I still haven’t gotten used to writing “2023” — it feels like a misspelling. Perhaps in part because it’s an odd number. It’s not prime, and it’s kind of cute that it’s the product 7×17×17=2023. Lucky triple sevens! And a full house, sevens over aces. (Numerology would be another of those things that are fun but which I don’t believe.)
My 2022 plan for Serious Spring Cleaning didn’t end up nearly aggressive as planned. There’s still too much junk. And still too many (piles of) notes and notebooks.
So: Serious Spring Cleaning, take two, and another edition of Friday Notes.
Zeno’s famous Paradoxes involve the impossibility of arriving somewhere as well as the impossibility of even starting to go somewhere. And that flying arrows have to be an illusion. [Time flies like an arrow, but fruit flies like a banana.]
If Zeno were alive today, he’d be over 2500 years old and would have seen his paradoxes explained in a variety of ways by a lot of very smart people. Yet at heart they still have some metaphysical oomph. And the thing is, at least in some contexts, Zeno was (sort of) right. There is something of a paradox here involving space and time.
Or at least something interesting to think about.
It’s actually obvious and might fall under the “Duh!” heading for some, but it only recently sunk in on me that the Born Rule is really just another case of the Pythagorean theorem. The connection is in the way the coefficients of a quantum superposition, when squared, must sum to unity (one).
For that matter, Special Relativity, which is entirely geometric, is yet another example of the Pythagorean theorem, but that’s another story. (One I’ve already told. See: SR #X6: Moving at Light Speed)
The obvious connection is the geometry behind how a quantum state projects onto the basis eigenvectors axes.
In The Road to Reality (2004), Roger Penrose writes about a great analogy for symmetry breaking. Apparently, this analogy is rather common in the literature. (No, it’s not the thing about the pencil — this one involves an iron ball.) Once again, I find myself agreeing with Penrose about something; it is a great analogy.
Symmetry breaking (which can be explicit or spontaneous) is critical in many areas of physics. For instance, it’s instrumental in the Higgs mechanism that’s responsible for the mass of some particles.
The short post is for those interested in physics who (like I) have struggled to understand exactly what symmetry breaking is and why it matters.
I have posted many times about taking a parameter space view to avoid binary thinking (and the null or zero sense of being in the middle or on the fence). I’ve found the idea extremely helpful in understanding many aspects of life (hence all those posts).
It seems especially useful in these highly polarized and widely variegated times. (Even those who embrace “non-binary” ideas sometimes do so in a binary way.) But most real situations have many facets — many parameters. The space of human issues is big and cannot be well-characterized by two sides.
The parameter spaces metaphor provides a handle for visualizing such issues.
I started 2022 with a post titled Things I Think Are True. It was an echo of the Hard Problems post I’d done to start 2021. That earlier post listed a (possibly surprising) number of open questions in physics. Not trivial questions, either, but big ones like: “What is time?” and “What is the shape and size of the universe?”
The post in 2022 was more of an opinion piece about things that, in the context of those open questions, I think are true. Pure speculation on my part, some of it close to mainstream thinking, some of it rather less so (but all, I would argue, grounded in what we do know).
This year, for contrast, I thought I’d make a list of stuff I don’t believe is true.
It’s hard to express how weird the year number 2023 seems. (I can go on about it a little because it’s Janus-uary, but I’ll try to not mention it again.) Honestly, I never expected to live this long. My lifestyle was never oriented towards longevity. I sought the brief exciting flight of the firework over the slowly dying coal ember.
Yet here I am, with 70 on the middle horizon, already outliving some of my peers, struggling to stay sane in a world that seems to have lost its way, and generally wondering WTF now.
I guess it’s like being permanently in recovery. One day at a time. Deal with today, let tomorrow come in its own time. And so, onto, into, and unto 2023.
Well, it sure went by quickly! Time really does speed up as you age. I used to think it was due to the relative length of hours to your lifespan, but I’m forced to accept how much of it comes from the mind literally slowing down. Not a great feeling for someone who long placed much of their self-worth in their intellectual abilities.
But, looking back, that the year passed by so quickly and for the most part unremarkably, is what seems to stand out most to me. It was a year… that was.
It didn’t have much that struck me as notable, but I do have some charts…
So. Here we are in 2023. Weird. Very weird. As I’ve said many times, I remember wondering whether the year 1984 would turn out to be anything like its infamous eponymous book. And the year 2001, also famous but more from the movie than the book, once seemed like the very distant future to me.
And now I find myself two decades beyond the very distant future. (And still no flying cars or Moon vacation resorts.) Down here on Earth, in Minnesota, our mild winter finally got its act together and gave us a proper winter snowstorm. (Oh, boy, did it ever.)
I’m still recovering from all the shoveling plus a full week with my pal, Bentley!