Category: Quantum Gravity

Invisibility, Anti-gravity, Ethics of Time Travel, & Balonium

I’ve just received my schedule for Philcon, being held in a bit over a week, November 8th thru 10th.  Curious collection of subjects, but looks like a lot of fun.  If you are in the Philly area, it would be great if you can come by!

Sat 1:00 PM in Crystal Ballroom Two (1 hour)

THE INVISIBILITY CLOAK (1553)

[Panelists: John Ashmead (mod)]

How do we hide a jet fighter, a tank, even a city from sight? For
millennia people have dreamt of invisibility rings, caps, & cloaks:
how close are we to Harry Potter territory? Progress in the last ten
years has been extraordinary, and, with some help from general
relativity, 3d printers, advanced photonics, and more than a pinch
of ingenuity, we can now bend, fold, & spindle light in ways
unimagined ten years ago
Sat 3:00 PM in Crystal Ballroom Two (1 hour)
A WEIGHTY MATTER: ANTI-GRAVITY AND ARTIFICIAL GRAVITY (1404)

[Panelists: John Ashmead (mod), Ed Bishop, Walter F. Cuirle, Jay
Wile]

Both creating and negating gravity are very common tropes in science
fiction. It’s taken for granted in most Science Fiction that
spacecraft have normal gravity, although they do not spin. How this
is achieved is rarely discussed. Anti-gravity is nearly as common,
(and convenient for the plot).. Are either of these concepts
scientifically plausible? Could such a technology ever actually be
achieved

 

Sat 6:00 PM in Plaza II (Two) (1 hour)
THE ETHICS OF TIME TRAVEL (1501)

[Panelists: John Ashmead (mod), Evelyn Leeper, Andrew C. Ely]

Everyone talks about killing Hitler in his crib, or stopping Booth
from shooting Lincoln. But if you could change the past, would you
Sat 7:00 PM in Plaza III (Three) (1 hour)
BALONIUM, UNOBTAINIUM AND UPSIDASIUM (1530)

[Panelists: John Ashmead (mod), Darrell Schweitzer, John Monahan,
Sharon Lee]

From cavorite to kryptonite, science fiction fiction writers love to
add new elements to the periodic table. How do you create
convincing imaginary substances and what do you do with them

Talks now on Slideshare

I’ve uploaded a number of my more recent talks to Slideshare.  Physics, with occasionally a wee bit of speculation admixed:

  1. Thought experiments – talk done 1st April 2012 for the Ben Franklin Thinking Society.  Role of thought experiments in history, use by Galileo & by noted violinist, how they can turn into real experiments.
  2. Not Your Grandfather’s Gravity - done last year (2011) on the latest developments in the suddenly hot area of gravity.  The stuff on faster-than-light neutrinos is, alas, already out of date:  boring won:  looks as if the FTL neutrinos were due to experimental error.   But Verlinde’s entropic gravity is still one of the most promising lines of attack.
  3. Temporal Paradoxes - physics talk given at NASA’s Goddard Space Center 2011.  A slightly NASA-fied version of a talk I’d given at several SF conventions in 2010.
  4. Quantum time – physics talk given at Feynman Festival in Olomouc in 2009.  I did popular versions of that talk as well.
  5. How to build a (real) time machine – talk given at several SF conventions in 2009.
  6. Life, the Universe, & the Second Law of Thermodynamics.  Or, the Infinite Probability drive.  About the role of entropy in the universe, complete with Babelfish.  2008.
  7. Faster Than Light - talk on faster than light travel:  theory, practice, applications. Given at several SF conventions in 2007.
  8. Confused at a Higher Level - arguably one of the funniest talks ever given about problems in quantum mechanics. OK, competition not that fierce.  Given at several SF conventions in 2004.
  9. The Physics of Time Travel.  Review of time, with respect to the bending, stretching, folding, & tormenting thereof.  Given at Philcon & Balticon (in various versions) in 2003.
  10. The Future of Time Travel - mostly about the science fiction thereof.  Probably 2002.

These are not all of my talks — I’ve probably done 20 or 30 SF talks over the last 20 years, at least one per year — these are just the ones done using Keynote or Powerpoint.  The 2005 & 2006 talks have gone walkabout.  If they reappear, I will upload.  I generally talk at Balticon, Philcon, & more recently Capclave.  I’ve spoken twice at Farpoint, but that is really more of a media convention, not as good a fit.

Talks before 2002 were done with Word & overheads. Overheads are easier to make than slides, but have a tendency to get bent, flipped, out of order, or in one especially memorable talk:  burnt.  That talk I was doing at the Franklin Inn Club: the projector failed at the last minute & I had to rent another from a nearby camera shop.  The rented projector ran hot. If I stayed on a specific slide for more than 60 seconds, the slide began to smoke.  Literally.  Colored smoke of course, wafting in strange tendrils towards the ceiling. Taught me a lot about pacing, mostly to make it faster.
By the way the word you are looking for, in re me & time travel, is not obsessed, it is focused.  Let’s just be clear about that.

Other talk(s), marginally less speculative:

  1. Overview of Backbone - talk on the jQuery library Backbone, given at PhillyCoders. April 2012.
  2. How to Destroy a Database – talk on database security.  October 2007.  Wile E. Coyote & other experts on correctness & security are enlisted to help make key points.
  3. Getting started with MySQL – talk given at PACS and my Macintosh programming group in 2006. Manages to work in the Sumerians, the Three Stooges, a rocket-powered daschhund, some unicorns, and – of course – dolphins (the totem animal of MySQL).

Not Your Grandfather’s Gravity – 3rd time is the charm

I did this talk — basically interesting developments in gravity & related subjects — for the third time at Philcon this last Saturday.  The talk was scheduled for 1pm, so I spent a few hours in the morning refreshing it.

The big news was that the OPERA project had done a second version of the experiment that saw superluminal neutrinos, dealing with some of the objections (objectinos?) to their first results.  They sacrificed quantity of neutrinos to quality:  going from 16,000 to 20, but getting much tighter time resolution.   This made the New York Times Saturday morning, so I clipped the headline for use in a slide.  Good stuff, but of course everyone wants to see Fermilab & others reproduce the experimental results.

However the combination of refreshing the talk, roadwork on Interstate 76, & a parade or some such on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway meant I got in with no time to check the AV setup before the talk.  While the impromptu AV crew wrastled the difficulties into submission (thanks Margaret Trebling, Jay Wile, Ron Bushyager, & Ferne Welch!) I invited the audience to “open the theater of your mind” & painted word pictures thereon till the AV was working.  Didn’t take the crew long:  we hadn’t even gotten past the Black Death slide before we had light!  Actually I think the difficulties may have helped the talk go over; shared troubles create bonding between speaker & audience.  Lots of good questions; SRO crowd.

As I promised then, I have posted the talk as Keynote, PDF, PowerPoint, & HTML.  Comments, questions, and suggestions very welcome!

Had a lot of fun on the six panels I was on; will post on them over the next few days.

11/23/2011 I’ve just updated the references page to include the references from the talk.

“Not Your Grandfather’s Gravity” at the Philadelphia SF Convention

I’ll be doing my Not Your Grandfather’s Gravity talk this coming Saturday at Philcon at 1pm.   I’ve been scheduled for six panels as well, five as moderator.  These are on Fiction of China Mieville, Alien Life in the Solar System (besides us), Future War, Tapping the Quantum Foam (entertaining nonsense:  crank up the balonium generators), What Makes H. P. Lovecraft Unstoppable (ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn), and Dark Matter gets Darker.

Full schedule:

Fri 8:00 PM in Plaza V (Five) (1 hour)
THE FICTION OF CHINA MIEVILLE (771)

   [Panelists: John Ashmead (mod), Meredith Schwartz, Andrew C. Murphy]

   Exploring the work of the popular author of Perdido Street Station
   and others.  What makes his work so special

Sat 12:00 PM in Crystal Ballroom Two (1 hour)
ALIEN LIFE IN THE SOLAR SYSTEM (848)

   [Panelists: John Ashmead (mod), Alexis Gilliland, Eric Kotani]

   Making up planets around stars we do not know is relatively easy.
   Let's talk about a more difficult approach... imagining alien
   lifeforms in the solar system as we now know it

Sat 1:00 PM in Plaza III (Three) (1 hour)
NOT YOUR GRANDFATHER'S GRAVITY (890)

   [Speaker: John Ashmead]

   Einstein's theory of gravity is our best to date -- even though it
   is known to be incomplete. Now it is in the crosshairs! Several
   competitors -- string theory, loop quantum gravity, emergent gravity
   -- have come out in the open & it's a horse race! We'll look at
   weird twists of space & time, dark energy, neutrinos just spotted
   going faster than light, the curiously shy Higgs particle, & the
   whole universe from its birth in the Big Bang to its death -- &
   possible rebirth

Sat 7:00 PM in Plaza II (Two) (1 hour)
FUTURE WAR (748)

   [Panelists: Alexis Gilliland (mod), John Ashmead, Amy Bailey, Frank
   O'Brien]

   It's commonly said among Air Force officers today that the last
   human fighter pilots have been born. Drones and remotely-piloted
   planes are the future of air warfare. What about the other branches
   of the armed forces? Robots are filling more and more roles. Will
   there come a point where there are few or no human soldiers? What
   are the implications? Is this a good or bad development

Sat 8:00 PM in Plaza V (Five) (1 hour)
TAPPING THE QUANTUM FOAM: CAN "ZERO POINT" ENERGY EVER BE REAL? (902)

   [Panelists: John Ashmead (mod), Jay Wile, Marvin Kaye]

   Infinite free energy drawn from the quantum vacuum - con games and
   pseudoscience today. But does our present understanding of quantum
   physics suggest it could ever become reality? Would the process pose
   any dangers

Sat 10:00 PM in Plaza III (Three) (1 hour)
WHAT MAKES H.P. LOVECRAFT UNSTOPPABLE? (826)

   [Panelists: John Ashmead (mod), James Chambers, Chris Pisano,
   Darrell Schweitzer, Eric Avedissian, Roman Ranieri]

   Great writers, we contend, are the ones the critics cannot stop.
   Major critics, notably Edmund Wilson, tried, but to no avail. Today
   Lovecraft is famous world-wide.  Yet when he died in 1937, his only
   published book was a wretchedly amateur production which had barely
   sold a hundred copies.  What made the difference?  Was it all those
   role-playing games and plish Cthulhu toys? The movies? Or something
   inherent in the texts

Sun 1:00 PM in Plaza V (Five) (1 hour)
DARK MATTER GETS DARKER: NEW DISCOVERIES, NEW MYSTERIES (904)

   [Panelists: John Ashmead (mod), Paul Halpern, Jay Wile, Eric Kotani]

   Dark matter detection experiment CoGeNT has seen a possible signal,
   similar to the much-disputed DAMA/LIBRA result, that might confirm
   the controversial claim that dark matter has not only been observed,
   but that it varies with the seasons. Meanwhile the XENON100 detector
   has just released results from its most recent rum: they don’t see
   anything. 

   Are we closing in on dark matter, or is it getting more mysterious?

Not your grandfather’s gravity redux at Capclave

I’m doing “Not Your Grandfather’s Gravity” this evening at Capclave:  had to revise a lot:  added in the superluminal neutrinos from the OPERA project, the curious incident of the Higgs particle detection, and the Nobel just given out for Dark Energy:  half the slides changed!  PDF, HTML.

I’m also doing panels on Hard SF & Alien Cultures, Making Fictional Cities Come Alive (when real ones do, run!), and Astronomy & Science Fiction.  If you are in the DC area, I look forward to seeing you.

Gravity unexpectedly popular, levity suspected

Read more »

Not your grandfather’s gravity

Talk tomorrow at the Baltimore Science Fiction Convention:

Several possible modifications to Einstein’s theory have been proposed & may even have some experimental support; in addition to string theory & loop quantum gravity, is gravity a thermodynamic effect? Astronomers are looking hard at gravity waves in search of clues as to the origin of the universe (or even as to whether the universe had an origin), and …!

I’ve just finished the talk — main problem, too many interesting possible side channels — and have uploaded it as pdf,  keynote, power point, & html.  Comments welcome!

Temporal Paradoxes Talk Online

I had a lot of fun putting my NASA talk Temporal Paradoxes together.  The feedback I got from the assembled multitude at the Radnor Library last week was extremely helpful, leading to a near complete rework of the talk, in the interests of making it clearer.   Thanks!

The pdf & keynote versions are now online.

Reality versus free will, escaping the Holodeck, are the laws of physics “more guidelines than rules”?, and more!

I’m doing five panels and my Physics of Paradox talk at the Philadelphia Science Fiction Convention, starting in a few hours.

Quite a lot of fun subjects for my panels:  Augmented Reality (for those who can’t get enough reality), Time Travel & Free Will, Are the Laws of Physics Laws (or really more just Guidelines?), Is the Universe a Hologram (& can I leave the Holodeck?), my Physics of Paradox talk in its final & perfected version, & What Came Before the Big Bang (& are we in trouble with whatever it is?)

[I've augmented the reality of the Physics of Paradox slides by adding the spoken text to them:  see the Keynote (for Mac users), PowerPoint (for PC users), and  annotated pdf version.]

My complete schedule is:

Fri 10:00 PM in Crystal Ballroom Two (1 hour)
AUGMENTED REALITY
[Panelists: John Ashmead (mod), Earl Bennett, Rock Robertson, Bud Sparhawk]
We’ve all heard about virtual reality and the potential it holds for gaming, learning, medicine etc., but augmented reality, while less well-known, is more likely to have a major effect on everyday life. Imagine wearing a pair of glasses while driving that produce flashing arrows to indicate your turns, or looking at a city street through your cell phone screen and seeing each building labeled by name and type of business. Learn what’s happening now and what we can expect in the future.
Sat 11:00 AM in Plaza VII (Seven) (1 hour)
DOES TIME TRAVEL ALLOW FOR FREE WILL?
[Panelists: John Ashmead (mod), Michael F. Flynn, John Grant, Helen Collins, Lawrence Kramer]
Suppose that  three weeks in the future I come back and sit on this panel,does this not imply that nothing can happen in the future toprevent me from getting in a time machine and coming back? Does this mean that time travel implies that the future is pre-determined?
Sat 12:00 PM in Crystal Ballroom Two (1 hour)
YE CANNA CHANGE THE LAWS O’ PHYSICS! OR CAN YOU?
[Panelists: Paul Halpern (mod), John Ashmead, Jay Wile, Tony Rothman]
Are the laws of nature really the same across all space and time? No principal is more fundamental to physics than the idea that the laws of nature remain the same at all times and in all places. Much we believe to be true about the universe depends upon this concept. However, new observations have revealed anomalies that suggest that such physical laws as the fine structure constant and the speed of light may actually have changed over time. Will we soon have to rethink our ideas about physics and cosmology
Sat 2:00 PM in Crystal Ballroom Two (1 hour)
IS THE UNIVERSE A HOLOGRAM?
[Panelists: Paul Halpern (mod), John Ashmead, Jay Wile, Tony Rothman]
Is the universe a hologram? One of the strangest ideas to come out of modern physics is the holographic principal, which speculates that the universe may be a multi-dimensional projection of information encoded (in Planck length-sized  squares, each containing one bit of information) on a two-dimensional boundary called the cosmological horizon. A new experiment searching for gravity waves may have accidentally found evidence for this theory that was predicted by supporters.
Sat 3:00 PM in Crystal Ballroom Two (1 hour)
THE PHYSICS OF PARADOX
[Panelists: John Ashmead (mod)]
There is nothing in modern physics to rule out time travel, save paradox.  And — thanks to quantum mechanics — it seems any potential paradoxes would be self-canceling.  Therefore the only thing standing between us and time travel is not knowing how to go about it, exactly.  But several recent papers have proposed ways to use the Large Hadron Collider at CERN to create particle loops that
go backwards in time.  Now what?
Sat 5:00 PM in Crystal Ballroom Two (1 hour)
WHAT CAME BEFORE THE BIG BANG?
[Panelists: John Ashmead (mod), Paul Halpern, Eric Kotani, Tony Rothman]
Was there a time before the beginning? As incredible as it seems, new discoveries have given scientists clues about what may have existed prior to the beginning of our universe. Scientists at the University of Pennsylvania have developed a mathematical model that traces through the Big Bang to a shrinking universe that exhibits physics similar to ours. Measurements of the Cosmic Microwave
Background radiation reveal an imprint from the earliest stages of the universe may also shed light on what came before. The following links are offered as jumping off points to potential panelists who would like to investigate this topic:

The Physics of Paradox — Followup

Gave the Physics of Paradox talk at the Library of Congress Thursday (10/21/2010) & then again at Capclave Saturday (10/23/2010).   Good audiences both times, lots of good questions.  At Capclave talk was standing room only & Brent Warner, from the Goddard Space Center has asked if I would be interested in doing it there this spring.

I made some changes to the talk over the weekend, in response to audience feedback & further reflection.  The latest version is now up as Keynote (for Mac users), PowerPoint (for PC users), PDF in slides-only and also annotated forms.

I’d like to thank Dick Ladson, Walt Mankowski, Bruce Bloom, Shelley Handen, Ed & Marguerite Rutkowski, & of course Ferne Welch for their feedback at the dry run, which improved it immensely.  And I would like to thank Nathan Evans of the Library of Congress & Colleen Cahill of Capclave (& as it happens the Library of Congress) for having me.  Lots of fun!

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