Jan. 9th, 2017

garote: (weird science)
It's awe-inspipring every time I hear the fact that the universe is so large. It's awe-inspiriing because I am such a very small piece in it, and everything I interact with on a personal level is about as small as I am. This entire planet - which I'd like to think I've seen a fair amount of by now - is still just a tiny fraction of what's out there. I consider that and I think, "Wow, what a waste of space. Surely there's other intelligent life out there - some other collection of beings, living in a similar biological way, communicating in close to the same way - that we can have a conversation with, to avoid feeling so lonely." But why would it be so?

Seriously, why? It's a matter of expectations; and those expectations don't make sense. Just how big should the entire surrounding universe be, compared to the body of a living thing inside it? I'm comparing the size of everything around me to myself - my own arms and legs and head, my own lifespan - and feeling like there's too much room. But what should the proper fraction be then? Should I personally take up exactly half the knowable universe? Should I take up almost all of it? Or almost none, relatively? Maybe it's just a practical extension of physics that, in order for my body - and all the history and evolution that led up to it - to function properly, it needs this much breathing space around it, acting as a support structure. Perhaps if the universe was half the size it seems to be, I would not be here at all to comment on it. (Anthropic principle.) So I should probably just relax about all this empty space. Perhaps it's exactly enough space to make things work.

But, we have some rough math that rattles the cage of that just-so argument. We've come up with estimates for "number of habitable worlds in a given galaxy", and "chances of life evolving on a given habitable world", and even "chances of intelligent life evolving from life". Depending on how you move the sliders inside the equations, these numbers can move alarmingly, and present you with a case for intelligent life being so common around us that it's surprising we haven't blundered across it just by pointing radio telescopes upwards and waving them around. So again, if the point is to make a universe just big enough for life, but not any bigger, then we very probably have way too much room on our hands. No wonder we're prone to feel lonely.

But again, a little common sense saves us: If the universe was almost big enough for intelligent life - but not quite - no one would be around to comment on that. (Anthropic principle again. Kazam!) What we're left with, are the cases where the universe is just big enough, or bigger. Makes sense that we'd generally end up way over the minimum threshold, rather than just on it. And so, here we are. Your standard universe with more than one planet full of intelligent beings looking around and texting each other selfies.

A few seconds of thinking about that has side-tracked me. Dark matter! I assume someone has already floated the theory that the universe as we can observe it is not really the whole universe, but is merely an expanding borderline, defined by the speed of light? And so, for almost every other part within that border, there is matter just outside our personal vantage point on Earth, that is already affecting it, even though we haven't seen the evidence of it yet (because the light - and gravity - from it hasn't yet reached us) and that is what accounts for both the constant expansion of the universe and all the so-called extra mass that is influencing events around us?

Ah, I see. Scientists are calling this the "dark flow" theory, and setting it apart from all the weird - and more local - effects they're seeing with "dark matter".


Holy crap the internet is amazing. Amazing. Sometimes I forget that, in this haze of social media shame, outrage, and plastic positivity. I just found concrete information on cutting-edge science, with a few pokes of a keyboard. In seconds.

garote: (zelda letter stamping)
I think it's time to admit it:

I am a bicycling nut.

In fact, it's time to go beyond that, and admit that my very life - in the form of my health - depends on bicycling.

For the past week I've been suffering, because a support strut broke on the seat of my recumbent:


With no immediate replacement, I've been forced - FORCED I tell you - to ride my "upright" bicycle again. There's absolutely nothing wrong with the upright. It's an old Bridgestone frame customized into a good touring bike, and I've taken it on many rides including a brief tour of Tasmania:


... But it's not my recumbent. It's not that speedy, panoramic experience I've grown used to, where every joint is perfectly at ease. And that little difference is making me cycle a little less. And with that, I suffer. Wailing; gnashing of teeth, et cetera!


My mood is more down. My work goes slower. My sleep is more restless. My appetite no longer matches my exercise level, so I'm gaining weight. It's all going just a little bit crap, because I can't hop on my favorite bike. That's a pretty big deal. And it's a state of things that I should recognize.

So, fine. I'm a bicycling nut. Even though I don't own any lycra clothing.


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