I’m Theoretically a Theoretical Physicist . . . . In Theory

Time for a little confession. I nearly flunked my college physics courses. Well, maybe I wasn’t close to flunking, but it sure felt like I was. I studied until my brains turned into tapioca pudding, and still only felt I was grasping a few percentage points of the whole curriculum.

theorytwoI did make it through physics, but I realized after the experience that my life would be better suited making words than equations.

You know those TV shows where they interview actors and the biggest stars from the biggest movies? The host of the show sometimes asks the question, “And if you hadn’t become an actor, what other job would you have today?”

Sometimes the actor has a quick response. Sometimes they bite their lips and say, “I don’t know.”

Not knowing is a perfectly fine answer. How many of us actually ponder the parallel lives we could be living in alternate universes?

****my hand slowly raises***

If I were ever famous, and the host of a TV show asked me what else I would be doing if Itheorythree wasn’t doing this, my answer is, “I would be a theoretical physicist.”

That’s a problem since I could barely pass college physics.

Every theoretical physicist needs math skills. But, even more so, a theoretical physicist needs a theory. Many theories are later proven false through the process of the scientific method. It doesn’t matter. You still need one.

Nowhere do I think my idea will hold any water or survive any scrutiny or mathematical tests. Further, I don’t know how to apply mathematical tests to theories, so I’ll have to trust others to do that work for me.

My Theory

First there was string theory. It basically said the universe is made up of tiny, quantum, uni-dimensional particles, or strings, all vibrating at different wavelengths. These vibrations, in turn, cause different particles to represent themselves uniquely. Hence, the universe and everything in it exists.

Many physicists, such as Richard Feynman and Stephen Hawking, have debated string theory both ways, as a failed idea, and as the only one posited so far to be a possible “Theory of Everything”. That “Theory of Everything” is the Holy Grail of theoretical physics. But so far, string theory is just another interesting idea yet to be proven as the basic underlying principle of existence.

Bubble-WrapIn light of all these perceived failures of string theory, let me provide another in its place: Bubble Wrap Theory.

My theory: the universe consists of tiny bubbles held together by a film or fabric. The bubbles are pockets of information, like seeds, that when “planted” in time and space grow into the stuff we call The Universe.

All of the bubbles, seemingly an infinite amount of them spread across the galaxy, all contain information code that programs our little sector of the universe.

The bubbles serve as DNA packets for the galaxy. Our little corner of space has bubbles that contain information for a rather ordinary star, eight planets, some of them more remarkable than others, and information for at least one of the planets, at one particular time-frame in the galaxy to contain sentient lifeforms, whatever those are.

The bubbles are all there ever was and ever will be, Amen.

So, there you have it. My little tiny idea for an infinite universe and our place in that endless expanse.

For fun, I’m going to pitch this idea to a few theoretical physicists and see what they have to say. I’ll post their replies if and when I get any.

Until then. . . . . .

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Welcome to the Post-Future. There is nothing else to look forward to. . . Yet

The spring of 1955 was an interesting time. Things were prosperous, at least in America, haircuts were short, and dresses were long.

But two watershed moments occurred, both pointing to the future, both of them linked, ivponeboth of them also mired in the mores and limitations of their time. Yet they divided up the 20th century into nearly two half-centuries, each filled with its own wonders and challenges.

April 18, 1955, one of the greatest mathematicians and physicists of all time died. Albert Einstein turned the entire world on its head with his theory of general relativity. Time and space were related. Black holes. The speed limit of the universe. Nothing that came after this genuine and innovative idea would be the same. Totally a notion fit for tomorrow.

March 19, 1955, the film Blackboard Jungle premiered. It featured the song Rock Around the Clock by Bill Haley and the Comets. Teens were blown away by the new sound of rock ‘n’ roll. They rioted. They fainted. They finally had a culture and a music set free from their parents.  They were looking toward the future.

Einstein and rock ‘n’ roll both believed in the future. They felt a better tomorrow was coming, a future set free from the old. A place in which you are invited to dream and imagine, where the antiquated ideals perish.

The Future Came While We Were Dreaming

ivptwoDuring the entire 20th century, there was a date most people looked forward to with awe and wonder. It was the year 2000, and oh the magic that date promised to bring.

Sure, there were neo-futurist dreams of flying cars and house maid robots.

But, the year 2000 really meant unlimited potential in the hands of everyone, the promise of technology, a life beyond the drudgery and the familiar and the tedium.

But most of all, 2000 was a time almost within grasp. It wasn’t so far into the future that it appeared unattainable. Many people alive in 1955 knew they would also be alive in 2000. They looked forward to it. The world was supposed to turn into an amazing place during those 45 years. And it did.

If the year 2000 symbolized the future, we now live after the future. A post-future reality.

Are we still dreaming?

Our future, the future of the Post-Future (does that make sense), is fragmented. There is no magic date anymore. We don’t talk about the year 3000 in the same ways we dreamt about the year 2000. First of all, it’s too far away.

The future is broken into segments because we’re promised certain technologies by the year 2020. Humankind on Mars by the year 2026. The computer singularity, when ivpthreemachines become ‘conscious’, will greet us in the year 2045. And on and on.

But not one single magic date. The future will come in small bites rather than in one big gulp.

Maybe 2000 was never the future, but just a metaphor to help people frame and imagine what it could be.

Rock ‘n’ Roll is dead. What will our next metaphor for the “future” be?

 

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Frequently Questioned Answers

The Gideons are an organization that places religious books into many establishments

The great blizzard of 1899

The great blizzard of 1899

around the world. If you’ve ever looked for a phone book in a hotel room, perhaps you’ve encountered their work.

Distributing free books takes money, coordination, time, and commitment. The Gideons are very devoted to their answers, and that’s commendable. Their organization began in 1899 and is still going strong today.

They have lasted over 100 years on basically faith alone.

But the world rapidly changed during the 20th century. So, where should we look for answers for the next 100 years?

 

We Grow When We Forget the Answers

 

Many websites feature a tab called “Frequently Asked Questions”, or FAQ.

The quality of these answers can vary, depending on the respondent’s ability to accurately predict your question. In other words, these lists are easy ways for websites to corral people into a bunker of others who are like-mindedly confused.

Yeah. Your answer is not going to be on this list. Don’t even bother looking. It’s actually a good thing not to find your answers there. FAQs are for the most banal and predictable questions imaginable. And you never want to be banal and predictable.

But imagine the meta-application of blanketing the world with FAQs. Being able to predict gideonstwothe questions means many inquiries are cliched and mundane. Many of us are drawing from the same indistinct data sets. Our inputs are obvious.

I’m asking you to build a new tab, at least in your mind; to embrace Frequently Questioned Answers (FQA).

Answers are rigid and fixed. They deserve to be questioned. It’s hard to grow when you possess the answers. Questions open us to infinite possibilities.

How many answers do you have?

An origin story? The meaning of life?

 

Gideons 2.0

 

I’m proposing a new group for the 21st century. The Gideons 2.0 (Two-Point-Oh).

It’s not a group for the predictable Frequently-Asked-Questions set. It’s a group for those who frequently question the answers.

Who feel comfortable embracing the mysteries.

gideonsthreeWho think it’s more important to create something new than to live in the old.

Who think life is not rigid but full of surprises and mysteries.

Who think prejudice and superstition are ideals best left in other centuries.

Who think that tomorrow is going to be just amazing.

If any of that list appeals to you, chances are, you are probably a Gideon 2.0.

 

Requirements for Membership

 

You must evangelize. We usually do this quietly, by example. We’re not loud or brash.

Ask questions. Raising your eyebrows while asking questions is completely acceptable.

Point out logical flaws. Gently.

And always, frequently question the answers.

Maybe you’re already doing these things. Maybe you want to start.

Either way, you’re likely one of us.

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Your Table Is Ready. Also, I Just Cured Cancer

Imagine the most banal piece of technology ever invented. One whose purpose is narrow, obvious, and only marginally required.

pageroneOkay. Got it?
I say its the restaurant table pager. You know these devices. Your host or hostess hands it to you when there is an hour wait at your favorite enchilada place. They flash, they vibrate, some even make noise. Their one function is to alert you when your table is cleared and ready for you.

It’s easy to imagine, with the current march of technology, that soon our table pagers will be smarter than us. The little device that tells us to have a seat will know more about the universe than we ever will.

Someday, these mundane devices will connect to the internet or some other future data sharing utility. They will be able to access the history of Rome, or the major philosophical differences between Hegel and Kierkegaard, or have the ability to perfectly draw a polystyrene molecule.

Can you do that? Nope.

Table pagers of the future may even write formulas to cure cancer during their shift breaks.

 

Technology Hurt My Feelings

 

How will super-intelligent restaurant pagers make us feel? I’m sure many people will want to climb back into the trees and feast on bananas like our primitive ancestors.

Imagine your coworker is forming a trivia team. You’re good at trivia. Naturally, you thinkpagertwo she will ask you to join the ranks. But she never does.

Why?

Because the team already has a secret, all-knowing weapon: a Chilis Bar and Grill table pager.

Psychologically damaging at best.

Many futurists and scientists call this event The Singularity. When technology surpasses humanity in knowledge with the ability of hyper growth. Technology will be able to transform itself, almost momentarily. Computers will rewrite their own programs. Robots will rebuild themselves into better forms, all while their software is learning like a rapidly evolving DNA strand.

We probably can’t stop this from happening.

 

Is There A Place For Me Tomorrow?

What will it mean to be a human in this environment, when we are finally outdone by our own technologies? I don’t know.

pagerthreeThere are a few things humans will control in this world of tomorrow. Our attitudes. Our outlooks. Our happiness. The meaning we derive from being alive.

We can look at that world with a very defeatist attitude. ie – Now that our technology is smarter than us, our existence is meaningless.

Or we can see that world as an amazing place. Where science-fiction has finally made the world science-reality.

Surely, the future will hold a whole new set of challenges. Yes, table pagers will be smarter than our best scientists. But let’s face tomorrow together, with open minds and the belief that humans can make anything possible.

Amazing things will happen when we put our heads together.

Come. Our table is ready.

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Fun Things to Do With Strangers on Elevators Besides Talk About the Weather

    There is no specific word that means fear of elevators. Most people call anxiety toward elevators “claustrophobia”, which is a fear of small, enclosed spaces. It fits the bill, but a 1983 Volkswagon Rabbit is also a tiny space to find yourself.

    In the car, you can unlock the doors, or look out the windows. There is an illusion of someelevatorone control there. But in an elevator, the big, metallic doors close and will not open again until you’ve been whisked away. There is a certain faith that goes along with riding elevators. And those people who suffer from acute fears of them won’t get on.

    For the rest of us, elevators are the best ways to manipulate our analog bodies to higher planes. And sometimes, we are just bound to stand in these elevators with complete strangers.

    Why, at least anecdotally in my life, does weather conversation appear so often? Talking about how cold it is outside, or that it’s going to rain on Tuesday, or asking me if I ordered up this snow. Do we just need to fill the quiet spaces with words or we’ll all get so uncomfortable and start clawing up the elevator walls?

    Here’s an idea. If someone comments about the weather, especially while riding an elevator with you, gently acknowledge their comment, then counter with one of the following:

1)   Imagine if Neandertals had won the evolutionary struggle against Homo Sapiens and we were all descendants of them. How would this elevator be constructed differently?

2)   When the elevator doors open upon our designated floor, what if we found all time had stopped? What would be the first thing you would do?

3)   What if pushing the elevator buttons caused us to fall into a parallel dimension where there are dragons and magic? Would you train to be a witch or wizard, or would you choose to remain a regular mortal as you are now?

elevatorthree    I think any question will do as long as it’s speculative and open-ended and requires at least a little bit of brain power and creativity.

    With those questions, you are disrupting their predictable flow. Damming up their river banks. Sending them a metaphorical slap to the face.

    You have forced their Prefrontal Cortex into operation and raised their consciousness by one tick.

    Maybe this will have no further impact on your elevator companion, but what if it does?

    I would much rather live in a world where everyone’s awareness has been raised one tick.

    Now what if we tried to raise everyone’s consciousness by a factor of ten? The world would suddenly expand and feel less claustrophobic.

    Happy elevating.

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10 Things To Remember Before You Travel Back In Time

Dear Future Time Traveler,

    I support your mission and understand your curiosity. But before you travel back in time, remember, it’s a trap. Please read this blog post carefully.

    In 2013, Robert Nemiroff, an astrophysicist from Michigan Technological University, his colleague Teresa Wilson, and a few students decided to look for time travelers living amongst people of the early twenty-first century. How did they expect to net you, a real time traveler? Apparently, by using Twitter and Facebook.

  timeone  The researchers decided there should be no online references to the Comet ISON or Pope Francis (There has never been another in the history of popes) before the year 2013. They combed through internet data in search of anything appearing a little too prophetic regarding these two topics. In September of 2013, the researchers also asked ‘time travelers’ to tweet the hashtag #Icanchangethepast2. But the time travelers were asked to tweet it the month before, in August.

    In other words, imagine me today asking you to bring home a gallon of milk yesterday, then checking the fridge. See what they did there? Interesting methodology.

    I’m not fully convinced, but I like the effort. If I traveled back in time, probably the last thing I would do is worry about creating a social media account. But it’s worth asking the question, “Is time fluid, like a river? Can you swim upstream, or down?”

    What follows is a quick list, off the top of my head, to do before you travel backwards in time. This list is not exhaustive, and sort of tongue-in-cheek. But I feel if you do these things before you embark, you are way better off and likely won’t get caught up in some college student’s research paper.

1)   Vaccinate against the time period’s viruses.

2)   Disguise your future tech to make it time appropriate. You don’t want superstitious villagers to view your time machine and burn you at the stake for witchcraft.

3)   Triple check to make sure your oven is off, or whatever future oven analog you use. You don’t want to spend your time in the past worrying about your home burning down in the future.

4)   Attend time traveler school. This will give you all the etiquette and pointers to keep intimetwo mind on your journey, like how to avoid revealing you are a time traveler on the 21st century’s social media platforms.

5)   Wear time-appropriate clothing. Never ever dress like anyone from Back to the Future II.

6)   Learn the lingo. If you travel back to the 19th century, and begin talking about tweeting and kilobytes, you may get locked away. . . or even worse.

7)   Kill your need to dominate the world. Yes, you could go back in time and give primitive people an abacus and a wrist watch. You will then be regarded as god-like to their descendants forever. But you would sadly know for all your days that you are just average like the rest of us and you cheated your way into worship and immortality.

8)   Do not make out with your mother of the past. Ever. Period. No matter how hot she is.

9)   Remember, if you go back in time and succeed in killing your grandfather before he procreated, he had his sperm frozen before you offed him.

10)   Pack a toothbrush. The words ‘Dental Hygiene’ are a relatively new invention.

If I could add one more bonus point, it would be to make the mission your mission. Don’t travel back in time and open a social media account.

It probably won’t get you caught or locked up, but my god, it is going to suck major portions of time from your life.

    Enjoy your stay in the past and send lots of postcards.

    Best wishes,

   Jim, a Twenty-first century dweller transhumanist mutant

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One Toe In Tomorrow, Nine Toes In Yesterday

Some people called the 2013 American congress a bunch of do-nothings. One of the most inactive congresses in the history of the American nation.

toeoneBut in early December, the critters in congress did take a few hours to debate the future search for life in the universe. Yeah. It happened, although, in a somewhat dubious manner.

Congress brought in some heavy hitters from the science world to discuss the matter including astrobiologist Mary Voytek, physicist Sara Seager, and MIT Physics Professor Steven J. Dick.

The scientists were there asking the government to refund SETI (The Search for extraterrestrial intelligence), an organization founded by Carl Sagan. For over a decade, SETI was under NASA, but in the mid 90s, the government decided to pull the funding and SETI has operated with private donations since.

During the congressional hearing, a few good questions were asked like how can we get kids interested in science? And a few sad tongue-in-cheek questions were also spewed. Republican Ralph Hall was nearly sarcastic when he asked who out there is watching us?

toetwoBut the Democrats couldn’t be outdone by Hall’s blatant nose-thumbing at science. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee released a statement saying, “No wonder the American people think this Republican Congress is from another planet — they’re more interested in life in space than Americans’ lives.”

It was still a wonderful day after so much gridlock in the American government seeing our representatives debating things that will impact humanity someday. Even if nothing legislative came from it all.

Progress, Y U Gotta Be So Difficult?

When I look at pictures of Planet Earth, swirling alone in the seemingly endless emptiness of space, the important questions we should ask are not political in nature but human. These questions do not win arguments. People don’t line up at the polls to vote for them. This is why the important questions get laughed at. We see so many angry people on the television talking about money and taxes and shutting down the government.

We forget to really wonder what is important.

If a giant asteroid struck the Earth tomorrow, that would be it for humanity. After millions of years of evolution to become what we are today, we decided that looking to the skies and formulating a Plan B were not important. So we perish.

A super-virus created in the laboratory could wipe us out. Or if weapons of mass destruction fall into the wrong hands. (Not that there are any correct hands for them to be in).

But imagine how much our lives would change if we knew life was out there in the universe. toethreeHow much this would tell us about ourselves and about evolution.

This might be the perfect scenario, but what if, instead of finding trace amounts of radiation as SETI searches for, we actually get to communicate with aliens?

  • We could discover if the aliens had geo-political debates, either ongoing or solved.

  • What disagreements did they have?

  • Did they invent war?

  • And maybe most importantly, what things do they choose not to fight and kill over?

  • Is life only present where there is carbon, water, and oxygen? Or could there be ammonia-based, lava-breathing, plastic life forms?

  • What types of gods did their more primitive selves invent?

  • Are some of the aliens still waiting for certain ancient prophecies to be fulfilled?

  • Do they scan their skies for an alien messiah to come and cleanse them of their wrongdoings?

  • At which point in their history did they discover mathematics and language?

The questions could go on and on.

So, please don’t make fun of people thinking about the heavens. Don’t be fooled by believing our current political vitriol is really what matters. One day, humans will leave this planet, maybe forever, to go populate other worlds thousands of light years away. The current debate in Washington won’t matter in 100 years.

What will matter is when humans decide to come together as one. When the big question is “Are we going to survive as a species and a planet, or are we going to let our short-sighted ignorance destroy us?”

Honestly, the choice is ours.

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