Category: Reality

A Star Gate to Washington DC opens tomorrow

A fourth gravitational wave has been detected. Three solar masses worth of gravitational energy released, leaving a 53 solar mass black hole behind.

As I do my now more than highly polished presentation on StarGates:  the Theory & Practice.

New developments, just in the last week:

  1. A fourth gravitational wave was detected last week, 9/27/2017.  This was far more finely localized than the previous; 25 observatories are looking for signs of the event in the electromagnetic spectrum.
  2. And Kip Thorne — inventor of scientifically plausible StarGates — was awarded the Nobel Prize this week for his work on developing feasible gravitational wave detectors.   Perhaps someday he will be even more famous as the inventor of StarGates!

So I’ve folded these in my talk & look forward to giving it tomorrow at 3pm at Capclave, the Washington DC Science Fiction Convention. If you are in the area, I hope to see you there.

PS.  I will also be on a panel on Engineering in Fantasy & Science Fiction:  I love it when we discuss the thermodynamics of magic & the magic of engineering!

And a followup:

Followed Tom Holtz at Capclave:  this is always good & bad:  good because it guarantees a nice crowd, bad because he is a hard act to follow.  The assembled multitude was enthusiastic, always nice.

And the panel on engineering in F & SF also went well:  Fran Wilde did a great job moderating, had a good supply of questions & made sure everything had a whack at each, so not the usual domination by 2 or 3 of the more talky types. Audience lively (in a good way, not in the hurled rutabagas way.)

Quantum Mechanics, Reality, & You

I’ll be doing my talk “Quantum Mechanics, Reality, & You” tomorrow at Capclave, the DC SF Convention.  I have the latest slides up on slideshare.

Enjoyed putting the talk together.  I go thru the interpretations of quantum mechanics — some spectacularly silly — and then argue that quantum mechanics is real, you & I — not so much.  🙂

Also doing panels at Capclave on Hot Steamed Punk, Practical Uses of Faster-Than-Light Travel, Choose Your Own Apocalypse, & Great Cthulhu:  Threat or Menace?


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)
[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)
[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)
[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)
[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)
[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)
[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:

A Very Short Introduction to Nothing

Was there a creation or was there always something? Could there even be nothing if there were no one to know there was nothing? The more I tried to understand these enigmas, the more I felt that I was at the edge of either true enlightenment or madness. — Frank Close

I’ve just finished the concise & entertaining “Nothing: A Very Short Introduction” by Frank Close. It’s part of the “Very Short Introduction” series from Oxford University Press. They are generally reliable. The obvious trap is for the author to talk more about his own views/work than his subject in general, but of the 20 I’ve read, only two have made this mistake (Hume & Ancient Warfare, if you must know).

Frank Close, who is a big name in nothing, in the physics of nothing that is, does a nice, very short job of introducing it to us, starting with the Rigveda’s Creation Hymn:

There was neither non-existence nor existence then.

There was neither the realm of space nor the sky which is beyond.

What stirred? Where?

up through the Higgs vacuum, the idea that the vacuum is not empty but is pervaded by the Higgs fields, which is responsible for giving particles mass. CERN was built partly to check this out & the cernistas are now hot on the trail of the Higgs.

I’m suspicious of the Higgs particle myself; it has a slightly kludgy feel to it, at least to my taste. I think particles have had a good run for their money over the last century & and now it is time for emergent phenomena to have a go. For instance, only a few percent of the mass of the protons & neutrons comes from the masses of their constituent quarks; most of their mass is really from the energy (via the familiar mass = E/c-squared) of the quantum dance of those quarks. If most mass comes from the energy stored in quantum interactions, could all mass be the result of such? Certainly an interesting question & and would leave us with one less variable to explain, with a slightly less massive problem.

In fact, I’d go further myself: space and time are difficult to understand, what if they are merely averages over the quantum wave function of the rest of the universe? and all of our universe is merely the friction of one part of the quantum wave function of the universe against another part. No mass, no space, no time, no vacuum, nothing but interactions.

The Block Universe

fmany of

‘Can a cube that does not last for any time at all, have a real

Filby became pensive. ‘Clearly,’ the Time Traveller proceeded, ‘any
real body must have extension in _four_ directions: it must have
Length, Breadth, Thickness, and–Duration. But through a natural
infirmity of the flesh, which I will explain to you in a moment, we
incline to overlook this fact. There are really four dimensions,
three which we call the three planes of Space, and a fourth, Time.
There is, however, a tendency to draw an unreal distinction between
the former three dimensions and the latter, because it happens that
our consciousness moves intermittently in one direction along the
latter from the beginning to the end of our lives.’Clearest.

‘Clearly,’ the Time Traveller proceeded, ‘any real body must have extension in four directions: it must have Length, Breadth, Thickness, and–Duration. But through a natural infirmity of the flesh, which I will explain to you in a moment, we incline to overlook this fact. There are really four dimensions, three which we call the three planes of Space, and a fourth, Time. There is, however, a tendency to draw an unreal distinction between the former three dimensions and the latter, because it happens that our consciousness moves intermittently in one direction along the latter from the beginning to the end of our lives.’

– H. G. Well’s The Time Machine

This is still the best single explanation of the idea of the  “block universe”, though Well’s Time Traveller does not use that term. As Julian Barbour puts it his The End of Time: “The objective world simply is, it does not happen. Only to the gaze of my consciousness, crawling upward along the life line of my body, does a section of this world come to life as a fleeting image in space which continuously changes in time.”
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