Mathematics, Its Contents, Methods and Meaning – A Book Review

Back in the times before the Great Flood, I was a lowly undergraduate student in a public university.  I started out as a chemistry major but credits back then were very cheap, almost free, so I ended up taking an enormous number of credits in mathematics too.  When I reached my senior year, I had taken all the requisite chemistry courses for the BS degree but I also had discovered that I found the lab work extremely tedious.  What was a nerd to do?  Well, I took a few more math courses and got my degree in mathematics instead.  Since I was planning on raising an expensive family with Camera Girl, I decided to get a job as an actuary at one of the many fine insurance companies in Manhattan.  Imagine my embarrassment to find that compared to being an actuary a lab chemist was like being James Bond.  These insurance actuaries were the most boring human beings that walked this green earth.  With two strikes against me I had to be careful what I did next.  I talked to some smart guys and they asked me what I thought of chemical engineering.  I asked them, “What is chemical engineering?”  Well, these wise men told me that it was the golden road to wealth, fame and happiness.  Since I’ve always been gullible, I believed them.  Where things went from there is a story for a long winter evening but suffice it to say that I abandoned science for the greener pastures of the engineering world.  In other words, I sold my soul to the devil.  But I earned enough to raise a family.

But I always hankered for the chance to take more math classes.  While I was taking my engineering courses I had the chance to speak to an old math professor of mine and described my regret that I’d be too busy for the next thirty years or so to take anymore math classes and wondered whether he could recommend a self-study text that covered all the fields of mathematics that I might be interested in.  I knew that this guy was something of a bibliophile and luckily for me he said he had the very thing.  He told me it was a Soviet Russian three volume set published in translation by the MIT Press.  It wasn’t too pricey so I bought it and stuck it in a corner of my bookshelf and there it sat mostly unread for thirty years.

About ten years ago I finally got my last kid out of college and paid off the house and I was looking at cleaning out all the junk I had accumulated over the years when I rediscovered this set of books.  On a lark I started thumbing through it and opened up the section on topology.  And quickly discovered that I still enjoyed mathematics.  Now you may think that engineering was a field where mathematics abounds.  But after almost thirty years in the field the mathematical content of what I did on a daily basis had degenerated from differential equations into spreadsheets to figure out equipment depreciation and maybe the odd pressure drop or heat transfer calculation.  I had become a lapsed mathematician.  So, it was with great pleasure that I scanned the various sections of the set.  Non-Euclidean Geometry, Topology, Prime Numbers and other equally useless but interesting things.  Now whenever I have time I delve into the books and lose myself for a few hours and enjoy the guilty pleasure of contemplating the whichness of what.  Today I was reading what these long dead Russians had to say about the relevance of Non-Euclidean Geometry when considering the details of our actual universe.  When a ray of light can be bent by gravity what exactly is the validity of the concept of the parallel postulate?  With our current understanding of particle/wave duality what exactly can we consider empty space?  These esteemed commies made a statement from what they call dialectic materialism and define space as the form of existence of matter.  Now what the hell does that mean?  From what I read they are saying that the concept of space only has meaning in the contest of matter.  Well does that mean there is no such thing as empty space?

This is great stuff.  It makes me feel young again and inspires me to want to write a science fiction story where everything in the universe is adjacent to everything else and therefore problems like faster than light travel are merely a matter of having the correct mental picture when attempting to go from your leather recliner to, let us say, a planet in the Andromeda galaxy.

Anyway, if you’re ever in need of a general reference on mathematics that might spark your gray matter, I highly recommend Mathematics, Its Contents, Methods and Meaning by A. D. Aleksandrov, A. N. Kolmogorov and M. A. Lavrent’ev.

Disturbed Deputy on Handgun Choices

At my request the Disturbed Deputy has kindly posted a primer on handguns.  For non-gun-experts such as myself I thought this would be good information to have and interesting too.  Take a look and ask any questions you have in his comments section.  I’m looking for practical information about a home defense weapon for Camera Girl.  Of course while I’m in the compound nothing smaller than a Tyrannosaurus rex will require anything more deadly than a can opener because of my preternatural strength and reflexes but while she is home alone I’d like her to have an option to protect herself.  Of course she is a bloodthirsty wench and I am taking my chances that she won’t turn all film noir on me.  But what’s life without risk?

Handgun Choices

 

 

 

More Wolf’s Bane?

Wolfs Bane Coming Into Bloom

This has been a goofy mixed up year for weather.  The spring and early summer were extremely cool and delayed many plants by almost a month from their normal cycle of growth.  For the most part this wasn’t too bad but one plant that blooms late in the summer is wolf’s bane.  And as of today, the very last gasp of summer, the leaves on the plants are turning yellow and the flowers aren’t even buds yet, they’re bumps.  What we have here is a foot race between flowers and frost.  Last night it got down to 36°F.  That is dangerously flirting with freezing.  There are two more nights of near freezing temperatures coming up before a warm up is predicted.  I don’t like my chances here.  I need a miracle.

Maybe you’re saying to yourself, “What’s the big deal if some stupid plant doesn’t flower?”  Well, that’s a fair question.  I’ll try to explain.

The Calendar tracks the path of Earth as it performs its seemingly eternal dance with the Sun.  And here at the Autumnal Equinox we mark the point where the northern latitudes lose their grip on the sun and slip into darkness.  For millennia the inhabitants of the North have recognized this moment and celebrated it with various harvest festivals and religious myths like the Death of Tammuz or the Rape of Persephone.  These solemn occasions were meant to memorialize the end of summer and the beginning of the harvest.

Nowadays most of us aren’t involved in farming and the advent of electric lights has lessened the impact of shorter days on our lives.  But for some of us the end of summer is still an extremely meaningful time.  As I have so often stated here on the site I am an avowed therophile (lover of summer) and the autumnal equinox is like a death knell for me.  Like some primitive soul I atavistically search for a formula or spell to help me fight off the fear of darkness and believe that summer will reemerge on the other side of the sun all those months in the future.  And for me the first step is to take the last gasp of summer, the blooming of the wolf’s bane flowers and tie that to the next great festival on my calendar, Halloween.

For Halloween begins  for me with watching the classic Universal horror movies.  And I always start with Dracula.  Here we see Dracula square off against Dr. Van Helsing for possession of the soul of Mina Seward.  And in this battle one of the prime weapons is a garland of wolf’s bane.  Vampires hate it and all good vampire fighters carry it with them.  And later on in the Universal series we will come to the Wolfman.  Here we are told:

Even a man who’s pure at heart

And says his prayers by night

May become a wolf when the wolf’s bane blooms

And the autumn moon is bright

And that is the link between summer and wolf’s bane and autumn and Halloween.  And Halloween gets you to Thanksgiving.  And Thanksgiving gets you to Christmas.  And Christmas has to get you to Easter and the beginning of spring.  But it all starts with wolf’s bane.  So wish me luck.  If nature lets me down I’ll have to take drastic action and invoke the only other Summer/Halloween talisman I know of.  I’ll have to have an early showing of “Something Wicked This Way Comes.”  Bradbury’s story provides a direct link between summer and Halloween by way of the carnival theme.  Carnivals are summer and end of summer events.  But in the story we have a Halloween arrival of a dark carnival that is looking to ensnare souls.  The battle between good and evil is to my mind the battle between summer and autumn.  Between life and death.  Okay, that’s the end of my raving.

In the Merry, Merry Month of May

This week and next are the last two stay at home weeks left for me.  After that I’ll be half time in the office.  And since Monday is Memorial Day I’m feeling very lazy and am looking for an excuse to think about non-political subjects.  So today I made a point to take a little time and be at play in the fields of the Lord.  I noted that the birds of the air were quite active.  In particular I noted that some swallows have appropriated the bluebird house.

This accords with the low opinion I have developed toward the bluebirds.  To borrow a phrase from the President they’re low-energy losers.  But we have had some indigo buntings around this week.  They are even bluer than the bluebirds and I think much more heroic.  I noted a number of hawks flying above the fields and saw how this disturbed some of the smaller birds.  I assume they were worried about the hawks attacking their nests.  A couple of rabbits were spotted frolicking outside the former goat pen.  What with the circling hawks I thought this surprisingly bold.  Possibly they read Watership Down and took it to heart.

I noted a goodly number of frogs and salamanders drowned in the swimming pool which we opened last Friday.

The idea of amphibians drowning in water also leads me to a low opinion of their fitness to survive in the highly competitive future that we know is over the horizon.  A number of years ago we had some blue spotted salamanders around the property.  They’re good sized and I’d love to see them again sometime.

A very large snapping turtle was cruising around the pond and I was wondering if the mallard family might be at risk of losing a duckling if they weren’t careful.

The painted turtles were all hanging out on a fallen tree and looking fairly useless.  I wondered if maybe they were afraid of the snapping turtle too.  But more certainly the bull frogs and small fish were likely on the menu for grandpa snapper.  I went to inspect the remains of the beaver dam that was abandoned when that buck toothed rodent disappeared last year.  Well, it’s all gone now.  And the pond is at a low ebb.  More like a puddle than a pond.

There were a goodly number of deer travelling through the woods in the last week or so.  They were grazing on the stringy weeds that cover the shallows of the pond but none of them were around today.  Neither did any of the turkeys wander by as they have been lately.

After that black bear or Lovecraftian monster or whatever it was flattened our bird feeders last week I’ve been using the game camera to see what’s going on at night.  The only thing unusual was a red fox.  Last year we had grey foxes but this is the first red one I’ve seen.

Southern New England Gray Fox w/ Sony A7 III w/ Sigma 150 – 600 mm Contemporary lens on Sigma MC-11 converter, at 150mm focal length

After finding that hatchling milk snake I moved my tin to another location in hopes of finding some snakes near the rock wall.

Eastern milk snake, Lampropeltis triangulum triangulum

The garter snakes I’ve been seeing near the retaining wall have disappeared.

The warmer weather must have allowed them to disperse from their winter hibernaculum in the wall.  There was a northern water snake near a vernal pool last year but he wasn’t around today.  I’ll hope to find him again this year.  What I’d really like to find are some larger snakes, a black racer or even a black ratsnake.  But we’ll see.

Insect-wise we have plenty of bees around.

There are the usual honey bees and bumble bees but also the always annoying carpenter bees.  Because of the very extensive wood work on the structures on the property I am at perpetual war with these bees.  We have had our first butterflies.  There have been a number of painted ladies and today we had our first tiger swallowtail.

Minolta 200mm f\4 Macro lens on Sony A7 III

I noted with pleasure that the three small Giant Sequoias got through the winter well.  They join their older and larger cousin in the southwest corner of the property.  My own personal grove.  The two metasequoias have also grown tall in the last five years.

Minolta 200mm f\4 macro

The bristlecone pine tree I planted last fall unfortunately hasn’t done as well.  It looks dead and I’ll have to replace it soon.

The Compound Attacked by One of the Great Old Ones

Last night abysmal horror stalked the home base.  A Lovecraftian abomination was on the move unleashing its mind shattering power on my corner of New England.  It was Cthulhu or maybe one of the Deep Ones.  The horror, the horror.

Just see the damage caused by its irresistible strength and titanic weight.  Behold!

 

UPDATE!!!!

We cowered in fear during the night time attack.  Finally this morning I gathered my shattered sanity and my courage and I ventured out to assess the damage.

I found this massive print

And finally I found this titanic creature lurking in the near by swamp.

Do not be fooled.  Those green growths are actually massive pine trees that the monster crushed with it’s cyclopean bulk.  What you are seeing is Ralsa Whateley, the hybrid spawn of a human woman and one of the batrachian Deep Ones.  Grown tremendously large from ingesting all of Camera Girl’s bird seed he now rests before once again attacking humanity with the ferocity only capable by one of the Great Old Ones.

 

21APR2020 – OCF Update – The Joy of Blogging

Keeping a website stocked with content is work.  Finding and posting a quote and a photo each day takes time and effort.  Researching and writing political posts takes time and thought.  Watching and reviewing movies and tv shows and listening to and reviewing music and reading and reviewing books takes even more time.  Keeping up with the software versions of the website plug-ins and other features is annoying and confusing.  Doing all these things while also working full time in a highly demanding profession in a very exacting company is extremely difficult.  But I consider running this website one of the more enjoyable aspects of my life.

As I mentioned in a recent post, I consider it important to socialize with like minded people.  And just as important as it is to talk about politics, I find discussing recreational and cultural topics just as important.  It’s like the feeling you get from going down to the local tavern and shooting the breeze with friends from town.  You can compare notes on what’s going on in the neighborhood and talk a little sports or discuss the local school issues or the state elections.  There will be differences of opinion but being likeminded people in similar circumstances with a similar history and world view you mostly have similar opinions.  And that’s a comfortable situation.

But nowadays people are always on the move.  We move because we lose a job and need to find a new one.  Or we move so our kids can go to a better school.  Or we move because our town has grown too crowded or because the crime rate has gotten too high.  So, we lose that circle of friends we used to enjoy so much.

Another thing that happens is your kids grow up and once they do, you lose track of the other parents whose kids used to hang around with your kids.  We all go our separate ways and before you know it, you’re pretty isolated from everyone but a small circle of family and a few very good friends.

So, you start to spend time on-line.  You get involved in websites that cater to your interests and hobbies.  And that was something that I did.  I frequented sites that had to do with my various hobbies.  Photography was one of them.  Field biology was another.  And fantasy and science fiction were a third.  And it was fun talking to people with similar interests and sharing information and experiences.  I met a number of interesting people.  But I also found out that politics was a stumbling block in all these areas.  What was true in each of these creative areas was that there existed an orthodoxy that underlaid all the other levels of thought that each of the sites was involved with.  And that orthodoxy was a progressive point of view on politics, social issues and even science.  It was anti-American (especially on sites that had a heavy European presence), anti-religious, anti-traditionalist, pro-homosexual, stridently feminist, globalist, against gun rights, anti-free speech and it rabidly believed in global warming.  I can remember on one particular photography website being banned for saying that Hillary Clinton was a criminal that deserved to be thrown in prison for life.  This was during a thread where the same sentiment had been expressed about George W Bush.  The second statement didn’t even warrant a comment from the moderator or a warning of any kind.  It was after this kind of unequal enforcement of the rules of internet etiquette that I figured out that all animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others.  And I figured out that if I wanted to enjoy discussing political and social subjects in a more or less free environment, I would have to own the space myself.

So that’s why this site is worth the time and expense of hosting it myself.  No one can tell me that I can’t say that Hillary Clinton is a criminal.  No one can tell me that I can’t say that global warming is a scam.  And no one can tell me that I can’t say that gun ownership is what makes this the freest country on Earth.  By the same token if someone wants to disagree and say that global warming is a very serious problem, I don’t have problem with that.  Let him state his case.  If he can prove it to me, then I’ll admit it.  If he can’t convince me then we’ll agree to disagree.

If someone believes that affirmative action is fair, let him state his case.  I’ll disagree to the last but I’m not in the brainwashing business.  If he can have the discussion without foaming at the mouth and calling me names then have at it.  I’m not afraid of people giving their opinions.  As long as they don’t go off the deep end and start ranting and raving.  This site has a definite right-wing slant.  I state that right up front.  But if someone wants to talk about photography or old movies or old books I don’t particularly care if you’re a communist as long as you can behave like a grown up and contribute to the discussion.  I’ve been in discussions about religion between atheists and priests.  And they were able to keep it polite and even friendly.  They each knew the other wasn’t going to budge but they enjoyed the chance to tell their side and have their say.  And it made for an interesting discussion.

So, this is my way of saying thanks to the regulars and to the new readers and to encourage you all to read and comment and have your say.  Give and take is fine and is the reason for the whole thing anyway.

Okay that’s enough.

Nothing Says Spring Like a Blanket of Snow

We had a very warm, snow-free winter this year and now that it’s officially spring, the snow started coming down heavy this morning.  But I’m telecommuting today and don’t have to drive so why not?  There were five deer in the forest outside my living room window.  I was enjoying the view until the German shorthaired pointers joined me.  They started barking and scared the deer away.  But before the fearless defenders of the castle did their job, I was watching the deer feeding.  Apparently, there are enough new shoots on trees and bushes for the deer to browse on.  Yesterday the mallards returned to the swamp and grazed on the plant life that has been available since the pond thawed out two weeks ago.  Camera Girl saw a turtle swimming around over the weekend and the sound of the spring peepers has been noticeable lately.  I put up that photo of the first garter snake and the first bluebird has made an appearance at the feeder.  So even though it looks like January 23rd outside my window I’m not fooled.  Sure, we could still get the April Fool’s Nor’easter this year and even have to break out the snow blower one last time before moving the lawn mower to the front of the shed.  But spring is busting out all over the place.  This is just the spiteful spirit of annoying New England and its contrarian position against anything normal and happy.  But it won’t win.  We just have to be a little more stubborn than the powers of death and dissolution.  There’s snow on the ground but Spring’s in the air.

Behold Arrokoth! The Jeb Bush of the Solar System

Out beyond Pluto in the Kuiper Belt, in the doldrums of the solar system, the forces of gravity were powered by a tepid gruel of space dust so thin that when this material accreted into larger bodies the collisions were so “low energy” that you end up with a dumbell formed by two nearby planetoids colliding in super slow motion.  In recognition of its defining characteristic I think it should be renamed Jeb!

Man and God – Part 1 – The Existence of God

I want to preface this by saying that I have no formal training in theology, church doctrine or divinity other than twelve years of Roman Catholic schooling and the associated doctrinal education that entails.  Nothing I say can be construed to be orthodox doctrine within any sect of Christianity.  I’m sure that several of my beliefs would be considered heretical by some Christian theologists so don’t assume anything I say is dogma for any church you might belong to.  But it is what I believe and I think it’s time people start connecting the dots with what their scriptures say, what they understand it to mean and what the clerics in their churches say and do.

For all of recorded history and as far back as we can discover, man has tried to understand his place in the universe.  Earth Mother, Sky Father, elemental forces, spirits of animals, ancestors, natural objects like mountains, rivers, stars, planets, the sun and moon, all figured into the speculations and rituals of the humans who have inhabited Earth for countless generations.  Even our predecessors, the Neanderthals had burial customs that may have had a religious meaning.

But since the Age of Enlightenment the elite of our civilization has told us that God is dead.  But by that they mean that he never existed in the first place.  And within our lifetimes organized efforts have been put in place to stamp out belief in God.  The Soviets did everything they could to enforce atheism throughout the Soviet Union and the satellite nations that they controlled.  The modern academy inculcates a hatred of Christianity that borders on the monomaniacal.  And the LGBTQ mafia and their government allies confront and persecute any traces of orthodox Christianity wherever they can.

So, it is no wonder that church attendance is plummeting and surveys polling religious belief show a growing trend toward atheism among the young.  Sensing their ascendancy, the Left now asserts that religion and specifically Christianity has been discredited and will soon disappear, being completely displaced by the godless social justice cult that they adhere to.  And as if to prove their mastery of religion they now claim to be able to observe on brain scans the phenomenon which believers experience when communing with God in prayer.  From this scientific result they deduce that humans are confusing a natural neurological phenomenon with a supernatural experience.

This is the attack on the faithful from without.  At the same time, forces within the religious community are also wreaking havoc on the position of religion.  The monstrous horror that is the Catholic Priest Pedophile outrage has done more to discredit the Church than anything its enemies could have ever hoped to do.  I include in this of course the cover up of this horror by the complicit Church hierarchy which only serves to hammer home that the Roman Catholic Church has ceased to represent the traditional religious views of its hundreds of millions of adherents.  And the other Christian denominations to a greater or lesser extent have also lost much of their legitimacy through advocating almost exclusively a message of social justice and adopting a spirit of “tolerance” that effectively eliminates the tenets of their faiths.

I don’t paint a rosy picture.  And I don’t intend to.  Because I don’t have to.  Belief in God is not a delicate thing that has to be nurtured.  The need for God is one of the fundamental psychological needs of the human mind.  What has to be done is eliminate the mistaken information that confuses the minds of people.

As an example, the problem of pain.  Countless people have wrestled with the idea that somehow God could eliminate pain and suffering but chooses not to.  When confronted by the reality of innocent children suffering and dying from agonizing medical conditions or through brutal cruelty, they deny the reality of a loving God who would allow such things.

I have thought about this often myself.  The paradox is that of pure goodness and omnipotence juxtaposed with unjust suffering.  As an answer I’ve heard that free will prevents God from stopping evil men from inflicting pain on the innocent.  Of course, this doesn’t explain why natural disasters are allowed to occur.  So, we are stuck with a paradox.  But the answer is simpler.  How do we know the limits of what God can and can’t do?  If you read doctrine of the various churches, they state that God is omnipotent.  Well, what does that mean?  Human beings have no experience of any absolute.  We live in a world that we interpret with our senses and our very limited brain.  God may be so powerful that we cannot even fathom what he is capable of but that doesn’t mean he can control every drop of rain and every quake of the Earth.  It is my belief that the concept of omnipotence is the major stumbling block to belief in God.  Omnipotence sets up this idea of a game that’s rigged against us for no reason.  That is the problem that I think needs to be removed.

But what do we know about God?  What is clear from scripture is that God loves us.  That he says over and over again.

And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.

1 John 4:16

So, if God loves us, he does not want us to suffer.  If nevertheless we do suffer innocently then it’s because it can’t be prevented.  To me that’s clear.  Whether that means there is a malevolence like the devil or a cold lifeless random universe outside of God’s purview then that’s what there is.  But I don’t have to understand everything.  I just need to know that I’ve got someone out there who cares for me and mine.  And who has interceded to provide help and knowledge and maybe even tip the scales a little in our favor whenever he can.

To me that’s the nature of a personal God.  He is a father to us and we have some of His spirit in us too.  And that’s not all that different from feeling the influence of the parents and grandparents that raised us and taught us and gave us understanding when we needed it.  And that is like the ancestors who passed along the laws that we live by.  God’s spirit allowed them to see how his people must live and so they wrote down these laws and provided the leadership needed to teach the people how to live.

Today many people will say that all of this can occur without God existing, that a tribe will coalesce around a leader whose mind naturally resonates to the needs of his people and will formulate the laws they need to thrive.  I know no way to prove otherwise.  But that is unimportant to me.  I do not seek to convince anyone.  I believe that there is a force in this world that impels us to do good.  And what seems like a proof of its existence is that it works against the flow of the world, the flow of which, if it does not actually work to achieve evil at the very least is completely unaffected by the suffering of humanity.  Countless stories exist of individuals laying down their lives to save a stranger from harm.  This impulse is a direct contradiction of animal nature which except in the case of parental love would put self-preservation ahead of any other consideration.

God’s exact nature can only be inferred by His effect on those that experience Him.  But I think that where genuine communion is experienced the effect is remarkably positive on the individual involved and even for the surrounding community.

The problem we are experiencing today is the lack of actual Christians in the churches.  Many of the leaders of the churches are not Christians.  They do not actually believe in God and their congregants sense this and are confused and angered by the hypocrisy.  And for the young this is amplified by the atheists that they meet up with in school and elsewhere that ridicule faith and accuse it of bigotry.  These young people are under enormous pressure to denounce Christian morality in order to avoid condemnation by the LGBTQ gatekeepers in school and the workplace.

But the first step is to re-establish the existence of God.  That takes two things.  First, convince yourself that there is no logical reason that precludes His existence.  That I’ve tried to provide above.  Then find belief in God within yourself.  That you have to find yourself.  But it’s definitely something that should be explored.  As I stated earlier there is a strong urge in humans to find the force in the universe that resonates with our happiness.  If you find a quiet spot and look inside yourself you might be surprised what you find.  Start out by not calling it God.  Start out by looking inside yourself to see what’s there.  Then take it from there.

 

Betelgeuse, Betelgeuse, Betelgeuse!

Forgive the jocularity but Alpha Orionis (aka Betelgeuse) is of course of great interest at Orion’s Cold Fire.  Sporting such an alarmist title as “Is Betelgeuse About To Explode?” I should condemn this article but as a general interest essay and coming around the time of the Star of the Magi I felt I should link to it.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/startswithabang/2019/12/25/is-betelgeuse-about-to-explode/#69d9c21d47bf