10.30.2003

Imagine a world where you can only see in blue for the month of February. In July, the world is rose-tinted. In December, everything looks green. Sounds rather arbitrary, doesn't it? Well, that's how I feel about photons.

The electromagnetic spectrum runs from very long wavelengths to very small wavelengths. It's not continuous thanks to Mr. Planck but it might as well be to us since we aren't equipped to distinguish such inifinitesimal differences. What's arbitrary about photons is our eyes. We have receptors in there that see red, blue and green; rods and cones and all that high school stuff. When they fire in combination, our brain interprets them as various colours. But it's only a small section of the spectrum that our eyes are senstive to. Infrared and ultra-violet are out of our league. There are some insects who can see ultra-violet and some flowers look different in ultra-violet light. But, for us humans, we're confined to our narrow range of wavelengths.

Why this range of wavelengths? Well, our atmosphere blocks a whole lot of E/M radiation from getting down to the Earth's surface but it lets two large sections through, radio and visible. I suppose we could have evolved eyes that were sensitive to radio but then our resolution would be on the order of meters. Everything less than 50 cm would probably look like 50 microns does now. So, that's less than practical.

We have ears, they interpret air modulation. Our skin feels wind, the touch of another person, temperature. Our inner ear give us a sense of gravity. We can interface with the world on a wide array of levels. As such we have constructed for ourselves a fairly representative model of "how the world works". It seems to make pretty good predictions and keeps us on top of things.

But what about plants that can't interface with, say, sound, as we do. Does that mean sound is not a useful way of looking at the world because plants can't sense it? For us, it's a pretty useful tool to have at our disposal. So what does that signify about human perception? My question is: what interfaces with the universe are we oblivious to?

There is probably level of information out there that we just can't "see". It stands to reason that the universe has many many ways of being looked at and we are limited by the senses we developed locally. I would hope that these other methods of looking at the world around us can inferred from what we can perceive or perhaps we could one day build instruments to do so...

It's an old saying but it's probably true. The universe is not only stranger than we imagine, it's stranger than we can imagine.

10.22.2003

There are many reasons to blog. Some people do it to let their friends know what they're up to. Others do it for attention. Some for private thoughts. A good many blogs are to share thoughts on a shared interest. There are probably a good few out there by aspiring writers as well. Most blogs are probably a mix of all the above.

What I wonder is: how many people believe their blog is something of a legacy, words left behind to remain after their passing. 1975-2025. That's fifty years for me. I well imagine it could be far less, but so far I've had nearly thirty. That's not bad. Can't really complain too much about thirty years of life in the First World. I've got silver spoons coming out my nose. But I don't have the delusion that come 2099 Corpse Countdown, 1975-2025 would mean anything to anyone. Pointless in 2099 or 7811 or 37831 or 16 PE (post Earth). It will be as meaningless to them as Hurrg Getfood, 17123 BC- 17049 BC is to me. This blog does little to preserve my name, even in alias. In fact, to me, it is a given that such a goal is futile.

The greatest charioteers of Rome, whose statues stood a hundred feet tall in the centre of the mightiest Empire known to date, are barely known to historians who specialise in the field. That's after having a ton of stone-etched writings, statue remnants and peripheral mentions in other works preserved after only about 2000 years. Good luck to you, buddy, if you think you or your blog, perhaps even humanity itself will be remembered for anything other than a blink in cosmology.

10.07.2003

http://www.biologyoflaw.com/

This is a very cool website. I'm all over this one.

Cities and Personal Thought

In the past your community was little more than those people around you who shared your world. Hunters on the plains, a village by the river, perhaps a group of villages. All of these people needed to have rules that govern their lives, not necessarily written laws, but at least rules that were codified for communal living. Typically, these guidelines for brutes (because if you need guidelines on common courtesy, say Do Not Kill, you're a brute. point final) were entwined with religious beliefs. Thus, religious law which governed the spiritual also governed the secular, or legal laws.

The growth of communities allowed people who dissent to form larger groups. If I believe Zog the caveman is the messiah, convincing Grak and Shmrug does not a new religion make. However, get a whole bunch of people convinced that Jesus/Mohammed/Voodoo Man is an emissary of God and you can start a movement. These kinds of shifts require large groups of people moving in the same direction. Only the development of agriculture could allow people to gather in such large numbers and enable them the luxury of a group philosophy.

Today we have cities with popluations in the tens of millions. Each and every possible culture, belief, hobby, cult of personality can find a threshold of people willing to join in and support the cause. When millions gather, communities will bloom in such a way that puts photoplankton to shame. Any personal philosophy that has an appealing hook, be it "Reggae for God" or "SUVs are cool", will propagate into a pool of millions and take root. The stronger memes will flow easily from city to city, the weaker ones either grow slowly or get choked out by stronger memes.

Essentially, cities provide a fertile ground for an ecology of philosophies. As global interaction grows and physical distance becomes essentially erased, there will be a single ecology made up of varying parts. Currently each country is an individual host, though cities still maintain some independence. Long ago the city state was as large as the single ecology could get. It is not impossible to envisage the internet (in some future form that would be little more than science-fiction to us) as the final community ecology. This single massive environment is weaker than multiple very-large ecologies. The only redundance to it is the parallel worlds of virtual and physical. This should sustain and grow us as an evolutionary form but I worry that we might stagnate.

Normally, I have little but pity for those who erect barriers in the path of inevitable homogeneity, trying vainly to stop a lava flow with palm fronds. However, I can see a time when this instinct becomes beneficial in that it can slow mergers that are harmful. Cities will continue to grow, countries becoming cities and isolation, that inestimable breeding ground of ingenuity, will disappear. So that the final result is that while there will be more room for more marginal philosophies, the rate at which they are born and the novelty of their scope or focus will diminish.