Tuesday, November 30, 2004

The Rain Forest

In one of the most hostile environments on Earth, there are millions of species thriving in a complex natural world. These environments can only develop where every month is wet, with over 100mm of rainfall neccessary to sustain their growth. The trees, which are some of the tallest structures on Earth, actually produce steam themselves, helping ration the water supply to the dark, humid land under the canopy. The wind collects the vapor and redistributes it across the continent. In this way the trees actually produce their own rain, keeping the forest in the constant dripping state from which they derive their name.
Places such as "The Rainforest Cafe" and various exhibits attempt to reproduce this environment on a small scale in order to educate visitors. The first thing one notices in these exhibits is the continous cacophony of Jungle animals. The element of sound for survival of some species is so fundamental some animals are built particularly to enhance their noise makers. It is similar to life in the ocean in that the sound waves must be able to penetrate long distances against thik interference. For this reason Forest Elephants can produce sounds so low that they are largely beyond the range of human hearing. They also have sensory cells on the soles of their feet that pick up seimic vibrations caused by other elephants and tell them how far away the elephant is from the others. Rather than compete for air time, some insects and insectivors use scent to communicate. Most use pheremones to attract mates or mark territory. The male Dermidoff's bushbaby actually urinates on its hands and feet so that as they patrol their territory, they leave a smelly footprint border.
You can read more about the Jungle here.

Monday, November 29, 2004

A Brief Thought on Cloning

I just thought it was funny that Bush urged "all governments to affirm a basic ethical principle: No human life should ever be produced or destroyed for the benefit of another." Not funny Ha Ha, funny in an ironic, cynical, hypocritical sort of way. Anyway, I'm glad that he didn't get his way at the UN meeting. You can read the whole article by clicking on the link above.
You can also (to tie the day together nicely) read the Objectivist point of view on Cloning. One I find wholly refreshing in the midst of all this emotionalist simpering.

Words of the Day 11/29/04

As a girl she radiated insouciance, exhibiting a syzygy of sorts, and was much the envy of her more syncategorematic gaggle of girlfriends. So much so that she was barely visible within the orbiting descriptives; for they were merely predicates to her, and she was the true subject. Almost royal was her illcebration, so that even the very purest of hearts felt themselves somehow ithyphallic.

Figment, now that's syncategoramic.

Insouciance I picked up from Breakup Babe, Thanks Breakup Babe.

The rest are up to you to ascertain :)

Ayn Rand and Objectivism

"You have no choice about the necessity to integrate your observations, your experiences, your knowledge into abstract ideas, i.e., into principles. Your only choice is whether these principles are true or false, whether they represent your conscious, rational convictions - or a grab-bag of notions snatched at random, whose sources, validity, context and consequences you do not know, notions which, more often that not, you would drop like a hot potato if you knew. " -- Ayn Rand, "Philosophy: Who Needs It,"

I've been very interested in this subject fot the last couple months. I first picked up "Philosophy: Who Needs It" when, having gotten once again fed up with Television, I removed mine and turned back to the books. My brother had gotten me this book as a present maybe two years prior, and I had started to read it at that time, but I remember initially being turned off by her attitude. On a second read through, I instead found it stimulating, perhaps speaking more currently to my own attitudes. I was very excited to finally read something that I found stimulating at all. I read alot of literature and alot of it is heavy stuff, but very rare is it that a novel can actually make you feel as enthusiastic, and as moved to action. This is precisely the feeling I got when I subsequently read "Atlas Shrugged". I intend to purchase "The Fountainhead" today, and I have also read portions of "The Objectivist Epistemology" and "The Ayn Rand Lexicon".

"An individualist is a man who says: "I will not run anyone's life - nor let anyone run mine. I will not rule or be ruled. I will not be a master nor a
slave. I will not sacrifice myself to anyone - nor sacrifice anyone to myself."
-- Ayn Rand, "Textbook of Americanism"

Ayn's life and her legacy seem wrought with controversy, depending on where you get your information you can hear her praised to the highest of influentional forces, or criticized as a pseudo-philosophical, adultering zealot with a cult following. Many of the accounts contradict one another, and it's difficult to find (ironically) an objective documentary. Ayn's life is certainly interesting though and by reading the different accounts of it you can piece together a collage of what she might have been like. There are clearly two factions involved in the Objectivist movement. The Ayn Rand Institute which Leonard Peikoff heads and which is actually sanctioned by Ayn Rand, and The Objectivist Center which has taken ideas of Ayn Rand's and molded them to fit their own agenda. This is reportedly head by the controversial David Kelley and Nathaniel Branden. The two sides are absolutely not in agreement, to say the least. An interesting letter from a long time supporter of TOC seems to confirm my first impression of their side of the issue as sort of mealy mouthed. I can see how people would want, on first blush, to take a more "open-minded" approach as this is a very strict philosophy, and it is revolutionary, so it neccessarily goes in the face of many people's long held beliefs. However, that "open-minded" approach is precisely the type of lackadasical intellectual irresponsibility Ayn herself is staunchly against. I'm thinking of applying for the courses offered at ARI come Feb. I'm hoping they will admint me even without me being in college or holding a degree. In the mean time I will satisfy myself with self-study. There are plenty of books and tapes and essays available through the institue that really attending the online courses may not be neccessary, but I would still like to get their feedback.
"What objectivity and the study of philosophy requires is not an 'open mind,' but an active mind - a mind able and eagerly willing to examine ideas, but to examine them criticially. " -- Ayn Rand, "Philosophical Detection," Philosophy: Who Needs It"

Alot of Objectivist material is out there. The Intellectual Activist is an Objectivist publication, only I don't know how secure I feel actually saying that unless it has actually been approved by the Institute, but at any rate it is a "self-decribed" Objectivist publication. It looks as though Objectivism Online is more current then some of the other sites I've seen, and I'll have to look through it more but it appears to be a comprehensive resource of Objectivist material. They do have a disclaimer also about not being officially "Ayn-Rand Objectivists". I will find and link to much much more in the future I'm sure. This is not one subject I'm likely to drop anytime soon.
I'll leave you with a final thought for today:
"In Western Civilization, the period ruled by mysticism is known as the Dark
Ages and the Middle Ages. I will assume that you know the nature of that period
and the state of human existence in those ages. The Renaissance broke the rule
of the mystics. "Renaissance" means "rebirth." Few people today will care to
remind you that it was a rebirth of reason - of man's mind." -- Ayn Rand, "Faith and Force: the Destroyers of the Modern World," Philosophy: Who Needs It?"


Saturday, November 27, 2004

Crowd Dynamics


I've recently become interested in crowd dynamics, having read several articles involving the incident in Chicago in 2003 among others. It seems they are most common at football games and rock concerts. I have always enjoyed going right up the front area at rock concerts, and I'm familiar with the amazing amount of force they can exert. I've been pinned up against the front gate, and smothered by having too many big guys around when a crowd surges. I actually have crowd surfed to get out of a violent crowd before. I don't go down to the front anymore. Maybe I'm getting old but it just seems to get more and more dangerous. I used to love crowds like that, precisely because they behave like a whole different animal. They have a certain electrical force. Perhaps that's why I was so drawn in to reading about all these seemingly morbid disaster stories. Then I found this article, which is actually a PhD thesis about a computer program or model which can anticipate crowd dynamics for a venue so that they can provide the proper crowd safety controls. I became intrigued by all the different mathematical factors involved and how they can be combined to account for such a volatile thing as human behavior. It's over my head to be sure, but then that's the point of reading it. It's also facinating, at least in my humble opinion.
More Info can be found about various incidents in:
Ghana
Johannesburg
Mecca

In order to cover all the bases here, I've copied safety tips below. No use learning about the dangers of crowds without learning how to protect yourself, I say.

Taken from MTV.comSo, how can you keep yourself safe if a fire ignites or a crowd gets out of control at a concert or club event? Once mass hysteria erupts, there may seem to be little you can do, but crowd management consultant Paul Wertheimer and Chicago Fire Chief John Brogan have a few tips and preventative measures that you can take. These guidelines may seem simple, but they can save your life ...
* Be aware of your surroundings. When you enter the venue make a mental note of where all the doors are. Many of those who survived the fire at the Great White concert credit familiarity with the venue for saving their lives. The building had multiple open exits, but most people ran for the same front door, creating a giant pileup. According to Wertheimer, this is a common and sometimes fatal reaction: "It is human nature to go out the way you came in." Walk around the building and look for exit signs. Every building is required to have a visible floor plan posted. Take a minute to look at the floor plan and make yourself familiar with the venue's layout. Know where the other exits are.
* Check out those other exits. Make sure that none of them are obstructed. If the doors are chained, blocked by boxes or tables, or are otherwise unavailable for any reason, the building is in violation of fire codes and an employee of the venue should immediately be notified. If the employee ignores your concerns, you can contact the police and/or fire department. (Writing a letter to your local paper can also be effective.) More pressing than contacting the authorities is deciding whether or not you're going to remain in a venue you've just determined has exit issues. If you choose to stay, you'd do well to keep near an exit you know is functional.* Do not let others put you where you are not safe. If you are disabled in any way that makes mobility an issue, do not let security or venue employees put you in an area from which you will have trouble getting out. If you are on crutches or in a wheelchair, for example, the first row (desirable as it may be) might not be the best location for you if the crowd begins pushing toward the stage.
* If your position in the crowd is beginning to make you feel uncomfortable, move to the outer periphery. If you feel pressure coming from one side of the crowd and are having increasing difficulty in moving freely, do not push back. Move away from the source of pressure and take the path of least resistance. There are lulls in any crowd push. Use these lulls to move to open spaces. These spaces are usually located in a diagonal fashion. "I like to call this the accordion move," Wertheimer said. "You just zigzag your way out." If you feel that there are just too many people in the room, or not enough space between tables to get out if you needed to, consider leaving.
* If you feel you can't escape, remain calm and don't panic or scream. One of the people in the Chicago club who survived said he didn't run when the stampede started, instead choosing to huddle by the stage and remain calm. If you're caught in a crowd crush or if you're having trouble getting out of a venue, you need all the energy you have to survive. Reduce your breathing, try to relax and remain quiet. Shouting will only weaken you and make you more likely to fall.
* Try to keep your balance. If you feel yourself falling or fainting, extend your hand to someone nearby. Communication through eye contact will most likely get other people to help. "It's something I've used successfully at the Tibetan Freedom Concert," Wertheimer said. If you are in a walled venue, make your way to a wall so that you can maintain your balance. "Doing this gives you something to lean on for support while also allowing you to follow the natural line of the building to an exit," says Police Chief Brogan. "This is incredibly helpful if you can't see through the chaos."
* Help others if you can without sacrificing your own safety. If someone else is falling or has fallen, help them if you can. One fallen person can cause others to trip over them and create a pileup. Make sure you are not in danger of being trampled before aiding another.
* If you can't get out of an increasing crowd crush, crowd surf. In an emergency situation, where you are injured or can't get out of a crowd that is clamoring toward the stage, crowd surfing can be a quick way to move to a less crowded area or into the arms of security.
* If you need to escape the venue, look for the quickest way out. The direction the crowd may be going is not necessarily the fastest or most accessible exit route. It is not always smart to follow the pack. Make your way to the closest exit with the least people. Move quickly, and do not shove other people. As mentioned before, familiarity with the venue saved the lives of many people at the Great White concert. Those who made for the venue's side exits were able to escape, while many people were caught in a jam of people at the front door.
* In the event of a fire, stay low to the ground and cover your mouth. "Smoke inhalation kills fire victims more often than actual flames do," says Fire Chief Brogan. Since smoke rises, crouch your body as low to the ground as you can while making your way out.
* If you catch fire, stop, drop and roll. Fire needs oxygen to feed it. By dropping to the ground and rolling, you cut off that supply and smother the fire.
* Lastly, wear recognizable clothing and agree on a plan with your friends ahead of time if you need to evacuate. Before you go into the venue, designate a place outside where you will meet if you do lose track of one another inside. Dress in a way that your friends might recognize you if you are separated. This doesn't mean you need to put on a fluorescent jacket. It just means you should ask the question: "Will my friends be able to pick me out of the crowd?" If you are wearing a standard black T-shirt in a throng of other black T-shirts, chances are your friends won't be able to spot you. Make yourself recognizable. Sometimes, that may just mean wearing a patterned or red shirt. Be aware of what your friends are wearing as well.
(http://www.mtv.com/news/articles/1470144/02252003/id_0.jhtml)

Friday, November 26, 2004

The Double Slit as Explained To Me by Chris Granger

http://www.space.com/searchforlife/quantum_astronomy_041111.html
This is the article being referenced.

Hahahaha, I don't know why people continue to overlook a much more intuitive explanation regarding this experiment. I had an epiphany several months ago where I came up with an intuitive, no nonesense explantation of what's happening, and I now believe I have a clear and simple view of what is going on. Bear in mind, clear and simple are relative terms and this is a revolutionary science that requires revolutionary thinking.

Like I was saying before in the previous email, the photon doesn't travel through both slits, the photon that we observe is actually bumped off course by photons that exist outside of the collapsed wave function that we perceive through a process called quantum interference. I will explain the jargon terms later. This is not my idea and not what I had the epiphany about. And it IS actually hard to explain beyond the jargon, but I've been told that I'm good at dejargonizing and I relish any opportunity I have to do it for the enlightment of others. Of course, I haven't slept in a long time so I'll prob suck at it now.

Another way to say it is that the photon we observe is bumped off course by photons in other universes. THis is Deutsch's explanation, but it is still misleading. I've actually explained this to two people before (Alhaji and my sister :) and both understood, but it's much easier to do in person - even though this sounds really funny, the hand gestures I use really help :) ). This is where my epiphany comes in and I think it's a good concept to help further understanding of this - and it's simple once you can wrap your head around it. The problems we face as human observers or the limitations we are sewn into lie in the way our brains operate, i.e. consciousness exists within a stream of collapsed wave functions, i.e. a sequence of discreet collapsed wave functions that are we percieve as being tied together in time. This however gives us only the SLIGHTEST (almost an infinitesimally small) view of the true nature of the universe. The universe, in reality, is a big fuzzy mass of probability. Again, the double slit experiment amid other compelling evidence (including the very physical structure of the universe) proves this. A "collapsed wave function" is just a term scientists use to explain why the universe seems the way it does to us. E.g. physicists say that when you're not looking an electron exists in a fuzzy probability cloud and when you are looking an electron exists as a discrete particle. What the fuck does this mean??? Well, this is because the observer "collapses" the wave function (they collapse that cloud of probability into one discrete location in which the electron exists) because we (humans or more precisely our brains) operate within collapsed wave functions, whatever they may be. Even when we're not looking, our brains are "collapsing wave functions" :)

OK, hold up your finger and look at it. You see your finger in one location, sitting there stably (unless you've had a little coffee like me and you're getting a little jittery). In "reality" your finger is a wave, it's in several places nearby all at once. In fact, you are too. This is the God's Eye view of you (so to speak). At the same time, within that wave exist discrete locations of where your finger can be (depending on what physical laws permit happening). This is evidenced by the fact that it dovetails with our experience. In "reality" though your finger exists in this probability cloud where it can be a half a millimeter up, half down, someone can walk into your office right now and cause you to put your hand down all together, or they may not. It's a game of dice, right? But, we can intuitively discern that our brains don't operate at this meta-discrete quantum level - unless you're having an acid flashback, your finger should not look like a wave right now. No, our brains are not moved by a probability cloud of neurons firing or maybe firing or not or whatever. We experience a distinct "choice" in what happens. A probability cloud of electrons doesn't strike your retina causing you to see a blurry blob of where something might be sitting in a wave-like state - no, a distinct path is taken, the wave function is collapsed, either you experience the electron hitting your retina here, or maybe there, or maybe missing it all together. This is what is meant by "collapsing the wave function". And, so even though you experience your finger being where you see it now, in another collapsed wave function, "another you" exists and that space twin version of you ends up observing your finger as being in a different location. Quantum mechanics says that Einstein was wrong - God does in fact play dice and I hear he has a serious gambling habit. Does that make sense? I'm doing really badly but bear with me. So, we only get to see a small piece of the action. A small snippet of the universe at any one time. Only one set of discrete states per discrete unit of time. Oh yes, time is quanitized too. It flows like a computer processor, stop and go between discrete states.

Then, and this is the even more interesting part, and the message that "What the BLeep Do We know?" tried (and failed on behalf of those without some prior knowledge of this subject, judging by all of the reviews I read) to convey. Who makes the decision regarding how the wave function collapses as experienced by us. God? Is it random? Or... do we have some say in the matter? Of course, the movie hints that the latter's probably true. And they may be right to some extent. Can we really shape how events unfold? Is this what we experience as free will?

Introduction

This website will be updated shortly with material on all types of subjects. Mostly these are things I have found in my constant surfing and found interesting. Rather than constantly innandating my friends' e-mail with all these tidbits I decided to keep them all posted here to be viewed at their leisure.