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.
I skipped Friday Notes last month, and almost skipped it this month. To some extent that’s due to the note pile getting smaller, but the larger share of it is the exhaustion and ennui I’ve been feeling all year. My posts-per-month count has been noticeably down since April.
Over the 110 months of this blog (which doesn’t count 2017, the year I took off), the average is 10 posts per month, but in the previous two years it’s 14, so I do seem off my feed lately. OTOH, only 74 posts in 2018 (my lowest year), and I’m at 96 now, so there’s that.
In any event, here’s another edition of FN.
I just finished Time Travel: A History (2016) by science historian and author James Gleick. The New York Times Book Review, Anthony Doerr described it as, “A fascinating mash-up of philosophy, literary criticism, physics and cultural observation.” I agree with that description minus the word fascinating. I would have said tedious.
This is not the book’s fault. I’m not saying it’s bad. There was nothing I disagreed with. There were even a few parts I got into. The problem is I found it ambling, rambling, and meandering. It wasn’t incoherent, but it seemed disconnected to me.
Overall I found it easy to put down and hard to pick back up.
Well that didn’t take long!
Multiple news sources have reported on a two-year microbiology study out of Rutgers University (Is the five-second rule real?). The upshot is: Yes, of course it’s not real.
What strikes me is that anyone actually thought it was real. We (meaning pretty much everyone I ever associated with) always understood it as a bit of obvious irony, a self-serving excuse for eating fallen food. If asked, I would have said one would have to be a real idiot to think it was real.
Well,… can’t say I’m surprised.
One of the great things about science fiction is how it allows an author to explore the human condition in contexts that ordinary fiction cannot. For example, it can explore the idea of immortality. Is boredom a problem? If you are immortal, but others aren’t, what is it like to see everyone you know age and die? Is it as desirable as it seems?
Some themes occur repeatedly in science fiction. Immortality is just one. A very common one is the idea of alien races — or even intelligent machines. Such stories view humanity through new eyes.
Another common one is time travel, and that is the subject of today’s Sci-Fi Saturday!