The Lumpy Universe

Posts on a variety of topics of interest, including current events, politics, economics, technology, science, religion, philosophy, and whatever else comes to mind. Not affiliated with The Lumpy Universe at NASA/Goddard (sorry--I just happen to like the name).

Location: United States

06 March 2010

Particle Entanglement

Particle entanglement is a phenomenon in quantum physics whereby two electrons are somehow associated with each other in a way that does not seem at all intuitive. The two electrons of such a pair have opposite "spin". If the spin of one of the electrons is reversed, the spin of the other will also reverse - regardless of the separation between the two. This seems rather strange to us.

Perhaps it's a phenomenon of additional dimensions. To illustrate, consider the 2-dimensional world called Flatland. As a 3D being, you are able to observe Flatland without being observed yourself. Let's say you take a piece of tubing and fashion a circle out of it, and drop it into the plane of Flatland. The circle residing in the plane of Flatland will appear as a solid circle to the Flatland inhabitants on the outside of the circle, or as a solid circular exterior wall to inhabitants inside the circle.

Now tilt the circle so that the plane of the circle is perpendicular to the plane of Flatland, and the plane of Flatland bisects the circle. The intersection between the circle and Flatland will now consist of two points. The size of the points is the cross-section of the tubing from which the circle is constructed.

Picture the situation where the two points are moved apart. This results in enlargement of the circle, or perhaps an excursion of the circle up and down relative to the horizontal plane of Flatland, but the two points are still physically connected in the larger 3D universe.

Add spin to the tubing from which the circle is constructed, but not to the circle. To the observer in Flatland, the two points they can observe will be spinning in opposite directions. If the Flatlander somehow grabs one of the points and reverses the spin on that point, the spin on the other point will also reverse.

So there you go. Maybe the key to understanding entanglement is by venturing into additional dimensions.

29 October 2009

Prayer Works

Like many of you [many of none, perhaps?], I have had prayers answered in ways that are, well, a blessing. Some of them are quite interesting and unique experiences. Let me share one.

I was in the process of disassembling the outside of my house - it wasn't originally built quite right, but that's a different story. As I was prying off the trim at the top of the wall, I couldn't get it completely off because the drip edge on the roof was in the way, and I didn't want to damage the roof. I pried the bottom edge out and could see the nails holding the trim, but I needed some way to saw through or cut off the nails. Since I don't own a reciprocating saw, I thought of using a hacksaw blade to saw through billions of nails. Right. That would take forever. Then it occurred to me to use a pair of bolt-cutters that my wife had bought at a yard sale many years before. I knew right where they had been stored - in the garage. So I went to grab them.

They weren't there.

If you know anything about our garage, you would understand. I looked and looked, but couldn't find them. Well, I was a little discouraged. I was trying to get the wall finished before winter, and it seemed like there were just too many things slowing me down.

It occurred to me I ought to pray about it - pray for assistance to find them. I resisted at first, but finally became so frustrated that I stopped where I was, closed my eyes, and said a brief prayer asking for assistance to find the bolt-cutters. I probably didn't pray with a lot of faith, but I did it. I opened my eyes, and discovered I was looking directly at the the red handles of the bolt-cutters. Not near them, not above them, not below them. Right.At.Them.

Needless to say, I was pretty thrilled and grateful.

21 October 2009

Rational Faith

I was watching BYU Television the other day and saw a broadcast of a 1997 BYU Education Week presentation by S. Michael Wilcox on faith, hope, and charity. [The link above is to the audio.] He explains why faith is rational.

Let me say that again - faith is not irrational, as many assert, but is in fact rational.

Hebrews 11:1 states that faith is "the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen". The point is made that the foundation on which faith rests is not emotion, but is in fact evidence. The presenter identifies three types of evidence which serve as the basis for faith: authority, reason, and experience.

Here are examples of the three with respect to faith in, or a testimony of, the Book of Mormon:

Authority: testimony of the 3 witnesses

Reason: Joseph Smith, an unschooled farm boy, could not have made it up.

Experience: I've read the book on a more-or-less daily basis for 15 or 20 years, and have noticed a dramatic change in my life as I've attempted to follow its teachings.
Faith increases as we act on it, building layer upon layer as we go.

What does it mean to act on faith? My description (not from the presentation) is that we extrapolate some future outcome of some planned or anticipated action on the basis of our faith - that is, on the basis of authority, reason, and past experience. We take the action, and when it yields the desired and expected result, it adds yet another experiential component to the "structure" that is our faith.

Faith can also be enhanced seeking additional understanding of a topic, which contribute both by way of reason and authority. However, it is of limited benefit if no action is taken and there is little or no experiential component to one's faith.

09 October 2009

The Cost of Green Jobs

The Obama administration has promised that the economic recovery can be greatly aided by switching to renewable sources of electricity, such as solar and wind. What they aren't telling us is that the cost to build these facilities greatly exceeds the cost to build coal and gas fired plants. The excess money that is needed for green projects is money that won't be available for other things - the opportunity cost of going green. Those "other things" represent other jobs that won't be created. One estimate is that each green job is created at the expense of two other jobs.

In other words, if the money were invested in things we really want and need, and which would have a higher return on investment, more jobs would be the result.

08 October 2009

This Bridge Will Fail

When an engineer designs a bridge, he has to pay attention to fundamental principles if he wishes the bridge to serve its intended purpose. For example, most of the forces exerted on a bridge are due to the earth's gravitational pull on the bridge itself and on the vehicles that traverse the bridge. If engineers were like modern-day politicians, they would choose to ignore gravity as being "old school", out of fashion, irrelevant to the modern age, modern materials, and modern design methodology. And their bridges would fail.

Wait, you say, what is the point? The point is that politicians are trying to convince us that a government-run health care system will somehow be immune to the laws of economics and human behavior. There are reasons why socialist enterprises are sub-optimal - it isn't about intentions or intelligence or compassion. This bridge will fail.

It's In the Nature of Eggs to Break

An old saying states that it is in the nature of eggs to break, the point being that the observable behavior and characteristics of any thing are a natural outgrowth of their composition.

So why do I bring up this obvious principle? Because we are currently being bombarded with hollow promises about how government-provided health care will solve all our problems and create no new ones. In reality, the so-called public option will behave precisely in a manner consistent with what it is. If you want to know how well it will work, simply look at other government-run enterprises such as VA health care, Medicare, Social Security, the US Postal Service, Amtrak. Why are they not shining examples of efficiency and innovation? It's because of how they are structured, not because they weren't created with the best of intentions. It's in the nature of eggs to break.

05 October 2009

Servant or Ruler? You Choose...

There are two kinds of government actions - they can serve the people or rule the people.

Most of the governments throughout history have been predominantly the ruling type, and most today are the same. Back in the middle to late 1700s, there was a group of guys who thought the world would be better off turning the equation around to create a government that would serve the people. That is the real significance of the American Revolution.

There are some key words in the Declaration of Independence that point out this fundamental principle: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.." There it is, right in plain sight. Just and legitimate government cannot have any power not delegated to it by the people on the basis of their natural rights. So, this principle is the foundation upon which rests the Constitution of the United States.

This principle was so well understood that many fought against the inclusion of the Bill of Rights in the Constitution - it was redundant, and they feared that it would give the government an excuse to regulate that which the government had no right to even consider regulating.

Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare, food stamps, agricultural subsidies - all so-called entitlement or "Robin Hood" programs - clearly violate this principle because they take by force the property of one person and give it to another person - not something you or I can do without risking arrest and jail time. When our federal government engages in this type of behavior, the less it is a just and legitimate government and the more irrelevant our Constitution becomes, given that the foundation on which it rests is being chipped away.

What are the consequences of diminishing the Constitution? Each chunk taken out of the foundation weakens the structure, until it collapses and becomes irrelevant. At that point, you have no rights except those granted by government. That means you are no longer free, but a vassal of the state.

There is a lot of debate about the involvement the federal government should have in a reformed health care system. Know this - the so-called "public option" or the single-payer system, undermine the Constitution and threaten its destruction.

29 August 2009

For most practical purposes, there are two types of people in the world: those who practice "win-win or no deal" (WWOND) and those who practice "win at any cost" (WAAC). Freedom only works when the majority consists of WWONDs. Government intervention is required to keep WAACs in check, given their propensity to lie, cheat and steal. When the government is run by WWONDs, the efforts of government are directed precisely that way. When the government is run by WAACs, kiss you freedom goodbye.