Thursday, May 22, 2014

Completely New Physics?

      How would a completely different alien civilization describe this universe?  Is the answer we have no idea?  They are completely alien.  Is there an external reality that can possibly be described in ways that we have no idea of?  Exactly like a theory we have no idea what it looks like.  There will be new theories that will supplant quantum mechanics, general relativity and our standard model of particles and forces.  All very successful theories but we know fundamentally they have problems and limits where they are not applicable.  As some examples: what's inside a black hole? ,  or the Planck scale.  The three mentioned theories will become effective theories in which they are limits to what the new theories will tell us about our universe.  We have no idea what they will be like.  Fundamental physics is stuck and has been stuck are awhile.  Stuck probably isn't the right word.  Of course physicists have been searching for this (these?) new theories.  Einstein spent the later 30 years of his life searching for a unified theory.  The problem was that he wasn't including quantum mechanics.  With the development of quantum field theories we saw in the 60's the Higgs mechanism and the electroweak unification.  Both leading to Noble prizes.  In the 70's and 80's we saw the development of quantum chromodyncmics (QCD) to describe the strong nuclear force that led to at least one Noble prize.  Then various "Grand Unification Theories (GUTs) to combine the electroweak theory with QCD.  These GUTs models never quite panned out with some predicting magnetic monopoles that were never observed and some predicting proton decay and lower bounds were set for those searches since no proton decay has been observedin some quite elaborate experiments such as Super Kamiokande.

     People have been working on quantum gravity from at least the late 40's.   Feynman taught a graduate level class on quantum gravity in the 60's,  here's a  book form.of that class.  John  Wheeler had also been interested in quantum gravity and is this possibly a reason why he had two of his students Feynman and Hugh Everitt III develop new ways of interpretation and using quantum mechanics for their dissertations?  String theory was a possible way to unite quantum mechanics and general  relativity.  But so far that theory is plagued with giving the string theory landscape .

Maybe some new form of mathematics needs to be developed.  Newton invented calculus to describe his ideas in physics.  Einstein used Riemann's form of geometry to explain his theory of general relativity.  Some string theories use Calabi-Yau space to describe extra dimensions.  String theorist Ed Witten even won a Fields Medal  in mathematics for his work   So who knows maybe some new form of mathematics needs to be developed.

Or maybe something completely different is needed.  The end of reductionism? Some completely new unheard of  paradigm shift?

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Discussions About the Poor in America

     What always amazes me about discussions in the media about the poor in America is that the people discussing the subject are not poor.  You have politicians talking about the poor, but they are not poor.  You have folks on the networks talking about the poor and they are not poor.  Look at the people on the Sunday morning talks shows,  they are not poor.  All of the people on the cable news channels talking talking about the poor, they are not poor.  With network people we have people making six figures salaries or more talking about the poor.  I'm sure that there has been lots of studies about the poor.  Dissertations have been written about the poor.  Who reads those?  Other people working on their dissertations.  Not the poor.   Let's have an open honest discussion about poverty in America.  No lying, no misrepresenting the facts.  Open and honest discussion.  I don't want to hear from six figure income people talking about the poor.
      Can this even happen in America?  The only place this seems to be happening nowadays are on the blogs.  A couple good places to look are Hullabaloo and Eschaton.  At least its happening somewhere in America.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Retina Attachment Surgery my Personal Experience.

The first week of April 2013 I had retina attachment surgery.   I thought I'd write about this experience and what it means.  As is usual this will be in the form of a poorly written ramble..

Before this operation I'm not sure for how long a month or so I began to notice that in my right eye on the bottom right it looked like there was a black spot there.  Just a black spot not too large and I knew it wasn't a floater.  I was recovering from an illness and really wasn't too worried about it.  It seemed like I noticed it the most at night sitting down and watching a the TV.   Over time this spot started to get larger and began to fill the bottom part of my eye.  I remember going to bed thinking that if if didn't get better by the next day I'd call my optometrist.  Well it didn't get better and in the afternoon I called my optometrist office and explained and asked to come in.  They were closing up but said if I could get there soon they would wait for me.   I got there within 15-20 and they examined my eye.  They took a picture of the back of my eye.  That's when I knew something was wrong since they got excited like they don't see this often.  The doctor said I might have a detached retina and they called a retina doctor  that he  had referred me to a few eyes earlier for another problem..  The retina  doctor's office was also closing but they said they would wait for me..  I got there and the retina doctor examined me and sure enough I had a detached retina.  He scheduled me for surgery the next day.  Fortunately that day was the day in the week that he does all his surgeries.  I got to the day surgery place around 10:30 the next morning.   I was the last person he operated on that day and it was around 3.
   The operation was interesting since I was have awake and half anesthetized.  An interesting state of conscientiousness.  The surgery take about an hour.  I was put in a recovery room .  Around 6-7 I was allowed to go home and a friend picked me up and took me home.
     In case you don't know what the retina is and what the surgery involves let me try to explain as well as I can with the limited knowledge that I have about the subject.  The retina is the area in the back of your eye where the lens in front of your eye focuses the imagine.  Its like the film in an old fashion camera or like the photodetector CCD's in digital camera.  Its the light sensitive part that sends the signal via the optic nerve to the brain where the brain processes the signal to make an image.  When the retina is detached its like you have no film in the camera and you can't take pictures, but in the case of the eye you can't see..  Its actually pretty scary if you think about it.  Before these types of surgery you might have gone completely blind depending on how much of the retina comes off.  So using a laser the doctor reattaches your retina to the back of your eye.  Think of the laser as kind of gluing the retina to the back of your eyeball..  The doctor then replaces the fluid in your eyeball with a gas to help push the retina to the back of your eye.  Also you keep your head down after the surgery and this air bubble pushes up on the retina to hold it there so that your body can take over and heal the retina back in its place.  So you have to keep your head down for at least a week and sleep on your stomach if you can or at least sleep on your side that will allow the bubble to push the retina to the back of your eye.  You then get to know the folks in the retina doctors office since you see them at least once a week for a couple of months.  T
     When you go home from day surgery you have a bandage patch over your eye.  The next day you go in to see the doctor and they remove the patch and examine your eye.  They leave the bandage off since they want your eye exposed to air.
     So now the healing begins.  You can't see anything out of your repaired eye other than light and maybe some shapes.  I keep a journal as a spare memory and also wrote down the progress that I had as my eye healed here are some passages:

Retina attachment surgery Wed April 3
April 6:  Woke up could see zebra stripes on sheets!.   So happy.   Neck is sore from head down.
April 7:  Morning head still down.  Eye getting better clearer but still like underwater oscillates and wiggles as I move my head, image is like in jello, color is good its getting better,.
April 8: Vision is better, right eye vision a little clearer. Still have "yellow effect"  but not as bad but clearer, still can't read.
April 9:  Eye is getting better, vision is getting clearer.  Looking up taking eye drops can see the spacing between boards in ceiling have seen these the last few days.  Coordination between eyes is getting better..  Merging vision is getting better.  Still can't read but getting closer.  Still have jello wiggle in my eye.and color is better not yellow green as much (not sure if that was from light cover).
April 11:  Eye getting better sharper grocery receipt can tell printing on it but can't read it. Still have jello effect, color is better.  Both eyes working better together.    Images not shifted as much.
April 13:  Eye getting clearer slowly.  A drawing shows a little more than 3/4 bubble when looking straight ahead.  Still can't read with eye.but I think details are getting better..  Inside still can' see as well as outside.
April 15:  Vision seems better outside see creases in hand.  Still have jello effect. Drawing shows bubble at 60% when looking straight ahead.
April 21:  Eye seems about the same.
April 24: Saw retina doctor.He looked at right eye and was very pleased.  Said cornea was cloudy.  He seemed concerned about my cornea, asked if I rub my eyes.  I said no learned about that from my cataract surgery.  He was concerned asked nurse if Dr. N??? (his associate in the practice) was here.  A younger doctor comes in and looks at eye and he and retina doctor talk.  He asks about eye drops, says cornea might be like this due to preservatives in some eye cleaning drops.  Nurse writes down drops ro get.  Doctors both seem like they know problem and non=preservative drops should fix the problem.  (I later found out I had a cut or tear on my cornea and was referred to a cornea doctor who also did my cataract surgery).  Eye is irritated.
April 25:  Wonderful can see better.from eye, see individual tiles in the floor up close.  4-6 inches can read watch face!!!  On my back can see pulse in my eye, jiggle of bubble in my eye follows my pulse.
April 26:  Visions seems to be improving.
April 28:  Vision getting better.  Still have wiggly interface, bubble still there (drawing shows about 50%).  Can see heartbeat still in bed, eye jelly wiggles in unison with heartbeat.  Concerned bubble isn't getting much smaller.
April 30: Vision getting better, can see images on TV still not good enough to really see but better.  Vision yesterday was 20/40 I was surprised. and asked.  She said you can see the big E.  Just barely making out the big E was 20/40.  (Looking back that doesn't seems right).
May 2: Vision seems same, line seems same (must be referring to line the bubble makes in my eye).
May  4 Vision getting better can read big Lee's neon sign. Bubble is getting smaller.
May 6: Scratch on cornea, go to Optometrist. put contact bandage on, irritation gone away.  Eye getting better, vision images on TV clearer.
May 7: bubble smaller.
May 8:  Vision on TV is clearer, Optometrist sent me to cornea doctor, he put on another contact bandage.  Says I might lose my restore lens!

It goes on like this seeing retina doctor and cornea doctor over the summer.  At the end of August 2013 my health insurance ended so I had to stop seeing both my retina and cornea doctors.  I tried to get health insurance but was denied by health insurance companies due to my existing condition (I didn't even mention my eye problem).  Both representatives said wait to October and sign up with Obamacare.  I can't remember if they said Obamacare or the Affordable Care Act.  But they said I could get health insurance then.  By then I had an appointment  for I think one visit each in the fall.  When my health insurance started in January 2014 the vision in my right eye had stabilized.  I couldn't see well enough to read with that eye.  I couldn't tell if that was because of my retina damage or the cloudiness behind my artificial lens that both my retina doctor and cornea doctor said I had.   I was planning on making an appointment to see my retina doctor for a one year check up.  But....

Next post my personal experience with my left eye retina detachment...

Monday, May 5, 2014

Progressives Should Push for the Senate to Ratify the CTBT

What's the CTBT?  It stands for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty.  The April 2014 issue of Physics Today has an article entitled Nuclear proliferation and testing: a tale of two treaties.  In this article it talks about how the US Senate failed to ratify this treaty in debate in 1999.  The article states:

"In 1999, when the US Senate considered giving its advice and consent to ratification, it declined to do so. In the hearings and floor debate, the verifiability of the treaty and the effectiveness of the US nuclear weapons stockpile in the absence of nuclear-explosive testing were principal issues cited as problematic. "

This article addresses these issues, and says that the Obama administration has declared its support for the Senate to ratify this treaty.
     Four or five months ago the Obama administration got Iran to open up its nuclear facilities for international inspection along with other nuclear activities.  These are described in the following article.  This agreement ends July 20.  To help continue these efforts to stop Iran from building a nuclear weapon the US should show the world its good faith along the lines of nuclear proliferation and sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.   This would show the world that the US is committed in not testing any new weapons.  The US hasn't tested any weapons in decades but signing this treaty would show the world we are committed to this policy.  This is also the ethical and moral thing to do. 
    It would also put conservatives who have opposed this treaty into defending the position of supporting nuclear weapons testing.  I think of Johnson's ad against Goldwater and the little girl pulling flower petals with a mushroom cloud in the background.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

The New Coffee Table Book

In the 1980 and 90's I thought it was interesting that folks would go out and buy Steven Weinberg's book "The First Three Minutes" and Stephen Hawking's "A Brief History of Time".  Science books that it seemed like folks wanted.  I have no idea how many of them were read or how many were put on the coffee table to show off.  Coffee table books they were called to show visitors that the home owners were up to date with current trends.  Here are examples of Science books becoming best sellers.   Which is great for a variety of reasons.  People seemed to be genuinely  interested in Science.  Carl Sagan "Cosmos" show  maybe helped with that (maybe the new "Cosmos" show can help to get folks excited about Science again).  I remember in high school it was hard to find good books popularizing science.  Books describing what was happening in the frontiers of science just didn't seem so prevalent.  Maybe I just wasn't aware of them living in the country in Northern Idaho.  Now there are lots of book out describing research in science.  Just look how many books came out about the Higgs particle.  This is great in that it helps educate folks as to what is going on in science and hopefully will show kids how exciting science is and motivate some to pursue careers in Science.  It also gives the authors some needed cash since many of the authors are academics.
  The new  coffee table book is Thomas Piketty's "Capital in the Twenty First Century".  A book about income inequality .  As everyone knows this is a big current issue and will be for years to come.  Piketty's book will be the book to have on your coffee table.    Economist Paul Krugman's  views on this book are here.  Im going to guess that most folks won't read Piketty's book  since it is around 700 pages with equations and graphs, so I'm told.  I haven't read it.   Hopefully most will skim through it and some will read it.  I thought about ordering it when I first heard about it but I already have enough unread books and I'm not sure I want to read a 700 page economics tome.
     I wonder when the next popular physics book will be on the coffee table and what will be its topic.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Data is Data

Sounds sort of Zen like.  The joy of acquiring and then the fun of analyzing and interpreting the data.

     After acquiring and storing the data now to analyze the data. .  First thing is to replay the data so as to clean it up.  By this I mean replay the data and using software cuts remove data that you know is spurious but that the hardware gates were opened up wide so as to be sure not to miss something new and interesting.  Here in applying software cuts comes your knowledge of your detector and events that you think you might get, but making sure not to remove too much, tricky.   So you clean up the data being careful to remove only spurious data that is well understood and can be removed with software gates.  So now you have cleaned-up data
    Now time to see what the data says.  You know from acquiring the data what your data looks like in "raw" form.  With the cleaned up data what do you see?  Depending on the experiment your data maybe similar to other experiments except that yours has higher statistics, better resolution in areas of interest or something else.  Now again using your physics knowledge you again analyze the data.  Here let's say you are interested in a peak in the data.  You want the area of the peak since this along with other data taken gives you the cross section for your peak.  Your peak maybe sitting on some background so you need to understand this background since it might contain something interesting,. you just don't know.  You apply your physics knowledge to understand the background .  Putting these results in you see how well this describes the background.  There might be new physics in the background.  .  Now you are getting the physics from your experiment.  What is the absolute magnitude of the data?  What is its energy?  Whats the width of the peak compared to the know resolution of your detector?  New physics maybe.  The fun of analyzing data.
     When typing this up I had in mind how I use to analyze nuclear physics data from a magnetic spectrometer.  I also had in mind maybe what the folks go through in analyzing LHC data looking for the Higgs, or folks trying to understand their cosmic microwave background data  (CMB)    Maybe I also have data envy.
     Hopefully lots of new and interesting stuff in your data.  But you already know that the next generation detectors are either being built or planned to get even better data on the same area of interest.  It maybe that the physical universe presents itself in only a few ways and we must try to get as much information as we can  from observations.