Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Sliders: Not Just a Great Show...

Anyone remember that show? It had a few recognizable folks in it, namely the guy from Indiana Jones that eventually went on to play Gimili in the Lord of the Rings films.

An old friend of mine posted an update on facebook a few days ago and asked (rhetorically, I'm sure) about the relevance of Einstein's Relativity. I immediately thought of modern GPS systems, which would be almost unusable if relativisitic effects weren't accounted for, but I decided not to post a response, it was rhetorical after all.

But I kept thinking about it, my mind wondered some and I thought instead of Einstein's bastard step-child... quantum physics. Anyone not familiar with Einstein and his distaste for quantum physics should get a kick out of reading up on in, it's quite a hoot.

Part of his hatred for for the topic is the very ugly model of the universe it presents, matter popping in and out of existence, traveling backward in time, casuality circumventing processes, and most frustrating of all, an inabilty, even in theory, of knowing how an individual sub atomic particle would react in any given situation. Quantum mechanics made everthing about probabilites and statistical models. It just sucked.

He was even more bitter that it more or less got it's start after his magical equation, E=mc^2, got the world thinking about the implications of that magical equation.

During the intervening 100 years or so, lots of folks have had lots of ideas about what quantum mechanics implies about the nature of the universe we live in. One of those hypothesese used to explain some of the rather bizarre results of tests conducted about the sub-atomic world is profound... there are multiple universes.

Seriously, there are other universes, other dimensions, other versions of you and I that live in worlds very similar to our own with only the most minor of differences. How weird is that? They could make a whole show out of that concept... oh wait, they did.

So, anyway, what makes multiple universes something that most folks never think about is the fact that you can't really visit them. Can't really interact with them in any real way. They might as well not exist. It was just a clever little thought experiment used to help explain the data after all.

But then some genius out there thought if that were true then maybe we could use that infinite number of universes to our advantage after all. Build a machine that will calculate every possible outcome simply by having all those other universes get involved at the same time.

Example: One bit of information can be off in our universe and on in another universe at the same time. So we can string together all these bits (which would be atoms in an quantum computer I suppose) and each of them can outsource their extra work into another universe and they can be working at the same time in both universes. Once a solution to the problem is found the answer pops out into our universe and almost no time has been used up.

I'm sure there are those out there than can point out how awfully bad I butchered my explanation of a quantum computer, but I did my best.

Anyway, it sounds retarded I know, but nonetheless that is exactly what has happened. Quantum computers really exist now, they don't outright prove that we live in a mulitverse, but they come pretty damn close to proving it. Philosophically, this could very well be rewriting textbooks all over the world. Check out this short video on the subject below. It doesn't do the greatest job I've ever seen explaining quantum computing, but I really don't think there is an elegant way to do so. The whole topic is just very twighlight zoney.

Don't forget though folks, quantum computers will be evil too, they'll just be evil faster.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Summer's End

Hard to believe it's already mid August. It seems like just yesterday that I was jumping for joy that the winter solstice had past and the days were getting longer again. I still have a week or two before my fall semester at school begins again. As I mentioned in my last post, after mastering all there is to know regarding the cosmos and the meaning of life during my summer - look for a brand spanking new unified field theory to come your way on this page at some point during the fall. That's right Physics, you are about to get owned.

While I'm at it, I'll be pretty well prepared to fix the world's financial problems as well, since that also promises to be one of areas of study in the coming months.

But I don't want to get too far ahead of myself, I promised that the other book I read last weekend would get a mention here as well, and I don't intend to disappoint.

House of Suns by Alastair Reynolds.

Best. Book. Ever.

This is one of those books that you just can't do justice to with a quick synopsis. In fact, I seriously doubt I would have purchased this thing if Mr. Alastair wasn't already my favorite writer. The blurb inside the jacket can't do much to explain how great this is.

What really happens in this story? I'll just say that a group of near immortals meet for a family reunion and are the victims of mass murder. What follows that is 450 pages of awesome.

As always, this is a science fiction story, don't read this thing and get mad because the characters are whizzing around in spaceships and killer robots are on the loose - oh yea, looks like Mr. Reynolds agrees with me regarding evil robots - if you don't like reading that sort of stuff then don't read this book.

But if you are a fan of awesome, then please read. It'll change your life.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Finally! I've Read Some Books

Life is busy as can be of late. I've spent the summer studying the stars and the nature of human existence respectively (via an astronomy and philosophy course). Once my summer semester was over it was time to hit the books. I can't recall the last time I went so long without reading a book. So I read two over my first weekend off since May.

Anything superheroish is going to appeal to me, I picked up The Last Days of Krypton during my trip to the beach earlier this year when it was for sale for $6 at Books a Million. I read the first half at the beach and then just ran out of time.

The fact that I was able to put the book down like that is a testament of how underwhelmed I was when I started reading. I don't think I've read any of Mr. Anderson's novels before, and I've wanted to for a while - as I mentioned before, my love of anything affiliated with superheros, my obvious fascination with sci-fi... how could this go wrong?

I think the real mistake was trying to shoehorn every darn piece of superman lore ever written into the book. 70 some-odd years of history has made the destruction of Krypton a bit of a narrative mess. As the preface states, at one time or another it exploded, its sun went nova or it was destroyed by Brainiac. Kandor gets shrunk and stuffed into a bottle, Argo city gets shot into space. Then we got Zod and the phantom zone.

In the end, this book appears to be a rather noble effort to take a series of random stories about Krypton and weave them into a somewhat coherent whole. I applaud his effort, but it just didn't work. I finished it out of curiosity, partly because I was just unwilling to quit. I think I'll wait before I read another Kevin J. Anderson book. There are only so many chances a writer gets to make a first impression, this one could have been better. Thankfully for me... I hit gold with the next book I read.

I'll post my second review soon!