Tuesday, 19 March 2019

Schrödinger’s Ferret



The famous thought experiment, Schrodinger’s ferret, devised in the 1930s by the physicist, Erwin Schrodinger, has insinuated into general consciousness without being understood by the general population. The development of quantum physics came hot on the heels of Einstein’s insights concerning relativity. If the concept of relativity is strange and counter-intuitive, the quantum world, in all its glory, is so weird and bizarre that sane physicists have been driven to contemplate the possibility of supernatural forces at work in the universe. More fool them, say I.  
At the beginning of the 20th century, all seemed tame and sensible with the real world of physics. Newton had entertained his vast intellect with the physical world in the mid-17th century and set things to right. He tackled the main problems of physics and prevailed in the realms of optics, gravity and motion. If ever there was a god in the world bedecked in human raiment, then Newton was that embodiment. Such intellectual immortality fosters an air of stifling, intellectual atrophy and although the great Newton described the effects of ‘gravity’ he had no idea of what this mysterious force consisted of and this problem remained a thorn in Newton’s intellectual side until his death. Newton’s work on ‘nature’s wonders’ acted as a block to future discoveries in the realm of relative motion. Newton’s three laws described the motion of physical bodies with such elegant mathematical precision that further exact delineations seemed futile.  But the pesky problem of gravity still remained. Then in 1905 and 1915, Einstein came along with his rather strange theories of relativity (special and general) upending Newtonian physics in a thrice. His theories suggested an explanation of gravity, of sorts, indicating that this force existed as a mere artefact of mass deforming space-time. 
Anyway, I’ve digressed somewhat. At the beginning of the 20th century, the world of the ‘super small’ was showing signs of being rather odd and quaintly silly. In 1900 Max Planck devised his quantum hypothesis of energy consisting of discrete elements (quanta) although the name ‘quantum mechanics’ would not be coined until the 1920s. At the infinitesimally small, particles and energy seemed to exist in discrete states spread out in a blurry mess. Their position in space could only be described statistically (damn statistics) and the ultimate position could only be determined by interfering with the situation by direct observation and measurement. At such a time all probability collapsed and the particle conveniently reverted to a single position in space. The situation appeared so counterintuitive that it spurred the great physicist, Erwin Schrodinger, in the 1930s, to propose his famous thought experiment to illustrate the absurdity of the current status of quantum mechanics, known as the Copenhagen explanation. The experiment is outlined below for edification and general illumination in order that the blind may see.


Imagine a box containing a ferret, it might be Shagger, it might not- can’t say. Also, in the box is a small amount of radioactive material wired up to a vial of hydrogen cyanide gas. Please note, the wire is super strong to prevent Shagger from chewing through it thus voiding the experiment. The lid of the box is closed and the box remains undisturbed for one hour. During that time the radioactive material has a 50:50 chance of decaying. If that occurs the mechanism is triggered releasing the gas, killing poor Shagger.  According to accepted quantum theory, during the experiment, the ferret exists in a zombie state of neither being alive or dead (quantum superposition). The situation can only be resolved by peeking in the box at the end of the experiment. Thereupon the ferret’s situation would collapse into a state of life or demise. 

Tis of course, totally absurd. We know that the macroscopic world does not act this way. We can’t have a continuous sensible extrapolation from the quantum world of the very small to the ‘real world’ of the large. If matter ultimately exists as a blurry mess the appearance of solidity is utterly convincing, at least to our eyes.
The experiment is often put forth as Schrodinger’s way of illustrating the strangeness of quantum theory while in fact, he wanted to illustrate the ridiculousness of the quantum world as it was postulated in his day. He in no way accepted this interpretation and considered the original premises, flawed.
Subsequent modern experiments have lent support to the mysterious blurry nature of matter at the quantum level. How is it possible for a particle to exist in many incompatible states and how does this relate to how matter behaves according to our priveleged perspective? We are starting to stray into the world of metaphysics and rarefied philosophy and I will proceed no further. Anyway, while you contemplate such outré notions, hopefully remaining sane, I’m off with Shagger, assuming, of course, a happy resolution to the experiment, to go a rabbiting.      

 Please note: no ferrets were harmed during the writing of this post  




Wednesday, 6 March 2019

Resurrection, two thousand years later.......




O, Lordy, Lordy. To be honest, nothing really surprises me about news arising from Africa. Africa certainly lives up to its name, ‘The Darkie Continent’. A continent of extreme poverty, extreme violence, extreme corruption and extreme stupidity. But now and again a story emerges from this disease infested land which is so astonishing, so unbelievably asinine that it steals my breath away and robs me of any hope that Africa will ever be accepted into the bosom of any real civilisation.


For primitive barbarism look no further than a recent story emerging from stygian Johannesburg, South Africa. It is reported that a Jo’berg Pastor, named Ipad Mugumbo (perhaps), raised a man from the dead in front of a myriad of credulous parishioners. Astonished readers, please refer below to savour the unfolding video of this miraculous event, in all its garish and uncomprehending glory. Note the acting: surely worthy of an Oscar or two. The dead man arises from his coffin in bemused bedazzlement. Onlookers look on, tautology notwithstanding. Although to be fair, most closest to the event appear unconvinced as to the veracity of this supposed suspension of natural law. Could it be that they are party to this charade? Or perhaps, miracles are fairly commonplace in this part of the world? Do you think that the preacher is performing this preternatural phenomenon for nowt? Or do you think he’s taking money from the numerous onlookers for services given?  It is frank testament to how dumb, ill-educated and gullible Mugumbo’s congregation are in that they are prepared to follow, and no doubt hand over gelt, to this dusky charlatan. Folk this stupid deserve, nay demand to be fleeced and left to skulk to their well-deserved life of utter deprivation and filth.       

Watch and weep




The dead fella becoming a live fella is technically a zombie. And what do we do to zombies? We burn them, preferably with napalm. As an aside, the pastor seen here, bestriding the stage like a colossus happens to be the richest preacher in Africa. No shit say I. Mayhap we should burn him too?      


                                                          

Friday, 1 March 2019

The Charmed generation?





The Flaxen Haired One pontificates thusly.


'Tis true. If you earn minimum wage it is because you have no marketable skills. If you work as a cleaner don't expect a surgeon's salary. Get orf ya arse and learn stuff. Skills generally get you more dosh. If you live in part of the country which is too expensive, then move elsewhere. Not saying it is easy, but when has life been easy, unless you are born into wealth? Life has never been fair. Recognise the reality and do something about it. Don't expect the state (the taxpayer) to give you more than existence pay. And then it should be a temporary measure. If you are too dimwitted to appreciate these simple truths and act accordingly, don't expect your life to be an economic 'bed of roses'.'



The above is a comment I recently placed at Bucko’s place. There is nothing profound in my musings. In fact, the sentiment is perhaps banal and obvious at least to those who can see. I would just like to expand a little and add a little contextual wisdom.
I’m a classic representation of the ‘Baby Boomer’ generation. Economically I have done rather well, I suppose, and managed to retire at the grand age of 62. I’m haunted by the spectre of my poor father dying a day before he officially retired. I’m thin, active and healthy so statistically I’m likely to be still around at 65 to pick up my State pension. However, no one is guaranteed a span and chance and circumstance lurketh in unknown corners of the room/doom. I’m starting to get morbid, so moving on….
I contend that the boomers are an economic anomaly. Certainly, prior generations did not do so well, particularly the working class. Opportunities available to young baby boomers, especially in the realms of education, were unprecedented and many working-class folk, such as myself, took advantage of the educational possibilities with gusto. Jobs appeared plentiful and if you were educated a whole vista of career paths became available. I’m not saying it was easy. Motivation, hard work and due diligence are always sound predictors of success.
Let us proceed to the succeeding generations. Times have changed. Globalisation, a decline in traditional industries and other economic factors, which I barely comprehend, have insinuated into the Western economy. Quality work is harder to find even for the educated. This is compounded by the fact that 33% of youngsters aspire to obtain a college degree (UK data). Note: there is a 30% drop out rate. When ‘I were a lad’, only 5% of the population went on to university. It seems today that you need a degree for any paid work- an over exaggeration, of course, but I’m sure you get the point. As an aside, not all degrees are equal. Graduates in the physical sciences, engineering and mathematics still do quite well; graduates in the liberal arts, not so much. There is a general and naive assumption amongst graduates of today that a degree is a passport to the professions and a high paying job with an established career path. In many cases this expectation is unrealistic. Also, later generations have an expectation of relative wealth especially if they are nurtured by the stereotypical middle-class boomer family. They aspire to their parent’s economic well-being without understanding the wherewithal involved or fully appreciating the modern economic environment.
I am of the opinion, and I may be wrong, as this is not my area of expertise, that the latest generation to hit the job market and aspire to the traditional trappings of adulthood will find life a bit tougher than their boomer parents. Great jobs are not so plentiful and the competition is keen. Relative salaries are probably lower than the boomer generation, in relation to the cost of living. Certainly, getting onto the property ladder is becoming an impossibility for most and renting is very expensive. All that said, there are opportunities for those with the right skills to prosper in the modern age and do well. As the market is international, a life abroad is worthy of contemplation. As they say: ‘the world is your bivalve shellfish’.  
So, there we have it. Just a few of my ‘lay man’s’ thoughts on the issue. I would welcome my reader’s opinions on the matter. In order to gain perspective and balance, it would be great to hear, not only from boomers but also from those troublesome and pesky ‘whipper-snappers’. Let the mass debate commence.



Thursday, 28 February 2019

The Three Day Challenge


Dear readers, tis with a heavy heart that I have decided to join the afore-mentioned challenge. I swear by all that I hold true and all that I hold dear in my heart, that not a drop of alcohol will pass my lips for the 3 day period: 29th - 31st February. This sacrifice is a test of my resolve and stern character. If I succumb to temptation, may my knee caps move about in ways mysterious and my prostate enlarge to the size of a grapefruit thus causing urinary tract discomfort.

I entreat my readers to accompany me on this quest. Consider the cleansing nature of your abstinence and the hepatic cell regeneration engendered in your volition to eschew the pleasures of the grape or grain. Arse.  

Sunday, 24 February 2019

Spellification Errors

ARSE

Whilst writing my previous article on the structure of the Roman Republic I became aware of the sorry state of my spelling ability. I consider myself a reasonably intelligent fellow and I’m certainly highly educated, but for all that expensive/expansive education I still can’t spell. This was drummed home after reviewing my post the other day and noting the profusion of words underlined in red by the ‘spell chucker’. My usual method of writing is to set forth words on the computer in a frenetic burst of energy without initial editing. I then set the work down and after an interval, return to undertake the hard task of revision. Several of my spelling errors appeared unknown to the omniscient spell checker. thus requiring extra research.

My lack of spelling ability has always been with me and caused quite a few problems at school. During the 1960s a great deal of emphasis was placed on the ability to spell and most of my written work was judged harshly by my teachers. My work was bestrewn with red ink, exclamations and the dreaded, ‘SEE ME’. My grades were poor and according to the ‘merit board’ proudly displayed on the class wall I was rated 29th out of 30 pupils. The poor kid rated last suffered frank mental deficit and would have been better served by being located in a school dedicated to the intellectually challenged. He laboured under epithets, ‘spakker’ or ‘mong’. Wonderfully pejorative exclamations and I’m sure my astute readers can work out their provenance. I managed to escape such ridicule and censure due to my pugnacious nature. I have always wondered what happened to Eric (for it is he) although I can hazard a good guess as to how his life story unfolded.    
I have long been at peace with my inability to spell and have accepted this deficit as part of my many idiosyncrasies, foibles and quirks. So, what follows has a personal element of the ‘bittersweet’ and ‘for the grace of God go I’, but only just. Anyone can make a spelling mistake when writing. However, the spell checker ensures that the error does not persist after judicious editing. The following errors are really unforgivable.   

 

I'm a guessing that this represents a Monday morning or Friday afternoon effort. Or are we dealing with a total fuckwit considering the example of the template available to the right? Be aware, keep vigilant and stop being a twat! 


Interesting enough, the old English word for bird was 'bridd'. This is the sort of item that might be worth something in the future, or not whatever the case may be.


Mayhap they are referring to the buggers- A Big Cac, anyone?


Not really a spelling issue but worthy of inclusion anyway. Caveat emptor. I aspire to write like a graduate college. Maybe one day.


A problem of homonymisation (not a real word). I'm inclined to give the harassed 'teleprompter' a break in this instance.  
  

An ancient existential question, but best not pondered whilst at the parking barrier. Of course, this represents a classic oxymoron as a prerequisite for paying the parking fee is that you necessarily exist. Otherwise, there would be no parking in the first place and no fee would be applicable. Simple informal logic, innit?


Deep fried dognuts, yum. This outlet is conveniently situated next to the vets.



There are two warning signs here: 1. the spelling mistake. 2. A well designed 'printed' sign might add professional plausibility to the company. I predict bankruptcy. 


College is not what it used to be. Mayhap the signwriter suffers from a stutter?

                   
No wonder college education has slipped if schools prepare pupils thusly.

Tis enough for now folks. I've a vague inkling I should be writing posts on more cerebral matters in tune with my vast intellect. 

Sensible writing will resume shortly after the new meds kick in. Moist Bum Crust.

Tuesday, 19 February 2019

The Roman Republican System in a Nutshell

Senatus Populus Que Romanus
        
The Roman Republican system was a rather complex mix of judiciaries, assemblies, legislative bodies, major, minor magistracies and patronage. This system reinforced and influenced the various governmental processes in ways that are difficult to put forth in a post of under 1,000 words (actually 1016). This my modest attempt as a non-historian.  
Rome was originally ruled by their neighbours, the Etruscans. The last Etruscan king (Tarquin the Proud) was expelled by the Romans in 509BC. [As an aside, the Etruscans are a most fascinating people worthy of a post by themselves]. Thereafter, and until the autocratic rule of Caesar (48 BC), the Romans instigated the Republican system of government. The Romans observed the political institutions of their neighbours i.e. the Greeks and Carthaginians and noted inherent drawbacks in the systems especially considering their susceptibility to the usurpation of power by a single individual or small clique. The Roman resolution was characteristically ingenious and practical and involved a tiered system of government, legislative and judicial assemblies.
First off, the Roman republic inherited a system called the ‘Centurate Assembly’ from their previous Etruscan rulers. The Assembly was composed of citizen soldiers who came together to vote outside the walls of Rome at a place called Mars field. The citizens were divided into centuries and voting was directed to military matters such as war and peace and the election of magistrates holding military office. The weight of the vote was not equal and members of the wealthier centuries exerted greater voting influence than their poorer brethren. In 241BC the system was reorganised to give more weight to the less well-off centuries and this trend would continue until the end of the Republic
The development of the Roman Republican Constitution can be seen, particularly in its early years, as a partial resolution of the conflict between the numerically few, but politically rich and powerful patricians, and the more numerous and initially disenfranchised plebeian population.
The Roman constitution evolved over several hundreds of years and most of the changes were unwritten but enshrined in custom if not empowered in law. Originally power rested with the patrician, noble class and the common folk or plebeians had no say in the run of the Republic. Thus, the legislative body of the Senate (300 senators) were recruited solely from the patrician class. The Senate decided national and international policy indirectly, as they exerted no direct power, and elected two officials, or consuls, to guide state policy for a single year. In this way, they had a powerful influence on State and international policy as mediated through the consuls. The consuls held executive power and were also expected to command armies in the field. The presence of two high officials was designed to provide a balance of power and a check on ambitious men desiring total control of the State. Each consul was invested with the power of veto. Thus, State action required sanction by both chief magistrates. A senator was not elected by the people but chosen by the consuls. Once chosen the senators were ‘elected’ for life. In times of grave peril, a dictator could be elected with supreme power to ensure swift and decisive policy. However, a dictator could only serve for a period of 6 months. 
Time would show that the incumbent political system was flawed due to social inequalities.  This represented an unstable political system for an agrarian society constantly at war. In 494BC, the plebeians under arms left the city and refused to fight. Under external military threat, the patricians were forced to create the office of ‘Plebeian Tribune’ with the power of veto over matters affecting the rights of plebeians. In 451BC the ‘Twelve Tables’ were formulated. It provided a code of law to work out issues between the patricians and the plebeians and formed the basis of civil law. However, the patricians were unwilling to relinquish their privileged status of power and wealth, just yet. Over the next two centuries civil strife continued and in 279BC the plebeians left the city for the final time. Further concessions inevitably followed allowing plebeians to be elected to high office and even to intermarry with members of the patrician class. 
Over time patrician dominance waned and wealthy plebeians became politically influential. Toward the later years of the Republic, the distinction between patrician families and wealthy plebeian families became eroded giving rise to a patrician-plebeian aristocracy.  
The middle years of the 1st century BC were marked/marred by civil unrest and conflict in Rome. With the coming of Empire, Rome underwent great internal change due to the great influx of wealth from conquered territories but this wealth remained closeted/cosseted with the few. Furthermore, there was a need to maintain a large professional army. The old middle-class militia had gone to be replaced by masses of poor soldiers who had little allegiance to the State. The consuls acted as generals and led armies in the field. Once a campaign had been completed it was incumbent upon the general to settle his soldiers with a portion of arable land. Successful generals fostered successful ex-soldiers and consequently, soldiers became highly devoted to their general. A consul commanding large bodies of soldiers developed an inordinate amount of power not traditionally invested in the office of consul. In 82BC the consul Sulla, backed by his large army, placed himself as dictator. Normally the office of dictator was to be held for a maximum of 6 months but he stretched the term to two years. This turn of events represented a dangerous precedent culminating in the seizure of power, after a civil war, by Caesar in 48BC. Caesar became dictator for life but was assassinated in the Senate by senators wanting to restore the ‘Old Republic’.  But the ‘die had been cast’ and the Republic was no more. What followed was a decade of civil war. Ultimately, Caesar’s nephew, Octavian, become triumphant. The subsequent rule of Octavian (later Augustus) initiated the ‘Roman Empire’ system of autocratic rule, initially at least, based on dynastic lines, which would last until the final destruction of the Eastern Roman Empire by the Turks, in 1453 AD.    


Thursday, 14 February 2019

Mugshots of Doom III

Gratuitus Alpaca image


Tis been noted that the posts of late have erred on the side of the ‘sensible’. My serious persona is in the ascendant. But like all things that soar into the blue yonder there comes a time when they must fall; hurtle and plummet downward toward the Earth. Gravity, the weakest of the four forces, must be appeased and placated or at least obeyed. Not even the mighty Flaxen can deny the gravitas of the situation. And so, and with veritable aplomb, and characteristic savage wit, I will plummet and scavenge the bottom dregs and detritus which coats and consumes this bounteous land.
Anyway, I thought I’d put forth, for general amusement, a sorry assortment of felonious (sadly a real word) mugshots. The folk represented are definitely the bottom feeders of society. Don’t feel sorry for their predicament and castigate my temerity for parading their visages in a freak sideshow. The gods that rule the fates have judged them and found them wanting. Watch, ingest and ponder deeply on their misfortune while contemplating the gifts bestowed upon your fair and favoured noddles.  


I suppose we can all have a bad hair day. But there is something about the 1,000-yard stare that screams METH!


He seems a happy, jolly person. The stare in this instance denotes a non-parallel gaze of no fixed abode. No doubt he is happy because of his incapacity to contemplate his predicament or anything else for that matter. Where there is no sense there is no pain. He has just enough intelligence to open his mouth when he wants to eat, but certainly no more.   


Dat man got a small jaw and a big head! Otherwise known as micrognathia and macrocephaly, respectively.  One wonders if this is a case of excessive inbreeding. Out breeding is recommended to obtain/maintain genetic variety and phenotypic vigour. If marriage between first cousins is the societal norm, within a few generations you end up with the typical specimen above. I suspect the IQ of this individual is matched only by his shoe size.  


Not sure whether said felon is the prostitute or the 'client'. Either way, this represents a most disturbing proposition. If the above is the perveyor for gain then the clientele are highly undiscerning, mad or drunk. I wouldn't rule out the possibility of all three. 



Old 'bleb head' is back in town after cranial trauma. That must have been a helluva mighty blow. How could he not resist bursting dat lump of serous fluid? Mayhap he didn't want egg on his face? This brings to mind a personal anecdote. Tis buried in this post, somewhere. Just occurred to my fevered imagination that the lump is medically induced and replete with surgical grade, sterile, isotonic saline. Often times when additional skin is required for grafting, the patient's skin is stretched in this manner to provide sufficient tissue for the procedure. Nuff said.


Strains of 'Achy breaky heart' insinuate in my brain. For some reason, which I find difficult to articulate, the image of the Emperor Nero Cladius Divi Claudius filius Caesar Augustus Germanicus comes to mind. Either way that monstrous mullet will one day take over the world. Or not, whichever the case may be.


Who's a pretty boy den? I am willing to believe that zombies are walking the earth. If you look like this then legitimate ways to obtain employment are strictly limited and a life of larceny is the only possibility. Nice blond hair though.


He seems a bit of a piratical cove. Polly da parrot may just be out of sight. Or perhaps she is preening her feathers in an adjacent cubicle and screeching "Pieces of eight". Once out on bail, he will be off to seek booty by robbing the local liquor store. Methinks I've exhausted the buccaneer sayings, at least for now. How quaint.  


The illustrated man. They say a picture paints 1,000 words. In this case, I'm guessing illiteracy. I'm also guessing prison tattoos probably executed during long periods of incarceration. What else is there to do, but desecrate/desiccate your body? It is not as if he can sit down and read a good book, is it?


Gentle reader, do you think I have been a tad harsh with my uncompromising commentary? Do I come across as unfeeling, brutal and elitist? Take heed, for I am guilty on all counts, me Lord, and rightfully judged and convicted. Arse akimbo.