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.

Solar Derivative

Today is the first Earth-Solar event of 2021 — the Vernal Equinox. It happened early in the USA: 5:37 AM on the east coast, 2:37 AM on the west coast. Here in Minnesota, it happened at 4:37 AM. It marks the first official day of Spring — time to switch from winter coats to lighter jackets!

Have you ever thought the Solstices seem more static than the Equinoxes? The Winter Solstice particularly, awaiting the sun’s return, does it seem like the change in sunrise and sunset time seems stalled?

If you have, you’re not wrong. Here’s why…

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Beer Space

Lately, I’ve been writing a number of posts about quantum mechanics, a field where coordinate spaces play a big role. One of my earliest posts on this blog was about applying coordinate space concepts to real life, a thread I picked again up last year.

Long ago I introduced my buddy (I call him “Scott” here), who is also an aficionado of good beer, to the concept of beer space. I’ve mentioned it here once or twice in passing, and I have notes about it that date back to 2011 when I started this blog.

So it seems high time I actually wrote a post about beer space.

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Colossal Little Film

Last night I watched a fun little film, Colossal (2016), written and directed by Nacho Vigalondo. Unfortunately it was a financial flop with a box office of only $4.5 million against a $15 million budget. That’s unfortunate, because it makes it harder for such creative efforts to get made.

It stars Anne Hathaway and Jason Sudeikis, both of whom, from a playground in New England, turn out to have the power to manifest and control giant monsters that appear in, and terrorize, Seoul, Korea. (It’s not quite as random as it sounds.)

It’s a very inventive story that delighted me, and I recommend it as more than worth seeing for any fan of interesting movies.

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QM 101: Bloch Sphere

One small hill I had to climb involved the object I’ve been using as the header image in these posts. It’s called the Bloch sphere, and it depicts a two-level quantum system. It’s heavily used in quantum computing because qubits typically are two-level systems.

So is quantum spin, which I wrote about last time. The sphere idea dates back to 1892 when Henri Poincaré defined the Poincaré sphere to describe light polarization (which is the quantum spin of photons).

All in all, it’s a handy device for visualizing these quantum states.

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World of Lies

I’ve been thinking about an aspect of modern life that bothers me at least as much — if not more — than the anti-intellectual, anti-science, anti-thought, bias of our culture.

It’s bad when emotions are elevated above rational thinking, that what matters most is how one feels. It undermines our future when that is not guided by understanding and thoughtfulness. And all too often those feelings don’t involve compassion and acceptance, but fear, hate, and rage.

What’s worse, what makes we wonder if we’ll ever find a decent path again, is that we’ve become a culture of lies.

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Black Lightning

Last Sci-Fi Saturday I savaged Sabrina, which remains a new low to me in dumb TV. This time I have a much more mixed review. I’ve been working my way through Black Lightning (available on Netflix). It’s a superhero show, so it’s fantasy and suffers all the problems and weakness that go with that.

On the other hand, it’s about a Black superhero (three, actually), and the landscape has been sadly and notably deficient in people of color as superheroes. There is also that Black Lightning obviously has a bigger budget, much better acting, and a far stronger sense of authenticity.

That said,… I’m sorry, but superhero stories are just super lame.

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Friday Notes (Mar 12, 2021)

Over time I seem to be creating day of the week categories for posts. It started with TV Tuesday, back in August 2012. (Which I unfortunately made a Tag rather then a Category — something I’d like to change one of these days.) The very next month I created Wednesday Wow (as a Category), which languished for years but I’ve used more often lately.

I’m not exactly sure when I created Sci-Fi Saturday. The first post was in July 2011 (the month I began this blog), but the Category came later. I applied it retroactively (many SF posts were on Saturdays; go figure). Mystery Monday is a recent addition started in December 2019.

And now I’m starting Friday Notes.

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QM 101: Quantum Spin

Popular treatments of quantum mechanics often treat quantum spin lightly. It reminds me of the weak force, which science writers often mention only in passing as ‘related to radioactive decay’ (true enough). There’s an implication it’s too complicated to explain.

With quantum spin, the handwave is that it is ‘similar to classical angular momentum’ (similar to actual physical spinning objects), but different in mysterious quantum ways too complicated to explain.

Ironically, it’s one of the simpler quantum systems, mathematically.

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Chilling Sabrina

I watched the first season of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (Netflix) with mixed reactions. It had just enough to keep me watching, but I didn’t think much of the writing. It has the same problem as a lot of modern fantasy — random, irrational, downright dumb (and in this case very unoriginal) world building.

The latter season tipped the scales entirely to an Ugh! rating for me. Television shows are rarely known for their intelligence, but this one has given me a new standard of worst-ever.

To be clear here, ‘I come, not to praise Sabrina, but to bury it.’

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QM 101: Eigen Whats?

Unless one has a strong mathematical background, one new and perhaps puzzling concept in quantum mechanics is all the talk of eigenvalues and eigenvectors.

Making it even more confusing is that physicists tend to call eigenvectors eigenstates or eigenfunctions, and sometimes even refer to an eigenbasis.

So the obvious first question is, “What (or who) is an eigen?” (It turns out to be a what. In this case there was no famous physicist named Eigen.)

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