Wow to the Wow

Wow. April First, but it’s no joke how much — and how quickly — life changed. March 2020 changed the world. Now we’ll see if we survive it.

Spirits seem high around here. On my morning walk, in the park I saw that someone had used colored chalk to write good thoughts on the asphalt path: “Stay Positive!” “Nature!” “Yay! Vit. D.” “Family Time” “Exercise!” (Maybe others will join in. I think I have some colored chalk…)

It’s hard to top the real life wows, but I do have a few interesting items that might at least offer something of a distraction.

You may have heard of the Platonic solids — five three-dimensional shapes called out by one of the more famous of those ancient Greeks.

They are the only 3D shapes comprised of:

  • Identical faces (2D polygons)
  • Identical angles and sides in each face
  • Identical angles and edges in each vertex

Another word for all those identical things is regular. These five solids are the only regular 3D shapes.

Since they go back to Plato, one would think they’ve been studied in great detail. One would be correct to think so.

Given the field is so ancient and well-plowed, one might also think there is nothing new to find. On that, one would be incorrect…

I love that something so simple and — one, ahem, might think — so thoroughly understood still held a mystery that took so long to solve.

I also love how computer animation lets us visualize math like this. When it’s done well (as it is here) it also makes the math a lot of fun.

[If you find the path animations fascinating, there’s a bonus video that consists of just animations.]

Don’t let “math” put you off. This is geometry, which is way more fun (it’s hardly even “math”).

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Speaking of April Fool’s, there was some excitement last December about a possible new particle or new force.

Just last February, Sixty Symbols put out this video about it:

As the video mentions, these scientists first announced this discovery back in 2016. The December announcement involves a second, different, experiment by the same group.

This video gives a very good overview and explanation of what the experiment was and what (they claim) it implies.

On the one hand, two experiments seem to find the same result. (But two experiments by the same group at the same lab, so there’s that.)

On the other hand, this new particle is only ∼17 MeV (million electron volts), so it’s extremely light and should have been noticed long ago. And there is no evidence of it anywhere except from those two experiments.

So scientists are skeptical for now, and I suspect everyone involved has more important things on their mind right now. As the video suggests, what’s really needed is a third experiment, preferably by a different group. Science is all about repeatability.

[Near the end of the video he mentions how the mass of the proton and neutron isn’t from the mass of the quarks. I’ve been thinking about how actual mass (due to Higgs interaction) is just ∼1% of the mass of atoms, and atoms are just ∼15% of all matter, and matter is just ∼30% of the total mass of the universe. So actual mass really isn’t much of a player in the universe.]

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If you’re interested in computer modeling of reality, the Two Minute Papers channel has a lot of good videos. Here’s one about the dynamics of simulating water:

Simulated water may not be wet, but it’s starting to look awfully realistic!

That realism is a bullet point in the Virtual Reality hypothesis. If we were in that water simulation, we would find it (simulated) wet. The idea in the VR hypothesis is that, given how good simulations are now, just imagine what they’ll be like down the line. A Matrix scenario isn’t unthinkable.

These videos are pretty cool (and nicely short), so here’s another one:

It’s a good illustration of a big point I was making in all those posts about creating virtual realities: Every aspect of the putative reality is up to the code. Every aspect of a virtual reality is arbitrary.

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As a bonus for techno-geeks like me, here’s a tour of the inside of a nuclear reactor (that was built but never turned on):

All I can say to that is: “Wow!”

§

I’ll leave you with a very good piece of advice I saw mentioned recently: During these stay-at-home times, be sure to drive your car.

Depending on the age of your battery, you should either invest in a device to keep it healthy or just be sure to go for a drive once a week or so. (I knew a guy who began working from home regularly and was quite surprised when his battery turned up flat.)

Short drives (say to pick up food locally) not only won’t help, they’ll hurt by draining your battery each start. If you’re making a lot of little trips, the need for a long drive once in a while is more important.

Going for a drive keeps you isolated and gets you outside for a change of scenery and maybe some fresh air. (But you’ve all been going for walks, right?)

Stay distanced, my friends!

About Wyrd Smythe

The canonical fool on the hill watching the sunset and the rotation of the planet and thinking what he imagines are large thoughts. View all posts by Wyrd Smythe

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