Thursday, March 29, 2007

Bibliophilia

I collect, read, and, unfortunately, occasionally have to move, books. Two-week summer vacations at the beach as a child were chances to max out the number of books I could take on loan from the library, and see how quickly I could finish them. With the advent of someone paying me to learn, instead of the other way around, I began to collect. Some I collect to re-read. Many I collect due to nostalgia about all those weeks at the beach, or the late nights at home, trying to hide my reading light from my parents, but some I collect so that I may foist them upon others who come to visit. And there are those that I still plan to read.

The collection is growing. I have a number of bookcases, no two the same. Books are packed two-deep, both height and depth, and with little organization, making the occasional foisting-upon a bit of a challenge. There are several good, large, used-books stores in the Bay Area, one fatally within walking distance of my apartment. No shelves have died quite yet, but some are obviously under duress. Managing this collection took a great leap forward this past Fall, when I finally obtained some cataloging software (Readerware) and spent a weekend scanning all my ISBNs, although I do have one shelf dedicated to those books too old or too odd to yield up their identity via a handy set of 11 digits. However, this only solved a part of my problem. When I am at home, I can near instantaneously tell you whether or not I have a particular book. But I can't take advantage of this when at a book store. I've done pretty well so far on memory alone, but I do have a few duplicates.

As of last night, my solution is nearly complete. One of my coworkers tipped me off about LibraryThing, and I have to admit, they have done a good job. It was fairly trivial to import my Readerware database, and as of this morning, it has resolved all the uploaded ISBNs. My collection is now online. And they have a page for mobile users. I'm going to need to find a new way to exercise my memory.





Friday, January 26, 2007

Misplaced New Englanders of the World, Unite!

I was wandering about the cafe today, when someone next to me stopped and noticed the sandwich I was assembling...

Other: "Is that mozarella?"
Me: "Yes"
Other: "Where did you find that?"
Me: "Over by the soup bar; I'm re-creating an Au Bon Pain sandwich."
Other: "Did you live in Boston?"
Me: "Why yes..."
I've never been able to find a shop around here that makes a fresh mozarella, tomato, and pesto sandwich, so I was thrilled to recently discover that the cafe is stocking mozarella by the deli/soup bar, while also wondering just how long I hadn't noticed. Back in the day, when I lived in Inman Square, this was one of my staple foods (the sandwich, that is) for the weekend treks into the city proper. It's not Boston, but it is a connection...

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Bubbles

(obviously, I had myself figured in my first post... maybe)

Hypothesis
: The Big Bang was a local phenomenon

I'm not a cosmologist, and I haven't taken a physics course in over a decade. What follows could very well be utter dreck. But I find the obsession with beginnings and endings annoying, and boundary conditions artificial.

It's commonly accepted that our universe is expanding, and perhaps surprisingly, that the rate of expansion is increasing. One conclusion drawn from this is that, if the Big Bang was the beginning, then the heat death of the universe is the end; the expansion continues until the universe is filled with a homogeneous low level of energy.

So now we have a beginning and an end. I can almost accept the latter, but how the former came about remains a matter of metaphysics.

Postulate: There exists a super universe, of infinite volume and with infinite energy, of which our universe is just one portion.

Like the theorized terminal of our own universe, this super universe with its infinite energy is also essentially in a state of heat death. However, if you were to focus on any particular area with sufficient detail, you'd find that the near homogeneous dispersion of energy is just that: near. That it is possible that at any point there is some probability that the level of energy present is greater or lesser than at points around it. These differentials ebb and flow, appearing and then smoothing out. Most of the time.

Once in a while the positive differential becomes great enough that it draws further energy into it faster than it can dissipate; the process is self-reinforcing, emptying its surroundings, creating a hole in the homogeneity. The density of this point increases with its appetite. At some point, the energy density crosses a threshold... and (big) bang! The energy is expelled. A new universe comes into being within the super universe. As it rushes outward, that energy surrounding the hole but not consumed before the ignition exerts its own pull, yielding accelerated expansion.

Well, that's pat. And probably rubbish. But let's run with it.

The Meaning of Infinity

I read a Scientific American article that described something like the situation above, although I don't recall if they derived it in quite the same way. The basis of the article was that, while our own universe at a particular time has a definite volume and finite amount of energy, there is all that other energy out there, and some of it is going through similar contraction and expansion. Given a particular volume and amount of energy, you can calculate the set of all possible distributions of the energy within the volume. Now, that is a large number. But it's not infinite.

Given our infinite super universe, we'll also have an infinite number of these expanding, normal, universes. Given a finite set of configurations that the energy can be in each of these universes, the authors then proceed to demonstrate how to calculate the probability that at a given distance, my identical twin in another universe is writing this exact same blog post in his universe.

And it's not just him, but an infinite number of twins. Now, the distances needed to come up with any reasonable probability (i.e. something I'd be willing to bet on) of this occurring are also quite large. But not infinite. But it's more than that... if you are willing to swallow the above and believe that it is possible, then you also need to accept that it is real and definite. There is an infinite number of me out there, at this same exact moment, placing this period. But also an infinite number that placed that period right before, or right after. Or at any time, ever. And there's an infinite number of you (and yes, I mean you, singular, not plural) reading this sentence, right now. And always has been, and will be.

Now my twins (perhaps that's no longer the right term?) and I will ponder the even larger set of not-quite-me's. Where and when I turned right in my universe, they turned left. Every possible fork followed, at all times. The what-might-have-been's of my universe are in some other one. And these I find more interesting than my twins, because I don't know what happened after that. Is one fork "better" than another?

Finally, a conceit: that, somehow, travel is possible between these universes. That a not-quite-me could appear in my universe and reveal the outcome of the choice not taken here. Or of a choice about to be taken. If it is possible, it will happen. To some of us. I think I'd like to meet my future self, or my more extroverted self. If I'm the one to travel though, I'd let myself know that, while not always easy, my set of choices is good.

(well, there ya go)

Friday, November 12, 2004

Unnerving...

Here's a CNN link that specifically mentions my brother's unit as part of an assault.

Saturday, October 30, 2004

A more serious attempt...

This will be my third attempt at actually starting a blog. I hope it will be more successful than the others...

Anyway, a quick recap of some significant events in my life, in order to provide background for what may follow in the future:
  • My younger brother, Brian, shipped off to Iraq four weeks ago
  • I started working for Google three weeks ago
  • I finally managed to verify that I'll be able to vote next Tuesday (Support our troops! Get Bush out of office!)
There are other things I could include in that list, but not being an exhibitionist at heart, those make a good start.

As part of my job change, I'll be moving back to Silicon Valley from San Diego in the coming weeks. I'm looking forward to this, as many of my good friends are up there. I will miss the San Diego weather, though. Five years ago, when I moved out to California from Massachusetts, I railed at anyone who complained about it being cold in the Bay Area; I realize now that you do get acclimated to this weather over time, and that going back can feel harsh (it's purely in my mind, I'm sure).

That'll do for an introductory post, I guess. Perhaps future posts will be more exciting; there are certainly some topics I would be more than glad to rant about...

-Chris