Musings/Träumereien/Devaneios

Implausifiability in Physics: “Lost in Math - How Beauty Leads Physics Astray” by Sabine Hossenfelder

Lost in Math: How Beauty Leads Physics Astray - Sabine Hossenfelder


“The time it takes to test a new fundamental law of nature can be longer than a scientist’s career. This forces theorists to draw upon criteria other than empirical adequacy to decide which research avenues to pursue. Aesthetic appeal is one of them. In our search for new ideas, beauty plays many roles. It’s a guide, a reward, a motivation. It is also a systematic bias“

In “Lost in Math - How Beauty Leads Physics Astray” by Sabine Hossenfelder



One of the most obnoxious notions I’ve ever read in Physics is the one that purports that we’re a simulation. If it's all a simulation, why wouldn't the world that simulated us be a simulation too? This is the turtles all the way down idea. This doesn't mean it isn't true but it's also the same question as, if God created the universe and us, who created God? The answer I sometimes get when I say it’s all hogwash, is that the theory is aesthetically pleasing. Where is the evidence? And more importantly, is it “implausifiable” (I’m borrowing here Hossenfelder’s term)? The supposed evidence for our universe being a simulation seems to largely include the idea that if we extrapolate our technological progress further ahead in time, we will be able to build such a simulation ourselves *therefore* we are a simulation.

 

If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

Fin-de-siècle Urban Nightmares: “Lucio's Confession” by Mário de Sá-Carneiro, Margaret Jull Costa (translator)

Lucio's Confession - Mário de Sá-Carneiro


"Deep down, I did hate those people – the artists. That is, those false artists whose work consists of the poses they strike: saying outrageous things, cultivating complicated tastes and appetites, being artificial, irritating, [and] unbearable. People who, in fact, take from art only what is false and external.”

 

In “Lucio's Confession” by Mário de Sá-Carneiro, Margaret Jull Costa (translator)

 



From the street, two floors below my hotel window in a dreary urban business park slash hotel district, I heard desperate, blood chilling cries for help. I rushed to the window, expecting to see the victim of a hit and run car accident lying bloodied at the curb-side but instead, I saw a young man with a tear stained face wearing only a long sleeved, open-cuffed shirt walking this way and then that, each time with purpose, until the moment he changed his mind. Shouting, pleading with his hands outstretched. For a heartbreaking moment, I thought he looked like my estranged stepson.

 

If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

Et ego in illo: “Baltasar and Blimunda” by José Saramago, Giovanni Pontiero (Translator)

Baltasar and Blimunda - José Saramago, Giovanni Pontiero

“If Adam was punished for wishing to resemble God, how do men come to have God inside them without being punished, and even when they do not wish to receive Him they go unpunished, for to have and not to wish to have God inside oneself amounts to the same absurdity, and the same impossible situation, yet the words Et ego in illo imply that God is inside me, how did I come to find myself in thus labyrinth of yes and no, of no that means yes, of yes that means no, opposed affinities allied contradictions, how shall I pass safely over the edge of the razor, well, summing up, before Christ became man, God was outside man and could not reside in him, then, through the Blessed Sacrament, He came to be inside man, so man is virtually God, or will ultimately become God, yes, of course, if God resides in me, I am God, I am God not in triune or quadruple, but one, one with God, He is I, I am He, Durus est hic sermo, et quis potest eum audire.”

In “Baltasar and Blimunda” by José Saramago, Giovanni Pontiero(translator)

(“ […] Se a Adão por querer assemelhar-se a Deus, como têm agora os homens a Deus dentro de si e não são castigados, ou o não querem receber e castigados não são, que ter e não querer ter Deus dentro de si é o mesmo absurdo, a mesma impossibilidade, e contudo Et ego in illo, Deus está em mim, ou em mim não está Deus, como poderei achar-me nesta floresta de sim e não, de não que é sim, do sim que é não, afinidades contrárias, contrariedades afins como atravessarei salvo sobre o fio da navalha, ora, resumindo agora, antes de Cristo se ter feito homem, Deus estava fora do homem e não podia estar nele, depois, pelo Sacramento, passou a estar nele, assim o homem é quase Deus, ou será afinal o próprio Deus, sim, sim, se em mim está Deus, eu sou Deus, sou-o de modo não trino ou quádruplo, mas uno, uno com Deus, Deus nós, ele eu, eu ele, Durus est hic sermo, et quis potest eum audire.”

In “Memorial do Convento” by José Saramago
)


Arriving in Mafra, let us imagine ourselves as part of the crowd that, on October 22, 1730, attended the consecration of the convent. Impossible not to be impressed by this façade more than 230 meters in length. To the centre, the basilica with its dome and bell towers, and on each side the imposing turrets. The portico columns clearly showed the neoclassical influence, complemented by several sculptures in the same style. Saramago tells us that 40,000 workers worked night and day so that the Basilica could be finished on D. João V's birthday.

 

If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

I Have Been Nominated for the Liebster Award!

The Award
 
The Liebster is an award that is given to bloggers by other bloggers. Liebster in German means “sweetest, kindest, nicest, dearest, beloved, lovely, kind, pleasant, valued, cute, endearing, and welcome.”
 
The Rules
 
 
Entries start 1st Jan 2018 and ends on 25th Dec 2018. The winner will be picked on the 31st of December.
 
 
And as posted from he who nominated me:
 
1) Thank the person who nominated you — humble thank you to Knight of Angels
2) Answer the questions provided by the nominator
3) Nominate 5-11 bloggers with fewer than 1000 followers who you think deserve the award
4) Create a new list of questions for your nominees
5) List the rules in your post
6) Let your nominees know of their nominations personally
 
I post both versions because clearly there’s been some drift as this travels.  It’s kind of cool to see how it’s evolved.  I’ll do my best to honor both sets of terms.
 
Q&A
 
1. What was the worst vacation you’ve ever been on?
Going to Algarve and also working on a critical IT Project at the same time...
 
2. Who was the most memorable person you have ever met?
Several: Lauren Bacall, Mickey Rooney, Wim Wenders, ... at the Portuguese Cinemateca.
 
3. If you could go back and remake a movie before it’s been made, what movie would that be?
Hackers (1995) by Iain Softley. Made on the brink of universal internet access, in which skateboarding computer nerds still needed to use payphones to get online...
 
4. What food, in your opinion, should be stricken off of menus nationwide?
MacDonalds. The point is that if you stop gorging and get lots of exercise, it's OK to include junk once in a while. If a kid is addicted to junk food, don't blame it on the ads, blame it on the parents. Nevertheless, I'd get rid of it anyway.
 
5. What is your least favorite book of all time?
Lifeguard by James Patterson. It's really bad...
 
Questions for my nominees:
 
1. Have you got a bad book habit? If yes, which one?
2. How do you feel giving bad ratings and reviews?
3. If you could read in a foreign language which one would you choose and why?
4. Have your reading habits changed after you started blogging? If yes, why?
 
And my nominees are…
 
 
 
 
 
 
NB: BrokenTune has already been nominated by Troy.
 
You are under no obligation to accept your nomination and/or participate.  All the same, I’m usually educated and/or entertained by you and your work, so it’s only right that you should be recognized.

SFional Lorentz Transformations: "Tau Zero" by Poul Anderson

Tau Zero - Poul Anderson

“Consider: a single light-year is an inconceivable abyss. Denumerable but inconceivable. At an ordinary speed – say, a reasonable pace for a car in megalopolitan traffic, two kilometers per minute – you would consume almost nine million years in crossing it. And in Sol’s neighborhood, the stars averaged some nine light-years part. Beta Virginis was thirty-two distant. Nevertheless, such spaces could be conquered.”

In “Tau Zero” by Poul Anderson.



Yeah I'm aware of the twin paradox and how Special Relativity alone doesn't account for the returning twin being younger; at the time I remember wondering specifically whether one of the main criticism of Tau zero (i.e. that the crew of the ship should observe the universe as being slower relative to them while they're accelerating, not sped up as it is in the book) was on the nose. Not that most people think that special relativity is simple, but in fact it is even trickier than is apparent the first time you meet it. 
 
 
If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.
 
 

 

C/Fe: "The Caves of Steel" by Isaac Asimov

The Caves of Steel - Isaac Asimov


"There were infinite lights, the luminous walls and ceilings that seemed to drip cool, even phosphorescence; the flashing advertisements screaming for attention; the harsh, steady gleam of the 'lightworms' that directed:
THIS WAY TO JERSEY SECTIONS, FOLLOW ARROWS TO EAST RIVER SHUTTLE, UPPER LEVEL FOR ALL WAYS TI LONG ISLAND SECTIONS.
Most of all, there was the noise that was inseparable from life. The sound of millions talking, laughing, coughing, calling, humming, breathing."

In "The Caves of Steel" by Isaac Asimov

Set 2,000 years in the future, "The Caves of Steel" shows us contrasting pictures of Earth and the Outer Worlds - colonized planets throughout the Galaxy. Although the inhabitants of the Outer Worlds trace their origins to Earth, they are separated from it by much more than mere distance, now calling themselves Spacers and ruling the decaying mother planet as benevolent despots. In his earlier novels, Asimov mastered the translation of speech into its written equivalent; but to recreate the speech of a human being is a problem every novelist faces. 

 

 

If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.


If you're into Vintage SF, read on.

GOATnaldo - It was men against God: "Portugal vs. Spain in Russian World Cup"

 

I know what I wrote before on this same blog, but now I'm going to have to debate the diagnostic labeling of Ronaldo as narcissist. Nothing of the kind I’m Afraid - yes, impossibly good looking, yes there is the Ronaldo shrine in Madeira, indeed there are the pirouettes and the swashbuckling, muscle rippling equivalent of Colin Firth as Me Darcy, shirtless, sweaty and gleaming in the sun...but: to be a narcissist you have to have an emptiness inside where the soul sits - you got to have a lack of empathy for your comrades, family, lovers, children, nation- you have to have grandiose expectations of yourself that are at odds with reality...that is not the man we speak of. If you doubt it replay the final vs France in Euro ‘16. A truly spiritual moment in football if not recent cultural history. 20 mins in and injured, in agony, in tears for letting the team and himself down as he is stretchered off the pitch. One man down - and it’s Ronaldo FFS - and Portugal never gives up...then...then: in the last 5 mins, the oldest player in the Portuguese squad is encouraged onto the pitch by the team captain...all full of nerves and pride...and Ronaldo whispers into his ear: ‘I believe in you’...

 

 

If you're into Football and into the Biggest Show on the Face of the Earth (any Football World Cup), read on.

The Stars Look Different Today: “The Somnambulist's Dreams” by Lars Jerlach

The Somnambulist's Dreams - Lars Boye Jerlach


“’So what is it Enoch Soule? Why are you here? What are you here to tell me?’
[…]
‘I know why you’re here,’ he [the chess player] said.”

In “The Somnambulist's Dreams” by Lars Jerlach



2018’s been my year of reading some fundamental books on Physics. At least they are what some of my friends call Fundamental Books on Physics. After having read a bunch of them, some are not so fundamental: “Reality Is Not What It Seems” by Carlo Rovelli, “The Many Worlds of Hugh Everett III -Multiple Universes, Mutual Assured Destruction, and the Meltdown of a Nuclear Family” by Peter Byrne, “What is Real - The Unfinished Quest for the Meaning of Quantum Physics” by Adam Becker, “The Emergent Universe" by Wallace, “Our Mathematical Universe: My Quest for the Ultimate Nature of Reality” by Max Tegmark. My tiny brain is a hive of activity…Most of them were on the so-called Measurement Problem in Quantum Mechanics.

 

If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

The Stages of Truth: "Our Mathematical Universe - My Quest for the Ultimate Nature of Reality" by Max Tegmark

Our Mathematical Universe: My Quest for the Ultimate Nature of Reality - Max Tegmark


The Stages of Truth: "Our Mathematical Universe - My Quest for the Ultimate Nature of Reality" by Max Tegmark


Forget about Tegmark’s 4 levels. The stages of truth I can remember are:

• Old Greeks saying "We only see a faint reflection of reality", i.e. we have observation, and that's flawed.
• Old Chinese saying "All we have is observation. Reality is observation, and observation is a function of the human form" which is a most interesting thing. They state that sense is inherently limited by our being. Excellent.
• Descartes saying "to know stuff, you must have doubt. Knowledge is developed by doubt" which means testing: the scientific method. Which he didn't invent, but put on a logical footing. And also founding it all on "I think, therefore I exist".
• Karl Popper saying that the essential property of what's knowable is what can be tested, questioned. This continues from Descartes and quite a few more in between including Kant obviously who's really cool but illegible.

 

 

If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

Falsifiable Multiverse: “The Emergent Multiverse: Quantum Theory According to the Everett Interpretation” by David Wallace

The Emergent Multiverse: Quantum Theory According to the Everett Interpretation - David     Wallace


"Readers familiar with typical discussions of the measurement problem may be surprised that I have mentioned neither the 'eigenstate-eigenvalue link' nor the 'collapse of the hidden variables' theories.”

In “The Emergent Universe: Quantum Theory According to the Everett Interpretation” by David Wallace



Surprising statement to say the least. If one accepts the truthiness of the eigenstate-eigenvalue link it follows that if states are relative, then so are the values of observables. Not accepting this. what have we got? If an observable has got a value at a certain moment, is that observable-relative or not? 

Uhm…

A long time ago I remember Fred Hoyle asking "Are there any constants for all the universes?” I thought the universe was a put up job. There always being "something" is what shivers my timbers. I know they say energy is eternal but what is energy?


If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

Samsung Steps Challenge: Lavender (Mai)

If you're into Fitness, read on.

 

The Many-Worlds Interpretation (MWI): "The Many Worlds of Hugh Everett III - Multiple Universes, Mutual Assured Destruction, and the Meltdown of a Nuclear Family” by Peter Byrne

The Many Worlds of Hugh Everett III: Multiple Universes, Mutual Assured Destruction, and the Meltdown of a Nuclear Family - Peter  Byrne


"This is the mystery: when we measure the position of an atomic particle we record it as existing in a definite place, not in all of the many places it occupies according to its smoothly evolving wave function. The emergence of a single position from the set of all physically possible positions is inescapable; it creates a logical discontinuity, a gap, a fissure, an interruption in the flow of the Schrödinger equation; it creates a problem.”

In “The Many Worlds of Hugh Everett III - Multiple Universes, Mutual Assured Destruction, and the Meltdown of a Nuclear Family” by Peter Byrne



I suspect that the reason why the Copenhagen and Many Worlds interpretations of QM are the most well-known is that they are the easiest to explain in classical terms, and therefore most accessible to those who have not already completed an undergraduate level course in QM. You can also find a discussion of the different interpretations in The Road to Reality, by Roger Penrose, but it is heavy going and not recommended unless you have a background in Physics (or Math) to degree-level.

If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

Star-gazing SecUnits: “Artificial Condition - The MurderBot Diaries 2” by Martha Wells

Artificial Condition - Martha Wells


“But you may have noticed that for a terrifying murderbot I fuck up a lot.”

In “Artificial Condition - The MurderBot Diaries 2” by Martha Wells



The very unfamiliarity of SF is one of its attractions for me. It slows down the reading and speeds up the need to think, both within and across books (intertextuality). Familiarity, similarity? Try reading these in a row, then come back and tell me you were on familiar ground all the while and that your mind is still in the same shape: "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?", "Ubik"; "Version Control"; "The Gradual", "The Dispossessed" and "The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories" (no author names).

Setting a story in another place or another time enables speculative fiction like the one Martha Wells attempts with her MurderBot series to explore ideas that literary fiction might really struggle with. I'm interested in divided societies … Irish … English … Dorset … Croatia … Bosnia … Israelis and Palestinians …


If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

Space Opera Made Simple: "Embers of War" by Gareth L. Powell

Embers of War - Gareth L. Powell

Space Opera Made Simple: " Embers of War" by Gareth L. Powell


I can't believe all the people who want to see the SF establishment have a hack at Iain M. Bank's Culture novels. If ever there were novels that I hope Hollywood will never be let anywhere near it's those ones. The books are usually quite long and always involve considerable subtlety. Seeing that rendered down to a brainless action movie would just be heart breaking. Worse would be the fact that no screen-writer seems capable of restraining themselves from fucking around with stories. So that something totally out of character for the Culture World would be bound to intrude. For me the Culture is alive and well in my imagination. I can visit it any time I want by picking up one of the books. Why would I want some Hollywood Muppet wreck? Ideally any space opera movies will be original stories. The best movies are always written as movies, with the media and format in mind. Novels work best as novels. Almost without exception novel adaptations are terrible. Some are so terrible as to be whispered about, on full moon nights, surrounded by pentagrams... *Dune*...
 
 
If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

 

The Western Canon: "Living with Shakespeare - Essays by Writers, Actors, and Directors" by Susannah Carson (editor)

Living with Shakespeare: Actors, Directors, and Writers on Shakespeare in Our Time - Susannah Carson

My long time fascination with Shakespeare started a long time ago when I was attending the British Council. I won’t dwell on it again.

 

In this “Living with Shakespeare” I didn’t get much on Hamlet, but I kept thinking about Hamlet's five soliloquies; the humour and poignancy of Kent's words in King Lear; the horror of what happens to Gloucester and the heart-rending ending of the same play. The mixed emotions of the finale to MacbethMark Antony's speeches in Julius Caesar. Iago's words inOthello. Shakespeare gave the world a literary water-fountain around which to gather when engaging with the great issues of each passing generation. His heroes and villains, his comedies and his tragedies make up an unerringly eloquent compendium of human frailties/motives as the world changes - and yet nothing changes. And I've hardly scratched the surface of how Shakespeare's words have the power to move and shock and create laughter like no one else has been able to before or since. The naysayers should take the time to experience a play performed live or, at the very least, watch a film version. It will hopefully change their minds. 

 

 

If you're into Shakespeare, read on.

Wearing Mismatched Socks at Work is Empowering: "Meditations" by Marcus Aurelius, Gregory Hays (trans.)

Meditations - Marcus Aurelius


“Concentrate every minute like a Roman— like a man— on doing what’s in front of you with precise and genuine seriousness, tenderly, willingly, with justice. And on freeing yourself from all other distractions. Yes, you can— if you do everything as if it were the last thing you were doing in your life, and stop being aimless, stop letting your emotions override what your mind tells you, stop being hypocritical, self-centered , irritable. You see how few things you have to do to live a satisfying and reverent life? If you can manage this, that’s all even the gods can ask of you.”

In “Meditations” by Marcus Aurelius


“Para ser grande, sê inteiro: nada
Teu exagera ou exclui.
Sê todo em cada coisa. Põe quanto és
No mínimo que fazes.
Assim em cada lago a lua toda
Brilha, porque alta vive.”


In “Odes de Ricardo Reis” by Fernando Pessoa


Word of caution: this "review" is going to be all over the place.


I translated this into German a long time ago. I’m not sure I’m up to the task of translating this into English this time around…

Let’s give it a go:

“To be great, be whole: nothing
Of yours exaggerate or exclude.
Be all in everything. Put all you are
In everything you do.
Be like the moon that
Shines whole in every lake
Because it lives up high.”

 

 

If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

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