Tuesday, October 6, 2009
The Klinge brothers have set themselves apart from the other shows and investigative bodies by having a particular "theory" that they wish to advance, which they call their "Era Cues" theory. It is good that they did that, and it is a reminder of the scientific mission that these men are on, which is emphasized by the show's title and the name of their group: Ghost "LAB".
But to me, they do not seem quite at home with the vocabulary of science. I could be getting the wrong impression of course, but I am the viewer, and they are the ones making the show. If I get the wrong impression, is that entirely my fault?
Their use of the term "theory" for their proposed "Era Cues"methodology is a case in point. Until their idea is rigorously and repeatedly tested under conditions that could disconfirm it, what they technically have is more like a hypothesis. Moreover, the term "theory" tends to be used to designate an explanation of some thing or event that places it in a broader conceptual relation to the natural world. It is supposed to present us with a testable vision how this phenomenon might fit in with our "Big Picture" of how the world works. It does not seem to me that the "Era Cues" notion does this. If it does, the first episode fails to make it clear. In fact, in this premiere episode they did something worse than merely ignoring and neglecting this point -- they vaguely and inexplicably relate "era cues" to a notion of "parallel universes" that they attribute to "quantum physics" without giving us any idea how these ideas are related.
How would the evidence of paranormal activity instigated by the use of "era cues" lend any support whatsoever to Hugh Everett's Relative State Formulation of Quantum Mechanics, known more popularly as the Many Worlds Interpretation of Quantum Physics or the Everett-Wheeler-Graham Model of wave collapse? Is the idea here that ghosts are not spirits of dead people, but actually living denizens of "parallel worlds" where "eras" that are part of our past are still present? If that is the case, why is this show called "Ghost Lab"? Shouldn't it be "Advanced Quantum Physics Lab"?
Ghosts are spirits of dead people. The "Parallel Worlds" of quantum physics as conceived in the EWG model are not spiritual worlds. They are all physical worlds, quantifiable in the wave collapse equation. Actually, to be more strictly accurate, they are all mathematically distinct physical aspects of one world that is merely much vaster than we perceive, in which all physical possibilities are instantiated, even though only one coherent possible scenario is ever available to our senses, scientific instruments and consciousness. (NOTE: In case you didn't catch it, I said only one world is available to our "scientific instruments" - that is, to our digital recorders, our camcorders, our thermal imaging cameras, our cold-spot-detecting air thermometers, etc. That means there is no way to use these instruments to test the theory that there are "parallel worlds"). The inhabitants of these "parallel worlds" are all alive, and most of them are alternate versions of us. There is no reason why they would be "era-specific". The "universe next door" has a slightly different me, and yes, I might be rock-and-roll singer in a world where the cultural events that we remember as having occurred in the 50's didn't happen until the turn of the millennium, or I might be dead in one of these "parallel worlds". But how would either of those possibilities enable me to leave EVP evidence in THIS perceivable version of events, in which I am both alive and not a 50's-type crooner in 2009?
The suggestion that these ideas are related is baffling, and while I don't want prematurely draw with certainty and finality the conclusion that it is definitely as absurd as it seems and a sign of more absurdities to come, I don't know how long I will be able to hold out open mind for this show. I will absolutely try to catch the next episode, and I expect I will still be trying to judge it as charitably as I can. But this talk of an "Era Cues Theory" is at least as likely to distract and annoy me as it is to draw me in to the drama of the show.
Don't get me wrong, it is not that I mind that the "Era Cues" idea is unoriginal (Ryan Buell's use of a civil war re-enactment to provoke paranormal activity at the Tillie Pierce House in the 17th episode of Paranormal State season three, "Ghosts of Gettysburgh" certainly fits the Klinges' description of what would qualify as "era cues"). Good ideas deserve to propagated widely and tested independently. That's not my problem. My problem is that the insistence on calling this notion a "theory" without explaining how it qualifies as one that is likely to get on my nerves.
I will keep watching and try to keep an open mind, and, despite my criticism here (which might, I admit, seem harsh), I applaud the Klinge brothers for what they do. I admire all competent paranormal investigators. You are all at the cutting edge of science, ahead of the curve, gathering the data that will eventually topple the dominant materialist paradigm, which I liken to Bernie Lomax, the dead guy in the movie "Weekend At Bernies". He may look hale, hardy and healthy, but that's the con. When materialism is finally revealed to be as dead as Descartes, I have no doubt in my mind that you who gathered the evidence for a spiritual aspect to the universe will be the ones whose work will have been responsible for blowing the gaffe.
Perhaps I should end this review with an expression of appreciation for what I am glad the Klinges did NOT do in this first episode. We saw no mediums telling us what they see or feel, but which we cannot see or feel and have to take their word for it. I appreciate that because I tend to be skeptical psychics and when I hear them give their spiel I cannot forget for a moment that they could just be making it all up. We also did not see multiple pictures of "orbs", which are almost always just dust and lens flares. The Klinges seem focused on gathering only a few pieces of truly first rate scientific evidence rather than diluting that evidence by pooling it with all the crap in the kitchen sink. That commands my respect.
Sunday, September 20, 2009
But then two of my other facebook friends took it, ignoring my warning to disregard it. Both claimed that its results, one liberal and libertarian, another slightly to the right and very libertarian, seemed accurate. And my sister-in-law took the quiz again and her results were that she was liberal. Hmmm. I had to try again, but first, I wanted to see if I could deliberately skew the results. I took the quiz and deliberately gave a wide variety of extreme kook answers all over the political map - I represented my viewpoint as a bizarre intellectual monstrosity with no consistency at all It put me in the middle between the left and right, and slightly in the authoritarian up axis. I still couldn't get out of the middle. I took it again, this time reflecting carefully on my answers. Right smack in the middle of the crosshairs again - a "centrist social moderate". Ughh. Disgusting. How the hell did that happen?
Maybe it's just that I am very suspicious of the pre-packaged kits of easy answers offered by both the right and the left. To me, they look like hodge-podges, crazy mix-and-match mish-mashes of positions on various issues, with little effort put into keeping them consistent with each other in line with a specific, coherent vision. Where they are philosophically intelligible, they seem naive. Liberals seem naive in their unshakable faith in the power of the government to create a just and happy society by re-distributing the fruit of the most productive people's labor to the least productive among the nation's citizenry. But those on the right seem equally naive in their dogmatic insistence that the free market, left to itself, will eventually solve all society's ills justly and fairly.
On the one hand, you have a segment of people who see any problem, no matter how slight and say, "Let's have the government fix it - we'll tax the rich to pay for it." On the other hand, you have another set of people who see any problem, no matter how severe, and say, "As long as it doesn't cost me money it's not my concern." One side won't be happy until all economic inequalities are eliminated, regardless of how fairly those who have more earned it. The other side won't be happy until the only people paying any taxes at all are those with the least financial capacity to bear that burden and all of those funds are spent on military, with everything else should be left to the free market.
On one side, you have people who never saw a proposed government regulation that they didn't like except for those that would have put fiscal oversight on Fanny Mae and Freddy Mac for high-risk mortgages, and on the other side you have people who never saw a government regulation that they liked, no matter how reasonable, until they started calling for aforementioned banking regulations. And then when credit collapsed, the same side that resisted those specific regulations started blaming the other side for the "de-regulation"!
On one side you have people who never think it is the wrong time to raise taxes, no matter how badly the economy needs a boost (heck, just raise taxes and spend the money, that'll get things going, we'll let our great-great-great-great grandchildren pay off that debt - screw that generation anyway, we don't know them and never will, 'cuz we'll be dead!!), and on other side you have people who never think it's the wrong time to cut taxes, no matter how high our deficits go, no matter what spending obligations the government has in the immediate future (like the Baby Boomers, the oldest of whom will turn 65 in 2011 and hit the Social Security rolls like an avalanche).
I don't like how both sides play the same game, and whenever one side catches the other in some bit of hypocrisy, the latter's apologists respond by pointing to the last time the former was engaged in the same thing and whines "Where were you when so-and-so did/said the same thing?" In other words, it's ok if my side is hypocritical as long as our hypocrisy in doing what we objected to in the past when your side did it is no worse than your hypocrisy in pointing to what we're doing now after you all did the same damned thing! It's as if both liberal and conservative pundits both use the same playbook, and just shuffle the arguments around. You have a problem with the intrusive expansion of government under Obama into domestic matters (e.g. health care)? Well, where were you when Bush was pushing the Patriot Act and domestic wire-tapping? You have a problem with the tea party protestors making Obama look like the Joker? Well where were you when the New Yorker printed a cartoon of Bush as the Joker?
To Be Continued...
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
Last night I was shocked when I saw the LA Fitness building on my TV in a local news story of a shooting. My wife and I had a joint membership to that gym last summer - they sold us one at a discounted rate while they were still building it. We paid the deposit but decided not to pay the monthly payments and gave up the membership. We got the deposit back, surprisingly enough. So we could have been there when the bullets were flying. Teresa could have been in that room last night if we had kept the membership. I've lost a lot of weight since then, so I know I would have made use of it, and if I went, she might well have come along.
We now know that a man named George Sodini walked in with a gun and started shooting, and saved the last bullet for himself. He had a blog, which has been taken down by the web host, but his blog posts were archived, so we have some insight into what he was trying to do. Apparently his main intention was to kill himself. Murdering other people helped give him the gumption to do it. And why did he want to kill himself? Because he wanted to skip over the rest of his lousy life and just cut to the happy ending with God and Jesus in heaven.
Here is an excerpt from his blog which reveals this:
"I took off today, Monday, and tomorrow to practice my routine and make sure it is well polished. I need to work out every detail, there is only one shot. Also I need to be completely immersed into something before I can be successful. I haven’t had a drink since Friday at about 2:30. Total effort needed. Tomorrow is the big day.
Unfortunately I talked to my neighbor today, who is very positive and upbeat. I need to remain focused and absorbed COMPLETELY. Last time I tried this, in January, I chickened out. Lets see how this new approach works.
Maybe soon, I will see God and Jesus. At least that is what I was told. Eternal life does NOT depend on works. If it did, we will all be in hell. Christ paid for EVERY sin, so how can I or you be judged BY GOD for a sin when the penalty was ALREADY paid. People judge but that does not matter. I was reading the Bible and The Integrity of God beginning yesterday, because soon I will see them.
I will try not to add anymore entries because this computer clicking distracts me.
Also, any of the “Practice Papers” left on my coffee table I used or the notes in my gym bag can be published freely. I will not be embarased, because, well, I will be dead. Some people like to study that stuff. Maybe all this will shed insight on why some people just cannot make things happen in their life, which can potentially benefit others."
What hits me the hardest about this is that this man believed he was going to heaven! He had applied logic to a very typical evangelical Protestant belief rooted in the Reformation. When Martin Luther enunciated it he used the Latin, Sola Fide, Faith Alone. What this meant at the time was that good works (like buying indulgences from your local corrupt bishop) do not contribute to your salvation, at least not in such a way that they can make up for a lack of saving faith. A saving faith was one from which good works would emerge as a consequence because that faith, as a gift of God, would bring about another gift - Grace. Not much argue with there, but the idea began to morph and mutate even as Dr. Luther was propounding it. In a letter to Melancthon, Luther infamously wrote:
“If you are a preacher of grace, then preach a true and not a fictitious grace; if grace is true, you must bear a true and not a fictitious sin. God does not save people who are only fictitious sinners. Be a sinner and sin boldly, but believe and rejoice in Christ even more boldly, for he is victorious over sin, death, and the world. As long as we are here [in this world] we have to sin. This life is not the dwelling place of righteousness, but, as Peter says, we look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. It is enough that by the riches of God’s glory we have come to know the Lamb that takes away the sin of the world. No sin will separate us from the Lamb, even though we commit fornication and murder a thousand times a day. Do you think that the purchase price that was paid for the redemption of our sins by so great a Lamb is too small? Pray boldly—you too are a mighty sinner.” (font and bold emphasis my own).
Before anyone decides to argue about my bringing up this statement, I grant that it was not contextualized by an overall discussion about mass murder. It concerned ecclesiastical and theological issues. But the context does not redeem this statement, either. The text of the statement stands as it is, not mitigated or softened by its context. It's meaning is plain, as plain as he wrongly claimed Biblical text always is as a rule. Luther was propounding a heretical antinomianism - a belief that no moral law applies to those saved by the grace of God purchased by the sacrificial death of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The antinomian heresy is alive today, promoted as the "assurance of salvation". It is expessed when a believer who goes around saying that he has beeen "born again" asks you "If you were to die tonight, do you know whether you would go to heaven?" He then testifies that he, at least, knows that he will go to heaven and be with Jesus because he has been saved, and nothing can separate him from his salvation. And don't you want that assurance, too?
I first encountered this belief system in my teens, when I was reading a book by Hal Lindsey, The Liberation of Planet Earth. He had a diagram of the cross on a page and it showed how the death of Christ on the cross paid for ALL your sins, past, present and future. The left arm of the cross had over it, "all the sins of the past" or something like that, and the right arm of the cross had something like "all future sins". It made sense - that death had to pay for all sin, so of course it would apply to future sins as well as those committed prior to the crucifixion. It couldn't only apply to those sins committed by an individual before he was saved and/or baptized, because then that would leave the sins he commits thereafter unpaid for - requiring, what, another crucifixion? I remember that Lindsey claimed that once you are saved, all your sins, those of your past, and those you commit after you are born again, are paid for "once and for all".
Over time I struggled with my faith, abandoned it, and eventually returned to it. During that time I have come to terms with how much truth there is in Sola Fide, and it is not a worthless doctrine. But all the truth it contains can all be affirmed without denying anything that the Catholic Church has consistently taught and affirmed from that Christ taught the apostles and the apostes taught the early Church Fathers, until the time of Martin Luther, all the way to the present day. It definitely should not be used by people like George Sodini to justify or excuse or encourage themselves in despicable acts of multiple murder and suicide. That is an abuse of the doctrine, and abusus non tollit usus.
Certainly people like Sodini are the exception, not the rule, both for believers in Sola Fide, and among psycho killer suicides. Certainly there is no temptation among any typical Protestant Christian believer who accepts Sola Fide to test his assurance of salvation in this way, and I have never seen any indication that other crazy random shooter murder-suicides, like Seung-Hui Cho at Viriginia Tech in 2007, or the Charles Carl Roberts, the gunman of the terrible massare at an Amish schoolhouse in Lancaster six months before, or the perpatrators of the Columbine tragedy, ever drew any dark, terrible strength from a belief in the assurance of their salvation in Christ. The latter, insofar as the believed in anything, drew their inspiration from Darwinian natural selection, and saw themselves as culling the herd. Cho was a hate-filled racist scumbag. Roberts was insane and claimed that he was overcome with the desire to molest one of these girls, and claimed ot have done so 20 years before - but the person who he claims he molested denies that. So it is clear that whatever is true about Roberts, he was batshit crazy.
Nevertheless I am not surprised that the antinomian Assurance-of-Salvation doctrine has had a death toll in a psychic atmosphere that brings forth people like Cho and Roberts and Sodini. The idea is mainly false to begin with, and bad ideas eventually bear their fruit - bad consequences...evil actions.
Sunday, August 2, 2009
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Last week I determined that I need a laptop. I need to be able to write thesis text during the downtime at my job. I need for that text to be importable into my desktop computer. I didn't need to be able to format that text while I write my composition, be it my thesis or a blog article. I didn't even need internet connectivity. In fact, the fewer distractions available, the better. Even having Solitaire on a Windows laptop would be a danger. I did not want to have to pay for those features which would inevitably tempt me to use my laptop for anything other than the thesis, but I knew I needed a working laptop. I didn't have much money for one, and since I didn't want to pay more for features that I didn't want to have available to me, I don't think I would have been willing to spend much, even if I had the money. I called a local Good Will Computer Recycling Center. They said their cheapest laptop was around $250.00 - this is refurbished, mind you, not brand new. That was far and away more than I was willing to part with, and I told the gentleman on the phone as much. I said that I remember that the last time I had visited the store, there were laptops in the low one hundred dollar range that ran on Linux, a free, open source OS. "Oh yes," he agreed. We have a couple here for $130 that use Linux, but they don't have video streaming, so pretty much all you can do is surf the web and do emailing."
"For my purposes, even that would be an unnecessary and unwanted luxury. All I need in a laptop is something that can do word processing. I am writing a thesis, and the fewer distractions the better. I just want to be able to write something at work that I can transfer onto a portable USB drive so I can put transfer it from there to my desktop computer at home."
"Oh, well, something like that we usually do have, and it would only run you around $85. A computer like that would be using Puppy Linux. We will probably have something like that again as soon as next week."
That sounded good to me and I told the gentleman on the phone that I might well be getting back to him next week. I had already decided that I would spend little more than a hundred dollars for what I wanted. That $85 sounded like as good a deal as I was likely to find, and I was tempted to leave the situation at that, and wait until next week. I did not succumb to that temptation. I got on the computer and did some googling.
I remember, back in the days when the Worldwide Web was in its infancy, that I used to use a portable word processor. It was a Brother. It had a typewriter built into it, and a floppy disk drive. It had all I needed for my writing, and I wrote quite a bit on my Brother word processor - term papers for classes, short stories, journal entries, and poetry. The brother was affordable, and if they had something more up to date, something with a USB port on it, that, I thought, would have been perfect. I looked for Brother brand machines, but could find nothing in my price range that fit the bill, not even on eBay. Then I started looking for anything that fit the phrase "word processor" on Google, and I happened on a few companies,but their machines were all in the high 2 or 3 hundred dollar range for anything new. One company had an attractive machine called a Neo. The company's name: AlphaSmart. So I went to eBay and looked for older AlphaSmart products, used, working. I found some old AphaSmart 2000's and 3000's, in varying prices and conditions. In fact, they varied quite a bit, and I almost overpaid on an auction that, fortunately, I lost. Someone else overpaid even more than I would have if they had not outbid me. I bid low on two other auctions, hoping that I would wind up winning one of them, bidding low enough that I could afford both if I happened to win both. Both were for the AlphaSmart 3000. One was less than $22 plus shipping. The other was for $9.99 plus shipping. They were both being offered by the same company. One of them was offered with a warranty and was said to "work great". The other was described as working ok, except for the space bar, which did not respond. Right now, I am writing this blog post on the one that was described as working great (it's even written on a piece of masking tape splayed across the bottom, so it would be visible on the photo in the eBay auction listing.) And you know what? It DOES work great! $21.49 + shipping, which, on this item, was $14.00 - less than $36.00 for all I need in a laptop, with a comfortable qwerty keyboard, Fed-Ex-ed to my door. I like this keyboard better than the one on my desktop, actually! I also won the other one, the one that was described as not having a responsive space bar, and not coming with a warranty...
...Ok, right now I am typing on the OTHER AlphaSmart that I won, bidding low, on two auctions on eBay, and purchased from a company called CACRC, located in Baton Rouge, Lousiana, on St. Philip Street, at number 800. They are also known under their eBay user ID coprecouncil. I cannot, at this moment, recall what all the letters in those initials stand for, but I know that the last three letters in CACRC stand for "computer recycling center." On the bottom of the invoice that came with the shipment of the two AlphaSmart 3000s it says "BE KIND TO THE ENVIRONMENT! Electronic waste us a growing problem. Electronics contain materials that may contaminate water and soil in a land fill. If you no longer wish to use the equipment, please do not throw it away or dispose of it in any other fashion. If possible, you may return the items for recycling to the CCARC, 800 Saint Philip Street, Baton Rouge, LA 70802. Call (225) 379-3577. Thank You!"
By now you may have wondered to yourself - did he edit this text, adding the spaces to it after he put it on his computer? Actually, the spaces are in the AlphaSmart 3000 machine. I am typing them right now using the space bar that allegedly did not work. Maybe something jiggled during shipping, but, knock on wood, for this moment, right now, it works fine. It's funny, because right under the space bar on this machine is masking tape, and written on this masking tape is the message "works. spacebar not respond"
So far, this machine is performing better than expected. I must admit that the keyboard is marginally less responsive than the one the other machine (the one with which I wrote the first half or so of this blog article). But even the responsiveness of the other keyboard was far beyond my expectations. This keyboard works about as well as I expected the other to. So both exceed my most optimistic hopes and expectations.
Now I want to describe the AlphaSmart 3000. It holds eight files at a time in its memory. It runs on three "AA" batteries. I was made to understand that you could lose the text in your files if your batteries ran out and no power was running through the machine, but, as it turns out, there must be some other interior battery or power source, because even if the "AA"s aren't in the machine, it can still send text through the USB port. The AlphaSmart uses power from the desktop computer through the serial connection in order to send the text. That means that it still has the text to send even if the "AA"s aren't in the machine. I tested this, and it is just like the manual said. The manual I found in pdf form online. Since these are used machines - there was no print manual in the shipping box - nor any cords. None were in the description in the eBay listing, so there is no problem with the absence of these things. I did not expect them to be there. It doesn't matter, because I have my own USB cord that is compatible with this - it is the one that normally connects my desktop computer to my printer. When I plug the AlphaSmart into the USB connection, it offers to send text in a particular file, one of the eight. If you want to send text from another one of the eight, all you have to do is press the key - "file 1", for instance, and the offer on the screen changes, and if you press send it will send the text from file 1. The desktop computer receives the text as if you were typing it extremely fast on the keyboard.
The AlphaSmart 3000 has an onboard calculator, and its word processor has spell check capability. This AlphaSmart, the one whose space bar works even though it was not supposed to, was only 9.99, and because I called the company and asked for combined shipping They prefer that you call before you pay for either item that you are going to combine with any other, but, though I did not ask for combined shipping until after I had paid for the first auction I had won, they were willing to give me the discount on the other item! So the shipping on the machine I am typing now was only $7.00!
That's right - two machines that are each everything I need in a laptop, for which I paid $31.48 plus $21.00 shipping, for a total of $52.48 - an average of less than $27 each! They arrived today, July 15, 2008, around noon, by Fed-Ex. The Fed-Ex guy knocked and actually waited for me to come to the door and sign for the package! That means that for $21.00 shipping CCARC got signature delivery. They could have skimped and paid less, and taken the chance that I would not have been home. If that had happened, the Fed-Ex guy would have knocked once, left the box at the door, and bolted back to his truck. That happened the other day. My wife got a delivery of a book sent to her by a friend of hers that she met on twitter - the latest book by Dave Ramsey. If we had not been home, and one of our neighbors in our apartment complex had decided that, whatever was in the Fed-Ex box, they wanted it to be theirs, not ours, that book would have vanished without a trace, and my wife would have had no recourse. Neither would the friend of hers who had shipped on the cheap. But CCARC required a signature, which I think is very smart - the right thing to do. It just so happened that we were both home for both deliveries, but that was pure luck. We could easily have both been out both times.
Back to the features of this AlphaSmart machine - what it has and what it doesn't have. Although the options for formatting text are much more limited on the AlphaSmart, you can still copy or cut and paste text, thus making it possible move paragraphs around. This is better than expected, since it wasn't mentioned in the eBay description, and, in a review by another AlphaSmart user implied that it was only the later AlphaSmart models, like the Neo or the Dana, that could copy and paste text, not the 2000 or even the 3000.
In every way, these machines have exceeded expectations, and for the money spent, they absolutely cannot be beat. It is beyond me why anyone would risk typing anything on an expensive laptop in a coffee shop where a spill could occur, when a low-cost product like this is available. If I had a notebook computer, I would still use the AlphaSmart to type text, and then import it into the laptop for formatting and sending it in an email or posting it on a blog.
The text of the various files are searchable with the find key. It can be plugged directly into a printer and thus a computer can be bypassed. The AlphaSmart's battery life is a huge advantage - hundreds of hours from three cheap "AA" alkalines! For someone who wants to just go out to a diner or a Dunkin Donuts and sit there and write his ever-lovin' heart out, and not have to choose between using an expensive laptop (exposing it to risks of spills or theft) or hand-write it in a notebook and have to re-type it all later with writer's cramped hands, this machine is ideal. I would be willing to pay considerably more for a machine like this than I did if I had the money. In fact, I want to search out and find another bargain like this and have a third one, a backup, so that Teresa could have one for classes, and I could have one to take to work, and if one of them is destroyed or breaks down or gets lost, the backup would be available. Ideally, both Teresa and I would have one main AlphaSmart each, one backup for each of us as well, and, eventually, each of us would have a regular laptop as well. I may even get bargains like these and re-sell them for profit, and roll the profits into getting more inventory, selling those for profit, rolling those additional profits into a growing inventory, until a part-time hobby business becomes a genuine going concern!
Now I am going to experiment with various places to type, to test the comfort of the several unusual situations that I can imagine wanting to be able to write in...
...At this moment, or rather, at the moment of the writing of these words, I am sitting on the privvy, the lieu, the porcelain throne. It is much more comfortable than when I tried this with a regular laptop with a regular fold-up-and-down monitor screen. With a regular laptop, I would have to push the screen as far up and out as possible in order not to have to crick my neck into a full Quasimodo just to see the screen at all. But then, it would still look weird and faded out, and in addition, the weight of the screen would always be threatening to tip the whole laptop off my lap - so much for a laptop being a true laptop - but with the AlphaSmart 3000, I have a real, bona fide laptop keyboard that I can type text into and see what I am doing. It is like a hybrid of a laptop notebook and a palmtop PDA - the screen size is PDA-like, which is exactly what I need it to be and no more, while the keyboard is a genuine QWERTY keyboard like that of a laptop computer, so I don't have to type with just my thumbs like kids these days do on their little I-Phone gadgets.
I am thrilled that I don't have to choose between interrupting my train of thought in order to address an urgent bathroom need and bringing an expensive laptop computer or PDA and risking something terrible happening to it and losing that huge investment (all the while developing a hump on my neck or ruining the joints in my thumbs).
More experimentation coming up...
...I was typing outside on my AlphaSmart 3000, hanging out with friends in chairs on the front lawn the apartment complex where we live. I never felt comfortable doing that before, even when I had a real laptop. Why? THE SCREEN! It would have been a barrier, an anti-social statement - leave me alone I'm computing, it would say. What's the point? I might as well stay inside and write. But I felt quite comfortable with this AlphaSmart, because there is no fold-up screen, just a little LCD digital read-out that shows a few lines of text at a time (four, actually). I wrote a couple of pages of thesis text while jumping in and out of the casual conversation that was going on. I did not feel that I had to choose between writing and having some fun with friends while getting some sun. I did not have to resign myself to staying inside and writing while my skin slowly pales into a sour-milk white color from lack of daylight.
So, anyway, I was outside typing, and while I typed, the space bar started to act up. Uh oh! I thought. That's it - my luck has run out. Only it hadn't - a little tiny piece of something started to emerge from under the space bar, and I picked it out with a thin paperback book cover. The space bar worked again, and it occurred to me that the thing I fished out might have been the problem with the space bar before this machine was shipped. If so, now it is not only the case that the space bar is working, but the problem is fixed, so it will not recur again.
...With its lack of a screen, this keyboard is so comfortable, I can lounge on the couch and type in comfort. If I had a screen, I would feel like I had to hunch over it. I would not be comfortable...
...Now I have the AlphaSmart 3000 on half my lap - that is, teetering on my left thigh, while on my right thigh I have a plate with a big piece of chicken and a fork. I am on the black love seat in my apartment living room, going back and forth between writing and eating, without moving from my seat (I have to be careful about getting the keys greasy, though!). Once again, the lack of a sizable fold-up-and-out monitor screen attachment would have made impossible what I am doing now on this machine...
...I just moved to my bed, and now I am laying down with my knees slightly propped up, and several pillows behind my back for back support...and now I have just moved to another position. Both are comfortable, more than I have ever been on a bed with a laptop compute with a typical fold-up/fold-down monitor attachment screen. There is a drawback, though. A light has to be on. With no luminescent screen, the AlphaSmart cannot be used in the dark. Also, another problem is the keyboard: it is a bit louder than typical laptop computer keys. So there will be no writing in bed with my sweetie laying beside me trying to sleep. The light from the ceiling and the banging of the keys would hardly be conducive to sound sleep...
...Teresa just called me over to the computer where she is writing a blog post on Obama and the birth certificate issue, and so I began keying this in by holding the keyboard in one hand while typing with the other, and looking back and forth from the desktop monitor and the little LCD screen on this AlphaSmart. I am doing that right now, and I know that what I am doing right now would have been impossible on a more expensive laptop with an attached screen. It would have been too heavy and awkward. This AlphaSmart is light and easy to hold and type on - very comfortable.
The AlphaSmart, then, has its advantages and its disadvantages. But the difference between them is that I have spent much more time talking about the advantages, and I am still not done, while I cannot even imagine any other significant disadvantage besides what I have already mentioned. One last advantage is how the AlphaSmart turns on immediately, with no delay, no boot-up cycle. It turns off just as quickly. So you can pull it out and start typing at a moment's notice, and turn it off just as quickly and get going. I can write all day and well into the night, without having to stop my train of thought while eating or going to the bathroom (washing hands after use of the toilet is a little tricky with the AlphaSmart 3000 around, but if that is the only genuine interruption, that's not so bad. In any case, I can write for very long periods without the structure of this machine making it uncomfortable for me, and I can even eat or use the john while typing in comfort. With all that writing time, it is a very good thing that the power drain on the batteries is very small The batteries would last for over a week if the machine was left on constantly, and because they are just ordinary "AA"s, like the kind you put in your TV remote, they are very cheap to replace, and this thing never seems to get hot from prolonged use.
In conclusion - I highly recommend the AlphaSmart series, especially the AlphaSmart 3000, probably the best for the money. I wish I was getting paid to say this, but who would pay me? AlphaSmart is not selling their 3000 series anymore - that's vintage by now. They are on the Neo and the Dana now. I am recommending a good, working used machine. I am recommending doing due diligence before any purchase decision. I have two laptop machines for roughly half the price I could have spent on a more conventional used laptop, and for a tenth or less of what a brand new brand name Windows or Apple Macintosh laptop computer would have cost me. I saved that money because I searched for the bargain. I did not leave well enough alone - I reached out for better than adequate, and found an extraordinary buy. So reach out! Try! Seek! You won't always find, I am sorry to say, but so what? Sometimes you will succeed, and when you do, BOY IS IT sah-WEET!
Sunday, July 12, 2009
Why They Hate Sarah Palin - The Real Reason (WARNING! This blog post contains profanity and expresses the offensive opinion of an offended person!!)
Her critics have never been fair to her for a moment. She has held herself up with extraordinary grace and poise, which has to be judged, not just by what she has said and done, but by what she has not given in to temptation to say or do in response to the constant stream of viper venom spat her way by the hissing snakes of the political media elite, the whole Crowd of Cocktail-Party Cunts!
Peggy Noonan's hit piece put it over the top. I am past my tolerance threshold. Don't bother looking for a link to it here. If you haven't read it, consider yourself lucky. I will not help you become polluted.
I am pissed off. I can't stand it anymore. You see, I know the real reason for all this, and for why it has continued for eight months since the election. It's not just her politics (although if not for her politics, that which truly fuels this hatred would actually endear her to her detractors).
So now I am going to hold up a mirror to you Naked Emperors out there. You ain't smarter than her! She's a grown-up! I am going to force you to face the real reason why you hate her. Here it is:
That's it. Women who already would dislike her for her pro-life politics, her religious convictions, and her folksy ways, find it to be a twisting of the knife that she is beautiful and charming. The fact that she has an equally good-looking husband and her children are, respectful and well-behaved (for the most part) does nothing to endear her to them, either. What really gets their dander up is the fact that she has the nerve to look as good as she does.
And what about the men who hate her? Why do they hate her? Because she's hot. Because they hate the fact that they have the hots for her. And, more importantly, because the women that they have any chance at all of having sex with any time soon hate her, so they better hate her, too!
Her politics do not make her unique. Her accomplishments as a governer are exemplary and admirable, but they, too, would be shrug-worthy from the liberals if she were a guy. They would long ago have forgotten about a male Alaskan Governor turned McCain running mate with Palin's accomplishments. I imagine that a male VP nominee governing Alaska would have been yesterdays' news before the day of his announcement was even out. And if it were Governer Todd Palin, the women-critics would never have gone after him sharpened-claws-out the way they went at the Honorable Sarah. The attacks would have been considerably less intense, and they would have been over by now, and a Governer Todd Palin as the former VP nominee would not have been subject to one sleazy obstructionist legal action after another, so he would still be the sitting Governor of Alaska.
Sarah Palin is not just the first female Republican Vice Presidential nominee. She is the first hot chick on a major party ticket in American history. That not disrespectful, mind you. There is nothing wrong with being a hot chick. It doesn't make her dumb. It doesn't take away from her accomplishments, or her record. It has, however, provoked the immaturity of liberals, stuck as they are in perpetual adolescence. Usually this stuntedness shows itself in the fact that they never outgrew the adolescent rebelliousness that is the root of their hatred of traditional beliefs and values, which they associate with their parents and their parents' generation. But now, it comes out in their hatred of Sarah Palin because she is the beauty contest-winner, the prom queen, the hottie.
It makes them hate her beyond all reason, as much if not more than they hated George W. Bush. Now, instead of Bush Derangement Syndrome, we are being treated to Palin Derangement Syndrome.
If she were a Democrat, however, they would forgive and excuse anything and everything, and they would love that she was a hottie. They would adore her if she agreed with them on abortion on demand and socialist government programs as the panacea, capable of curing all our ills. In fact, she, not Biden, would be Obama's VP if she were a Democrat. Because she's hot. but instead, she's a Republican, and therefore they hate her as much as they have ever hated any Republican. Because she's hot.
Well, grow the hell up, people!
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
shit, fuck, cunt, cocksucker, and motherfucker.
The word "piss" used to be on the list, too, but nowadays even newscasters will say that this and that happened and "boy he was pissed!" I am pretty sure people say "tits" once in a while, too, on tv though that, also, was banned once. Of course, there are other words they don't like to use, though the list has adjusted a bit - certain words used to be ok, and now they are not, and others used to be forbidden, and now they are fine. When I was a kid, you almost never heard ass, bitch, son of a bitch, bastard - even "damn" was scandalous. Now this person is a dick, that one is an asshole, she is a bitch and he is a real son of a bitch bastard. But no one is a nigger, there are no faggots, and no one can invoke God. That's a dirty word, too - I have heard His name bleeped. Of course, no one should be using dammit as His last name, and I appreciate those bleeps. But even pious invocations have gotten bleeped out on regular TV in my hearing. You won't hear anyone say Jesus Christ, either, except perhaps for the occasional blasphemy that slips through.
Now you can't say midget, either. The little people don't like it.
You, see, during an April episode of "The Celebrity Apprentice", the contestants "created a detergent ad that suggested bathing little people in the detergent and hanging them to dry," according to an article in the AP two days ago, and they had the nerve to entitle the ad "Jesse James and the Midgets."*
And you can't do that. You can call them little people and talk about treating them like dirty laundry, but for God's sake --
--- don't call them midgets!
Call them little people. Until they get tired of that, and decide they want to go back to being dwarves or munchkins, or progress to being hobbits or leprechauns. No matter what label they accept eventually it will become a dirty word, because what they really don't like is being reminded that they are shorter than others. It's the condition that they don't like. It's the reality. Changing the word will not change the condition. Euphemisms are designed to soften the blow of hard reality. They are that by which we hide from the harshness of the world.
I do find it odd, though, that the euphemism that the little people are choosing is something that, not too many years ago, would have been considered insulting and demeaning right on its face.
* Actually, the ad was "Jesse James Gets Dirty With Little People" - the AP writer was obviously too busy to do what I did - spend about eight seconds searching on youtube.
Monday, July 6, 2009
After four installments, now with this fifth and final one, the astute reader by now is saying, “On the contrary, Kevin - you have not shown that Bernie is dead. You have only shown that Bernie did not successfully kill my soul. The Materialists have claimed that Bernie vanquished God and spirit and any possibility of a non-physical substance that could ground free human agency and the possibility of the survival of consciousness after the physical body is dead. That may have been an exaggeration, but just because he failed to kill his enemy does not mean he is dead. Perhaps he still lives.”
I beg to differ. The whole point of Materialism was to provide a complete causal picture of reality without the need for non-material things. It was supposed to account for everything that happened without the need for soul or spirit, and without leaving anything out. Anything not covered, any gap in the causal account, could be exploited by those who deny the truth of materialism, and thus no such gap was supposed to exist. No such hole in our causal knowledge was acceptable for anything that purported to be a scientific worldview. After all, science was classically defined as cognitio certa per causas,certain knowledge through causes. If complete causal certainty is abandoned, then, in a real sense, so is science - at least in the sense of a naturalist scientific worldview.
So when we hear the click on a Geiger counter and ask why that happened, we point to an individual radium atom decaying at that precise moment. But then if we ask why that particular radium atom decayed at that exact second, not another one or not the second before or the one after, we hit a brick wall. According to the quantum physics it is not only the case that we do not or even can not know the answer to that question. Rather, in purely physical terms there is no possible answer at all. It happened like that, and not any other way, for no reason at all, if physicalist Materialism is correct. That is a denial of the ubiquity of causality that was the ground for deterministic Materialism in the first place, and was based on an essential pillar of rational thinking, one without which no science is possible: The Principle of Sufficient Reason. That means physicalist Materialism is ultimately unscientific, at least in the classical sense of what we always meant by the term science. If physicalism is true, and quantum physics has the final word, then no complete scientific worldview, is possible.
But that was ostensibly the whole point — not just to discredit traditional notions of soul and moral responsibility and free will and the possibility of an afterlife — but to replace those views with a complete scientific description of reality free of those elements. That was what we were promised. But the Promissory Note on what Sir Karl Popper cleverly called “Promissory Materialism” has come back denied. Materialism may be the default position of Western academia and science, but that default position is in default of its promise - to provide us with a satisfying alternative picture of ourselves and the world that explained everything it claimed it would eventually explain. Now all we get are excuses why they will never be able to come up with what they promised.
The fact is, on every level materialism has failed. It has failed to account for consciousness in terms of individual neuron firings, and now it is being admitted candidly in some quarters that what they are now back to calling “the Neuron Doctrine” (instead of merely “the basic facts, established with scientific certainty, of how the brain works”) has more or less failed, and that the brain acts as a reticulum, a network, with different areas acting simultaneously in parallel, with no discernible bottom-up explanation of such parallel, unconnected, spatially-separate effects. What is needed is a retrieval of Aristotelian formal and final causes and the acceptance of agent causation - too long discarded by modern science in favor of mere event causation, and the exclusive focus on efficient causes that are purely natural, material and physical. What is needed now is a top-down holistic casual agency, able to orchestrate the different parts of the neural network at the same time even when they are apparently not in communication with each other. What is needed is a revival of traditional Thomist-Aristotelian hylomorphism - the concept of the soul as the substantial form of the body. Only a top-down holistic causal agency like a substantial form - a soul - can address these problems. Materialism, with its commitment to bottom-up event causation, is utterly helpless to fill that need.
Materialism has also failed to discover physical principles that explain the origin and diversity of life on this planet, or to provide a coherent account of the difference between living and non-living things in purely physical terms. It has failed to account for biological activity in purely chemical and physical terms (another area where the soul would fit in nicely, thus it should be no surprise that they cannot explain these things - they have hamstrung themselves by banishing the true explanation). Even in the area where it was thought to have made the most headway - the discovery of complicated bio-molecules, it has failed to account for the information those molecules store and use in terms of Darwinian natural selection alone. Materialism has failed spectacularly in every possible way, and now we can be sure that it will never be able to give us more than excuses for its failure.
That is why Bernie is dead. He was way overextended and had science’s loan sharks after his ass, and when they caught up to him, he couldn’t pay up. So they busted a cap in his ass. And another. And another. And another and another. And one in his head: Neuron doctrine BLAM! Right in the forehead. Morphic resonances BLAM! Irreducibly complex bio-molecules BLAM! Real information in DNA that cannot be accounted for by successive random mutations that survive by natural selection BLAM! Non-local influences and quantum uncertainty - the failure of bottom-up physicalist Causal Determinism BLAM BLAM!Believe me, he is not as hale and hardy as he looks. No matter what the materialist behind the pet shop counter says, he’s not just resting, or pining for the fields. He’s as dead as John Cleese’s Dead Parrot, and it’s starting to get funky in here, like a dead philosophy’s dead ass.
Saturday, July 4, 2009
Searle, to his credit, has not ignored quantum physics before committing himself to deterministic materialism. He gives an argument against it right before he mentions Laplace‘s image:Indeterminism at the level of particles in physics is really no support at all to any doctrine of the freedom of the will; because first, the statistical indeterminacy at the level of particles does not show any indeterminacy at the level of the objects that matter to us – human bodies, for example. And secondly, even if there is an element of indeterminacy in the behaviour of physical particles – even if they are only statistically predictable – still, that by itself gives no scope for human freedom of the will ; because it doesn't follow from the fact that particles are only statistically determined that the human mind can force the statistically-determined particles to swerve from their paths. Indeterminism is no evidence that there is or could be some mental energy of human freedom that can move molecules in directions that they were not otherwise going to move. So it really does look as if everything we know about physics forces us to some form of denial of human freedom. (Minds, Brains & Science, 86-87)
I am grateful to Harry Frankfurt for introducing a very useful term into academic philosophy in his 2005 bestselling book. I am not writing my thesis right now, but a post for my blog, so I feel justified in using this very strong term to characterize Searle’s hand waving in the passage quoted above. It is BULLSHIT!
First, the phrase “statistically determined” is self-contradictory bullshit - the two words don’t cohere. Particles are not “statistically determined” and they do not have “statistically determined paths.” That’s another bullshit phrase. Quantum indeterminacy rules out the existence of determined paths. Any fusion of statistics and determination is bullshit. The statistics do not determine anything. The statistics are there because that is all we have in the absence of causal determination. Statistics and Determinism are as opposed as probability and certainty - they are incompatible.
Second, if causality is from the bottom up, then the causality that occurs at the level of objects familiar to us like our bodies is entirely grounded in quantum indeterminacy, so his curt dismissal here is ridiculous. If he wants to be a bottom-up Causal Determinist, he has to explain how and where the determinism comes in if it does not start at the bottom! What’s more, he willfully forgets that the whole strength of Determinism against the primary intuition of our freedom of will and action was the cogency of absolute causal determination from the bottom up, and the lack of causal gaps from the bottom up that would allow room for that freedom. Well, now we know that bottom-up Causal Determinism is false. That means Determinism is defeated! Quantum indeterminacy is not evidence for human freedom, and we don’t need it to be - we already have plenty of evidence for human freedom. It is the refutation of the Determinism that was the only evidence that ever counted against that freedom. With Determinism refuted, there is no more reason to deny the indubitable evidence of or own moment-by-moment conscious experience of making free decisions. Searle went too far when he said, “Indeterminism is no evidence that there is or could besome mental energy of human freedom.” Indeterminism is admittedly not evidence that there is human freedom, but it is surely evidence that there could be such freedom, since it defeats the contrary position that, due to Determinism, there could not be such freedom - that it is impossible. The position asserting the impossibility of radical human freedom is refuted. What’s left? The possibility of radical human freedom!
Quantum theory knocked the living hell out of Bernie and kicked him in the balls while he was down. The injuries it inflicted on him were mortal blows. There was no chance of recovery. If false philosophies had souls that could go to hell, Bernie would be all burny. He’s a dead son of a bitch. So Materialists prop him up and parade him around as if he were alive and well. Don’t you believe it!
Link to Last Installment of WAB's 2 part 5 of 5 (ignore the fact that the url says its 06. It's the 5th of 5):
Thursday, July 2, 2009
Quantum particles, when not being observed or measured, do not like particles; they do not act like tiny billiard balls that simply are, and are fully, actually, definitely present, in one place, doing one thing. When they are not being observed, quantum particles are not particles in the original sense of the word. They are whirling waves of probability, in which all the possible locations and states of a particle interact with one another the way crests and troughs of waves interfere with each other. They are mysterious clouds of all the things they Could Be. Instead of just actually being one thing and not another, in one place and not another, doing one thing and not another, moving in one direction and not another, quantum phenomena are, when unobserved, in all their possible places and states at once, moving, not This Way or That, but rather This Way and That, at the same time! They are not just Here or There before we look to find out where they are. They are both Here And There until we look - until we, by observing the phenomena, by taking a measurement - collapse the wave.
This is a very counterintuitive view of the ultimate reality of things, and thus most people recoil from it intellectually. This is a problem, because quantum mechanics is irrefutable and indispensable. Everything electronic uses the quantum effects with the Alice-In-Wonderland weirdness that goes with them. Anyone who doubts this can take up this challenge - tell me how a tunnel diode works without invoking an explanation that defies common sense.
I have another way out. Quantum theory is true, but it is not the ultimate reality of things. Atoms are not more real than the objects of our sense experience, but less. It is not the case that rocks, trees, pigeons and people are simply piles or collections that come about through the collision and fusion of the tiny particles that are the ultimately real things. On the contrary, the rocks, the trees, the birds, the fish, the dolphins, the dogs, the people, the planets and stars, are what are truly real. They are not composed of particles in the sense of being aggregates put together mechanically out of their smallest component pieces. They are composed of particles in the sense of being divisible into them. There is a difference. The particles derive their reality from the real things of our everyday lives, not the other way around. They exist, to be sure, but their actuality is compromised. They are not fully real. They are quasi-real. Their existence is foggy, nebulous, Not All There. They do not enjoy the same degree of objective, observer-independent reality that are enjoyed by us, or by the objects of our everyday experiences. We are more real than our protons, neutrons, and electrons. It is not the case that we do what we do because our smallest bits are doing their thing, in obedience to the laws of physics. It is the other way around - we make our choices, we decide what to do, and move ourselves into action. As a consequence, our bodies, which are divisible into particles, move those particles in motions which, due to the uncertainty of quantum mechanics, are not in violation of the any deterministic laws of physics, because on the level of the micro-particles, there are no deterministic laws! Causality, when applied to human action, is not from the bottom-up, but from the top-down. We are wholes, not mere collections of parts, and our actions are holistic. We move our parts, rather than being moved by them. Epicurus was right that our freedom is related to atomic swerve. But he was wrong about the motive direction of causal power. Our free actions cause the particles in our bodies to have their particular Epicurean swerve. Rather than being grounded in and caused by that swerve from the bottom-up, they are the source of our atoms' particular "random" swerves from the top-down.
I’ll never forget when I was in class attending my graduate seminar on the Philosophy of the Human Person, and one of the people there opined that, if there is such a thing as a soul, we should expect to see some of the physically determined motions of some particles in our body (in our brain, presumably) veer off their otherwise pre-determined paths, and sort of Do Their Own Thing. I do not recall anyone labeling that intuition as such at the time, but I do not hesitate to do so now - that is the classic Epicurean Swerve intuition, the clinamen.
John Searle said something similar in his 1984 Reith lecture:
In order for us to have radical freedom, it looks as if we would have to postulate that inside each of us was a self that was capable of interfering with the causal order of nature. That is, it looks as if we would have to contain some entity that was capable of making molecules swerve from their paths. (Minds, Brains, and Science; Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1984, p. 98 - Well, not necessarily molecules, and Searle knew that. Earlier in the same lecture, he tries to flippantly dismiss such a swerve on the quantum level - unsuccessfully in my view)
I held my tongue in class that day. I didn’t want to be the only person in that class to bring up quantum physics. I knew that it would make no impact - it would only peg me as an insufferable know-it-all. They wouldn’t get. I don’t even get it. Who does? It’s too crazy! But I knew he was wrong. We should never expect to see anything of the sort, because nature does not allow us to see anything on the quantum level with that kind of precision. The Uncertainty Principle forbids it. Mother Nature has a kind of basic, primordial modesty about Her. No matter how badly scientists want to look up Her skirt and see Her Goodies, they will not succeed. She’s keeping her Secrets. Laplace’s Ideal Observer will never exist, at least not in this physical world. Maybe God could theoretically know all the positions and momentums of every particle in the universe, but I am inclined to doubt even that - until the waves of the various particles collapse, there is no one totally real thing on that level for even God to know.
The fact that, at the level of quantum phenomena, there is an ineliminable statistical indeterminacy, means that there is a lot of room leftover from the gaps in physics for possibility of active influences from invisible, non-physical agents, i.e. souls or spirits. The soul fits perfectly in the quantum causal gap. The indeterminism at the level of the quantum does not prove that there are such things, but that is unnecessary. The point is, we already know that we are free agents capable of introducing new, spontaneous, unprecedented causal chains into the physical world every time we make a new decision. The only thing that ever made anyone doubt that was a commitment to Materialism and the Laplacian Determinism that it entailed. Quantum physics has killed that Determinism. It is no longer a viable natural philosophy. Since deterministic Materialism is dead, there is no more barrier to accepting the prima facie evidence of our own obvious and self-evident liberty of action (which we cannot, in practice, consistently deny). So with no more reason to doubt that which we cannot help but believe anyway, we can accept it as true, along with what it entails - that there is more to us than our physical bodies. We are souls, too.
Here is the link to installment 4 of this series:
The dance takes place in steps. The last step is the really dramatic one. First you cover one slit - either slit will do, and fire up the electron gun. It doesn’t matter whether you have the gun set to fire a steady ray of electrons in a constant stream of bombardment, or to only release one electron intermittently at intervals - it will show the same thing - in the latter case it would just take longer for the individual electron impacts to form the pattern. The pattern when one slit is covered is a single band (the shape of the one uncovered slit) on the wall beyond the box. The electrons, whether in a stream or all alone, act like individual particles, or at least the wave characteristics are not detectable during this first step of the dance.
For the next step you uncover the slit that you had covered and fire the electron gun to send out a stream of electrons through both uncovered slits. If electrons were merely particles, you would see the two-slit pattern form behind the wall, but that’s not what you see here. You see several bands, the ligher, weaker ones closer to the outer edges, the strongest ones toward the center. That is an interference pattern. It shows that the stream of electrons is propagating like a wave of electrical energy. When waves are broken up into sets of waves as they bisect to pass through the slits, the sets of waves interfere with each other - their crests and troughs cancel each other out. In between those cancellations there is a richer degree of interaction. The net result is an interference pattern more complicated than the behavior of single discrete particles confined to a definite location or moving in a definite trajectory.
Ok, you might argue, that may be interesting, but that doesn’t mean individual particles do that. We fired a stream of many such particles, so perhaps it is no surprise that they would interfere with each other and move in a wave. What would happen if we fired single electrons intermittently one at a time through whichever of the two slits each would happen to go through? (Note for later that there is no causal explanation, no physical fact, known or unknown, that determines which slit an electron will exit the box through). If electrons were merely particles then surely now all we’ll see is two bands slowly form from the accumulation of marks from individual electron impacts.
Third and final step - intermittently fire individual electrons through the two open slits and see what happens. So what happens? Does a two slit pattern form?
No! An interference pattern emerges again! How can that be? It is only one individual electron (presumably) going through only one of the slits at any given time! What could be interfering with the electron if not other electrons in a stream? What could be causing the wavy behavior of an individual electron?
The electron is, in that instance, a wave interfering with itself. And what is interfering with what? The answer is that different possible states of the electron are all co-existing in a strange, foggy quasi-reality of less than full actual potentials. The possibility that the electron goes through the left slit is interacting with the possibility that it goes through the right slit. In a very real and valid sense, the electron, even as a single particle, goes through both slits at the same time! In another sense, it does not actually go through either one. In fact, in a very real sense, according to the equation governing subatomic wave collapse, the electron does not have any definite position or single trajectory until after it impacts on the wall and is thus observed and measured.
That is the Electron Boogaloo - a dance where a tiny particle is not just Here or There, but Kind of Here and Kind of There, and Kind of Nowhere, and Kind of Everywhere At Once. The dance hall scenario is known to science as the Double Slit Experiment.
Check out this video on youtube. (url link here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DfPeprQ7oGc ) It illustrates what I have said, and also adds an important point I have left unsaid, simply because it is unbelievable. It is true, but you won't believe it. You can also click the image below:
Below is the link to installment 3 of this series:
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
In my last post, Faithful Readers and True Believers, we met ontological Materialism - a philosophical worldview that was looking very much like Bernie Lomax. Bernie looks good. He’s old, but he seems healthy and fit. He’s hanging out with his young friends, laying out on the beach, speed boating, water-skiing, haggling over the price of a Porsche, strangling his mob business associate, fornicating - he seems fine. If you pass by and wave, he seems to wave back at you. He’s not saying much, but his friends Larry and Richard are saving him the trouble. When you lean in close and listen, you can hear them. John Searle (played by Andrew McCarthy), says “...one can accept the obvious facts of physics -- for example, that the world is made up entirely of physical particles in fields of force…” [The Rediscovery of the Mind, MIT Press, Cambridge, 1992, p. 28, bold emphasis mine]. Robert McHenry, former Editor in Chief of the Encyclopedia Britannica, speaking of the materialist philosophical worldview, says to Bernie: you, sir, are “a default position for any rational being who has not been favored with a direct revelation of the divine." In agreement, McCarthy, now playing Harvard evolutionary psychologist Steven Pinker, says that anyone for whom the “scientific discovery” that the mind is nothing more than the purely physiological activity of the brain is a matter of doubt “cannot be said to be educated.”
In other words, Materialism is fine. Stronger than ever. Healthy as a horse. All that exists are the very teeny tiny little billiard balls click-clacking against each other against a background of Nothing. Sure, some collections of such particles are more evolved than others, but that just makes them more complicated, not more important. Ultimately, there is no difference between human beings and other animals, or any other living thing - indeed, there is no fundamental difference between living things and non-living objects. People are no better than grains of sand, and, with the huge scale of the universe, they are hardly even significantly different in size. Consciousness reduces (or will be reduced) to neuroscience, which is merely a branch of biology, which reduces to chemistry, which reduces to physics - the meaningless dance of those tiny little bits. That’s all. There is no soul, and we need have no doubt about that. It’s scientifically established. No free will, no afterlife - we are biological robots who scurry about fulfilling our genetically and environmentally encoded programs, and then when we die, that’s it. No God, no Devil, no judgment, no hope of salvation, no danger of damnation. No heaven, no hell. No angels, no demons. No Santa Claus or Tooth Fairy either.
Bernie looks like he can keep on going and going like the Energizer bunny for another hundred years, No Problem.
But then I let you all in on the secret that those closest to Bernie already know: HE’S DEAD.
I even told you who killed him - the giants of early 20th century Physics - Einstein and the other pioneers of quantum theory.
I am going to explain how they did that, but first, I am going to pull a Quentin Tarantino on you and flash back to something that happened in the past. The fairly distant past, actually. You see, Bernie is older than he looks. It’s common for people to assume that Materialism is, as Pinker put it, a “scientific discovery”, and thus a product of modern times - a relatively recent insight into the real truth of things, proven by experimentation. But it is not. Materialism was not arrived at by any experimental result or scientific proof. It was not the conclusion of any recent argument. It is an assumption that is already in operation in those who believe it before they even begin to look at the evidence, and it is held in such a way that no evidence could ever overturn it - they will reject the data before they doubt the theory. It is a fundamental premise, and as such, it has been around for as long as there have been thinking people, always right alongside its opposite - the more spiritual theistic view of things. The ancient Greeks had their materialists. They were the first “atomists” - indeed, we get the word “a-tom” (un-cuttable) from them. Leucippus and his pupil Democritus we among the earliest we have on record. They believed that the whole of reality is a mixture of atoms (the very smallest bits of things, the ones that cannot be cut into smaller bits anymore), and the void.
A thinker less known for his Atomistic Materialism, because of the weird and wishy-washy way he held to it, is Epicurus.
Epicurus is more known nowadays for his advocacy of a not-obviously unreasonable form of selfish hedonism. Epicurus promoted the quiet, more lasting, more stable, and ultimately more fulfilling pleasures of the intellectual sort to those of the flesh, since the former satisfied desires while the latter ultimately excites them and makes them more persistent, more intense.
But Epicurus also introduced a notion that should really be getting a lot more play than it has been getting lately - that of the clinamen, or atomic “swerve”. He argued that, on the level of the smallest bits of physical stuff, the tiniest particles move around partly in ways determined by their collisions, and partly with an apparent randomness. He argued for this on two grounds, one of which doesn’t have any relevance here (the idea that the atoms would all be eternally moving in the same direction on parallel tracks, all falling separately, if some didn’t randomly swerve sideways into each other to produce the collisons and fusions that produce everything we see in the world including ourselves), but the other one, which even Epicurus deemed more important, was that there must be random behavior on the level of micro particles or determinism would be true and thus we would have no freedom. But we are free, Epicurus affirmed. We have free will. Therefore all the motions of the smallest bits cannot be fully determined by the prior states of the particles (their position and prior momentum).
We don’t have much of what Epicurus wrote himself, but we have Lucretius’ De Rerum Natura (“On the Nature of Things”), so we know where Epicurus stood. He posted his tweet on the ancient world’s version of the Internet (the scroll, the university and the public lecture), and that meme got around. When it reached Cicero (centuries later - much slower than dial-up, let alone DSL), the latter had to respond.
“What new cause, then, is there in nature which would make the atom swerve? Or surely you don't mean that they draw lots with each other to see which ones will swerve and which not/ Or why do they swerve by one minimal interval, and not by two or three? This is wishful thinking, not argument.” (De Fato [“On Fate”], 46).
Flash forward to a parallel debate between two of Materialism’s executioners, Albert Einstein and Niels Bohr. Einstein was arguing against the new quantum theory, asserting that it is incomplete. Because quantum phenomena have an irreducibly random element to even the most complete account of what occurs on that level, it cannot provide a complete causal explanation for anything that happens on the subatomic level. All it can provide is statistics, probabilities. For Einstein, that meant that there was something missing, something that would fill in the causal gaps and provide the theoretical ground for an explanation of all particle actions and interactions on the quantum level. “God,” he is famously rumored to have said, “does not play dice with the universe.” Cicero used lots in his scornful illustration. Einstein used dice. Both were objecting to the idea that at the level of the smallest bits of things some events happen apparently at random with no knowable physical explanation. Niels Bohr retorted, “Einstein, stop telling God what He can't do!”
The debate is over. Bohr won. Epicurus was right. Cicero and Einstein were wrong. The success of quantum theory vindicates the clinamen, the Epicurean swerve, and that success has been without parallel in the history of science. What’s more, there is no doubt that, when it comes to physics, quantum mechanics has the final word. There is no room for anything more ultimate. There is certainly room for a theoretical bridge between quantum theory and Einsteinian relativity at great distances, or even between the seemingly causeless weirdness on the quantum level and the undeniable ubiquity of causality at the level of ordinary sized objects. But there will never be a new discovery of physics that closes the causal gaps at the quantum level and thus revives the determinism of Laplace mentioned in the last blog post. It is impossible to determine, with absolute precision, both the location and momentum of any single subatomic particle, let alone all of them. That is Werner Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, one of the most important laws in quantum physics. This inviolable limit is not merely epistemological. It is not merely a consequence of the largeness and clumsiness of our scientific instruments compared to the objects they help us to observe and measure. The limit is ontological - it is part of the nature of the phenomena itself.
Now I am going to tell you about what I am calling, in this blog post, the new, weird, mystical dance of matter on the level of its smallest parts: the Electron Boogaloo.
The phrase “Electron Boogaloo” is the name I am using in this blog post to refer to the crazy dance that massless particles like photons and electrons do whenever they exhibit the characteristics of waves. It was first discovered with photons, individual particles of that form of electromagnetic energy we call light. All visible light is said to have these photons. Our eyes are sensitive enough, when adapted to total darkness, to detect a single photon hitting the iris of one of our eyes. But it was later discovered that light is not the only electromagnetic energy with wave-particle duality. Just as it was surprising that light, which we already knew traveled in waves, had a particle-aspect, so we would also be surprised later still that electrons move in waves like light under certain circumstances - even individual electrons. I call the quantum dance the Electron Boogaloo because we have electrons in every atom in our bodies. Thus every electron in every atom is doing this crazy dance.
This posting is already dragging, so I will give the details of the dance in tomorrow's installment.
Friday, June 12, 2009
It was 1820 when the astronomer and mathematician Pierre-Simon Laplace , known as the "French Newton" (and known for being more strictly Newtonian than Isaac Newton ever was), gave us this little gem:
We ought to regard the present state of the universe as the effect of its antecedent state and as the cause of the state that is to follow. An intelligence knowing all the forces acting in nature at a given instant, as well as the momentary positions of all things in the universe, would be able to comprehend in one single formula the motions of the largest bodies as well as the lightest atoms in the world, provided that its intellect were sufficiently powerful to subject all data to analysis; to it nothing would be uncertain, the future as well as the past would be present to its eyes. (Essai Philosophique sur les Probabilités forming the introduction to his Théorie Analytique des Probabilités, Paris: V Courcier; repr.)
That requires a translation from Vulcan into Ordinary Human, and such a translation needs a story.
We all probably remember that when we were in grade school we were taught about molecules and atoms and all that stuff - the little bits of things, so small you can't see 'em. I remember I had to memorize a definition for a seventh grade science quiz, and I drilled it into myself so hard I never forgot it: "a molecule is the smallest part of a substance that is still that substance." I was taught that water is a substance, and it is made of molecules that we call H2O. We call them that because they are made of atoms: two atoms of hydrogen and one of oxygen. But those atoms are not themselves water. I remember I was also told that the oxygen I breathe is a gas whose molecules are O2 (two atoms of oxygen). I remember wondering why a molecule of oxygen was "that substance" (oxygen), but an atom of oxygen wasn't. But that's besides the point. (Ok, if it's going to bother you for the rest of this post and distract you from the point, I'll tell you - atomic oxygen is not the O2 oxygen gas we breathe - if you were in a room full of free floating atomic oxygen but no O2, you'd asphyxiate).
That was what I learned when I first was taught about molecules and atoms. I was shown models of molecules, which looked like little colored balls or spheres fastened to each end of a thin dowel rod or stick. The little spheres were atoms. The atoms, I was told, were not really like little balls, but rather like little solar systems. There was an even tinier ballbearing or bunch of them, in the center, and very tiny dot-like spheres whirling about it very fast, like miniature planets around a sun. These, I was assured, are what everything is made of. If I knocked on the wood of my school desk or whatever table I was sitting at, the atoms of my hand were knocking against the atoms of the wood. The solidity of the table was the solidity of its atoms - they were the ultimately real, and very hard, literally uncuttable things that everything we see is made of. Atoms were so hard, so there, so real, so impenetrable, that if you split the atom, you have an atomic bomb - that's how much energy is released when the bonds holding an atom together are broken - that's one violent Balloon-Pop!
Fine. But then I was told that most of what we know as atoms is empty space - and thus everything I see, including myself, is mostly empty space. That was puzzling - why don't the atoms in my knuckles slip right through the empty space of the atoms of the table? Why don't I fall through the floor, through the earth, and just join my empty atomic space with the rest of empty space in outer space? Well, because there are force fields between these particles that are like the fields around the poles of magnets. They can attract, and they can repel. The protons in the nucleus of the atom attract the electrons, and the electrons of my atoms repel the electrons of the table's atoms. If you have ever seen two magnets push each other away without touching, you can get the picture. The solidity of the table against my rapping knuckles was the result of all those fields between the force-field-embedded particles of my knuckles and the force-field-embedded particles in the table repelling each other. Ah hah! Gotcha.
Now comes the interesting part. It seems, or so I was taught, that Everything That IS, that all of existence, is just a large, complicated story of a staggeringly huge quantity of particles inside their respective force fields bouncing up against all the other particles inside their force fields. The world was like a very large game of pool - a vast billiard hall with only one table. The particles (in fields of force), are all doing their thing, moving around, bouncing blindly and meaninglessly off each other, floating around in space. That, ultimately, is the story of the universe, reduced to one sentence. The universe, in summary, is a bunch of tiny little particles, the smallest of which, of course, are the ultimately real, solid, present things, banging against each other. The pattern of their interaction, the sum total result of all those collisions, is the whole story of the universe from start to finish, from its beginning until the end. The level of the smallest particles is the bottom level, the foundation, the existential substrate, that from which everything that is real derives its reality, its substance. From rocks to trees to plants to animals to people to planets to stars and galaxies, ultimately, it is all a bunch of atoms in the void. Everything larger than atom is just a collection of atoms. Nothing more. What's more, if we knew where all the particles were, down to the smallest ones, and where they were going - their positions and momentum, we could apply Newton's laws of motion and theoretically we could calculate the whole history of the universe, all the way back to the beginning, and all the way forward to the end. We could know everything that had ever happened and everything that ever will happen. That is what Laplace was saying.
Naturally, if everything we do, every move we make, every action we perform, can be reduced to the inevitable consequence of the smallest parts of the matter in our bodies blindly and necessarily obeying the laws of physics, that is the end of freedom. No traditional notion of free will or responsible moral agency can be maintained if this worldview is affirmed, nor can any coherent, meaningful idea of God, of soul or spirit and life after death, be believed, if that truly is the whole story of us and the world, of everything that exists. However comforting such beliefs may be, however useful they are in constructing a law-based society and maintaining a coherent, orderly civilization, at best these are convenient fictions, civilly and sociologically necessary "white lies".
This is how one of the contemporary giants of English philosophy, John Searle, expresses this view from his famous 1984 Reith lectures:
On the one hand we are inclined to say that since nature consists of particles and their relations with each other, and since everything can be accounted for in terms of those particles and their relations, there is simply no room for freedom of the will...The strongest image for conveying this conception of determinism is still that formulated by Laplace: If an ideal observer knew the positions of all the particles at a given instant and knew all the laws governing their movements, he could predict and retrodict the entire history of the universe. (Minds, Brains and Science, 86-87)
So as recently as 1984, a very well-respected philosopher who is a very strong proponent of what he calls "the Scientific Worldview" (which is his question-begging term for materialism as I have described it), said that Laplace's "image" is STILL the "strongest" one. It is clear from the context that he does not consider Laplacian determinism to be, in any meaningful way, outdated, let alone overturned, by the fundamental and revolutionary changes to physics that have taken place since the 19th century. Even in the light of the great advances we have achieved in our knowledge of the physical world in the 189 years since 1820, Laplace's illustration and the intuition it expresses is still, in all its significant aspects, up-to-date, according to Searle. And Searle is not alone or out on a limb in holding this position. The web-based, online Stanford Encyclopedia article on "Casual Determinism" used the Laplace quote I gave above as the standard expression of physicalism causal determinism (an integral and necessary part of metaphysical materialism, the dominant academic, scientific, and intellectual paradigm). In fact, I copied it from there and pasted it here. You can find it at this url:
It remains for a follow-up to this already-overlong blog article to explain this, but for now, let me blow the gaff loud and proud:
Laplace was dead wrong, and all those soul-denying materialist bastards know it!
Laplacian determinism, and the naturalist, physicalist materialism it entails, is totally out of date and, in fact, completely refuted, by post-Newtonian physics. Einstein's Special Theory of Relativity, by rendering scientifically meaningless a universal present moment, knocked the Laplacian version of Newtonian classical mechanics to the ground, and then Neils Bohr, Erwin Schrodinger, Max Planck, and Werner Heisenberg, performed the coup de grace.
Materialism is Dead On Arrival.
But it is such a useful fiction (which, ironically, is how materialists characterize the notion that human beings are free agents, morally responsible for their behavior) that its exponents could not bring themselves to declare it deceased. The worked valiantly to revive the corpse, but the long, monotonous flat-line beep did not waver. They should have admitted defeat in the face of Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle and said "Ok, Stop CPR and Call It: Time of Death, 1927." But they could not do it.
So they have been propping the carcass up like Andrew McCarthy and Jonathan Silverman propped up Terry Kiser in Weekend At Bernie's. They put on a bold, brave face and act as if nothing is wrong. All is well. Materialism is fine. Strong as an ox. Healthier than ever.
Don't you believe it!
It took over a hundred years for Relativity and quantum physics to kill Laplace's determinist materialistic version of Newtonian physics. It has been eighty-two years since it took its last breath on its own. That is one long-ass weekend! When are they going to get tired of hauling Bernie's dead ass around and waving his arm to passing onlookers? It's time to pull the plug! Materialism isn't in a coma. It's dead. Bury the body already. Give it to the worms - they're hungry.
In the next post, which I will publish very soon, I will present the autopsy report in detail. I will show exactly how materialism died. It will be like an episode of Philosophical CSI.
To Be Continued in "Weekend At Bernie's 2: Electron Boogaloo".... so STAY TUNED, TRUE BELIEVERS! SAME BLOG TIME! SAME BLOG CHANNEL!
Link to first installment of series of sequel posts: