Why did he do it?

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Why do people become murderers or rapists, or even petty thieves. I mean, sure, sometimes a person could irritate you to the point where a fleeting thought of carnage crosses your mind. But most people would immediately shut down that thought and even be shocked and revolted by it. They certainly wouldn’t act on it.

Surely no one wakes up one morning and thinks “Oh, I’ll become a career criminal,” or “Oh, I’ll violently attack someone today.” It’s easier to explain when the person is immersed in a culture where crime is normal and maybe even expected of one. But there are law abiding people even within the worst of environments, where crime is common.

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Fear of consequences is often used to try to deter people from crime, but in many cases the fear of consequences is not enough to prevent a person committing a crime. Prison may be seen as normal and expected. So called petty criminals may expect to be thrown in to jail many times in their lives and to them it cannot be much of a deterrent.

Of course, one’s better judgement can be nullified by drugs or by alcohol. Many assaults happen when the person who assaults another person is drunk or high on drugs. Other crimes like rape, burglary, and vandalism are also more likely to happen when a person is intoxicated.

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One way that is often suggested to reduce crime is to increase the severity of the punishment, so that fear of consequences is increased. However, this has limited effect only. People still committed murder even when capital punishment was still used. When in a blind rage, if a person is mentally ill, or if the person believes that they can get away with a crime without being caught, then the consequences often do not come under consideration.

In a court of law it is assumed that the person knew that consequences and still continued with their action. In many cases I believe that this is simplistic to say the least. A person sees another person leave a phone or wallet somewhere that the first person can take it from. Often the first person doesn’t think through the consequences of the theft. They don’t even consciously think that they can get away with it. They just react to the item being accessible.

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Also each successful theft reinforces the thief’s feeling that he or she will not be caught, so they do it again. In fact, of course there is a chance that they will be caught each time that they commit the theft, and the more times that they commit the crime, the more likely it is that they will eventually get caught.

If they are likely to get away with the crime nine times out of ten, then if they commit the crime seven times, the chance of them getting caught is better than even. Maybe one way to reduce crime is to teach criminals statistics!

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It seems that the propensity to commit crime is inherent in human beings. It is not related to social standing, as crimes of theft and of fraud are seen to be committed by people of all social standings. The criminals, even those higher up the socioeconomic ladder tend to make the mistake of repeating their crimes, which, as I mentioned above, renders them more likely to be caught.

Of course those lower down the socioeconomic ladder commit simpler crimes like theft and violence often fuelled by alcohol and drugs, and those higher up commit the so-called white collar crimes. A person’s position on the ladder doesn’t seem to bear much relation to whether or not they commit sexually related crimes, and in fact, a person’s higher standing often seems to protect them against being caught – they are able to convince people to look the other way when such a crime is committed, by using their influence or by using their money to buy people off.

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If the propensity for crime is to be found at all levels of society, and the punishment of criminals is relatively ineffective as deterring criminals from committing crime, what is there that we can do about it? In my opinion, not a lot. But nevertheless we need to try, if only to reduce it to the minimum possible.

That is what society, from the beginning up to the present day is trying to do, of course. The consequences of being caught committing a crime don’t stop everyone, but it is likely that they do stop some people. Over harsh penalties from crimes don’t work beyond a certain point, and this has been recognised in societies that have dumped capital punishment.

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We try to keep down crime by locking up those who are caught committing it. Again this has only limited effectiveness as well as, effectively, targeting those at the low end of the socioeconomic ladder. A rich person who is fined for jumping a red light is likely to notice it much less than a poor person. The fines represent a much bigger portion of a poor man’s income than that of a rich man.

The only way to reduce crime to zero is to change the human race. If the genes for criminality and violence were to be bred out of the human race, then we would have no problem with crime. Women would not be raped and funds would not be embezzled. People would not drink drive, and would not bash other people.

However, the genes for criminality might be perilously close to the genes for creativity. Creative individuals are often those who break the rules, who go beyond what is allowed. Creative individuals also tend to be those who are close to the boundary between sanity and insanity. They are the eccentrics among us, the ones who do not fit in.

Maybe we could prevent crime by changing the human race, but we risk creating a society which also has no artists, no eccentrics, and essentially no Leonardo DaVincis, no Isaac Newtons, no Shakespeares, no Albert Einsteins. Society would be the poorer for that.

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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)

 

Time waits for no man

time travel
time travel (Photo credit: flyzipper)

Time is an odd thing. We say it passes, but it sometimes feels more like we are travelling through. As the old joke goes, we all travel through time – at a rate of one second per second.

While that might bring a smile, it does raise a question about time travel, because if one travels through time, one presumably travels through it at some rate or other, say ten years per minute. The problem with that it is that we are measuring a rate, which is a change of some variable with respect to another, but in this case we are measuring the rate of change of time with respect to time as well.

English: Acceleration as derivative of velocit...
English: Acceleration as derivative of velocity along trajectory (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The time intervals over which the traveller is passing are measured in the usual way by a clock, but how does the traveller measure his time by? He could carry a clock with him, which he could then use to estimate his progress along the standard time scale. In other words the time traveller would somehow have to carry his own time scale with him which is different to the usual time scale.

Illustration of a light cone, based on Image:L...
Illustration of a light cone, based on Image:Light cone.png (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Of course, Einstein’s Special Relativity shows that, in a way, we do carry our own time frames around with us, and if we are in motion relative to some other frame then time passes differently the two frames.  Of course, to simply travel in time, we would not want to travel in space, so we can’t use Special Relativity to allow us to use a different time frame, so far as I can see.

Also, we can only travel forward in time by using this loophole. No matter how fast we move relative to someone else, we both move forward in time, so we can’t use Special Relativity to go back in time and kill dear old Grandad.

The Grandfather Paradox
The Grandfather Paradox (Photo credit: Kaptain Kobold)

Einstein’s General Relativity considers that space-time (the conjunction of space and time) possesses curvature, and some theories use this to allow backwards time travel. However these solutions produce “closed time-like curves” which is not so much time travel as a time loop, perhaps like the loop in “Groundhog Day” where Bill Murray’s character repeatedly awakes to the same day.

groundhog day!
groundhog day! (Photo credit: NapaneeGal)

It appears that we need to look further for some way to travel in time. If we can’t use current physics, we will need to consider something more “science fiction” than modern physics. Of course science fiction time travellers don’t seem to explain their travels in more than a cursory way, because, after all, the mechanism is only secondary to the story line.

Time Machine Clockwork
Time Machine Clockwork (Photo credit: Pierre J.)

Two different possible mechanisms spring to mind.

Firstly, one way is to assume a sort of parallel world. A time traveller can enter this parallel world from any point in time and re-enter the standard universe at a different point, earlier or later in time. The traveller travels in time by analogously travelling in space in a world which has its own space-time with one of its space dimensions parallel to the conventional world’s time dimension.

parallel worlds
parallel worlds (Photo credit: aloshbennett)

Secondly, the author can conjecture a viciously curved space-time so that the characters can, at certain locations, move from one part of space-time to another part of time which is either earlier or later in the time dimension. Typically the character will “step sideways” or something to jump between times, either with the help of a machine or maybe not.

HELP ME HELP MYSELF!
HELP ME HELP MYSELF! (Photo credit: eyewashdesign: A. Golden)

One such tale of the second sort is “By His Bootstraps” by Robert A Heinlein, is which the main character passes through a portal to a distant future, only to entangle himself with later (and, relatively, earlier) versions of himself. He encounters a mysterious character who identifies himself as “Diktor”.   I’ll leave it there, as I don’t want to spoil the story for those who haven’t read it yet.

By His Bootstraps
By His Bootstraps (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

An example of the first sort is “The Corridors of Time” by Poul Anderson, where the main character is recruited into a war raging up and down the “corridors of time”.

Most stories, however, don’t specify in more than a cursory way the physics that is supposedly employed by the time traveller.

Train travel
Train travel (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The effects of time travel are what is explored by these stories. If the traveller goes back in time he or she must interact with the world at the earlier time from when he started. There are time stories in which the traveller changes things so the state of the future time from which he can is changed.

Future World 2012 (Explored)
Future World 2012 (Explored) (Photo credit: Scottwdw)

This is the premise behind the Terminator series of films, where the Cyborg assassin (played by Arnold Schwarzenegger) is sent back in time to kill the mother of John  Connor, the leader of the rebellion against the killer machines. Obviously, in the future from which the Terminator comes, John Connor is born so the Terminator is trying to change the future from which he comes.

The Terminator
The Terminator (Photo credit: Dunechaser)

The obvious paradox here is that the Terminator risks changing the future into one in which he was never created. In which case he would not be able to come back in time to kill Sarah Connor.

The other sort of time travel story treats time as if it were immutable. Any events that happen are eventually shown to have logically been the consequence of the time travel in the first place. For instance, the mysterious stranger on the street turns out to be the time traveller, keeping an eye on the earlier version of himself. All is explained so that the stream of events is logical both from the time sequential point of view and also from the point of view of the traveller. The aforementioned “By His Bootstraps” is a story of this sort.

The Mysterious Stranger
The Mysterious Stranger (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Is it possible that events in the past could have changed? We would not know it! As far as we would be concerned the past event would have have always happened, since there would be a temporal progression from the past event to our current time. Of course the language is tricky here, as it does not handle such matters as changes to the past.

Einstein's Theory Fights Off Challengers (NASA...
Einstein’s Theory Fights Off Challengers (NASA, Chandra, 04/14/10) (Photo credit: NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center)

To use the physicists’ favourite analogy of a rubber sheet, if time is considered to be along one dimension of the sheet, and space along the other, then an event which changes the past is like someone pulling a point on the sheet to one side, which affects all the points from both the future and the past of the point which has been moved. But the sheet itself remains intact.

Rubber sheet undergone drying in smoke. Three ...
Rubber sheet undergone drying in smoke. Three versions are there in the picture. 1. Fresh sheet. 2. Little dried in sun light. 3. Dried in smoke. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

However, I think that this scenario is unlikely. There doesn’t seem (at the present time) any physical mechanism by which time travel could be achieved, and even though it appears that time travel is logically possible (under the sort of scenario as in “By His Bootstraps”) in a deterministic universe, the simplest conclusion is that time travel is most likely unachievable in this universe.

A "jumpgate" of the X Universe, part...
A “jumpgate” of the X Universe, part of a space-travel network. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)