A Shot at Conscience

September 30, 2008 at 4:45 pm (Making Sense of Things) (, , , , , )

His mother spoke at the television as he stood from the dinner table, Don’t forget to clean your placemat, I wont, he replied, And go do your homework, I know, and with that their exchange halted. He ascended the six step staircase and entered his room. Sitting down, he had barely touched the power button when his mother called out again, Are you doing your homework, Of course I am, why do you ask such stupid questions, you were the one who told me to go and do that homework, If my question is so stupid, why you bark at me for my simple questions rather than simply answering? He was in silence, she was frowning, but was happy, amused by her success, and neither could see the other, but they didn’t need to see to know what the other was thinking. Because I don’t like it when you take a shot at my conscience, the boy almost said, but instead pressed the power button again, and as the computer whirred down he instead started his work.

I wrote that in August of 2005 as the preface to a 20 short-chapter Book of Summer for a Literature class. The style is meant to tribute Jose Saramago, author of Blindness.

I have always had trouble choosing to do what was necessary (read: dictated by others) over doing what was appealing. I still do, am doing so right now: writing is far more appealing than physical mechanics homework. Perhaps I am in the wrong major?

Still, why do we do what others dictate over what we want? The answer is society, and our obligation to it. We are taxed by our governments, forced to donate to them funds with which to perpetuate this way of life. We are also taxed by society of our time and energy, forced to learn professions and provide labor to perpetuate progress. When looked at life from that perspective, I find the humanist in my suddenly agreeing, accepting that conforming to the school to career progression is necessary. I get through the day, through my necessary but unwanted tasks knowing that I am working towards being a productive cell in that organism that is our world. If only our central processing unit would stop taking heavy shots of heroin that propagate down and affect us all.

So it doesn’t hurt to reiterate, to myself and others, that maxim that grandparents love to recite: Love what you do, and do what you love. My problem is figuring out if I love physics – I love the premise, but I might be doomed for philosophy rather than discrete phenomenology. (I also dislike calculus.) The question I have, though, is regarding getting to the thing you love. There are almost always obstacles in the way, so it is necessary to gauge if overcoming them is worth the end result. The equally important maxim here is that The thing you love might be nice from afar, but might be far from nice. What you want now might very well not be what you really wanted – perhaps I need to take a spirit walk, like Parkman, and figure out what lies in my future.


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Permeating Life with Physics

September 28, 2008 at 11:41 pm (Making Sense of Things) (, , , , , )

Really, it applies to logic, reason, math, science in general: I like it when things make sense, even when I suspend my disbelief. Recently I’ve found the drawback to this in watching movies. Unless the movie has incredible watching value (or book reading value), small logical and scientific incongruities greatly reduce my dels.

An aside on dels: dels are the units of deliciousness. They are subjective but absolute. They are real and extend in both direction from zero, and in my experience they have always been integers. I used to use several unit scales (including sogs and zombs) but have since abandoned all but the dels. However, deliciousness implies enjoyment (for me personally, of course), so I have no qualms with extending dels to apply to non-foodstuff quantities (and qualities). Dels were originated jointly with Brad and Tim, as a logical progression from the units of confidence (inches, apparently). A story for another day.

Regardless, I find only able to suspend my disbelief so far: I can make an assumption, but I expect the rest of the world, namely the world within that movie, to also adopt that assumption. I feel that too often movies with false assumptions don’t carry them through far enough but rather only so far as it is convenient for them.

I am a roleplayer (play-by-post), and so I frequently find myself playing surreal characters in fictionalized worlds filled with magic and other such irrealities. A few weeks back, when I started spending some time in the Role Play Gateway chat, I stumbled onto a conversation about the nature of magic. Well, “anti-magic”. Roleplaying worlds get pretty crazy, and I thought that it was highly impressive that these roleplayers were recreationally discussing and rationalizing how this anti-magic (and magic) worked, in that particular world. I put forth a couple of my ideas there but have since reworked it into a thicker discussion on RPG Forums Online in their debate section. While I’ve pushed for the debate section to get brought back after a year’s absence, we haven’t had very much success in starting it back up. Still, I watched Eagle Eye last night and remembered this. Hopefully by sharing I will get some insights (or debunks!) on the nature of magic in a general sense.

The Nature of Magic from a Physics Standpoint

I am a Physics Major, so when it comes down to magic I sometimes have serious thoughts and discussions, regarding magic. I don’t believe in magic, but I most certainly suspend my disbelief when it comes to roleplaying and books and movies. But I still feel like this ethereal concept should have a set of real world laws governing it.

A fairly recent discussion I had with some members of RPGateway in chat started from the premise of Anti-Magic (AM) Guns. What, you might ask, is an AM gun? Well, it isn’t really a gun, but rather an AM Generator which creates an AM Field (AMF). Great! What does an AMF do?

Based on the premise of “anti-magic” one would expect that an AMF would dissipate magic, similarly to how mesh armor might dissipate striking force. Going from that analogy, the force is still applied despite the dissipation, so in an AMF, magic would still act in some way, just not in the intended way. Perhaps there is an ambient magic density (much like there is humidity), and an AMF dissipates magic to increase the ambient magic density.

So, working off of that, we have some sort of AMF. Since it is a field, it would have to work via an inverse square law, like gravity or electromagnetism, which gives me a chance to make more parallels. Magic can be used to add energy to things, but in many different ways. Not only can you use magic to shoot a fireball or heat up a pot or make light, but magic can be used to move and lift things. While the first set involves electromagnetic radiation, the second involves adding gravitational potential energy. So magic isn’t photons or electrons or mass, but something new. More importantly, magic can take energy away like making ice, and it can also teleport things as per summoning rituals.

So, in the spirit of physics, matter and energy (photons) need to have conversion potentials to a whole new particle, which I will call the robeon as per the quote “Aight, I put on my robe and wizard hat.” So we have the robeon, but is it a particle, or a wave? Does magic have mass? Physics has determined that most of the universe is actually composed of dark matter (22% of the universe) and dark energy (74% of the universe), with normal matter and energy, namely us, taking up way less than 4%. So, for the sake of using what we’ve got, I’m going to say that the robeon is the main wave-particle of dark energy. (This is a GREAT place to disagree with me, btw.)

So, robeons are dark energy: what does that explain, if anything? Well, the way I see it, this conserves energy in the universe. Dark energy, which we can’t perceive, is converted into regular energy via field manipulation, or regular energy dissipates into dark energy, producing such effects as water to ice, or a “darkness” spell. But, what does field manipulation mean?

Have we all read His Dark Materials? This is a great mode of explaining “field manipulations”, because I’m going to go so far as to equate dark energy to dust in that sense, with dark energy drawn to people and sentient beings in general. For the majority of cases, mages are old, and most “wizards” or “gifted people” come into their powers come adulthood, which is also when dust becomes heavily drawn to humans in His Dark Materials.

At this point I am going to stop, even though I surely have much farther to go. What can you do in this topic? Well, help me work out this theory. What doesn’t make sense to you, or in general? What isn’t developed yet, or where might this theory produce contradictions? You are welcome to build on it, or provide counterexamples and contradictions, or alternative theories. When given contradictions, I will do my best to work the theory to fix them. Or, if someone dropped a contradiction, you are welcome to try your own hand at fixing the theory. So, thoughts?

Since then I had some insights and theorized on a new particle, the haton (also from “Aight, I put on my robe and wizard hat.”). However, I’ve also forgotten those insights, but if you decide to take this further then please, feel free to employ robeons, hatons, and whatever other particles make sense to you. After all, all great theoretical physicists have each invented at least one particle!*

*According to Lincoln Wolfenstein, a particle physicist and (ex-)professor at Carnegie Mellon.

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