Thursday, February 24, 2005

Dark Matter.

This is fucking awesome.

In order to explain why the universe acts the way it does, astophysicists have been postulating the predominant existence of dark matter in the universe. Dark matter releases no radiation and is needed to make sense of why galaxies hold together, reconcile the Big Bang with existing astronomic evidence, and so on.

Dark matter is critical to theorizing what will inevitablly happen to the universe (long after we're dead). If the universe doesn't have enough critical mass, it will continue to expand forever and we'll eventually wind up in heat death, in which everything gets so far apart that communication of information and life will become impossible. I mentioned this a few days ago as part of a random rant. You can also find a somewhat fanciful story by Isaac Asimov about it here and a funny depiction of it at the ever fun Exit Mundi.

A lot of the present data points towards a Heat Death scenario due to the universe not having enough mass. Michio Kaku wrote on this last December

"The universe is out of control. Not only is it expanding but the expansion itself is accelerating. Most likely, such expansion can end only one way: in stillness and total darkness, with temperatures near absolute zero, conditions utterly inhospitable to life. That became evident in 1998, when astronomers at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and AustralianNationalUniversity were analyzing extremely distant, and thus ancient, TypeIa supernova explosions to measure their rate of motion away from us. (TypeIa supernovas are roughly the same throughout the universe, so they provide an ideal “standard candle” by which to measure the rate of expansion of the universe.)

Physicists, scrambling to their blackboards, deduced that a “dark energy” of unknown origin must be acting as an antigravitational force, pushing galaxies apart. The more the universe expands, the more dark energy there is to make it expand even faster, ultimately leading to a runaway cosmos. Albert Einstein introduced the idea of dark energy mathematically in 1917 as he further developed his theory of general relativity. More evidence came last year, when data from the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe, or WMAP, which analyzes the cosmic radiation left over from the Big Bang, found that dark energy makes up a full 73 percent of everything in the universe. Dark matter makes up 23 percent. The matter we are familiar with—the stuff of planets, stars, and gas clouds—makes up only about 4 percent of the universe."

That depressing analysis relies on a somewhat low percentage of dark matter composing the universe.

However, something pretty sweet came out today. Astronomers may have finally found an entire galaxy made up of dark matter. While that certainly doesn't disprove the 23 percent figure cited by WMAP (and I'm no where close to being qualified to know how these two articles interact), it's interesting, at the very least. It might give some Omega Point wackoes something to be happy about.

Even so, that probably doesn't matter, given that the implosion of the Universe will, more likely than not, vaporize all life. Maybe I don't understand enough about physics, but I'm still skeptical of humanity being able to force the Taub collapse necessary for the computing power necessary to cause some sort of endless simulation of humanity.

But I really have no idea what I'm talking about.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

The next smear campaign.

Once again, this is beyond surreal.

Yesterday, this ad appeared on the front page of The American Spectator:

If you haven't seen it yet, take a moment and let that image sink in (picture borrowed from DailyKOS.

Have you ever seen such a blantantly shameless political tactic? That thing isn't a parody. It's a real goddamn ad published by USANext. It's been taken down in response to pretty obvious criticisms, but the original picture linked to a page that didn't mention a word about AARP's activities or positions regarding the armed forces or gay marriage. It was a blatant attempt to play on Americans' kneejerk prejudices regarding those issues to paint the AARP in a bad light.

This is just another example of a serious of right-wing attack campaigns that have been going on for the past few years. If you do a little looking, you can see the attack machine grinding its wheels:

Put the AARP in the Progressive Camp

Art Linkletter to B*slap AARP Tonight on Hannity&Colmes! (9 PM EST)

Drugs and Porn?

Charlie Jarvis, USA Next Chairman, Attacking Liberal AARP on O'Reilly TONIGHT! (Vanity)

Linkletter Claims AARP is Country's Largest Liberal Lobby

AARP: I won't be joining

It's really no surprise that this is happening. It occurs whenever Rove perceives Bush as being in danger on a certain issue. It happened when they perceived a political disadvantage regarding Kerry's standing as a an ex-soldier when compared to Bush's own record, when they saw a financial threat from the coffer's of Soros, and when they saw a credibility problem vis-a-vis John McCain. And, surprise surprise!, USA Next has hired a lot of the same goddamn consultants

So why associate the AARP with hating the troops and favoring GLBT individuals? Because Bush's advisors know that he's in some serious shit regarding social security reform. Most analysts are skeptical of his ability to pass it, which is problematic since he's spending so much capital in pursuit of it. Many commentators from the right are scared that a failure will spillover to the rest of his agenda, becoming his own version of Clinton's health care reform disaster. Even Charles Krauthammer is biting is nails over this one because the date Bush gave in the State of the Union doesn't seem real enough to the average American. So in response, it looks like they're lashing out at what seems to be the biggest superficial reason for Social Security reform's inevitable failure in the only way they know how (a covert smear campaign), overlooking the much larger problem, which is that Bush doesn't have enough people in the Senate on board with his ridiculous plan to fund reform to avoid a filibuster and make his plan a reality.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Semantics and Heat Death

Two legs of the craziness are over. They went alright. Nothing disastrous happened, much to my chagrin (other than getting slapped out of fucking nowhere by the most unexpected blizzard ever).

This weekend is the debate lock-in. Non-stop work on stuff. Apparently we're going to be in the library looking for strategies to critical teams (eg, 80 percent of our district).

In class we're doing these ridiculous proofs to find the semantic values of various sentences. They're like symbolic logic on crack.

1. [s[s[neg s[n Pavarotti] + [vp[vi is boring]]]] + [conj v] + [s[n Loren] + [vp[vi is boring]]]]
2. [s[neg s[n Loren] + [vp[vi is boring]]]]

3. [[Pavarotti]]v = Pavarotti, by (31e)
4. [[is boring]]v = {x : x is hungry in v}, by 31e
5. [[Pavarotti is boring]]v = 1 iff Pavarotti є {x : x is hungry in v}, by (31a)
6. [[neg[Pavarotti is boring]]]v = [1 -> 0, 0 -> 1], by (31e) and (30)
7. [[Loren]]v = Loren, by (31e)
8. [[is boring]]v = {x : x is boring in v}, by 31e
9. [[Loren is boring]]v = 1 Loren є{x : x is boring in v}, by (31a)
10. [[neg[Loren boring]]]v = [1 -> 0, 0 -> 1], by (31e) and (30)
11. That means that the second disjunct is false and [[Loren is boring]]v = 0 by 9 and 10 above
12. [[neg[Pavarotti is hungry] or [Loren is boring]]]v = [<1,1> -> 1, <1,0> -> 1, <0,1> -> 1, <0,0> -> 0] (<[[neg[Pavarotti is hungry]]]v, [[Loren is boring]]v>), by 30 and 31b
13. [[neg[Pavarotti is hungry] or [Loren is boring]]]v = <1,> because 11 demonstrates that the second disjunt is false and, in order for the whole sentence to be true (which it is, according to 1 above), the other disjunct has to be true (12, above).
14. Thus, [[[neg s[Pavarotti is hungry]]]]v = 1, by (30) and (31b)

The above proof is excessively detailed and I have no idea how these things actually apply to the real world, but there's something strangely soothing about them: a reassuring "aha" that clicks when I arrive at the conclusion to demonstrate the entailment. In reality, I think language is a lot more chaotic than that, but doing proofs makes me feel a bizarre kind of calm, like something in my life is actually rational and stable, even if it's only artificial.

I've been reading a lot more about futurism (from the optimistic to the not so much) which, in some way, is also satisfying in the same way as semantics: somewhat ridiculous theorization about shit that's beyond my immediate, material reality. The distinction between a type 1 and 2 civilization is pretty irrelevent to anything that's actually in my life, but it's pleasurable escapism.

It all might as well be sci-fi at this point, because hell if I know what's going to happen. The entirety of life and energy in the universe will probably extinguish in heat death at some point in time, any way, and the difference between a civilization that lasts five million and a hundred billion years probably doesn't really matter to me right now. It'll be zero kelvin some day and, no matter how brilliant we are, we'll cease to exist because of one likely fact: the universe doesn't give a shit about us. Contra people like Tipler who think that the Omega Point cares about us and others who think that there's a divine plan, I don't think that the universe loves or hates us, but is rather indifferent. Amino acids randomly formed out of the primordial mire and managed to evolve into who we are through a sequence of random mutations. When the stars burn out and the black holes give off all of their Hawking Radiation, the artificial beauty that we ascribe to things like the number Pi and horizon of the Rocky Mountains at sunset won't mean a goddamn thing. Like the Lovecraftian fools who inadvertently run into a slumbering behemoth, we and all of our collective sound and fury will vanish into the cold void of eternity and there won't be anyone or anything around to remember all of the shit that we spent our lives toiling towards and stressing about. There'll be nothing but a seemingly infinite abyss and the remnants of ourselves reduced to quarks that have been drawn so far apart from each other by the dark energy that's tearing the universe apart as to not even matter at all.

So what I'm saying is that I might as well pour another glass of bourbon, put on that Mylo album, and disappear into more piles of tasty literary irrelevence.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

It never fucking ends.

You have one unheard message from the APA:

First time: nine months
Second: 18 months to two years
Third: three to Five Years
Fourth: the rest of your life

I don't really know if this is me becoming stable or if I'm just flying further and further out of wack. Moments of intense detachment followed by gnawing anxiety.

And the dreams are fucking weird. I'm either engaged in intense preparation for an elaborate cooking contest or am tying womn wearing net-like clothing to benches at the mall while they continually ask me to tell them that "I'm alright."

And the fucking dreams go on forever. Throughout my life they've seemed like really short snapshots that I kind of remember in the morning. Now I can recall long sequences of events in which I've spent the whole night getting intensely involved. None of which is bad, it's just really strange and kind of disorienting when I wake up in the morning.

I really shouldn't be travelling this weekend. I have a ton of homework to do, am stressed to Mars and back, and will miss my Gender class for the third straight week. However, it's my partner's senior year and he deserves every debate he can get before he graduates and can't do it ever again. After the Heart's over, we have a free weekend that will be spent doing non-stop debate work. The week after that, we have our district tournament, which will be really stressful. Then, during spring break, we get to goto CEDA nats and then the National Debate Tournament less than a week later. We might just go straight from one tournament to the next (San Fran to Washington). I don't really have any illusion of going to the NDT... I'd much rather go and just help Chris and Brian to break. Increasingly, there are a lot of debate rounds where I feel that the whole thing is kind of futile and I almost remove myself from really trying to win the damn thing. I just give up.

I'm so stressed and tired that I want everything to go away. I want a free weekend where I can relax, read a novel, watch a movie, and cook something nice, but it never comes. It's just the constant on and on and on and on, do this, do this, do this, that never fucking ends. Makes me want to burn all of my things in the street, drive away, and never come back. I feel like something in my head is about to snap. Fuck this shit.

edit: Now I'm sipping brandy and listening to Khonnor, some weird dream pop/new school shoegaze I downloaded last weekend while in Chicago. I seriously wish I could be just slightly drunk during all of the time that I'm not passed out from the fucking pills.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

drugged up.

Well, the dosage is going up again.

I'm not sure how this is going to interact with the next few weeks. This next weekend, we're going to the Northwestern tournament, which is one of the bigger ones in the nation. The weekend immediately following that, it turns out that we're going to the Heart tournament in Kansas. Then two weeks later we have our district tournament.

That travel schedule, along with hundreds of pages of (difficult) weekly class reading and the strangely powerful sedative effect of the Remeron will probably be a disaster. And I can't go off this shit because whenever I do I go into withdrawal and turn into a freak that gets angry at everything and can't think straight (not so good when you're trying to write out answers to a critical theory position that's being read at eight words a second).

In the mean time, I have to write a new aff, clean out my room, organize my files, catch up on class reading, and somehow find time to enjoy myself.


I realize that all of this is kind of petty in the scheme of things and that I don't really have any real problems in my life compared to most of the world, but it feels good to write this stuff and complain in a no-risk space.

But that's what makes all of this shit so frustrating. In an absolute sense, I have nothing to be unhappy about. I have so many resources, opportunities, friends, and potential. Nothing really horrible is going to happen. I'm going to go to those tournaments and write my papers, learning a lot in the process. I'll come out all the better, just like I have every difficult semester of my life. But I still can't get this weird shadow of pointlessness and dread to go away and I don't fucking no why.

Jesus Christ, how'd I turn into a whiney fuck head again? Someone should slap me.

Anyway, to make this less boring, I'm going to post something interesting that someone else wrote. It's in a book of mine and, for some reason, I've circled the whole page eight goddamn times and have written the word "yes" in the margin. It's good, though.

are held out to us. I was,
when I looked at you - when? -
outside by
the other worlds.

O these ways, galactic,
O this hour, that weighed
nights over for us into
the burden of our names. It is,
I know, not true
that we lived, there moved,
blindly, no more than a breath between
there and not-there, and at times
our eyes whirred comet-like
toward things extinguished, in chasms,
and where they had burnt out,
splendid with teats, stood time
on which already grew up
and down and away all that
is or was or will be -,

I know,
I know and you know, we knew,
we did not know, we
were there, after all, and not there
and at times when
only the void stood between us we got
all the way to each other.