Thursday, November 26, 2009

sweet spot

The long, slow process of breaking down matter that once fueled a bird's hopes and dreams and rearranging it to fuel my fatness began on a farm somewhere, and will soon come to an end in my body. Happy Turkey Life Force Absorbing Day!

Meanwhile, I've discovered the last piece in a cosmological puzzle that's been bothering me for a few years. It really ties up the universe nicely. Actually, I haven't discovered it. I've read about some guys speculating about it in New Scientist. Those guys are Lee Smolin and Louis Crane, and the puzzle they introduced me to all those years ago was an evolving multiverse. The idea is that the Big Bang was caused by a black hole in another universe. And whenever a black hole forms, it creates another big bang on the other side, or backward in time, or something. If black holes pass on the traits of our universe to their baby universes, with slight variation, then the whole system would be just like evolution.

Another puzzle is the fact that all the universe's fundamental numbers, like the charge of an electron and the strength of the strong force, seem suspiciously fine-tuned to make this universe capable of producing stars, and carbon atoms, and life. This comes up all the time as evidence for God, or multiple universes.

The final piece that ties that puzzle into the first one was revealed in the article. Smolin said he was afraid to reveal it before, because it was too crazy. Here it is: One of those fundamental facts about our universe that seems suspiciously fine-tuned, is the size of an artificial black hole you'd need to build in order to make a good space ship engine. It turns out to be just right, as if the universe is optimized so that we can build space ships out of black holes. A cute little symbiotic relationship.

Obviously that's stupid, but it's cool. The evolving universe hypothesis had been bothering me because it's so close to an good idea, but I just knew it was missing something. Not anymore. I feel like I just read a whole sci fi story with a meganeato premise, and no boring ass characters or plot to waste my time.

Sunday, November 22, 2009


I'm going to put the blog on a real website. I even bought the domain. (At the moment, it's just this blog in a frame.) I's going to move it to Facebook, but Facebook is too Web 2.0 for me. Maybe I'll go into my irrational aversion to Web 2.0 some day, because you care. Instead, I'm going to do it the way I know: hand-written html on my own webspace. As soon as I get time. I've been busy as shit this week. One reason was MCMAP (Marine Corps Martial Arts Program).

A great thing about the Marines is that we wear karate belts on our regular work uniforms. Their color represents how far we've progressed in MCMAP. So by simply lifting up a Marine's jacket, you can tell how hard they're about to karate you for lifting up their jacket.

For the last week, I'd been working on grey belt. It's a two week program, and I can't finish it because I'm starting electronics class (the whole reason I'm here) Monday. I don't know why I can't continue MCMAP training just because I'm changing platoons. You could ask the government. I had fun, and I should be able to do my second week eventually. Wednesday was the first time in my life I'd wrestled.

I really sucked. On Friday, the third time, I'd gotten significantly better. After I very gradually got into the mount position (that's good), my opponent got desperate and started choking the shit out of me. I became a little concerned because he had an excellent grip on my collar, and I had no idea how to get out of it.

When you're getting the shit choked out of you, seconds are like hours. So after he was choking the shit out of me for three hours, I finally got the brilliant idea to choke the shit out of him. It only took a couple hours of this to convince him to let go of me, even though he'd had a head start. Obviously my shit-out-choking skills are sufficient to pay the bills. Then we struggled about as I tried to cash my mount position check, but we ran out of time.

I surely would have won if anyone was keeping score.

Meanwhile, someone sent a postsecret from boot camp.

Of course it's from girl boot camp (I hope). If you aren't familiar with postsecret, it's full of real post cards with real artsy confessions on them. For example,

You're stupid if you don't love that site.

Edit: Turns out my opponent was merely afraid of hurting me. Fuck.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

the singularity is coming

When this happens, you'll know the Singularity has arrived.

Here's the stuff I've been looking at on the net today:

This is a surprisingly accurate portrayal of a Marine's daily life.

This is a clever image resizing technology. By "clever" I mean "pure evil." I can't figure out exactly why, but it feels so wrong to me. No, I can figure out exactly why. You can't just let users change the content of an image any time they want to resize a window! Who's to say those bits of sky aren't important? We're going to create a whole generation with no concept of the relative positions of objects in the real world. And did you see what happened to that baby's face? That's just one of the bugs they know about. How else can this thing go wrong? Will the algorithm preserve everything it considers cute and mutilate everything else, or let it dissolve in the ether? Who could live in a world where a computer decides who deserves to be photographed, and drinks our blood? Or worse, a computer provides a handy interface to put that decision in the hands of the most wicked calculating machine of all: Man.

Here's the website of a guy who likes to chop up computers and hang their still-operating pieces up for display. It's sick and captivating. The machines would be crazy not to hate us.

So that's what the future has in store. I make sure I have an easy way out within reach at all times. Do you?

Saturday, November 14, 2009


Last night, I felt like the guy in that One Bourbon, One Scotch, and One Beer song. But instead of being evicted and left by my baby, I was locked out of my room for a little while. I lost my key, and if I don't find it before Monday, I'm going to be punished for losing government property. Unable to change out of my cammies, I went over to the library to surf the net until the bar opened. I picked up The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. I tell people I'm a sci fi fan, but that's a lie since I haven't yet read the classics such as that and Ender's Stuff.

So I'm at the bar, reading The Guide, and drinking one beer, one beer, and one beer. It occurs to me that the chow hall is about to close. So I quickly drink some more beers and search for a bookmark. I don't find one, so I decide to memorize the page number.

I may not have read the book before, but I've been on the net, and watched the movie, enough to know the significance of the number 42. It's a significant number in the book. My mind had been rendered tender by the bender, and so it was duly blown by the fact that I was on page 42.

My mind's unblown now, but I've been noticing little coincidences all around me today. I think my experience might have made me extra sensitive to coincidences. I'm trying my ass off to figure out how I can use this to fight crime, but I'm afraid it might turn out to be a weakness.

Meanwhile, the guy who left girlfriend pictures in my locker came by the other night, looking for the scuzz brush he'd left in the room. The locker was open, and the picture was there for him to see, including some improvements I'd made.

I was a little nervous, but he didn't seem to notice it at all. So you can now rest assured that he doesn't miss it.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

like a boss

Marines like to write stuff in rocks. Here's the front of the Student Reception Center:

We also like to landscape with sand more than anything else. I thought that was something they only did in boot camp to make our lives miserable. But no, I'll be dealing with sand for the rest of my career.

Anyway, here's what appeared in front of my neighbor's room this morning:

This is what it's referring to. We were singing a "LIKE A BOSS" cadence in PT the other day. Someone tried to start an "I'M ON A BOAT" cadence, but it didn't catch on. Nonetheless, Andy Samberg and company are popular here.

I'd been following The Lonely Island for years on the net before they became famous. When I learned about their SNL gig, I was surprised Andy was the main guy. I was like, "Andy? That guy's a cunt. It should have been Jorma." Anyway, I feel special for knowing about these guys before all my peers did. I feel like I deserve a fucking medal.

Meanwhile, I moved into a new room, and I inherited the last occupant's girlfriend.

He hasn't come looking for the pictures in several days, so he must not miss them that much. I don't know which one's the girlfriend, but I like to assume they both are, as if he's some kind of super player. And now they're mine.

I don't want to end on such a creepy note, so here's a funny rap battle.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

more like neil deasse tyson

I've been watching various youtubes of Neil deGrasse Tyson, and he said something I hate to hear: "It's super arrogant to believe there isn't any life elsewhere in the universe." (Not an exact quote.) Don't get me wrong. I love Mr. Tyson. Every night I fantasize that he'll knock on my door and we'll explore the unknown together. That's why I find it so distressing that he said this thing I hate. I've heard the same thing so many times, from so many different people, on TV, in person, on the net, that I've forgotten the first time I heard it. It was probably from Carl Sagan. All I remember is that I was an innocent young mind who had a similar sentiment. There's got to be life out there, among those sextillions of stars.

The part that fills me with rage is when they call the person with the opposite belief "arrogant." These bastards are so sure their answer to an unsettled scientific question is the right one, that they're ready to diagnose the character flaw that would lead someone to the opposite answer. Fuck you, Neil deGrasse Tyson!

While I hope there's life out there, I'm neutral on the question of whether there actually is. I don't think there's enough evidence either way. That's what makes it interesting, I think. No, "titillating" would be a better word, because when we do find that evidence, it will be even more interesting. I'm sure you've heard the pro-life side of the argument billions and billions of times, so I'm going to advance the fence-sitting side. We don't know the odds of life forming under any conditions. Not empirically, not theoretically, not at all. That should settle it right there. When someone says, "But there are so many stars!" that's an argument from vividness. They might as well be saying, "But I can't imagine a probability lower than 10^-22!" (That's one out of all the stars in the observable universe. Presently, it's the empirical probability that a star will bear life.)

I just realized that I'm calling a certain belief arrogant. Fuck you, me!

Meanwhile, my life is being ruled by The Electro Gypsy. I must have listened to it billions and billions of times now.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

how i joined our beloved corps

I used to eat really fast. When people would be out eating with me, they'd ask, "Why are you eating so fast?" And I'd say, "Because I'm a Marine." I'd never even considered joining the Marines. I just thought it was a funny thing to say. But one day, I was out with my roommate's son, picking up a pizza. He was looking for a referral, and I was under the influence of ghetto beer.

He struck with the cunning of an experienced salesman. "You look like you'd make a good Marine." (I didn't at all. Still don't.) I scratched my chin, realized he was talking to me, and shouted, "Heal yeah!" And I agreed to talk to his recruiter the next day. After that, and some thorough internet research,

I was like, "Sign me up!" So here I am, being all Mariney, and eating slow as hell. It struck me quite how slow I've been eating when I was looking at the sign out sheet at the front desk.

I can't explain it. Maybe I resent how they made me eat even faster than usual in boot camp. So there you go, everyone who was annoyed by my shovelly eating habit. I hope you're happy.

Friday, November 6, 2009

is biology more basic than physics?

There's an old joke in science called "physics envy." Physicists say that all other fields of science are just narrower applications of physics, therefore all other fields of science are bitches.

Here's the lolcat version:

There's some truth to it. Physicists are the only scientists who are seriously working on a theory of everything. Sometimes they're modest and call it "quantum gravity," but it's really a theory of everything.

Now, I'm more of a reader of biologists' blogs, and I usually find myself sympathising with them, so this joke bothers me a little. There's a hope deep in my brain that some day, somehow, biology will be found to be more basic than physics, and then we will have won. That day might have arrived.

You might not want to watch the whole video, since it's a half hour long, and the guy's bald, so I'll try to summarize: Everything in the universe, including life, computer programs, engineering, and the universe itself, is a program in the computational universe. The computational universe is the set of everything that can possibly exist. Specifically, everything that, in principle, can be simulated by a computer, which covers everything that can exist.

Since life forms sport some pretty complicated programs, with even more complicated outputs, he says that maybe biology explores a wider swath of the computational universe than physics. In searching for the theory of everything living, will biology stumble upon the theory of everything else?

Of course not. Physics has lasers and sattelites and the biggest machine ever built. But it was nice to believe the dream for a half hour.

And since I have my funny pictures folder open, here's this:

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

argument for christianity

Actually, it's an argument that God is just and elegant despite the existence of Hell. So it would apply equally to Islam, and any other religion I don't know about that has a Heaven and Hell. But Islam and religions I don't know about are gay.

Other religions.

Hell is a problem for theodicy* because it's kind of an extreme form of punishment. How can anyone deserve unimaginable pain forever? It's more understandable, if not any more appealing, if you look at Heaven and Hell as not a reward and punishment, but as logical necessities. God can be excused for being extreme if He's bound by His only master, logic. In case your monocle popped out on that last sentence, let me try to ease your mind. If you believe logic is a universal law that even God must follow, then it shouldn't trouble you. If you believe logic is an invention of God, then think of it this way: God can choose to bind Himself to His own laws. He invented the laws of morality, and would never break them. Also, He issues commands to Jesus, while being Jesus. And Jesus is mankind's king and servant at the same time. There are apparently all sorts of circular chains of command in and about God.

So I'm going to say Heaven and Hell are a logical necessity. That "logic is an invention of God, which He bound himself to" problem might still be bothering you. You might ask, "Why would God invent the kind of logic that makes Hell necessary? That still seems rather mean." I wish I had an answer for that, but my brain's already twisted in a knot. Moving on.

Imagine a community of people who live forever. It's not as easy as it sounds. What kind of person would you be after living in another world, filled with constant joy (or pain), for 60 quadrillion years? That's just the beginning of eternity. But let's try to make predictions anyway. A good guideline would be to take something in this life that's a function of time, and setting the time factor to infinity. Take one of your relationships. Does it get better or worse with time? When the relationship encounters tension, do you react with hostility, causing more tension, or understanding, causing less tension? It's probably hostility sometimes and understanding other times, but we're looking for an overall trend. Multiply the trend by infinity, and that's what your relationship will look like in eternity.

Heaven isn't all orgies and cupcakes. It's about community.

Heaven is a community of people who live forever. If they're going to enjoy their infinite time together, they have to be the kind of people who react with understanding. They have to be the kind of people who can maintain good relationships. The kind built on love and kindness and all that shit. Those traits are requisite to get into Heaven not because God wants to reward you for them, but because Heaven just wouldn't work otherwise. And Hell would be the alternative for the unqualified. The annoying people have to go somewhere.

I'm not touching you. Forever.

Infinity has a way of simplifying things. It might not be clear where your relationships are going. Or if it is, it might not be clear whose fault it is. But you'll find out when you die.**

*The branch of theology that deals with the problem of evil.
**If there are afterlives.

spongebob squarepants

One of the half-serious jokes commonly used by NCO's in the Corps goes like this: "I've got a promotion coming up, but I don't care. If you do that again, I'll throw my career away. It'll be worth it to kick your ass." And that's what our PT staff sergeant said to the guy who sings Spongebob Squarepants cadence.