Thursday, August 18, 2011

Ok, Comet Elenin worldend scenario, for the grinz

So there are all manner of pages and sites that are mentioning Comet Elenin with varying degress of sanity and woo-woo-ness.

Now, because all the "official experts" who have spent years "studying" things like "astronomy" cannot be trusted, real people, honest people, people with thinking minds and earnest hunches are bringing to light all manner of revelations about how we're all gonna git it.

So, because I really enjoy the apocryphal sci-fi type stuff, I will take a look at this from a "supposed disaster that has no scientific backing whatsoever as to how it will happen but because so many people are babbling about it there must be something to it" perspective and then try to propose a theory as to how it could happen, backed with only that minimal scientific knowledge that can be snared with a google search because, of course, there's no time!

So there is a comet that is coming into the solar system from faaaaaar away, Oort cloud far away it seems, and it will cross the orbital paths of several interior planets. Its projected trajectory will take it below the plane of the Earth's orbit, and then above the plane of Earth's orbit, but missing the Earth by many millions of miles.

OR WILL IT??? (have to have this, you see).

See, because it is going to show up *right around* the time that people are saying is time for the end of the world, they've concluded that this is the reason for said End: it will hit the earth. It is a big object, 2-3 miles across, extinction level impactor if so.

But how can it hit the earth if it in fact misses the earth by millions of miles???

Well, something must cause it to move!!


hmmm.... how about s Solar flare, a coronal mass ejections (CME) of tremendous power aimed just so, that causes it to undergo some kind of transformation and deviation from it's course.

This is because the Sun is very active right about now! Yes, it is! These solar flares eject billions of tons of solar material at millions of miles an hour! Even NASA AGREES! (see, you have to have this, too: the thing that NASA really does agree with because, well, they're saying it).

OK, so a solar flare just knocks it silly. Then it becomes all kinds of unpredictable.

Oh NO! It swings past an interior planet. Which one? I don't know, how about Mercury. Or Venus? Or both? Anyway, swinging past that planet causes a "slingshot" type of effect that will put it on a boom boom course with Earth.

Also, this comet isn't leaving much of a tail. It is "wimpy" says NASA. What does that mean? It means it isn't giving off a lot of wispy tail. So that can only mean it is a big mean solid chunk of something, right. And now the solar flare plus the planets messing with it has aimed it right towards us.

Well, then what?

It will spiral in towards earth and then, like a tetherball around it's tetherpost, it's going to circle us a few times and scare everybody a whole bunch and all kinds of awful things will happen, and then WE'RE ALL GONNA GIT IT!!! Or, a significant number of us, anyway, because that's what most of the end of the world stories indicate.

So, there you go. How's that?

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Science and mysteries and in between, plus electronic music.

I haven't written a lot about the music I do per se because of a couple of things. One thing wss that I lost a hard disk with a lot of work on it. That isn't as bad as it sounds, because mostof that work was experimental such that the methods applied, and not the output, was what I was working on. So, the methods I recall, having practiced with them, the hard disk was a nice place to have the "experiments" already set up, but it is nothing I can't re-create.

Having said that, there was some work that I would like to have preserved, and now is lost. But even so the music i make up and the way i do it changes a lot and it isn't anything that most people like, so in the larger scheme of things not a huge loss.

Then, there *was* some work I had done for someone else, some video editing with sound overlay, that was lost. I did it for free, and they said they were happy with it. Then, I lost my hard disk (it dropped on the ground, bingpizzblech) and *then* some time later they asked "oh by the way could you change the music on the video" to which I said, "uhm, I'll see what I can do, but I lost that hard disk" and really, there is nothing "good" I can do, because the final edited high-quality rendered video was on my disk. I could download the final copy, and re-do the audio bed, but because the uploaded video was rendered to a format more suitable from online, it would lose quality.

So I feel bad about that, even though I did the work for free, and of course the moral of the story is to completely separate work you do for someone else from your "experimental area" and archive it separately because even after someone says it is all well and done they might want it done again slightly differently.

Anyway, the rest of this is about science and "mysterious theories" because it seems like so many people want to use science to explain/support mysterious theories.

Now I am not a credentialed scientist, but it interests me so I read about it. Nor am I a credentialed theologian but it interests me so I read about that.

Maybe the most recent big collision of these two ways of thinking was with the recent "end of world" predictions, where the fella said a super massive giant tremendous earthquake would start in the Pacific, travel around the world and everything would be undone.

He had done some numerological transformations on the numbers in the Bible, claiming that while the words were translated from different languages and so might have lost some of the more exact meanings, the numbers were absolute and so more reliable, plus the numbers had knowledge encoded into them that could be derived from other mentions in Biblical scripture.

It was really a very elaborate interpretation and it was based on a lot of tbe same exact "let this mean this, therefore this other thing means that and from this we derive [whatever]" that you find in mathematical theorems. Only, the "proof" of this particular theorem was that the world would end when the theorem said it would, it didn't and so it was disproved. Then, he went back and checked his work and said "oh, ok: the end *started* but it won't *finish* until [a date in October which coincides with the date of an Old Testamant feast day]."

AND of course this is why people think people who try to interpret the Bible are wacko. BUT, people also want some notion that religious writing does indeed give a "heads up" about big time cataclysms to people who believe in it, because otherwise (somehow) it's not fair.

Which is not really such a wild expectation, I think, because there are several places where it is clearly intended as a warning (i.e. "when you see these things know that such and such is coming"). On the other hand, it is impenetrably cryptic: in the case of the Revelations, you are interpreting someone's dream vision that happened centuries ago. The impression that it is somehow de-cryptable comes from the fact that he was instructed in the dream to write things down so that people would know.

Anyway, what my thought is about is that everytime someone comes up with some science, usually astronomy or physics, that seems to coincide with some aspect of the mysterious or prophetic, they latch on to that as if it "supports" the metaphysical theory.

This is an entertaining exercise, one which (if done correctly) can cause goosebumps to form as some "realization" forms in the mind. However, here are somethings, regardless of if you are non-religious or highly religious, that you *must* accede to if you are going to function:

1) There is no belief system that is greater than truth. That is, if what you would like to believe (like a giant earthquake at a certain date and time) does not occur, it does not mean "the world is out of whack", it means what you believe is not true. The crowning triumph of religion, even the most bitter and snarky "God is going to get you for that" kind of religion, is when it bears out to be true. It is the same with science, if it cannot be proven, it is really only a belief.

2) Faith is important, but faith is not everything. A good example of faith are the good scientists who have faith that they will be able to pursue their work to an extent that helps advance their field of science. But they still have to pursue the work. It is the same with metaphysics or religion, I think: the work is required, although it is of a less demonstrable or documentable type and occurs largely internally.

This second thing, this is where science and metaphysics seem to have a "falling out". Scientists have the advantage of providing the proofs of their work in the "dimensions" of space, time and matter to a *wide audience*. The wide audience has access to that "stage" upon which discoveries in space, time and matter are presented, through sensory appreciation and intellectual understanding. And this introduces a fallacy among the wide audience: that fallacy is that they believe that religious or metaphysical "theories" need to be proven in the same manner. The fallacy continues: if they cannot be proven in this way, then the metaphysical theories are clearly of lesser value, less true, and the science is of greater value or more true.

Which can lead to the assertions that "religion/metaphysics is a lie", old ways and murky beliefs can be discarded because "god is dead", etc..

But of course the two things are "proven" in different realms. Just like my missing hard disk contained electronic music experiments that were of worth to me but not currently "provable", I have the methods and can invoke them again: my methods currently exist in a metaphysical realm. In a similar way one proves metaphysics and religion in the "lab" that is oneself and if anything some of the guidelines that we see as "behavior control" that are part of religion are "good internal laboratory practices" that avoid us injuring ourselves or blowing up the metaphysical laboratory.

Now, because I believe that music and especially computer-based electronic music of the sort I do relies both on science and "metaphysics" or less tangible aspects of existence, I value both of these things for a kind of "higher" fulfillment and exploration. A lot of people don't see metaphysics or religion as that, however. They see it as a way to a)get what they want and b)to get other people to act they way they think other people should act.

Which is where the whole "end of the world" thing comes in.

If there is a metaphysical event or sequence or process that results in "the end of the world", you can bet on two things as a complete lock:

1) No human will have any say in its unfolding, either in regards to process or timing. The lack of control will be extreme, and the forces involved will be immense.

2) In the event of such a thing, the *only* thing that religious/metaphysical/spiritual preparation actually prepares you for is to have some faith and perserverance that will get your soul/spiritual essence/internal metaphysical being through that thing.

3) Your actions are a manifestation of your metaphysical/spirtual preparation. Some people act selflessly, some selfishly.

4) The more people that act with some degree of selflessness, the "better place" the world is. That is because a) they have some faith that sacrifices they make will be restored to them and b) they instill an atmosphere of continuity and permanence that other people respond to positively.

A long time ago, a friend of mine once said to me "it doesn't matter why you do something, just so you do the thing that is right". I had a lot of trouble with this, because it meant "if you do something to get what you want that's ok, as long as people see that as 'being good'". I still have trouble with that, it is clearly a "legal" behavior, but it is a kind of "metaphysically dishonest" behavior. One notion of the "end of the world" is that all of the intentions are judged, what is in one's heart.

We often can't control what's in our hearts, but we can at least practice the inner understanding that let's us know what is in our hearts, and how we truly approve or disapprove of that. Religion/metaphysics gives us a sort of "ruler" by which we can compare our approval or disapproval. The extent to which the ruler measures accurately given our true selves is what validates, or proves, any metaphysical theories.

Friday, August 05, 2011

The looming quiet desperation and thoughts about space exploration

We like to think we are technologically advanced. We like to think we are in control. Then, things like tsunamis and hurricanes and volcanoes occur, and we see we are not so much in control at all.

Then, even if we are "in control", what that means is that we are relatively safe and self-sustaining. What that means, in turn, is that we are able to procreate successfully. That leads to overpopulation.

So, when things are going poorly, we are in danger of losing population. When things are going well, we are in danger of overpopulation.

Parts of the world are already overpopulated. This is a fact. Most countries as individual units are not self-sustaining, most families as individual units are not self-sustaining. It is a paradox, maybe, that the more "in control" you are, the less self-sustaining you are. If you live on a farm, say in the manner of the Amish, you are still at the mercy of the weather to ensure you can bring in crops.

SO, successful self-sustenance depends entirely on advantageous geographic placement. This is common sense when you look at history, from early to current, but less common sense when you look at current, because technology allows us to overcome geographic disadvantages.

The reason I mention these pieces of common sense is because of thoughts about space colonization. Because, if things go well, we are headed towards overpopulation. What that means is that we'll have to go somewhere else.

It does mean that, it is unavoidable. It is not just fanciful. If things go well, population will either need to go somewhere else "corporeally" in the flesh, or somewhere else "spirtually" in death. So we have the science fiction Star Wars/Star Trek/quasi-Asimovian model, or we have the science fiction ethical suicide/soylent green/quasi-Orwellian model.

Both of these require significant hardship and even "dehumanization". The ideal scenario would require tolerable hardship and minimal dehumanization.
People are willing to endure both for some type of payoff. Explorers and settlers of the past have sought a payoff by seeking the geographic advantage that would optimize self-sufficiency. In addition, an important concept maybe, they leveraged geographic features to enable their exploration.

North America was not explored via "wagon trains", of course. It was not even settled via wagon trains. North America's coasts and bays were explored first via sea and then internally explored largely via river. Rivers were the highways that would handle significant cargo and provisions for a longer expedition. You could be reliably borne on river currents towards a destination with less effort and greater speed. Once reliable river routes to geographically advantageous locations were secured, settlement followed readily.

Is there an analog to river currents in space exploration? Is it possible to "hitch rides" on near earth approaching asteroids, hop from asteroid to asteroid, where their orbits are used to move further and farther than would normally be possible? It would take a long time, but that discussion comes later.

There is another aspect of exploration that we shouldn't forget, and that was that at a certain point, the explorer was more willing to risk not returning. That is, if the explorer was primarily seeking self-sufficiency, they would establish themselves in the frontier.

This is why private space exploration is important. The notion of some big payoff being out there for the intrepid risk-taker is inherently a private venture. How the payoff is conveyed back at first is not via physical transfer of significant cargo, but of establishing the route. It may well be a one-way route. The terrestrial component of the venture owns the route. The extra-terrestrial component of the venture owns the geographic location. They people off-planet take the risk of living off-planet for the rest of their lives. (Why? more about that later also).

Then, there is development of the location. The location must be developed before cargo (the payoff) can be conveyed back. The location might initially be developed robotically, this seems very likely. Then once a human habitable confine was produced, then humans could colonize.

The extent to which humans could colonize would depend on the advantages of the geography. There needs to be a payoff, it can't all be "for science" or "for glory". In the colonization game, there is a dual payoff: alleviation of load on the colonizing geographical location, and abundance of otherwise more scarce resources in the colonized geographical location.

There is also a "tiered" set of payoffs. The initial tier is the technology that permits robotic off-planet construction, including atmospheric generation, because this technology is multi-purpose. The second tier is the establishment of the reliable route. The third tier is the establishment of the human colony that can convey back resources. The fourth tier is a self-sustaining off-planet colony. The fifth tier is improved efficiencies in replication of the model, where colonies become more readily established even further out.

For an example of the fifth tier, if giant, long passage interstellar-travel space ships could be built off-planet, given more abundant metals, fewer gravitational constraints and vast chemical fuel sources available among the planets and asteroids, then this would provide a payoff.

Variations of all of this have been described in hundreds or thousands of science fiction stories. They tend to jump to the "fifth tier" of accomplishment pretty quickly, because that is where a lot of the more imaginiative stuff can happen, but it will take a very long time. A Very Long Time.

So this is where all the things that I said would be discussed later are discussed. There is very definitely a "fork in the road" between the quasi-Orwellian and quasi-Asimovian future. Going down the q-O path is not conducive to switching back to the q-A path. The q-A path choice requires a resolute refusal of the q-O path.

Even so, it seems clear some manner of population control will need to be applied on Earth, especially in problem areas. However, no population control would be needed on Mars: more population means more colonization activities could occur. This in itself may be incentive to give it a try.

Living conditions will be different, primitive in some ways and advanced in others. It may be that Martians will live largely below the surface, but even now, on Earth, there are significant city center malls in colder climates that are entirely underground. Martians would acclimate to that mode of living, optimize it and even discover new modes of expansion below planet surfaces which can be leveraged on even less hospitable worlds and in less hospitable climates on Earth.

Because even our current knowledge of what is on the nearest bodies to us shows, with below-ground development, that there are places on Mars and the Moon that could be made much more comfortable than some places on the surface of Earth.

In terms of extrapolating from current technology to the technology that would be needed for extra-terrestrial and then interstellar colonization, it is clear to see that robotic off-world construction could be realized. What is less clear are the propulsion mechanisms that could power effective space travel over long distances, especially extra-solar distances.

Also, as mentioned, there may be "river currents" within our solar system to leverage. Maybe they exist even beyond the heliopause in a way that faciliates interstellar travel.

But, it took months for goods to get from continent to continent in the time of ocean sailing ships. It will take weeks to get things back and forth from the Moon, and months to get things back and forth from Mars. It will even take especially long periods of time for speed-of-light signals to reach from place to place, as space explorers have already seen in the remote control of off-planet systems. But these things are not insurmountable. Humanity has written hugely important messages with quill pens and delivered them by sailing ship and caravan, to lasting effect. We just have to recognize that it will be that way again with regards to space: there is no 'transporter', and may never be, to help facilitate and speed up the storyline.

All of this sounds like a stretch and it is a stretch, we'll have to stretch. But I believe that, on the whole, it is a more admirable, human and viable endeavour than some manner of worldwide death cult based on either controlled culling or managed perpetual warfare. It is not our "manifest destiny" either, but it is our character.