Spooky Physics; Pledge Drive; Tibetan Rites; and El Nino

Chaos Manor View, Saturday, October 24, 2015

I’ve been busy with fiction and other stuff for days. I have also been faithfully doing the Five Tibetan Rites daily, which is good for me but tiring. If you don’t know about The Five Tibetan Rites, you should learn; they may not be your idea of a fitness program, but they do seem to work better than anything else I know of.

You can get a good idea of the mechanics of the Rites from Hugh Howie and Amber http://www.hughhowey.com/the-five-tibetans/ but for a bit more of the background and the importance of form, see Ellen Rush https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HjtslbrFbLY , and there are more expositions all over the web. Form vs. getting through enough repetitions is a long time question. Howie is an advocate of just getting through it. Various martial arts masters like Steve Barnes are more concerned with form. Steve says one of the goals is training the mind as well as the body, which is similar to what the physical therapists insisted on when I was first recovering from the stroke. My conclusion has been that you need both unless you have a coach, which is to say like most of us.

That is: before my stroke I was working up to sufficient repetitions of each Rite, but I never got there because I couldn’t do enough in proper form. I had the strength, probably – no, almost certainly – so I was letting myself go with what I thought was a good excuse. After the stroke I missed the Rites – couldn’t even get down on the floor, or get up if I did, and the thought of doing Rite One was absurd. But after watching Hugh Howie, I decided that I had always had better form than him and he was getting through all of them just as he could. Amber has better form than I will ever have. They both do this daily and speak highly of it, and they aren’t the only ones I respect who do – after all, it was Steve Barnes who introduced me to this rather obscure ritual, years ago, and it has served me well for years.

The result is that I do 21 repetitions of each Rite daily. The first few are in reasonable form, and I am working hard to get all of them right; but when I can’t do it in good form, I don’t quit. I just do what I can in good form, and get through 21 no matter how hard it is – or how long it takes, which, I fear, is one reason I haven’t written much here this week. (The other is that my typing is getting sloppy again; Microsoft has said they are shipping the Pro 4 keyboard, which looks good for correcting some of that, but really, it’s as Dr. Lupo, the Rehab doctor at Holy Cross where I learned to be something other than a vegetable after the stroke says, “practice makes perfect.” He was talking about just swallowing my breakfast, but I since found that one of the most useful bits of advice I have ever had.)

I will add that before the stroke, the Five Tibetans were pretty well good enough for all my formal exercise, but I did a lot of walking – a couple of miles a day – and my office was upstairs so I climbed those stairs many times a day.  Now I don’t, and I find that even with the Five Tibetans daily I need more exercise – walks with my walker, formal exercise, etc. – to keep from turning into a vegetable. Now that we don’t have a dog, it’s easy to forget to take a morning walk, and the consequences can be grave.  Pity, but there it is.  I’m working on a new schedule. 

One thing that would help is the right device for Audible and other audible books; I need to listen to some of my own since we are writing in that universe. Suggestions on the right equipment for an hour a day walk in a walker while listening to a book – equipment suitable for someone with Costco hearing aids – appreciated.  Thanks in advance; I’ll read it all, but I may not be able to answer every email. Please use subject “audible book reading.” I suppose I should add that Audible has done a good job of publishing Legacy of Heorot and Beowulf’s Children as audio books. They’re free on a special promotion just now, and very well done.


I have two comments on the paucity of posts this week. First, unfortunately this begins Pledge Week for KUSC, the LA good music station. It began Thursday, and runs until next Saturday. Long time readers will know that signals my own pledge drive. I run this place on the same model as KUSC: it’s free, but like Public Radio, if it doesn’t get support from users it will go away. That’s not immanent, as it happens, but it’s possible. In addition to the comments and essays, I read a lot of mail from readers, publish what I think is pertinent – usually with what I hope are intelligent comments – and encourage rational discussions, some of which I edit into publishable exchanges.

I also go through more press releases than I normally would, and tease out some that I think are worth your attention. That includes product announcements. I sometimes send email to the Platinum list; never more than one a day, always about something interesting; I can’t and wouldn’t send email to all patrons or readers, because it would be far too many.

Mostly I encourage rational discussion, including disagreements.

All of this takes up time.

The KUSC practice is to have their music program announcers vamp through pitches on why you should subscribe at $15 to $150 a month, and to give away prizes like free records — well Cd’s – well, DVD’s – prizes anyway, for subscribing NOW. I don’t ask for anything like that much. You and find out more at Paying For This Place http://www.jerrypournelle.com/paying.html which tells all. If you’re curious as to what this place is, http://www.jerrypournelle.com/ has a lot of information.

So the pledge drive comes at an awkward moment when I was less productive than usual, but there it is. If you have been reading this for a while and just haven’t got around to subscribing, http://www.jerrypournelle.com/paying.html will tell you more than you need to know. If you’ve subscribed but can’t remember when you last renewed, it’s probably time to renew. Go to http://www.jerrypournelle.com/paying.html and get it over with. It doesn’t take long.

And if you’ve recently renewed, as many of you have, I thank you.


I regret to announce:

Maureen O’Hara, RIP.



Roland Dobbins

I enjoyed her pictures a lot. RIP


Some residuum on the Dyson Sphere matter:


I was delighted to see my amateur musings on Dyson spheres in correspondence with Ms. Osborn reproduced on your website.


IMHO, our failure to detect communications from the star does not preclude the possibility that this is a Dyson sphere or other megastructure because it is predicated on the premises that the aliens use a communication medium that we can detect. This argument is akin to Neolithic savages concluding that a modern city can not be an artificial construct rather than a natural feature because they haven’t seen any smoke signals or heard any drums. If the aliens rely on anything as mundane as tight beam lasers or fiber optics for communication, we will not detect them.

The absence of IR radiation to compensate for the decrease in emissions in the visible spectrum is the most compelling argument against the idea that the star is being occluded by an artificial structure. However; this argument is less compelling if the star is being periodically occluded by a megastructure that only partially occludes the star. How about a really big light said that is being launched towards Earth?

Finally, it is a fallacy to assume that a Dyson sphere or other megahabitat should be built at the same orbital radius from the star as the home planet of the builders. Because the radiating surface of a planet is four times greater than the instellation surface, a planet is on average much cooler than a flat surface that constantly faces the star would be. A Dyson sphere might and probably should be built at a greater distance from the star than the home planet. Of course Ms. Osborn is correct that a Dyson sphere or a “Bowl of Heaven” would collapse under a star’s gravity unless the materials were astonishingly strong. Even Niven’s Ringworld would experience substantial gravitational force transverse to it’s circumference that would compress it into a string. An armada of lightsails that enclose a star and use light pressure to support themselves is possible, but a large number of collectors in carefully orchestrated and actively managed orbits is more plausible.

James Crawford=

Orbital Rings and Dyson Spheres
A couple of possible “engineering” counter-points to some of the “science” objections raised against orbital rings and Dyson spheres:
Circular Orbital rings:
More of a question than a point – might an orbital ring be maintained in a circular orbit using electromagnetic interaction with the sun’s magnetosphere? The magnetic field is weak, but the size of the coils could be huge, and there should be plentiful solar power to feed the coils. Continuous maintenance of a circular orbit ought to require much less power than attempts to restore circularity from an elliptical orbit. If it is workable, it would eliminate most of the requirement for reaction mass.
Dyson Sphere radiation detection:
If the Builders wished to minimize their IR signature in most directions, it should be possible to direct their IR radiation mostly in two opposing directions, for example along a line perpendicular to the galactic plane.
For simplicity of terminology, think of the sphere as having an “up/down” orientation. Directed IR radiation could be accomplished by making the surface a series of stair-steps – with “horizontal” surfaces highly conductive while “vertical” surfaces are highly insulated, forcing most IR radiation into the “vertical” directions. Seen exactly edge on, there would be very little IR radiation, increasing at higher angles. The directional effect might be further enhanced by putting the radiating surfaces in insulated wells.
Tom Craver

Still yet more thoughts on Dyson Spheres

As regards whether it is more efficient to build a “Dyson Sphere” around a star, or engage in interstellar colonization, here’s something else to think about.
Consider the information transmission time between different elements of a civilization that are separated by A. Dyson sphere: light minutes B. Interstellar colony: dozens/hundreds of light years. Now think about how fast information can spread, and how rich/vital the respective civilizations might be…
If the neurons of a human brain could be separated by hundreds of kilometers from each other, but the same pattern of connections maintained, and the absolute transmission speed is the same, it would be as smart… but way, way, slower.
Also, as regards colonization as a solution to a population problem: Nah. As Asimov pointed out, if population doubled every 47 years (it recently doubled every 18 years in Syria!) it would take only 6700 years to convert all the matter in the universe into human flesh. So the answer to population growth is neither interstellar colonization nor Dyson spheres, but population growth restraint (which may be either the easy way or, like recent Syria, the hard way). If civilizations do build things like Dyson Spheres, surely it will be to increase the richness of the culture/total computational power, not deal with an exponentially growing population, because in a finite universe that’s impossible. The issue is not ‘efficiency’ per se, but what you hope to achieve…



Russia Hit the Iceberg

I guess when things get crazy, you go to what you know:



It’s over. If we can’t get something worked out with Russia now or very soon, it seems we’ll need to pass through another round of unpleasantness before we sit down and look at this again. Your thoughts?

◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊

Most Respectfully,

Joshua Jordan, KSC

Percussa Resurgo

My thought? This was predictable and predicted. When Clinton let us get into the anti-Slav position in Europe, endorsing Albanian thugs rather than Serbian thugs and bombing Slavic Serbs and destroying the economy of the lower Danube, what did he expect to happen? NATO closed an iron ring around Russia. The US continues with entangling alliances and concerns itself with the territorial disputes in Europe that have gone on for hundreds of years, and now we wonder what is happening?

Assad and the Kurds are tolerant of Christians. (And Jordan, which is probably the next Arab state to fall despite last minute US efforts taken when we suddenly realize the problem.) The Caliphate is not, nor are most of the Sunni rebels. Russia has always had an interest in the Middle East, particularly Persia; we are astonished that this interest continues? They do not require history in most of the major universities; what would you predict that does for foreign policy?

It is a bit late now to invest our money in energy production and tell the Arabs to drink their oil, but it is perhaps not too late…

Of course Russia will become an autarky. What incentives have we ever given Russian patriots to do otherwise?

“If it’s an invasion map, you wouldn’t show the bus stations.

It’s a map for when you’re in charge.”



Roland Dobbins



Quantum Theory Experiment Said to Prove ‘Spooky’ Interactions    (nyt)


In a landmark study, scientists at the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands reported they have conducted an experiment they say proves one of the most fundamental claims of quantum theory — that objects separated by great distance can instantaneously affect each other’s behavior.

The finding is another blow to one of the bedrock principles of standard physics known as “locality,” which states that an object is directly influenced only by its immediate surroundings. The Delft study, published Wednesday in the journal Nature, lends further credence to an idea that Einstein famously rejected. He said quantum theory necessitated “spooky action at a distance,” and he refused to accept the notion that the universe could behave in such a strange and apparently random fashion.

In particular, Einstein derided the idea that separate particles could be “entangled” so completely that measuring one particle would instantaneously influence the other, regardless of the distance separating them.

Einstein was deeply unhappy with the uncertainty introduced by quantum theory and described the implications of quantum theory as akin to God playing dice.

But since the 1970’s, a series of precise experiments by physicists are increasingly erasing doubt — alternative explanations that are referred to as loopholes — that two previously entangled particles, even if separated by the width of the universe, could instantly communicate.

The new experiment, conducted by a group led by Ronald Hanson, a physicist at the Dutch university’s Kavli Institute of Nanoscience, and joined by scientists from Spain and England, is the strongest evidence yet to support the most fundamental claims of the theory of quantum mechanics about the existence of an odd world formed by a fabric of subatomic particles, where matter does not take form until it is observed and time runs backward as well as forward.

The researchers describe their experiment as a “loophole-free Bell test” in a reference to an experiment proposed in 1964 by the physicist John Stewart Bell as a way of proving that “spooky action at a distance” is real.

“These tests have been done since the late ’70s but always in the way that additional assumptions were needed,” Dr. Hanson said. “Now we have confirmed that there is spooky action at distance.”

According to the scientists they have now ruled out all possible so-called hidden variables that would offer explanations of long-distance entanglement based on the laws of classical physics.

The Delft researchers were able to entangle two electrons separated by a distance of 1.3 kilometers, slightly less than a mile, and then share information between them. Physicists use the term “entanglement” to refer to pairs of particles that are generated in such a way that they cannot be described independently. The scientists placed two diamonds on opposite sides of the Delft University campus, 1.3 kilometers apart.

Each diamond contained a tiny trap for single electrons, which have a magnetic property called a “spin.” Pulses of microwave and laser energy are then used to entangle and measure the “spin” of the electrons.

  The distance — with detectors set on opposite sides of the campus — ensured that information could not be exchanged by conventional means within the time it takes to do the measurement.

“I think this is a beautiful and ingenuous experiment and it will help to push the entire field forward,” said David Kaiser, a physicist at M.I.T., who was not involved in the study. However, Dr. Kaiser, who is with another group of physicists who are preparing to perform an even more ambitious experiment next year that will soon measure light captured at the far edges of the universe, also said he did not think every scintilla of doubt had been erased by the Dutch experiment.

The tests take place in a mind-bending and peculiar world. According to quantum mechanics, particles do not take on formal properties until they are measured or observed in some way. Until then, they can exist simultaneously in two or more places. Once measured, however, they snap into a more classical reality, existing in only one place.

Beyond the immediate result, physicists noted that the experiment represented an advance in the understanding of a Lilliputian world that was once largely the province of theory. Quantum mechanics has already had a huge impact on modern technology and industry. For example, it is the foundation for modern computers and lasers.

“What I do find interesting is that the experimenters are learning how to manipulate quantum systems, and do experiments that are far beyond what was possible when I was starting in physics,” said Leonard Susskind, a theoretical physicist at Stanford. “Things which were at best ‘thought experiments’ become possible, then routine. That is incredibly impressive.”

Indeed, the experiment is not merely a vindication for the exotic theory of quantum mechanics, it is a step toward a practical application known as a “quantum Internet.” Currently the security of the Internet and the electronic commerce infrastructure is fraying in the face of powerful computers that pose a challenge to encryption technologies based on the ability to factor large numbers and other related strategies.

Researchers like Dr. Hanson envision a quantum communications network formed from a chain of entangled particles girdling the entire globe. Such a network would make it possible to securely share encryption keys, and know of eavesdropping attempts with absolute certainty.

For some physicists, even though the new experiment claims to be “loophole free,” the matter is not yet completely closed.

“The experiment has closed two of the three major loopholes beautifully, but two out of three isn’t three,” Dr. Kaiser said. “I believe in my bones that quantum mechanics is the correct description of nature. But to make the strongest statement, frankly we’re not there.”

A potential weakness of the experiment, he suggested, is that an electronic system the researchers used to add randomness to their measurement may in fact be predetermined in some subtle way that is not easily detectable, meaning that the outcome might still be predetermined as Einstein believed.

To attempt to overcome this weakness and close what they believe is a final loophole, the National Science Foundation has funded a group of physicists led by Dr. Kaiser and Alan H. Guth, also at M.I.T., to attempt an experiment that will have a better chance of ensuring the complete independence of the measurement detectors by gathering light from distance objects on different sides of the galaxy next year, and then going a step further by capturing the light from objects known as quasars near the edge of the universe in 2017 and 2018.

Quantum Theory Experiment Said to Prove ‘Spooky’ Interactions (NY Times)

Think about three positions: A, B, and C.

A is the place where the two entangled particles come from.

B and C are the current locations of the particles.

There’s definitely no way to get the particles from location A to locations B and C faster than the speed of light.

There’s also no way to influence the state of either particle at locations B or C from location A at any speed.

That’s old news.

As far as I know, there’s still no way to control the state of the particle at B from location C or vice-versa.

While an event at position B can cause a change at position C, there’s no way to control or predict what that change is or will be, so no way to use the change to communicate any information.

But that’s just my own interpretation. You probably have real physicists among your readers, so I suggest you pose that question on the website and see how they respond.


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Meanwhile, on the subject of spooky:

‘The researchers demonstrated that they were able to suppress quantum tunneling merely by observing the atoms.’



Roland Dobbins


What’s going on with El Nino…

…and the real (okay, probable) effect on the weather. This is a good article; the writer had his head on his shoulders, logicked his way through, and gathered some very good statistics.


Basically what’s happening, insofar as I can tell, is that the strength of the El Nino is throwing off the circulations in the Pacific, resulting in The Blob and Son of Blob. I make no claims to expertise on this, but that’s what it looks like to me.
Stephanie Osborn

“The Interstellar Woman of Mystery”

Prepare for a wild winter.


In unexpected discovery, comet contains alcohol, sugar – Yahoo News India


It sounds like the ingredients to a good cocktail.


James Crawford=


Unsurprising but possibly of interest:










Freedom is not free. Free men are not equal. Equal men are not free.




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