Thursday, October 22, 2009

Entropy, the 2nd law, and that pesky lil arrow

It appears that we have touched on the significance of the the three subjects titling this post previously, however, I do feel its now time to really get into it.

Let us all agree that, according to everyday experience, an egg that has broken into the tiniest of pieces (a state of high entropy) can not.. or will not, at any point, un-break-gather its pieces, yolk and white up-making a whole egg once again (a state of low entropy). In addition to our "fool-proof" common experience, the second law of thermodynamics says that in an isolated, complex system, entropy always increases in forward time motion. Entropy, again, is the measure of disorder in a system. An egg with all its bits strewn about the floor is exceptionally more disordered than a whole egg, conveniently containing all its molecules in a tight, and orderly fashion.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Strung ouuut on string theory :/

String theory is controversial because certain stringent physicists believe, that as this theory is yet untestable, it should be considered rather as a philosophy.


Certain progressive thinkers might fancy this way of understanding the structure of the universe as an opportunity to capitalize on a more unified and harmonious approach to untangling the mysteries of existence. In fact, it may even turn out to be that the physics of the universe can not be understood alone as a theory of everything and for this, it must be paired and fleshed out with philosophy.

Without further ado, let me unravel a bit of string theory...

Quantum mechanics explains the world of the extremely small, obv. No words or pictures could describe how small. But for fokkus purposes, string theory details that which is 1 billion billion times smaller than an atom. An atom consists of a nucleus containing two types of particles, neutrons and protons, surrounded by electrons (negatively charged particles) orbiting the nucleus. The protons and neutrons are made of quarks which are really raaandom bits with all types of arbitrarily-named properties. Quarks, then, are thought to be made of (or rather are) the tiny crumbs of vibrating strings that make up string theory.

In the way that an actual vibrating string on a cello or other stringed instrument can produce various notes, the vibrating strings of the universe can vibrate at different frequencies and produce different forces and types of matter-the stuff that is us and the universe at large. Which makes sense, if you think about how many different frequencies of vibrating strings and air it takes to create a symphony. And, when you hear the unparalleled beauty of the music... this can be like looking out across the planet and beholding the majesty and the undoubted harmony in nature.

But... really random things start happening if we begin solving equations according to string theory:

Oye, 11-dimensional M-theory: This version of string theory posits that spacetime has in fact 11 dimensions, rather than the four we experience. These dimensions are not apparent to us as they may or may not be tightly rolled up... like a scroll! But M theory also describes universes very much like ours with our four observable spacetime dimensions (3 in space and 1 in time), 'as well as universes with up to 10 flat space dimensions, and also cases where the position in some of the dimensions is not described by a real number, but by a completely different type of mathematical quantity.'

Branes or p-branes (short for membranes hence M theory) are included in string theory and describe 'spatially extended mathematical concepts'... er, for example- (the p variable stands for the number of spatial dimensions of the brane) 0-brane = a zero-dimensional pointlike particle, 1-brane = string, 2-brane = membrane, etc. etc.

Friday, May 15, 2009

until 2010

NYMag Intel
Jez -a surprisingly insightful analysis


The fish that Jacob cooks/eats is a red herring.

Ben quips that he is a Pisces (a red herring?) but he is a Sagittarius (from the epi Deceptions and Cons).

Richard responds to the question of "What lies in the shadow of the statue?" with "Ille qui nos omnes servabit" or "He who will protect/save us all."

Jacob's tapestry contains phrases written in ancient Greek from Homer's Odyssey 6:180 and 8:413:
"ΘΕΟΙ ΤΟΣΑ ΔΟΙΕΝ ΟΣΑ ΦΡΕΣΙ ΣΗΣΙ ΜΕΝΟΙΝΑΣ", or, "may the gods grant thee all that thy heart desires." And,
"[ΘΕΟΙ ΔΕ] ΤΟΙ ΟΛΒΙΑ ΔΟΙΕΝ", or, "may the gods give you happiness."

The opening scene of Jacob spinning is a reference to The Fates; three Greek mythological women who were the spinners of destiny. The first fate spun the thread of life; she determined the time of a person's birth. The second fate measured the thread of life; she determined a person's life span. The third fate was the cutter of the thread of life; she determined the time of a person's death.

Ben's relationship with Jacob bears similarity to the story of Job, a pious man who's faith is tested by tragedy in order to settle a bet between God and Satan (except that Job remains faithful).

Jacob's enemy knows he can't kill Jacob, just as Ben says to Widmore "We both know I can't do that" according to The Rules when Widmore asks if Ben had come to kill him (from the epi The Shape of Things to Come).

Thursday, May 7, 2009

An open letter to Benjamin Linus:

Dear Benjamin Linus,

Everything about you irks me the right way-your voice, your mannerisms, even the awkward, aggressive influxes in your voice. Your eyes have a special glow and your short stature appeals to me on multiple levels. If there is any way for us to be together, I will do whatever it takes. I love you.

-Alexandra Hamile

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Dark Energy

I mentioned dark energy in a previous post, fortunately, Sci Am dedicated its April cover to the topic. As it pertains to singularities and all that, I thought it might be pertinent to hint at what the most up to date theorists are theorizing:

As the discovery of an accelerating universe became invaluable to the makeup of the cosmos, it became clear that there was a mass of missing information. A fat 70% of the universes substance was sheathed in mystery, with the exception that it was undoubtedly pushing along the expansion of the universe-instead of holding it back...this is dark energy.
It is theorized that the big bang gave everything an outward push, but gravity should be slowing down that push... so, its only logical to consider some kind of force/energy working against gravity... Dark Energy? Its possible that this is the energy associated with empty space that Einstein had suggested in 1917 when he introduced his cosmological constant (which he in fact considered his 'greatest blunder') and if that turns out to be the case, well then this is yet another act of remarkable foresight on his part.

So whats the news? As long as there has been the idea of dark energy, there has been a strict grip on the Copernican Principle-that Earth is not in a central or otherwise special position in the universe, and this extending into the cosmological principle-at any moment in time all points and directions in space look the same. But! A small collection of physicists are considering dark energy sans the principles. Meaning there might be no such thing as dark energy at all. Meaning, we might exist in a very unique spot in the universe-the center of a giant cosmic void.
So, what are the alternative explanations?
1. Rather than expanding evenly, like a balloon might, the universe is expanding unevenly, like a big amoebic blob. How? I will tell you-in the previous view of our location in the universe, the decelerating expansion rate was explained by the effects of dense matter tugging at the fabric of spacetime and slowing down the rate of expansion (this coming from the outward push of the big bang) BUT if one were to put us at the center of the aforementioned cosmic void, where matters density is conceivably much less than anywhere else in the universe, we would find less slow down (less matter), faster expansion (especially at the center of the void, slowing down as it moves outward towards the edge and creeps up on the surrounding high density space). At any given time different parts of space will expand at different rates.

As you might imagine, this change in design is an upset of massive proportions, for in general astronomy, the larger a structure is, the rarer it should be and the probability of a void big enough to mimc dark energy is less than one part in 10 to the 100th power (or a googol tahaha). Now to bring us round to singularities-for a void to mimic dark energy, the expansion rate would have a significant decrease away from us and in all directions, meaning the density of matter and energy must increase sharply away from us and in all directions... this would make the shape of an upside down witches hat, the tip of which, points out us, our place in the void. Ugh, but this goes against the assumed smoothness of structures in the universe. AND, my favorite part, Vanderveld and Flanagan of Cornell showed that the tip, us, would have to be a singularity-wild.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

epi 11 and the Cassandra Complex

Cassandra's story finds its origin in Greek mythology... She was the impeccably beautiful daughter of the the King of Troy. Merely upon seeing her, Apollo was struck with a desire to have her, wholly... he offered her gifts, bestowing upon her the unique quality of prophecy. However, when his love went unrequited he cursed her causing her prophecies, or warnings, to go unbelieved. Ah, in 1949 the French philosopher Gaston Bachelard, who influenced Derrida to Foucault, coined the term to refer to a belief that things could be known in advance.

He attempted to formulate a scientific philosophy that takes both rationalism and empiricism into account, incorporating this into the study of literature. In La Poétique de l'espace he offered a phenomenology of poetic image as inner and outer space. He considered the image in terms of the “reverberations” it inspired within him. And in La Poétique de la rêverie he theorized that since reality is fashioned by imagination, the state of day dreaming, or reverie, is the highest state of mind. In The Psychoanalysis of Fire, Bachelard introduced his theory that the four elements—earth, water, fire, and air—embody the creative temperament as well as the basic forms of life. He went on to explore the meanings of these symbols throughout time in world literature.

'It is not a question of observation which propels mankind forward as if toward a looking glass of great magnitude; it is an instance of aggrandized reflection that insinuates the human psyche to the inhuman.'

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Uh oh, those quantum kids are goin to mess it all up for me and Einstein..or not?

Before we begin, I will define a key idea as I will not be returning to its definition or orgin in this particular discourse; Nonlocality is the possibility of physically affecting something without touching it or touching any series of entities reaching from here to there...this poses a threat to special relativity as according to Einstein, nothing can travel faster than the speed of light. Needless to say, Einstein was not down. In fact, he and two friends published a paper regarding the existence of entangled particles (evidence of nonlocality) and deemed this aspect of quantum mechanics 'strange and dubious' and assumed that this type of nature was apparent only, a mathematical anomaly surely.

Niels Bohr on the other hand, responded immediately with an incredibly prescient refutation highlighting Einstein et cie's use of the word reality and impressed the significance of subject and object, the conditions under which it makes sense to ask questions, and the nature of human language.

Okay, now, in the most recent issue of Scientific American, there is an article on entanglement and briefly the authors highlight what this would mean in terms of time travel. When considering special relativity and nonlocality, one must recall that sp. relativity is based on the impossibility of transmitting messages faster than the speed of light. After all, if sp. relativity is true, one can argue that no material carrier of a message can be accelerated from rest to speeds greater than that of light. And one can argue that a message transmitted faster than light would, according to some clocks, be a message that arrived before it was sent. The kind of nonlocality encountered in quantum mechanics calls for an absolute simultaneity...posing a very real threat to special relativity as subjectivity is IT in terms of relativity.

However, as Stephen (Eloise) Hawking (and a lot of other physicists) has emphatically proposed, a possible key to the ultimate theory of everything/the universe is the melding of quantum mechanics and relativity. Ugh, how to do this...


Oxford mathematical physicist Roger Penrose worked with Stephen (Eloise) Hawking to show that the collapse of a massive star would inevitably lead to a singularity* and that it must be surrounded by an event horizon (the zone surrounding a black hole from which nothing can escape**).

*Singularities can also be divided according to whether they are covered by an event horizon or not (naked singularities). According to general relativity, the initial state of the universe at the beginning of the Big Bang, was a singularity-a tiny point of infinite density where the laws of physics break down.

The equations of general relativity tells us that at the moment of the big bang, everything in the universe would have been infinitely squeezed together and the universe would have been compressed into a single point (the singularity).

Other types of singularities predicted by general relativity are found inside a black hole: any star collapsing beyond a certain point would form a black hole, inside which a singularity (covered by an event horizon) would be formed.

The Penrose-Hawking singularity theorems are a set of results in general relativity which attempt to answer the question of when gravitation produces singularities. A singularity in solutions of general relativity is one of two things:
a situation where matter is forced to be compressed to a point (a space-like singularity)
a situation where certain light rays come from a region with infinite curvature (time-like singularity)

Now, I ask, why do we remember the past instead of the future?

You see, the second law of thermodynamics says that if we currently have a low entropy system (a measure of the disorder of a system/chaos and specifically in thermodynamics, a measure of the disorder of molecules in a system), we can expect to have a high entropy system in the future. The law tells us that as you go back in time, things get less and less random (i.e. a glass falling off a table would break into millions of pieces (more random/disorder) but rewind and all the pieces would come together to form the one glass (less disorder/chaos)... Entropy is the only quantity in the physical sciences that seems to imply a particular direction for time.

Does the origin of the thermodynamic arrow of time lie in the nature of the big bang? Does consciousness have its weird hand in our perception of time beginning in the past, passing through the present, and then moving forward into the future? As we go "forward" in time, the second law of thermodynamics tells us that the entropy of an isolated system tends to increase or remain the same; it will not decrease. Thus one could, theoretically, consider entropy measurement as a kind of clock.

Is there a connection between the thermodynamic arrow of time and the psychological arrow? For it seems to be that memory and our capability of such is intimately connected to the arrow of time. Considering braincells as computer bits and its correlation to the outside world as that of memory, the law explains the growth of such correlations with time a forward movement, propelling toward the future, rather than the past (entropy growing as time passes).

However, this is not the only option.

There are peoples, like the Aymara, who associate that which is ahead as past and that which rests behind, the future...dope.

The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.
- Omar Khayyám

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Behind the scenes


Minkowski dies

George Minkowski is the communications officer on the freighter.

Hermann Minkowski was a German, Polish, Jew mathematician who, for our purposes, used geometry to solve difficult problems in the theory of relativity. In 1907 he realized that the special theory of relativity could be best understood in a four dimensional space, in which the time and space are not separated entities but intermingled in a four dimensional space-time.

The beginning of his address delivered at the 80th Assembly of German Natural Scientists and Physicians (September 21, 1908):
The views of space and time which I wish to lay before you have sprung from the soil of experimental physics, and therein lies their strength. They are radical. Henceforth space by itself, and time by itself, are doomed to fade away into mere shadows, and only a kind of union of the two will preserve an independent reality.

Friday, February 27, 2009

A brief encounter with BLACK HOLES

When time travel really began titillating physicists' minds, they got together with some astronomers to investigate what may very well be a physical porthole for traveling through space and time. First came the black hole. Then, the wormhole.

Black holes can slow the passage of time (spacetime, 4 dimensional playing field) simply because they have enormous gravitational fields* but physicist Ronald Mallett realized that light can affect time (spacetime) too because it carries energy, and Einstein, among one of the many fundamental things he did, showed that energy and mass are equivalent. One of the crucial aspects of general relativity is the link it creates between matter and the geometry of spacetime.

Matter literally warps the space and the time that surrounds it. Special relativity forces us to think of time and space as being intertwined... past and future are just as real as present. Some spacetime continua have closed, time-like curves, which violate standard ideas of causality (as opposed to past affecting present affecting future, it could be that future events are affecting past ones..) In relativistic contexts time cannot be separated from the three dimensions of space, because the rate at which time passes depends on an object's velocity relative to the speed of light (and whos watching) and also on the strength of intense gravitational fields. The duration of time can therefore vary for various events and various reference frames.

Wormholes are like black holes, except they have an exit point (Tunisia, perhaps?). However, physicist Leonard Susskind argues that there is no way to achieve a navigable wormhole without violating two laws of nature:

1. The conservation of energy
2. The Uncertainty principle of quantum mechanics

These are my friends simulating the material of spacetime with rubber sheets and balls.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Thank you Casey

Oh Ben

What's more

Einstein postulates that the speed of light c is constant, in order for this to be so, time and space must be relative. If two observers are moving relative to one another, they can disagree about the time interval between two events or the distance between two points in space. Time dilation, again, is observed when a clock moving at high speed will appear to tick slower than an identical clock that is stationary- that is, either of the two clocks can be said to be the one thats moving-the slowing down, due to c, always retaining the same value of 300,000 km/s according to Einstein's postulate that there is no preferred reference frame.

In 2007 Gerald Gwinner and team confirmed time dilation when they used an accelerator in Germany to whip lithium ions through a circular tube at 6% the speed of light, then used a laser to stimulate ions forcing them to give off radiation. Radiation is an oscillating electromagnetic wave (like light) and can be used as a clock where one tick equals one cycle. At the high speeds the 'ticks' slowed down/a lowering of the frequency of the radiation.

Light cones-to be discussed at a later date-inspired Hilary Putnam to argue that future events are fully predetermined when considering the absence of the universal now (the concept Einstein more or less proved fallible with relativity of simultaneity). This in effect means an event x in my future might be one in your past (depending on speeds and distance involved) and the moment we pass, I'd be obligated to consider real everything that you do, including the yet to be experienced (from my perspective) event x from your past.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Ah, Desmond Hume


-the dearly dedicated scotsman, namesake of David Hume*, could put my roommate the Doctor to shame in any number of drinking scenarios.. undoubtedly our constant in a tight situation..a brave man, courage to the brim.. a good man.. the reason to wake up when there is just not.. to thee, a tribute-

In the episodes chronicling time travel, a group of survivors return to the point in time when Des is solo in the hatch pressin the button, two months into the future. Daniel* knocks on the door repeatedly until Desmond, wearing a HAZMAT suit and wielding a rifle, appears. Daniel, to Desmond's confusion, told him that he was "uniquely, and miraculously special", and that he was the only one who could save them.

*David Hume was an 18th century Scottish philosopher. He rejected Enlightenment positivism and the power of reason to determine all truths and espoused the idea that human nature and ultimately what we define as culture should be the criteria when one defines the ways in which we come into our beliefs or ideas and actions. He was impressively influenced by John Locke.

*Initially it's Sawyer who pounds on the door but to no avail for he has not yet met Desmond, Daniel on the other hand, Oxford.


Though shrouded in mystery, this much is known about the Valenzetti Equation: it is a mathematical calculation designed to predict nothing less than the exact number of years left before the extinction of the human race.

According to the 1975 orientation film in the Sri Lanka Video, the Valenzetti Equation "predicts the exact number of years and months until humanity extinguishes itself." During the video, Alvar Hanso also states that the radio transmitter on the Island, will "broadcast the core numerical values of the Valenzetti Equation."

The numbers, 4, 8, 15, 16, 23 and 42, are explained in the Sri Lanka Video, as the numerical values to the core environmental and human factors of the Valenzetti Equation. Alvar Hanso also states in the video that the purpose of the DHARMA Initiative is to change the numerical values of any one of the core factors in the equation in order to give humanity a chance to survive by, effectively, changing doomsday.

S04E03 The Economist and time-transported consciousness

To begin to reveal the layers of time travel embedded within season four we might first consider time dilation. This phenomenon occurs when one of two identical clocks appears to count time slower than its twin. This 'slowing down' is only considered so in the context of the observers frame of reference. In Einstein's theory of special relativity, the time dilation effect is reciprocal: as observed from the point of view of any two clocks which are in motion with respect to each other, it will be the other party's clock that is time dilated.

Time dilation would make it possible for passengers in a fast-moving vehicle to travel further into the future while ageing very little, in that their great speed slows down the rate of passage of on-board time. That is, the ship's clock or a human travelling with it shows less elapsed time than the clocks of observers on Earth. For example, one year of travel might correspond to ten years at home. Indeed, a constant 1 g acceleration would permit humans to travel as far as light has been able to travel since the big bang (some 13.7 billion light years) in one human lifetime. The space travellers could return to Earth billions of years in the future.

In the Economist, Daniel Faraday asks his colleague on the freighter to launch a projectile onto the Island. As we hear his team member count down the kilometers, we, like Daniel, cant see or hear anything. Curiously, the projectile lands thirty minutes later and we find that the clock extracted from the depths of the payday is not synched with Daniel's clock anymore, meaning time on and off the island are different, meaning Lost is employing time dilation in an attempt to deconstruct time. Excellent.

In The Constant, when Des and Sayid leave the Island on the helicopter back to the freighter it appears on the beach that a day passes before Jack et cie hear from them even though the freighter is only 40 miles away, arguably a 20 minute flight. When questioned, Daniel admits that the perception of time on the Island might be different than the time experienced off the Island otherwise known as a contraction of time when leaving or coming to the Island. He says that as long Frank uses the bearings that were given to him, the people on the helicopter should be fine. If not, there could be "side-effects".

Miichaael ...Faraday?

Michael Faraday was an English natural philosopher in late 18th and early 19th centuries. Faraday was not considered a gentleman. Faraday, did however study the magnetic field around a conductor carrying a DC electric current, and established the basis for the magnetic field concept in physics. He discovered electromagnetic induction, diamagnetism, and laws of electrolysis. He established that magnetism could affect rays of light and that there was an underlying relationship between the two phenomena.

The SI unit of capacitance, the farad, is named after him, as is the Faraday constant, the charge on a mole of electrons. Faraday's law of induction states that a magnetic field changing in time creates a proportional electromotive force.

In 1845, Faraday discovered that many materials exhibit a weak repulsion from a magnetic field, a phenomenon he named diamagnetism. Faraday also found that the plane of polarisation of linearly polarised light can be rotated by the application of an external magnetic field aligned in the direction the light is moving. This is now termed the Faraday effect. He wrote in his notebook, "I have at last succeeded in illuminating a magnetic curve or line of force and in magnetising a ray of light". This established that magnetic force and light were related.

When Daniel Faraday first arrives on the island, he remarks on the unusual scattering of light on the island.

David Arthur Faraday was the first victim of the Zodiac (also the name of the raft) Killer in the 1960's.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Jin su shi yobo

Understanding Korean is not difficult on the Island. Understanding Jin and Sun,