At the beginning of the week, I mentioned I’m reading Our Mathematical Universe (2014), by Max Tegmark. His stance on inflation, and especially on eternal inflation, got me really thinking about it. Then all that thinking turned into a post.
It happened again last night. That strong sense of, “Yeah, but…” With this book, that’s happening a lot. I find something slightly, but fundamentally, off about Tegmark’s arguments. There seems an over-willingness to accept wild conclusions. This may all say much more about me than about Tegmark, which in this case is perfect irony.
Because what set me off this time was his chapter about human intuition.
Back when I posted about Delores, the Westworld robot, I mentioned a question that once came up in a science fiction fan forum: What’s the collective noun for robots? A mechanation of robots? A clank of robots? I suggested an Asimov of robots, but maybe the best suggestion was an uprising of robots.
An uprising of robots could refer to the scary Terminator scenario, but could also be taken as just meaning the rising up of (non-killer, useful) robots. That latter interpretation being not just factual, but quite operative already.
So for this Wednesday Wow, an uprising of robots…
I’ve been noticing lately how much I don’t miss MSNBC. I was in the habit of catching Nicolle Wallace’s show every weekday at 3 PM (Central Time). She was one of the last on-air hosts I could stomach. (Chris Hayes is okay, and Rachel Maddow can be very good when I’m in the mood for that level of earnestness.)
But I’ve long thought Chris Matthews was a brilliant jackass in love with the sound of his own voice. And don’t get me started on Brian Williams, who, no, I do not forgive for besmirching journalism. He should retire and find other work.
But I thought Nicolle Wallace was okay.
Remember when Moanday was a groanday because we went back to work after a nice weekend away? I’ve been free of that since I retired (seven years ago) and now lots of people are free of that.
Unfortunately many of them are also free of a paycheck, which, as the saying goes, really gives one something to groan about. (My 401K lost an ass-puckering amount of value last quarter, so I’m groaning, too.)
I dunno about you, but I could use some comfort food…
I’m reading Our Mathematical Universe (2014), by Max Tegmark, and I’ll post about the book when I finish. However he got my attention early with the topic of eternal inflation. That got me thinking about how there are some key unanswered questions regarding the Big Bang and inflation of the non-eternal sort.
Inflation certainly does need some explaining. It may be related to dark energy, as both seem to do the same sort of thing (push space apart). The putative physics of inflation is bad enough; eternal inflation is (in my view) fairy tale physics.
For one thing, eternal? Seriously? Infinite something from nothing?
Neal Stephenson, like Greg Egan, is a hard science fiction author who never fails to delight me with something new and tasty. Both Stephenson and Egan seem able to leave footprints in otherwise well-trodden ground. Stephenson, in particular, often makes me LOL.
That’s not an acronym I use very often, but it seems especially appropriate here given this post is about The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O., by Neal Stephenson and Nicole Galland. The book has so many tongue-in-cheek military acronyms (DODO, DTAP, DEDE, MUON, etc) that it has a glossary at the back.
The story concerns parallel worlds, wave-function collapse, and witches.
Recently I read Dog is Love, Why and How Your Dog Loves You (2019), by Clive D.L. Wynne, an animal behavior scientist who specializes in dogs. Despite the loaded word “love” in the title, this is a science book about a search for hard evidence.
Dr. Wynne is a psychology professor at Arizona State University and director of their Canine Science Collaboratory. He’s written several other books about animal cognition: The Mental Lives of Animals (2001), Do Animals Think (2004), Evolution, Behavior and Cognition (2013).
The book is the story of Wynne’s search for exactly what it is that makes dogs special and how they got that way.
Recently I posted about Manifold: Time, the first book in a trilogy by Stephen Baxter, a writer new to me. As I wrote, I wasn’t very whelmed, but a bad meal at a new restaurant can be a fluke — it’s only fair to give the chef at least one more chance. (A single data point doesn’t mean much.) And I did find the overall themes a little intriguing.
As it turned out, I rather enjoyed the second one, Manifold: Space. The story stayed grounded and engaged me throughout, plus there were several cool science fiction ideas I’d never encountered before (which is kinda the point of reading hard SF). So a definite thumbs up on book number two.
Unfortunately the third book, Manifold: Origin, didn’t do much for me.
One of my favorite fiction quotes is Hamlet saying, “I could be bounded in a nut shell and count myself a king of infinite space.” (He goes on to add, “were it not that I have bad dreams,” which, if you know the story, was a definite problem for him.) The quote has a special poignancy these days now that we’re all bounded up in our own nut shells (and trying to avoid going nuts).
There have been some unexpected upsides and down sides. Air pollution is down (an upside); reports of domestic abuse are up (a downside). Streets are cleaner, city rats are starving. Bears and wolves are roaming freely in national parks while we cower in our caves.
What changes will stick with us? How different will our future be than we might have expected (assuming we survive this)?