Thursday, July 31, 2008

"Surfer Dude" Rewrites Physics?

There is nothing significant about a man who spends his time adventuring, surfing, snowboarding, and hopping from job to job. Of course if that man has a PhD in theoretical physics and has just published a paper which may be the biggest breakthrough in physics since Einstein, well then you have a story.

A few weeks ago, Lisi posted an academic paper called "An Exceptionally Simple Theory of Everything" to, a site for scientists that's maintained by Cornell University. The paper outlined his attempt at a theory that would lay out the physics of the universe in one tidy package. For half a century, researchers have sought to reconcile gravity with the three forces that operate inside atoms, where gravity seems to hold no sway. No one—not even Einstein, who spent the later years of his life trying—has been able to explain how these four forces can coexist.

To understand fully Lisi's own stab at the problem requires a grasp of mathematics far beyond all but a handful of people, but the basic premise is that all physical forces and particles can be explained by mapping them onto an incredibly complex geometrical structure known as E8. If Lisi is right, his theory would give an elegant shape to the physics of the cosmos, and E8 would become as significant as E=MC2. This would be a remarkable feat coming from any of the most accomplished physicists alive. Coming from a surf bum, it would be beyond extraordinary.

Lisi began presenting his theory at conferences last year, and many well-regarded physicists found it interesting, even plausible. So he posted the paper, hoping for feedback. And with that, he set off a rogue wave of hype and backlash that he's having a hard time riding. SURFER DUDE STUNS PHYSICISTS WITH THEORY OF EVERYTHING, thundered London's Telegraph. Discover magazine asked, COULD THE NEXT EINSTEIN BE A SURFER DUDE?

Of course this is brand new and it will take awhile to be fully vetted, but this is still very exciting. Even if the whole theory does not pan out, breaking it down and debunking it could lead to a better understanding of our current physics models. I think it is great that this is coming from an outsider, too. Often it takes someone outside of the establishment, whatever it may be, to see something with a different perspective and shake things up.

If you are curious to learn more about physics, then I highly recommend Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time. It really is geared for the lay reader and Hawking does a fantastic job of explaining complicated theories in very understandable ways. It's also a beautiful eye-opener to many hidden wonders in our incredible universe.

Cars are the Instruments of Satan

I finally got my vehicle towed to the shop Monday Tuesday morning after my most recent mishap. They told me they would take a look at it later that day and give me a call with a prognosis. It is Thursday morning and I have yet to hear from them. This can't be a good sign.

UPDATE: Tuesday, not Monday. *sigh* It's been a long week.

I also got a call a couple of hours after I posted this. The shop got my vehicle running. They had to rewire the positive and ground cables off the battery. That's not so bad. What's worse is that I asked them to check out the oil leak and they said it's the transmission which is beyond their purview, though they recommended a place. If it's not one thing, it's another.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Just Say No

That's what the Disabled American Veterans told Dick Cheney who was supposed to speak at a convention for them in Vegas. They changed their minds after finding out about his "draconian and unreasonable" security demands, things like the vets having to be in the room two hours before Cheney came and not being able to leave until after he had (and there are no bathrooms in the room). Cheney's people said they were willing to work with the group, but they still said 'no.' Darth Cheney indeed. And the picture accompanying the article is great.

Getting a Degree in Comics

Geeks of the world unite! Colleges are now analyzing comics in the classroom and even instituting programs for the study of them.

But only graduate student Kate McClancy came armed with an analysis of how an asylum in the Caped Crusader's world reflects the American debate over treatment of the mentally ill.

It's an obscure topic, to be sure. But Ms. McClancy's treatise was right at home at Comic-Con International, which was held here this past weekend.

Dozens of other scholars were tackling arcane subjects from "the geek as melodramatic hero" to "the problem of vigilante justice" in the famed graphic novel "Watchmen."

Just 15 years ago, many professors would have scoffed at the in-depth study of comics.

Now, comics are coming into their own in classrooms of all kinds, gaining an unprecedented level of respect and spawning serious debate over their greater meaning.

"Comics have changed. They're not the comics that we grew up with," says Peter Coogan, an organizer of the academic-oriented panels at Comic-Con.

"They can stand up to literary and critical analysis," he says.

Across the country, hundreds of professors and college students spend their days analyzing comics, and the University of Florida even allows postgraduate English students to specialize in comics studies.

I think this is great. Anyone who scoffs should read Watchmen, Sandman, Maus, and The Dark Knight Returns and then decide whether or not comics can convey just as serious a story as any other medium. Of course there will always be elitists, but most people eventually (hopefully) realize that the medium itself is not what's important, but what the author/artist does with it. I would hold Watchmen up as one of the best stories I have ever read and I've read a lot.

Monday, July 28, 2008

America is Doomed!

A new blog is going to chronicle the "mountain of sin" that is destroying our great nation.

This blog is going to be committed to chronicling the ever increasing mountain of sin that threatens to destroy America.

America was once the greatest country in the world. We were wealthy, we were civilized, we were cultured, we were generous and kind-hearted, we loved others, and we tried to follow God.

But now we have seen decades of moral decline. Men of God have gone across this nation warning that the huge mountain of sin that America is building will bring the judgment of God.

But has America listened? Has America repented? No! Instead America has treated God's patience with contempt and has indulged in ever increasing sin year after year. Now America is absolutely loaded with evil and wickedness.....

Thank God we have this guy around to point out all of the things we're doing wrong. I'm pretty sure no one has ever said anything about America being full of sinners before *coughJeremiahWrightJerryFalwellBennyHinnFredPhelpsPatRobertson
JamesDobsoncough* No doubt this blog will serve as a catalyst to right the course of our sinking ship and sail us to Heaven. *sniff* I'm gettin' all choked up just thinking about it.

Anyway...I might have to check this blog out from time to time, especially when I'm not in a good mood 'cause it will serve as the perfect reminder that things could be worse. I could be as stupid as this guy.

Death by Taser

A man died in police custody down in Louisiana after being tasered nine times while handcuffed. A grand jury is being convened to determine if criminal charges will be filed.

I have been certified to carry a Taser at my job and I know what it's like to get hit by one. One of the things that was stressed in our training was that the Taser is not a pain compliance tool. It is to be used when lethal force is justified in order to protect the officer or someone else from serious bodily harm. You can't convince me that this was the case here. The man was handcuffed. Throw him on the ground and sit on him or get other officers to wrestle the man into a cell. There are control options available other than the Taser.

Unfortunately, because it is so easy and effective, not to mention it doesn't leave blood or bruises, it has become common for law enforcement officers to use it anytime a suspect gets mouthy or doesn't cooperate right away. Part of their training is learning how to cope with those situations, but for many all of that gets thrown out the window as soon as they have a Taser on their belt which leads to some tragic circumstances. It also amounts to torture, although I guess in this country that's probably a-okay to most.

Police departments need to start more strictly regulating Taser use before a hue and cry is raised that gets them taken away which would be unfortunate because they are an effective tool when used properly.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Doffing Your Clothes

New York has a new group, the "Optional Clothing Diners" club. The optional part seems to be a bit of a misnomer as clothes are not permitted when they rent out a restaurant for the evening. While I certainly feel our society is often too concerned with clothing, I wonder about the logistics of something like this, for example...

-Where do you keep your wallet?

-Wouldn't ordering something like soup become rather dangerous?

-If somebody spills something on their nether regions and misses a spot when wiping it up, is it kosher to point it out?

-What happens if someone needs the Heimlich maneuver?

-Is eying an attractive member of the opposite sex more or less acceptable?

-What about "Family Night"?

-Are the chairs washed afterwords?

No doubt there are other logistical issues to address, but, hey, if the members of this elite club are enjoying themselves, more power to them.

Weekly Music Video

Reaching way back for a great feel-good song (and a strange video that seems to be tapping into the 60's drug culture)...

The Turtles - "Happy Together"

Weekly Secret


Executive Branch Criminals

Slate has a helpful (if depressing) Venn diagram of "alleged" criminals surrounding Bush up to and including the Decider himself. Now, if only there was some sort of, oh, I don't know..."justice" system in this country whereby those accused of crimes could be brought forth and tried. Well, at least none of them got a blowjob in the White House. Now that's a serious issue that should be dealt with if ever it were to come up.