A number of concerns…

The guy in the featured image is not me.  Let’s get that straight right now. I don’t know who that guy is, but he looks worried.  He could be worried about facial tics but probably not.  Maybe he’s worried about his tie.  I don’t know.  More likely, if he’s from Earth, he could be worried about Smart Appliances.  If he’s not worried about Smart Appliances, he probably should be.

Smart refrigerator thinking about ordering way more Unagi than you probably need

This refrigerator has an IP address.  It’s probably smarter than you.  And it’s probably best friends with Alexa. (Editor’s note: “Alexa” is a link to another LTD blog which deals with Alexa.  You should check it out.  P.S. LTD stands for Lateral Thinking Department.)

Anyways, this refrigerator allows you to share photos and calendars with the rest of your family.  It also has three built-in cameras that take pictures of the goings-on inside of itself.  And it mirrors your TV.  It can probably keep track of exactly what foods are in there and when you’re running low on vitally important items like hot sauce and maybe Unagi (Japanese for eel).  It’s probably  in direct communication with your sock drawer.  Or maybe your toilets.  Or both. And your car.  Anything is possible these days, not that I’m a Luddite or anything.

I just worry about all this connectivity.  I also wish it would quit raining here in Calgary.

A great idea just occurred to me!  Why don’t we just TALK to our families/members of our households instead of putting photos and calendars on the fridge?  My son, for example, will often text us when he is inside the house.  Why doesn’t he just surface from his lair/bedroom and talk to us in person?  Or at least yell from upstairs: “Mom/Dad. I’m hungry! How do I find food?” I’m worried that in the future we will communicate mostly with our thumbs instead of our larynxes.

I’m also worried about the future of our hippocampi.

Our hippocampi reside in our brain.  There’s one for the left side and one for the right. Like bookends.  Sort of.  They’re shaped like little seahorses.  Among other things, they (the hippocampi) concern themselves with long term memory, keeping track of eel recipes and making mental maps of things like the streets of London, England.  (If you happen to be a British cab driver.)

nattily-attired British cabbie
British cabbie displaying zero concern for his excellent tie

Apparently British cabbies have impressively-large hippocampi due to their need to construct large mental maps of the complex, tortured streets of London.  Now British cabbies aside, your hippocampi would probably make a mental map of what’s in your fridge if you just let them.  Your  brain probably isn’t making any mental roadmaps, that’s for sure.  You already outsourced that task to the nav system in your car.  That’s my point.  If we outsource all this stuff to our smart devices, our hippocampi will probably shrivel to the size of dessicated baby seahorses.  And who wants dessicated baby seahorses in their brain?

Baby seahorse wondering how it will find food

All I’m saying is that if you don’t use it, you lose it.  And I’m worried about this.  (I also don’t want the fridge telling Alexa to order things like hot sauce.  And shinguards.  Even if I don’t have any shinguards in my fridge.  Yet. (Editor’s note: “shinguards” is a link to another LTD blog which deals with the hazards of trimming the edges of your lawn.)

Plus, what’s going on in my fridge that I don’t know about?  Nothing I hope.  Why do I need pictures of the inside of my refrigerator??

None of this food is ambulatory, as far as I know.  Or sentient.  And as my Dad always used to say, “If you look for trouble hard enough, you’ll find it.”  I have enough to worry about already.  Now if I put a live octopus in my fridge, that’s an entirely different matter.  (Editor’s note: “octopus” is a link to another LTD blog about the intelligence of octopi.)

If there was a live octopus in my fridge I would want to for sure keep an eye on it.  Otherwise, next thing you know a truck would pull up on the driveway bearing $8,000 worth of saltwater aquarium equipment.  And a case of shinguards.  Just in case I’m planning to trim the edges of my lawn.  Which I will do-if it ever stops raining.

Maybe that’s what that worried-looking guy is pondering: the weather.  If he’s from Earth, then he should be worried about the weather.  Things are warming up.  That means more energy in the atmosphere.  Which means more storms, more lightning, more floods, more heat waves, more fires, more hail, more coral bleaching, eel shortgages, etc.

But if he’s NOT from Earth, he’s STILL worried about the weather, but now it’s a question of scope. Now we’re talking about things like massive solar flares, gravity waves, asteroid strikes and kilonovas.  I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again.  I think The Gravity Waves is a stellar (!) name for a band.

Novas result from the explosion of relatively small stars.  Supernovas result from the explosion of bigger stars.  Kilonovas arise from the collision of neutron stars.  When two neutron stars hook up, things get interesting.  We think that kilonovas generate jets of pure heavy metals (think gold, iridium, osmium, etc) barrelling along at close to the speed of light.  (Editor’s note: “heavy metals” is a link to another LTD blog which deals with dance competition medals and how they’re named.)

Now if we could intercept just a tiny bit of one of these jets I think it would be good for the National Deficit. But more likely, if one happened to be aimed directly at Earth it would make the Deathstar look like a pea-shooter.  Goodbye Earth.  Hello expanding cloud of ionized gas.

Kilonova emitting jets of expensive matter

 

But in all honesty, there’s not a whole heck of a lot we can do about the rest of the cosmos.  I have to worry about Mickey.  (Do I need to put another Editor’s Note in here?  I hope not.)  If it doesn’t stop raining soon though, I’m going to have to get Mickey some rain gear.  I’m getting tired of toweling him off three times a day.

Border Collie in raincoat
Mickey feeling a bit sheepish but also wondering if there is anything good to eat in the fridge.  Such as leftover eel.

Maybe I’ll see if there’s anything suitable at Hammacher Schlemmer. (Motto: We also sell Kilonova Survival Suits.  Not to mention a vast assortment of gadgets intended to deal with maladies affecting every part of your body including your appendix and possibly your hippocampi.)

Next blog:

A complete inventory of Hammacher Schlemmer gadgets intended to deal with maladies affecting every part of your body including your appendix and possibly your hippocampi.

appendix
Abandoned appendix turned into local police by Smart Refrigerator

Gravity Waves

There’s something that’s been on my mind for quite a while now but I just couldn’t seem to get inspired to write about it.  In addition to seeming like I couldn’t get inspired, I actually couldn’t get inspired.  And if I had gotten inspired, I would have written this already, wouldn’t I?  Just saying.

All that changed recently when the detection of gravity waves was announced. I don’t know if it has already occurred to you, but it occurred to me, that The Gravity Waves actually sounds like a great name for a band. (Well maybe not great, but at least sort of quirky.) Again, just saying.

In order to get to the thing that has been on my mind for a long time, I first need to talk about gravity.  But now I can’t bring up gravity without giving gravity waves a nod.  But I can’t talk about gravity waves without giving spacetime a nod.  So let’s start there.

Until Hermann Minkowski came along and gave the matter serious thought, we had this idea that space and time were two different things, like Bernie Saunders and Hilary Clinton. In 1908, he (Minkowski, not Bernie Saunders) came up with the notion that the best way to look at the Universe is with a 4-dimensional coordinate system called spacetime, consisting of three spatial dimensions and a time dimension thrown in for good measure.

Spacetime is great because it helps us do the math to understand why objects that move really fast look smaller, and don’t age as fast as slower-moving objects.  This could explain why Jane Fonda doesn’t look like she is 78 years old; she’s probably spent some time zipping around at close to the speed of light.

Anyway, after Minkowski held forth about spacetime, Einstein went on to postulate that cataclysmic gravitational events like the collision of two black holes, the explosion of stars or the vigorous grappling of sumo wrestlers, can generate waves that propagate at the speed of light through spacetime, warping it as they go.

sumo

The predicted magnitude of the warping is pretty tiny though, on the order of 1 attometer or 10—18m, which is, by the way, roughly about the distance a 14-year old boy moves when he is asked to clean up the kitchen.

Einstein thought that gravity waves would be too weak to detect, but for decades since the early 1900’s, scientists at many facilities including The Department of Measuring Really Tiny Things and Drinking A Lot of Coffee, have been relentlessly trying to prove their existence.  And finally, the good people at the United States-based Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO for short) have succeeded!

By the way, an interferometer is a sophisticated instrument that is capable of measuring the attometer-sized changes in the distances that two laser beams travel as they bounce back and forth inside it, interfering with each other.

Laser Beam #1: Stop that!

Laser Beam #2: Owww.  That really hurt.

Laser Beam #1: Owww  back. Keep your E-field to yourself.

Laser Beam #2: Keep your M-field out of my grill.

Laser Beam #1: You’re bossy.

This next picture shows two LIGO physicists thinking about going for their 30thcoffee of the day while they wait for the next gravity wave to come smoking in.

physicists

The detection of gravity waves is big news, because not only does it confirm that Einstein was top-notch in the thinking-about-arcane-stuff-department, it also allows us to see farther back in time than we ever could before, it deepens our understanding of gravity and it may even help us to formulate the long sought-after physics Theory of Everything.  (Unfortunately, it probably won’t help me figure out the rules I’m supposed to be following when sorting laundry.)

But all this talk about gravity finally gets me to the thing that has been bothering me for a long time.  Actually, it’s two related things.

The first thing is how John Carter (the adventurous brainchild of Edgar Rice Burroughs) was able to leap multiple city blocks 40-feet in the air within an hour or so of arriving on Mars.

leaping

The second thing is how the apparent size of The Hulk changes dramatically depending on what Hulk movie you happen to be watching, and even within any given movie.

hulk

I reckoned that the John Carter issue probably had something to do with the decreased gravity on Mars.  And I really didn’t know what to make of the Hulk issue.  Local variations in the strength of the Earth’s gravitational field maybe?  (OK, I’m reaching here.) But you know what? A bunch of other people have been scratching their heads about these exact same issues!  Weird, huh?

At this site ( Kevin Carr weighs in )an astute chap by the name of Kevin Carr weighed in on John Carter:

“Some have said that John Carter was the first action hero and possibly the first superhero. After all, he certainly acted like one, leaping across the Martian desert. These feats of leg strength began when he first arrives on Mars, learning to walk on a new planet. Once he gets his Mars legs, John Carter is able to jump like the athletic love child of Superman and Michael Jordan. It starts with long bounds, but soon he is able to vertically leap over people, Martians, and even several city blocks about half-way through the film.”

Rice Burroughs himself chalked this up to reduced gravity and thinner air on Mars. For sure the air (mostly CO2) is quite a bit thinner over there, but gravity is still only about 1/3 as strong as what it is on Earth, and I don’t see anyone leaping even one city block here in Calgary, much less anywhere else on Earth, so I remain puzzled.  Maybe John Carter was eating a lot of potatoes.  (see “The Martian”).

Or maybe he just became very buffed by walking his Martian dog.  It’s big dog.

johns-dog

This brings me to The Hulk aka Bruce Banner.  Like I said, I’m not the only one noodling over this whole business of exactly how big Bruce gets when he needs to save Earth from Aliens or can’t find a pair of matching socks or whatever.

On the site What is the canonical size of The Hulk someone asked this rather long question:

“I’ve noticed that in the recent Hulk movies his size varies from movie to movie. I’ve heard, but don’t know for a fact that the size of the Hulk seemed to change during the 2003 Eric Bana Hulk movie.  In the Ed Norton version he seems to be 2-3 stories tall. But in the more recent Avengers movie I’d say he was more like 2-3 meters. I can see why he is made smaller in this movie, since he was going to go toe-to-toe with Thor.  So, is there a size that is ever mentioned in the comics? Or do the comics leave room for his size to change to fit the situation?

(Just in case you’re wondering, canonical means: “a natural unique representation of an object, or a preferred notation for some object” as well as “authorized, recognized, accepted.”)

Marvel.com says Hulk can be anywhere from 6’6″ to 8’, depending on what color he is and how mad he happens to be.  I thought Hulk only came in one color (green) but apparently not.  And I swear that in one movie I saw, Hulk was 2- or 3-stories tall. Turns out that I just need to go back to film school. Someone with the Twitter handle Krillgar clarified things for all of us, me included:

“He wasn’t 2-3 stories tall. In the scene where he jumps out of the covered bridge at the school, they’re using a low angle looking up from the ground right at his feet. If he was 2 or 3 stories tall, his head would have been scraping the ceiling of the soda plant in Brazil. He was probably around 7’6″ – 8′ tall in The Incredible Hulk.”

So it’s all just camera angles.  I should have thought of that.  But I guess that settles the Hulk issue! And it’s important because there are a lot of Hulk movies.

You know, I was originally going to come at this John Carter/Hulk stuff from the angle of genetics, and whether great athletes are born or are simply the product of intense training/teleportation/10,000 hours, etc. But I’ll leave that for another time when I talk about some of these new sports like Footrug, Aqua Cricket and Gravity Wave Surfing.

Maybe the quickest way to get to the bottom of the John Carter issue once and for all is to just go to Mars myself.  It looks like that will actually be possible in the relatively near future, because in case you didn’t know, Elon Musk and his brilliant, hard-working crew at SpaceX (headquarters conveniently located at 1 Rocket Road, Hawthorne, California) are drinking inhuman amounts of coffee, racing their Teslas, and feverishly laboring to do just that: get Mankind to other planets, Mars being first on their list.

If anyone has gravity figured out, I’ll bet SpaceX does.

I hear they’re hiring, so I’m just going to shoot (!) my resume on down to Hawthorne, CA.

As soon as I finish waxing my gravity wave surfboard.

sky-surfing