Sunday, January 13, 2013

Dreams of Smoking

I still have dreams of smoking cigarettes.

It's been maybe five years since I quit.  I was 20 or so then, and I'm 25 now, so maybe five years.  Cold turkey; went to bed having smoked a whole pack that day, woke up and haven't touched 'em since.  It was during finals week, my first semester at my Alma Mater.  It was really stressful and I have never hated anything more in my entire life.

Of course, I haven't "entirely" quit smoking.  I still smoke a pipe, sometimes, when I'm in certain moods.  Some friends of mine smoke cigars and I've joined them more than a few times.

But I have not touched a cigarette since.  Except in my dreams.

When I first quit and was furious with withdrawal it was understandable.  And those stopped after a while, too.  But I guess they didn't quit entirely, either.  I would still wake up and recall the feel of smooth smoke trickle down my throat and fill up my lungs with the calm and succor, remember the feel of the cigarette between my fingers, the fluid motion of tapping out the ash.

Today, just now, randomly, I remembered several dreams I've had in the past month or so about smoking.  Usually, I was waiting somewhere, and there'd be a cigarette in my hand.  I'd smoke, then feel guilty about it since I've quit.  But, I'd console myself, it's just one, and no one's around to watch, and I'm not going to do it again after this.  A one-time lapse is allowable.

So I would.

That was my thinking in my dreams.  It's not much different than my thinking in the waking world.  Thankfully I haven't actually relapsed, and thankfully my conscious mind apparently misses cigarettes much, much less than my dream-self.

Funnily enough, in my dream, I would remember the other times in dreams that I'd also smoked a cigarette under similar conditions, and think, "See, we can do it now and it's not going to take over your life; it's fine; it's our thing."

I don't know if I'll always have these dreams.  I'd prefer not to.  At the least I should stop trying to recount them while awake, as just remembering the smoking-sensation of my dreams with my full mind makes me really long for them again in reality.

Anyway, I don't know what any of that means, or if dreams ever do mean anything, but it was on my mind and it's my blog, so I shared it.

Friday, January 11, 2013

What was Skynet Thinking?

A lot of people have a wonky understanding of time travel, based mostly on Back to the Future.  There probably isn't any such thing as time travel, so in that sense I guess anything you believe about time travel is true.  But the common view, that someone going back to the past from the future is able to alter events in the past from how they already happened, doesn't even make sense.

When we think of traveling to the past, we always think of this in terms of us, now, going to the past, and not in terms of someone else from the future coming to the present, so we we tend to think that we can change it.  Really, any "change" you make was already made, by you, before you left, and could have been recorded by historians if they had bothered to write about it.

It's an almost understandable mistake, due to our perspective.

But what the heck was Skynet thinking?

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Cosmic Order

Sometimes, it's comforting to know that, at the end of the day, there are a few basic principles which govern all interactions in the universe, and that they are always the same principles; the ones you've known your whole life.

No, I'm not talking about physics.  Nor about math.  I'm talking about principles much, much deeper, much more cosmically valid that those silly math and physics.  I'm talking about Murphy's Laws.

Today, I had these foundational constraints of existence verified in a particularly potent manner.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

The Uncertainty Principle and Energy Non-Conservation and Why Your Textbook is Wrong

I read this all the time, in physics books and articles and on the internet: Apparent violation of conservation of energy is possible at the quantum scale for very short periods of time due to the Heisenberg uncertainty relation:
∆E∆t ≥h/2π
In that equation, ∆E is the "uncertainty" in the energy and ∆t the "uncertainty" in the time, meaning the accuracy to which we are able to measure these values.  The h in the equation is Planck's constant (which I didn't write as h-bar because I didn't want to encode LaTeX for one equation).  The two are inversely proportional, so as one goes up, the other must go down, so for short times, you can get enough "free" energy to send a particle through an energy barrier.

This is wrong.  Wrong, wrong, wrong.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Why Travel to Hyperspace Would Instantly Kill You

So, I've wondered a lot about a way to construct a "system of magic" (as often appear in modern fantasy works) from a collection of physical laws.  And until I got carried up in classes last semester, that was one of my main focuses of attention.

I was thinking that, in an alternative universe, there's no reason why they should have the same number of spatial dimensions as us.  So why not four, or five, or ten?

Because if you traveled to four-dimensional space, then you would find your skin insufficient to contain all of the air, blood, half-digested food, and maybe even internal organs that now find an extra degree of freedom within which to diffuse.

Five and higher dimensions makes it worse; the many things inside of you that keep you alive would disperse and splatter even faster.

So far I have discovered that to have any sort of meaningful adventure in a parallel universe, it must have the same number of spatial dimensions as we do (namely 3), it must have at least one time-like dimension, the electromagnetic interaction must exist and must recognize and interact with your electrons and protons.  Gravity would be nice, and I don't know enough about weak and strong interactions to know if they would be necessary.

There are most likely other limitations and dangers in such fantastic travel that have not yet come to mind.

In short, the inter-universe questing of children from our universe can never be to any world truly alien from our own.  Which is very sad.

Update: spam bots kept specially favoring this multi-year-old post in particular with travel blog advertisements disguised as comments, so I have disabled comments on this post.

Monday, December 31, 2012

To be a cat

It must be really nice to be a cat.

I think about it a lot, about the feline excitement when the humans open the front door.  You put a paw out, and the tip of your nose out.  Adventure is calling you; you stop to sniff it and feel the breeze of it in your whiskers.

The cat adventures that cats go on throughout the day; stalking through the neighbors' gardens for the scurrying, squeaking things to hunt.  Pouncing atop fences and exploring, seeing the sights humans hide from each others eyes and all the secrets of backyards and under porches and inside garages.  Wandering to the woods, and hiding up tress or under holes when strange humans and dogs appear, then back out, to stare cautiously and curiously at the dancing water of a creek.

The human is making aggravated human noises at you, as your wet nose and twitching whiskers are tasting the adventures before you.  So you turn your lamping cat eyes at the human in pity, at the poor human things that never hunt and never climb or jump or pounce, and merely open your doors and cans.  The human makes more noises and starts to close the door.

But you tense up, staring in to the bright light of the yard.  You hesitate; crossing the threshold, again in to the unknown, leaving behind the familiar for the wide world outside.

"Cat, will you move?" the human yells.

And as the heros in the legends who received the questing call, reluctantly you leave behind your home; you answer to adventure, allow yourself to be swept in the hunting and prowling it affords, and wonder if you will return, later in the day, the same cat as when you left.

Monday, December 24, 2012

What IS Santa?: a proposal for a modern understanding

For as long as I can remember, every Christmas, I have been confused by what exactly Santa Claus is.

Historically, Santa Claus is St. Nicholas of Myra, a Christian archbishop in modern-day Turkey who lived during the Roman persecution of the Church and was present at the Council of Nicea.  He was claimed to be a wonder-worker, and was also well-known for his anonymous gifts to the needy.  He has historically been honored on the 6th of December, and because of his generous reputation convents and monasteries began a tradition of sneaking out at night and delivering gifts to the poor. (see here, here, and here for references, the middle one being especially fantastic)

Among the hundred or so other things of which he was patron saint, one of them was sailors.  For this reason, sailors would often find themselves back home on the 6th, and be able to give a present obtained at sea to their children "from St. Nicholas".

That all makes sense to me.  Santa was a really cool guy who loved the poor and Jesus, and he was such a great guy we still do nice things for children and the poor because of him.  "Here's an extra toy, son, in honor of this really great guy."  Awesome, sign me up!

What doesn't make sense, though, is the weird Santa of American folklore, the guy who lives at the North Pole with a cadre of elves, who flies around in a sleigh pulled by magic reindeer and sneaks in to your chimney to deliver gifts to all the kids all over the world.

I mean, what is he?

goblin --> elf, Great Goblin |-> Santa
This is literally how I understood
this as a child
The Night Before Christmas, arguably the progenitor of the modern mythofigure, describes Santa as a "right jolly old elf".  As a kid, I took that to heart and assumed Santa was like the Elf King by virtue of being the tallest and fattest of the elves, and that makes him in charge (I guess the same way the Great Goblin in the Hobbit is king of the goblins).