Thursday, October 29, 2009
The Big Picture
Pondering the nature of the universe is usually a futile exercise. To be honest it's one I find fascinating and tedious. We humans get so caught up in the day to day machinations of living we rarely take a minute to consider all the big questions philosophers and physicists have been struggling with for centuries. Obviously we know more now than we ever have, but in reality we are barely one toe off the starting line.
The sheer size of the universe we can see (with our eyes and our telescopes) is so mind boggling that the possibility that billions more exist is almost incomprehensible. Or is it?
According to this interesting article on newscientist.com website:
It may not matter how many universes exist - just how many a single observer can tell apart.
According to quantum physics, observers affect the systems they measure. If observers are an integral part of the cosmic formula, then it may not matter how many universes exist - just how many a single observer can tell apart. If the observer is a person, that depends on how many bits of information the brain can process.
This says to me - puny humans...
But what if... What if you and I were drops of water sitting next to each other on deck of a boat, and we were both universes. Would it not be feasible that you and I could see each other? Now what if the boat was rocked by a wave and we dribbled into the ocean? Do we continue to be a drops? Who knows, but we certainly would not see each other as drops among the billions of other drops. Given this, is it conceivable that the multiple universes that physicists say must exist are intertwined in our universe like so many drops in the ocean? To my mind it's the only answer since we - puny humans - can scarcely comprehend the size of the single observable universe we find ourselves in.
How then can multiple universes even exist interspersed with our own? Hell, I don't know, but it would seem to me that they would have to be settled into different wavelengths or different dimensions - which may of course be one in the same.
Time and Space
In this fine article on the newscientist.com website space/time dimensions are discussed:
What is a Dimension?
With such a basic question, you might think we'd have a simple answer. Sadly, we haven't. Defining just what a dimension is turns out to be a surprisingly slippery problem.
The most intuitive description is the oldest one: the number of dimensions a system possesses is the number of independent directions you or anything else can move in. Up and down count as only one dimension because up-ness and down-ness are two sides of the same coin: the further up you go, the less down you are. The same connection exists between left and right, and forwards and backwards, but not between up and right, down and backwards, and so on. Thus, the geometers of Ancient Greece recognized, we live in a three-dimensional world. So far, so simple, but then things start to unravel.
Unravel indeed. The first 4 dimensions are doable (with time being recognized as the 4th). Six, eight, ten??? Spend 10 minutes or ten hours trying wrap your mind around the "string theory" and you will unravel. I try to think of simple analogies like the concept of TDM -time division multiplexing where multiple signals are given a precise time slice interval in a shared time pool to communicate with another end point. This circuit - think telephone circuit - can carry many simultaneous conversations over the same wire by giving each conversation evenly spaced intervals of time to talk. Each conversation is real enough and happening at the exact time as the others yet they are all isolated, unable to "cross over" due to laws of TDM. Could these conversations be compared to multiple universes? Why not?
That's why time, being the most ambiguous of the recognizable dimensions, makes a perfect slurry for multiple dimensions. If what we think of as time passed at a different rate for each of the "universes" would we, could we be sharing the same physical space as the others?
What is time really? You can't see it, you can't feel it, it doesn't exist as a physical entity. Time is a concept as much as it is anything, but we have no disillusions that its real. Is it merely a byproduct of the necessary function of quantum mechancis? Is time really as steady and constant as we believe it is? We can measure time before it passes and count on it getting here just as predicted? But, ask any teenager waiting to grow up - time takes forever. Ask any middle-aged parent hustling and bustling all year only to find it's Christmastime again - time flies. The pace of time is all about perception, right?
Time is a great paradox that has perplexed humanity since, well, since the dawn of time. The philosopher Kant proposed that space and time do not exist at all but are merely intuitions, perceptions imposed by our own minds. Einstein believed that space and time are in fact interchangeable.
Indeed many theories abound in today's metaphysics community.
One is multiple universes, or "the multiverse". A theory that says what we have been calling the universe is an infinitesimal fragment of a far grander, more elaborate sprawling cosmos - and as vast as our universe is, it is actually a tiny bubble of space surrounded by countless number of other bubbles, or what they call pocket universes.
Its been suggested that a majority of these other universes would not have been fine-tuned as is ours; most are sterile and unremarkable. Only the "Goldilocks" universes where things are just right, will intelligent beings rise up to ponder how remarkably bio-friendly the universe is.
Continuing on that train of thought since the number of pocket universes is essentially unlimited, there are bound to be some that are not only inhabited, but populated by highly advanced civilizations - with technologies powerful enough to create artificial consciousness. And what if we are a product of that technology? Think - "The Matrix"
There is another variant called the Many Worlds interpretation of quantum physics. It says that every quantum event in the cosmos creates multiple new universes. A new universe is created for every possible outcome of the quantum event. Every right turn you have ever made was also a left turn in an endlessly spawning cascade of universes. It's almost too strange to even contemplate. Honestly wouldn't the whole thing become a damn circle?
There is one thing all multiverse theories share in common: there's no physical/empirical evidence available to prove them. And therein lies the tedium. There are no right answers. Science will probably never prove or disprove any of it. Am I jumping to conclusions? Should I have faith in science to answer these profound questions? Or should I just believe in God?
Half of one, six dozen of another...
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
1.) Did you hear the Bob Griese (football legend) ooops when he made a racially insensitive remark about NASCAR driver Juan Pablo Montoya?
They were discussing a promo graphic listing the top five drivers in the Chase for the Cup race, when broadcast partner Chris Spielman asked, "Where's Montoya?" to which Griese responded, "Out eating a taco."
OMG what a horrible, terrible, racist, God-awful, earth-shattering thing to say. OK, so he wasn't too bright to say that in this day of hyper-sensitivity, but for Heaven's sake it was a minor fopaugh. Ask yourself this: If someone had asked "where's Tony Stewart?" and Griese had said, "out eating a cheeseburger" would anyone have to apologise? The answer is no.
Move on, nothing to see here.
2.) It seems to me that the average (uninformed) person regards the "fight" against climate change with the same passion they give to recycling. No one, not even those evil American flag waving conservatives, want waste and pollution to choke the planet. So most people casually go along with this hoax of "fighting climate change" because they want to feel good about themselves the way they do every week when they put the recycling on the curb. So far they have paid nothing but the cost of an overpriced hybrid in the driveway.
The problem is the purveyors of this hoax are using the good will and noble intentions of the hybrid driving recyclers to advance an agenda they know will do nothing to stop climate change - because it a preposterous goal on the face of it. Their real goal is to redistribute the wealth of the hardworking and productive to the backward and corrupt as if somehow the hardworking and productive are cheating the poor out of their share of the wealth. If people really understood what the "climate" pimps (including and especially President Obama) are doing I doubt they would go along with it.
3.) The health care issues in this country are real, no question about it. Too many people have no access to health care coverage. So, when the "government is the only answer" crowd toss up one lie after another to demonize their opponents it becomes harder and harder to weed out the good ideas from the bad. The biggest whopper of all is the constant lie about obscene profits for the health care insurance industry. It's just plain not true...
The truth is that the healthcare insurance industry's profits are small fraction of that of other industries. For example, Network Equipment manufacturers reap 20.4% profits, Railroads 12.6%, Crude Oil extraction 11.5%, Securities 10.7 %, Household & personal products 8.7%. Where does the health care insurance industry fall? A whopping 2.2%. Why that's obscene!
4.) The White House vs Fox News is either a brilliant strategy by one or both parties or a disaster for the seemingly thinned skinned Obama administration. One school of thought is that the White House having no illusions of turning Fox News around is firing a warning shot at the other networks. This one is a little weak. The other theory I heard that the more Fox is attacked the more shrill and over the top it will become making the already near-parody news/opinion operation even more goofy. This one is plausible. The most likely scenario is the one that seems most obvious. This White House feels entitled to complete and utter adoration and Fox News just isn't playing along. The hissy fit angle seems about right to me.
5.) The Stock Market Rally that's been ongoing since March is perplexing on the face of it. Really though it's not that surprising. Companies will enjoy increased profits and increased dividends when they have slashed their payrolls to the bone and reduced their inventories to one deep. Lead times for manufactured goods are going way up because the reduced work force. Eventually this will backfire. Without (employed) consumers driving demand across all non military sectors eventually profits and dividends will fall. Unless employers see the need to start calling people back to work a double dip recession (or worse) is a distinct possibility. There are a few proven forecasters predicting the "or worse" part.
I'm jumping down from the watchtower now... I've got work to do.
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
In December a conference is going to be held in Copenhagen in regards to so-called global climate change. There is a good chance that President Obama will sign a treaty that essentially abdicates the sovereignty of the United States to a "world government". The purpose of this "government" is to facilitate the transfer of wealth - yours and mine, and everyone in the West - to poor third world countries. Wealth that was not earned by corrupt poor third world countries, rather, wealth that was earned by you and me!
Take 4:12 to watch this video... Lord Monckton is a respected scholar and a former high ranking adviser to PM Thatcher of Great Britain.
This will be done in the name of climate change and the crimes of the West that it entails. It's a fools game that will solve nothing. The poor nations will not become wealthier because they will still be corrupt. But you and I will become poorer - no matter how hard you have worked to create a good life for you and your family. Don't let this happen.
I have sent a letter to my Senators and Congressman. As follows:
October 20, 2009
Dear Representative McCollum,
Dear Senator Klobuchar,
Dear Senator Franken,
Please do not commit such a crime against the sovereignty of the United States by sponsoring, advocating or backing ill advised international "climate change" TREATIES OR LEGISLATION!
You will go down in history as the people who destroyed American greatness. And if you snidely dismiss what I've said because you don't believe in the truth of American exceptionalism then you are in the wrong job.
Stop lying about so-called human caused global warming. The utter arrogance on display by those who think we humans are more powerful than nature leaves me breathless.
I am praying for this country with all my heart.
Saint Paul, MN
I have sent this letter to my Senators and Congressman. You should too!
Monday, October 19, 2009
The problems with today's meager batteries and their various undesirable byproducts are legend. Advanced battery technology is the missing link in the chain that could one day pull us out of the age of oil. The problem just might be solved....
An Israeli scientist, Yair Ein-Eli, at a firm called Technion, in collaboration with Prof. Digby Macdonald of Pennsylvania State University in the U.S. and Prof. Rika Hagiwara in Japan, has developed a unique battery that is based on silicon as a fuel. Once spent the fuel reverts to its original state - sand - making it environmentally freindly and reusable. Best of all this battery has an indefinate shelf life.
It works like this: oxygen from the air in the battery capsule passes through a membrane and interacts with oxidized silicon. The silicon in this battery has the favorable qualities of being inert, stable, lightweight and nontoxic. Just as important - it has a very high-energy content.
Other metal-air batteries exist, some using lithium that are cheaper and far lighter than conventional batteries. These technologies have the backing of corporate giants on the technology side for use in electronics. They have not been successful in creating rechargeable metal-air batteries yet. Technion has bigger goals for their battery such as powering cars and also integration into solar or wind operations to make up for the largest single flaw in those energy solutions.
Technion's Ein-Eli tells us this new battery technology - with a US patent pending - is not yet rechargeable, but it can supply power for thousands of hours. Full development may take ten years but many companies world-wide have inquired about this promising technology.
I for one am all for it!
Saturday, October 17, 2009
"Up to The Lake"
by Craig Willms
(click on the image for a larger view)
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
I got a disease
Deep inside me,
Makes me feel uneasy, baby.
I can't live without you.
Tell me, what I am supposed
to do about it?!
Keep your distance from it.
Don't pay no attention to me,
I got a disease!
I think that I'm sick
(chorus from "Disease" by Matchbox 20)
So, I went to the Rob Thomas concert last Sunday night. Now, right up front I can tell you Rob Thomas is a hellva singer and had I known more than 1 or 2 songs I might have truly enjoyed the concert (oddly he played not one song from his Matchbox 20 days, not one). Frankly I was distracted through the entire show.
Distracted by what you might ask? Well, it was hundreds, perhaps thousands of little glowing screens. I mean to tell you Americans have a disease... I would guess that 30 to 40% of the five or six thousand in attendance never put their cells, their Blackberrys or their Iphones away. It was unbelievable. These people were so attached to being attached that they couldn't put it down for 2 hours and enjoy the show. One guy literally never looked up from Blackberry until his neglected girlfriend finally elbowed him. Why on Earth did he pay $50 to sit and stare at his little screen - and who the hell was on the other end of that thing? It certainly wasn't his girlfriend.
The 4 young girls in front of us danced, drank and texted all at the same time. Amazing actually. They did seem to be enjoying themselves.
What looks like a disease to me is reality to the younger set. Being connected in this fashion seems a poor substitute for actually connecting with people (I say this as I sit alone in my office blogging). In my day we had nothing of the sort and our reality was just different, not better, not worse, just different. WAIT WAIT WAIT - I can't really say that. I feel sorry for these kids. They know nothing of solitude, of useful self-reflection or clarifying introspection. They wake up in the morning and reach for their Blackberrys instead of the Pop-Tarts.
I wonder that in the age of Facebook, Myspace, blogging, Twitter and the rest of the non-stop deluge if there will be a backlash. In my day the hippies were advised to Turn on, Tune in and Drop out. Will today's culture ever Turn off, Tune out and Drop in? You've seen the commercials where the parents become "hooked" on Tweeting and Facebooking and disgust their own children. Funny stuff.
The enablers, the Blackberrys, Facebooks and Twitters as well as the Verizon's and The T-Mobile's are profit making corporate giants. Are they the modern day pushers? Do they have a responsibility for this potentially destructive and addictive behavior? Probably not, but don't be surprised when the do gooders get a hold of this concept. There will be blood - er I mean there will be legislation. And pray tell, somewhere in the bill there will be funding for "Crackberry Clinics". Mark my words.
Friday, October 09, 2009
The strength of the U.S. dollar relative to other currencies is of utmost importance to all of us. Unfortunately until the Treasury replaces George with a picture of Betsy Ross in a low cut V-neck displaying ample cleavage our shallow pop culture won't care until it's too late. How about ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, and even Fox as well as all the rest of the alphabet networks? A passing mention, maybe - as long as it doesn't directly reflect badly on the current regime.
The falling dollar didn't start with the Obama administration. The Bush Administration was no friend to a strong dollar policy. The dollar began it's decline during the recession of 2000-2001 and despite a few brief turnarounds it is heading south at a breathtaking pace.
The thing that is so frightening now is that the Obama administration is barely paying lip service to a strong dollar while pursuing policies guaranteed to push it down to a point where global investors abandon it altogether. This is bad on many, many levels.
The trajectory of economic policy coming from Washington is clear. The things important to investment and growth are clearly in the cross hairs of the Obama plan. Capital gains tax going up. Income tax on the investor class going up. Tax and entitlement pressure on the entrepreneurial class going up. New entitlements requiring trillions of dollars in new U.S. debt. More vigorous antitrust enforcement and more regulation of the shining star of American ingenuity telecom in the form of net neutrality. Then there's the Climate Change scam and a new wave of protectionism and tilted rules for union organizing. Basically the folks in Washington are guaranteeing that the United States will be relinquishing the crown of the King of the Global Economy.
What's worse is that the opposition called the Republican Party is so bereft of motivating ideas there is absolutely nowhere to go. Those of us diametrically opposed to the vision of Obama, Soros, Pelosi and Axelrod have no one to rally around. The truth about this is so evident that the Democratic machine and their friends in the media are targeting Fox News, (Hannity, O'reilly, Beck), talk radio (Limbaugh, Levin) as the face of the Republican party. It's working. Only Sarah Palin, damaged goods in her own right, scares them. Unfortunately Sarah has done herself no favors. Instead of trying to impress those in the middle where elections are won and lost she is pandering to the rabid. She's not a far right "wing nut" as she is being portrayed but she's doing absolutly nothing to dispel the notion. She's taken on corruption in her own party and challenged the status quo for the good of her state - that's exactly what we need now. Too bad she has botched her chance to impress upon the people that she's not the portrait the opposition media has painted.
The question of the fate of the American greenback hangs in the balance and so to all of our fortunes. The current path under Obama is unsustainable and unattractive ( in my eyes). When is someone going to lay out a better path?
Thursday, October 08, 2009
There is something of a global finance mystery challenging financial journalists this week. Those of you about to yawn - well, I understand, but this is important. Politico, a top-notch blog page posts the story "Whodunit? Sneak attack on the U.S. dollar".
From the article: It began with a thinly sourced but highly explosive report Monday in a British newspaper: Arab oil sheiks are conspiring with the Russians and Chinese to quit using the dollar to set the value of oil trades — a direct threat to the global supremacy of the greenback.
It sent the dollar reeling on global currency markets and shot gold to record highs. While this is only the latest salvo against the dollar each previous dive bomb was followed by silence. No one believed anything of the sort would actually happen. Surely the American government would do what it takes to prop up the dollar, right? As always - follow the money.
Who benefits from a weak dollar? American exporters for one. It supposedly makes U.S. exports more attractive to foreign buyers. When one looks at what we export it starts to make sense. Decades ago America exported finished products made with the blood, sweat and tears of American labor. Not any more.
In 2008 capital goods was the largest category of U.S. exports. What are capital goods? Raw materials used to produce finished products. Industrial supplies was the largest growth category including fuel oil, other petroleum products , non-monetary gold, chemicals-fertilizers, and steelmaking materials. Other growth areas for capital goods exports were medicinal equipment, materials handling equipment, industrial engines, telecommunications equipment, and civilian aircraft engines. These are things that make up the finished products that are shipped back here from Asia (China) to be sold to you and me.
The second huge area for exports from the U.S. to the world is agricultural. Farmers (read Agri-business) just love a weak U.S. dollar. Neither farm work nor the extraction of raw materials is very labor intensive anymore. Now who do you think your government is going to favor? The down on his luck laborer? The overworked, under payed service worker? Or possibly agri-business and commodity exporters?
Don't count on Congress or this President to stand up for the dollar by getting government debt under control. The more the U.S. Treasury prints dollars the less valuable they become. Exporters love it. Overseas manufacturers love it. Your bank account and retirement savings - not as much.
Friday, October 02, 2009
The government employment numbers came out for the month of September and things do not look good. The "official" unemployment figure is 9.8%. A statistically significant number yes, but realistically it's meaningless. The true number of unemployed or chronically under-employed is probably better than 15% maybe even 20%. Twenty-one months of decline and million upon millions of good jobs lost. Why is this downward spiral continuing? One word: uncertainty
There is massive uncertainty about the creeping Federal takeover of the economy. You might scoff at the notion and label me (and many others) a reactionary, but it has been a long time coming and this administration has got the accelerator mashed to the floor.
The only one doing any hiring right now is the Federal government. What business, big and small, need from government now is a steady hand at the helm with a calm and measured response to the continuing financial crisis. What we have now is calm words from an articulate speaker (teleprompted of course) but whose actual deeds are anything but reassuring.
America followed George W. Bush to war after 9/11, even invading a country that had nothing to do with it because he was steady and resolute. There were no flowery speeches, quite the opposite actually, but underneath there was calm, conviction and certainty. He was reelected. Less than a year later his Presidency was in shambles as he appeared absent in the aftermath of Katrina and uncertain as Abu Grabbe and Fallujah unfolded. Bush never recovered from this shocking appearance of uncertainty.
Barack Obama is not instilling any certainty in middle America. We have seen our world turned upside down by this financial crisis that most of us had little to do with. The crash of the housing sector was as much a function of government meddling as it was so-called capitalist greed. So here we have the same players - congress and the big lending/investment/insurance houses - gobbling up even more of the cash while the middle class plummets. Rather than a calm and steady hand Obama appears to be ready to double down on all the things that got us into this mess... What is he doing about bringing jobs back to America? What is Obama doing to instill confidence and certainty so that employers big and small can start calling the American people back to work? The answer is nothing.
As the value of the dollar shrinks due Obama's massive spending programs American business is going to take what dollars they have left to grow their businesses overseas. It's already happening - has been for years actually.
Without certainty there is no future.