Author Archives: Wyrd Smythe

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.

Do you Darmok?

Okay, here’s one that’s been sitting in my Drafts folder since 2012. The last time I even edited it was back in 2016. (Wow. Four years ago already?) The problem has been turning it into a post. At this point it’s like a lazy twenty-year-old who won’t move outta the house.

If you were a serious fan of Star Trek: The Next Generation, the post’s title might ring a bell. It involves an episode with a very interesting idea about a communication problem between different species despite a “universal translator” that makes the words clear.

It isn’t a matter of language, but of metaphor.

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BB #68: Friday Bubbles

I hadn’t planned to post today, but cool things I want to memoize and share continue to accumulate (it’s worse than having to dust — that I can ignore). I already had one Holy Cow! item paired with a So Cool! item, plus another little piece of beko mochi beauty to share.

Then this morning I read an OMG, Yes!! article about actress Michelle Gomez, and then a really touching piece by musician Rosanne Cash. Lastly (technically firstly, as it was the first item added), I have a cute bit of AI research to make you smile.

So once more unto the breach, dear friends,

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Flipped Out Fans

I see them often, headlines that blare urgently: “Fans Flip Out Over _____” On the flip side, the ones that proclaim giddily: “Fans Are Thrilled About _____” The blanks differ, week to week, but the mood is always vocal eleven; outrage or delight; thumbs up or thumbs down. (As Jerry Seinfeld put it recently, it either “Sucks!” or it’s “Great!” His genius is pointing out they can be the same thing.)

For me that level of involvement in fiction is a bit alien. Even as a young Star Trek fan, I distinguished between Trekkers (the sensible sort of fan that I was) and Trekkies (those goofballs running around with Spock ears and toy phasers). Love versus obsession; appreciation versus Let’s Pretend.

What concerns me sometimes is we’re amusing ourselves to death.

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Monday Miscellany #3

Signs of the Times

While lots of my posts are filled with miscellany, it’s been a while (six years!) since I did a Monday Miscellany post. It was a brief idea for a regular series that didn’t turn into anything. (Ah, well, it happens.) The really cool stuff ends up in the Wednesday Wow posts now.

Sometimes I do a “Friday news dump” of stuff that’s caught my eye but which probably isn’t that interesting to most (especially geeky stuff or social commentary stuff). Today is more stuff of middling medium Monday interest.

Or something like that. Mostly trying to keep notes from accumulating.

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Wave-Function Story

Last time I started with wave-functions of quantum systems and the Schrödinger equation that describes them. The wave-like nature of quantum systems allows them to be merged (superposed) into combined quantum system so long as the coherence (the phase information) remains intact.

The big mystery of quantum wave-functions involves their apparent “collapse” when an interaction with (a “measurement” by) another system seemingly destroys their coherence and, thus, any superposed states. When this happens, the quantum behavior of the system is lost.

This time I’d like to explore what I think might be going on here.

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Wave-Function Collapse

Quantum physics is weird. How weird? “Too weird for words,” as we used to say, and there is a literal truth to words being inadequate in this case. There is no way to look at the quantum world that doesn’t break one’s mind a little. No one truly understands it (other than through the math). It’s like trying to see inside your own head.

Since we’re clueless we make up stories to fit the facts. Some stories advise that we just keep our heads down and do the math. (Which works very well but leaves us thirsty.) Other stories seek to quench that thirst, but every story seems to stumble somewhere.

One of quantum’s biggest and oldest stumbling blocks is wave-function collapse.

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MWI: Probability

I’ve come to realize that, when it comes to the Many Worlds Interpretation (MWI) of quantum physics, there is at least one aspect of it that’s poorly understood. Since it’s an aspect that even proponents of MWI recognize as an issue, I thought I’d take a stab at explaining it. (If nothing else, I’ll have a long reply I can link to in the future.)

The issue in question involves what MWI does to probability. Essentially, our view of rare events — improbable events — is that they happen rarely, as we’d expect. Flip a fair coin 100 times; we expect to get heads roughly 50% of the time.

But under MWI, someone always gets 100 heads in a row.

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Upload

A week ago Sunday I stayed up late binging Solar Opposites. This Sunday I stayed up to 4:00 AM binging Upload, a new comedy from Greg Daniels (just released on Amazon Prime). In both cases, my intent was to check out just an episode or two, but in both cases I couldn’t stop watching.

Solar Opposites was more like a fun party I didn’t want to leave (I’m a night owl, anyway). Upload, likewise, was a delight I didn’t want to end, but I was also seriously sucked into a really good story. I am very much anticipating season two.

I don’t hand out Wow! ratings lightly, but Upload just might rate one.

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Complexity and Randomness

Last week, when I posted about the Mathematical Universe Hypothesis (MUH), I noted that it has the same problem as the Block Universe Hypothesis (BUH): It needs to account for its apparent out-of-the-box complexity. In his book, Tegmark raises the issue, but doesn’t put it to bed.

He invokes the notion of Kolmogorov complexity, which, in a very general sense, is like comparing things based on the size of their ZIP file. It’s essentially a measure of the size of information content. Unfortunately, his examples raised my eyebrows a little.

Today I thought I’d explore why. (Turns out I’m glad I did.)

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Spiders

I have no illusions about being a writer. As with many people, I like to express myself, so I write about the things I think and talk about. I suspect the handful of readers who know me in real life find these posts similar to our conversations. (Some posts have come from those conversations.)

Fiction, let alone poetry, are skills a bit beyond my ken, but every once in a while something pops out of my brain. Seems some thoughts don’t work as well dressed in basic prose (although you’d think it goes with everything).

This has been sitting in my Drafts folder since August 2012, and given that it’s spring and I’m cleaning out the backlog, it’s definitely time to get rid of the…

Spiders

I share my world with spiders;
I like the wee beasties.
They live their little lives,
While I live mine. (A giant among them.)
I regard their predatory nature.
Tiny hunters, fierce and fatal.
Small solitary watchers;
Do they, in turn, regard the giant?
Do they tell stories to their young:
‘Ware the giant! Stay off the white walls!
Do not draw the giant’s eye,
Least the tissue come whisk you away.

I’m a computer programmer by career and hobby, so I have a natural affinity for things that come in packages of eight. I also love that they eat other bugs, especially the occasional ant.

And Spiderman always was one of my favorite Marvel heroes. (Come to think of it, he may, in fact, be the top fave.)

Stay friendly to spiders, my friends!