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Everything posted by Carlos

  1. I hate college

    Getting to know college and the academic world has turned into a rather sharp disappointment for myself. Every day on some level it feels as if I'm inundated by lazy, passionless students who are just placing their warm bodies in a class room so they can get a piece of paper after 4-5 years that guarantees them a job. Even amongst fellow Physics students I rarely ever have seen a spark of passion, both in undergrad and now grad school. The defining state of many students (physics included) is apathy or lethargy, with the only exception usually being students who are very punctual and good at getting things done, but otherwise have no real passion for what they are doing (this is often best exemplified in foreign physics students who study and work hard, but are almost like lifeless efficiency-bots). But even amongst the students who study and obtain good grades, I would bet that 90% of the time if they were presented with a simple physics experiment and asked to demonstrate the understanding of a concept they would fail miserably. When I read "A Brief History of Time" at age 15 I decided I wanted to get a PhD in Physics, and work as an instructor of physics at a university. That goal hasn't changed since then, but my understanding of what a university is has. What are the experiences of others on this? I can't help but to think that anywhere from 80-90% of my undergrad career was wasted on fluff courses. As an example, I completed 18 hours of Math courses to get a minor (was required 15 for physics program), but I had to take a grand total of 16 hours of Portuguese! So when I had my mind set on an E&M assignment that would require 30hours to complete, I would be distracted by the task of cutting out pictures from a magazine to make a silly poster for a Portuguese course (by the way, I can only say one or two sentences in Portuguese, we learned nothing). The most shocking waste of time is in the other majors I see. Some high school friends of mine got degrees in business or marketing, and one of them admitted to me around his Junior year that "I never do any homework". Based on the number of hours they spent per week on meaningful coursework, I can't help but think that a very large percentage of students at universities could have their degrees condensed down into a year or two of trade school courses. The conclusion I've reached then is that for the average student, college is a required waste of time in order to get a job for a company that places an intrinsic value on a scrap of paper. So for them it is little more than a social experience, and the equivalent of a four year long, 20K-40K dollar drunken vacation; and in completing it you get a beer gut, a piece of paper, and if you worked hard you will hopefully be on the same level of education you were at when you graduated from high school. Has the quality of universities and the students that attend them declined over the last 50 years? I just can't imagine today's world being built by the lifeless drones I see around me. I can't imagine--while I'm grading a scrawled, childishly written answer to a very simple question in an Astronomy lab--that the leaders of tomorrow will come from this lot of people. I will have to close here because it is time to go to my Quantum Mechanics course--a course that I would literally learn more from by skipping the professor's lectures and reading the book.
  2. Creation ex nihilo

    Yes it would have begun from a little dense seed that exploded outward, but that is a something with no possible meaning. It's not just that this dense seed exploded outwards into space; space was also part of the seed, so there was "nothing" that existed outside the seed. Somehow this primordial seed was space while it simultaneously is expanding (into what?) into nothing. Never mind that expansion presupposes a measurable extent, but only entities can have measurable extents; there isn't a distance "around" existence, distances exist within existence. There isn't even an explainable reason why it happened. So yes, it's something from nothing, because it arbitrarily states that existence appeared where there was no existence.
  3. My Latest

  4. Creation ex nihilo

    Sufficiently high energy photons of light (gamma rays) can collide to make matter antimatter particle pairs, and the process is reversible. I'm guessing this might be what you were thinking of, but it is still not "something from nothing". Photons are still entities, even if they are massless and can interact to produce entities with mass. The Big Bang theory is definitely something from nothing, and it is absurd. It is like manmade catastrophic global warming theory, in that it has absolutely no compelling observational evidence, and the theory has never offered any blind predictions for testing, yet a large number of scientists succumb to groupthink. It is rationalistic gobbledygook that begins with the presumption that it is true, and then searches for facts that match deductions from said presumption. Because there are a lot of facts in the universe, it is always easy to at least find one or two that are consistent (for example, the observation that a room gets dark when a light bulb breaks is consistent with the theory that light bulbs suck in darkness and when they break they release the stored darkness). But eventually the "theory" runs aground of stubborn facts that aren't consistent, so then they rewrite reality to keep the theory alive by piling on more arbitrary assumptions that magic-wand away the contradiction. For example, I think one of the earliest problems with the Big Bang was that the universe couldn't expand fast enough, so "Inflation theory" was invented, whereby they basically arbitrarily speculated that it could inflate preposterously fast with no testable way of measuring and verifying that this is even possible (except of course to charm the public into building absurdly expensive particle accelerators, baiting them with the hope of "spillover technology").
  5. Drawings

    Very nicely done; human faces are notoriously difficult to capture well, and you did a bang-up job!
  6. You are correct to think of the state of science of nutrition as being similar to climatology. In both cases they apparently understand well some specific mechanisms in a very narrow sense. Or to put it another way, there is understanding of some of the microprocesses in the system (whether it be human, or the climate). For example, in the human body it is known as fact that adding salt causes a small rise in blood pressure, while in the climate adding small traces of CO2 has a small perturbative effect on the temperature via the greenhouse effect. But there is apparently no rigorous understanding of how the myriad microprocesses integrate together to make the system in whole, e.g. how will a high carb and salt diet affect over a period of decades the cardiovascular system of an african american male who exercises twice a week? or, how will the steady addition of CO2 affect in net the climate of the Earth, accounting for all secondary feedback effects (clouds, water vapor, aerosols) which may not even change linearly in the concentration of CO2? There is no answer to these things, because they don't know. They barely have a narrow understanding of only some of the relevant microprocesses, much less an understanding of how the microprocesses integrate together and are interdependent. For example, it is understood that Alzheimer's is caused by misfoldings of a protein, but the precise cause and cure for this misfolding remains mysterious. While in the climate clouds and cloud formation remain poorly understood, and notoriously difficult to model. So both fields have this enormous vacuum of missing knowledge, and it gets filled by hucksters and charlatans and busybody politicians who just know what's best for us. In "Climate Science" we see politically motivated environmental fads that come and go every few decades, ranging from DDT to dying coral reefs to global warming to ozone depletion to organic food crazes and fear of genetically modified crops. In nutrition we see fad diets involving organic food crazes and fear of genetically modified crops (overlap!), Atkin's Diets, demonizing Sugar, and the latest iteration of nutrition rationalism is Paleodiet, which combines gross ignorance of anthropology with nutritional voodoo.
  7. My Knee Surgery Adventure

    typo: should read "and give me a new ACL".
  8. My Knee Surgery Adventure

    I'm glad your knee surgery went well! I also had an ACL reconstruction surgery, but my new ACL was grafted from my hamstring, then they drilled a hole through my femur to "thread the needle" and give me a new hamstring. Your recover sounds fast! I was on crutches for a long while, and couldn't jog for months for risk of irreversibly stretching the new ACL and making my knee join too "loose". Are you able to recover so fast because they used a cadaver ACL?
  9. Bill Bucko is gone

    It's sad to hear this...
  10. I hate college

    Despite this being an old and inactive thread, I wanted to end it on a positive note to counterbalance the initial negative tone. In the five years since writing the opening post of this thread I have completed two graduate programs, gotten to participate in some thrilling physics research in a vibrant research group (despite being at a bottom of the barrel university), and have recently accepted a research position at a high ranking university. Despite all the negative things I've said about the university system and higher education, for what it's worth the process of doing research as a graduate student is still quite close to being a meritocracy, and if you work hard and do good work the right people will notice it and recognize you for it, no matter the low prestige of your schooling. With that said, many of my negative comments, which were partially inaccurate due to my own immaturity and lack of experience with the university system and grad school, were in some ways chillingly close to the mark, in that the higher ed system really is incredibly corrupt, inefficient, and essentially combines the worst aspects of the stereotypical soulless private-sector mega-corporation that buys favors from politicians with the sprawling size and wasteful ineffectiveness of a government bureaucracy. It is utterly unsustainable in its current path, and mirrors in many startling ways the housing bubble that burst so ruinously. But what I realized matters is that I love science more than I hate the University. At the end of the day all that matters is the enjoyment of your values, and all the negative stuff--the corruption, the cosmic scale waste of taxpayer dollars, the lack of ideals in the university system--none of it really matters in the end. I say this because I don't want to demotivate future objectivists interested in pursuing the hard science, especially into grad school; if your heart is in it, and you are willing to work hard, there are still great opportunities for young scientists, provided you enter this crazy world with eyes open, fully aware of what awaits you. Never, ever for a second, voice a single political opinion on anything; just keep your head down and work your ass off, and you will learn a lot of skills that are transferrable to other occupations even beyond science/tech/engineering industries, as well as participate in really enjoyable research.
  11. I don't think all-electric automobiles will ever be practical in the foreseeable future. To put the reason shortly: in a gasoline engine the design of the engine and the design of the fuel tank are completely independent, for the obvious reason that they are physically separate objects. It is a trivial matter to design a gas-guzzling high power engine but with a suitably scaled-up gas tank to allow for long use. But this is not the case with a battery, because speaking metaphorically, in a battery the fuel tank is inside the "engine"; in other words, the place where energy is released by the transit of ions/charge is also the place where those charges are stored. Because of this, fundamental to the engineering of a Li-ion battery is a trade-off between power-density and energy-density. If you want high power then the internal dimensions of the battery need to be designed such that the Li ions have only a short distance to travel, but this necessarily reduces the total amount of energy that your battery can store. When you layer on the complexities that come from high-cycling and high-power (irreversible loss of charge capacity, risk of fire, etc), there is just no way an all-electric automobile will ever be practical, maybe not even for the next 100 years. Sure by prolonged research they can be improved, but for a hell of a lot less effort much greater rewards can be reaped, and have been, by the progressive improvement of internal-combustion engines.
  12. Practicing math

    Try taking lots of timed practice tests (maybe not full length, but at least long enough to force you to practice working rapidly). I improved my verbal score on the SAT by 100 points simply by doing this. I also despise timed tests, because I like to work slowly through things and actually understand them rather than be an organic calculator crunching through information rapidly. But in our high-throughput national education systems, these things are apparently important for small-minded educrats. Just bust your butt practicing for the test so you can get over it as soon as possible.
  13. New York's Soda Ban Thrown Out! Victory! : )

    This is good news! I guess it shows that when the principles of the paternalistic-state are applied to their full logical end, then people and the courts reject them. America still isn't ready for the Progressive's vision of outright dictatorship, but they will keep pushing us closer everyday with little pragmatic "practical" steps.
  14. I try to find good, older books when I can. Dirac's "The Principles of Quantum Mechanics" is a very nice book that I read every now and then. There's actually substantially more text than math in the book, because he spends so much time elaborating the meaning of experiments and how the math and peculiar properties of QM necessarily had to emerge from it.
  15. Yes, I agree with this. I was referring to the interpretations of the act of measurement in QM ("the wavefunction collapses"), as none of these interpretations precedes the development of QM. You're right that the best way to understand it is to go back to the beginning and "watch" through the history of its founders how it came about. I want to do that more in the future when I have the free time for it!
  16. In this case the math in question precedes these interpretations. A system is specified, leading to a Hamiltonian. The Hamiltonian is treated as an operator, and eigenfunctions of the operator are found. These eigenfunctions allow you to calculate exact probabilities related to measurements of the system in question. The interpretation of what these eigenfunctions actually are physically follows, not precedes this.
  17. Blah edit. I typed that too fast. Should read as follows:
  18. But reality is more than just numbers without physical context. What does the wavefunction really mean? How is it that quantum systems can tunnel through barriers? I was at a conference recently where they theoretical evidence from quantum chemistry calculations that a certain molecule could "tunnel" from one structural motif to another, and this is the particular reason that synthetic chemists have never been able to make a certain isomer of this molecule; even at absolute zero the structure will tunnel eventually from a higher-energy structure to a lower-energy structure, even if it has to pass through a very high energy transition-state by "tunneling". What does that mean conceptually? How can a quantum system jump through classically energy-forbidden barriers?? I don't think there are answers for that.
  19. The core mathematical structure of QM, meaning the part that can make incredibly accurate predictions, is correct. It's the interpretations of the math that are up in the air, and for that there are no easy answers, if there are any sensible answers at all at this point. Scientists use QM pragmatically; we don't know what the hell it means, we just know it works for what we want to do, which is describe the natural world. Some of the arcane theoretical physicists propose crazy ideas about multiple universes or things like that, but I doubt many scientists really truly take it seriously. It mostly makes for fluffy documentaries that sell well by exploiting public-misunderstanding of QM, like this film does.
  20. Cree Introduces The Biggest Thing Since the Light Bulb

    This is very cool news Jason! I'm glad you enjoy working for that tech company! When you say "warm-white", do you mean it has a warmer more yellow glow to it, like sunlight or an incandescent bulb? The only reservation I have about non-incandescent light is that it can be a sterile-white that doesn't feel as comfortable.
  21. Can scientific theories be certain?

    Is the concept of cat invalidated because, though 99% of cats are born with whiskers and a tail and 4 legs, some 1% are born with malformations or in some freak case horns like a cow?
  22. What's GOOD in your life?

    I'm tired of reading depressed "post-game" analyses of Tuesday's disaster, and I'd rather get back focused on things that actually matter in life, like life for instance. What's going on in your life that you are proud of? After several years of work, my science research is finally coming to fruition, which is starting to yield some really nice and interesting results. I'm stumbling onto more fresh and exciting projects than I have time or computer resources for which to allocate. To keep positive, especially while working, I devour inspirational music voraciously. This tune on youtube has probably been played by myself personally hundreds of times. I find the fantasy orchestral music of World of Warcraft to really be indescribably stirring and beautiful. In fitness, I'm back to seriously following Ray's exercise and nutrition philosophy. As a result, over the past 1/2 year I've slowly gained probably 5 lbs of muscle while shedding some fat, and hopefully I'll have a 6-pack other than the one I keep in the fridge. I've also gotten back into grappling martial-arts some, and have been training periodically with that as well. My other hobby is the bass guitar, and I've been dutifully learning some Rush and Led Zeppelin songs, in addition to The Guess Who, Doobie Brothers, Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Police, and others. Sometimes there's no better pick-me-up than imagining you are jamming with Alex Lifeson and Neil Peart on a Friday night An unexpected hobby that has somewhat gripped me since mid-summer has been an experimental project in writing fantasy. It's something that in the past I would have never imagined possible. However after writing science journal articles I've learned that there are many transferrable skills, such as the more general tasks of planning out the scope of what you want to write, brainstorming out the big picture and them imagining how you will fill in all the details. I'm not sure if I'd ever want to publish a fantasy novel, but it has at least served as a lifeline to reality amidst the emotional storm of this election cycle and the general bad trends in the culture. My reading for fun has been full immersion in everything Tolkien: The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, The Silmarillion, The Children of Hurin. This also is strangely comforting given the dark times right now, as his works often involve great struggles set against a backdrop of dark times. When I'm not doing these things I'm having fun with my wife, which generally involved lots of cooking. We've been trying to expand our repertoire to cover more Mexican dishes, as well as traditional American dishes and deserts. What's exciting in your life?
  23. He'd probably reply that while the number and ratios of the elements remained unchanged, their particular structural arrangements forming his brain were destroyed. Then the argument would continue ad nauseam.
  24. It's like The Predator; it can hide very well, but it is still very powerful and efficacious. But your mind doesn't collect human spines as trophies.
  25. Sam Harris’s Failure to Formulate a Scientific Morality

    This is Ruveyn's quote but I couldn't get the quote thing to function correctly. Ethics cannot be described with mathematical physical laws as with Physics or Classical Mechanics because the object of study is radically different; men have volition, they think with their minds and make decisions, and this cannot be modeled or quantitatively described like the trajectory of a cannonball. But ethics can still be scientific in its own way, and people often observe that good men live happy, fulfilling lives, while bad men live in grinding misery.