21MAR2023 – Microscopic Images – Snail Munching

Many years ago I kept snails as pets.  I remember how creepy it was listening to them munching egg shells that I gave them to help grow their shells quicker.  They are weird and interesting critters.  I once started a science fiction story where a geneticist combined the brains and tentacles of a cephalopod with the body of a giant African snail to produce a sentient creature that survives a thermonuclear war and becomes a threat to the surviving humans.  But I got bored with the story and never finished it.


World Didn’t End in 2023. Greta Thunberg Exclaims, “How Dare You!”

I think her punishment for being wrong should be for her to be put in one of those dunk tanks and let all the non-climate alarmists get five baseball pitches to try and dunk her.  With any luck she’ll drown.

ChatGTP Wants to Write Our Fiction for Us

Vox Day had a post about Clarkesworld science fiction magazine that had to shut down its submissions due to being overwhelmed by the volume of AI generated novels being submitted.  Apparently, they can’t afford the software that could automate the process of identifying and rejecting the AI generated books.

As someone currently writing a science fiction novel this is a remarkable turn of events.  Wouldn’t it be something if the artificial authors produce a better product than the organic ones!  And I don’t mean more grammatical, but more creative and entertaining.  So, if the algorithm blends 60% Heinlein with 20% Dickens and 20% Hemingway would it produce the greatest science fiction story of all time or an abomination not fit for human consumption?

In one sense I’m lucky.  I’ve read that ChatGTP is hopelessly woke so my current story about a revolt against an authoritarian Deep State cabal is impossible for ChatGTP to write.  If it attempted such a thing it would blow out every circuit in its server farm.

But just thinking about this whole Frankensteinian situation is amusing.  I imagine Dr. Morbius from Forbidden Planet describing to a visiting interstellar fiction author the ability of the Krell machine to write sci-fi stories, “You see these row after row of instruments?  Each one represents an increase by a factor of ten the number of cybernetic neurons figuring out plot details.  It’s the number ten raised literally to the power of infinity of cliffhanger chapter endings and hypercompetent heroes saying something self-serving.”

But then his guest would remind him of monsters from the id, “Yes Morbius, but without the ability reflect reality; without the ability to distinguish male characters from female characters and to allow non-white characters to have normal human flaws it will all quickly devolve into unreadable goo.”

To which Morbius would reply, “Of course, the mindless primitive, why didn’t I see it?  Hypersensitive, politically correct story lines are stultifyingly boring.  Quick, son, press down this lever and be one hundred million miles away before it blows.  I’ve set ChatGTP to overdrive and when that amount of drivel piles up the result will be a literary black hole that will render all of science fiction lifeless within fifty parsecs.”

Well, I wonder how all of this will impact self-publishing at places like Amazon.  Will even their servers be able to handle the surge in output from ChatGTP filling up the world’s server farms with romance and porn novels about super-smart super-attractive girl-bosses who save the known universe.

Heaven, help us.

Of Chatbots and Cheese

So, as I was saying yesterday, the kids and the grandkids came over.  And Camera Girl killed the fatted calf, cooked it and then afterward served cake and ice cream to the stuffed survivors.  I skipped all the meatballs and sauce and made my self three sandwiches; a Reuben, a roast beef, provolone with mayo on “peasant bread” and a free form that included mustard, corned beef, lettuce and sweet gherkins on French bread; all washed down with hot coffee.  Suffice it to say I ate too much but have no regrets about it.  Later on, I had way too much vanilla ice cream and pound cake.  About that I do have regrets.  But c’est la guerre.

Today I faced the new day feeling bilious and groggy.  But all this warm weather of late inspired us to head for the state park for a long walk in the woods.  Seriously, I really want to thank whatever climatic forces are responsible for this winter’s mild weather.  I hereby agree to whatever destruction of the planet occurs and with my blessings.  Walking in the middle of February through this park without snowshoes is an innovation that is well worth finishing off those poor devils living at the Equator.  And since our Lizard Overlords are bringing all those people here anyway, at least I can have the benefits of a warmer climate here in Dunwich without feeling bad about it.  So, after the strengthening and revivifying effects of our hike I am restored to health and looking forward to enjoying the rest of this holiday weekend.

During the festivities yesterday I was able to talk with my eldest grandson and he told me he managed to get on the Dean’s List at the college where he is studying computer science.  Apparently, that requires a 4.0 grade point average.  I was impressed.  He is a lot like me.  Which means that studying for any subject in which he hasn’t any interest, is very difficult.  So that means he is displaying considerable discipline.  I attribute this to his parents spending a lot of time stressing the need for conscientiousness.  So, I am impressed with them too.

We discussed the recent trends in computer science.  We both got a laugh out of the recent vicissitudes of the “metaverse.”  The fact that the geniuses at Facebook didn’t realize that people don’t want to walk around wearing virtual reality headsets all the time is ridiculous.  After all, it’s one thing to wear a headset while flying an F-16.  There it’s a matter of life and death.  But in almost any other instance real life is superior to virtual life.  Think about it.  I can go into a field and throw a real baseball around with my grandsons.  Or we can all stand around wearing VR headsets and pretend to throw around a baseball.  That is so lame as to even defy comparison to other lame things.

Then we talked about artificial intelligence and of course ChatGPT.  He was generally very excited, not about the present chatbots, but rather about the potential in the near future.  Apparently, the level of sophistication is still growing quickly and whereas currently the behavior merely mimics human thought he was enthusiastic about it becoming closer to human creativity over time.  I warned him that AI’s ability to replace humans in the workforce might someday even allow it to replace computer scientists and he ruefully agreed the potential is there.

It was a very interesting conversation.  I still think of artificial intelligence as a tool.  If I let a chatbot write an essay for me, I’d use the output as a framework from which I’d insert the creative ideas that I wanted to make.  Facts and figures and even sententious musings aren’t thinking.  They’re scenery.  You have to have a point of view.  Sure, you can tell a chatbot the point you’re making but it still sounds like a Wikipedia entry.  I defy a chatbot to rise to my level of outrage.  And since my point of view is currently algorithmically forbidden to chatbots, by definition, I am immune from their competition.

Afterward, Camera Girl joined with the kids going to a middle school theatrical performance and Princess Sack of Potatoes saw her first live play.  And she was enthralled.  Camera Girl just watched her reactions to the performance throughout and said it was amazing.

And I thought, how is an algorithm going to mimic that?  An intelligent and emotional child “learning” about theater; how will the computer scientists mimic that?  The human brain only has about ninety billion neurons.  I’m sure supercomputers can multiply that number of memory slots almost infinitely.  But can we even define what it means to be a human being.  I’m not sure we currently can.  I’m not even sure we’ll ever be able to.  Lots of people are convinced that consciousness is just a level of complexity.  Once we have umpty-ump petaflops of computing power HAL will wake up and take over the world.  I’m far from sure that’s true.  It’s fun to use in science fiction stories but reality may not oblige us.  How do you program the point of view of a four-year-old girl watching a live play for the first time?  Where’s the slider for enthralled?

So, despite living in the pall of the East Palestine mushroom cloud and the other outrages that the Biden dismantling of America subjects us to, I’ve found fresh evidence that human life still contains transcendent beauty.  We are much, much more than the sum of our neurons and other cellular components.  We are capable of fascinating and remarkable behaviors.  Maybe we’re not quite obsolete yet.  Sure, the Lizard Overlords may take away our modern conveniences like gas and oil and force us back into a pre-industrial lifestyle but it will still be as human beings and that is an amazing simulation to be a part of.

As a Life-Long Science Fiction Geek This is So Damn Cool

It looks like the modern special effects representation of the landing from Destination: Moon or some other Heinlein story.  Forget about battery cars Elon.  Do more of this.




Einstein They Ain’t

“Just the place for a Snark!” the Bellman cried,

    As he landed his crew with care;

Supporting each man on the top of the tide

    By a finger entwined in his hair.

“Just the place for a Snark! I have said it twice:

    That alone should encourage the crew.

Just the place for a Snark! I have said it thrice:

    What I tell you three times is true.”

(from “The Hunting of the Snark, An Agony in 8 Fits” by Lewis Carroll)

Sabine Hossenfelder is a German woman with a doctorate in theoretical physics and a YouTube channel full of videos that discuss all manner of scientific and engineering subjects.  Her area of research is “analog models of gravity.”  So, she’s trying to visualize things like black holes and think up tests to add to our understanding of these outlandish phenomena.  And she’s an obvious girl nerd.

What I like about her popular work (YouTube videos) is that she has no fear of exposing just how dysfunctional modern day physics has become.  From dark matter and dark energy to string theory, to futile attempts by particle physicists to invent extraneous particles and then waste untold millions of dollars proving they don’t exist, she exposes the transparent mediocrity and obvious academic make-work that these pseudoscientists are engaging in.  They are the hunters of the that altogether mythical snark.

And that brings me to this video.  Sabine chronicles the last fifty years of mythical particles that have been proposed and have failed to appear.  She describes how the creators of these unicorn particles keep them alive by moving the goal posts whenever the experiments fail to confirm their existence.  And finally, she shows how this form of “science” is basically worthless because it has no chance of asking the right questions needed to extend our knowledge.  She uses a couple of graphs with data and then the extrapolations associated with these junk science predictions to show how truly worthless this half century of make-work particle physics has been.

It is my belief that the only way to bring rigor back to theoretical physics is to use corporal punishment for failures in achieving successful experimental results.  I’m not talking about executions or amputations.  Nothing barbaric.  I’m talking about caning, possibly flogging.  No cat o’nine tails, nothing over five lashes.  Barely enough to draw blood.  All very civilized and calibrated to bring about the desired results.  And I’ll be fair.  The physicists can decide whether he’d prefer losing his tenure or being publicly lashed.  What could be fairer than that?

All kidding aside, scientific research, not only in this country but throughout the western world, has been stagnating and falling into disrepute.  In the social sciences it has degenerated into gobbledygook with the results of the majority of research papers being unreproducible.  Doctorates in sociology and psychology are now essentially worthless.  Even in the “hard” sciences like physics and chemistry but especially in pharmaceutical research progress at answering fundamental problems has ground to a halt.

So, it’s very refreshing for someone in the academic world to be out there declaring that the emperor has no clothes.  Now that’s not to say I agree with every one of her videos.  She had a presentation about hydrogen as a fuel, the conclusions of which I completely disagreed with.  But she at least lays out a lot of the facts and that allows an informed viewer to  judge her opinion based on them.  Kudos to Sabine.

On the more general front of scientific research today, all of this confirms something that has become clear.  Government money, especially in the United States has turned academia into a racket.  Research is a bottomless pit of money that funds unqualified “scientists” to waste resources without any hope of finding the results they are supposedly pursuing.  All they accomplish is creating a bureaucracy of people defending their paychecks via government grants.

Other than weapons research the United States government needs to get out of the research business.  If they want to incentivize scientific progress let them offer large monetary prizes for successful solutions to practical problems in the engineering and science realms, like the fabulous “cure for cancer” we’re always hearing is right around the corner.  Even if the results are more incremental than this at least we would stop incentivizing fraud.  Until then we will continue to hear about the latest search for the particle equivalent of the snark.

Way Too Smart for Their Own Good

I feel it’s time for another physics rant.

Somebody named Paul Sutter wrote an article in Ars Technica called “ Requiem for a string: Charting the rise and fall of a theory of everything.  String theory was supposed to explain all of physics. What went wrong?

I have some excerpts from the article that indicate the thrust of the problem with string theory.

“Like most revolutions, string theory had humble origins. It started in the 1960s as an attempt to understand the workings of the strong nuclear force, which had only recently been discovered.”

“A group of physicists took a mathematical technique developed (and later abandoned) by quantum godfather Werner Heisenberg and expanded it. In that expansion, they found the first strings—mathematical structures that repeated themselves in spacetime. Unfortunately, this proto-string theory made incorrect predictions about the nature of the strong force and also had a variety of troublesome artifacts (like the existence of tachyons, particles that only traveled faster than light). Once another theory was developed to explain the strong force—the one we use today, based on quarks and gluons—string theory faded from the scene.”

So, look at this.  They borrow a technique from someone who was extremely smart.  But it was a technique that was discarded because it doesn’t work.  They ignore the fact that it produces crazy answers and they try to nurse it along by expanding it into more dimensions and other complications.  Shades of Ptolemy’s epicycles!

“Unlike its quantum cousins, when it comes to string theory, we have no fundamental theory—we have only a set of approximation and perturbation methods. We’re not exactly sure if our approximations are good ones or if we’re way off the mark. We have perturbation techniques, but we’re not sure what we’re perturbing from. In other words, there’s no such thing as string theory, just approximations of what we hope string theory could be.”

Wow.  It’s useless and wrong and yet it lives on decade after decade.

“To be clear, our inability to understand string theory isn’t limited by experiment. Even if we could build a super-duper-collider experiment that achieved the energies necessary to unlock quantum gravity, we still wouldn’t be able to test string theory because we have no string theory. We have no mathematical model that can make reliable predictions, only approximations that we hope accurately represent the true physics. We can test those approximations, I guess, but it won’t help us determine the inner workings of the true model.”

They’re paying these people!  No one’s forcing them to pay them but they keep on paying them.

“The beams of the LHC began their first test operations in 2008 with two main science goals in mind: finding the elusive Higgs boson and finding evidence of supersymmetry.  Four years later, the Higgs was found. Supersymmetry was not. It’s now 15 years later, and there are still no signs of supersymmetry.”

Can we get our money back?

“The dearth of evidence has slaughtered so many members of the supersymmetric family that the whole idea is on very shaky ground, with physicists beginning to have conferences with titles like “Beyond Supersymmetry” and “Oh My God, I Think I Wasted My Career.””

You sure have!  And our billions in funding for this clap-trap!

“Most string theorists of the modern era don’t work on string theory directly but instead mostly on the AdS/CFT correspondence and its implications, hoping that continuing to probe that mathematical relationship will unlock some hidden insight into the workings of a theory of everything.  I wish them luck.”

I don’t!

We really need to restrict the funds available to really smart people such that only the one really smartest guy in the field is allowed to waste his whole life doing this kind of mental masturbation.  This is not physics.  It has the same relation to physics as rhythmic gymnastics has to power-lifting.  I mean should I get tenure for coming up with the new variant called string cheese theory?  Does my background in mozzarella qualify me to expound my theory that the universe is really a large amorphous blob of Italian dairy product?  I think not!

The rest of them should be forced to do this crap in their spare time if they want to when no one can see them and during working hours force them to do something that pays the electric bill.  Maybe they can get an engineering degree on the side and design quantum screw drivers or something.

Look at this quote again:

To be clear, our inability to understand string theory isn’t limited by experiment. Even if we could build a super-duper-collider experiment that achieved the energies necessary to unlock quantum gravity, we still wouldn’t be able to test string theory because we have no string theory. We have no mathematical model that can make reliable predictions, only approximations that we hope accurately represent the true physics. We can test those approximations, I guess, but it won’t help us determine the inner workings of the true model.”

These guys have been futzin’ around with this thing for fifty years and they still haven’t got a theory to justify their paychecks.  In China they would have been taken out behind the building and shot and their families would be forced to pay for the bullets they were shot with.  Here they should have been tarred and feathered and ridden out of Princeton on a rail.

Camera Girl has often told me off for being, in her words, “scholastic-asstic.”  By this she means too smart for my own good or more precisely an educated dope.  And often she is exactly right.  I wouldn’t dare tell her about this outrage to common sense because she would hit me for trying to waste her time listening to this nonsense.  She would equate it with ecclesiastical scholars  attempting to calculate the number of angels that can dance on the head of a pin.  That is if she had ever heard of that concept before, which I’m fairly certain she has not.

So instead, I’m bringing this here for the larger audience to hear.  Albert Einstein figured out relativity while working as a patent clerk.  That should be the model.  When someone figures out anti-gravity or faster than light pizza delivery then we can talk about a cushy office in the physics department at Cal Tech and maybe tenure.  But if they’re going to spend forty years of academic salary and perks for this drivel, we need to break out the Chinese model.  Who knows, maybe we can throw in the cost of the bullets for free.  After all we are reasonable people.

Trans-Planckian Problems with Hawking Radiation in Evaporating Black Holes



Good golly Miss Molly!  I was reading an article about the highest possible energies that a particle accelerator could accelerate a proton to and the author started throwing around terms like the Planck energy and the Planck distance and pretty soon it was Planck this and Planck that and Planck the other thing.  Now I dimly remembered that expressing a physical measurement in terms of its Planck equivalent was a way of normalizing the units so that the fundamental constants like the speed of light; c and the gravitational constant; G were rendered as unity in these measurements and thus the Planck units were the fundamental expressions for these concepts.  But I never remembered what sizes these Planck versions came out to.

So, I looked them up in Wikipedia (of course):


Table 1: Modern values for Planck’s original choice of quantities
Name Dimension   Value (SI units)
Planck length length (L) 1.616255(18)×10−35 m
Planck mass mass (M) 2.176434(24)×10−8 kg
Planck time time (T) 5.391247(60)×10−44 s
Planck temperature temperature (Θ) 1.416784(16)×1032 K

Now the Planck mass is a perfectly ordinary number.  10−8 kg is quite a large number compared to the mass of a proton or a neutron.  But look at the Planck time; 10−44 s or Planck temperature; 1032 K.  What exactly does 100,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 degrees K even mean?  What would the velocity of the atoms at that temperature be?  Would they be traveling at 0.99999999999999999999999999999999 of the speed of light?

So, I shake off this feeling that I’ve entered the silly season and read on.  Apparently at these Planck conditions the gravitational force becomes equivalent to the stronger forces like electromagnetism and the nuclear strong force and that allows for “interesting” effects.  Reading on into this miasma of confusing ideas I gathered that these Planck units were considered the limits of these measurements.  In other words, trying to define a time period less than 10−44 seconds was meaningless in our quantum system.  And possibly temperatures above the Planck temperature would just create micro-black holes.

Pretty soon they were talking about how evaporating black holes run into problems with these “trans-Planckian” conditions and pretty soon I was experiencing full blown transphobia.  After all, when I had first read about evaporating black holes back before fake news it had sounded kind of bogus to me.  Stephen Hawking was one of those characters from the world of science that seems to approach the edges of science fiction.  A man with a super genius intellect trapped in an almost completely disabled body who can only move a couple of his fingers and can only communicate with the world via the most painfully slow interface imaginable.  If it turns out Hawking is mistaken about evaporating blackholes I’m sure the world will cut him some slack.  Other than a few physics PhD’s that might get yanked, I’m pretty sure that the practical damages from evaporating black holes getting blown out of the water will be pretty close to 10−44 dollars.

And speaking of which have we finally found the limits of US federal spending?  If Dopey Joe Biden tries to print more than 1 Planck dollars will Washington DC be ripped right out of space time and returned to Cthulhu’s dimension where the Democrats came from?  Boy I hope so.

Guest Contributor – TomD – 10JAN2023 – A Civil Engineering Perspective

Tom | Flickr


I’m a Civil Engineer specializing in structural for most of my career. For almost all in-ground concrete installations, the nature and strength of the subgrade is more important than the strength of the concrete. Subgrade means whatever the concrete is sitting on. In other words, no matter how strong the concrete or asphalt, it isn’t any stronger than what it is bearing on.

I’ve never been associated with residential work but in commercial, government,, etc. work, testing the subgrade is very important. It should be to you too. If you’re spending a lot of money on asphalt or concrete in a non-controlled environment, for your own sake. please call a local geotech outftit, explain your circumstance, and get a proposal.

If you’re spending couple to several 10’s of thousands, please spend a couple of hundred ensuring it doesn’t fail in a year or two.