Saturday, 25 May 2019

Flattus

I'm convinced
I remember being taught at school that Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue to prove that the Earth was round and not flat. Mr Columbus seemed to be the only man in Europe to have thought this way and his gullible and rebellious sailors were afraid that they would slip over the edge unto their doom. Why spoil a rollicking good story with the truth (what is truth?). In fact, no one of this period thought that the Earth was flat. The Ancient Greeks had worked out that the Earth was a globe from empirical evidence. By observing a ship pass across the horizon it was noted that the ship started to disappear from the bottom up. This sequence of events could only be compatible with a globe Earth. In 240BC the Greek philosopher, Eratosthenes, measured the circumference of the Earth using a little nifty trigonometry. Considering the crudeness of his methodology his estimate was surprisingly accurate.

The evidence that the Earth is a globe is multivarious and undeniable and you would have to be an absolute and complete nutter to believe that the Earth is flat. Die-hard ‘Flat Earthers’ of the English Flat Earth society finally admitted defeat in the 1960s and disbanded mainly due to evidence obtained from the space programme. Now you would think that would be the end of the discussion and the flat Earth theory would be consigned to the bin of historical curiosities. But nay, it seems that the belief in a flat Earth has had a resurgence in recent years and according to a recent survey 4% of millennials in the US believe in a flat Earth. So in a modern technological society how is it possible to believe such obvious nonsense? I blame the internet. At the flick of the wrist, you can be exposed to all manner of treatises. There has never been an age where so much information has been at our fingertips. But not all information is created the same and therein lies the problem. Not everyone will exercise their critical faculty when obtaining ‘knowledge’ from the internet making them vulnerable to accepting crackpot and unsubstantiated ideas and hypotheses. Furthermore, there appears to be a growing trend to consider science and other authority systems as misleading. This appears allied to a conspiracy mindset. There is no doubt that government agencies lie to their citizens or withhold information on a regular basis. This has always been the case. In the past, people were more trusting of the government than today. And to be fair this is not a bad thing. Everything should be open to critical scrutiny and this sentiment applies especially to government. However, this does not mean that all our leaders and Justin Beiber are shape-shifting alien lizards from the planet Theton.

So what does the modern day flat Earther actually believe in? The mechanics of the flat Earth are extremely fluid and appear to be very much driven by individual imagination rather than sound scientific principles. The following exposition is just a general guide. Thus, the Arctic region is represented at the centre of the Earth and the edge consists of an ice wall (Antarctica) which prevents oceans from crashing over a precipice. The sun, moon and stars are envisaged as being uncomfortably close (a few miles away) and disconcertingly small. After this things get decidedly hazy. A raft of convoluted explanations is put forth to account for observed natural phenomena such as the progression of day/night and the seasons. Flat Earthers generally deny the existence of gravity and other well established scientific principles. Their explanations are heavily dependant on intuition. How can the Earth be round if we can’t observe curvature? Or if the Earth is spinning why is it we remain in the same place if we jump off the ground? Surely if the Earth is revolving thousands of miles per hour we would expect to land elsewhere? Simple well established physical principles seem unknown such as inertia and conservation of momentum. This mindset comes under the umbrella of ‘scientific ignorance’ or the principle of ‘personal incredulity’. Basically, this means that because the individual can’t grasp the principle then it cannot exist. The fact that the greatest minds that have ever existed have grappled and solved nature’s conundrums is completely lost on these folk. And this brings me to the next point. The general level of education is pitifully lacking. Their arguments are farcical to anyone with a half decent school education. Sadly, the flat Earth fraternity represents woeful evidence and advertisement for the Dunning-Kruger effect.

In addition, to believing in a flat world there appears to be necessary add ons. Thus, if the moon is a small disc then NASA did not go there or anywhere as space travel is impossible if the Earth is covered with a dome. The International Space Station is visible to the naked eye if you are patient and prepared to wait for a suitable conjunction. I’ve watched the station through my 10” Dobsonian reflector telescope on several occasions. Due to the high resolving power of the telescope, I can make out features on this man-made object 400 km above the Earth. Explain this away flatties?    

International Space Station through a 10" telescope
A flat Earth conference was held last year in Denver, Colorado and a second is planned this year. Interestingly the location of the conference is given by GPS coordinates. The fact that GPS is dependent on Earth orbit satellites to provide locational data is lost on the attendees. While watching video coverage of last year’s highlights I couldn’t help but notice that the affair seemed to attract a certain type of person. No doubt they would describe themselves as ‘free thinkers’ but I noticed the usual suspects: ‘the mad, the bad and the sad’. The organisers and keynote speakers are happy to perform in the only arena they could shine and receive almost godlike adulation from their followers. Heady stuff for immature intellects and social inadequates. Although flatties would view themselves as individualistic and innovative thinkers all I can see is a load of intellectual sheep. And of course, where there are sheep there are wolves. Not all flat Earthers are genuine believers. As always the unscrupulous have found an easy mark to exploit and make money through youtube videos and merchandise.         

By the way and if you are interested the next conference will cost a mere US$199 for a two-day event if you register early. See you there. I’ll be the blond fella wearing a tin foil hat. Wibble, bollocks.         


Let's take no chances







Friday, 17 May 2019

Broken Arrow


Today I broke the ash bow that I’d spent many hours fashioning from a board. In fact, the bow was nearly ready for backing with genuine snakeskin and I had high hopes that this bow would be, if not a masterpiece, at least reasonably serviceable. The destruction event occurred when I was flexing the limbs prior to removing more wood. During the process, there was a resounding crack and my bow was rent in twain. To say I was disappointed is an understatement especially as the breaking bow took a chunk out of my hand (strength through pain). I’d put a lot of effort into the project and now I have two pieces of expensive firewood. Well, not quite useless, I’m sure I’ll find some use for the ash. This is the third bow to break from the large piece of ash I bought some time ago. The two ‘successful’ bows I’ve made from the board are very weak and next to useless. It could be that I’m a very poor bow maker, or perhaps I’m very unlucky. A third possibility involves the intrinsic quality of the wood. I don’t know how the wood was dried. It could have been air or kiln dried. As I understand it kiln drying is the quicker of the two processes but is prone to leaving the wood brittle and dry. Over drying the wood is generally not a problem for most building projects but can lead to catastrophic weakness during bow making. To test my hypothesis I’ve ordered a wood moisture metre to check the water content of the ash board. They are fairly inexpensive and at least I’ll know whether the problem is down to me or the wood. It will also be useful for checking how the drying process is proceeding for the tree staves I’ve harvested from my property. Ideally, the wood should be in the 8% to 10% range.


Moving on…….. Although a little dispirited I’ve decided to continue anew. The eucalyptus staves harvested 8 months ago have been drying naturally in the barn. Eucalyptus is not an ideal bow wood so to compensate I’m going to build it long and wide for the sake of safety. There is a trade-off for making a ‘safe bow’ in terms of efficiency and speed. To prevent splinters rising from the back I’ll add a backing of rawhide. Enough writing for now. I need to make a bow. But before I go I feel encumbered to write an ode that the muses have begged me to share. Read and weep.

Achy breaky bow 
Four score and 10 hours (and a bit) I have laboured on your form and sweat has glistened my brow and trickled to the grain to remain, ingrained.
From stout ash, you came and ached to be fashioned by knotted hand.
Driven by madness barely perceived I worked late until the sun descendeth like a descendy thing.
The stroke of the adze and rasp have contoured gnarled, knotty lines to manifest driven beauty unparalleled by man.
As I worked you split asunder with a crescendo of doom. A craven tumult descending into a babble of pandemonium.
My sweat and blood mingled with your splintered disarticulation (not a real word).
Cruel fates and Hade’s furies have drained my soul; my very being is laid prostrate and supine.
O woe, can it be my toil has been but a barren sham? A work of labour lost?
Bugger! I shall start anew to fashion a piece to grace the table of the gods.
Nay, stay my hand. Once lost can never be the same. Yet I will go on with fingers stout and a bow will bow to my very will.
My bruised heart still beats and shall create again, but not before I test your moisture content with an instrument designed for this sort of thing.
The wood will rise again (unless the moisture content is less than 5%) and bend with fury to cast an arrow to its mark.
An arrow to wend and rend my foe.
Let me go now I need to think and drink.
Later I will escape my grim demeanour to run naked upon the dale, shouting: “Arse, big fat ARSE”.               

            





            

Wednesday, 15 May 2019

Biocentrism: Part I

In the eye of the beholder

What follows is part one of a three-part series. I thought about keeping the subject matter limited to a single post of 1,000 words but the topic of Biocentrism is simply too grand to comply with such arbitrarily enforced restrictions/constrictions. The first part will describe the theory of Biocentrism in all its majestic glory and experimental evidence cited in support of the theory. In subsequent posts, I’ll consider the theory's implications for our conception of reality and look at some of the objections raised against Biocentrism.      

The flaxen haired one is not averse/adverse to considering and discussing weird stuff. Once in a while however I come across an idea so strange, and on the first inspection, so asinine, that I’m willing to dismiss it without undue contemplation. Remember the dictum: ‘Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence’. Usually, the ideas originate with the swivel-eyed conspiracy brigade but on this occasion, the idea comes from a respected and eminent scientist. Now, it wouldn’t be the first time a scientist has gone rogue or maverick and started to spout utter and complete bollocks. But in this instance, the scientist in question cites the behaviour of the quantum world to support the thrust of his thesis. The scientist is Dr Robert Lanza and his theory is called Biocentrism. Dr Lanza is a highly respected medical doctor and stem cell researcher. He was the first researcher to elicit stem cells from adult cells using somatic cell nuclear transfer. He has been described as a genius and considering his intellectual credentials it behoves serious individuals to seriously review his speculations. For those who seek a deeper knowledge of Dr Lanza’s theories, I suggest reading his two volumes on the subject, ‘Biocentrism: How Life and Consciousness Are the Keys to Understanding the True Nature of the Universe’ and ‘Beyond Biocentrism: Rethinking Time, Space, Consciousness, and the Illusion of Death’; they make a riveting read.      

Biocentrism in a nutjob, er I mean nutshell: Life is the centre and ultimate meaning of the universe. For the universe to exist consciousness must exist to contemplate it. The universe is without form or organisation unless contemplated by the conscious mind which imparts form and order on the universe. The conventional view, held by the majority of scientists, is that the universe was formed by the big bang and once the universe cooled, stars and planets formed. On our planet, the conditions were conducive to life formation and evolution to higher organisms. Thus, Biocentrism overturns and reverses this commonly accepted paradigm. Instead of seeking a theory of everything based on physics (Grand Unified Theory). A theory of everything should be based on biology instead. Heady stuff indeed.  

Dr Lanza argues that Biocentrism is a logical development of established and widely accepted notions. Firstly, the universe is finely fine-tuned for the existence of organised matter. And without organisation, there could be no life. Consider that there are over 200 physical constants. If the value of any one of these constants varied by just a small amount the universe would be unable to exhibit order and therefore the existence of life would not be possible. Another point concerns our sense perception. Our view of the world, 'our reality', is very much conditioned by how our sensory apparatus works and how our brain interprets the data it receives from our sense organs. Therefore, what we consider ‘reality’ is very much dependant on our subjective interpretation of wave data. Dr Lanza would argue that objective reality does not exist without the biological observer. Still with me? This idea is not entirely new and echoes the words of the great physicist, Niels Bohr: “When we measure something we are forcing an undetermined, undefined world to assume an experimental value. We are not measuring the world, we are creating it”.

Dr Lanza cites observations of the quantum world that appear to have bewildering and disturbing outcomes not easily explained by conventional models of the universe. Behold the double slit experiment first performed by Thomas Young in 1801. In this experiment, light is passed simultaneously through two slits and the resultant light pattern viewed on a piece of white card. When this experiment is performed we observe the classic wave diffraction pattern consistent with light existing as a wave. More sophisticated versions of the experiment have subsequently been performed using lasers and electron beams. For convenience, I’ll consider the experiments performed with electrons. Firing electrons through two slits will show a typical diffraction pattern expected for a wave. However, if only one slit is open the resultant pattern on the card is what we would expect if the electrons were acting as particles (wave/particle duality). A bit strange you might think but is going to get worse. If we now open the second slit to allow electrons to pass through we observe a refraction pattern consistent with a wave. Let us now fire the electrons one at a time through both slits. This time the electron will pass through either the left slit or right slit. And indeed when electrons are passed multiple times through the slits we observe a pattern again consistent with the wave model. In the next experiment, a detector is placed next to the slits to determine which slit the single electron will pass through. This is where it starts to get spooky strange. The result: instead of a wave interference pattern we detect a particle pattern! The act of detection appears to have changed the result. It as if the electrons are aware of being observed or not. Other, more sophisticated experiments (see Quantum Eraser Experiment), confirm these findings. Why we obtain this result is a fundamental problem in quantum mechanics known as the ‘Measurement Problem’ and a Noble prize awaits the person who can come up with a coherent scientific solution. This rather thorough exposition of the experiment is necessary in order to continue our discussion of Biocentrism.
Classic experiment showing light as waves 

So what has this got to do with the theory of Biocentrism? If consciousness is formulating reality and the universe then the bizarre results obtained in the above experiments can be readily explained. This in no way ‘proves’ the theory, but merely shows that the results are consistent with the theory, or at least with certain interpretations of the theory. The following posts on this topic will consider the theory in more depth and will involve a discussion and critique of the salient philosophical and scientific ramifications of the theory. Hold on to your hats it is going to be a rough ride.            

  
      


Saturday, 11 May 2019

Saturday Rant



Many years ago I worked for the National Health Service (NHS) in the UK. During that time I contributed to a government backed pension scheme for nearly 14 years. As I’ve recently taken early retirement I thought it would be a good idea to initiate the pension in order to bask in the guttering light of its pittance.

Problem One: Before I could receive any information about my pension it was necessary  to establish my identity to the satisfaction of the 'Authorities'. Personally, this is not a problem as I’m well aware of who I am, a few philosophical doubts aside. However, it was necessary to establish my identity to the satisfaction of the pension authorities back in the UK. I understand, identity theft is rampant and consequently unequivocal true identity establishment is of paramount importance. Helpfully, the agency directed my aim to a number of independent organisations willing to check my credentials. I picked an organisation at random and completed the online form. I submitted my details and promptly received notice that the company could not confirm my identity. This was a little frustrating as no explanation was forthcoming. Never mind. I went on to the next cited organisation and completed and submitted their online form. Again, my application was rejected. A pattern seemed to be emerging. Undaunted and being of a sanguine disposition ( I’m particularly in tune with the word’s original definition) I persevered unabated and completed a further four applications with the same ultimate result. Surely, this is the definition of madness? I can only surmise that my lack of residence in the UK is somehow connected with my ‘non-existence’. As a practising solipsist, I contemplated the implications with rising terror and dread. Perhaps I did not exist except in a mad daemon’s dream? A sort of solipsism by proxy. My head reeled in reflective speculation. After consuming ten pints of homebrew and running naked around my property I finally concluded that I did exist and that the NHS pension agency was a complicated arse hell bent on making people’s lives difficult and tragic.

Considering that it is estimated that 5 million British folk live outside the UK I suspected that this issue may have been encountered before and therefore there would be a ready solution to the dilemma. But this was not the case and the lack of further information pointing to a remedy was becoming annoying.

Problem 2: To solve the problem I needed to contact the NHS to determine an alternative route to my verification. I scoured the site for a relevant email contact but could find none. I had to settle for a contact email totally unrelated to my enquiry and politely asked if my request could be forwarded to the appropriate official. Several days later I received a reply from someone willing to help. The pension agency would write to my New Zealand address with a reference and information concerning my pension. Six weeks later I received the letter which enumerated my pension entitlement. To be fair it was more than I expected. All I needed to do was fill in a claim form.

Problem 3: I scoured the information I had been sent but nowhere could I find instructions about redeeming my rightful gelt. However, I was informed that if I had further questions I should access the suggested website. Once there I placed an enquiry on how to initiate access to my pension. My request elicited 967 documents neatly headlined ten per page. Mayhap the top item would be a portal leading to my aspiration for newly acquired riches? But the information provided was a load of cockwaffle concerning pension regulations and completely unrelated to my enquiry. Undismayed, I sent an email to my original respondent asking for a link to the relevant application form. And yea, after a three day wait I received an email promising a link to an application form. But first I just needed to confirm my identity…….  


Tuesday, 7 May 2019

Israel- The Exodus?

Folau contemplating the loss of $4,000,000

I seem to be doing a lot of updates lately. Must be the new meds. Perhaps if I cut down on the green pills and supplement them with the red ones everything will be tickety boo? Moving on. First off, I've been a tad naive in thinking the northern hemisphere has not heard of Israel Folau. He appears to be quite famous in the world of rugby. I missed this because I do not follow the game. In fact, I had not heard of said gentleman before the media furore a few weeks ago.

My son raised a practical and pertinent point when I discussed the issue with him. He pointed out that the rugby authorities were probably not particularly bothered by the homophobic rant as such but more bothered by how the situation would affect their sponsors and ultimately their revenue. They were worried that sponsors and advertisers would decamp leaving them in the financial pit of doom, or despond depending on perspective. When examined under this light, the response by the governing rugby authority is very understandable and practical, but not commendable. Sadly, the laws of economics trump/stump 'free speech'.

The drama has taken a new turn in the last couple of days. A gaggle of Island players (Taniela Tupou, Billy Vunipola, Curtis Rona) has come out in support of Israel. I am sure there are other Islander players waiting on the wings undecided. The Pacific Islanders are well renowned for their adherence to a peculiar and fundamental flavour of Christianity. To sophisticated Western eyes, it is literal, paternalistic and primitive. More in tune with the Old Testament injunction of smiting and gnashing of teeth rather than Jesus' proclamation of love and peace. As I recall, Jesus was silent on the act of buggery, but considering that he professed to be a devout Jew it is likely that he would have considered homosexuality an abomination in the sight of Lord. I'm starting to digress. And apparently, there is word afoot that Pacific Island players are considering a boycott. I'm sure this represents a worry for the relevant rugby authorities and fans alike. Mayhap the 'boys' have one eye on their religious beliefs and another on their lucrative contracts. Israel has also received an unlikely boost from an English rugby player, Courtney Lawes. However, Mr Lawe's support, like mine, is not of the religious persuasion but revolves around the nutty problem of free expression in a free society. Also, there is an online petition gathering momentum on social media. This, of course, will do no practical good.

The plot thickens. Mr Folau has challenged his termination of contract by the Australian Rugby body and has engaged a prominent lawyer in an effort to save his career. A Code of Conduct hearing was held last Saturday and is likely to extend until Wednesday. As a counterpoint, a number of Israel's teammates (go the Wallabies) are reportedly considering their own boycott if he wins his case to play again.

The whole affair is getting rather messy and expensive and, regardless of the result, tis likely to be highly damaging to Australian rugby.

Don't worry folks, I'm not going to make a habit of reporting the antics of 'sports stars' in the future. In this instance, I made an exception due to the impact the story is having in Australia and New Zealand. Rugby in this part of the world is not so much a sport but an activity sewn into the fabric of life and culture itself. Arse.