Many Worlds

Stranger than fiction: parallel universes beguile science –, Philippine News for Filipinos

Is the universe — correction: “our” universe — no more than a speck of cosmic dust amid an infinite number of parallel worlds? A staple of mind-bending science fiction, the possibility of multiple universes has long intrigued hard-nosed physicists, mathematicians and cosmologists too. We may not be able — at least not yet — to prove they exist, many serious scientists say, but there are plenty of reasons to think that parallel dimensions are more than figments of eggheaded imagination.

I just finished reading His Dark Materials a few minutes ago, so it was interesting to run across this.

The many worlds hypothesis makes sense to me. And it also seems logical how, if such worlds exist, they’re separated.

Basically, it seems obvious that the vectors of parallel realities lie on a perpendicular axis of time to the one we’re aware of. Think about it: the usual framework suggests that you’ve got an infinite number of parallel universes. Some of them are very different from our own, but there are also an infinite number which are only very slightly different: one leaf on one tree in Yellowstone Park is eighteen molecules narrower, or something ridiculous that. In our universe, one of a billion billion electrons in my hand zigged; in the universe next door, it zagged.

If so, then clearly, what would differentiate these universes is that different things happen in them. The key word here is happen; we measure the course of events with time. The difference between, say, Gordon Brown’s current vector in the universe and Winston Churchill’s is very very minute, in terms of three-dimensional coordinates, since both men occupied the same house (10 Downing Street in London) and held the same job (Prime Minister of England) and therefore probably the same offices. In the first three dimensions we perceive, their positions overlap a hundred times a day.

But they are separated by decades of time, though they occupy much the same physical locality. To accurately differentiate Gordon Brown’s vector from Churchill’s, you must describe each vector in four dimensions.

So: presuming these parallel universes began almost entirely identically (which is not at all an obvious assumption), what differentiates them? Not time flow; presumably most or all came into existence at the same time, or nearly so. The universe where the electron in my hand zigged instead of zagged must be identical in age, otherwise my hand would not be there for the electron to zig or to zag. It must also, logically, be the same dimensions as this universe, otherwise my hand would not be there again; it would be somewhere else, described by some other 3-dimensional coordinate.

So if this sort of thing is true (and I’ve seen research that suggests this is a pretty good likelihood, specifically some of David Deutsch’s interesting experimentation with single-photon slit methodology) what differentiates them? Not that things do happen, and not where things happen…but rather what happens.

Which suggests the idea that each universe follows a single, directional, but different timeline. They’re all moving forward (presumably). Entropy happens in each one. It just happens in a different way.

So if you have a series of single-dimensional lines running parallel to one another, by definition, their position is identical in one dimension but different in another. Imagine laying a bunch of pencils lined up along the edge of a table. They all occupy the same position along the width axis of the table…but they’re different along the height axis. (And the depth axis, but that’s another problem entirely.)

So it seems logical to assume that the difference between the location of these universes is along a second temporal dimension, one of possibility: what happens in each universe. Same time flow, same size…just different possibilities.

It also seems obvious that, if these universes do sort of line up like soldiers, that neighboring universes would be nearly identical. If you were, for example, to stand outside of all of these worlds and start by observing our world and its direct neighbors, you’d find them almost identical. The ones on either other side would be a little more different (two electrons in my hand would zig instead of zag), the next two slightly more so, and so on, until you’ve covered every possibility (I — or the “me” in that universe — am actually a descendant of Bilbo Baggins, sitting at my table in Bag End, typing this on my little hobbit computer…or I am a sort of sentient sphere living on a massive planet with high gravity, communicating by acidic glandular secretions that etch ideogrammatic representations of my thoughts into the hard ground below me…or whatever).

Each world is simply another set of possibilities. A lot of them, of course, wouldn’t have survived past the first nanosecond of their Big Bang, and in a lot of them, life would have never taken hold at all, dead and empty universes. In others, life wouldn’t have happened yet; in still others, life would already be over.

In fact, my supposition about identical dimensions of measurement — size and time — would only really apply to the universes directly neighboring our own. Beyond a few universes down the road, you couldn’t make any guesses. (You couldn’t even necessarily guess in the universes next to ours, but it seems at least likely that they’d be at least that similar to our own.)

See, if people like Deutsch are right — if these universes do interact with one another at a quantum level — then, by definition, the particles interacting share identical physical and single-dimensional vectors. They exist at the same place and time, otherwise how could they interfere with one another? They simply share different outcomes, different possibilities, different timelines.

I don’t know why nobody else has made this assumption. It makes quantum theory a lot easier, and you only really need one extra dimension (and maybe two, if you assume that these universes are not simply spread out on a line but exist in sort of possibility clouds, in three dimensions of space) instead of twenty-two or whatever it is in string theory right now.

I mean, granted, I have only a slightly better grasp of quantum physics than most non-physicists, but it still seems like an obvious place to start from, if you’re going to try and work in this area at all.


God, I'm Dumb

My hands are shaking.

I went to Starbucks to do some programming tonight. On the way home, I stopped at the grocery store to pick up some milk and other refinements. Normal evening.

As I came up to the corner of the major cross streets near my house, I saw smoke coming off of a black truck in the middle of Mountain Vista, at the corner, next to the AM/PM gas station. As I got closer, I could see that it was in fact still on fire, and that the driver — a middle-aged Hispanic dude — was trying to beat the flames out with a blanket or something, and get something — I couldn’t tell what through the smoke, maybe a person — out of the truck.

I turned the corner and asked him if he needed help. “Yes, please, help,” he said. I whipped a U-turn and pulled into the gas station. I ran over to the truck, and I immediately realized the engine itself was burning. Drops of burning fuel were pouring out of the engine enclosure and landing on the asphalt, where they stayed on fire. There wasn’t anyone else in the truck — the guy was just grabbing his jacket and his cassettes and shit out of the cab.

So I ran over and asked the gas station clerks — who of course were outside — if they had a fire extinguisher. Some other guy grabbed the one hanging next to the pumps and gave it to me.

This was about the moment when I noticed that the truck was about ten feet away from the station’s propane tank…and next to the tank was an empty car with a ‘FOR SALE’ sign in the window. I suddenly had a vision of the burning fuel finally catching down the fuel line, the truck blowing…and then in quick succession the propane tank and the gas tank in the car…which would have ignited the station’s fuel pumps. The entire corner would have vaporized.

But instead of running away like a sensible person, I took the fire extinguisher and started hosing down the engine, hoping I could put out the fire before the fuel line caught. I almost grabbed the hood to pop it open, but the logical bits of my brain showed me another hideous vision: my hands roasting on the metal of the hood, or the hood blowing open and a plume of fuel-assisted fire turning my face into a marshmallow.

And the driver just stood there next to me, staring at his burning truck. He took a turn spraying the extinguisher at his engine, but that was about it.

Tu habla English?” I asked. He shook his head. “Shit,” I said. “Mi no habla Español.” I gestured at the truck. “If the fuel line catches,” I said, “boom!” and I pantomimed an explosion. I pointed at the propane tank. “You should get away,” I said. “If this blows, that’ll blow too. Big boom.”

But he shook his head, either because he didn’t understand me or he didn’t want to leave. And the engine kept burning. I tried to get the AM/PM clerk to shut off his pumps, but he wouldn’t do it.

At this point, a cop pulled up and got out of his car, but wouldn’t come out from behind his door. I told him what was happening. “You shouldn’t go near it,” he said, but I kept trying to use the fire extinguisher. “You’re crazy,” I heard him mutter at me.

Finally the fire extinguisher ran out of foam, but the engine was still burning and drops of fuel were still coming out. A huge bright white plume of smoke — presumably from the antifreeze, since oil burns black — was coming out of the seams of the engine compartment like a thunder cloud. It stank of burning plastic and chemicals.

Finally, a minute or two later, the fire department rolled up in a big yellow fire truck and started hosing it off with their gear. I waited to make sure it was okay, and told the cop and the driver good evening and rolled home.

And it wasn’t until I really pulled up to my house, three blocks away, that I realized how close I might have actually come to dying. I know it’s harder to blow a car’s gas tank up than you see in movies…but it was that burning fuel, like napalm, that really worried me. And it was so close to that propane tank. If the truck had blown, it would’ve knocked the tank off its moorings, which could have easily ruptured it, sending a jet of propane out…and that would have been Boom City for yours truly.

If I had any self-preservation skills, I would’ve jumped in the van and rolled when I realized how big the boom might actually get. But, shit, the dude asked me to help him. I thought maybe somebody was in there. And I didn’t want the whole goddamn intersection to go supernova.

I mean, who knows what would’ve happened if I hadn’t stopped to help? There were people standing around — customers at the AM/PM tanks, attendants — but none of them came anywhere near the truck or helped the driver, except the dude who grabbed the fire extinguisher. And the driver was totally useless — the entire time, he never seemed to understand the danger he was in.

Even if I didn’t put the fire out, maybe I stopped it from just burning and burning until the tank went up. So maybe I saved that poor dumb dude’s life.

But I’m very glad I didn’t end up roasted. I’m looking forward to 2008, you know?


Zach Braff Quotes

Zach Braff Quotes

“I pick the songs for my movies by typing a random word – say “bee” – and then by typing the word “pitchfork” along with it and then whatever pitchfork album review Google brings up I then look at the album, select the fourth song off of it, and then try to write a film scene around whatever song it is. It’s brought only gold so far!” – Zach Braff on selecting songs for films


God, I Need A Copy Of Ableton Live

Really, really bad.

Mom was gonna get it for me for my last birthday, but it didn’t end up working out. I can’t afford $499 for a full copy (and I need a full copy, not the Lite version, which won’t do what I need it to do).

I need it for live Red State Soundsystem performances, which are otherwise just me and Thom playing along to a pre-recorded track. Which is stupid. I need to be able to improvise and — more importantly — be able to work with a drummer.

And playing with the demo and the — fine, I’ll admit it — cracked copy I’ve got, I’ve realized I could be making fucking bank doing Live DJing in clubs here in Vegas — doing live beat-matching and looping of existing tracks combined with dropping my own beats and pads into the flow. (Live de-cracks itself. Randomly. It seems to know when you’re on stage, too.)

I don’t have anything I can sell to pay for this, and I can’t justify buying it in any way, even though I know I could make money using it — the gap between getting it and practicing with it and making money would be just a little too long for somebody in my dire financial straits. I can’t even afford one of those cheap copies on eBay, which are usually only discounted by $100 or so.

Believe me, I’ve looked at other options. There’s literally nothing else that does what Live does, and Live is the only app that does what I need it to do.

So, anybody got any ideas?

(Edit: if you want to see what you can do with Live, check this video out.)


50 Most Loathsome Of 2007

The BEAST: America’s Best Fiend

Lovely. Number 9 is “You”.

You believe in freedom of speech, until someone says something that offends you. You suddenly give a damn about border integrity, because the automated voice system at your pharmacy asked you to press 9 for Spanish. You cling to every scrap of bullshit you can find to support your ludicrous belief system, and reject all empirical evidence to the contrary. You know the difference between patriotism and nationalism — it’s nationalism when foreigners do it. You hate anyone who seems smarter than you. You care more about zygotes than actual people. You love to blame people for their misfortunes, even if it means screwing yourself over. You still think Republicans favor limited government. Your knowledge of politics and government are dwarfed by your concern for Britney Spears’ children. You think buying Chinese goods stimulates our economy. You think you’re going to get universal health care. You tolerate the phrase “enhanced interrogation techniques.” You think the government is actually trying to improve education. You think watching CNN makes you smarter. You think two parties is enough. You can’t spell. You think $9 trillion in debt is manageable. You believe in an afterlife for the sole reason that you don’t want to die. You think lowering taxes raises revenue. You think the economy’s doing well. You’re an idiot.


Douchebags Gone Wild

Power to the Poachers

Dude, it’s, like, your fuckin’ duty to sneak onto one of the four ski resorts in America that don’t allow snowboarding and, like, fuckin’, like, snowboard there. ‘Cause the Man is stickin’ it to you by keeping you off four of the thousands of ski runs located on this continent.

As somebody who used to snowboard and would do it more often if: a) I didn’t live in the hottest desert in the Northern Hemisphere and b) didn’t have a pair of knees that are as worn-down as the treads on a 1954 Continental, I can say: this is total douchebaggery. Anybody who can afford passes and lift tickets every weekend — not to mention the thousands of dollars of gear required to be a serious snowboarder — is not part of an oppressed minority.

Fauxhawked suburban white crypto-jock douchebags who call each other “bra” and “Broseph” and listen to shitty aggro-pop whilst bouncing down the side of a mountain can eat my fat ass. Go jerk off to your Vin Diesel poster in shame and shut the fuck up.


Bhutto Assassinated in Attack on Rally – New York Times

Bhutto Assassinated in Attack on Rally – New York Times

Ms. Bhutto, who had twice been the country’s prime minister and was a leading contender to be the next prime minister after elections set for Jan. 8, was declared dead by doctors at a hospital in Rawalpindi at 6:16 p.m. local time. At least a dozen more people were killed in the attack, and some reports said there were at least 20 dead. Hours later, her body was carried out of the hospital in a wooden casket, held high by hundreds of her followers clad in black.

I won’t pretend to know much about Bhutto or the Pakistani political climate — I am sadly ignorant. But I do think it’s a sad day when anyone — even someone whose politics I dislike — is assassinated for their beliefs or political stance.


The Most Metal Christmas Gift EVAR.

Bone dagger with skull holder

My dad got me this skeletal dagger, with skeleton-rising-up-from-Hell holder. For all tomorrow’s sacrifices. Heh. Totally rad.

I also got: an Arduino for learning to do hardware programming, an Ion drum machine, a USB Peltier cooler/heater for drinks, a cool portable 30W amp for my iPod, On Food And Cooking: The Science And Lore Of The Kitchen, a GorillaPod poseable camera tripod, an ATC2K helmet cam (30fps @ 640 x 480!!!), a Tom Waits t-shirt, a wifi detector t-shirt that lights up when there’s wifi, a Skooba laptop tote that you can paint and draw on, a tiny keychain remote for fucking with people’s TVs (not a TV-B-Gone but an actual remote), and a microstylus for my fingertip that will be hella handy with my touchscreen I got last year. Oh, and Thom got me a Barnes & Noble gift card, to fulfill my need to read the rest of the His Dark Materials series.

(Kaydence got a whole bunch of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse toys, plus a RoboPanda and various other kid stuff. The look on her face when she walked in was priceless. It’s really her first full Christmas with the family, and I think she’s pretty happy.)

Great Christmas. Alex and Laurenn and Thom and Carrie came over last night and we had a big Christmas feast. I made soy bread pudding and blackberry cobbler (Laurenn is rennet-intolerant) and we had ham and all sorts of homemade cookies. Alex had never seen It’s A Wonderful Life, so we watched that and Bad Santa, which — along with Scrooged and Die Hard — is one of my favorite Christmas movies.

Now everybody else is napping and I’m figuring out how to shoot video with my new helmet cam. I hope your Christmas was as awesome as ours has been.


Merry Christmas

And enjoy your last minute shopping:

Ho, ho, ho.

(Image from Centennial Society)


I'm DJing New Year's Eve @ Freakin' Frog

If you’re in Vegas and you’re not up for cruising the Strip and hunting an expensive club or bar to hang out on for New Year’s Eve, stop by the Freakin’ Frog on Maryland Parkway (between Tropicana and Harmon on the east side of the street, next to the as-yet-unopened barbecue joint with the highly fruity sign), where I’ll be, er, dropping science from 9pm – 1am. The Frog has a vast and ponderous selection of brews and whiskey, one of the largest in America, and you can get shitfaced and groove to my mad beats, yo.

And if you’ve always wanted to give me a New Year’s kiss, and you’re a girl, this is your chance. Thankfully, Getchell is spoken for this New Year’s. Those were some sad, desperate years. ‘Nuff said.