Monthly Archives: June 2022

Matter Waves

A single line from a blog post I read got me wondering if maybe (just maybe) the answer to a key quantum question has been figuratively lurking under our noses all along.

Put as simply as possible, the question is this: Why is the realm of the very tiny so different from the larger world? (There’s a cosmological question on the other end involving gravity and the realm of the very vast, but that’s another post.)

Here, the answer just might involve the wavelength of matter.

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String Evolution

Last post I wrote about a simple substitution cipher Robert J. Sawyer used in his 2012 science fiction political thriller, Triggers. This post I’m writing about a completely different cool thing from a different book by Sawyer, The Terminal Experiment. Published in 1995, it’s one of his earlier novels. It won both a Nebula and a Hugo.

I described the story when I posted about Sawyer, and I’ll let that suffice. As with the previous post, this post isn’t about the plot or theme of the novel. It’s about a single thing mentioned in the book — something that made me think, “Oh! That would be fun to try!”

It’s about a very simple simulation of evolution using random mutations and a “most fit” filter to select a desired final result.

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Secret Code III

I’ve been enjoying science fiction author Robert J. Sawyer. I wrote about the first three books I read in the previous post. Just after writing that post, I finished a fourth book, Triggers (2012), a present-day political thriller involving accidentally linked minds — one of which belongs to the POTUS.

I liked the story quite a bit, some of it so much I’m inclined to give it a Wow! rating. It was fun, and it presents some tasty food for thought. And I don’t intend to get much into any of that.

Instead, this is about a simple secret code used in the book. It was new to me, and I found it clever, so I thought I’d dash off a quick post about it.

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Robert J. Sawyer

Quite some years ago, poking around Apple’s collection of science fiction eBooks, I noticed Calculating God (2000), by Robert J. Sawyer. I’d never heard of him but got the impression he was a literary author who’d written a science fiction novel about God.

But the book’s description intrigued enough to add to my wish list. It sat there for years. An unknown author, a very long reading list, and Apple’s obnoxious prices, all conspired to keep me from buying it. Recently I noticed Apple had removed it from their catalog.

The library didn’t have it either, but an author search turned up lots of his other SF novels. I tried one, loved it, then tried three more with good result. We seem to have similar interests and sensibilities.

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Friday Notes (Jun 10, 2022)

I’m really enjoying summer so far. Temperatures have mostly been moderate and the nights deliciously cool (“great sleeping weather” as they say). After a long winter, it’s wonderful to have open windows again and the ability to just walk out the door without gearing up in winter gear.

But my least favorite day of the year approaches. Summer Solstice — the death of the light. Thermal inertia makes July and August uncomfortably warm, but, alas, the days get shorter and shorter.

Meanwhile, here in June, it’s time for another edition of Friday Notes.

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The Power of Qubits

I’ve been working my way through The Principles of Quantum Mechanics (1930), by Paul Dirac. (It’s available as a Kindle eBook for only 6.49 USD.) It’s perhaps best known for being where he defines and describes his 〈bra|ket〉 notation (which I posted about in QM 101: Bra-Ket Notation). More significantly, Dirac shows how to build a mathematical quantum theory from the ground up.

This is not a pop-science book. Common wisdom is that including even a single equation in a science book greatly reduces reader interest. Dirac’s book, in its 82 chapters, has 785 equations! (And no diagrams, which is a pity. I like diagrams.)

What I wanted to post about is something he mentioned about qubits.

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Blade Runner

Last night I decided to enjoy a special double feature: Blade Runner (1982), the Ridley Scott classic (final cut), followed by Blade Runner 2049 (2017), the Denis Villeneuve sequel. I’ve seen the original many times, although not in years, so it was great to see it once again. For a 40-year-old science fiction movie, it’s stood the test of time well and is rightfully considered a modern classic.

The Villeneuve sequel, I think, will never be more than a forgotten footnote. It comes out the gate suffering from being an attempt to ride the coattails of an original work by another (better) artist. Stir in Villeneuve’s self-indulgent excessively languid pacing and tendency to put image over substance, and the result is (at least to me) unmemorable.

I started fast-forwarding scenes and ultimately turned it off 45 minutes from the end. I only lasted that long because I wanted to see the part with Harrison Ford.

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Stephenson: The Big U

Last post I mentioned that I’d started reading The Big U (1984), by Neal Stephenson, one of my favorite authors. (See these posts.) Other than a few books done with co-authors, I’ve read nearly everything of his. The exceptions are The Baroque Cycle trilogy (which I’ve been putting off) and, until now, The Big U, his very first novel.

Stephenson didn’t become popular until his third novel, Snow Crash (1992), which is still one of my favorites (perhaps, in part, because it was the first of his novels that I read). As with his second novel, Zodiac (1988), his first is a biting present-day social satire and not really science fiction.

That said, it does involve nuclear waste, giant mutant rats, and a student-made rail gun.

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