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Einstein Was Wrong
Three times. What a dope.

His first mistake came when he thought he was wrong. Worrying that a logical extrapolation of his own work on general relativity seemed to indicate an expanding universe (an idea that repelled him), Albert inserted something called a “cosmological constant” into his equations. This mathematical doohickey provided him with the comforting notion of a static universe, fixed in space forever.

A few years later, in 1929, the astronomer Edwin Hubble published proof of the redshift phenomenon. His data showed that distant objects appear slightly redder than they really are. The only explanation for this effect had to be that those objects were moving away from us at high speed, thus skewing our perception of their color toward the red end of the spectrum. Ergo, the universe was expanding after all, heading outward in all directions and going faster and faster all the time.

Einstein, reading Hubble’s work, took it as a confirmation of his original equations and retracted his insertion of the cosmological constant, calling it his “biggest blunder.” Well, that was his second mistake. Physicists have recently revived the constant to help them understand dark energy, a heretofore mysterious aspect of our universe that seems to counteract gravity. This anti-gravitational force is thought to be the very reason the universe is expanding!

That’s twice, then, that Einstein thought he was wrong, and twice that he was wrong about being wrong. Now comes the charm: what if Hubble was wrong? What if the redshift he observed is not caused by the movement of objects, but by something else entirely?

Up steps Christof Wetterich of the University of Heidelberg with an answer. Christof suggests that the reason those objects appear redder is that they are getting heavier as time passes. The mass of an object also affects the light it emits. Specifically, if an object becomes more massive, it will emit more energy and appear redshifted. Wow.

So, if Christof is right, Albert is wrong… again. Not only that, I may be right. Not about the cosmological constant or the redshift, but about my own theory of Pulsating Nodes.

Let me explain. You won’t find references to the Pulsating Nodes Theory in any of the scientific literature because it’s not there. This is my own, personal theory that I made up. No, I am not a theoretical physicist or an extragalactic astronomer; instead, I consider myself a thinking ignoramus. But never mind that. In order for my theory to be correct, this universe and all other universes must explode into being, expand, then contract to their starting points. Again and again and again. If Hubble and Einstein are right, and the universe expands and expands until entropy finally triumphs and the whole mess just sits there forever, then there is no contraction. The universe, in that case, would not pulsate, and my theory would die in the icy cold of space.

Thanks to Professor Wetterich, however, new life has been breathed into the nostrils of my cosmos. If he is correct about all mass everywhere getting heavier all the time, then the Pulsating Nodes Theory — a product not of science but of common sense — will live on and, who knows, someday might be vindicated. Now, at least, there is hope.

I leave it to others to come up with the numbers. I’m just an ideas guy who wants the universe to make sense, which is something that dope Albert Einstein wouldn’t understand.

How Does God Do It?
I mean, really? Think of what he has on his plate: overseeing every vibration of every subatomic string in every nanosecond in every multiverse. Forever. Granted, he’s all-powerful, but where does he find the energy to do all that and still get offended when some earthboob disses him?

Let’s be honest; he must be farming out some of this stuff. Earth, for instance, is a tiny planet in the backwaters of a dim little galaxy. Surely he has delegated our management to someone else — not an angel, necessarily, but at least some super-smart alien being. Any good manager would do the same; it makes sound business sense, and I would never dare say that God is a bad businessman.

My guess is that our local super alien lives in the sun. What better vantage point to run things from? The lighting is great. There’s plenty of raw energy there to supply him (or it) with all his needs, whatever they might be. Plus, it’s a great hiding place. No one is ever going to voyage to the center of the Sun.

I have no doubt, furthermore, that all of these alien subcontractors are very, very nice beings. God wouldn’t have it any other way. They must have undergone a rigorous screening process so that only the best, the brightest, and the lovingest would fill these positions.

Even so, systems fail. Somehow, there is a small malfunction… and some boneheaded foul-up gets the job. It’s nobody’s fault, really, but there he is, running a solar system.

Maybe that’s what happened here, on planet Earth.

Now again, I’m not faulting God, and any talk of a lawsuit would certainly be premature. I simply want to say that the service has been spotty, at best. The suffering-to-joy ratio has been out of whack from the beginning, way too many innocents are getting chewed up in the gears, and God’s brand is taking a beating.

Let me state for the record that I am fully down with the God-moves-in-mysterious-ways caveat. Unlike Pat Robertson, I don’t imagine that I can understand the motivations of an infinite being. Still, all this agony and waste seems unnecessary. I can only assume that our alien, seeing the mess he has made of things, has been submitting false reports to the head office, thereby compounding the unrighteousness. This blog, sadly, might never be seen by higher-ups in the chain of command.

But I had to try. If our alien is as incompetent as he seems, maybe the sun will get in his eyes, and this message will slip through.

Help!
3Doom
Were you a little spooked when someone made the first 3D printed gun? Did it trouble you when you realized that anyone with the digital designs for the component parts and a 3D printer could make assault weapons in unlimited numbers in his basement? Me too.

I guess this technology kind of snuck up on us. When I first heard about it, it sounded like the set-up for and absurd joke. Copy your ass on this Xerox machine, and… Ha ha. Now it doesn’t seem so funny. Handguns, assault rifles, and who knows what else can now be conjured up practically out of thin air — bringing us one step closer to a society bristling with armaments and soaked through with paranoia.

This is sobering, to be sure, but I think we could probably cope with it all — if only technology would stop and take a breath. It won’t, though; it never does. The next big breakthrough, no matter how absurd it may seem conceptually, is waiting just around the corner.

If 3D copying can challenge us with its consequences, how will we react to the next logical link in this chain of creation? What if that advance carries us beyond our ability to deal with its unforeseen outcomes? What if it brings a change so fundamental that one deranged person could use it to destroy us all?

What if the next big thing is 4D printers?

Yes, I am talking about printers that can make guns — that travel through time! I don’t want to be an alarmist, but what if the Persians had had AK-47s at Thermopylae? How different would our lives be if The 100 Years War had lasted a week? Where would we be now if the redcoats had been packing Uzis?

If these scenarios fill you with icy dread (and they should), remember that we set ourselves up for this. If only we’d had the good sense to say, when those first big Xerox monstrosities hit the market, “No thanks, I’ve got a mimeograph machine.”
Never Mind
Let me declare right off that I have nothing against labor saving devices. I like having my labor saved as much as the next person. I have resolved, however, that my affection for these tools will not blind me to their hidden costs.

A hammer, for instance, can really speed up the process of driving nails — especially if you’ve been using a big rock. A hammer will cost you a few dollars, but the hidden cost of the hammer is its weakening effect on our rock-wielding skills. If you put me into a home-building contest against some prehistoric carpenter and limit us to using only his tools, then Ugg is going to win the hut-off every time.

Now, you might suggest that pounding nails with a rock is not really such a valuable skill to lose, and you might be right. Even if civilization somehow lurches backward a couple of steps, there will still be plenty of hammers around for neo-Neolithic builders to use. Things would really have to turn sour before humans would need to re-acquire their stone tool expertise.

These issues might not be so clear-cut, however, if the tools in question are the home computer and the World Wide Web. The kinds of labor these devices save are of a different type than pounding nails. With computers, the hidden costs come in the form of a dulled memory, a blunting of our problem-solving skills, and a general decline in cognitive abilities. Who needs a memory when you have all that data on your desktop? Why nurture your cognition if you’ve got Google? And what’s the point of problem-solving acumen if there’s an app for that?

You don’t have to be a Luddite to be a little troubled by this seeming diminution of our powers. You can love computers and still be alarmed by their effect on us. You might wonder, for instance, does our reliance on these tools portend a decline for our species? Does our dependence on them make us vulnerable to sudden societal changes? Are we doomed?

Well, don’t worry — we have our best philosophers working on it. And so it is that Andy Clark and David Chalmers have stepped forward with the concept of The Extended Mind. According to them, we should not view these digital wonders as tools at all, but rather as extensions of ourselves. Not as crutches for our minds but as parts of them.

Under this theory, the horizon of our consciousness and control extends to the furthest reach of our instrumentalities. The hammer becomes a part of our hand, and the smart phone becomes an upgrade for our mind. That grocery list is a part of our memory, and the web is an extension of our ever-expanding brilliance.

So we’re not getting smaller, we’re getting bigger! Also smarter, deeper, and more godlike! I like thinking of myself this way, and I want to thank Andy and Dave for providing the philosophical underpinning to do so. It’s a total rush, man.

I just wish I could have made the high keep on going. When it faded, I was still left with the question, “So what?” So what if my self spreads outward with every new invention and interplanetary probe? If the asteroid hits and civilization crumbles, I’m all the way back to a hairless, talking ape, only this time I’ve forgotten how to take care of myself.

I’m going to keep using my computer, and I will continue to surf the web. For now, I am willing to accept the trade off that may end up destroying my mind. This bargain did, after all, save me the labor of researching Andy and Dave’s work the old fashioned way by getting me there with just the touch of a button. Which gave me the time I needed to catch up on Miley Cyrus’ latest escapades. I’ll take that deal any day.

Besides, if I ever change my mind, I have a big rock outside and I still know how to use it.
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Trump supporters are people who know what they believe.
~ JC, Bonny Doon