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January 24, 2004
Surfing Through Hyperspace: Understanding Higher Universes in Six Easy Lessons
Today I read Surfing Through Hyperspace: Understanding Higher Universes in Six Easy Lessons
by Clifford A. Pickover
. It's about the fourth spatial dimension, a fascinating concept in theoretical mathematics and physics that increasingly has real-world applications. Pickover presents an eclectic examination of the topic, not only covering such things as hyperbeings, 4-D geometry, parallel universes, wormholes, quantum foam, and 4-D rotation, but drawing on spirituality, the occult, theology, and science fiction as well. Helpful graphics and an engaging X-Files
parody clarify salient aspects of the fourth dimension, and though this book contains mathematical formulas, puzzles, computer code, and a scientific bibliography on hyperspace, simply reading the story and Pickover's thoughts on the subject is enough to expand one's imagination (the extensive, descriptive appendix on fourth dimension science fiction looks promising as well).
So, what's so great about this extra dimension? The author posits two directions in 4-D space, upsilon and delta, and shows how four-dimensional hyperbeings would seem supernatural, able to see and move through anything, perform surgery without breaking skin, appear and disappear at will, perhaps even exist outside of time. He wonders: Are angels, demons, and God actually 4-D entities? (There's an intriguing section which compares string theory's ten dimensions and sephiroth, Kabala's ten divine numbers.) Further, perhaps our souls extend into the fourth dimension, and they travel upsilon or delta when we die. Beyond spiritual musings, Pickover contemplates the chemistry and biology of four-dimensional beings (they may have 3-D retinas instead of our 2-D ones). The discussion of hyperspheres and tesseracts surpasses 3-D geometry, but it helps one imagine what hyperbeings might look like in three dimensions: Extrapolating from the way a 2-D being experiences a 3-D one in Edwin Abbott Abbott's Flatland
, Pickover claims that to us, four-dimensional creatures passing through our three-dimensional world might appear as blobs of flesh and cloth, 3-D slices of 4-D objects. Most interesting, however, is that each of us could be part of a singular hyperbeing, appendages only conscious of the parts stuck in this dimension. This makes me wonder: What if all living things are one entity? What if inanimate objects are only inanimate in this dimension, objects meant for our use because they're actually part of us? (Perhaps when people say we're all part of God, it's more literal than they think.) It even seems possible that most of our universe, in the form of invisible dark energy and dark matter, exists primarily in the fourth dimension. Pickover's book has opened my mind to an exciting concept I'd never considered before. At least in this dimension.
January 23, 2004
Was Today Lucky?
I met my friend Jennifer for lunch at Chick-fil-A. Aside from our typically rich conversation, there was something else that made today special: I redeemed three $1 scratch tickets for $4 and two tickets. I won $2. After lunch I redeemed my winning ticket for $1 and a ticket. I won $1, but I haven't claimed it yet. Okay, so I didn't win much, but it seemed cool nonetheless. Was it luck? Before I redeemed my ticket after lunch, I followed Jennifer into The Body Shop, where more weirdness occurred. She was looking at items that burn scented oils, and the woman at the register began joking with us about how more men should get facials and such (I said that being in the store was enough for me). A man came in from the back and said he liked the pin on Jennifer's backpack: a cartoon bunny that said, "I hate everything." The man, the woman, and Jennnifer talked about where to get T-shirts with the bunny on it, and when Jennifer went to pay, the man said, "How committed are you to that particular one?" He brought her in the back (just several feet away), and upgraded her purchase to a boxed set with multiple oils. Those employees were so friendly, and it all happened in just a few minutes -- I've never seen that occur with such remarkable speed. Was there something in the air? Was it luck?
January 22, 2004
My host got hacked Saturday night (1/17), and my website was defaced. It was restored from backup but tech support had to move it to a new server. Since then it's been sporadically inaccessible -- it seems to be a domain name issue. I don't think I lost much, but let me know
if something isn't working.
January 21, 2004
Dreamcrafting: The Art of Dreaming Big, the Science of Making It Happen
Today I read Dreamcrafting: The Art of Dreaming Big, the Science of Making It Happen
by Paul Levesque and Art McNeil. It's a book about defining and achieving your big dream, whatever that may be. This is accomplished with macroskills: Aspiration (Igniting a Sense of Mission), Motivation (Intensifying and Maintaining Resolve), Projection (Linking Today with Tomorrow), Inclusion (Getting Others Involved), and Application (Cultivating the Dreamcrafting Habit) (pg. 9-10). Providing further inspiration are the included profiles of those who are well-known for their achievements. While not the best in its class -- it's a little corny in places and sometimes features what seems like general common sense -- the book makes some worthwhile points. It acknowledges the emptiness that's felt when people have no sense of purpose, and the role a meaningless job can have in exacerbating the problem. However, since people need to survive, it advises orienting responsibilities, if only in small increments, toward the big dream. Tracking progress and recognizing the power of slow growth are emphasized, and I was glad to see coverage of how time passes more quickly as one gets older. I was intrigued by the statements "Buckminster Fuller believed humanity's ultimate role in the universe is 'antientropic,'" and "This is a book about bringing life into alignment -- about bringing order and structure (antientropy) into what can otherwise become a random exercise in existence." (p. 153). The authors believe that little steps can add up to a big difference. If so, then perhaps reading this book is one such step.
January 18, 2004
Biased Newscasters, Allegedly
When did it become acceptable for newscasters to show bias? Of course bias is inherent in any newscast: To report on one thing and not another is a form of bias that can't be avoided. However, local newscasters in particular often show their own values with no regard for their role in educating the public. They're wary with words when reporting the facts of a crime: "The alleged murderer allegedly killed the alleged victim." However, sometimes they may, for example, call a crime "cold-blooded," or a crime scene "gruesome." Even if most people would use them to describe violent crimes, these words are nevertheless subjective. Newscasters can also show bias by calling people heroes, particularly when speaking of "the ultimate sacrifice"
. Yet bias extends beyond issues of life and death: Newscasters generally favor local sports teams, Christmas, the Santa Claus myth, and temperatures in the 70s. These people needn't be automatons -- I like seeing personality; I want them to be real. The problem arises when newscasters try too hard to be part of the audience: At worst they become sycophantic "newscasterasters" who'd rather be my friend than be objective. Please, when reporting the news, try to keep your opinions out of the story -- some of your viewers are still capable of forming their own.
Adam, Eve, and the Beauty Myth
Most conceptions of Adam and Eve portray them as beautiful or attractive (recent example: this week's America's Next Top Model
). The belief in their beauty likely comes from the "created in God's image" idea: If God is perfect, then He must be beautiful, and therefore so were his first children (most of His other children haven't been so lucky). But isn't it more likely that Adam and Eve did not fit today's beauty standard? Until recent times Adam and Eve have traditionally been white, reflective of a European civilization that reformed the myth in its own image. Now it's common to see other races represented, but the beauty criterion remains. In the name of further diversity, when are we going to see an ugly, or even deformed, Adam and Eve? Would it be too shocking, too blasphemous, to see our ancestors as flawed, perhaps subhuman? What if beauty is not representative of perfection? What if, by some cosmic irony, God isn't beautiful at all? Order can rise from chaos; beauty can rise from ugliness. If it happens down here, why not up there?
January 14, 2004
Tonight I poured some Crispy M&M's into my hand and got five of them, all red ones. The bag seemed mixed pretty well; was this a sign? According to this
, a bag of Crispy M&M's should be 16.6% red, yet it seems unusual to get five of the same color. What does it mean? Five can mean marriage -- is there a Communist or Republican wedding coming up? Five can mean humanity or the world -- are these things bleeding? Tell me something I don't know. Of course, I'm tempted to say that there's nothing special about this configuration: One red, two yellows, a brown, and a green may be more meaningful, but few would notice. On the other hand, perhaps the universe shows meaning through five reds precisely because humans are more likely to pay attention. To be truthful, I paid more attention when, earlier in the day, a piece of junk mail startled me: I misread "realty guild" as, well, you can probably guess. That was more relevant to me, but maybe five reds will make more sense later. Divination is hard, yo.
January 13, 2004
Celebrity Advertisements Database: Top Spot in Google
Check it out: Search Google for celebrity advertisements
and my Celebrity Advertisements Database is on the first page. Search for "celebrity advertisements"
and I've got the top spot! (I notice on the first search Google also finds "advertising" as well; this finding of related words must be new behavior, or I've never noticed it before.) Google is fickle, however: It took months for my website to get included, and afterwards I noticed it would sporadically disappear from the nullibicity
search results. Some pages Google still refuses to index. Wait, is Googlebot reading this? Uh-oh....
January 12, 2004
Extinct Job Titles
The Boston Globe has a great article here
about jobs, or at least job titles, that have become extinct in America. Editors of the Dictionary of Occupational Titles declare a job vanished when "no more than 15 people in the United States answer to a particular job title." The Log of Disappeared American Jobs
referenced in the article is interesting, especially the extended listing. Many of the jobs are wonderfully specific: pillowcase turner, marshmallow machine worker, tennis ball cover cementer, lozenge dough mixer. Some of them are a bit suggestive: top screw, nailer, bottom nailer, cloth tearer (ooh!), butt presser, bosom presser, impregnator, impregnating helper, bottom filler, bottom bleacher, end packer, and several kinds of boners (head, loin, sheep, chuck, and shoulder). Others sound violent: jawbone breaker, car whacker, gore inserter, bone crusher, seal killer, cripple worker (worker crippler?), smash hand, mutton puncher, and rabbit flesher. Still others are pretty obscure: mother repairer (gynecologist?), maturity checker (it's pretty clear how this went extinct), queen producer, muck boss (political party head?), dress gang worker, and reverser. And what's a buzzle buffer? Others seem like they shouldn't be on the list: Are there really no more raisin washers, pearl divers, or apple sorters, no more rattlesnake farmers, parachutists, or silverware washers? How can there be no side show entertainers, singing messengers, or male, female, or animal impersonators? The article suggests that most of these extinct jobs were too limited in scope; as jobs and job responsibilities have become more varied, job titles have generally become less specific to incorporate the changes. Thus, some of these jobs live on as components of other jobs. In theory this could be a positive development for the workers involved -- humans weren't meant to do the same thing for eight hours or more. That includes killing seals.
January 10, 2004
A Brief History of Time
Today I read A Brief History of Time
by Stephen Hawking. The book examines a few major topics in physics: relativity and quantum theories, black holes, time, big bangs, and so forth. It's pretty readable, though there are parts that I didn't fully understand; although it's meant for a general audience, readers with little exposure to physics may find it difficult. Hawking does try to make the material accessible, leaving out mathematical formulas but including a glossary and helpful diagrams. I read the first edition; the newer one has apparently been updated to cover what's been discovered in the last few years.
January 08, 2004
A Library Card Ain't Nothin' But a Bar Code
My library card is a rectangular piece of plastic with a bar code sticker on it. To check out books requires a quick pass under the scanner, no swiping involved. What if I removed the sticker and put it on something else? I could put it on one of my books, perhaps an old library book, and then if I left it in the library a librarian would wonder why it scanned as a patron rather than as a book. What if I put the code on my arm, or on a piece of broccoli? A ferret? Maybe a name tag is better: "Look at me -- I'm a number in the system!" It would look cool suspended in a block of silicone, even if it probably wouldn't scan correctly. No, people expect cards to carry identity, at least until those keychains with the RFID chips in them
become more mainstream.
January 07, 2004
My First Experience With Earplugs
Not to sound like Howie from The Mezzanine
again, but yesterday I went to Walgreens to check out earplugs. I've been thinking about getting some to block out noise, to try to induce that quiet, hypnotic feeling I get when I'm really focused on writing. There were several brands with varying prices; I checked each one's NRR (Noise Reduction Rating), and chose a pack of American Hearos
to get me started. It's NRR is 32, one of the highest among the products available, but when I tried them I was disappointed: I could still hear anything louder than a whisper. It's more of a muffled, insulated effect rather than complete silence, pretty much like putting your hands over your ears. They also made my pulse and footsteps echo, which could be distracting. I suppose they could be useful (when opening Pillsbury Cinnamon Rolls, perhaps), though not to the extent I would've liked.
William Shakespeare: Celebrity Spokesman?
Yesterday someone apparently searched for Shakespeare in my Celebrity Advertisements Database
. I appreciate the vote of confidence, but unfortunately the database doesn't go quite that far back -- yet. What brands did Shakespeare endorse? Avon beauty products, perhaps?
January 04, 2004
Nucleus Plugin: NP_PageLinkList
I've created NP_PageLinkList, a Nucleus plugin that lists links to the pages in one's blog, (e.g. Go to Page: 1, 2, 3). The code and more information about how to use it have been posted here
January 01, 2004
Obligatory Hopeful "Happy 2004" Entry
Yes, it's the first day of 2004. Will this year be any different than last year? Will the world finally climb out of its nothingness? Let's hope so. It seems so arbitrary anyway, to say that yesterday was one year and today is the next, especially since one year feels like just a few months. And what's with the inferior TV celebrations on New Year's Eve? Of course I don't expect the sort of worldwide, hours-long coverage that happened in 1999, but when you cut away the rather irrelevant musical acts there isn't much left. TV seems to only get really excited about fifteen seconds before the ball drops in Times Square. After a minute of "celebration" the event is pretty much over. Why bother with all that preparation if you're hardly going to celebrate? I suppose we need it, if only to give a small, momentary boost to anticipation and hope. Will it have any lasting impact? Will people take those feelings and improve the world? Hopefully.
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