Spock-ology, or Spock logic: Things I’ve learned from Spock.

No surprise I’d write about this.

Space,the final frontier. And Spock, the final word on life and logic.

Let’s dive right in.

1. Insufficient facts always invite danger. True, true and true. Insufficient data lead to me a more disasters when it comes to social interaction. Insufficient data about people. Insufficient data about visas ( no matter how much research goes into it). Insufficient data on the nature of human relationships. insufficient data leading to horrible judgement of character. I could go on and on all day, but I won’t.

2. In critical moments, men see exactly what they want to see: This might be stepping a little bit on Oscar Wilde’s defence against the La Bouchere trial in 1890, but it’s true and I might as well get a t-shirt made. Who said that was the sign of elegance? Ah yes, Brian Cox. Conformational bias. Often, I’ve seen only what I’ve wanted to see and ended up half conscious in the middle of the night while trying to find the bathroom switch or crying while getting to know the loo better. I don’t need to cite more examples.

3. (This one is from Arthur Conan Doyle/Sherlock Holmes, but i want to put it in here anyway) When you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.  Amen to that.

4. The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one: Completely with Spock when it comes to political or social things, but when it comes to everyday life I’m not really going to get the keychain or the mug. Sometimes, I ( and a lot of other people) don’t put ourselves first as often as we should. Do things for yourself once in a while, drop your plans with whoever and take a nice long drive, switch off your phone and read your favourite book or go for a long walk in the rain, make some hot cocoa and ask your best friend over. Or just go to the beach and look at the sunset with nobody but a Long Island Ice Tea.

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Sometimes, it’s just enough to take a deep breath and think about how wonderful it is that your life is only about you and nobody else. Your life is yours and yours alone.

Image of Spock courtesy of Google.

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My beef with censorship

I’m in india right now, visiting the old family.

Censorship is ridiculous everywhere obviously, ( remember the ban on certain kinds on porn in the UK, all directed towards women? Shocking, I know).

Things that are censored here don’t even make any sense. Wrote a couple of strongly worded letters to the Censorship board and a few channels, I’m pretty sure they’re going to end up in the kitty litter.

It just seems like they gave a bunch of words to some idiots who bought their first dictionaries on their first day and they got to work. Horribly. A six year old with a copy of Green Eggs and Ham could have done a better job.

Here’s a list of things they censored, which makes me want to reach into their throats and pull out their voice boxes. Ain’t gonna happen, but a girl can dream.

1. Boobs: It’s censored when it means what it means, for lack of a better word I’m gonna put mammary glands here, but it’s also censored when it comes to terms like ‘Booby trap’, or ‘you’re a boob.” Half the sentences can’t be heard or read in the subtitles, so all I hear are a bunch of people stuck in a tunnel with rubbish cell phone coverage.

Oh, and sometimes, they’re replaced with “breasts”. People who can walk and talk at the same time wouldn’t take too much time to figure out they’re synonyms.

2. Nipples: censored when it comes to men and women. Why is that a horrible word? Doesn’t everyone know they exist? And, more importantly, the more they censor that word the more they make gullible ones ( men and women) think they should be ashamed of saying them or acknowledging they exist. It’s like the Pasta fairy- the Pastafarians?Oh no no, the Spaghetti monster. That’s right. Some of em who aren’t quite in their right minds worship this thing.

If that can be around, so can nipples. It’s ridiculous censoring one and taking the other seriously as a religion.

3. 3. Sex/sexy.:The latter isn’t censored as much as the former, go figure, but yeah it’s muted and the subtitles say “pretty” or “beautiful”. This is prime time TV I know, and I don’t know how many 13 year olds watch Friends or The Big Bang Theory, but that is a word they already know ( and I ain’t talking about the kids from South Park). Parents, they know. You think they don’t, but they know. Ask ’em, and they’ll look at the wall behind your head or at their feet, or they won’t deny it. Either way, they know.

4. Butt: Often censored completely ( audio and subtitles) and sometimes replaced with ass.

I’m probably going to write another strongly worded letter before I take off even though I know it’ll be used as recycled paper to print on or actual catnip, but I’m going to do it anyway.

Ah, and they censor alcohol labels. Kids know they’re not orange juice.

Wake up, parents. And tell the censorship board to come back to 2015 from their 1876 desks.

If you’ve got anything to add to the list, give us a shout.

And yes, I actually do have a beef with the censorship board here. Eating cows is taboo, just like saying some words on this list or more that they’re going to come up with by picking some out of a goldfish bowl.

All images courtesy of google.

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A breakdown of the Higgs boson particle and what we can expect from CERN next

I’m going to go into the facts and the technical bits first, but what I really want to do is breakdown the Higgs boson for someone who doesn’t have an astrophysics degree or even a functional knowledge of the subject. I don’t have the degree, but I’ve found that I can find my way around in the sky while getting lost walking down the street from where I live. I’m going to use my amateur knowledge on this subject to make it easier to understand than explaining why anyone with the last name Kardashian is famous and/or remotely relevant.

I really, really liked Brian Cox and Jeff Forshaw’s Why does E=mc²? and what it did for me. It helped me understand the theory of General Relativity ( the one that Einstein wrote, not the archaic one that Aristotelian physics took a jab at; I mean it was something considering he published it in 348 BCE but he wasn’t a fan of heliocentrism, so I’m not buying his T-shirt). So, back to Brian Cox and Jeff Foreshaw, they wrote a book that explains the theory of General Relativity in beautiful, simple language that an amateur like me could understand. Incidentally, it’s worth checking out their other co-authored book, The Quantum Universe: Everything That Can Happen Does Happen.

So after I lay out the facts, I’m going to attempt to explain the Higgs boson in a simple, non-migraine causing way. I’m no Brian Cox for sure, but I’m going to try. I’m just as close to getting to where CERN astrophysicists are as I am to starring in the sequel to Frozen. ( Note, my mum made me watch the thing and I’m probably going to need therapy).

i’m going to try and make it so easy that you don’t have to use any of the words mentioned above to explain the Higgs boson. Although if you want to, that’s a completely different matter.

Anyway. Sleeves rolled up.

The facts and the pesky little technical bits

It seems weird at first, but the discovery of the Higgs boson completes and leaves gaps in the Standard Model of Physics. In 2012, the ‘discovery’ of the Higgs boson was an achievement alright, one of the greatest accomplishments of human civilisation ( which makes up for less impressive products of the human race such as Eat, Pray, Love, Catholic nuns teaching science ( true story), the Teletubbies, Justin Bieber and the United Nations Security Council).

The discovery of a particle in the mass region 126 GeV meant that CERN found a Higgs like boson ( because that’s the average predicted mass of the Higgs), but Run 2 of the Large Hadron Collider which just started this year will be able to tell if that particle is the Higgs boson predicted by the Standard model of Physics or if it falls beyond the Standard model. There were a few posts and news articles lamenting the death of the Standard model, but I think that it’s progress whether the Higgs boson falls within or outside of the Standard model. Process of elimination, see?

 

So run 1 yielded great results for science and for the Standard model, but run 2 at CERN is aimed at putting the pieces of the supersymmetry theory together, y eureka! Standard model explained and extended by supersymmetry. There are a few glitches that CERN has pointed out though, including the rather problematic issue of pinning down the exact mass of the Higgs boson and explaining why it is so light, whereas in theory, its interaction with other particles in the Higgs field would make it considerably heavier. Except, in new collisions in the LHC, if particles predicted by super-symettry do show up, they would cancel out the remaining mass of the Higgs, making a light Higgs boson possible.

The original CERN on super-symmetry article explains the whole thing in an exponentially elegant way, so definitely gotta read that one if we’re to understand the way we make sense of the physical universe.

Erm….What? 

To some of you who might wonder ( and to those who aren’t, I apologise for explaining stuff you already know), and to some of whom I’ve seen trying to pick out India in a map of North America; a tradition started by Christopher Columbus, the Standard model is not an EU dress size. I’m going to try and break it down ( pun intended).

Brian Cox very eloquently explains the analogy that scientists at the time gave to Margaret Thatcher in 1986, if I’m not wrong, gotta look it up, but they basically said that the Higgs boson is like a famous person who enters a room, where the entire room and the people in it make up the Higgs field. When that famous or popular person ( they cited Thatcher as an example, shockingly :P) enters the room, everyone is drawn to them and there is a huddle around that person. That’s like the Higgs boson, it gives other particles mass by drawing them closer and interacting with them.

That’s as eloquent as you can get, but I’d like to take a stab at another one, which I’m sure will be  along the lines of what Justin Bieber is to the Black Rebel Motorcycle Club.

The explanation can be found in many different ways that are more often than not staring at you in the face. For instance, AA would be the Higgs boson for people who remember the alphabet as starting with A for Absinthe, B for Bourbon , C for Chardonnay…you get the idea. Doctor Who would be the Higgs boson for Whovians, and Who-Con would be like the Higgs field I suppose. I’d like to think that the Higgs boson is eloquently complicated but simple enough to understand through everyday analogies; drawing on the one that Brian Cox cites, obviously.

I don’t know if that makes any sense.

But I hope that makes things a lot less obscure than they were before you read this.

Images courtesy of Google, Tumblr and dreamstime.com

I’m off.

G.

 

 

An argument against Nationalism. Goes down well with Eggs Benedict.

Again, not really. That was just an excuse to mention the name Benedict. And this time I’ll be talking about Anderson, not Cumberbatch. Still, I did get his name in the title.

Now then, about that pesky little thing called Nationalism .

I had a classmate in high school who had an insane thing for guys in the army, navy or air force. It didn’t matter which country they were from or if they could do up their shoelaces without a manual. She’d go for anyone in a uniform. Back then I thought it was weird, but now I can see where it comes from. I can see how it plays with people’s minds and push countries to do things that a lot of us don’t understand. It’s responsible for launching a thousand ships ( not because of anyone named Helen), deploying hundreds of men to barren wastelands on the other side of the world to engage in imaginary wars and accidentally shooting little kids dragging pails of water back to their families. it instills a sense of pride in people (which I and a lot of others consider false, but do what you like with it), and as a rather proud liberal leftie type, I want people to do exactly what they like if it makes them happy. Jump off of cupboards while playing Captain America, buy an Aston Martin before your fortieth birthday, believe that fairies live in trees and leave cookies for em at night, start your day by having a look at the astrology section of the newspaper, stand up anytime your national anthem is played, what have you. People should be allowed to do whatever they like.

As long as it doesn’t influence public legislation .

Religion is pretty high up on that list too, (in case you hadn’t noticed yet), but I’ll get to that one later. it’s standing in line alright, but I’ve got to deal with the thing that’s slammed up against the glass window at my counter.

Where does Nationalism come from?

I don’t know if this is coming from years of reading and dissecting books, essays, poems and basically anything that was written down (except menus perhaps) mostly by people who are no longer alive, but i’d like to think that nationalism evolved from a need to protect primordial human social groups. The gregarious nature of human beings evolved into nationalism on a larger level, but it obviously took centuries. Living in groups protected small social units from predators and the forces of nature, allowed them to reproduce enough to keep the species alive, and came with the bonus of evolving, mutating and weeding out genes and traits unfavourable to the progress of humanity.

Unfortunately, one of them was nationalism. Obviously, nationalism was born in the period before civilisation, but learned how to walk when countries were formed, borders drawn and empires and kingdoms were built. I suppose you could mark it down to the build up to the first World War, the opening act, with the actual band coming on stage during World War II. It makes you believe you have a connection with the people you happen to live around , by absolute events of chance, and it tells you that other such groups are not as well off as yours. It starts from villages and cities and then slowly builds its way up to the country and in some unfortunate cases, nations themselves.

At this point I’m going to add an asterisk and a footnote, just like you do when you’ve run out of room on exam papers. I see many hands in the air and I know what you’re going to ask me. It’s something that people struggle to understand and come to terms with even today, and it could be just about anyone from the milkman who comes in at five every morning and makes enough of a ruckus to wake you up, to your rather confused parents with knitted eyebrows staring at you across the table and wondering if that Masters in Literature was a mistake, or even your local MP who hands out free bottles of Glenfiddich to anyone who votes for him.

There is a difference between nation and country, but they’re both arbitrarily defined if you look at them individually. Countries only have borders because someone was asked to draw them. Australia chose to stick with geometry and share perfectly square or rectangular pieces of chocolate to all the kids playing on their street, India and Pakistan have a rather famous story about their borders being based on the imaginary (yes, I said imaginary) Radcliffe line, and Mexico and Texas fell out; tired of an on and off relationship and broke up for good. A country is a political entity, which can apparently be defined based on just about anything, but a nation is a cultural and socio-political concept.

Being part of a nation means getting everyone who speaks the same language, or subscribes to the same set of religious beliefs, who’ve got the same royal family (I’m looking at you, Commonwealth), to be on your team. Everyone else is just supposed to be pummelled to death on the field while you get a golden cup for sticking together. In essence, that’s why soccer matches draw hooligans with multicoloured hair who scream and yell and paint their bodies with their national flags, and this is why Joe Public wants to prove himself as a man and as a good _____ (insert nationality here) by pulling a trigger on a person he has been conditioned to hate. Basically, Uncle Sam is like Santa Claus for adults, except nobody believes that he isn’t real.

Let’s look at good old Benedict Anderson now, whose last name often becomes Arnold to Presidents, Eurovision, Korean pop stars and that little kid who wears a flag on his lapel and looks at you like you’ve just suggested that two and two equal a tomato.

Here’s a direct quote from the book, thank Google and proceed to read it very  carefully.

“It is imagined because the members of even the smallest nation will never know most of their fellow-members, meet them, or even hear of them, yet in the minds of each lives the image of their communion. Renan referred to this imagining in his suavely back-handed way when he wrote that ‘Or l’essence d’une nation est que tons les individus aient beaucoup de choses en commun, et aussi que tous aient oublié bien des choses.” With a certain ferocity Gellner makes a comparable point when he rules that ‘Nationalism is not the awakening of nations to self-consciousness: it invents nations where they do not exist.’ The drawback to this formulation, however, is that Gellner is so anxious to show that nationalism masquerades under false pretences that he assimilates ‘invention’ to ‘fabrication’ and ‘falsity’, rather than to ‘imagining’ and ‘creation’. In this way he implies that ‘true’ communities exist which can be advantageously juxtaposed to nations. In fact, all communities larger than primordial villages of face-to-face contact (and perhaps even these) are imagined. Communities are to be distinguished, not by their falsity/genuineness, but by the style in which they are imagined. Javanese villagers have always known that they are connected to people they have never seen, but these ties were once imagined particularistically-as indefinitely stretchable nets of kinship and clientship. Until quite recently, the Javanese language had no word meaning the abstraction ‘society.’ We may today think of the French aristocracy of the ancien régime as a class; but surely it was imagined this way only very late. To the question ‘Who is the ‘Comte de X?’ the normal answer would have been, not ‘a member of the aristocracy,’ but ‘the lord of X, ‘the uncle of the Baronne de Y,’or ‘a client of the Duc de Z.’

I wanted to highlight that in red, but it would seem I haven’t quite figured it out, so we’ll leave that one for later. This is the equivalent of my mum learning how to use the internet. When she first got her hands on a computer and learned how to send (and I use the term loosely) emails, the first four would always be blank. And if she’d scrolled down the page, she’d panic because she thought the email she’d been writing for the last 30 minutes with a word count rivalling a novella had been lost.

Moving on.

Perhaps it is premature of me to say that nationalism is the only reason why wars are fought and why some people spend their twenty fifth birthday in a small urn on their mothers’ mantles rather than at the local pub doing Jaeger bombs with their friends. I’m not saying that’s the only alternative to enlisting in the armed forces, I’m just saying that nobody should be either compelled or brainwashed to fight a battle that isn’t even theirs in the first place. It’s between two world leaders and two imaginary, abstract concepts that have unfortunately manifested and spread through every country you can think of like MRSA.

In my opinion, it’s a combination of factors that lead to war and as much as I don’t like labels, I will count myself as a hippie when I say nationalism and war are the most uncivilised ideas that ever existed in the very short time that human beings have been on this pale blue dot. I don’t think civilians should be taught to hate other countries with or without reason, I don’t think men and women in the armed forces are to be admired- I feel sorry for them because they’ve been brainwashed and that there’s nothing me or anyone else can do to make them see that setting the table with your significant other is a better use of your time than lying flat in a foxhole with lice and bugs in your hair, fighting a war that isn’t really anyone’s.

Yes, I know what they say. No atheists in foxholes.

I’d like to hope there won’t be any foxholes in the decades to come, but I’ll be sitting on someone’s mantle and judging people who use those fake blue cigarettes and kid themselves that they’re going to live a little longer because their smoke lights up.

Nationalism equals anti immigration policies equals mad, angry crowds of civilians and armed forces killing just about anyone equals… a good number of things.

But come to think of it, as nationalism will play a rather large role in the extinction of the human race, I’m rooting for it.

The Earth would do marvellously well without us on it. Well, before we’ve learned everything there is about space, black holes, the space time fabric and the long standing petition I’ve been meaning to hand out that will posthomously knight Oscar Wilde.

That’s all going to be in the future. For now, I’m just going to put the quill down.

All images courtesy of Google.

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