Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Physics topics for beginners part 3: the Heisenberg uncertainty principle

Lots of people have heard of the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, but most people who haven't studied physics have an incorrect idea of what it means. The way it is usually stated is that the better you know the position of something the less well you know its velocity. What the Heisenberg uncertainty principle means, fundamentally, is that things smaller than an atom are not particles like we are used to, in that they are spread out over space. When they interact you can treat them like particles, they have a size and shape, but they exist in more than one place at a time (or rather they might exist in more than one place at a time).

A better way to look at it is to think of subatomic particles (like electrons) not as particles, but as an energy field (that term made me wince but there is no better way to put it without using physics jargon). The less space it takes up, the more concentrated it is. If you think about it this way the uncertainty principle is pretty obvious: the smaller the area of the field the better you know the position, the more concentrated the energy the higher energy you would measure at a point inside the position. The energy is proportional to (the square of) the speed, so with a higher energy the particle will move faster, but you don't know what direction it is moving, so it's probably bouncing around wildly in there, and you have less and less certainty about the velocity (which is the speed and the direction of motion). It is easy to see how it works the other way too.

This isn't quite how it really works, but it is a good intuitive description that clears up a lot of the misconceptions about the Heisenberg uncertainty principle. It, unfortunately, says nothing about free will, moral certainty or the existence of the universe. All it says is that if you look at really small things they get fuzzy.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Confessions of a reformed Nice Guy™

So I stumbled upon this post at Punkassblog and seeing all the hating on the fake not-nice nice guy I thought I would add my two cents. Because, you see, I used to be one, though my shyness restrained any assholery latent in my psyche.

What makes someone into a Nice Guy™? Sexual frustration combined with social inaptitude, and a lack of exposure to women. When you don't have any success with the opposite sex and don't spend enough time with women to get to know them as friends it is easy to "other" them and ascribe unknowable motivations to them (like wanting "jerks").

The solution? Probably time and experience are the only things that will necessarily work. I know that for me the really bad Nice Guy™ period ended with college, but the last bits of that mindset were eliminated when I get a female roommate (well... What the British would refer to as a "flatmate"). I had never gotten to know a woman (other than my mother, who doesn't count because you specifically go to lengths to not think of your parents as sexual creatures) as well as her, and so time with her dispelled any myths I had (especially the one that women aren't attracted to physical appearance. It's hard to see how someone could actually believe that and actually know women).

I still need to get past that shyness thing but that affects all my relationships not just my sexual ones.

I'm back (to being lazy)

So I wait over a week after I get back from the beach to post... Lazyness continues to dominate my life. Anyways I'll try to post more often.

Thursday, August 10, 2006


I'll be in north carolina next week, sitting on the beach, and enjoying the sun (and sleep). So no blogging for me.

Newsflash: sometimes small children are annoying

So there was a recent article by a woman who does not enjoy spending every waking moment with her children. Amanda Marcotte of Pandagon points out that parenting is hard work.
The point of all this is not to bore anyone to death but to say that parenting is labor like any other--you do a job, no matter how much you like it, you have earned bitching rights. The bitching rights go up in inverse proportion to the pay, which means that mothers have the official right to bitch non-stop if they want to.

sums things up nicely.

Molly takes the opportunity to locate some anti-mother bias in some feminist circles.

Personally I think mothers have a rough deal and am glad I'll never have to be one ;) (though I would hope that no one else has to be one either)

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Fuck spoilers

So apparently the new Will Farrell movie is pretty good. That's good.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Why theists piss me off

In this interesting and productive article at Pandagon a theist came in and basically stated accusing everyone of being prejudiced against theists, and racists.

I am not prejudiced against theists, the whole idea is laughable. Literally almost everyone I know in real life is a theist. Theists please stop telling me I hate you, I don't (at least not because you have silly beliefs).

Sunday, August 06, 2006

A porn maker is a shifty misogynist? Say it isn't so.

So apparently the guy who makes girls gone wild is a rapist and a bully. Surprise, surprise. Now I don't have a problem with porn, I watch (probably too much of) it. My problem is with anyone who would force a woman to get naked against her will, or much, much worse to rape her.

Now what I really don't understand is the mindset behind this quote:
But the women are changing, Francis tells me, and that makes him sad. In the beginning, when "Girls Gone Wild" cameramen first popped up in clubs, the women who revealed themselves seemed innocent--surprised, even, by their own spontaneity. Now that the brand is so pervasive, the women who participate increasingly appear to be calculating exhibitionists, hoping that an appearance on a video might catapult them to Paris Hilton-like fame.

He has a problem with women wanting to get naked? Personally the only kind of porn I find appealing is that where the woman at least seems to be enjoying herself (though I know most of it is probably faked).

Anyways, this guy is an asshole with a capital A.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

hmm... How to create controversy

I've come to the conclusion that I should post more and be more controversial in an effort to attract (any) readers.

To that effect I'm going to say that anyone who can't deal with breastfeeding is mentally damaged. Feeding babies is the primary purpose of breasts, the fact that they are fun to look at (and play with) is probably related to that fact.

Also Mel Gibson has not been keeping it a secret that he is an anti-semite. Anyone who has looked at his history at all knew this fact before he made it explicit. Let me make it explicit: Gibson is an anti-semite, a homophobe, and a misogynist. This was also the official position of the Catholic Church for years, but now it is only homophobic and misogynist (though some want a return to "the good old days").

That is all.

Physics topics for beginners part 2: Energy

So I'm back from working at a mysterious government site, and its time for me to blog about energy. Energy is one of the central topics of physics, it comes up in classical mechanics, E&M, statistical mechanics, quantum mechanics, relativity, and any other topic I'm neglecting to mention, but what is it?

Energy is the most misused term in physics, not by physists, but by pseudoscientists. Energy is not just any "non material" thing, there are also forces and fields (and force fields). Energy means something very specific, defined mathematically, but it can be thought of as being like a currency of motion. There are two types of energy: kinetic energy and potential energy. Kinetic energy is the simplest type, it is just proportional to the (square of the) speed of whatever object you are worrying about, in the money analogy it is the value of goods you can buy or sell. The actual money in the analogy is potential energy, you can turn it into kinetic energy, or kinetic energy can be turned into it. So what causes potential energy? Forces do, for example if you are at the top of a rollercoaster you have a lot of potential energy because you are feeling a force from gravity and if you fell you would accelerate. The moment you start going down the rollercoaster you are changing potential energy into kinetic energy "buying" motion with your "money". Then when you go up the next hill you slow down "selling" your motion.

So why is this a big deal? Well first of all total energy is always conserved (though some may be lost as heat, which is really kinetic energy of atoms or molecules bouncing around), this makes certain kinds of physics problems easy to solve. However this isn't that big of a deal, and for a for a while after the idea of energy was formalized it wasn't a big deal, but then some smart physists figured out that you could solve physics problems just using energy, without worrying about Newton's laws, and this made a lot of physics problems easier, and a lot of open problems were solved. Now when physics started branching out into and dealing with things that are outside of everyday experience it turned out that the only way to solve these problems was using energy. So for this reason all of quantum physics, as well as statistical mechanics (which deals with the behavior of large numbers of atoms or molecules), and relativistic mechanics are defined in terms of energy.

Now I don't know how that is evidence for the afterlife, but lots of people on the internet seem to think that it is...