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Monday, August 25, 2014

Ignore for the moment, the incessant call of the doomsday naysayers.

 I will admit that I do enjoy the role of the devil’s advocate. I do it so often that I do it without consciously thinking about it. It’s kind of a verbal exercise in which I make statements concerning things that are at the same time both factual and not entirely true. The goal of the exchange is to elicit a response an then perhaps  friendly debate.

 Last weak  as I was preparing to be away for several days, I had need to communicate some last minute instructions to my coworkers. After having written a fairly complex set of instruction to one particular coworker via email I asked if there were any questions I could answer before I go. In response Dana who sits beside me in the next cubicle posed a question. “What does it all mean?” To which I answered automatically, “To consume and to be in turn consumed”.  She responded with her usual sarcastic tone. “What about love?” I must admit I was uncharacteristically caught off guard.

 Days later while sitting in my beach chair by the Jersey shore my mind wandered back to this question. Gazing out along the black rock jetty I imaged a long ago time when life as we now know it began to flourish. Encrusted there upon a craggy spring-tide edge a rusting patina of bio-film held precariously. In those hard times had spontaneously arisen a fundament of a body.


              Roland Thaxter - Thaxter, R. Botanical Gazette 17(12):389-406 (1892

 Cells had differentiated perhaps by accident preserving resources in the process. Cells over generations continued to specialize in myriad experimental expression. In the process blind alleys and dead ends would be exposed and eliminated by natural selection. After a near infinity of trial and error a configuration akin to a system of tissues was achieved. A fruiting body  would then rise to perchance preserve its fragile survival until the hard times had passed. In Parallel we too must survive the rigors of this world. We however through the lenses of everyday life tend to be blind to the struggle.


 Animals have been documented by science to possess many amazing senses and abilities that far outpace our own. Our brains it would seem had needed to reorganize with nature selecting to replace or abandoning others deemed less valuable survival mechanisms. Through some chance genetic bottle neck the landscapes of our minds were altered. A race in tune with the well fare of its kind created a new way of life in which we could sense for the first time our essential oneness with others. 


Valuable senses were lost in the process. Dull to the world around us we are surrounded instead by a ring of family bound by love. It was perhaps on the edge of a sea not unlike this one where our ancient ancestors were busily collecting crab and fish first felt these budding emotions. They in time would become so tightly bound to our new way of life that they became integral to it. It was then that to protect and care for each other went from a weakness to strength.

In the breadth of time on Earth in which life has existed what we think of as purely human emotions are relative newcomers. In comparison within the billions of years prior to the advent of our line life’s only goal was survival.  The first order of life did so by, consuming the abundant chemical and solar energies that were so readily available. As competition grew fierce an arms race was triggered in which it was far more economical to let someone else do their work of collecting energy for them. This way of life persisted as the primary mode of existence onward up until the end of the last ice age.

If you imagine these ephemeral ideas such as the emotion of love as being creations of the sentient mind or recognized from the primordial wellspring, either way these notions are new to us. So why then do we insist on placing them squarely at the top of our existential spectrum? It is I think not merely the fact that this is a human-centric world. Can it be that simple that the desire to love and be loved merely a mechanism through which we by extension increase our genetic survivability? By recognizing the essential oneness with those of our kind we have gained a powerful tool that allows us to more easily able to share and exploit common resources. Enhanced over millennia there traits have been ingrained into every aspect of culture. When all is said and done the equation To consume and to be in turn consumed, still rings true. It is also true however that Together we survive and alone we perish.

When looking out upon the roiling sea I am reminded of when in my days of youth how complex it all seemed. Through the eyes of a young artist I was obsessed with trying to capture in graphic form what I was experiencing. With my limited abilities I could not achieve anything approaching a facsimile of experience. It would take me a few years of trying before I realized that such a feat was unachievable. 

Our experience of the natural world through our senses has been altered to where we can only reference it through abstract patterns. We must infer meaning of imagery through the sieve of the mental and cultural images we have already created. This is the nature of Art and this is why it is so important to us. It is our nature then to weave from these emotions a landscape of connections.  Despite the incessant call of the doomsday naysayers there is one unavoidable fact. Never before in all of the history of our species have we lived in an age of such abundance. Take a moment now and again take note of it.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

The Impossible Drive

Last week over the course of a number of days I had read several contradictory reports in regards to the apparent confirmation by NASA scientists of a controversial new space technology.   Beyond the claim itself which was remarkable I found myself fascinated by an ensuing drama. In most instances such as this when extraordinary claims are made a phalanx of establishment detractors’ rise up against the claim in judgment and ridicule. However in this instance it was not the usual case of “The Dreamers” versus “The Nay Sayers”. An observant reader could easily see that as battle lines were being drawn that the Nay Sayers were careful not to mock too vigorously.

 The major bone of contention is the fact that this technology, what British Engineer Roger Sawyer calls an EmDrive should not work at all. According to the theory electric power is converted directly into thrust, bypassing the need for propellant.  Within a sealed vacuum chamber high energy radio frequencies are bounced around somehow propagating thrust from the quantum ether.

                                                                    Remember this?

In a recent report published by NASA it has officially reported that experiments to either confirm or disprove this technology were conducted in 2013. The published results seem to back up earlier reports out of China that confirm that small but measurable levels of thrust were detected.  I thought it was rather interesting how the NASA abstract states right from the beginning that it is in no way trying to explain or describe their observation beyond the results. It would seem that the scientists at NASA the venerable granddad of space science are at a loss for word as to explain or describe their observation beyond the results. As for now it is standing by its results and has published them to the internet.

An abstract of the report entitled “Anomalous Thrust Production from an RF Test Device Measured on a Low-Thrust Torsion Pendulum was published July 28th and can be found at the following link.

 At the bottom of the abstract one of the authors states;

 “Test results indicate that the RF resonant cavity thruster design, which is unique as an electric propulsion device, is producing a force that is not attributable to any classical electromagnetic phenomenon and therefore is potentially demonstrating an interaction with the quantum vacuum virtual plasma. Future test plans include independent verification and validation at other test facilities.”

 Science is often scared to get ahead of itself. According to accepted conventional physics this theoretical technology breaks the law of conservation of energy therefore it cannot work. However with NASA making such extraordinary claims the scientific community should take a moment to examine these findings. It will be curious to watch this unfold over the next months or years. In the worst case scenario if they are proved wrong you can still reserve the right to say I told you so and then it’s back to giant rocket that goes nowhere. However if it proves to be true this could lead to a golden age of science and could possess the side effect of offering economically priced space travel to all. So for the moment let’s indulge the dreamers. In this case it’s the right thing to do.

                                                             The Wave of the Future

Sunday, August 3, 2014

The Arrow of Time
Though we sometimes pride ourselves on our high degree of science, culture and our unique individuality within it, there is a legacy from which we cannot yet escape.  With good reason we rarely doubt what we are able to observe and confirm against those preconceived ideas that populate our paradigm of reality. For we surely would not have survived the rigors of wild nature without such dependability built into our landscapes. Despite our advances in science and technology, the manner in which we observe the world forms our experiences. However we do this in much the same fashion that our Stone Age ancestors did. This legacy inherited from our primordial past is not in truth very much removed from those of our mammal cousins.   For me however a question remains. Was this inherent hard wired dependability a natural product of our environments, or was it rather a manifestation of our uniquely human senses?  Will these senses eventually evolve to a point through which the new theories will be readily observable to us? Until such a time we must be satisfied with the knowledge that advances in fields of general and quantum physics that tell us now that all is not exactly as it seems.

 The concept of space-time is by no means a new Idea. Although it has been accepted for over a century by most experts it however remains contrary to common sense. It in essence states that what the universe of our experience is a four dimensional object through which an observable particle’s course through it can in theory be plotted at any point in its existence. The past then, once thought to be only a construct of memory could one day in theory be charted as navigable points along the arrow of time. However current ideas on expansion in which it is postulated that at one time the universe expanded at a rate far faster than the speed of light.

Quantum entanglement or what Einstein called Spooky action at a distance describes in essence that a pair of particles separated by great distances can affect each other’s characteristic states instantaneously as if they are entangled. This includes particles separated by distance greater than that which light can travel in that same time. This exchange of information between the pair apparently is contrary to general relativity which sets the cosmic speed limit at the speed of light.

Schrodinger postulated in his famous cat in a box thought experiment that an outcome cannot be known until it is observed and until that moment it can exist in all of its potential states at once. This thought experiment was examined in the equally famous Double slit experiments. Where in evidence was discovered that when unobserved particles behaved as both particles and waves, fixing their states only upon measurement.  The same is true of the cat he is both alive and dead until we observe the cat.

Furthermore what we consider to be matter is no more than fields of force conferring their constituent characteristics such as mass onto otherwise  nondescript particles or waves. All of these things due to the limitations of our innate senses seem immediately to be counter intuitive or out and out false. All through advanced techniques however are observable, quantifiable and considered by most to be scientifically correct. The question then remains. Will the human race evolve to possess a deeper understanding of the universe and own place in it or shall we go the way of the Dodo?