Monday, November 30, 2009

Questions about relativity and quantum thingummies

Einstein's formulae predict correctly how things will seem from different viewpoints (frames of reference). You can state what is measured from one point of view then feed in variables and calculate how the same event would seem from a different point of view. The idea that reality depended on point of view was and remains shocking but it is true, i.e. it works and accords with observable reality and has been proven by experiment. Although it describes a sort of mutability it is in its own way absolute in that it predicts exactly how events will be perceived.

Einstein's thoughts mainly had to do with things on a grand scale - light, time, planets, people and everyday objects but when it comes to the very tiny world of atoms and electrons, it seems that there is no such predictability. There is a finding called Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle that says you cannot properly know about an atomic particle because by observing it you change it. There was a famous conference of the top physicists and theorists at which Einstein presented a thought experiment (an imagined experiment) that appeared to prove you could find out the mass of a particle at the same time as finding out its position, using a specially designed machine. However, on the next day of the conference another great scientist - Bohr? - pointed out a loophole that invalidated Einstein's thought experiment.

This troubled Einstein - he didn't accept it - and he spent most of his life trying to work out a way to reconcile his theory of Relativity and the apparently anomalous experimental evidence and conclusions of quantum (smallest possible scale) science. He said "God does not play dice." At other times he confirmed that he was an atheist, but he believed in a universe that follows set laws, rules that could be discovered and documented. He was trying to produce a new theory that would hold true at both the large scale and the quantum scale. Such a theory, one that would comprise a consistent set of rules that hold for all realms of science, is known as a Grand Unification Theory and is still being sought.

It was previously thought that electrons were particles that orbited around the nuclei of atoms but it is now known that they behave as if they are simultaneously all around the atom - smeared. Yet if "observed" or put into use, they will behave as particles. An electron is at the same time a wave and a particle, they say.

It seems to me that there is something in common between these two scientific theories, the conclusion that "different snapshots of the same thing" seem to comprise different realities. On the one hand it seems that X is the case but on the other hand it seems that Y is the case. For example in relativity on the one hand it seems that 20,000 years have gone by; on the other hand (for a space traveller travelling near the speed of light) it seems that only a few years have gone by. In quantum mechanics on the one hand it appears that a photon has gone through one slit in the apparatus, on the other it appears that it has gone through the other slit in the apparatus (in a device that tries to see which route a photon takes, which produces an inconclusive result).

In relativity an event in effect is more than one thing. To viewer A it is something but to viewer B it is something else. Yet there is only one event. In quantum mechanics a photon "is more than one thing". From a pattern seen on the surface of a detector it appears that the photon has gone through both slit A and slit B.

An electron is not in one location in orbit around a nucleus. But what does being in one location consist of for something that is moving - is it ever in one location? No, because it is moving - never in one location. So let us not be surprised that we cannot discover its location, especially as it is travelling at the speed of light - a speed at which time stands still. It is making its way from place to place but in no time. Therefore there is no time interval between it being in one place and the other, which in our terms comprises being in two places (N places) at the same time.

These particles participate in the very weft and warp of what reality is. It should not surprise us, therefore, that they appear miraculous since this whole dream of life is some sort of miracle. That there are elements that are in more than one place at the same time is no more amazing than any everyday event in life - all are equally miraculous. I doubt that anything people discover or describe will ever make life any less miraculous or mysterious.

The point I want to make is that this uncertainty of position is like relativity, it is a form of certainty, in that we know that these particles will be in more than one place at once. The whole question of where the electron is is an analogy of relativity's multiple viewpoints for the same event, where the electron is the event and the multiple locations are the multiple viewpoints.

Since this electron moves at the speed of light time stands still for it. "To the electron" no time passes, yet it moves from one location around the atom to another and therefore is in both places at once, since there is no time interval, there cannot be at the speed of light - when time "stands still". To the electron it is in more than one place at the same time. We cannot participate in this, so by trying to observe and detect this we disrupt it, effectively crash the electron. All we can see is a blur, which is the blur of a particle that is in the process of simultaneously being in more than one place at the same time.

Turning back to the idea that the multiple locations might be thought of as multiple observers of the electron, imagining that at several locations around the nucleus tiny observers could be placed who would have their impressions of where the electron was, they would all receive the same impression, that it was at their location all the time. What I want to ask is this: for these tiny imaginary observers observing the electron moving at the speed of light, and setting the speed of the observed object equal to the speed of light, will we not find that the laws and formulae of relativity do indeed apply and produce the same result for every tiny observer?

Whether or not the existing formulae apply, is it not the case that a set of formulae could be worked out that would correlate the multiple location impression, i.e. quantum uncertainty, with the "definite uncertainty" of relativity where what different observers will perceive can be calculated exactly? In effect is this not just a change to the variables whereby the event is moving at the speed of light and the observers are located in an orbital path of the event such that they all receive the same impression, despite their different locations. Can this quantum scenario not be derived by some transformation of Einstein's equations? (Where T=0?)

(Later: But T=0 is specifically excluded in the text, as the equations "break down". I don't know what that means, and probably shouldn't bother fannying around like this.)

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Radio Éireann anseo agaibh

My grandfather Peter Moran was a radio and music hall singer at one time. He subsequently lost most of his eyesight and was registered blind. He worked most of his life as a basketmaker. The picture shows a newspaper clipping of the schedule for Radio Éireann on Saturday, June 25th 1938, the day of the installation of Douglas Hyde as the first president of Ireland. I will transcribe some it.

12.40-1.30—Ceremony of Installation of the President. Commentary from St. Patrick's Hall, Dublin Castle, and from the G.P.O., Dublin.

1.30-3.0—Gramophone concert.

5.30—Kathleen Burke's Trio in Light Music, and Peter Moran (baritone).

Trio—Merrie England (German) (Chapell).
Peter Moran—Ireland, I love you Acushla Machree; My Fairest Child; Because (d'Hardelot).
Trio—Elfin Reigin [etc.]
Peter Moran—The stars that light my garden (Russell); Beautiful Isle of somewhere (Fearis).
Trio— [etc.]

You can see the rest of the schedule by clicking on the image. It returns to the installation of Douglas Hyde from 9.10 pm to 9.30 pm with a "Commentary from the state reception in St. Patrick's Hall" and closes with the national anthem at 11 pm.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

All My Trials

a painfully good video. i thought pauly was a bit o.t.t. at first but fair do's - having listened a few times - he's bang on.

Friday, November 06, 2009

dog songs #13

this was going to be another session but mercifully the battery ran out. (edited lowlights. cold sober, my kind of gloom makes Leonard Cohen sound like Chas & Dave.)

Friday, October 30, 2009

10 tracks not to slash your wrists by (on YouTube)

There is a cd called "Tracks to slash your wrists by" (apparently). So I thought why not an opposing list? Just from a quick browse through my YouTube favourites:

1. Summertime Blues - Eddie Cochran
You don't have to be tall.

2. Eloise - Paul and Barry Ryan
You don't have to be cool.

3. My Perfect Cousin - The Undertones
You don't have to be intelligent.

4. Itchycoo Park - The Small Faces
You don't have to be able to dance.

5. Anthem - Leonard Cohen
You don't have to be perfect.

6. Angel Flyin' Too Close to the Ground - Willie Nelson and Shelby Lynne
You don't have to be with someone.

7. For My Lover - Tracy Chapman
You don't have to be sane.

8. The Harder they Come - Jimmy Cliff
You don't have to be rich.

9. I Dreamed A Dream - Susan Boyle
You don't have to be young and beautiful.

10. Baby I Need Your Lovin' - The Four Tops
You don't have to ask.

Friday, October 23, 2009

thoughts on listening to songbird by fleetwood mac

the helplessness in fugue between fleetwood's late drumbeat, mcveigh's unrequited bass drive and christine's prismatic love

Fleetwood is an archetypal English character and John McVeigh is a hero for carrying the torch for Christine through it all, even when she sucks up to that abominably cheesy guitar virtuoso interloper. It's a "blues Abba" with Mick, John, Christine and Stevie. I love the way John clutches Christine at about 1:04 into this. You have to realise he's carried a torch for her forever and she's in with the glib mother's boy guitarist interloper whose name I've happily forgotten. She's the biggest eejit for that but she's also mother earth and all the rest.

John McVeigh's explanation of the pull of their music is that the bass leads the way and Mick Fleetwood's drumbeat follows a couple of microseconds (or whatever) behind, which gives it that distinctive flavour (drum usually sets/is on the beat) and empathy with a love scene in the court of a jester king (Fleetwood). (I don't know if I'm making any sense.)

2011: I should add I know nothing about them really, the above is just the way I imagine things might be.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Antony and the Johnsons-You Are My Sister

another version of this. (that was Boy George duetting there of course.) don't know if all the models are transgender - hardly matters. they're beautiful anyway.

...and here's another glorious bit of music:

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Office dogs

Office dogs
Originally uploaded by Willesden Herald
They don't do much typing but they are great receptionists

Friday, October 02, 2009

Comment I posted in discussion about plagiarism

I've just read all of this (took a long time!) and I have to say I agree with the very first post by Charlie.

I'm curious which Paul Auster work was the one mentioned as plagiarised. I imagine that could have turned into an expensive legal problem, easily capable of bankrupting a small magazine, by the way. I have a vague sense of deja-vu (ironically?) about Auster and plagiarism allegations - don't know why.

There is no copyright on ideas, nor should there be, nor could there be. Die gedanke sind frei. But that is a different matter to a squalid ripoff between two erstwhile friends who are both writers. If somebody who's not a writer said to me why not write a story about a piano tuner in Ballygobackwards, I think it's perfectly in order to do so and show them the result. However, if the writer said he or she were writing it, I would have to be a right numpty to take it on myself to write the same thing, would I not? No?

Shakespeare reused old stories as the plots for his plays and that's fine. It wouldn't have been so fine to use a then contemporary writer's storylines though. It's almost the norm for books to be based on other "templates", if only as obscure as Homer's Odyssey for Joyce's Ulysses. However, courts have drawn the line at such things as a sequel to Gone With The Wind from the maid's point of view, called "The Wind Done Gone". In a more recent case J. D. Salinger blocked the publication of a lightly veiled "sequel" by some other writer to Catcher In The Rye, in which Holden Caulfield is portrayed aged 60.

I attended a talk by Bernard Cornwell in which he stated that all a writer had to do find commercial success, which was all he wanted, was to take a successful template, change all the names and settings somewhat and send it out and that that's what he had done by transforming the Hornblower novels into his Sharpe series.

His other "big idea" (from an agent) was that publishers wanted a series, and the example he gave was that if you wrote a book "How to look after your pet dog", one copy could be sold to every pet shop and that was the end of you. So - again templating - his suggestion was write a book called "How to look after your Alsation", then an endless series of almost identical ones called "How to look after your Labradoodle" (etc.)

So back to where I started, I'm with Charlie and not Cornwell.

Sympathies to Vanessa.

By the way I read hundreds of stories every year for a competition and I still haven't a clue what to write when faced with a blank page and haven't written anything for ages. It would never enter my head to bother what anyone else wanted to write. As for making money out of writing - there's more to be made washing windscreens at the traffic lights.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Reading for this

Black History Month

I'll be there supporting this with Willesden Green Writers' Group, on Friday at 8 pm, reading a bit of one of my stories that touches on immigration. It's a self-contained part of "The End", which is the first story in All Those Endearing Young Charms. (And yes - before you ask - the last story is called "The Beginning").

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

more bloggy bits from facebook

of course laughably feeble against the divine, as a gnat's breath to a hurricane, but i honestly think i'd like to punch our so-called lord right in the mush

you can go down to Ladbrokes now and place a bet that some horrible fate will now befall me. don't click "like" or the thunderbolt might veer your way. may i just say this: amen. that makes it into a good sort of film scene, the unexpected punch that floors the villainous deity and dusting my hands as i walk off the unseen cliff, i say it. amen. it's only a form of "over" "roger" "wilco" to let the boss know you've finished transmitting anyway. any standups out there need a scriptwriter, any devils in need of idle hands? more to the point anybody nearby with some double-cream? i will get out of this by making his lordship laugh. who can do that? whoever can make god laugh will be spared. maybe.

i was sitting waiting for sam mendes to appear last night and everybody in the cinema was talking. it sounded like, y'know, gabble gabble gabble, sort of nice but unintelligible. then i thought this is how we sound to god. and then i thought if i concentrate i can hear it saying words, the crowd, unwittingly making words and if i'd had a notepad i could have written a crowd poem because they were saying things. yeh. things. things like counterpane and linear and i can't remember the rest now.

did you want to know about the film (Away We Go), a review? i doubt that very much. but why stop for a mote with camels bounding by?

firstly, may i say i clapped the man like a hero, i wanted to stand up and shout and whistle when he came on stage. i cannot understand the feebleness of the crowd's response to his arrival. they are not clueless, they were film fans - damn them for an etiolated shower of blasé deadbeats. here is a local hero par excellence. i cannot tell you how much i loved "revolutionary road" and anybody who can secure the affections of kate winslet should be made king as far as i'm concerned.

he said the film was made as a refreshing change from two years of richard yeatsian gloom on r.r. to be fair, it has a few funny moments - i did get a good few laughs and belly laughs out of it, though i was highly resistant for reasons i will explain. when it was funny it was burst out laughing funny. sam said it didn't have a standard structure and put that forward as a virtue and it is really a series of episodes with titles in between, such that it could have very well been a TV mini-series. i'm afraid i found it mawkish, however, and i hated the bloke whom i guessed we were supposed to find lovable. he's a sort of forrest gump child man aged 33 going on 14. p.i.t.a. revolutionary road is about 1,000 times better than this film. and this is still a good film. it did make me laugh and drew a bit of a tear (secretly) and even made my tummy collywobbly, but i can't get past the single distressing fact that i absolutely hated that guy. everybody else was great but i just couldn't stand being in his company. if that's eggers - as it appears it is - i'm very sorry but no thank you very much. tess is a good judge, she always likes a good film and she thought it was rubbish.

i still think sam mendes is great and will return with more like american beauty and revolutionary road in the future. and clap you indolent swine who were there. friends of mine, if you were there, you were the only ones clapping enough (i'm sure.)

Monday, September 14, 2009

Away We Go - Official Trailer - HD

Off to see this tonight with Tess. Looking forward to hearing from Sam Mendes before it starts - should set it up nicely. He's going to speak before this special screening at The Tricycle. I don't usually go in for this sort of blogging but I've changed my mind now (past caring).

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

I didn't know the bike was there

I am standing beside a road which is empty on this side but on the other side there is a line of cars facing me, waiting in a jam. Suddenly a very small but high-powered black car darts out and speeds past the stationary traffic on the wrong side of the road. This is very dangerous. I turn around as it passes me by and see it speed across a junction, still on the wrong side, and straight into a cyclist coming the other way. The car has stopped on top of the now invisible bike. I think I must phone 999 and call an ambulance. As well as horror at what has just happened, there is a small feeling of righteousness about being the one to call the emergency services. I think to myself that before I turned around and saw it, that bike must already have been there. It was moving as slowly as the car was fast, peacefully making its way in the middle of its own lane. Yet before I turned round, I had no idea the bike was there.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

How not to think

"thinking is unnecessary. just work, eat, drink, sleep, excrete, repeat, not necessarily in that order. all thought is redundant because it cannot be but what blather o reilly to horse me charger killiraggert snortdorgel"

we know before we think. it has been proven experimentally anyway, but just (er) think about it. there is no need for the time-consuming thought. all can be at light speed as long as we don't think. this is the reason for beginner's luck, for example. as soon as they interpose the delayed and faulty thought, having "learned" how to play, players lose their beginner's luck. it is a one-time only gift. usually.

whatever you think you thought, you already thought before you thought you thought. how can it be otherwise. if i can stop thinking i can fly at light speed through where thought plods and get outside the earth's gravitation (so to speak, and speaking is even more redundant, especially on the internet where we are all trees falling in forests with nobody around except other trees who are falling themselves and so do not make good listeners.

(anyway listening is pointless as well. you cannot listen to what you have not already heard. listening is a form of thinking and so should be eliminated. (but elimination of thought and listening is pointless, because nature eliminates them by making them pointless and redundant, in other words they are self-eliminating. therefore to try and eliminate them is itself further redundancy piled on the initial redundancy. (whether you think or not is immaterial. (so you thought? so what? i thought and that was a nanosecond i'll never see again.

(but seeing - now that's a waste of pixels (which are themselves dismal ineffectual redundant representations of entities that preexisted the pixels (entities like trees that do not waste their time thinking (feverish thinking (a disease of the mind (before thought was the same animal, the bald ape (adam and eve, like laurel and hardy, "two heads without a single thought".

it's just a hop across a slippery stepping stone to genesis and adam and eve eating from the tree of knowledge, which is where all our troubles supposedly originated, otherwise we'd have been coasting along on beginners' luck, millions (billions) of us fololoping around in pristine ignorance, always landing the rolled up scroll in the waste paper bin first time and having comprehended the universe just by or at the same time as opening our eyes.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Next volume of autobiography

Following on from the hilarious "Not Me Again", "Arse About Face" etc. comes the latest volume, "Prosetitute". It's a set of seedy stories set in the world of story cd's.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

The view from London: US Election 2008

Big Bridge asked me to collect responses from some London-based writers to the 2008 US presidential election. You can see the result in context by clicking on the link in the title, or together here with reports from other countries or go direct to the texts. It is called Big Bridge for a good reason -

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Remembering Tita Cory and People Power

President Cory Aquino's historic speech before the U.S. Congress, part 1. Part 2. Part 3

I still have my People Power teeshirt from when I was there in 1987/8 during the runup to a referendum on the new constitution. I loved her, I don't know why - everything about the Philippines makes me want to cry. She was quite a gifted orator. I always remember her earlier presidential campaign speech when she said something like, "My opponents say I am not a good candidate. They say I'm just an inexperienced woman. It's true I have no experience. I have no experience of graft! I have no experience of corruption! ..." (Can anyone find that on YouTube?)

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Against the gregarious indifferent

Woke up with a few more thoughts on loneliness etc. For argument sake let's divide humanity into two types, the gregarious and the solitary. People may move from one group to the other over time and certainly there will be degrees in both.

Next consider how the solitary and the gregarious regard other people. I'm interested in the concept of "caring what other people say". Thinking about permutations of this attribute between the two types I suggest that being gregarious and caring what people say is good and that being solitary and not caring what people say is also good, though I'm not going to try and justify that here.

That leaves us with two other categories: the solitary who care what people say, whose condition I suggest is somewhat tragic, pitiable if you like and the gregarious who don't care what people say, whose condition I suggest is despicable. The latter are what I call the gregarious indifferent. Their condition is despicable because they foist themselves on others, intrude, trample, disport themselves generally without any concern for what others say.

This condition of gregarious indifference is what is so objectionable about alcoholics. You will note the one-sided conversations, the drunken midnight phone call that's all "me me me", demanding interaction and repetitive but utterly indifferent and unreceptive to any response. The purblind, gregarious indifferent are to be avoided like the plague.

Anticipating the objection that one can care about people but not care what they say: I'm not suggesting that caring what people say is the same as caring about other people but it's a bit more than just "being a good listener". I think caring what people say is at least part of the way down the road to caring about other people in general (whatever that entails).

My conclusion is either to care what people say and be gregarious or, if you prefer to be solitary for the time being, not to care what anybody says. Do not fall into the opposite situations, namely being solitary and caring what people say - which is tragic - or being gregarious and not caring what people say - which is despicable.

May 2011: Re-reading this I'm thinking either everyone should care what people say, or possibly nobody should care what anybody says and so the whole thing collapses. It's all tendentious, I think. I could have made it much simpler: I just don't like drunks who want to talk but not to listen.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Don't believe a word

Everything "the accepted wisdom" tells me and expects from me, I tend to disbelieve and do the opposite, which I find is usually a better course. They say only write if you have to write, I say only write if you don't have to write. They say it doesn't matter what you write, I say don't read that crap. They say some Gregorian domestic data download is thrilling beyond description, I say all they read is the cover. They say gut-wrenchingly, superlatively sublime, I say the writer has an exotic name. I don't care what people say.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

World of light?

If the uttermost particles are twists of energy, then matter is made of energy and energy is not made of anything else (though it must be, perhaps) then the world is made out of energy and if light is energy too, then you could say the world is made out of light. Then light doesn't just illuminate and reveal the world, it is the world. Which primitive Greek philosopher was that one? They took turns at saying the world was made out of different things: fire, water, air, butter, lemon drops...

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Life: an operating system?

It pains me to say it but DNA looks like an object class definition in object oriented programming (which is itself based partly on principles of heredity). The paucity of genes can be accounted for in a system where the DNA represents a program to be run by an operating system that is far more complex than the program itself.

In my analogy (below somewhere) I described DNA as like measurements and specifications such as colour and fabric for a suit, which is then made by a tailor. It is the tailor who knows how to make the suit, he or she initiates the processing and guides it by using techniques that are not described at all in the specifications for the suit. What I am saying is that you can take the material (a bolt of cloth, say) and the pattern and place them in the world and they will sit there forever and decay, fall to bits and no suit will appear. That is unless somebody or some thing - it could be a machine - takes the material, follows the pattern and after a time equivalent to gestation of a creature - outputs the finished garment.

So my question: What is it that takes the pattern of DNA and the material and not only makes it but like Pinocchio's carpenter brings it to life? And a possible answer, or rather another metaphor for it, is that Life is an operating system. In this view DNA is object class definition language, living things are object instances and Life is an operating system that implements our constructors, provides our operating environment and eventually disposes of us and recycles our material.

I foresee the objection that this is a tautology and that we have arrived at nothing more than the laws of nature, which are already described. However, the laws of nature may be described separately, as somewhat isolated phenomena, or phenomena whose interactions are investigated and catalogued as a series of fragments, whereas I suggest we are functions of a large system called Life which, in summary, drives us and all creatures, and without which we would just be piles of inanimate materials. Materials, as far as we know, do not get up and write A la Recherche du Temps Perdu or indeed anything at all, they rather tend to chaos (entropy) when left alone.

I am looking for something scientific, which will explain how DNA is translated into a finished product, to put it that way, and when the answer is known we will not be in any different position as regards "the meaning of life" - we still will not know, because behind every new mechanism lies another mechanism that must enable it. "All of our knowledge only brings us closer to our ignorance" (Eliot).

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Rocks and weaver birds

Can we agree that a stone is not alive? Let's not say "dead" because that implies once lived. It has no dynamic, does not interact or act with purpose of self-sustenance. Maybe it is the ability to reproduce that is definitive, although in theory something could be alive, having come to life and never died and never reproduced. A stone came to being but never reproduced itself and did not interact purposefully with anything, had no self-sustaining or any continuing process in which it was active. Then again, there are machines that are active and interact continually and purposefully, like those robots that go around and around vacuuming the floor, but are they alive? Intuitively no, so what are they lacking that for example a microbe inside a rock has? To make a self-reproducing robot is a major challenge, which as far as I know has never been achieved, but would we think that those robots were alive, if they were able to reproduce and perhaps even sustain themselves for a while? (not "indefinitely", or else the dinosaurs were never alive).

Maybe that's all there is to it: self-reproducing robots. There was a TV debate about religion (Christianity 2000 with Melvyn Bragg) where somebody in the audience argued against clerics on the panel that people were just like robots, to which the panellist replied well do you think that you are a robot and the speaker in the audience asserted that he (the speaker) was indeed a robot. It was very strange to hear somebody state in that way, "I am a robot" - almost as if it made that person into a robot by self proclamation, as if one could be or not be a robot by choice. There was a sense that that person had alienated himself from the entire audience and panel and got into a very weird situation.

But back to "What is life?" I think we can agree that a rock is not alive. If so, I guess we can also agree that a jar of acid is not alive. What if it's a jar of amino acid (some organic molecules)? We're told that DNA is made up of codes for a set of amino acids. When talking about robots and self-reproducing robots and acting purposefully for self-sustenance and continuation, what hasn't been discussed here yet is energy and motivation. We have material, sure, and we have "a scenario" (things act, reproduce, interact) but what is it that tells them how to behave, what to do and when: what starts them on a path and what guides their behaviour? (Turning straight to motivation and skipping the question of energy which is obviously just another mechanism, equivalent to the components of the robot.)

If we are agreeing that a jar of acid is not alive, is equivalent to a rock, and if we take it that DNA is code for a number of amino acids, then we are looking at a plan for items that are not in themselves inherently alive. We know that this pattern (DNA) is in living creatures ("duh") and we observe meiosis and all the events that cause half of one creature's DNA to combine with half of another creature's (for example - leaving cloning aside for the time being). We have, very obviously, the energy to power these processes. We have chemicals, patterns for chemicals and components, we can observe behaviour and formation of quasi-live spermatazoa (a form of life with a half-set of DNA, that looks and moves like plankton, say, but is humanoid?) but there is absolutely no explanation offered as to why these components proceed through very long processes (9 months in the human) of almost unimaginable complexity with clear purpose to create structures and creatures with inbuilt instincts, behaviours of their own and a big ETC.

What part of the weaver bird's DNA comprises the design of its nest and the talent and ability to create that nest from available materials in a timely way to provide a home for more little weaver birds? Hello, you've told us so far about amino acids.

Update 22/2/2016:
Darwin deals with some of this in his section on instinct, in the chapter on objections to his theory. He didn't know about DNA, so he just assumed there was some mechanism in which behaviour could be inherited and gradually modified. His paragon of instinctive behaviour was bees constructing a honeycomb, which comprises a mathematically complex structure of interconnected hexagonal (?) cells. He broke it down to each bee digging out some of the wax and neighbouring bees doing the same till a thin line remained between the holes being dug by each of the neighbouring bees. The evolutionary principle kicked in because the honeycomb structure is the form that can contain the most honey with the least wax, and so bees that tended to make that shape thrived more than ones that didn't. Plus there are different types of bees that have less perfect combs, sort of transitional ones in isolated places etc. But even knowing about DNA and epigenetics, it's still hard to see how behaviour could be encoded.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

The myth of DNA (continued)

(Notes) The contemporary belief that DNA encodes a human being is comparable to a belief in earlier times that the earth was flat and that it was carried on the back of a giant tortoise. To be able to cut and paste DNA and have an extra eye appear or something from one animal appear in another animal, is analogous with the early voyages of our ignorant ancestors, who sailed from place to place believing their absurd cosmology. Similarly, we operate and map DNA in a functional way but not realising what we are mediating. It's true that the earth seems flat, and that one can sail from Britain to Spain and back believing that the earth is flat, and that we can cut and paste bits of DNA and cause malformations or mutations. All of these activities can take place against a background of ignorance. In effect our genetic model is at the level of Keppler's mechanical model of earth, the sun and planets. It appears to correspond to what we observe and it is brilliant but it is profoundly simplistic and misconceived. What is missing is the dynamic principle, the gravity, the big bang, the extended cosmology. In DNA we are looking at our local planets and saying "This must be what's happening." Instead we need to relate life to time and space, growth to expansion of the universe, lifespan/duration/time's arrow to the expansion of the universe. I suggest (conjecture) that expansion of the universe = duration = time's arrow. The stretching of space gives us duration but also motion, an engine that can be connected to the passive cell with its DNA. We are told by physicists that time began with the Big Bang, since when the universe has been expanding. Surely expansion = duration: no duration without expansion, no expansion without duration, time's arrow is the sense of being stretched from where we begin to where we end. Could there not also be an "unpacking" effect, in which the kit of parts of DNA is inflated and extended, and which makes us move and act? (All rubbish, most likely.)

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Life etc.

This is where science is somewhat deficient, in my admittedly not expert opinion. The "feeling" about our current impression of what life is is wrong and must be comparable to the "feeling" about let's say then current impressions about heredity, geology, geography etc at various times in the past. We now need a new Darwin, a new Einstein to open our eyes about life itself.

I know that the scientific take on this extends from microbes that live in rocks to other dubious and many obvious examples and there are borderline entities as well as concepts for cloudy technology-based entities that could be considered to have life. I'm not referring to borderline or artificial concepts, what I'm thinking about is the main ubiquitous animal life that "we know very well".

What makes a cell divide repeatedly and eventually fill out a model that becomes a creature and what makes these creatures spark (almost literally, electrical impulses spark the heartbeat) or grow and reproduce? Surely there isn't enough coding potential in DNA to model even a cell itself, let alone all the organs and dynamic behaviour, instincts built in, and the brain itself etc etc.

There are more lines in a not-particularly-complicated computer program [the machine code] than there are in the human genome. So where is the real pattern for life? We can put a pile of amino acids in a saucer but they won't get up and write À la recherche du temps perdu. Estimates vary from 25,000 to 80,000 effective genes in the human genome, and currently thought to be at the lower end of that range (ref: here). There are more parts in the body than there are elements in the genome! [Can't find an anatomical dictionary count, but an online medical dictionary boasts 82,000 entries, including 63,000 definitions.] Imagine what it would need to program any one part of the body, never mind the brain, for example. You couldn't program even a wonky robot with that number of instructions, let alone a system to build a wonky robot (which, some might jokingly argue, is what we have).

Ok, let's make a hypothesis that DNA is only a list of variations, similar to the measurements and colour list for bespoke suit, say. The tailor knows how to make that variation of a suit, so that you get a distinctive looking suit, perhaps floridly exotic-looking, large or small sizes in each component etc. But that list of measurements, colours, even drawings, is nowhere near able of itself - the pattern - to make itself. It is only a pattern or design. Even placed together with the material needed, nothing will happen. In practice we go into a tailors, get measured, select a colour, fabric and style, have it all written down and we go away and come back and the thing has been made to the specification. So that is the hypothesis, that DNA is a set of variations to something that will be made.

Maybe you might say that a car is very complicated, but the design for a car can be 100% encoded, in such a way that a robot and a computer could make the whole thing from the design and out of a factory would come a car ready to drive. We know that a human being is far more complicated than a car, so what I ask is this: can you encode the design even for a car using nothing but the coding ability of DNA and no more than the amount of DNA, with its number of genes, in a single human cell? If you find that it is impossible to encode the structure of a car using the coding potential of the four-letter DNA sequences, albeit in an analogous, mathematical estimation only, then how could it possibly encode a human being?

This is a challenge: Prove that the design for a car could be encoded using the number of units of 4-letter permutations that human DNA contains.

I want to speculate about the implications, should this challenge not be achievable, i.e. should it be the case that DNA is inadequate to encode a complete model of a human being. Let's simplify and say a complete model of a worm, imporantly this model is not just a physical model of the structure of a worm, it has to include all the behaviour, instincts, mobility, regeneratability, reproduction etc.

If (IF) DNA is inadaquate it follows that there must be something else that causes human beings and other life forms to fill out their "models" and "behave" characteristically (instincts etc.) This is not to say that it is something mystical, though it might as well be - because in effect everything we not only cannot understand but deem incapable of comprehension is mystical, almost by definition.

To be continued.

Friday, May 08, 2009


Originally uploaded by Willesden Herald
Taken in a hotel room in Barcelona a couple of weeks ago

Monday, April 20, 2009

Anyone remember The Perfumed Garden* pirate radio?

"And now on the Perfumed Garden, going out to all lovers in the cars along the Shoreham seafront, flash your lights across at our pirate radio ship, if you're digging this mellow groove with your ladylove..." [or some such twaddle]

* Not the book, which I vividly remember too, and about which much could be said. If you really think about it, it's funny what the radio station was calling itself. I think they thought it was something horticultural.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

So effortless

That's what my heart needs - Otis Redding (1963)

This sort of record, of which there were so many in the US, obviates most of "the British invasion", I think. Much as I loved John Lennon's singing and I think he said that he was copying, or at least trying to emulate Arthur Alexander (another US singer), Otis Redding just goes into "another gear". From the first phrase in this recording, which sounds almost folksy, the sheer mastery of both the singing and the accompaniment, makes most of the British/Merseybeat/The Animals etc records seem laboured and fussy by comparison. Just take the drumming, for example, the perfect explosion of the high hat (isn't that what that cymbal type sound is?) which is like a firework going off in the distance, and the mellifluous guitar picking, all going to show that it's not just hitting the notes it's how you play them...

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Rearranging the deckchairs

I think that we are missing the point about climate change. The real question should be how are we going to survive the next ice age. It's coming, we know that for sure because they have come and gone repeatedly. A small change in the course of the Gulf Stream that runs up from the Gulf of Mexico to warm the British Isles would result in this part of the world being frozen over, the sea could freeze and we'd all be under ice. The food we rely on would become largely unavailable. Transport and therefore industry would become next to impossible. A real ice age would see the land under glaciers that would obliterate everything we can currently see around us. And it's coming. Yes, let's stop pollution - just for air and water quality and yes, if it can slow the changes, well and good. But what are we doing to prepare for the artificial, troglodytic conditions of the future? Nothing. What are we doing to prepare for an asteroid impact, not preventing it - which is nearly impossible - but coping with it? Nothing. We should have places underground, with means of sustenance where we can evacuate the entire population for as long as necessary. We should be building power sources and everything needed for survival underground. We're not really building anything underground, except possibly one place in every country where the people who are responsible for getting us into wars, and for doing nothing to help the rest of us, can be protected from the consequences of their own misrule. An ice age will come, but it will also go, over thousands of years. An asteroid will come too. Do we care or not? Seemingly not.

Very well then, in Shakespeare's words, "Since the fate of man rests still uncertain, let's reason with the worst that may befall." If we don't really care about our imminent annihilation, why do we bother about comparative trivialities? Why should we reduce our consumption of water, say, to such a tightly restricted level that the population and housing can be increased to the maximum, and eventually result in our skintight usage of water becoming stretched and breaking, so that any small disruption causes us to be dying of thirst? Is it not far better to encourage people to use plenty of water, so that when there are disruptions there still may be just enough to go round, rather than encouraging everyone to skimp so much that there is just enough to go round when there is no disruption?

And why do we waste our time separating things for supposed recycling, at great additional energy cost to us, to the recyclers and through the recycling process and the possible extra cost consequent on lower quality recycled items, not to mention the fact that a lot of the time it's not recycled at all after all our wasted energy, when at the same time a huge catastrophe is making its way towards us, about which we have not one idea, not one contingency plan and not the least compunction because really deep down we know it's all a charade and we're all doomed and everybody just lasts for a few blinks anyway.

Oh ffs - eat, drink and be merry!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

This life

Before the proliferation of entertainment media, children were brought up in communities where family occasions, street and garden play with other children were their formative experiences. They were soaked in the humane and quotidian, where nothing was more important than relationships within the home, across the garden fence and along the street. Now they are soaked in an unreal, incessant welter of violent and quasi-pornographic moving images and anti-social, misogynistic, foul-mouthed and tuneless rants. They are the target of a new shamanism, invoking demons of acquisitiveness and hypnotic consumerist programming. Words that were sacrosanct such as virgin and pregnant, are now nothing more than appropriated trademarks or newsbait for 24-hour media, with its tickertape adverts, and half-hour of tendentious and unquestioned opinions repeated 48 times per day. Education is unknown, all is for sale to McDonalds or stupid, creationist businessmen. All that the "old school tie" establishment can think of is trying to keep up with the most industrialised and least paid in the world in a race to the bottom, a race to dismantle civilisation, to abolish humanity and return to the condition of cannibalistic apes.

We are in thrall to amoral, ruthless commercialism and laziness. It's time for a new austerity, a return to self-sufficiency and to shut down the globalist nonsense for good and all. Everybody is not a friend, this globalism is a sort of second wave hippie economics. I wouldn't have the EU trade with any other part of the world that has lesser human and worker rights. Let's take the hit financially - it's all a house of cards anyway - and bet on self-reliance. We can only win - could not possibly do any worse, when questions of dignity and honour are more important than a surfeit of consumption. This is the way to promote justice and human rights, by not entertaining any business approaches unless they are from countries we can verify compliant with our own minimum wages, working conditions and human rights. No deals with any country that implements the death penalty, including the USA and Russia.

People like Gordon Brown who at one time probably had hippie sensibilities (me too) have now sublimated that crock of ineffectual banality into the realm of world economics. It's like "Free Love!" this "Free Trade!" - "Let it all hang out" - well unfortunately we just had our Manson moment, and it's all fallen out with a splurge of fetid monetary ouns and bilge.

Everything that labour activists and trade unions fought for "in the day" has been sold out, in order that overseas robber barons can setup new industrial dormitories and hock new souls to their company stores, or buy peasants' children into bonded labour. We buy produce made by state prison slave labourers who send goods to Europe with "Help we are slaves - tell the world" written on the back in Chinese (I have seen this), or from children bussed out of schools to break their young backs in cotton fields. We still have not switched to electric cars, so tyrannical sheikhs and mullahs continue to use our oil money to hold their people in servitude.

Mobile execution chambers roll around China (ref. this week) while in this part of the world we are ingenuous and kind enough to still circulate mobile libraries and health screening equipment. We donate our own organs, support and run charities, while they harvest organs for sale from executed prisoners and make relatives pay for the bullet to the back of the head that killed their sons or daughters, fathers or mothers in a field - and won't even allow relatives to reclaim the body. We worry about how to support our population as people live longer, while they have decreed that there shall never again be any such thing as a brother or a sister, an aunt or an uncle, a niece or a nephew (the one child policy).

Close the damn drawbridge. We can do 1,000% better on our own, and let them reform and come crawling back - if they're able. We have sent out the message that what we eradicated here is now, for mercenary reasons, acceptable vicariously through these other vicious, despicable regimes. It is not acceptable, we are just victims of lazy and unprincipled governance, the cupidity of the over-ambitious, and the insensibility of dullards.

Bring industry home. Bring the troops home. Let us support and strengthen national and European defences till we are 100% independent of Russia, China, OPEC and the United States. Let's get a grip and stop selling our hard won rights and laws down the river.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Funeral in Stockport

Many turn out to honour marine (video)

On the way to a business meeting in Stockport, the taxi stopped in traffic. We were near the entrance to the local graveyard. The traffic on the other side had been blocked and there were people with cameras. I said, "There must be an important funeral today." The driver said, "I think it's that lad that was killed in Afghanistan." I looked through the back window of the taxi and saw soldiers in dress uniform lining the entrance to the cemetery. Motorcycle police approached and the video cameraman got in the middle of the road to film the approaching hearse, which was still out of sight. I feel like taking some pictures. Then I think there are enough people taking pictures. The hearse came by, just an ordinary civilian hearse. I took off my hat. The coffin was draped in the union jack and along the side, written in flowers, "Danny".

Friday, January 30, 2009

Maybe nothing happens till the story is told

Our concept of the past is in a state of uncertainty like the position of an electron: it can either be tragic or comedy, adventure or farce. But once told it is destroyed, changed forever, weighed, frozen. No longer a living mystery, it dies.

As for the future, some have speculated that by looking into space and determining what lies there, man is narrowing the future, reducing it to what we can see receding or approaching. If we'd never made telescopes, infinite futures might have remained, but as it is we are reducing all to narrow doom.

Somebody said "The unexamined life is not worth living" but one could equally well say that the unlived life is not worth examining and by implication that the examined life is not worth living. The examined life may be nothing more than an internal conversation about living, something like talking about jazz - which somebody said was like dancing about architecture. But there are philosophers who are paid to noodle on about such things and the best of luck to them, may they noodle forever.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Short story event in Piccadilly

I was one of the readers at the first Costa Short Story Café event. The highlight was Helen Simpson reading a very funny story called "I'm going to have to let you go". There was a good turnout, standing room only. A pleasant hour. (Link: Fiction Espresso)