Monday, April 27, 2015

Gravity, etc.

One of my hobbies is physics.  Yes, I'm a geek.  It started, as best I can remember, with Carl Sagan's Cosmos.  It was beautiful and clear.  (The new one is even more message-heavy than the old one, and nowhere near as beautiful.)  Stars are the way they are because of how atoms behave?  The behaviors of the smallest and largest things are entwined?  As Spock (pbuh) would have said, fascinating.  So, I think about physics when I'm in the mood.  And lately, I've been in the mood.  I have time while riding the train back from work, you see.  (Not on the way to work - that's nap time.)

Back when I was a teenager, I even wanted to be a physicist.  My first year at university was as a declared physics major.  I made the mistake of taking the accelerated courses, and trying to learn physics and the calculus behind it at the same time was just too much, too fast for me.  So I dropped out and joined the Army to go fight the godless Communists. The point of this aside is to show that I have some background, but I am by no means a physicist or mathematician.  I'm just a very bright geek. 

I picked up a BD copy of Interstellar this weekend, and watched it last evening.  It was as fantastic as I'd heard.  I'm glad we saw it at home, with the subtitles on, as the background overwhelmed the dialog even more than is common with most movies.  The I watched the special features, which includes a The Science Of section.  Great stuff, and it clarified some things in my mind.  Cue Moment Of Clarity.  I now think I understand space-time and gravity.  I'd been working on my theory of space for a while, since I worked out the existence of what turned out to be the Higgs field over the winter.  I'll cut straight to the chase, and end this long-winded, stream of consciousness introduction.

Space-time is quantized.  There is a smallest unit of space, as there is a smallest unit of time.  Light travels at the rate of one space per unit time.  That's why nothing can travel faster than it.  Except gravity, of course, which has infinite speed.  Why does gravity have infinite speed?  Because it's not a property of matter, but a property of space-time itself.  What is gravity?  I propose (the truth according to my current opinion, subject to change) that gravity doesn't actually exist.  What we perceive as gravity is more properly called vectored time.  Mass 'warps' space.  It does this by increasing space-time's density. The time dilation effects of near light-speed travel happen because the speed of the object makes it pass through more points of space, increasing its apparent density.  Time dilation happens because time is directly related to the density of space.  And time has a 3D vector component that we view as gravity.  This vector increases as the density increases, or inversely to the distance between adjacent points of space-time, in a logarithmic fashion.  After all, it takes quite a lot of mass to noticeably affect time to any degree - as it takes quite a lot of mass to affect other objects to any noticeable degree.

There is a smallest unit of space that matter can occupy - but the distance between any two points isn't fixed.  It's variable, to a rather large degree, based on the influence of the presence of nearby mass.  The more mass there is, the closer the bits of space-time get to each other, increasing space's density.  Space can create more space.  Gravity and time are related functions of space-time. 

An object continues in a straight line unless a force acts upon it.  Space-time gravity affects matter as a 3D vector to that motion - time itself is preferential in its relationship with mass.  Yes, a rock floating in space continues in a straight line, as far as it knows.  It's just that the forward direction of time is pulling it ever so slightly towards the nearest other mass, and that larger mass over there, and that enormous, bright mass over there...  And the quote from the movie that spurred these thoughts - "Time inside the event horizon of a black hole points towards the center."

The initial period of greater-than-light-speed expansion happened because the enormous density of energy led to an enormous density of space, which then immediately spread out to a more "comfortable" distance from each other. Space is not constrained to light speed, because space is not matter.  It is the background upon which matter and energy are overlain.

Why does light slow down when passing through water?  It's more dense, and thus space-time is more dense.  Why does light curve around a galaxy, or a black hole?  It's more dense, and time is flowing towards the center.  (Photons, being massless, don't directly react to traditional gravity.  But they obviously curve around very massive objects.)

Thought experiment.  What is the life span of a photon?  Well, let's see.  Photons travel at, you guessed it, the speed of light.  Time slows down the closer you get to the speed of light.  Obviously, when traveling at the speed of light, no time appears to pass at all.  Therefore, subjectively, no time passes between the creation and destruction of a photon.  Therefore, it can last indefinitely in the outer universe, as it doesn't actually age.

Space can create more space.  That's why the universe can expand.  In the absence of matter, space-time becomes much less dense, as the points spread apart.  Once they cross a certain minimum density threshold, new points of space-time are created to 'fill in the gaps.'  The space-time points then adjust position to reach local density equilibrium, and the cycle eventually repeats  Thus, the more empty space you have, the faster that space will expand.  And you never see it doing this locally, because the density of space-time in the presence of mass prevents it from doing so.

All this took so much longer to put into words and type than it did to think.  I hope it makes any sense at all to somebody else.  Like I say in my introduction, I'm not really good at communicating.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Guns

I'm a red blooded American man.  I like meat and guns, and I don't see a need to ever apologize for either of those.

I don't enjoy hunting.  I've tried it a few times.  To me, it's like golf - an excuse to take a walk while holding heavy, expensive tools.  Except you don't generally try to golf in 35 degree rain, while keeping perfectly still, waiting to see if a ball will roll by sometime today.  I much prefer poking holes in paper on a nice day.  And at least hunting other armed men is actually sporting, not to mention exciting and terrifying.  Why yes, I have survived three separate wars.  Never actually shot anybody though.

I spent over 13 years in the Army.  I like shooting rifles and pistols.  I've carried both to war.  I'm very good with a rifle, and decent with a pistol.  I've taught other soldiers, and my wife and children, how to shoot.  For most people, learning to shoot safely is not difficult.  Safely is different from well.  Shooting is a skill that some people are naturally good at, some people are naturally bad at, and most people sort of muddle by in the middle.  Like all things, the bell curve applies.

Favorite shooting anecdotes - So there I was, in West Berlin (yes, I'm that old), qualifying with my M16A1 rifle on the 300 meter pop-up range.  In a heavy fog.  Neither rain, nor sleet, nor glom of nit... (apologies to Sir Pterry) shall keep us from our appointed range time, which is scheduled months in advanced.  So, anyway, we're all out there in the fog, trying to find the targets, so we can shoot at them.  Unusually for the Army, they gave us a practice round before we had to shoot for score.  I noticed that the fog, although thicker than usual for Berlin, wasn't all that deep.  When the targets popped up and fell back down, there was a grief flash of light as they caught the morning sun.  So, all I had to do was see the flashes, remember where they were, and shoot at the targets I couldn't actually see.  Easy enough.  I shot a perfect score that day, hitting all 40 targets, at ranges of 50 to 300 meters.  (They show up for between 3 seconds at 50 meters, and 7 seconds at 300 meters.)  Most of the other people passed with very low scores (you only needed to hit 23 to pass), but I was the only perfect score.  I'm justifiably proud of that day.

So there I was, on the range at the 7th army NCO academy in West Germany.  One of the Range Safeties (observers) is standing behind me, watching the activity.  I did my usual job of knocking down every target I saw - but I only counted 39 targets, instead of 40.  When cease fire is declared, I empty my rifle and sure enough, there's a round left over.  I talk to the Safety about the lack of a target, and he agreed with me.  He only saw 39 targets come up.  So I get to shoot at an extra target.  (This is called alibi fire in the Army.  Normally, it's a crutch used by people who shoot too slowly to have engaged the targets in the normal fashion.)  I load my single round, and wait.  The target comes up, and I knock it down.  Then we wait for the scores to be called.  When they get to me, I hear "Lane 13 - how in the hell did you shoot a 41?"  Yes, I shot a more than perfect 41 out of 40 targets that day.  It turns out that a distant target popped up behind a closer target, and neither I nor the Safety had seen it.  Apparently, the bullet traveled through the close target, and continued on to knock down the more distant one.  Thus 41 out of 40.  Good times.

Moving on to pistols.  After I came back from my second trip to Iraq, some officer who thought he was God's gift to the Army tried to teach some of us how to "properly" shoot our pistols.  The specific holding techniques he advocated were obviously, ludicrously wrong, so I ignored them.  Anyway, the exercise he came up with was pretty good.  We would be moving with pistols holstered, at various distances from the targets.  The targets each had 4 pieces of paper stapled to them, each with a different shape in a different color.  He would call out a color or shape, and we would address the target nearest to us and engage the proper piece of paper with two shots, then safe and reholster the pistol.  I should note that we were working at ranges of up to 25 meters, shooting at 4" targets on human silhouette backings.  I laugh at police who qualify on 5 to 10 yard shooting ranges.  Anyway, I was having a grand time shooting targets.  It wasn't raining or snowing, and it wasn't dull.  Those two factors alone put the occasion head and shoulders above most military range days.  But I did notice that the instructor was looking at me funny.  I know I pissed him off by ignoring his asinine advice on how to properly hold a pistol, which involved constantly relocating your hands.  But it took me a while to figure out why he had that weird combination of anger and awe on his face.  That's when I finally noticed that I was holstering my pistol before the next guy (there were about 20 of us shooting that day) was firing his first shot.  Consistently.  I had been so focused on my work, that I wasn't paying that much attention to the other shooters, other than for safety purposes.  And yes, I was hitting the correct 4" targets with both shots.  I'm neither the fastest, nor the most accurate around.  But I'm fast enough, and accurate enough.  I still smile when I think of that day.  And I attribute my skills to the boss I had for a while, who taught me the most valuable lesson in shooting - slow is smooth, and smooth is fast.

Introduction

So, the is the obligatory first post.  Of course it's obligatory - in order for there to be a blog, there must be posts, and one of them is bound to be the first.

Talking  doesn't come naturally to me.  I'm not an outgoing person.  It's not so much that I'm anti-social, as mostly a-social.  I just prefer to spend my time by myself or with my family, reading, watching movies, or playing games.

My communication skills also suffer because I don't generally think in words.  I think in ideas and concepts.  This makes learning and thinking about many different things easy.  It makes communicating knowledge and ideas rather difficult.  I have the concepts and ideas.  I lack the vocabulary and communications skills.  Thus, this blog is my attempt to improve my communications.  Oh, and please excuse the occasional typos.  My fingers can't keep up with my thoughts, and are getting more dyslexic and less precise as I get older.  And I grew up reading Agatha Christie mysteries, so I tend to use some British spellings.

I freely admit that I can't speak worth a lick.  Oh, I can talk just fine.  But I'm really not very good at it.  I have a particular form of aphasia where I have trouble with nouns in general, and proper names in particular.  It takes me weeks of constant contact to learn somebody's name, and if I don't interact with them for more than a month or so, I generally forget their name.  I get stuck in the middle of a sentence because I can't access the next word.  This has been going on for years, and is getting worse as I age.  She Who Must Be Obeyed (AKA my wife of over 25 years) understands when I am forced to talk around or describe the noun I'm trying to use.  She seldom laughs any more, although she does still smirk.  OK, I admit, it is funny sometimes.  ("Humor is pain for others." - Heinlein) 

The weird thing is that I seldom block on the same word twice.  It's like the word exists in memory, but the link to it is broken.  Once reestablished, the link works just fine again, and becomes stronger than it was before. The words I lose aren't even necessarily uncommon.  The ones my wife uses as examples of this phenomenon are "bank" and "cat."  Not exactly rocket science.

I politically identify a conservative American, but what I really am is an anti-communist.  Which, really, is what America is (was, should be) all about.  Communism (socialism, leftism, progressivism, etc, ad nauseum) is simply evil.  I see this as self evident.  I really can't understand how people seem blind to this.  Of course, I don't think they are.  I think the people who are in favor of the total control of people see themselves as members of the royal/ruling/master class, not as one of the peasants/proletariat/working class.  Communism is many things.  It's a religion - they have their holy documents, saints, mantras, and dogma.  It's a political theory - it's all about how to control people and things.  The one thing it's not is an economic theory.  Economics is the study of the interactions between supply and demand.  Communism doesn't concern itself with demand at all - it is solely concerned with supply.  Plus it works against human nature.  Not the control part - the will to power is part of human nature.   No, what communism gets wrong is the basic idea that people are ants or bees.  Interchangeable widgets with no free will, no ideas, no desires.  Their attempts to make men into widgets necessarily includes a lot of loss - around 100 million dead last century.  I don't think this is a good thing.  That makes me a reactionary conservative now.  The older term was counter-revolutionary.  Or just plain sane.  Differently sane, perhaps, but sane nonetheless.