is not after all a fair one.

Dice
Dice

The probability of six sixes in a row is one in six to the power of six or one in 46656. That’s really not that improbable if the die is fair. The probability of the next throw of the die, if it is a fair one, is still one in six, and the stream of sixes does not mean that a non six is any more probable in the near future.

The “expected value” of the throw of a fair die is 3.5. This means that if you throw the die a large numbers of time, add up the shown values and divide by the number of throws, the average will be close to three and a half. The larger the number of throws the more likely the measured average will be to 3.5.

craps_table
Crap table

This leads to a paradoxical situation. Suppose that by chance the first 100 throws of a fair die average 3.3. That is, the die has shown more than the expected number of low numbers. Many gamblers erroneously think that the die is more likely to favour the higher numbers in the future, so that the average will get closer to 3.5 over a much larger number of throws. In other words, the future average will favour the higher numbers to offset the lower numbers in the past.

In fact, the “expected value” for the next 999,900 is still 3.5, and there is no favouring of the higher numbers at all. (In fact the “expected value” of the next single throw, and the next 100 throws is also 3.5).

pile_of_cash
Pile of cash

If, as is likely, the average for the 999,900 throws is pretty close to 3.5, the average for the 1,000,000 throws is going to be almost indistinguishable from the average for 999,900. The 999,900 throws don’t compensate for the variation in the first 100 throws – they overwhelm them. A fair die, and the Universe, have no memory of the previous throws.

But hang on a minute. The Universe appears to be deterministic. I believe that it is deterministic, but I’ve argued that elsewhere. How does that square with all the stuff about chance and probability?

orbital
Orbital

Given the shape of the die, its trajectory from the hand to the table, given all the extra little factors like any local draughts, variations in temperature, gravity, viscosity of the air and so on, it is theoretically possible, if we knew all the affecting factors, that, given enough computing power, we could presumably calculate what the die would show on each throw.

It’s much easier of course to toss the die and read the value from the top of the cube, but that doesn’t change anything. If we knew all the details we could theoretically calculate the die value without actually throwing it.

abacus
abacus

The difficulty is that we cannot know all the minute details of each throw. Maybe the throwers hand is slightly wetter than the time before because he/she has wagered more than he/she ought to on the fall of the die.

There are a myriad of small factors which go into a throw and only six possible outcomes. With a fair die and a fair throw, the small factors average out over a large number of throws. We can’t even be sure what factors affect the outcome – for instance, if the die is held with the six on top on each throw, is this likely to affect the result? Probably not.

Einstein's equation
E = mc2

So while we can argue that when the die is thrown that deterministic laws result in the number that comes up top on the die, we always rely on probability and statistics to inform us of the result of throwing the die multiple times.

In spite the seemingly random string of numbers from one to six that throwing the die produces, there appears to be no randomness in the cause of the string of results from throwing the die.

popcorn
Popcorn

The apparent randomness appears to be the result of variations in the starting conditions, such as how the die is held for throwing and how it hits the table and even the elastic properties of the die and the table.

Of course there may be some effects from the quantum level of the Universe. In the macro world the die shows only one number at a time. In the quantum world a quantum die may show 99% one, 0.8% two, 0.11% three… etc all adding up to 100%. We look at the die in the macro world and see a one, or a two, or a three… but the result is not predictable from the initial conditions.

Random
Random

Over a large number of trials, however, it is very likely that these quantum effects cancel out at the macro level. In maybe one in a very large number of trials the outcome is not the most likely outcome, and this or similar probabilities apply to all the numbers on the die. The effect is for the quantum effects to be averaged out. (Caveat: I’m not quantum expert, and the above argument may be invalid.)

In other cases, however, where the quantum effects do not cancel out, then the results will be unpredictable. One possibility is the case of weather prediction. Weather prediction is a notoriously difficult problem, weather forecasters are often castigated if they get it wrong.

lightning
Lightning

So is weather prediction inherently impossible because of such quantum level unpredictability? It’s actually hard to gauge. Certainly weather prediction has improved over the years, so that if you are told by the weather man to pack a raincoat, then it is advisable to do so.

However, now and then, forecasters get it dramatically wrong. But I suspect that that is more to do with limited understanding of the weather systems than any quantum unpredictability.

Flooded
Flooded

 

 

 

Thinking Inside of the Box

Illustration of the expansion of the Universe ...
Illustration of the expansion of the Universe after the Big bang. In Bulgarian. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Science aims to explain things, and by extension to explain everything. Is this even possible? Suppose the Universe consisted of a box, 20 million metres in each direction. Scientists inside this box could investigate this universe, but could they explain everything about this universal Box?

Suppose that the Box had impenetrable walls, so scientists could not probe outside of it. So they could say that the width, height, depth of the universe was 20 million metres and they could describe what was in it. They could also say that one side of the cube attracted everything in the Box and that side could be labelled “down” and the opposite side “up”.

English: Snapshot from a simulation of large s...
English: Snapshot from a simulation of large scale structure formation in a ΛCDM universe. The size of the box is (50 h -1 Mpc) 3 . Run using GADGET (GPL software) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There also might be statistical laws, so that the temperature, on average, might be 20 degrees Celsius, but could differ from that norm from place to place and from time to time. Box scientists might determine that everything appeared to be made up of tiny indivisible particles. Box atoms.

Some Box philosophers might ponder what was beyond the limits of the Box. They’d ponder the fact that starting from one side of the Box, one could travel 20 million metres in a perpendicular direction, but one could not travel 20 million and one metres. Why not?


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I’m sure that they would have plenty of theories. For instance, one philosopher might contend that the Box was embedded in an infinite impenetrable bedrock, while another might say that it was obvious – the Box was embedded in nothing. No space, no time, no thing!

Meanwhile scientists probing the Box atoms might split them and discover a whole new world of sub-atomic particles. Others might conceive of space in the Box as being a seething mass of pairs of virtual particles, being created and moving apart for a brief instant and then merging into nothing, no thing, again.

English: Tracks of ionizing radiation in a clo...
English: Tracks of ionizing radiation in a cloud chamber (thick, short: alpha particles; long, thin: beta particles). Français : Traces d’ionisation matérialisées sous forme de micro-trainées de condensation par des particules radioactives dans une chambre à brouillard ; Les trainées épaisses et courtes signalent des particules alpha ; les longues et files matérialisent le passage de particules beta). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But, says one bright spark, what about a particle pair created on the boundary of the Box? One particle would enter the Box, and the other would travel somewhere else! This would lead to other speculation – if the second particle travelled in another Box, then that other Box would presumably be a mirror image of our Box!

Such speculation would wait on experimentation by the Box scientists and I’m aware that I cannot push the Box analogy too far with out it breaking. But, just as in the case of the Box scientists, philosophers and scientists in this Universe have similar issue.

An illustration of a ramified analogy, one com...
An illustration of a ramified analogy, one component of Gordon Pask’s Conversation Theory. Self-made (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In our Universe there are no bounds (under current theories, I believe) but that doesn’t mean that we can’t speculate about what is beyond our Universe, whatever “beyond” may mean in this context.

The Box scientists could potentially explain every thing in the Box, maybe even the fact that it had existed, pretty much unchanged (on average) for all time, and that is periodically, over astronomically long time scale is doomed to repeat itself, time and time again.

Mesquita, repeat ad infinitum
Mesquita, repeat ad infinitum (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When they go further than that, it is pure speculation, as all the data that they have relates to the Box. They have no data from outside of the Box. All the waves and particles that are observed originate in the Box. All the forces and fields are part of the Box. While scientists may speculate about “other Boxes”, that is all that they can do.

That’s the problem. The Box scientists, and the scientists from our Universe, can only observe events in the Universe in which they are embedded. Observations relate only to events in the local Universe.

English: Multiverse, a light sculpture by Leo ...
English: Multiverse, a light sculpture by Leo Villareal featuring 41,000 computer-programmed LED nodes, located between the National Gallery of Art’s East and West Buildings, on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Some conjectures suggest that our Universe is one of many universes all linked together in some way. Some conjectures suggest that the laws of our Universe apply in many other similar universes separate from ours. Some people conjecture that universes may exist where there are no laws or the laws that there are have no similarity in any way to the laws of our Universe.

In the Box universe these conjecture would amount to ideas that there may be other Box universes out there with similar laws to the Box universe, maybe linked in some way to the hypothetical Box universe. There may even be universes which have laws which are not at all similar to those of the Box universe. For instance a universe which springs from a single point in a vast explosion and expands at a vast rate either forever or to a certain point only to collapse once again. How bizarre!

The Big Bang era of the universe, presented as...
The Big Bang era of the universe, presented as a manifold in two dimensions (1-space and time); the shape is right (approximately), but it’s not to scale. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Box scientists would not have any way to decide whether or not their were any other Boxes as their observations would only observe events in their own Box. The only way that events in one Box could possibly affect the events in another Box would be if there was a link between them in some way.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that the event would be observable as the effect of one universe on the other universe. It would just appear as an event in each universe as it transpires as a result of the laws of the universe in question.


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The theory may posit a link between two universes but the events in one universe can only result from events within that universe. If this were not so, the event in the universe would appear to happen without any causation in the universe. In other words it would be an anomaly or a miracle.

In other words, suppose a scientist in one universe knows of a law where he can cause an effect in another universe. If he can cause this effect in his universe then in the other universe something will also appear to cause this effect. Maybe this cause will be a scientist in the other universe trying to create an effect in the first universe!


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This possible symmetry of cause and effect across more than one universe would mean that it would be difficult if not impossible to detect the presence of another universe by its effects on our universe.

The person in the Box universe would likely be in the same position. This means that he would never know if there were anything outside of his 20 million metre cube. He could postulate an infinite series of Boxes stacked like bricks in an endless array. Or he could postulate Boxes grouped into “houses”. Or he could postulate that his was the only Box and that speculations about universes started from “Big Bang” explosions are mere fiction.

Detail of the bricks in the Great Wall at Muti...
Detail of the bricks in the Great Wall at Mutianyu. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Nebulosity

English: Cumulus cloud above Lechtaler Alps, A...
English: Cumulus cloud above Lechtaler Alps, Austria. Español: Nube cumulus sobre los Alpes austriacos. Deutsch: Cumuluswolke über Lechtaler Alpen, Österreich. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Clouds are collections of water droplets suspended in the air. A cloud is formed as the water vapour in the air condenses onto particles of dust or other water droplets. The water in a cloud weighs tonnes! It’s a good job that the droplets don’t have time to coalesce into great balls of water before they reach the ground, but I suppose that to insects a droplet is a huge ball of water, and able to cause havoc.

As anyone who has flown in an aircraft is likely to know, clouds are not well defined, and in fact they could be described as nebulous or hazy. From a mathematical point of view they are fractal and the fractal dimension (a measure of their fuzziness) varies depending on the cloud.

Fractal plant curve, made using an L-system
Fractal plant curve, made using an L-system (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A common pastime on a summer’s day is to imagine shapes in the clouds. That one may look vaguely like a car, that one like a dog, and so on. But really, the only shape that clouds have is “cloud-like“.

There are many types of cloud shape, depending on the conditions and the altitude where the cloud is forming, but the usual depiction of a cloud generally looks like a cumulus type. This type forms the usual shape like piles of cotton wool in the sky, with mountain, canyons, and even castles.


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There is always water vapour in the air, even if it doesn’t form clouds, although we cannot see it. As I said above, clouds are formed when this water vapour condenses on small particles in the air (and other conditions are right). Sometimes there are attempts to make rain by “seeding” a cloud with small particles to increase the rate of condensation and thus increasing the size of the water droplets.

At a certain  size the droplets become to big to be buoyed up by the air and start to fall, picking up more moisture as they do. As I understand it, this cloud seeding process is limited in its success, but I may be wrong.

Cessna 210 (OE DSD), rebuilt for cloud seeding...
Cessna 210 (OE DSD), rebuilt for cloud seeding, with 2 silver iodide generators (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Clouds sometimes form at ground level, if the conditions are right, and then we call them fogs or mists. This often happens when light rain is falling and there is a lot of moisture in the air, but it can happen simply because the conditions are right.

Living where I do, I occasionally have reason to visit the local airport in Wellington. The airport is situation on a section of land that was brought up by a an earthquake, so that it is on a narrow stretch of land between two sets of hills. Over the hills to the East of the airport is the entrance to the Wellington Harbour.

English: Aerial view of the Miramar Peninsula,...
English: Aerial view of the Miramar Peninsula, Wellington, New Zealand. Wellington International Airport is visible and the beach just above the left-hand end of the runway is Lyall Bay. Downtown Wellington city, the harbour and port can be seen in the distance. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On several occasions I have seen sea mist roll in from Cooks Strait to the South and extends tongues of thick mist over the airport and the Harbour entrance. This causes the airport to shut down until the conditions have cleared, spoiling the travel plans of hundreds of people.

Other clouds which are familiar to many are the stratus clouds. These clouds are layers which cover all or most of the sky under some conditions. They often presage rain or other forms of precipitation. Stratus clouds range from light to dark and in many cases might cause a drop in one’s spirits.

English: Stratus undulatus clouds. I took this...
English: Stratus undulatus clouds. I took this picture out the car window on the way to Vancouver. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Certainly the dark stratus has that effect on me, and there is little that is more spectacular than breaking through a layer of cloud in a plane. The tops of the clouds will be brightly lit by the sun, and sometimes whorls or rivers of cloud can be seen from above.

The tops of the clouds can be quite lumpy and cumulus-like, and descending into the clouds is like descending into mountains and canyons and the lumps and bumps of the cloud can whizz past like scenery on a train, until the plane finally breaks through the greyer, darker ceiling of the cloud layer.

English: "The two main cloud types are St...
English: “The two main cloud types are Stratocumulus mixing with Cumulus in the foreground with Cumulus beyond” ~ Identified by http://www.cloudappreciationsociety.org/ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

However, broken stratus clouds are the clouds which produce amazing sunsets as the sun drops through the layers and gaps in the clouds. Very often a beam of sun breaks through a stratus layer and lights up the water droplets or dust producing what looks like a column of light. These rays are known as crepuscular rays.

Add to that the amazing colours that result from the breakthrough sun beams and the dust and water droplets and sunsets can be very beautiful, even if the sun light is in fact refracting or reflecting from pollution in the air.

Crepuscular Rays and over
Crepuscular Rays and over (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When the sun has gone below the horizon, it can still illuminate clouds above the horizon causing them to glow with an orange light, as the blue light is absorbed by the thick layer of atmosphere these rays which are almost tangential to the earth’s surface have to pass through.

Cumulus clouds are often sought out by glider pilots, since they are often formed by an up welling of air over a particularly warm piece of land. The up welling of air provides the glider pilot with extra lift, which allows them to travel vast distances, but a downside is that some clouds can be chaotic and turbulent. Birds will often guide a pilot to the up draughts there is no cloud.


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Another totally different sort of cloud has appeared over recent years, and that is the Internet cloud. The Internet cloud is also somewhat nebulous, and allows us to take a photograph on one device (computer phone or tablet) and view it almost immediately on another device.

The cloud (often the Cloud) also allows for automatic backups for devices – if your device implodes or is lost or stolen, your data is safe. Mostly. For if you sync (synchronise) your device with the Cloud, and then delete a photograph, it will shortly be removed from the Cloud and lost.


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To prevent data loss, you can backup to somewhere else on the cloud, so there are two (or more) cloud copies, or you can backup to a local computer or local storage, so that if you delete something by mistake you can always get it back. As anyone in the computer business will tell you, one backup is never enough!


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Time Travelling


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Time stories have been around for years, and yet we have seen no time travellers. If there are time travellers, then they are hiding from us. That would be pretty hard, since society and language are changing all the time, and they would most likely look out of place.

If they came from the past, their mannerisms, clothing and use of language would likely give them away. Imagine someone from the time of Sir Francis Drake appearing in the current era. He would quickly be spotted.

For someone travelling from the past, the issue is that he or she would not know what to expect as the present is the future of times past, so they would not be able to prepare themselves for the future, as they would consider it.

If a citizen of the future where to travel to the current time, he or she could presumably prepare his/herself for what would be the past to him/her. The time traveller could learn about our era and equip him/herself with clothes, money and other things from our era and would be able to learn the idioms of the language of the current time, as well as the ethics and morals of the era.

Bruntons Traveller
Bruntons Traveller (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There are web sites on the Internet which claim to have proof of time travel (I’m not going to link to one – a Google search will bring up many of them). In most cases the evidence is far from compelling, relying on blurry photographs and dubious eye witness accounts.

I’ve recently been scanning my old photographic slides and in one of them, from the early 1980s or late 1970s, the person in the picture appears to be holding an iPad! What in fact she is holding is a place mat, with a cream coloured border and relatively dark picture on it. This demonstrates how easily “evidence” of time travel can be found if you look hard, and if you strongly believe that time travel is possible.

English: Front of black iPad 2.
English: Front of black iPad 2. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Every person, every object, even every elementary particle has position which can be measured (leaving aside the issue of Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle and Quantum Physics for now) at any moment in time. The four dimensions, three of space and one of time uniquely identify an event in the life of the person, object or particle.

These four coordinates represent a single point in a four dimensional space. Since we find four dimensions hard to visualise, this space/time is usually represent by a depiction of a three dimensional space of two space and one time coordinate axes. The path of a person, object or particle through life consists of a single unbroken line in the four dimensional space.

Figure showing light crossing the x1 axis and ...
Figure showing light crossing the x1 axis and corresponding representation in optical phase space (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Note that in time dimension, if time travel is not possible, for every value of the time coordinate there will only be one point of the person’s life line. In other words, while the person could visit and revisit the same three dimension spot in space many time, they will only pass through a particular time once and once only. A person’s now is unique.

Time travel means that a person could pass through the same moment in time multiple times, and the possibility arises of loops in time. It seems obvious that the same event could not appear on the time traveller’s life line. In other words the loops in a life line would not cross.

Spiral loop
Spiral loop (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

To get from one event in space/time to an earlier event in space/time, the person could either travel through the intervening times or just jump from the first event to the second. In other words time travel if it is possible would be represented by a line going backwards in time or it could be discontinuous, with a break the in the person’s time line.

From the point of view of an observer, a discontinuous time line for the time traveller would be seen as a sudden appearances from nowhere and a later sudden disappearance. If the time line is contiguous, the observer would again see a sudden appearance of the time traveller, and then two instances of the time traveller both apparently travelling into the future at one second per second.


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One will be the time traveller doing just that, and the other will be the observer’s view of the time traveller as he travels backwards in time. Eventually the observer will see one of the instances (people!) merge with another instance of the time traveller and disappear. Since we don’t normally observe such sudden appearances and disappearances it’s very tempting to say that time travel does not happen.

To see what I mean, take a piece of paper and draw a line from top to bottom with a look in it. Now horizontal lines across the page represent time as seen by the observer. If you move a ruler down the page, at first there is a single line, the time line of time traveller. But at the point that the time travellers has travelled back to, suddenly there are (apparently) three lines travelling down the page. At the point that the time traveller travels from, two of the lines merge and disappear.

English: Meter stamp catalog image, three stac...
English: Meter stamp catalog image, three stacked horizontal lines (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If time travel is discontinuous the observer would first see one instance of the traveller, and then another instance would pop into existence. The two would coexist for a time, and then one instance (the original one) would disappear, with the second continuing to exist.

As I said, it’s tempting to say that this proves that time travel is not possible. Certainly, a macro level we don’t see people appearing and disappearing so it is definitely very unlikely, though reasons for this not to be noticed can be constructed.

Intended for inclusion in Wikisource article f...
Intended for inclusion in Wikisource article for Flatland (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

At an atomic level though, we do see spontaneous generation of particles, into a particle and its anti-particle. If the anti-particle the meet another particle and they annihilate one another, this could be construed to be a single particle with the anti-particle being the particle travelling back in time.

This is bad news for time travellers. To travel back in time by this method, the time traveller would have to be zapped into a burst of energy and an anti-traveller who would then travel back in time to the earlier time when a burst of anti-energy would be required to zap the anti-traveller into another instance of the time traveller. These occurrences would be likely to destroy the integrity of the time traveller’s body. That is it would destroy it.

Burst Apart
Burst Apart (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Technolust


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I’m going to define technolust or technophilia as the almost uncontrollable urge to snap up the latest or most novel technical gadgets. I succumb to this disease frequently, although I do try to keep it under control. I do! Honestly!

I’ve been vaguely wondering about these selfie sticks, the ones where you stick your cell phone on the end of a pole and trigger it by using a bluetooth connection, so when I saw a bluetooth camera trigger in a local shop, I had to buy it. I had to buy it. I had no choice.


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Having got it home and played with it for a bit, I now have to find a use for the darn thing! I don’t particularly like selfies and you can only take so many of them, because essentially they are all the one picture with different backgrounds. You could essentially take one photograph against a “green screen” and chromakey in any background you desire.

My particular area of technolust is things related to or containing computer technology. It’s been with me all my life though I didn’t know it until I came across computer technology at home and at work. I had a Commodore 64 computer at home, and at work I worked on the old huge mainframes, mainly IBM ones. But it really blossomed when I came across mini computers, and the early PCs. I had one of the first portable PCs, like the one in the picture.

English: The IBM Portable PC 5155 model 68
English: The IBM Portable PC 5155 model 68 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One mainframe computer I worked on had 256kB of memory and we agonised over how we should divide the address space up between three or four “domains”. Another had a staggering 2MB of memory.

Then at the other end of the scale one PC we had we also upgraded to 2MB of memory, which came on a plugin card which was around 30 – 40 cms long and 10 – 15 cms high. We had to leave the top of the case off to use it!

English: Sun 2/50 1 MB Memory Expansion Board ...
English: Sun 2/50 1 MB Memory Expansion Board P/N 501-1020, with SCSI Controller P/N 501-1045 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s not always physical things that trigger technolust or technophilia. Before all printers came with network connections they were connected (via a parallel cable usually) to a PC. It could then be shared to others over the network. HP produced a “JetDirect” device which connected the printer to the network either via a cable or a card inserted into the printer itself. I still remember the thrill that I got when I connected over the network to a JetDirect device (which is about the size of a small paperback book) using FTP as if it was a small computer in its own right, which in fact is what the device was.

{| cellspacing="0" style="min-w...
{| cellspacing=”0″ style=”min-width:40em; color:#000; background:#ddd; border:1px solid #bbb; margin:.1em;” class=”layouttemplate” | style=”width:1.2em;height:1.2em;padding:.2em” | 20px |link=|center | style=”font-size:.85em; padding:.2em; vertical-align:middle” |This file was uploaded with Commonist. |} Category:Uploaded with Commonist Deutsch: HP Druckserver Jetdirect 600N mit Ethernet und BNC für den Einbau in Druckern (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve got altogether too many computer-related devices in the house. Some I use all the time and others are gathering dust. If I was truly obsessive I could fill the house with devices and possibly go broke, but I haven’t gone to those extremes. So I have a “server” and a “workstation”, and my wife has a laptop. Strictly speaking I have a laptop, but I don’t boot it up very often. It is my wife’s old laptop which I fixed and rebuilt.

Some time ago we got an iPad, which I found amazing – something the size of a magazine, which was able to do much of what the other more conventional computers were able to, and which was run by the touch of a finger (or two!). I also got an Android phone and I fell in love with the thing, so I had to have an Android tablet. Had to. No question!


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I love my Android tablet! It’s a rare day when I don’t use it two or three times and often it is more than that. I investigated programming for it, though I don’t have a “killer app”, so most of my programming efforts are uncompleted. I mostly use it for reading ebooks, getting the latest news and to a lesser extent for email and other online web browsing.

I also use it for games. When I go to bed I take the tablet with me and complete a couple of Sudoku puzzles or similar before I go to sleep. Experts advise against this, but it works for me.

English: IRex iLiad ebook reader outdoors in s...
English: IRex iLiad ebook reader outdoors in sunlight. Electronic paper. Electrophoretic display. Français : Bouquin électronique iLiad de Irex dehors à la lumière du soleil. Papier électronique. Ecran électrophorétique. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Many people these days appear to be afflicted with technophilia or technolust. When a new Apple device is released queues form at the Apple stores worldwide as people try to slake their desire for latest gadget. This is strange as their old devices, which used to be the latest devices at one time, are not rendered useless by the new devices, and transferring personal information to the new device can be challenging, in spite of attempts to make it easy.

English: iPhone 4.
English: iPhone 4. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Technolust also extends to software. Some people just have to have the latest apps, the latest operating system. The usual justification for such an upgrade is usually justified by the user as a desire for the new features in the new software or bug fixes in the new software.  While I would not advocate never upgrading software, I find such justifications a little weak.

There is a danger that a software upgrade may “brick” a device, that is, it might stop the device from booting up and being used, which is why many people shy away from upgrades. While this is a real concern such happenings are rare and most upgrades go OK. Nevertheless, most users of technology have a horror story  about how things have turned to custard during an upgrade.


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I’m what I would classify as a cautious early adopter. For instance, when the new software was released for my phone and tablet, and these devices informed me that the update was available, I waited for a few weeks and followed the news on the upgrade on the Internet. This is almost always a bad idea as long conversations between people who have had trouble (interspersed with odd rare comment “It went OK for me”) doesn’t encourage one to upgrade!

IPod touch with software upgrade and web clips
IPod touch with software upgrade and web clips (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Those who grow up with technology tend to use that technology without giving it much thought. Televisions are part of the environment. Cell phones are part of the environment. Maybe soon 3-D printers will be part of the environment. Smart phones and tablets, while desirable, are not quite so novel to the kids of today. They will no doubt direct their technolusts to other technologies.


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