Gone writing

June 25, 2019

Writing my book(s) is making progress (again) and this blog will have to play second fiddle for a while.


 

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In the absence of nothing

June 13, 2019

Yesterday, upon the stair,
I met a man who wasn’t there!
He wasn’t there again today,
Oh how I wish he’d go away!

When I came home last night at three,
The man was waiting there for me
But when I looked around the hall,
I couldn’t see him there at all!
Go away, go away, don’t you come back any more!
Go away, go away, and please don’t slam the door…

Last night I saw upon the stair,
A little man who wasn’t there,
He wasn’t there again today
Oh, how I wish he’d go away…

William Hughes Mearns


Can “nothing” exist, or is “nothing” a state of non-existence? Can “nothing” be negated? If “nothing” exists then – by our language and our reason – the non-existence of “nothing” creates “something”. Or is it the “something” which kills the “nothing”? Either way, the concept of nothingness lies in a twilight beyond rational thinking, beyond philosophy and is even intangible for metaphysics.

Martin Heidegger considered “Why is there something rather than nothing?” as the most fundamental issue of philosophy.

We know that what we call empty space within our universe may be devoid of any particles having mass.  In the absence of particles we cannot define such things as temperature or pressure. But such space still has properties. It has dimensions, and it then has volume. It allows light to pass through. Gravitation and waves can propagate through it. It would seem that the laws of physics exist and apply in such space. Such is the empty space within atoms and the space between galaxies and what our spaceships would warp through. But there is even emptier space. That is what our universe expands into (assuming that the expansion of our universe is real). This space has no properties at all and does not even have dimensions until the expansion of the universe has occurred and has defined its existence. This space does not – to all our perceptions – exist until our universe has encompassed it.

The existence (or not) of nothingness is in our minds and in our language. It is not something which science can address. Science – and scientists – are restricted to the causal world and to the bounds of causality. Science has no light to shine on existence – especially existence as the non-existence of nothing. The property of “existence” can only be ascribed to “something”. And “something” cannot not exist. That is determined by our language and by the bounds our language sets upon our reason.

Nothing is the thought that wasn’t there.

Yesterday, upon the stair,
I had a thought which wasn’t there!
It wasn’t there again today,
Oh how I wish it would go away!


 

4,000 posts

June 8, 2019

I started this blog on 16th April 2010 and have just reached 4,000 posts.

That’s 3,344 days and I am still ahead of my initial objective of writing a post a day.

It started off as a way of taking a break from other writing. I have never had any particular audience in mind and it has proved to be very effective therapy against “writers block”. Inevitably posts have been about any subject that happened to be uppermost in my mind at the time.

I have no aspirations to be educational or inspirational or of influencing others. I suppose – as with most writings – I keep posting to satisfy myself.



 

It’s a very good thing that climate does not pay attention to “climate scientists”

June 8, 2019

Perhaps I will heed the climate charlatans a little more when they abandon the practice of religious orthodoxy, regenerate their sense of inquiry and return to a proper process of science.

Glacier National Park Quietly Removes Its ‘Gone by 2020’ Signs

May 30, 2019. St. Mary, Montana.

Officials at Glacier National Park (GNP) have begun quietly removing and altering signs and government literature which told visitors that the Park’s glaciers were all expected to disappear by either 2020 or 2030.
In recent years the National Park Service prominently featured brochures, signs and films which boldly proclaimed that all glaciers at GNP were melting away rapidly. But now officials at GNP seem to be scrambling to hide or replace their previous hysterical claims while avoiding any notice to the public that the claims were inaccurate. Teams from Lysander Spooner University visiting the Park each September have noted that GNP’s most famous glaciers such as the Grinnell Glacier and the Jackson Glacier appear to have been growing—not shrinking—since about 2010. (The Jackson Glacier—easily seen from the Going-To-The-Sun Highway—may have grown as much as 25% or more over the past decade.)

…. As recently as September 2018 the diorama displayed a sign saying GNP’s glaciers were expected to disappear completely by 2020. ……. But at some point during this past winter (as the visitor center was closed to the public), workers replaced the diorama’s ‘gone by 2020’ engraving with a new sign indicating the glaciers will disappear in “future generations.” Almost everywhere, the Park’s specific claims of impending glacier disappearance have been replaced with more nuanced messaging indicating that everyone agrees that the glaciers are melting. Some signs indicate that glacial melt is “accelerating.” ……. 

Last year the Park Service quietly removed its two large steel trash cans at the Many Glacier Hotel which depicted “before and after” engravings of the Grinnell Glacier in 1910 and 2009. The steel carvings indicated that the Glacier had shrunk significantly between the two dates. But a viral video published on Wattsupwiththat.com showed that the Grinnell Glacier appears to be slightly larger than in 2009.

The ‘gone by 2020’ claims were repeated in the New York Times, National Geographic, and other international news sources. But no mainstream news outlet has done any meaningful reporting regarding the apparent stabilization and recovery of the glaciers in GNP over the past decade. 

It is not that climate does not change. Of course it does. It always has. It always will. It is the semi-religious claims that make climate “scientists” charlatans.


 

Repetition of a mantra – even a “human rights” mantra – does not make it true

May 27, 2019

Article 1 of the Declaration of Human Rights begins with a mantra.

Mantra – “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights”.

Reality – Human beings are unique and different. They are born with varying physical and mental characteristics. Their genetic characteristics define and constrain the limits of their physical and mental potentials. At birth they are incapable of survival in isolation. From birth and through their lives they are afforded privileges (rights) by the surrounding human society. Their capabilities – mental and physical – develop by the nurture they receive in their early years and their development is constrained by their innate (genetic) capability. The nurture they receive varies according to the resources and will of the surrounding society to provide such nurture. Human behaviour is a consequence of their genetics and their nurture. In similar situations humans may behave similarly but any individual’s behaviour is unique. An individual’s behaviour determines the respect afforded by the surrounding society.

The mantra is a nonsense. It is little more than “a sanctimonious wish, full of ill-defined words, signifying nothing”. It is repeated incessantly, but it is not true, cannot be true and should not be true. For it to be true would require that all humans be identical down to the last atom. For it to be true humans must lose their uniqueness and be a species of clones.

The difference between natural law and human laws is that natural laws cannot be broken. Compliance is assured even if the natural law is not even formulated. Human laws do not command automatic compliance. In fact, any human law which did command complete compliance would be an unnecessary law. “Human Rights” (and all human rights are nothing but privileges) are all attempts made by societies to regulate human behaviour. If the mantra were true, no “human rights legislation” would ever be necessary.

The reality is that human beings are not born equal in dignity and in rights.

A concept of “equality” which ignores the reality that humans are innately unequal is fundamentally flawed. Humans are unique and are not equal, or of equal value. Justice demands inequality. The very concept of justice requires unequal treatment. A child is not equal to an adult. A murderer is not equal to a saint. The perpetrator of an injustice is not equal to the victim. To treat a child as an adult is unjust. To respect bad behaviour is both unjust and stupid. Any society which treats a murderer the same as it treats a saint is an unjust society. Any concept of “equality” must be subordinated to justice.

I would take the UN Declaration more seriously if it simply began:

 “All human beings shall be afforded just dignity and respect by all human societies”


 

Lamenting Modi’s absolute win is more phobic than rational

May 25, 2019

The point about phobias is that they are all irrational fears. A phobia is not removed by rational argument but by addressing and removing the underlying fear(s). “Phobic” assertions are futile then in a rational discussion just as “rational discourse” has no impact on reducing a phobic fear.

I have been hearing many people lamenting the absolute win that Narendra Modi and the BJP party have just achieved. They believe themselves – in the main – to be of the educated middle classes; to be liberal, secular and rational. Nearly all of them believe themselves to be atheists (conveniently forgetting that their atheism is existentially dependent upon others’ beliefs) and they are all generally contemptuous of those who profess themselves to be religious. They generally claim a monopoly over “reasoned argument” and dismiss nationalistic or religious claptrap out of hand.

But what strikes me is that their lamentations about the Modi win and the rise of dark, nationalistic and religious forces are more manifestations of a Modiphobia or a BJPphobia than the exercise of reason. It is not unlike the Trumpophobia that now dominates the Democrat discourse in the US. But just as in the US, the apparently “rational arguments” are subordinated to irrational fears and only carry the appearance of rationality. They end up being phobic assertions and lose rationality along the way.

Following the Indian elections the BJP, by itself, now commands a comfortable majority in parliament. The BJP with its allies now have almost two-thirds of the seats in parliament (353 of 543). Narendra Modi is unchallenged as Prime Minister and is perhaps the first to to have transcended some of the traditional block-voting patterns of caste and religion.

Back in 2014, I posted:

If Narendra Modi manages to break – or even to weaken – the debilitating stranglehold that caste and clan have on Indian life, he stands some chance of releasing the huge potential that is still buried deep in the country. Paradoxically, his brand (now mellowing) of Hindu nationalism may allow him the freedom not only to challenge the shackles of caste and clan but also to keep in check the extravagant expectations engendered by the pampering of minority groups (which was unavoidable with a coalition government).

I find the lamentations now lacking in reason:

  1. There was not a single individual among all the opposition parties who realistically aspired to be or (or was capable of being) the Prime Minister.
  2. There was no majority coalition of any kind remotely feasible without the BJP.  The option of the BJP not being in government did not exist.
  3. A parliament having a party with an absolute majority is more likely to be effective as a parliament and less likely to be disrupted than a minority or a coalition government. A BJP minority government or a BJP led coalition (and since BJP is in a minority in the Rajya Sabha) would have given India an impotent government.

India will have at least 5 more years of Narendra Modi and the BJP. From 2020 the BJP will likely have a majority even in the Rajya Sabha. The subcontinent is awash with fractures and fissures. My reason tells me that the chance of Indian potential being unified and harnessed is far greater now than it has ever been since independence in 1947. It is greater now than it was under Nehru and his phobias, and greater than it was under Indira Gandhi’s Emergency. I may not like some of the fanatics riding the BJP wave, but paradoxically, a strong Modi has a better chance of keeping them in check than a weak Modi.

I suspect that 2020 – 2024 will see a period of unprecedented growth of not only the Indian economy but also of Indian infrastructure and social welfare.


 

The last car I buy to drive myself

May 19, 2019

My current car is 10 years old. So, I have ordered my new car for delivery in September.

A hybrid with a petrol engine. Range on batteries alone – 60 km. Range with full batteries and full fuel tank is over 2,000 km. Self-parking (but which must be activated by the driver). “Driving assistance” to keep me awake and stop me from drifting on the highway, but has to be manually engaged. Automatic maintenance of distance from other cars when engaged. 360º vision cameras. Live satellite navigation assistance.

I am 71 now. I can feel my reaction times are slowing. My eyesight is still fine but glare at night on wet roads is increasingly bothersome. My neck hurts sometimes when reversing. I feel my concentration dipping on long journeys. My attention strays. With the various “assistances” now available, I reckon that I should be able to keep and drive this car for another 5 – 6 years. At that time -if I am still around – my faculties would, no doubt, have deteriorated further. But advances in technology are surging ahead and will compensate for my deficiencies. By then I expect very smart, virtually self-driving cars to have come a long long way.

This may not be the last car I buy for myself. But it probably is the last car I buy to drive myself.

 

My next car – if there is a next – will drive me. 


 

What’s best for me is my call

May 18, 2019

I dislike and have always disliked political labels. I particularly dislike being forced into the mould of a particular political party. Since I became “politically aware” in my teens I have always found that my own views are never completely encompassed within those of a single political party. Invariably I find my views straddling those of opposing parties.

It is easier sometimes to consider what I cannot – at the core of me – support. And I find that this is actually one of the fundamental values I have. All other views flow from these core values/beliefs.

I am fundamentally opposed to being coerced – under threat of force or law – by others as to

    • what I should or should not think,
    • what I should or should not say,
    • how I should or should not behave, and
    • who I should or should not support (financially or otherwise)

Advice from others is one thing (my doctor, my car mechanic, my plumber, my teachers), but I find it unacceptable for someone else to impose upon me what he/she thinks is for my own good and best for me. I find I am not prepared to compromise on retaining the ultimate judgement of what is best for me. In the classical conflict between the individual’s good versus the common good, I take the position that it is the individual’s good which is paramount. If the “common good” does not itself accommodate the individual’s good it is no longer the “common” good, but is in fact “the others’ good”. In practice, society imposes many things upon me which I accept, even if without much enthusiasm.  I do so because it creates sufficient good for me even if it is not for my best. The “sufficient good” may be no more than retaining membership of the surrounding society. But I do so in the illusion that it is my own decision. This preference for the individual inevitably pushes my views towards the right of centre of the political spectrum. I do not like my compassion to be coerced. Sanctimonious compassion is an existential threat. I find it unconscionable to be forced to support “bad people”. I do not like science by consensus. I find “fashionable” science contemptible. I find the use of “mental sickness” to excuse bad behaviour to be brainless.

I choose to pay my taxes. I choose to comply (mostly) with road speed limits. I choose to follow most societal rules which make sense. But I choose to ignore those who will tell me what I cannot think or what I cannot say or what I cannot eat. Political parties whose universal solution is to forbid some behaviour are not for me. Those which have no other solution than to get others to pay for their self-righteousness are equally anathema to me. I choose to ignore those who would tell me what I should consider good or bad. I choose to ignore those I consider stupid.

And anybody who claims to know, and wants to impose upon me, what is best for me is just stupid.


 

Apocalypse Now (yet again) or the false god of biodiversity

May 7, 2019

Here we go again.

The UN (who else) has its annual freak-out about a million species being threatened by humans. (There are about a trillion species on Earth). The 6th mass extinction is upon us! The solution is mass suicide by humans! The humans left will be happily dead ever after. Failing that we could have World Government.

When life on earth began, there was no biodiversity. As individual life-forms survived environmental changes, new species were created. Sometimes the parent species survived and sometimes not. Sometimes the new species did not survive further changes. The results of survival we call evolution. As for anything else there is an optimum number of species for any given environment, in any given place at any given time. Too many species is a worse thing than too few. Too few, and new species will always be formed to exploit the available environment. Too many, and every species is miserable.

All invasive species are – by definition – successful species. All endangered species are – also by definition – failing species. “Protecting” failed, but somehow attractive, species is entirely an emotional response by humans but it has no rational purpose. The rational and responsible approach to biodiversity would be to genetically modify failing species to survive or to let them become extinct in a world where they have no place.

Judging by the posts I have been driven to write in recent years, I must find all sanctimonious, self-righteous apocalypse predictions somewhat obscene.

Mass extinctions correct for evolution’s greater than 99% failure rate

Earth has too many failed species and 30% need to go extinct

There was no biodiversity to begin with

Raging biodiversity – “One trillion species on earth”

I just repeat my post from 2018.

The biodiversity myth (or How many species should there be?)

How many species should there be?

In any given environment, even with no change in the environment, natural selection will see to it, given enough time, that the number of species will increase to fill the available space. Competition between species will increase with increasing biodiversity. Species incapable of coping with the competition will restrict themselves to protected niches or disappear. As environment changes, modifications will also follow. As environment changes, species which were once viable may become extinct, continue in a suitable niche or adapt.

As far as we know the earth is the only planet on which life has developed.

……… 

Time and the laws of the Universe were established soon after the Big Bang singularity occurred some 13.8 billion years ago. ………… The earth itself was formed when it congealed about 4.54 billion years ago……. Chemistry between atoms and molecules happened. About a billion years later chemistry became biochemistry. Somehow RNA molecules (the RNA world) appeared. Some of these were replicating molecules. Some of these arranged themselves into single celled organisms. Single celled life began. Around 500 million years ago, complex multi-cellular life took off.

In the 500 million years since there have been at least 10 major extinctions and 5 Great Mass Extinctions. The last one was around 50 million years ago when the large dinosaurs “disappeared” (though that disappearance may have taken many thousands, or even hundreds of thousands, of years). Nevertheless it was the spaces left vacant in the environment which enabled, and were filled by, the mammals and in turn the primates and humans. …..


 

We don’t exist, and even if we do we are doomed

May 5, 2019

The nice thing about cosmological theories is the the time scales involved make the theories unfalsifiable.

One of the latest theories is that the universe is cyclic.

  1. A sort of a Big Bang,
  2. Expansion,
  3. A Big Suck,
  4. Compression.

followed by another kind of a Big Bang, and so on ad infinitum.

But why that should be so is outside the realm of the knowable.

Two articles caught my eye this morning.

Universe shouldn’t exist, CERN physicists conclude

NEW RESEARCH SUGGEST ANDROMEDA AND MILKY WAY GALAXIES ARE ALREADY TOUCHING, MIGHT COLLIDE SOONER THAN WE THINK


One of the great mysteries of modern physics is why antimatter did not destroy the universe at the beginning of time.

To explain it, physicists suppose there must be some difference between matter and antimatter – apart from electric charge. Whatever that difference is, it’s not in their magnetism, it seems.

Physicists at CERN in Switzerland have made the most precise measurement ever of the magnetic moment of an anti-proton – a number that measures how a particle reacts to magnetic force – and found it to be exactly the same as that of the proton but with opposite sign. The work is described in Nature.

“All of our observations find a complete symmetry between matter and antimatter, which is why the universe should not actually exist,” says Christian Smorra, a physicist at CERN’s Baryon–Antibaryon Symmetry Experiment (BASE) collaboration. “An asymmetry must exist here somewhere but we simply do not understand where the difference is.”


The Milky Way and Andromeda galaxy won’t collide for next 4 billion years. But but a recent discovery of a massive halo of hot gas close to Andromeda Galaxy may mean that our galaxies are already touching. Astrophysicist Nicholas Lehner from University of Notre Dame, led a group of scientists using the Hubble Space Telescope to detect an enormous halo of hot, ionized gas about 2 million light years in diameter around the galaxy.

The Andromeda Galaxy and Milky Way are the largest member of a ragtag group of some 54 galaxies, called the Local Group. Andromeda, with almost a trillion stars — twice as many as the Milky Way — shines 25% brighter and can simply be seen with the naked eye from outlying and rural skies. If the recently discovered halo spreads at least a million light years in our direction, our two galaxies are way MUCH closer to touching than previously thought.


 


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