After a year of dumping on Trump

December 22, 2017

I doubt if any US President has ever had such concerted opposition from the media and the establishment (Democrat and Republican) as Trump has.

It has become a pastime for “liberals” both in the US and globally to mindlessly dump on Trump. But after one year of the “liberal” world dumping on Trump, his actual record is fairly impressive:

  1. The world has been saved from a Hillary Clinton presidency
  2. ISIS has been decimated and the Islamic Caliphate remains a distant dream
  3. A much needed tax reform – the first in 31 years – has been passed in the US.
  4. The long overdue recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital has moved a step forward.
  5. The ridiculous ban on Arctic drilling for oil and gas has been removed.
  6. US growth is up above 3% and on track for over 4%.
  7. With Neil Gorsuch the US Supreme Court is returning to rationality and some balance.
  8. The Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines are going forward
  9. The demonisation of coal has been slowed down – if not stopped.
  10. Illegal immigration is drastically reduced.
  11. Markets are booming.
  12. NATO members have started paying their dues.
  13. The US is leaving the meaningless Paris climate non-treaty.
  14. The Obama care individual insurance mandate has been removed.
  15. The US has left the TPP.
  16. Manufacturing job creation has increased.
  17. Unemployment is down.
  18. Black unemployment and Hispanic unemployment are at historic lows.
  19. Housing sales are sharply up.
  20. The appeasement of radical Muslim “sensibilities” in the US has slowed down.

ISIS execution in Kirkuk Al-Masdar News

I doubt that any Democrats will reject their tax decreases. I doubt that any enterprise will reject the reduction of corporate tax. I doubt that any growing US enterprise will not consider investment and job creation. The EU does not like the US tax reform because they see a growing disadvantage to European industry and a loss of jobs to the US.

Whether Trump can survive the continuing onslaught remains to be seen. Whether the UN can return closer to honesty remains to be seen. Whether bilateralism can overcome politically correct but bankrupt multilateralism remains to be seen.

But the reality is that the world is a better place after one year of Trump than it would have been with Hillary Clinton.


 

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From position to snap, crackle and pop

December 20, 2017

The rate of change of acceleration is the jerk and we experience that everyday when starting up our cars or braking when the lights turn red.

The rate of change of jerk, the fourth derivative of displacement with respect to time, is called the snap. Positioning spacecraft requires the calculation of snap.

Snap too may vary with time. The fifth derivative is called the crackle and the sixth derivative is called the pop but these and higher derivatives have not – yet – found practical application.


 

The now is ever, never

December 18, 2017

The now, of course, can not, has not, does not and will not ever exist.

Then can refer to the past or the future but never to the now – which does not exist.


 

The genocide paradox: Would you now prevent the dinosaurs from extinction then?

December 15, 2017

The genocide paradox is just another version of all the temporal paradoxes (grandfather paradoxes) about any historical event. Would you, in the now, take any action which will prevent something from having happened in the past, then? Knowing that some change to the past could make the present different? In all of these paradoxes, the inconsistency comes when the causal link with the past is broken.

We can only make judgements about the past. But the judgement itself is rooted in the now and cannot be applied to the past. If we, now, could take some action which will prevent the dinosaurs from having been extinguished 65 million years ago, would we? Of course, if the dinosaurs had not become extinct there would have been no room for many mammals or the great apes or humans to have evolved. If we could take actions in the now which will prevent any of the genocides of the past, we inevitably invalidate all that is in the present which is causally linked to that past. And so we have the Genocide Paradox. If we take actions now which will result in the Holocaust never having occurred, then we destroy our own existence and the entire causal chain which lies in our history.

The paradoxes arise because causality and the arrow of time are two sides of the same coin (and this coin may have more than two sides). You could argue that time is causality. We can make judgements today about how bad Hitler or Pol Pot were but their badness itself is an existential foundation for our own existence. In my own case I can make the causal link with Hitler quite easily.

For want of a nail image: grandmasnurseryrhymes

For want of a Hitler, the war was not,
For want of the war, Changi was not,
For want of Changi, an escape was not,
For want of an escape, a marriage was not,
For want of a marriage, a son was not,
For want of a Hitler, I was not.

So I can no more wish Hitler and the Holocaust away than I can wish away my existence.

Would the world be a better place today if all the great genocides through history had not taken place? That the world would be different is without doubt. There would be different people alive today even if the numbers of people alive would not – perhaps – be so different. The genetic mix of the people alive today would be different. But would the world be a better place?

We may regret the past, we may rewrite the past and we may think we would have behaved differently, but we cannot change it and we cannot wish it away.

It has become fashionable to revile figures from the past and their actions, but those figures and their deplorable actions are causal to the existence of those doing the reviling today. Reviling Hitler or Pol Pot or Genghis Khan or the slave traders or the colonists of the past is all the rage. But precisely those people and their despicable actions are our existential foundations of the present.


 

“For our children’s children” is a nonsense cliche

December 13, 2017

There is nothing in my life or in my genetics or in my behaviour for which I blame my grandparents. Three of the four had passed away before I was born. But I had some interaction with my grandmother and my great-grandmother. I am thankful for a few pleasant memories I have of them. When my great-grandmother passed away, it was just a blip on my consciousness. When my grandmother passed away I remember a feeling of some relief that the suffering of her last few years had ended. But I have never felt any need to attribute any blame or credit to them – or their generation – for the state of the world or for my state in it. Should I blame my father or his generation for World War II? Or his father’s generation for World War I?

So I am mildly irritated when I hear arguments for this political policy or that, “for the sake of our children’s children”. Any generation has only a very vague idea – if any – of the challenges to be faced by the next. My grandfathers had no conception of the world even my father faced let alone the world that I live in. For any of my grandparents to have made decisions about their own lives for the “sake of their children’s children” would have been both arrogant and stupid. To predict the challenges to be faced by the next generation is imperfect enough that, trying to predict the challenges two generations hence, is both futile and arrogant. Every succeeding generation is inevitably better equipped with technology and knowledge (but not necessarily with brain power), to handle its own challenges than the previous one. Solutions available tomorrow, with the knowledge and technology of the day, are not available now.

Would the world be a better place if the dodo was not extinct? Or if World War II had not taken place? Or if aircraft had never been invented? The questions are meaningless. Decisions at the individual or the collective level must be made at the time, for that time, by that time. To anticipate the questions to be faced by future generations and make decisions now – to save future generations from some problem we predict for them – is just as meaningless. The majority of political predictions from just half a generation ago (10 years) were wrong. There is no doubt a causal link between what we do now and the challenges which will be faced by our descendants, but we can neither anticipate those problems nor are we better equipped to solve their problems than they will be. There is also no doubt that decisions taken now choose not only the path for the future but also those who will walk that path. But we cannot – now – walk that path for them. World War II terminated the path for many millions but also enabled the existence of all the survivors and their descendants. But whichever path it is, and whoever the travellers are, they will be better able to define and solve their problems than their grandparents.

Suppose that some decision made today leads to some catastrophic decline in human population. As happened before WW II. Suppose further that the survivors eventually thrive again. As the population is thriving today. Many possible children’s children will not – and did not – even see the light of day. But some thousands of years hence, the population of the day would have no blame to attach to the generation of today. It would have been the catastrophe which enabled their very existence. Just as the occurrence of WW II enabled the population and the world of today. And there is no blame to be attached to those who took the fateful decisions which led to WW II.

So when somebody tells me that he is doing something “for the sake of his children’s children”,

  1. I don’t believe him, and
  2. I think he’s finding a spurious argument for a position he cannot otherwise justify.

A politician who is stupid enough to propose some action for the sake “of our children’s children” should be ignored.


 

A second now must be longer than a second was then

December 12, 2017

We cannot measure time. We have no idea why time is unidirectional.

We claim to measure time periods and the passage of time, though we have no idea what it is that is passing.

We impute time periods to the observation of changes. We assume that the changes being observed are stable and regular. We used to assume that the earth orbited the sun in a stable and regular manner with every completed orbit taking what we called a year. We now know that the orbit is neither stable nor regular and is no longer accurate enough for use as the standard measure of a time period. We used to assume that the earth’s rotation around its own axis was stable and regular but now know that this rotation is slowing and days are getting longer by about 2.3 milliseconds per century. Of course, to be able to say that, we need a “second” defined independently of a “day” defined by the rotation of the earth. The modern definition of a “second” is now based on the vibration of a caesium atom.

The second is the duration of 9 192 631 770 periods of the radiation corresponding to the transition between the two hyperfine levels of the ground state of the cesium 133 atom in its ground state at a temperature of 0 K.

This assumes that this radiation is stable and regular. We assume that the 9,192,631,770 periods taken to constitute a second are each identical to the other. (Why it should be so is of course magic). For all practical purposes and relative to the duration of the lifespan of the human species it may well be so. But over the long, long term it cannot be so.

The earth-moon-sun system, the solar system and even our galaxy are all losing energy. Even all vibrating atoms must be losing energy for any radiation to occur or for any vibration to take place. For the “radiation corresponding to the transition between the two hyperfine levels of the ground state of the cesium 133 atom in its ground state at a temperature of 0 K” to remain stable for ever requires an energy input which does not exist. Why any radiation should be regular is still a matter of magic.

What a “second” was at the Big Bang and before is unknown. But since then, it follows that “seconds” then were shorter than “seconds” are now. Every “second” now must be shorter than every “second” to come.

Of course what is even more magical is our fundamental assumption that the passage of time itself is stable and regular. We have no clue as to what laws of the universe require such stability or regularity and the why of any such laws is still in the realm of magic.


The magical speed of an inconstant time


 

Decadent or depraved

December 11, 2017

So are we decadent or are we depraved?

Decadence

dissipation, dissoluteness, degeneracy, debauchery, corruption, depravity, vice, sinfulness, perversion, moral decay, immorality, lack of morals, lack of principles, lack of restraint, lack of control, lack of self-control, immoderateness, intemperance, licentiousness, wantonness, self-indulgence, hedonism, epicureanism, voluptuousness

Depravity

corruption, corruptness, vice, perversion, pervertedness, deviance, degeneracy, degradation, immorality, shamelessness, debauchery, dissipation, dissoluteness, turpitude, loucheness, profligacy, licentiousness, lewdness, lasciviousness, salaciousness, lechery, lecherousness, prurience, obscenity, indecency, libertinism, sordidness; wickedness, sinfulness, vileness, baseness, iniquity, nefariousness, criminality, viciousness, brutality, brutishness

I suspect it is decadence.

Bit it is surely one or the other.


 

The magic which makes the speed of light what it is

December 8, 2017

Through the process of science we have discovered a great many “natural” constants that apply to our reality. These include  the speed of light in vacuum c, the gravitational constant G, Planck’s constant h, the electric constant ε0, and the elementary charge e. But why these constants are what they are – and not greater or smaller – still escapes us.

Physicists do not like to be contaminated by magic, but they do in fact invoke magic every time they use any of these so-called natural constants. That they are constant over time is itself an assumption without rhyme or reason as to why they should be so. That the passage of time is regular is itself a magical assumption. That a second now is of the same duration as a second 9 billion years ago or of the same duration as a second 10 billion years from now or at the other end of our universe are all just magical assumptions.

And so it is with the speed of light.

We have now fixed the speed of light in a vacuum at exactly 299,792.458 kilometres per second. Why this particular speed and not something else? Or, to put it another way, where does the speed of light come from?

……. Whether it was the ‘hand of God’ or some truly fundamental physical process that formed the constants, it is their apparent arbitrariness that drives physicists mad. Why these numbers? Couldn’t they have been different?  ……. leads us to the anthropic principle, the philosophical idea that what we observe in the Universe must be compatible with the fact that we humans are here to observe it. 

…… Why should the multiverse work like this, and not that? Perhaps it isn’t possible for the intellect to overcome a sense of the arbitrariness of things. We are close here to the old philosophical riddle, of why there is something rather than nothing. That’s a mystery into which perhaps no light can penetrate.

We don’t know why the speed of light is what it is. We don’t know what would have to be different in our universe for this speed to be different. We do not know if this value was always what it is now and will always be so. We don’t know if there are regions in our universe where it does not apply. It is what it is by magic.

I take the view that to the finite human mind some things are unknowable.

And as long as the unknowable exists in physics, physics must take recourse to magic. Giving magic a name or a label does not reduce its magicality.


 

Five decades

December 8, 2017

One ages and one gets nostalgic.

The past gets compressed into some kind of a zip-file in my memory and sometimes the file is difficult to open.

But five decades of a working life does not take much space to summarise.


 

Laws are made to be broken

December 7, 2017

This is from a before-dinner talk I gave recently.

image – open parachute

Today I return to a little paradox which leads to quite subversive thoughts. 

A few weeks ago I had a conversation with a lawyer. Have you noticed that even small talk with a lawyer takes on the character of an inquisition? If only laws were simpler we would not need lawyers, I thought. In any event, it made me think of the nature of the quality of laws. How should we define a good law? And what would be a bad law? 

Now, after a long evening you all need to wake up and follow my reasoning. 

There are only two types of laws. We have either the natural laws of the universe or we have the myriad laws invented by humans. Even the so-called laws of the various gods have all been invented by humans. Note that the universe does not bother with proclaiming its laws. They just are. The universe does not even care if humans get the formulation wrong. No threat or punishment is required because it is impossible to violate these laws. Without any compulsion, it is guaranteed that everyone will comply with these perfect laws. 

So we can say that if everybody complies with a law it is an indication of a law of the highest quality. Perfect laws are those which – without any compulsion – are followed by everyone. As are the natural laws. Worthless laws are those not followed by anybody. Like the speed ​​limits on some motorways in Norrland, for example. But, a law that is followed by everybody, without compulsion, is not needed – is unnecessary, is redundant. 

All laws written by humans always fall between these limits of being useless on the one hand or unnecessary on the other. It may seem logical that a society makes a law so that everyone will comply. But that thinking is in error. If everyone does follow the law, it becomes a redundant law. Without laws there are no law breakers. It is not only that law breakers are created by human laws, human laws need law breakers. Laws are established in the first place to prevent some human behaviors which society judges to be undesirable. But if everyone follows a law then that law is unnecessary, and if no one follows that law it is worthless. One could well say that law breakers perform a fundamental and necessary service for society. They keep laws alive. Without law breakers, there would be no need for laws or legislators or lawyers. In a heaven without law breakers, and therefore, without any law makers or lawyers, there is no room for a legal system to exist. Without a system of justice, society collapses. 

The paradox for today is that if everyone followed all laws, the legal justice system would vanish and society would implode.

A society and its legal justice system depend – existentially – upon its law breakers.

I am forced to the inevitable but very subversive conclusion that human laws are all made – not to be followed – but to be broken.

Now it’s time for dinner.


 


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