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The Infinite Universe

Inside the A-section today, in a roundup of science news, just below an item on health insurance costs, we've published four paragraphs saying the universe is much older than previously believed and manages to reconstitute itself over and over again in a process of expansion and contraction. The idea is that the "Big Bang" universe, which has been rather precisely calculated at 13.7 billion years old, is just one iteration, one pulse if you will, in a series of bangs and crunches.

This new theory comes from scientists Neil Turok and Paul Steinhardt. They published their findings in the journal Science. The item in the Post states:

"The new study began as an attempt to explain the energy found in vacuums, which is credited with accelerating the universe's expansion. If the energy had been around since the big bang, Turok said, it should have blown the universe apart."

Here's a portion of the press release from Science:

"The cosmological constant -- detected in 1998 through its effect of speeding up the expansion of the universe -- is a mathematical representation of the energy of empty space or 'dark energy.' Scientists have long puzzled over why its value is a googol (1 followed by 100 zeroes) times smaller than would be expected if the universe formed under the standard big bang theory. There are mechanisms that would allow the constant to decrease incrementally through time, but these processes would take so long that all matter in the universe would totally dissipate in the meantime. Paul Steinhardt and Neil Turok now suggest that the same mechanisms would work with a cyclic universe, where the universe is much older and new matter is created every trillion years or so."

Let me say that I hope they can nail down that number a little better. "Every trillion years or so" just doesn't cut it.

It's reassuring to know that the universe is really old and that it keeps finding new ways to invent itself. Not that the universe was feeling cramped or anything. Indeed the unbelievable huge vastness and gigantic enormousness of the cosmos -- what we call the "spaciness" of space -- fills each of us with so much awe and wonder that we are forced to just forget about it and check out the box scores in the Sports section.

You may recall that in 1998 scientists discovered that the universe is not only expanding, but at an accelerating rate. The cosmos appears to be infused with some kind of Dark Energy. Empty space isn't empty. Turok and Steinhardt have puzzled over this mysterious energy and decided that it is forensic evidence of a very very very very very old universe.

Because they didn't submit their paper to me for peer review, I haven't had a chance to check their calculations, or grasp how they get the universe to stop expanding and then collapse in a big crunch so that it can start the process anew. But it is laudable that they've come up with a scenario that doesn't require, as some unparsimonious theories do, that our universe be a tiny bubble in a totally super-vast and rather overwrought Multiverse that is so big that if you try to ponder it your eyes will pop out. Some theorists, running with the Multiverse concept, say there must be an infinite number of universes, and that, purely as a function of the nature of infinity, there must be universes identical to ours, all the way down to having someone who is just like you.

These Multiverse concepts are complicated and mindbending to the point of being a bit suspicious. It's like the theorists are cheating. Keep adding universes and the equations will work!

A theory that merely requires that our universe be old, and cyclical, seems simpler. Simple is usually better in science. And easier to think about.

By Joel Achenbach  |  May 5, 2006; 6:57 AM ET
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(Repost--terribly off topic)

Respecting the French or missing the letter a.

Nani and Cassandra, I am so humbled by your ability to deal with what you had to face in your lives.

Cassandra, forgiveness and love are all that is needed from a Christian. Your charity is astounding. I post in awe.

KB, I just saw your post earlier and I would, if Joel would allow it, really like to hear more. Maybe as a Kit. When we as a society lock someone up and "throw away the key," there are families left behind... children who's parent is often far away and out of reach. Often the crimes commited are victimless--until the sentence is served and the young families suffer greatly.

I am almost crying now, with your story and knowing a bit of what is going on in America and, at the same time, reading the Fry the Bastard sort of rhetoric. We have 100,000's of kids being raised by extended families and helped by a few people like you. Hats off KB. Thanks for every minute that you give.

Posted by: Dolphin Michel | May 5, 2006 10:54 AM | Report abuse

Now I'm cornfused... I thought the universe was 6,000 years old.

Posted by: Dolphin Michael | May 5, 2006 10:56 AM | Report abuse

Just so long as no one expects me to understand quantum theory.

Posted by: dr | May 5, 2006 10:57 AM | Report abuse

about 15 years ago, I thought I was so smart by purchasing a VW Quantum ... a cheaper version of the same car from Audi, so I thought. The thing was a nightmare to get fixed... I had to take it to a Quantum Mechanic.

After spending thousands of dollars on the braking systems, I was told that my problems--like not stopping--were all theoretical.

Posted by: Dolphin Michael | May 5, 2006 11:05 AM | Report abuse

Obviously the Quantum mechanic was a genius.

Posted by: dr | May 5, 2006 11:09 AM | Report abuse

And to think I thought that a quark was the sound a duck makes. . .

Posted by: firsttimeblogger | May 5, 2006 11:13 AM | Report abuse

First of all, aren't we suppose to capitalize Big Crunch (or Gnab Gib, for that matter)?

Second of all, I haven't read this paper (and you know I will), but the idea of an oscillating universe isn't new to me. I think I first stumbled across it when mentally connecting what I knew of Einstein (at the time) and Poul Anderson's "Tau Zero", gosh, that must have been 30 years ago. The idea predates that by decades, I'm sure.

Maybe Turok and Steinhardt just did some math that ties the Cosmo Constant (hmph! constant? maybe, maybe not), with the latest observations. But not a new idea...


Posted by: bc | May 5, 2006 11:14 AM | Report abuse

Progress at understanding our universe is paced by our ability to measure that universe. We describe our universe based on what we can measure, then hypothesize about how the universe works beyond our measure. As our measurements advance (smaller, quicker, further) we see if those hypothesis are proven correct. Some stand up pretty well (newtonian physics) and some not so well (electon-is-tiniest-indivisible-particle-of-matter).

I am just a layperson, my knowledge of science comes from reading the science section in The Economist. But I'll go out on a limb with a bold prediction (which I understand will henceforth be owned by TWP, sue them if it's wrong). There will be an Einstein Year in astrophysics in the next 5-10 years, where our fundamental understanding of the universe will be rewritten. This is based only on my own impression that trying to fit recent measurements of the universe into the old hypothesis looks increasingly suspicious (as Joel states) and (my thought) desperate.

Posted by: Steve-2 | May 5, 2006 11:18 AM | Report abuse

When I was in college there was a lot of talk about an oscillating universe. It seemed to be philosophically attractive to many, in part because of its relationship to seductive concepts in certain eastern religions. However, the consensus seemed to be that it was hard to prove. No information transfer between one cycle to another was deemed possible.

Although I can believe that observations could prove that the universe will collapse, I am still not convinced that it is possible to demonstrate this is not a one-time deal. Yet, it is a cool notion, and I certainly do think that the fewer bizarre assumptions a theory requires the better.

My overarching concern is that physics is degenerating into mythology. Since it is getting darn hard to test a lot of these theories (Step 1: Isolate a universe in a standard Petri dish.) the ones that become accepted sometimes seem to be the ones that make the most subjective "sense." This worries me since after a while everything stops making sense, and the notion the universe is, like, just a daydream in the mind of God starts becoming plausible. And where can we go from there?


Posted by: RD Padouk | May 5, 2006 11:19 AM | Report abuse

It's OBVIOUS that the Universe has a "liberal bias," considering all the "flip-flopping" it does. That why we "non-humanists" prefer the Book of Genesis to your "Quantum Mechanics."


Posted by: MadCow | May 5, 2006 11:28 AM | Report abuse

firsttimeblogger, Boston ducks go "quark".

That's the idear, anyway.


Posted by: bc | May 5, 2006 11:29 AM | Report abuse

Whenever I start thinking about the vastness of the universe, I'm alway struck by how odd the human experience must seem to and outside observer, if one exists. First, there's the believe that WE are special. That throughout the entire universe, our particular collection of matter and energy is held above all others. And to go along with that, the belief that each INDIVIDUAL is special. That we matter. That each of us is important in our own way. We believe all this despite the fact that we are beyond insignificant to the universe as a whole. And the irony is that the only reason we know this is because of the human search to understand, which in itself a declaration of our uniqueness. I statement that we deserve to know the why and the how of this universe. As our search for understanding continually reaches new hights, we are simultaneously struck by our own insignificance and driven by our sense of uniqueness to push further ahead.

It all makes my brain hurt a little.

Posted by: jw | May 5, 2006 11:34 AM | Report abuse

SCC: That entire incomprehensible mess. Believe/belief causes me special pain. Yikes.

Posted by: jw | May 5, 2006 11:36 AM | Report abuse

And of course, bc, there was this guy who landed at Logan International in Boston...

Goes out to the curb, hails a cab and, being hungry, asks the cabbie:

"Do you know a good place to get scrod around here?"

And the cabbie says:

"I don't know, I've never heard that in the pluperfect subjunctive before."

I'm so sorry. A thousand apoologies.


Posted by: Scottynuke | May 5, 2006 11:36 AM | Report abuse

bc - I read Tau Zero in college. It was the only SciFi novel that had an actual equation from special relativity in it. I enjoyed it, although I wasn't exactly sure where the relativistic spacecraft would be flying, what with the universe collapsed and all.

Posted by: RD Padouk | May 5, 2006 11:40 AM | Report abuse

If you pak the ca on a duck's foot ... quark

yes, dr.

Posted by: Dolphin Michael | May 5, 2006 11:41 AM | Report abuse

I Googled a googol and got oodles of boodles. I hope that wasn't parsnipitous of me.

BTW, is "spaciness" related to "truthiness"? If so, does somebody owe Colbert some royalties? Just asking.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | May 5, 2006 11:44 AM | Report abuse

"Every age, every generation, has its built-in assumptions--that the world is flat, that the world is round, etcetera. There are hundreds of hidden assumptions, things we take for granted, that may or may not be true. Of course, in the vast majority of cases, historically, these things *aren't* true. So presumably, if history is any guide, much of what we take for granted about the world simply isn't true. But we're locked into these precepts without even knowing it oftentimes. That's a paradigm."

-- John Hagelin, Ph.D., in the film "What the Bleep Do We Know!?"

Posted by: Dreamer | May 5, 2006 11:45 AM | Report abuse

I haven't read the article yet, but I am in the midst of reading Aron Ralston's memoir, Between a Rock and a Hard Place, about the events surrounding his near death in a hiking accident in Utah that pinned his arm, and he escaped only by amputating it. While trapped, he wrote on the canyon wall, "Geologic time includes now."
This insight is shown graphically in a story today on about the rapid growth a volcanic rock in the volcanic dome of Mt. St. Helens. The report says it is growing 4-5 feet per day. The idea of a mountain growing faster than kudzu spreads is staggering!

Posted by: Lindy | May 5, 2006 11:46 AM | Report abuse

I don't mind those Google ads below, but that giant off-red/off-fuscia brassiere to the right of the kit is driving me mad.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | May 5, 2006 11:48 AM | Report abuse

you too 'mudge? darn distracting that! and what was it you found about orange peels and allergies? you got me all a-wondering!

Posted by: mo | May 5, 2006 11:53 AM | Report abuse

'Mudge, as long as the brassiere isn't actually off of Red or Fuscia, I don't think they'll mind being associated with the Boodle.


Posted by: Scottynuke | May 5, 2006 11:54 AM | Report abuse

If the Big Crunch/Big Band repeats itself every trillion years or so and the current cylce is PRECISELY 13.7 billion years old we have 986.3 billions years (or so, we sorely need to pin that number down here, get your sliding rules out please) of expansion time to go. Ouf! I was afraid to be trapped in the Big Crunch for a moment there Joel, it appears it it will not be the case.

Posted by: Shrieking Denizen | May 5, 2006 12:02 PM | Report abuse

Godwin's law is at play here, but I think that the odds are even higher for someone to mention bras. Especially on one of Joel's kits.

Posted by: Dolphin Michael | May 5, 2006 12:03 PM | Report abuse

I believe my universe is already old and cynical.

But, actually, I believe I am indeed special, JW, more special and knowing than you all. Because, we, with the 2.76 Yale GPAs, are way, way smarter than you Republicans with the 2.77 Yale GPAs. The Beltway Brain Trust told me so. Appearing here daily from the Self-Deluding Black Hole of Rational Non-Partisan Thought, Washington DC.

When we get done with the scientific Heinz 57 posts, mixing physics with religion with mechanics with cosmology, all in a Republican bashing format, could some of you Washingtonians stop it with Republican incompetence and Democratic incoherence? I know we postpone wars for election years, and need to take our SUVs and Hyundais a block to the gas pumps for a photo op (on separate partisan days), but the rest of the world, you know, like the Other 273 million fellow Americans, or beyond, were hoping you could just go wild and address hurricane response, out of control spending, waves of illegal immigrants, and retirement and corporate reform. Or maybe pass a budget, maybe balanced and on time. You know, the basics. Like doing your job, such as voting at 3 AM and earmarking a few pork items. Or reporting on that. Or actually not living, breathing, and eating partisan hatred and pointless politics. Like Democratic self-loathing borne of prep school liberalism and Republican rationalization of outsourcing.
Nice post, Achenbach. It's a shot of numbers into the vacuum of science and math, I-majored-in-polisci-put-me-in-charge Washington DC. Sign me, NumberCrunchyCon.
Do the Math.

Posted by: EgocentricPseudoIntellectual | May 5, 2006 12:10 PM | Report abuse

I'm trying to read the darn kit, and what's going through my head is:

"The cosmological constant -- detected in 1998 through its effect of speeding up the expansion of the universe wow giant gazongas -- is a mathematical representation of the energy gotta be what, a D-cup? of empty space or 'dark energy' tell me about the energy holding those tomatoes up Scientists have long puzzled over why its value is a googol (1 followed by 100 zeroes) I'm googling myself, dude, times smaller than would be expected if the universe formed under the standard big bang oh no, he said big bang just what I needed to hear theory. There are mechanisms oh yeah lemme hear you say mechanisms, love them mechanisms that would allow the constant to decrease incrementally through time, but these processes would take so long that all matter in the universe would totally dissipate in the meantime only I can think of some matter that ain't dissipating like it's supposed to.

"...1998 scientists discovered that the universe is not only expanding, not the only thing expanding either, dammit, but at an accelerating rate. The cosmos appears to be infused with some kind of Dark Energy. Dark dark dark darkdarkdarkdarkdark energgggggyyyyy. Empty space isn't empty. Turok and Steinhardt have puzzled over this mysterious energy and decided that it is forensic evidence of very very very very very big gazongas..."

I'm sorry. I'm a guy; I can't help it. We are pathetic scum. Ladies, you already know this. I'm not telling you anything you don't already know.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | May 5, 2006 12:11 PM | Report abuse

Wow, those random-word-generators are getting good. *L*

Posted by: Scottynuke | May 5, 2006 12:11 PM | Report abuse

And of course, 'Mudge, I was referring to the mass of incoherence at 12:10, please to not be directing umbrage today.

Posted by: Scottynuke | May 5, 2006 12:13 PM | Report abuse

I have no bras on my display.

Posted by: Tim | May 5, 2006 12:15 PM | Report abuse

RD, being a little precocious, I read most of "Tau Zero" in high school during freshman chemistry class. That was a great class, I also read James Tiptree Jr.'s "Warm Worlds and Otherwise" in there.

I suppose I should hold fonder memories of that class; two years later I dated the teacher's collegiate daughter (who was attending Brown IIRC). He was NOT amused when she "introduced" us.


Posted by: bc | May 5, 2006 12:15 PM | Report abuse

*Google ad reference*

Tim, have you:

A) seen the ad for "The Final Theory," and

B) Do you really hope we never read it?

Thank you.

Posted by: Scottynuke | May 5, 2006 12:16 PM | Report abuse

Not to worry, scotty. I knew instantly who you were talking about.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | May 5, 2006 12:19 PM | Report abuse

I've had the bras for days.

I've duct taped over the right 1/3 of my monitor, or I'd have gotten nothing done for this week whatsoever.

Those CANs people are playing dirty.


Posted by: bc | May 5, 2006 12:19 PM | Report abuse

Tim, I think I saw your monitor in Berkeley, CA during the late '60s. What a set.

Posted by: Dolphin Michael | May 5, 2006 12:21 PM | Report abuse

I'm not really sure what EgocentricPseudoIntellectual is trying to say, but it's strangely compelling. I. Can't. Look. Away.

Now, if Joel could get around to explaining something useful like Federal Acquisition Regulations to me, that would be just great.

Posted by: jw | May 5, 2006 12:22 PM | Report abuse

To someone with a physics background (emphatically NOT with a physics foreground) some of the wording in the article comes off a little funny.

We usually refer to "vacuum energy" rather than "energy found in vacuums". "Vacuum" in this sense is rarely (never?) plural because one aspect of the setup of these theories is that the vacuum or ground state is (essentially) unique...blah blah blah hilbert space stuff.

There may be a reason the wording is sensible in this context, but my understanding is that "the energy in vacuums" is what blows the dirt around on my floor.

Posted by: fizz | May 5, 2006 12:22 PM | Report abuse

This is a cosmology Friday right ?
The NY Times has finally bowed to the boodle and adds an interesting piece about the 1000th anniversary of the 1006 SuperNova.

Posted by: Shrieking Denizen | May 5, 2006 12:24 PM | Report abuse

I never looked at the "Final Theory" ad until you mentioned it. The usual claptrap. I hope you never read it, because I think a life should be spent more enjoyably.

I think that Egocentric PseudoIntellectual has an excessive opinion of the "Moving and Shaking" powers of this crowd. We are just peons, Mr./Ms. EPI; we boodle because we have no real power, but that doesn't stop us from having notions of how power should be used.

I have never dated a teacher's daughter. Being a married man, I never will (although my M-I-L does teach private lessons, now that I think about it). My freshman physics prof's daughters, however... but I was a pathetic nerdy youth, and they had several years and much more self-confidence than me.

Posted by: ScienceTim | May 5, 2006 12:25 PM | Report abuse

Hey, time is OUR concept not the universe's. The collapse doesn't have to take place in such a way as we actually notice it.

After all, we don't feel the universe expanding. So, why would we feel it collapsing?

Posted by: amo | May 5, 2006 12:28 PM | Report abuse

Well that settles it. This evening I am going to raise a glass to the 1000 anniversary of the 1006 supernova.

Posted by: dr | May 5, 2006 12:28 PM | Report abuse

Joel writes:
[if you try to ponder it your eyes will pop out.]
I can do this, you know, with the fake eye anyway. My kids love it, my wife goes ugh. I'm thinking of a way to spring load my glass eye, so when I hear something amazing, or totally cosmic, I can whack myself upside the head with both hands, say "Wow!", and pop my eye out. It would make a great bar trick, don't you think?

Posted by: Pat | May 5, 2006 12:30 PM | Report abuse

Actually, Tim, I was being my usual facetious self; any sort of "X doesn't want you to read this" generally is a good leading indicator of claptrap. I'm more worried about the "450mW Peak Burning Lasers" ad...

And bc and 'Mudge get all the good right-hand-side-of-the-monitor ads... I'm stuck with the Prius and UMUC. *SIGH*

Posted by: Scottynuke | May 5, 2006 12:30 PM | Report abuse

Pat, I would pay to see somebody do that trick.

Posted by: StorytellerTim | May 5, 2006 12:31 PM | Report abuse

Scottynuke: Regarding leading indicators of claptrap. The physicist John Baez (yes, they are apparently related) has written a "crackpot index" so that you never have to read through to find out that someone has claimed to square the circle.

Posted by: fizz | May 5, 2006 12:37 PM | Report abuse

jw, try duct tape on your monitor - word on the boodle is that it is effective.

How DID you warrant a special mention by EgocentricPseudoIntellectual, anyway?

I note that the ad for TheFinalTheory says that they hope "our" scientists hope you never read it. No doubt regretting their involvement.

Posted by: SonofCarl | May 5, 2006 12:38 PM | Report abuse

The best thing about the laser ad is that if you click on the link there's a matrix on the bottom of the page stating what kind of damage each laser can do. For $500 you can get one that melts plastic and shoots a visible beam. I'm thinking of getting one wrist-mounted.

Also, how come it's "laser" and not "LASER" or "L.A.S.E.R."? I bet the NYT writes L.A.S.E.R. They're such jerks.

Posted by: jw | May 5, 2006 12:41 PM | Report abuse

...and the laser site has videos! I want one.

Posted by: jw | May 5, 2006 12:42 PM | Report abuse

What the bleep to you do when you're not boodling Mudge to get those ads. I get the exciting "BP, beyond petroleum" ad half the time and insurance/investment companies otherwise. I want the giant fushia gravitatas envelopes.

Posted by: Shrieking Denizen | May 5, 2006 12:48 PM | Report abuse

Here I am having taken the day off in order to check stuff off my list for my upcoming move, looking forward to a nice Friday Kit about porches (I will have a much bigger one where I'm going) or summer recipes or gardening. I see the title, start reading and stop to pack another box because I've never been good in science and after a morning spent going to the bank, fire department, town hall and post office and making phone calls and packing, I can't get my head around googols and energy and stuff. But, as usual, I came back and read the kit, read the comments, and feel like I know a bit more than I did this morning. Tho' I can't say that knowing any of this helps in any way with my free-floating anxiety concerning the move. All you science people can worry about the universe, just let me know if and when I need to duck and cover. Or covah, as we say here around Boston.

Posted by: Bad Sneakers | May 5, 2006 12:50 PM | Report abuse

fizz, that's priceless!!! *ROFL*

I think "The Final Theory" would score about a googol on that scale.

Posted by: Scottynuke | May 5, 2006 12:53 PM | Report abuse

jw, the NYT Style Guide (p. 187) says "laser."

Posted by: Curmudgeon | May 5, 2006 1:20 PM | Report abuse

Looks like everyone has been sucked into the "Final Theory". Ho hum.

Posted by: jw | May 5, 2006 1:20 PM | Report abuse

Hahaha. I'm amused that their style guide has a page 187.

Posted by: jw | May 5, 2006 1:29 PM | Report abuse

Paraphrasing heavily:

"Just at that moment, a whale and a pot of petunias were materialized several miles above the Earth's surface. The petunias were heard to say "Oh no, not again". It's believed we'd know a lot more about the origins of the universe if we understood why the petunias said that."

RDP, 42 indeed. Guess I'm watching "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" tonight!

Posted by: Error Flynn | May 5, 2006 1:30 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for that link, Shrieker.

I *really* wish I could spend more time on this today, but I have to go.


Posted by: bc | May 5, 2006 1:31 PM | Report abuse



Posted by: bc | May 5, 2006 1:33 PM | Report abuse

Error, make sure you sit on the couch that "Eddie's in the space time continuum".

Posted by: a bea c | May 5, 2006 1:34 PM | Report abuse

Well, ScienceTim knows more about this stuff than I do (I was only a physics major until I got my first calculus exam back), so he can toss out anything I say, but here goes:

The oscillating universe is nothing new. The problem was always that there wasn't enough matter in the universe to cause it to collapse again, given the energy available (if you look at older papers, you'll see stuff about the search for "dark matter"). I think what's new in this paper is that the oscillating universe can be accommodated within what we know about universe energy and matter levels.

One of the great stories of science is shaping up to be the Cosmological Constant, proposed and rejected by Einstein as his "greatest blunder", only to be resurrected in the last few years.

Steve-2 suggested earlier that cosmology is on the verge of a revolution--I think he's absolutely right. Discussions in cosmology right now sound remarkably like geology sounded in the early 1960s (just before plate tectonics), or biology in the 1840s-1850s (just before natural selection). It will be interesting to see how the next few years play out.

Posted by: Dooley | May 5, 2006 1:34 PM | Report abuse

sorry, the couch appears in the eddies.

Posted by: a bea c | May 5, 2006 1:35 PM | Report abuse

How 'bout a nice cricket match played by homicidal robots?

Posted by: jw | May 5, 2006 1:36 PM | Report abuse

I sometimes wonder if the good SF writers actually do come up with insights that are more than just silly. I'm thinking, for instance, of Heinlein's book,"The Number of the Beast" where he posited that instead the number in Revelations being just 666, that it was in fact 6 to the 6th to the 6th, which was the number of alternate universes that existed. The number is very large, though not, as I recall, a googol.

Posted by: ebtnut | May 5, 2006 1:37 PM | Report abuse

I thought that botox was generally considered to be the revolution in cosmetology. What? Oh sorry. Nevermind.

Posted by: SonofCarl | May 5, 2006 1:38 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: jw | May 5, 2006 1:40 PM | Report abuse

Prepare to be amazed, jw: the NYT style guide (paperback version) has 371 pages, plus a couple of pages of front matter (not to be confused with dark matter).

Posted by: Curmudgeon | May 5, 2006 1:41 PM | Report abuse

I believe that that that number is in the order of a bazillion. But I have been known to be wrong.

Posted by: jw | May 5, 2006 1:41 PM | Report abuse

Or 4 8 15 16 23 42 (rinse, repeat every 108 minutes)

Posted by: Curmudgeon | May 5, 2006 1:43 PM | Report abuse

Ahhhhh! Lost is driving me crazy, 'Mudge, and now it's here too!

Quick Lost story. I'm totally addicted, and the old lady recently killed her old iPod and bought a new video version. Genius that I am, I recommended that she download the first season of Lost. For her business trip to Brussels.

Posted by: jw | May 5, 2006 1:46 PM | Report abuse

jw, I thought the number was "brazilian"

That's why W was so upset when he heard three Brazilian soldiers had died in Iraq, isn't it?

Posted by: a bea c | May 5, 2006 1:46 PM | Report abuse

I've always had difficulty with the concept that the infinite has a beginning and end time. Well, the latest theory suggests that, well, it doesn't. Somehow, it is comforting and it seems that the Buddists have gotten it right. The universe (multiverse?) IS. It may change, but with reference to the infinite, it is unchanging.

I look forward to the continuing revelations about the nature of all things.

Oh, by the way, a note to all the religious fundamentalists ... the Bible IS a teaching tool. But what you think it's teaching and it's actual lessons are more than likely two different things. As with the Universe, there's much more there than meets the eye.

Posted by: InChicago | May 5, 2006 1:49 PM | Report abuse

Donald Rumsfeld is giving the president his daily briefing.

He concludes by saying: "Yesterday, 3 Brazilian soldiers were killed."

"OH NO!" the president exclaims. "That's terrible!"

His staff sits stunned at this display of emotion, nervously watching as the president sits, head in hands. Finally, president looks up and asks, "How many is a brazillion?"

Posted by: mo | May 5, 2006 1:49 PM | Report abuse

it's a good thing a babelfish doesn't look like a blue tooth ear phone or everyone would have one and wear it where ever they went...

Posted by: mo | May 5, 2006 1:52 PM | Report abuse

1. jw, did you just call your fiancee the old lady? Uh oh.

2. Friday afternoon and the boodle has started discussing Brazilians. Uh oh.

Posted by: SonofCarl | May 5, 2006 1:53 PM | Report abuse

oh no i didn't...


Posted by: mo | May 5, 2006 1:54 PM | Report abuse

Breaking news: Goss has resigned as head of the CIA. (Probably wants to spend more time with his family.)

Posted by: Curmudgeon | May 5, 2006 1:54 PM | Report abuse

Gotta go now....

Posted by: RD Padouk | May 5, 2006 1:55 PM | Report abuse

where you goin rd??

Posted by: mo | May 5, 2006 1:56 PM | Report abuse

jw, I feel for you with your Lost addicition. I recognized the possiblitity and stopped watching. One addiction at a time for me and this Achenaddiction is pretty much killing me.

Posted by: dr | May 5, 2006 1:56 PM | Report abuse

Brazilians... Airto playing at Blues Alley.

Posted by: Dolphin Michael | May 5, 2006 1:57 PM | Report abuse

Hahaha...that reminds me of a Bush joke someone told me yesterday.

Bush was visiting Great Britain and had a meeting with the Queen. He asked her advice on how to surround himself with quality advisors and secretaries. "Easy," the Queen said. "I ask them a riddle. If they answer it correctly, then they have demonstrated that they are intelligent enough to perform their duties." She then turned to an aide and said, "Get Tony in here."

Tony Blair comes in and says, "What would you like, your Highness?" The queen says to him, "Your father had a child who is not your sister or your brother. Who was it?" And Tony Blair replies, "That's easy, the child is me." "Very well, you may go," the queen said as she dismissed him.

Well, Bush took this lesson to heart, and when he got back to the White House, he called Karl Rove into his office. "Listen here, TB, your daddy had a kid, and it's not your brother or your sister. Who is it?" "Well, sir, do you mind if I have a few hours to figure this out?" Rove replied. "Sure, now git, TB!" Bush said as Rove scurried out.

Rove started asking everyone on the White House staff the question, but no one could figure out the answer. Finally he came across the former Secretary of State, Colin Powell. Rove asked Powell, who immediately replied, "That's easy. The answer is me." Relieved, Karl returned to the President. "I have your answer, Mr. President." "Well, let's hear it," Bush said, getting impatient. "The answer is Colin Powell," Rove said with a smirk.

"No you idiot!" Bush shouted. "The answer's Tony Blair!"

Posted by: jw | May 5, 2006 2:01 PM | Report abuse

Getting back to the original subject--Are Turok and Steinhardt implying that the universe continues to expand, but every trillion years or so there is a new "big bang" to create new matter? This is not a ressurection of Fred Hoyle's steady state, is it? Inquiring minds want to know.

Posted by: ebtnut | May 5, 2006 2:11 PM | Report abuse


Here's some of the stuff I found on oranges causing allergic headaches:

"Vasoactive amines: foods containing serotonin, tryptamine, dopamine, and norepinephrine include avocado, banana, plum, orange, pineapple, wine, pickled herring, fermented cheese, and salt dried fish. Patients with diet-related migraines have lower levels of a platelet enzyme (phenolsulphotransferase) that breaks down these products. Red wines contain inhibitors of phenolsulphotransferase."

Lipid Transfer Proteins and Allergy to Oranges.
"Twenty-seven patients, showing mainly oral allergy syndrome after orange ingestion, as well as positive prick responses and serum-specific IgE levels to orange, were evaluated. Natural orange and lemon LTPs, as well as a recombinant orange LTP isoform were used for specific IgE determination, immunodetection, ELISA-inhibition assays and in vivo skin prick tests (SPTs) with all three purified allergens and with the major peach LTP allergen, Pru p 3. The natural allergens purified from orange (nCit s 3) and lemon (nCit l 3) showed very similar N-terminal amino acid sequences (18 out of 20 identical residues), typical of LTPs, and molecular masses of 9.6 kDa and 9.6 KDa, respectively. The recombinant orange isoform (rCit s 3) expressed was 9.46 kDa, and with a 67% sequence identity with rPru p 3. Of the 27 sera analyzed, specific IgE to the purified allergens was found in 54% for nCit l 3, 48% for nCit s 3, 46% for rCit s 3 and 37% for rPru p 3. Positive SPT responses were obtained in 7 out of 26 patients tested for nCit s 3, 3 out of 8 for nCit l 3 and 10 out of 26 for nPru p 3. ELISA-inhibition assays showed an equivalent IgE-binding pattern for the natural and recombinant orange LTPs, and IgE cross-reactivity among the purified orange, lemon and peach LTP allergens. The study concludes that members of the LTP allergen family are involved in allergy to oranges, displaying positive in vitro and in vivo reactions in 30-50% of the patients studied. Both orange and lemon allergens show cross-reactivity with the major peach allergen Pru p 3. (Ahrazem 2005 ref.11867 3)"
"Lipid Transfer Proteins and Allergy to Oranges"
Ahrazem O, Ibanez MD, Lopez-Torrejon G, Sanchez-Monge R, Sastre J, Lombardero M, Barber D, Salcedo G.
Int Arch Allergy Immunol 2005 Jul;137(3):201-10.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | May 5, 2006 2:13 PM | Report abuse

>it's a good thing a babelfish doesn't look like a blue tooth ear phone or everyone would have one and wear it where ever they went...

mo, maybe the Babelfish evolved from a Bluetooth headset. They both start with "B"...

Posted by: Error Flynn | May 5, 2006 2:15 PM | Report abuse

Heinlein deliberately did the math wrong (I say that because I can't believe it was a mistake) so that the number would fit in his book.

he did 6^6=46656
then 46656^6

when it should be 6^46656

And if posted the results of that number it would probably crash the server.

Posted by: omni | May 5, 2006 2:30 PM | Report abuse

well OK I can post in scientific notation:

so yes it is bigger than a google. it's also bigger than a googol. ha

Posted by: omni | May 5, 2006 2:33 PM | Report abuse

Does this new theory explain why there is so much matter and so little anti-matter. Asimov in one of his F&SF science articles once posited a four-leaf clover shaped multiverse with the other three leaves doing some sort of conservation/parity balance.

I just have a hard time picturing the universe as a continually oscillating Slinky®.

I think these physicists are entertaining each other with the world's most sophisticated game of "Bullsh*t" or "Liar's Club". Each new discovery must build on the old lie or give a plausible reason why the old lie is wrong. It's all a joke on the people not smart enough to figure out it's complete and total hogwash.

And 42 back to everybody. That's the real answer. Or as the Space Wanderer learned, "Why not?"

Posted by: yellojkt | May 5, 2006 2:36 PM | Report abuse

Wow. Watching the television news reports on the resignation of Porter Goss is kind of like watching a new universe being born. For out of an absolute vacuum, a perfect void of information, soon will arise a Conventional Wisdom. And this Conventional Wisdom shall soon give birth to a mighty race of Simple Regurgitates.

Nature is an awesome spectacle.

Posted by: RD Padouk | May 5, 2006 2:36 PM | Report abuse

But the corrected Heinlein Number of The Beast, not to be confused with the Clarke Nine Billion Names of God, is still smaller than a googolplex.

Posted by: yellojkt | May 5, 2006 2:43 PM | Report abuse

RD... you said it!

Posted by: TBG | May 5, 2006 2:45 PM | Report abuse

I lost my scoresheet and program. Is Porter Goss one of the Discredited Naysayers or a Fabricating YesMan? Or perhaps an Expendable Pawn?

Posted by: yellojkt | May 5, 2006 2:46 PM | Report abuse

ok... let's assume for a moment that the universe does contract after expanding. at what point does it start doing that? what forces would make it reverse the direction of its movement. is there some kind of cosmic tension that's increasing during expansion? at what point would this cosmic tension snap back like a rubber band.

also, (and correct me if any of you know any better, which I'm sure you do) if space expands in all directions from any given point, and then it contracted, wouldn't it also be contracting at all points equally? so it wouldn't collapse into a single point, it would collapse into an infinite number of points. all points everywhere (which would no longer exist because the universe has become infinitely small?) would simultaneously contain the material for the universe to expand again... which sounds to me like a multi-verse theory...

Posted by: egadman | May 5, 2006 2:46 PM | Report abuse

aaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhghghghhghhhh my braaaaaaiinn...

Posted by: omni | May 5, 2006 2:46 PM | Report abuse

Ah, yes--apparently Excel is breaking the rules of arithmetic. According to excel,

6^6^6 = 46656^6 = whatever

But, excel is wrong!!!

46656^6 = (6^6)^6

6^6^6 = 6^46656 = a lot (according to omni)

I think excel's issue is, there's no arethmetic reason to have an exponent which is also an exponent. (6^6)^6 makes sense-- 6^6^6 is just an overly complicated way of writing something else entirely, and I don't thing it would ever turn up in the solving of any type of equation--you would have simplified that exponent 6^6 way before then.

Posted by: jw | May 5, 2006 2:47 PM | Report abuse

10^10^100 indeed

I need a stiff drink...

Posted by: omni | May 5, 2006 2:48 PM | Report abuse

"For out of an absolute vacuum, a perfect void of information, soon will arise a Conventional Wisdom. And this Conventional Wisdom shall soon give birth to a mighty race of Simple Regurgitates. "

Its kind of a shame that this phrase is about political appointees. You are one heck of a wordsmith.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 5, 2006 2:48 PM | Report abuse

RE: Porter Goss Resignation

If the spooks are spooked, what does that mean?

Posted by: amo | May 5, 2006 2:55 PM | Report abuse

It means 33%. That's what it means.

Posted by: TBG | May 5, 2006 2:56 PM | Report abuse

Liked your joke. But did you know that Colin Powell and George W. Bush are distant cousins? Tis true. The family tree--their connectedness--is laid out here:

Posted by: Loomis | May 5, 2006 2:56 PM | Report abuse

Wow, I had heard that before, that's pretty interesting.

Posted by: jw | May 5, 2006 2:57 PM | Report abuse

Regarding 6^6^6. MATLAB interprets 6^6^6 as being the same as (6^6)^6, or 1.0314e28. And MATLAB is God.

To the 2:48 poster. Thank you so much for your kind words, although I totally understand your desire for anonymity.

Posted by: RD Padouk | May 5, 2006 2:59 PM | Report abuse

the word "unparsimonious" just really reached out and grabbed me. got the dictionary, and couldn't find it, but found parsimonious, meaning closefisted. a new word for me today. now concerning that kit and what that word means in that kit, got no idea. can't contribute anything on it, but I got the word "parsimonious". I dont't know when I'll be able to use it, but it's mine.

Posted by: Cassandra S | May 5, 2006 3:00 PM | Report abuse

Been at the doc's all morning. Been Boodleskimming.

Saw Mudge told us about Goss being gone. Tony Blair is shuffling deck chairs on the Titanic, and with Goss's move, Bush is shuffling deck chairs on the Hindenburg. (All in the same day's headline!) teehee. There's a whole lot of shufflin' goin' on.

Posted by: Loomis | May 5, 2006 3:00 PM | Report abuse maybe omni is wrong and Excel and MATLAB are right. Anyone out there have Mathematica? I think that would seal it.

Posted by: jw | May 5, 2006 3:01 PM | Report abuse

Too bad my trusty TI-89 is lost to the math gods.

Posted by: jw | May 5, 2006 3:02 PM | Report abuse

Mathematica agrees with MATLAB.

Posted by: RD Padouk | May 5, 2006 3:04 PM | Report abuse

excel is a microsoft product, right!
no idea what MATLAB is

Posted by: omni | May 5, 2006 3:06 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Bush and Mr. Goss appeared at ease today and chatted affably. But while there was no immediate suggestion that Mr. Goss had been pushed out, his departure comes soon after the new White House chief of staff, Joshua Bolten, told members of the administration that, if they were thinking of leaving by the end of the year, they should leave sooner than that.

The above from the NYT. Anyone read of Google anything yet about whether Josh Bolten was behind Goss getting goosed out of his post?

Posted by: Loomis | May 5, 2006 3:08 PM | Report abuse

Speaking of really, really old things, I still have my TI-55. Don't care what those RPN fans say, TI has always kicked HP.

To you youngsters, TI verses HP is what geeks used to argue about in the dayse before the great Windows verses Macintosh debate.

Posted by: RD Padouk | May 5, 2006 3:08 PM | Report abuse

Flash message, ZZZZ and all that:

The K man just checked into rehab. So much for that Ambien habit.

Posted by: jw | May 5, 2006 3:11 PM | Report abuse

Omni - MATLAB is a Mathworks product that is a well-known mathematical interpreter in the scientific world. It is supported by a large community of zealots. There has recently been a schism involving a heretical development known as "Python." Plus, there is a shadowy group who support something known as XMIDAS, but their existence is largely hearsay.

Posted by: RD Padouk | May 5, 2006 3:13 PM | Report abuse

I just ran the equation through two separate programs not sold by microsoft and they both agree with me

perl and python

Posted by: omni | May 5, 2006 3:13 PM | Report abuse

My world opened up the day I figured out how to use the TI-82's random number generator to run a numbers racket in 10th grade.

Posted by: jw | May 5, 2006 3:14 PM | Report abuse

I love a good math fight.

Posted by: jw | May 5, 2006 3:15 PM | Report abuse

Padouk, back in my day the geeks and nerds argued about which was better, the abacus, or counting on fingers and toes. (Fingers and toes won; more portable operating system and better GUI. And you seldom had to go above 20 of anything, so that wasn't much of a problem.)

Posted by: Curmudgeon | May 5, 2006 3:19 PM | Report abuse

that abacus post just reminded me that last year, when my students did a skit involving a phone conversation, we borrowed props from the drama club. I had two very large black rotary phones. I had to teach the kids how to use them. In the middle of explaining how to turn the disc, then release, one of the kids asked me how old I was when my parents let me have my own cell phone.

Posted by: a bea c | May 5, 2006 3:25 PM | Report abuse

I keep my long-dead HP-41CV (with Math I and Finacial I chips in two of the four expansion slots) in my desk drawer as a momento. I started college with a TI-55-II that was a piece of crap. I went to the Palo Alto side halfway through my freshman year when the 7 key kept sticking on the TI. I now use a HP-48G because the HP-32S-II was a little too underpowered for my needs. I'm sure someone can out-geek me because I never got into the synthetic programming or any of the other hacks.

HP's are my form of theft prevention. None of the Penn State trained engineers I work with can even grok RPN, so they never bother "borrowing" it. I had to install an RPN emualtor on my Treo because I would go crazy otherwise.

I concede that TI has won the calculator war. Like Betamax and Apple, the best technology doesn't always win the marketing war.

TI dominated by flooding the high school market with their graphical calcualtors before HP could respond. My high school-aged son has a TI-89, a TI-84, and a few TI-83's for back-up.

Posted by: yellojkt | May 5, 2006 3:26 PM | Report abuse

using just your hands there is system where you can count to 99.

right hand fingers=1
right hand thumb=5

left hand fingers=10
left hand thumb=50

but I prefer counting in binary, as I am then able to count to 1023

all this assumes you haven't lost any fingers

Posted by: omni | May 5, 2006 3:27 PM | Report abuse

LOL, 'mudge.

I'm dying to hear about the FPDE (Flatulence Powered Difference Engine).

Posted by: yellojkt | May 5, 2006 3:28 PM | Report abuse

Omni - I think you may be right, but it depends on how it is written. For example, a^a^a seems to be interpreted as (a^a)^a by Matlab and Mathematica. However the rules of exponent notation clearly indicate "a" superscript "a" super-superscript "a" (You know what I mean.) Should be interpreted as you state, right to left.
Now I need to stop before the men in white coats show up.

Posted by: RD Padouk | May 5, 2006 3:33 PM | Report abuse

I'll tell you, yellojkt, one thing that made the FPDE development work easier was that Supernova--we didn't have to stop working at sundown. You could read an illuminated parchment by the light of it.

Not that any of us could read.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | May 5, 2006 3:34 PM | Report abuse

Omni - I do signal processing. Signal processors always think in powers of 2. It becomes sort of a fetish....

Posted by: RD Padouk | May 5, 2006 3:38 PM | Report abuse

Notice that nobody has mentioned a successor for Goss?

I'm just saying.

Posted by: RD Padouk | May 5, 2006 3:40 PM | Report abuse

Not a slinky... no stairs for the universe to fall down.

Try a complex wave isoform like a photon....which I tend to visualize as two synchronized waves coming together to form a particle before diffusing out.

I don't know why, but it makes visual sense to me given the dual property a photon has. It also somewhat resembles a double helix or a two-line braid in my head, so even more fun.

I also have a complex visualization of quarks as continually inverting and everting cones as well, just for the silly fun of it.

So the universe, in a similar wave isoform would compress to a "point" aka origin of big bang before diffussing out again, then back together again to flip into its mirror image.

Of course, physics ain't my bag, and this is based only shakily on what I DO understand of higher math. But it'd make more fun sci-fi writing for me, and totally rot the brains of future physicists (mwa hahaha)

I was too busy to boodle yesterday.

Posted by: Wilbrod | May 5, 2006 3:40 PM | Report abuse

Does that make you binary-sexual?

I know, cheap shot. I'm almost sorry.

Posted by: yellojkt | May 5, 2006 3:41 PM | Report abuse

>I still have my TI-55

Now THAT brings back memories! (er, so to speak.) I think mine's long gone by now. Didn't the manual have some kind of railroad theme, showing branches and the like?

Posted by: Error Flynn | May 5, 2006 3:42 PM | Report abuse

omni, that counting system on the hands is quite neat, but how do I clear it after? My hands are stuck now at 76.

Posted by: SonofCarl | May 5, 2006 3:44 PM | Report abuse

Make a fist, shake at sky, open hands, and presto:reset to 0.

Posted by: omni | May 5, 2006 3:58 PM | Report abuse


Kennedy's rehab is bigger than Goss's resignation on CNN...

*rolling my eyes*

Posted by: Scottynuke | May 5, 2006 3:59 PM | Report abuse

We had that trouble back in the old days, too, SofC. Try some ground black pepper--if you sneeze, sometimes it'll reboot itself.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | May 5, 2006 4:00 PM | Report abuse

Anybody else see the similarity in this discovery with the book "The Tao of Physics"? It's been awhile, but I remember the "dance" of the universe, expanding and contracting, as being a central theme of that book, and that the author kind of extrapolated the concept from Hindu religion "dance of the universe."

Posted by: Julie | May 5, 2006 4:01 PM | Report abuse

I'll try omni's I've lost my work.

Posted by: SonofCarl | May 5, 2006 4:07 PM | Report abuse

A team using omni's system could do astronomical calculation, involving billions and billions and billions of meters, joules, kilos and other teslas. They would have to be really close friends or family, if Twister games invades your personal space too much you'd freak out at calculation like (6exp6)exp6 =1.03144248x10exp28. Thanks Micronta.

Posted by: Shrieking Denizen | May 5, 2006 4:08 PM | Report abuse

You were up to 76, if that helps. Both thumbs, two left fingers, one right finger.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | May 5, 2006 4:09 PM | Report abuse

There seems to be some gossip about Goss.... keep listening.

Posted by: TBG | May 5, 2006 4:12 PM | Report abuse

Great-Uncle Olaf was on the Western Front in the Great War. The first time he had to throw a grenade there was a bit of an incident.

Old Olaf wasn't too quick on the uptake, so he had to think hard about what the instructor had said about grenades. "Count to 11, then throw immediately" was the instruction.

He pulled the grenade out and started counting: one, two, three, four, five *switch hands* six, seven, eight, nine, ten *put grenade between knees*, eleven!

Posted by: SonofCarl | May 5, 2006 4:15 PM | Report abuse

I don't believe that story SonofCarl. 11 is 3. If he thought he was supposed count to eleven he'd of had his hand blown off before reaching four. Now he'd only he's only able to count to 31. poor guy

Posted by: omni | May 5, 2006 4:25 PM | Report abuse

And on that SCC I'm out of here. Enjoy the fifth of May, or as we say in America, Cinco de Mayo siesta. OLÉ.

Posted by: omni | May 5, 2006 4:27 PM | Report abuse

Way off topic, of course...somebody wrote Way back if Wyoming is that place where wild horses run all over....kinda: there are about 3,600 wild horses in 16 wild horse herds. Wanna adopt? The BLM is in charge of placing horses, in June and August. The state prison honor farm attendees gentle them down. Major adoption shows in June and August.

Even more off-topically, there is a great Yellowstone Park website: or call 307-344-2293. Many small group and family group tours, overnights---you haven't lived until you've seen and heard wolves in the wild. Bison babies, etc. check it out.

Posted by: thereIsaidit | May 5, 2006 4:31 PM | Report abuse

Wilbrod, but I like the idea of the universe as a slinky. I can see it so clearly. Two forces pulling on either end of the slinky, one to expand, one to contract the universe, with the slinky all wobbly up and down in between.

Did anyone else do the slinky experiment in high school physics?

Posted by: dr | May 5, 2006 4:32 PM | Report abuse

That's one way to avoid prostate problems, SoC. The Boodle is turning into a Borscht Belt Clearing House For Old Jokes. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Second Geeky Asimov Reference OF The Day: He has a short story where there are two countries that have been in a long drawn out war. One side develops a secret weapon that is a pilot trained to do math without the help of a calculator.

Since you can now use a calculator on portions of the AP Calculus test, does that make this story, more, or less ironic?

Posted by: yellojkt | May 5, 2006 4:32 PM | Report abuse

Since omni brought it up, I have a Cinco De Mayo rant. Not as funny as the CoDM shaggy dog story puns earlier.

Old Joke:
Q: Do they have the Fourth of July in England?
A: Of course. What else would they call the day between the 3rd and 5th of July.

There has to be a way to recycle this for Cinco De Mayo.

Posted by: yellojkt | May 5, 2006 4:37 PM | Report abuse sleeeepppyyy...wanna go home...

Posted by: Curmudgeon | May 5, 2006 4:37 PM | Report abuse

Julie - you are absolutely correct about the Tao of Physics. I think Carl Sagan also made a point of relating an oscillating universe to Hindu.

yellojkt- I would take umbrage if I weren't laughing so hard. Also I remember the short story you mention. As I recall the calculators were mechanical. There were research teams of advanced mathematicians trying to break the magic of square roots through reverse engineering. The military dream was the "manned missile." Good stuff.

Posted by: RD Padouk | May 5, 2006 4:39 PM | Report abuse

"Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy said today he is checking himself into the Mayo Clinic to treat a longstanding addiction to prescription pain medications."

New nickname: Glaxo de Mayo.

All right, all right, enough groaning. WaPo, you can have that one for free.

Posted by: SonofCarl | May 5, 2006 4:45 PM | Report abuse

IF you read "Pi in the Sky: Counting, Thinking, and Being"-- a very good book on number and history, BTW-- don't remember the author.

In it you'll find a mediveal number chart that enables people to count up past 20 using fingers, wrist, elbows, shoulder, chest etc.

This was before the decimal system of counting, I think, so playing knickknack on your thumb for 10, 50 wouldn't have worked then.

I would love to replace the ASL number system with something a bit more efficient. One, some of the number signs are based on roman numerals--we literally sign 1 C for one hundred, and number+ M for thousand!

Two, some of the number signs duplicate letter signs without any reason ( F=9, V=2, 6=W.. not an easy sign).

One reason I disliked physics was a senile teacher who had an obsession with mixing numbers with letters in his file names and kept referring to the handouts by file names rather than page number or anything sane, simple, and logical like that.

After seeing "look at handout 2/V-9/F-345T7" six (W?) times way too many in class, I decided I had better leave the class before I committed homicide on a rather sweet, senile man.

On the plus side, ASL incorporates some math stuff as part of its lingo.

I rather like the fact the "therefore" sign literally is like the math symbol (but inevitably rotated 180 degree due to use).

Just a digression... there's no bigger pain in the keister than sounding out numbers either verbally or in sign.

Of which the book has a lot of information on, including why the chinese do better in math.

This has been a Wilbrod Book of the Month Club Recommendation.

Posted by: Wilbrod | May 5, 2006 4:55 PM | Report abuse

Yes, Hinduism tends to believe in the recarniation of everything, including universes. There's a good myth about Vishnu (the lord of the universe) finding out he and his whole universe is only a dream in the mind of Brahman, who is also dreaming of many other universes with other Vishnus and so on, and they all cycle and so on.

Vishnu is considerably humbled... not easy to do with an almighty Lord of the Universe.

And thus it is proved that Hinduism, while seemingly polytheistic can also be seen to be starkly monotheistic at its root.

Just like the grains of sand make up a beach, I guess. Don't confuse the leaves with the oak. OMMMMMM

Posted by: Wilbrod | May 5, 2006 5:02 PM | Report abuse

my brain leaked out of my ear... you guys made my brain leak out of my ear!!

Posted by: mo | May 5, 2006 5:34 PM | Report abuse

Any reason why Patrick doesn't go to the Betty Ford Clinic? I mean, come on, what better way to demonstrate that good ole "bipartisanship" both sides of the aisle are screeching about.

Posted by: NeedThirdParty | May 5, 2006 5:48 PM | Report abuse

mo - And YOU made me fall out of my chair laughing.

Have a wonderful weekend, everybody!

Posted by: CowTown | May 5, 2006 6:22 PM | Report abuse

mo, I'm not sure if that's better or worse than the eye popping we were warned about in the kit.

Posted by: SonofCarl | May 5, 2006 6:35 PM | Report abuse

Yes, but Evangelical Christians simply add up the days mentioned in the "Constantine edited" King James version of the bible and say the universe is only 10,000 yrs old and science can't possibly be right about anything...

Ergo the Bush administration's approach to science

Posted by: Long Beach, CA | May 5, 2006 6:55 PM | Report abuse

"सूर्याचन्द्रमसौ धाता यथापूर्वमकल्पयत्" - He made the Sun and the Moon just as He had made them before - Hindu Vedic Scripture

Posted by: KR Raman | May 5, 2006 7:25 PM | Report abuse

What slows down the expansion of the universe is plain old gravity, the most familiar force and one that we really don't understand at all.

Dark matter was discovered decades ago by observing the rotation of other galaxies. Looking around our own little piece of the universe seemed to indicate that almost all the mass of the galaxy is in stars. We had mass-to-light ratios evaluated from examining patches of space, globular clusters, and other good stuff like that. Come to look at other galaxies, folks discoverd (this made the career of ... ummmm... I think it was Sandy Faber) that the galaxies' rotation indicated that there was a whole lot of mass distributed through the galaxies' body that was not accounted for by the mass-to-light ratio. It couldn't be accounted-for by super-massive black holes in the center of the galaxy, it had to be distributed through the galaxy. Since the mass didn't seem to be related to the known mass-to-light ratios, it had to be dark -- you know, making no light. So, Dark Matter.

A problem: even with Dark Matter, calculations of the total mass in the universe indicate that there isn't enough mass in the universe to eventually stop the universe's expansion, much less turn it around and cause a collapse. Yes, the idea of the Big Crunch is about as old as the idea of the Big Bang, maybe as old as Hubble's determination of the expansion of the universe. In fact, there appears at best estimate, including Dark Matter, to be only about 10--30% of the critical mass in the universe.

Why is that a problem?
(1) It's darned depressing (of course, I find everything about far-future cosmological predictions to be very depressing). The universe will expand forever, the stars and galaxies will spread out, and the already unlikely concept of interstellar travel will not even exist because the stars will be too old and far away to see anything that you might think about traveling to.

(2) It's aesthetically unsatisfying. Whatever value is taken by the actual mass of the universe, greater or less than enough to cause eventual stoppage of the expansion, it must have some particular value. The only particular, distinctive, numerical value in the Big Bang theory is that precise mass that is great enough to cause asymptotic stoppage of the expansion (meaning that it never quite stops expanding, but it approaches a particular maximum dimension at an ever-slowing rate of expansion -- Zeno's paradox at work). A greater value causes the Big Crunch, but why any particualr value? A lesser value causes the Big Drift (a new coinage), but why any particular value? So powerful is the appeal of aesthetics, that it's been practically taken as proved, for decades, that the real, true mass is the critical mass value. So powerful is the appeal of this idea, that you would regulalry hear cosmologists explain that 90% of the matter in the universe is Dark Matter; we know it's Dark Matter because we can't see it, but it must be there.

(3) It fits another (largely untested) theory that sounds real good. GUTs (Grand Unified Theories) are the basis for what's called Universal Inflation. No, I don't understand a word of it. GUTs may be the same thing as String Theory. I dunno. The idea is to have a Theory of Everything. Anyway, apparently it comes directly from practically any proposed GUT that the universe flashed into existence as, essentially, a quantum-mechanical fluke (they happen all the time, on a much smaller scale). The universe expanded in a way that certainly sounds faster-than-light when I hear it described. According to what I've heard, the universe has to be created in the precisely balanced (critical mass) form, in which it asymptotically approaches a particular size (whose value I don't know). No Big Crunch, just a finite universe that eventually fades and dies as a soup of leptons (electrons, positrons, and neutrinos) mixed with black holes. A problem with Inflation is that, IIRC, it requires perfect balance between the formation of matter and anti-matter. One speculative theory is that there was ALMOST perfect balance, but the matter and anti-matter annihilated each other, leaving a wisp of matter that is expanding too fast and masses too little to ever bring the expansion to a halt.

Note that GUTS (and String Theory, I guess) are not crazy ideas. They fit current experimental data. They just haven't yet been able to make a prediction that leads to a practical experiment. It's not inconceivable that such a prediction could be made -- it's just that none actually have been made.

Then, about 10 years or so ago, astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope to measure the expansion rate of the universe by looking at very distant galaxies, announced the first hints of the possibility that the expansion was speeding up the farther away they looked. There is now increasing evidence that this is real. The expansion is being pushed faster by an increase in energy of the entire system. Since we don't know where the energy is coming from, we can't see any sign of its source, and we already have a mostly-unknown concept called Dark Matter, the energy got named Dark Energy.

There was a reference earlier today to Hoyle. Yes, Fred Hoyle and Jayant Narlikar (author of my cosmology textbook from grad school) are (well, were) pretty much the only fans left of the Steady-State Theory, in which new matter and energy continually spring forth within the Universe, such that the Universe never will stop expanding, but it never will become infinitely attenuated (the Big Drift) either. To some extent, it appears to have been postulated for aesthetic reasons, once again. But, with the discovery of evidence for Dark Energy, it may have gotten a little resurgence.

Whether and how it all pans out is, of course, why scientists have not folded our tents and marked the scientific journals "The End." There still is much to discover.

Posted by: ScienceTim | May 5, 2006 7:32 PM | Report abuse

The idea that the Universe is a dream in the mind of God (whether it be a Hindu God or a Christian one) is central to "A Course in Miracles," a somewhat difficult-to-comprehend text that has been made much more accessible through a book called "The Disappearance of the Universe," by Gary Renard.

I'll try to summarize:
The Universe is the result of a brief thought in the mind of a creation, or Son, of God. The thought was instantly corrected, only we don't know it was. Our own minds are a part of this split God mind, and we have built up egos, and guilt, and the concept of time, that convince us we're individuals who are separate from God and that this dream is real. All the bad things that happen in the world are symbols of the guilt we feel about the initial separation -- we attack ourselves and others and become more and more convinced of our own uniqueness and our own reality, and thus the Universe continues to divide and change. Meanwhile, God wants us back where we belong and harbors no resentment. We've done nothing wrong, even though we think we have. There is no punishment, and no Hell except this hell on Earth. When we wake up from this dream, the Universe will disappear.

According to Renard, in order to wake up, we must acknowledge that all the symbols we see are part of our own dream, and we must forgive them all. We must break down all the old thoughts and conditioning we've received and replace them with new ones, and these new thoughts must become a habit. (There's a great line in the Course about recognizing the world for what it is and, once you do, asking, Why would I want this?) But we must *all* return to the original state, because we are all one. Of course, some of us will wake up -- or become enlightened -- before others, and that's OK, too: It will still *seem* like we all woke up at once, because there really is no such thing as time. It's all an illusion. Samsara. Maya.

Got it?
Good -- there'll be a pop quiz next week.

[There's also a great scene in the animated film "Waking Life," directed by Richard Linklater," in which Linklater himself suggests that time is just this constant saying 'No' to God's invitation. Actually, the whole film is about this what-if-life-is-just-a-dream-and-how-do-I-wake-up concept. Pretty cool stuff.]

Posted by: Dreamer | May 5, 2006 8:31 PM | Report abuse

Gosh we have Science Tim's exposition and Dreamer's next to one another. There are many paths to truth. Thanks for sharing them.

Posted by: RD Padouk | May 5, 2006 8:45 PM | Report abuse

Hmm. But if your understanding of this theory of serial multi-versism doesn't account for how compression starts, why embrace it? By Occam's razor, the existing theory demands less mechanism than the one you're inclining to.

The inability of our little minds to grasp infinity, on the other hand, is simply an unrelated fact, not a piece of evidence. As with QM, we have no experience of infinity and no intuition for it. Your argument against parallel multiverses would pretty clearly apply to QM as well, but in fact we know QM is solid because we have so much more data. Even if we can't intuit heads or tails about it.

Let's not get superstitious or anthropocentric. That's just a distraction.

Posted by: realist | May 5, 2006 8:46 PM | Report abuse

"Modern materialism strips people of the need to feel responsible. And often enough, so does religion. But I think if you take quantum mechanics seriously enough, it puts the responsibility squarely in your lap. And it doesn't give answers that are clear-cut, and comforting. It says, yes, the world is a very big place. It's very mysterious. Mechanism is not the answer, but I'm not gonna tell you what the answer is, because you're old enough to decide for yourself."

-- Jeffrey Satinover, M.D. (Psychiatry), M.S. (Physics), in the film "What the Bleep Do We Know!?"

Posted by: Dreamer | May 5, 2006 9:04 PM | Report abuse

Re: Jeffrey Satinover, M.D. (Psychiatry), M.S. (Physics), in the film "What the Bleep Do We Know!?"

Well that's what you get when you send a shrink to look at modern physics. A lot of fairly egregious moralizing was hung on Darwin's theory. That is now seen as mistaken. Do we have to go through that kind of exercise in moral misdirection with QM too? Dick Feynman had a fine contempt for "cocktail party philosophers" and "Bleep" is full of them.

The fault lies not in the stars, dear Brutus

Posted by: Anonymous | May 5, 2006 9:31 PM | Report abuse

Nick Johnson just hit his second homer of the night; Nats lead Pittsburgh 6-0 in the 8th. Life is just an idea in the mind of Honus Wagner (1874-1955).

Posted by: Curmudgeon | May 5, 2006 9:36 PM | Report abuse

I ... am gay.

Posted by: Bruce | May 5, 2006 9:51 PM | Report abuse

Thanks so much to Science Tim and Dreamer for those posts.

Posted by: SonofCarl | May 5, 2006 9:55 PM | Report abuse

Thanks, Mudge, for the opening to something completely different (not that the cosmic talk isn't fascinating!). Nice story about a local trainer and his horse Sweetnorthernsaint in the Kentucky Derby:

I don't follow racing, but I've watched the Triple Crown for as long as I can remember. This year I like Steppenwolfer, because the name contains a great book and a great band, and because he's a pretty dark gray (or maybe roan, I couldn't quite tell from the picture). Long odds, though. I've decided I will go to the local track this summer, just to be out and see some horses.

thereisaidit, I would love to adopt one of those wild horses, but I don't have a place to keep it...

Posted by: mostlylurking | May 5, 2006 9:56 PM | Report abuse

The only thing I've read recently on this subject was Brian Greene's "The Fabric of the Cosmos." Of course, I listened to it on tape in the car with the inevitable ADD-type consequences.

I believe "GUT" - acronym for Grand Unified Theory - is a general term for any theory which unified the four fundamental forces (weak nuclear, strong nuclear, electromagnetism, gravity) and has sometimes been used to refer to a theory that covers only the first three. String theory is a type of GUT, but one that is so conceptually compelling and so theoretically fecund that it's become its own branch of mathematical physics.

Inflation - originally proposed by Guth in the 70s and repeatedly doctored up since, gives us a case of what might be called "logical backwash" as hinted by ScienceTim in his reason (3). We have tentative observations A, B, and C (C might be "density of the universe"), which we can't understand in the current framework of the Big Bang theory. Along comes a supplementary theory - inflation - that explains A, B, and C, and tells us what their exact values should be. As a result of this theoretical unification, we suddenly have a lot of confidence in the value
of "density of the universe", even if there is some good evidence against it. (We're all Bayesians at heart.)

P.S. Two somewhat topical true stories.

1) When I was an undergrad, I wrote occasionally for the school paper. Since I was the only physics major doing this, I was sent to cover all scientific doings. One such event was a lecture by astronomer/journalist Timothy Ferris. I submitted a story making frequent references to a hypothesized cosmologically useful elementary particle called an "axion"; since the story was not News, it was shelved to be edited the next day. The next day the editors (one music major, one politics) for some reason had trouble reaching me and decided they could edit it without my help. The next day, not on the front page but far more prominent than I would have liked, I found a story with my byline describing in detail how astronomers were looking through their telescopes hunting for "axioms". Thus endeth my career as a science writer.

2) In grad school I attended a couple of lectures by Ed Witten (aka Mr String Theory, aka World's Smartest Dude). Those of us who had never met him in person were surprised to see that he has, in fact, a gigantic head. One guy sitting near me, a respectable academic in his own right, said "Look at the size of that thing! Pound for pound, I'm every bit the mathematician he is."

Posted by: fizz | May 5, 2006 10:28 PM | Report abuse

Abacus? Chisenbop? Fingers and toes? TI vs. HP?

I used a sliderule in my high school physics class--not because I went to high school in the middle ages, just because I thought it was cool. But of course, I was just advertising my geekdom.

I did have a calculator, too.

But we had a rotary phone at home.

It's too late for me to make a useful contribution here, because the conversation has passed me by while my life was going on out here in the real world, and also because I am too tired. But it's the nature of the compulsion, that I am typing anyway--fellow achenaddicts, I know you understand.

Good night and I hope everybody has a wonderful weekend.

Posted by: kbertocci | May 5, 2006 11:44 PM | Report abuse

the humor is racy, informed and intelligent. As a first time visitor I am suitably impressed.


Posted by: ravi gorowala | May 6, 2006 6:17 AM | Report abuse

Yesterday I prayed for levity. this morning I woke up and read the Boodle and Tim and Dreamer launched my mind into orbit. Now I'm off to my garden; head in the clouds, hands in the dirt. And there's this number i keep thinking about, 6.02*10^23. I don't know where that number came from, but I'm sure it's gotta be really important.

Posted by: Pat | May 6, 2006 7:29 AM | Report abuse

OK -- very, very late with this boodle; it's 10:19 am Saturday -- but Dreamer's post and the others mentioning Hinduism made me decide to post on Buddhist philosophy regarding the universe and reality.

But first, a mention that it was 'The Tau of Physics' that first led me to studying Eastern religions. The parallels are wonderful.

There is a saying in Buddhism, "beginingless time." We, and all other phenomena have been around since beginingless time, cycling through infinte incarnations and realms (bardos).

In Mahayana Buddhism (i don't know much about Theravedan, so will be careful about attributions) the fundamental idea of how everything exists is "dependent arising." Everything in existence, including the universe is "co-created" by the actions of all beings together. It's at the heart of the idea of reality being created by karma.

Karma in this sense means cause and effect. My behavior in this life and all my lives, my motivations and actions create karma, negative or positive. All beings operate under the same karmic laws. Indeed the universe, and all that is in it has been created by the karmic actions of all sentient beings since beginingless time.

All phenomena are impermanent; everything changes, comes and goes, grows old, dies, is born again (not in the Christian sense); the cycle of constant change and impermanence is beginingless and endless.

Nothing exists separately from anything else. There is no such being as Nelson, existing inherently alone, apart from all other phenomena. We all exist in a completely inter-connect "net."

I am not separate from the coffee I just drank -- the beans grew on trees; the trees are sustained by soil, water and sun; the soil is built by trillions of microorganisms. The coffee beans were picked by other people -- they are sustained by the foods they eat and the land they live on. the coffee was processed by yet more people; it was shipped by some form of tranpsortataion to the processing center where different tools were used to process the beans.

These tools, and the processing center itself, were made by other people, and are made of other materials, say wood for the building. The wood was once trees that were sustained by water, sun and soil; they were cut and manufactured into wood by still more people -- on and on and on and on.

I have some backgroud in ecology; all of reality, all of us in it, we are an ecological system on steroids. Nothing exists apart from anything else.

The only thing that is permanent is Mind. Primordial Mind; clear light, non-dual, completely empty. The other side of the coin from phenomenal existence.

The attainment of enlightenment in Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism is to become Mind -- nirvana is to leave the cyclic existence of birth, aging, death, rebirth, etc. It is a form of liberation.

But nirvana is not viewed as enlightenment. It is still an existence of sorts.

To become enlightened one must first realize emptiness -- not just understand the concept or visualize it -- but to actually see emptiness.

This is still not enlightenment. Enlightenment is to become omniscient, to non-dually, non-conceptually become the clear light of Mind.

Just some light thoughts for Saturday morning. I'm now going to go work in my impermanent, inherently non-existent garden -- after I finish drinking the coffee that is truly the one thing that sustains me!!!

Posted by: nelson | May 6, 2006 10:47 AM | Report abuse

SCC -- *Dreamer's Dreamer's post* was a bit of a typographical drift into the Dream of the Mind.

Posted by: nelson | May 6, 2006 10:48 AM | Report abuse

Good morning, friends. The weather here is absolutely beautiful. We had thunderstorms yesterday, but this morning the sun is shinning and just the right degree of warmth and coolness. I do hope this is a good day for everyone. I've been out this morning, checked my garden, seen my dad, and been to a meeting at the church. Time to study Sunday school lesson, and prepare for that. Get out if you can, and I hope the weather where you are is good. May God bless you with His goodness more than you can imagine through Him that died for all, His Son, Jesus.

Posted by: Cassandra S | May 6, 2006 11:32 AM | Report abuse

i think that number (6.02x10^23) is the standard number of molecules in a "mole" of any given substance. that's all i got, but I am sure that others would be more able to give a better, and more detailed, answer.

Posted by: tangent | May 6, 2006 11:45 AM | Report abuse


Are you kidding? That's Avogadro's Number, the number of molecules in a mole of any substance--a mole being "the amount of a substance that has a weight in grams numerically equal to the molecular weight of the substance."

In my aforementioned high school chemistry class, whenever we didn't know an answer, we would just say, "two moles." We thought that was really funny. I guess you had to be there.

Now, since the man of the house is out of town, I must go and water the lawn. (I will neither mow, nor weed, however.)


Posted by: kbertocci | May 6, 2006 11:52 AM | Report abuse

kbertocci - just make sure no moles get into your yard!

HaHaha..haha...ha....ha Oh never mind....

Posted by: RD Padouk | May 6, 2006 12:12 PM | Report abuse

It seems to make sense. If the universe exists because nature abhors a vacuum, or in other words, if the universe exists because there can't be nothing, then any time the universe "destroys itself" or in any way ceases to exist, it should, in some way require there to be another universe to take it's place.

I just want to know, if there's no "there", there, then what's there?

Posted by: asdf | May 6, 2006 12:19 PM | Report abuse


You would have fit right in in that physics class.

Hope you can take that as a compliment.


Posted by: kbertocci | May 6, 2006 12:28 PM | Report abuse

Everytime cosmologists speculate on the consequences of their observations of the universe, philosophers and their bastard offspring, theologians, feel free to put their 2^-1000000 of a dollars worth in.
Philosophy is the discipline for logic- chopping your way from absurdy to inanity.
The world would be a better place if that nasty litte pissant Rousseu had been strangled in his crib.
I'm too polite to comment on theology.

Posted by: Boko999 | May 6, 2006 12:37 PM | Report abuse

Thanks, nelson. I was reading bits of The Snow Leopard by Peter Matthiessen this week. He writes quite a bit about death, as his wife had died from cancer, and about Buddhism. Some lovely quotes, which I may have to find and post when I have time. I find Buddhist philosophy, what little I know of it, quite comforting.

Cool and threatening rain here. I must get some weeding done. Nice to hear so many folks are gardening - it really does sustain me. My irises - the "common" purple unnamed variety that remind of the ones in Virginia that grew wild - are starting to bloom.

Oh, and I'm off to a conference in San Francisco for a few days, so not to worry that I'm not posting. If the big one hits when I'm there, I'll do my best to report in!

Posted by: mostlylurking | May 6, 2006 12:53 PM | Report abuse

And remember, it's Kentucky Derby Day - have a mint julep if you're so inclined. Tomorrow is World Laughter Day (perhaps another mint julep is appropriate?) -

Two moles - hahahahahaha!

Posted by: mostlylurking | May 6, 2006 1:10 PM | Report abuse

Kentucky Derby day?
Time to revisit the work of Hunter S. Thompson and Ralph Steadman. That will keep you laughing for the next 48+.

Posted by: Boko999 | May 6, 2006 1:24 PM | Report abuse

mostlylurking, it is also the last day of "eat dessert first week". Have something sweet between that mint julep and dinner.

We're having a gorgeous day today. And I just got my mother's day present: a beautiful bicycle and helmet. If I didn't have to bake a cake for tonight, I'd go out and give it a spin.

A good thing that's come out of high gas prices is that my family runs errands together. We all get in the car and go, drop each other off, pick up again, then have lunch and head home for the kids' naps. It is great! We used to split up the kids, take two cars, meet for lunch, and then the kids would have a hard time napping because they were too busy sharing stories about the morning they'd spent with the allotted parent. It's good to find the positive side of the situation.

Posted by: a bea c | May 6, 2006 1:33 PM | Report abuse

abc: Have fun with that bike!

You are so right about the silver lining, and it's funny that we can't really see it unless we experience it first hand.

I ride my bike about 1 1/2 hours every weekday. That's lots of "thinking" time and one of the things I think about is this: although the original motivation to ride my bike to work instead of driving was to save gas and help the environment, in reality the benefit to the environment or the community is VERY SMALL compared to the direct benefit to me, personally, in terms of efficient use of time (getting my exercise during my commute, instead of getting up an hour earlier to go jogging) and overall health and wellbeing.

Posted by: kbertocci | May 6, 2006 1:58 PM | Report abuse

kbert, I wish I could ride my bike to work.

I think it will be tough for the U.S. to get used to high gas prices because of the way cities and suburbs are built. Not all of us can commute to work, no matter how much we want to. My commute is out into a rural area. I drive about 23 miles each way, and the road is always full of enormous trucks loaded with chickens in cages (I believe there is a Tyson's farm somewhere further west). There are feathers in the air all the time. I thought it was hysterical the first time I went out there for my interview. Snow in the summer. There are no pedestrian lanes or emergency lanes or anything else anyone could use to ride a bike.

But the commute is the least of anyone's issue. From my house to the nearest grocery store, you have to go approximately 5 miles. It isn't like running to the corner store as I did as a kid. I don't think there are many neighborhoods within 30 miles where running to the corner store for a gallon of milk would be possible.

We've engineered our cities for the car, not for the people.

Posted by: a bea c | May 6, 2006 2:18 PM | Report abuse

Haha -
Hunter Thompson's piece is a classic - raw, crazed, coarse - but a classic -

You can follow this link for actual Derby info -

BTW, Point Determined, one of the favorites, posted here in the boodle awhile back...

Posted by: mostlylurking | May 6, 2006 2:29 PM | Report abuse

My son goes to a massage therapist in Bethesda. She insists on anointing him with tachyon oil. Neither of us can figure how the tachyons stay in the jar. He tells me that one can buy tachyon antennas as well, the dipoles being the most effective. Of course to use a dipole effectively you need to know the directions that the tachyons are coming from. This is where the feng shui would come in I imagine. . .

Posted by: gah | May 6, 2006 2:53 PM | Report abuse

It's as simple as "snowglobes."
If you can imagine a large number of snowglobes arranged in a side-by-side, up-and down fashion with each globe representing a part of the universe you begin to understand how it may all be interconnected.
Into each globe the snowflake material could act as planetary systems and all of the known types of energy within from thermal to solar.
And as an added "twist" each globe continually "wobbles" and expands and contracts.
So how to expand this theory into the whys? Whats? Lengths? and Purposes?
Heavens. I don' t know.

Posted by: cookkenusa | May 6, 2006 5:29 PM | Report abuse

The horse's name was never mentioned, but the winning owner's name and the year of publication was mentioned-- and from there

I deduce the winning horse was Dust Commander, grandson of Bold Ruler, and thus half-nephew to a later Derby winner-- Secretariat.

I wonder if the Article'd have been as funny had he skipped watching the Derby when Secretariat won it?

Wouldn't that have been something, to hand in that article only to hear his editor say "kill the reference to not watching the race, and put in something about Secretariat, G**n it."

Guess he lucked out that year.

Posted by: Wilbrod | May 6, 2006 7:35 PM | Report abuse

I'd try to think about cookkenusa's theory, but I'm afraid I'm glassing over.

Posted by: Wilbrod | May 6, 2006 7:36 PM | Report abuse

I've sat in a lot of electronics labs while reasonably smart and educated guys debated the beginning and nature of the Universe. After awhile I always end up laughing at the naivete, if not arrogance, of thinking our poor ape brains with thirty or fifty or seventy solar years of "experience" and "learning" are going to come up with The Answer from our perch here in space and time, when we probably don't even know the question. (e.g. "What is 6 x 9?")

I mean, you might as well pretend you know something about God and the "reason" we're here, which is just as absurd.

Oh yeah... nevermind. Please continue.

Posted by: Error Flynn | May 6, 2006 8:45 PM | Report abuse

Error Flynn. We are here because we have to be someplace. One of the more reliable rules of the cosmos is that everything has to be somewhere. Anything that is nowhere is usually politely asked to leave.
Hey, I don't make the rules.

Posted by: RD Padouk | May 6, 2006 9:59 PM | Report abuse

OK, here's a little report:

Once in a while I check this site to see what other blogs are saying about the Achenblog:

Today the search turned up a passage by a student at American University, to wit:

"I adore the Achenblog. It's wonderful to see writers out there who 1) are not self-centered (which I'm not scolding about as I am certainly self-centered, I'm merely pointing out a refreshing style of writing) and 2) can look at things with both intelligence and humor. Writers who can be honest without being morose and who can make light of the serious problems of the world without mocking them. The blog is a wonderful addition to my day, so I must thank one of our seniors, again, for getting me addicted."


Posted by: kbertocci | May 6, 2006 10:00 PM | Report abuse

And I was just about to complain that "the children never call."

The Sentinels are down 21-zip at the half, but Shane Falco just showed up in the locker room. I have a feeling it's going to turn around.

Meanwhile, Nationals and Pirates are tied 4-4 in the 10th.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | May 6, 2006 10:25 PM | Report abuse

Wow, what an upset: Sentinels beat Dallas, 20-17 on a Falco pass to Murphy. And Falco gets the girls, too.

Meanwhile Nats and Pirates in the 11th.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | May 6, 2006 10:41 PM | Report abuse

is approximately equal to parallel universes...

but these parallel universes are not always peopled by humans, or at the same frequency...

you could think of them as fractal realities with specific forms generated by the inputs...

look at some Tibetan thangkpas, or some older Balinese carvings

I could explain it refering to using chakras to tune but you'd not know what I was talking about...suffice it to say...

that there are other channels on the television set, but you can't see without tuning...but the energy is there.


Posted by: dark mattre | May 7, 2006 1:40 AM | Report abuse

applied to the number of atoms of a particular element gives you the weight in grams, that's what a mole is, I think...

in a gram of Hydrogen there are 6.023 x 10^23 atoms

in 2 grams of Helium there are 6.023 x 10^23 atoms
in 12 grams of Carbon there are 6.023 x 10^23 atoms

Posted by: avogadros number | May 7, 2006 1:46 AM | Report abuse

The Sunday Magazine piece is up, but not yet in blog form.

Possibly the Achenbachs missed ROBERT IS HERE, the famed fruit stand that, in season, has goodies like mangos, longans and mamey sapote, which is more or less the national fruit (and ice cream flavor) of Cuba.

However, it's a great relief that the Achenbachs didn't see any pythons in the Everglades, especially pythons that were trying to eat the alligators. And I trust that the coonties (little cycads that live on Long Pine Key) were doing OK.

As for Dadeland Mall, it's homey compared to something like Lenox in Atlanta. It even has a Penneys that looks as if it hasn't been updated in 30 years. What amazes small-town me is the parking deck nearby that has one or two big stores on each level--Target, BedBath, whatever.

One of the odd features of Miami is that some of the same plants and animals have gone native there as in Hawaii. Myna birds, bulbuls, parrots. On the plant side, Australian solitaire palms are invading the tropical hardwood forests and the philodendrons that creep and dangle in cubicles nationwide had to be pulled from the trees in the Deering Estate. I saved one from being cooked to death in a clear plastic bag and hand-carried to my office, far enough north that philodendrons only live in offices.

Posted by: Dave of the Coonties | May 7, 2006 2:42 AM | Report abuse

Ah, yes, the mole. Reminds me of the chemistry and physics classes with Mr Jeter, concentrated with the biggest wise acres in the school. I wonder what they are doing right now. Probably sleeping.
As I shoveled the dirt yesterday, I couldn't help thinking that it seems reasonable that somehow my body was derived from the stuff, but my thoughts... Where do my thoughts come from? And why, after hours of backwork, sunburn on my face, blister on my thumb, do I feel better than I did when I picked up the shovel?
Padouk and the rest of you guys, you can make that little man inside my computer who reads me the text laugh so hard that he gets the hiccups. Reboot time! Catch up with you Boodlers on the next kit.

Posted by: Pat | May 7, 2006 4:25 AM | Report abuse

Good morning, friends. It's time to get ready for church. I couldn't sleep well last night so I'm more than a little groggy this morning. I hope everyone is enjoying their weekend, and getting do that thing that was promised at the beginning of the week. Do try and get some rest before going back to work. Dolpin micheal I forgot to thank you for your lovely comment at the beginning of this kit. That was very nice of you, thanks. My computer is acting up, so you might miss me. Give God some of your time today. Remember that God loves you more than you can imagine through Him that died for all, Jesus.

Today's Sunday school lesson is about wisdom, and how it is obtained. It's a good lesson considering the thing talked about in this kit. So many people think that wisdom and knowledge are the same thing, but it is not so. I hope to further my understanding of this concept this morning at Sunday school. We receive these blessings from God, and they are considered gifts. I suppose if man thinks that he is the author of wisdom and knowledge then he certainly does not see himself as seeking them from God. I must go now. Have much to do. I love you, friends, have a good day.

Posted by: Cassandra S | May 7, 2006 7:09 AM | Report abuse

As far as Joel's Rough Draft--not yet posted as a Kit, I feel the presence of James Howard Kunstler ("The Geography of Nowhere," "Home from Nowhere") in the first half, morphing into the presence of Bill McKibben ("The End of Nature") in the second half.

Posted by: Loomis | May 7, 2006 10:30 AM | Report abuse

I posted the column. We DID stop at Robert's, the fruit stand, where we got smoothies and sliced mangoes and dried apricots and briefly toured the makeshift zoo.

What strikes me in South Florida is the profusion of monocultures, architecturally and biologically.

But it's back to the garden for me...time to plant the crops...

Posted by: Achenbach | May 7, 2006 10:57 AM | Report abuse

I feel like we need a boodleterm for a comment that appears in a now-defunct caboodle after the new kit has been announced.

I always feel like this space is more free-form, that almost nobody reads it, so it's not inconsiderate to post marginally relevant material like, say, excerpts from song lyrics:

We are stardust
We are golden
And we've got to get ourselves
Back to the garden

Or even the entire lyric:

Woodstock, by Joni Mitchell

I came upon a child of God
He was walking along the road
And I asked him, where are you going
And this he told me
I'm going on down to Yasgur's farm
I'm going to join in a rock 'n' roll band
I'm going to camp out on the land
I'm going to try an' get my soul free

We are stardust
We are golden
And we've got to get ourselves
Back to the garden

Then can I walk beside you
I have come here to lose the smog
And I feel to be a cog in something turning
Well maybe it is just the time of year
Or maybe it's the time of man
I don't know who I am
But you know life is for learning

We are stardust
We are golden
And we've got to get ourselves
Back to the garden

By the time we got to Woodstock
We were half a million strong
And everywhere there was song and celebration
And I dreamed I saw the bombers
Riding shotgun in the sky
And they were turning into butterflies
Above our nation

We are stardust
Billion year old carbon
We are golden
Caught in the devil's bargain
And we've got to get ourselves
Back to the garden


I'm watching the bombers overhead today, trying to project butterflies on them, and doves. (It's the annual Air and Sea Show in Fort Lauderdale, and military aircraft are flying over my house on a regular schedule.)

Now, back to the future.

Posted by: kbertocci | May 7, 2006 12:41 PM | Report abuse

The Final Theory

Nope, ain't gonna happen. Here's why:

None of our furniture can really stand up. In formulating our mental furniture, we can always throw the hole somewhere else. The missing sofa leg can be replaced by the missing chair leg, if we sit in the sofa. If we stand up and look out the window, we can use the sofa leg to replace one of the slats in the Venetian blinds, which we need to keep from getting blinded, looking outside. If we don't look outside, we can use the slat to hold up the countertop in the kitchen, which we can't see but know exists because we hear no crashing sound from in there.

There are missing variables in the Universe, and you can't finish the equation without them. Never.

Posted by: Jumper | May 7, 2006 1:27 PM | Report abuse

I would like to revisit my postulation of a "snow-globe" universe for it begs a revision. I speculated that the universe could be a vast array of snowglobe like structures with the planets, stars, moons, etc. swirling about inside. Also included would be all of the energy therein, thermal, solar, cosmic, spiritual. My first assumption was two-dimensional, in that I proposed the globes where aligned up and down and left to right, for a three-dimensional model I left out depth, or front to back configuration, the three dimensional block adds an immense distance, size, to this "globular" and spherical universe or package of universes, if you will.
If a single universe where to expand/ bang/ explode while surrounded by other nearby "buffer" or stable universes(collective) the "whole" would hardly suffer from the singular event.
'Twould be but a mere scratch to a limb.

Posted by: cookkenusa | May 20, 2006 10:16 PM | Report abuse

Are you sure 70815 about this?!?

Posted by: Flots Masriach | September 15, 2006 9:03 AM | Report abuse

Are you sure 70815 about this?!?

Posted by: Flots Masriach | September 15, 2006 9:13 AM | Report abuse

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