25 QUESTIONS

A few months ago I published 25 Answers to questions readers of Quora.com took the time to ask me, because they trusted that I knew what I was writing about. Yes, the world is sad and easily fooled by pontificators posing as experts. I confess, I am one of them.

I am a bona-fide pontificator and intend to continue pontificating until I can no longer remember my name.

The response to my blog-bag of answers was underwhelming to the point where I wondered whether I should ever inflict another anthology of eclectic curiosities on any group of readers anywhere in the world.

Yes!  I decided. Of course I will. I love to read what I write!

When I forget what I once knew, I read my posts and remember how smart I was when I could remember stuff. It’s a good feeling. Someday I hope my grandchildren will understand why I don’t remember their names or how old they are. Someday I hope they will get what I’m talking about.

Brain-dead and happy is a wonderful combination, and I have it. Yes I do. It is wonderful. I feel happy and content most of the time.

My mother had Alzheimer’s for years. It was a peculiar variation where she could remember twenty-five quips and jokes, which she repeated to anyone who would listen. Sometimes she wondered what was wrong with her. She asked about it, sometimes.

She always forgot the answer, but to the end she never forgot her repertoire of sure-fire laugh lines. Mom delighted us to the very end of her life, God bless her.

Anyway, I know stuff, and I’m no longer afraid to share. I would say I am becoming fearless.

This essay is a collection of 25 more questions that people from around the world have asked, and I have dared to answer. The last Quora post was mostly math and physics. Not this time. Here the answers focus more on politics, philosophy, religion, and other esotery.

Oh, I might slip a science or math question in here or there for the nerds I know are out there who love me and hang on my every word.

Here goes.

How is it “just” for jails to be privately owned in the U.S.?

Allowing private citizens to own the means-of-incarceration is as insane as it is unjust and undemocratic.

Since 1984 America has allowed people to sequester as much wealth as they can manage. The looting, cheating, and chicanery that has resulted has turned America into one of the most corrupt, cruel, and unfair countries the world has ever known.

The result is that now we have an associate of a powerful Russian cartel serving as our president. Are we really going to allow his friends to own our prisons?

Are we out of our minds?

The situation is far worse than you can imagine.

Billionaires run the media. You aren’t going to hear about ways of organizing our country that are in opposition to their consensus about how things should be done. What passes as “dissent” on shows like Rachel Maddow, for example, has the backing of some billionaire somewhere.

We don’t know the names of the people who run our country. They don’t run for office. They do buy the services of office holders on both sides of the aisle — GOP and Democrat. It’s disturbing, especially when people finally realize that they are at bottom mere slaves with no real power. If voting made a difference, would billionaires allow it? Would you, if you were rich? I don’t think so.

Even now, confidence in our electoral system is being undermined. Reality Winner, the NSA contractor who exposed Russian tampering with our election results, rots in jail; she can’t obtain bail. The media doesn’t cover her. They want us to forget all about her.

Keeping Reality incarcerated undermines confidence, because it makes it seem like the government has something to hide about our election process.

Is Something Wrong With America?

Capitalism and Income Inequality


2 – What does Elon Musk think about religion?

RISK

Elon believes (correctly) that the risk of a future human extinction event approaches certainty over a very short period of time that can be estimated to be in the hundreds of years or less.

Elon believes we are in a race against catastrophe; humans are special and must be protected; one way to reduce extinction probabilities for humans is to establish populations on other planets and moons.

There are only 165 or so rocky (solid) bodies in the solar system with enough gravity that humans can walk on them. Places where large populations can survive are fewer than five and could be as few as absolute zero.

Mars has special problems for human survival that must be solved. It has no protection from high energy radiation and cosmic rays. It lacks a magnetosphere and the atmospheric gases like nitrogen and oxygen that are opaque to harmful rays and particles. Elon believes these problems will be solved and that the risk of extinction can be reduced if we establish vigorous colonies there.

He has hope where most informed people do not. My hope is that we can avoid extinction on the earth, but our volatile climate and frequent ice ages are difficult to overcome.

We also have new and unusual risks associated with our technologies —biological, nuclear, AI, totalitarianism, resource depletion, and runaway climate change.

Natural risks include asteroid strikes, super nova irradiation, and volcanism. These natural risks are likely to be the same or larger on other bodies in the solar system than they are on Earth.

Two human-like species are known to have gone extinct in the geological record. (Some anthropologists say it’s three.) Human populations experienced a near extinction event 70,000 years ago when the total population collapsed to less than 4,000 individuals.

I do not know what Elon Musk thinks about organized religion.

I see religion as a brake on the tendency of humans to kill each other, which history teaches has sometimes been effective and at other times has not. Sometimes strongly held religious beliefs lead to war.

On one thing humans agree: they love to fight.

3 – What is the greatest achievement in human history?

Blaise Pascal said that civilization advanced when people finally understood that being the son of a Queen did not qualify someone to be a King.

Nepotism kills civilizations and impedes human progress. An example is the president bringing in his family to manage the United States, presumably because loyalty trumps ability.

The cascading catastrophe that is enveloping us will soon teach anyone who is teachable that placing loyalty to a “king” above the ability to serve our country is one of the many roads that leads nations to ruin.

4 – Why is there a lot of woo-woo surrounding the double slit experiment?

If you shot a BB gun once every five minutes for two weeks at a steel plate that had cut into it two quarter-inch slits, you wouldn’t expect to find 25 or so tidy columns of holes in the wall behind when you were done. People who have done this experiment with atomic scale particles always say “woo” after, because the phenomenon makes no sense.

The mathematics to describe the phenomenon is the same that is used to explain wave-behavior. The problem is this: even if you shoot one wave at a time instead of a solid BB, no one expects tidy columns to form on the back wall that look like wave interference. The reason for the pattern is a complete mystery.

5 – What is the origin of geometric shapes (triangle, circle, cube, etc.)?  If the universe was governed by different laws, would it be possible that these concepts would also be different?

People speculate about the origins of idealized shapes that don’t occur in nature (except approximately). People seem to crave symmetry. They don’t like cognitive dissonance, uncertainty, or ambiguity.

People who are dissonant-intolerant are easy to manipulate. Politicians prey on people’s discomfort by offering simple solutions in return for votes. The result is always disillusionment, because nothing involving people is simple.

Nothing in nature is simple, either.

Triangles, circles, and cubes seem simple because of their symmetries. They appeal to the simple-minded among us — which is 99% of the population, right? It might be 100% if mathematics and language are insufficient to understand ultimate reality.

Einstein had this theory that only mass and energy exist. They are equivalent; they are two sides of the same coin. Space and time are a consequence, not a cause.

Space-time was described by tensor-metrics, and the metrics show that space-time does not have to be flat.

Lines can be thought of as geodesics, which are “straight” only when the metrics of space-time are “flat”. When the metrics “curve” space-time (as they do near massive objects) parallel lines might be parallel in one place only, as lines of longitude on Earth are parallel in one place only — at the equator.

The laws of physics seem unlikely, because twenty or so constants in nature have been discovered that can’t be derived and seem to make no sense. All these constants have been revealed by experiments and seem to be irrational. One example is the constant “α” (alpha), which is discussed in the first link that follows this answer.

Stephen Hawking said that the odds against a universe configured like ours are 1E500, which is close to an infinity. But Stephen Wolfram says that at the heart of the universe is a simple algorithm. In his view the algorithm, if we ever discover it, will prove that our universe is the only configuration possible.

Who knows?

Fine Structure Constant

Conscious Life

6 – What salary in the United States puts you in the top 10%, top 5%, top 2%, and top 1% in terms of salary?

All anyone needs to know about train-wreck America is that half of all black families live on less than $40K per year; half of all non-black families live on less than $75K per year. It’s hard to imagine that families can survive, let alone prevail, on so little income.

The USA is segregated by income and race. Poor people have no idea how easy life is for the wealthy; the wealthy don’t believe America has poverty.

I have five sons and one daughter. Only two of the six are in the top 1%. The most talented one, an assistant professor of kinetic art at a major university, is in the bottom half. His brothers give him money so he can get by.

Gross inequality isn’t right.

Capitalism and Income Inequality

7 – Modern humans appeared 200,000; civilization 10,000; and advanced technology 500 years ago. Why no advancement for something like 190,000 years?

Technology advances when survival demands it. Wars involving large populations did not become possible until about 3,000 years ago, because human populations were small.

Technology (to wage war) began to advance when population size increased; war technology percolated into the general population during peacetime.

70,000 years ago the human population collapsed to what some anthropologists believe was fewer than 4,000 individuals. The climb back took a long time because the world was in an ice age until 15,000 years ago or so. It has taken time to reach seven billion individuals.

The good news is that advances in technology and science are no longer driven by war, but by the preparation for war. Entertainment, comfort, convenience, and other factors drive inventors to bring clever technologies to peacetime populations.

Avoidance of war should become the highest priority of humankind from here on out, or we might suffer a catastrophic population collapse that would most certainly set back human development for hundreds of thousands of years.

Extinction is another possibility. At least two intelligent hominid species are known to have gone extinct during the past 200,000 years. There may be others.

Sorry for the short answer. The list of technologies and natural catastrophes that can annihilate homo sapiens is long. Click the following link to read about most of them.

RISK

8 – Should the USA build a competing Status-6 Oceanic Multipurpose System (Doomsday) Nuclear warhead?

Enough Pu239 has already been produced in weapons and processed from nuclear fuel rods to sterilize planet Earth of all life.

One country, Japan, has isolated 47 tons of Pu239 from fuel rods, is adding 8 tons per year, and has complained on NHK television that they don’t know what to do with it. Ten pounds is enough to make one atomic bomb.

Plutonium 239 is bomb making material. Japan has 94,000 pounds. It is producing 16,000 pounds per year. Twelve pounds makes one high-yield bomb.

The level of toxicity of Pu239 dust has recently become controversial. My understanding is the traditional one: the speck of brown dust that kills you, you will never see.

The half-life of Pu239 is 24,000 years. Risk studies (which include about a dozen hazards not related to plutonium) have shown that the chance that homo sapiens will survive a catastrophic population collapse during the next 24,000 years is less than one-in-a-million.

Humans can’t baby-sit all the plutonium that exists in facilities on every continent and keep life on earth safe from annihilation by contamination. The warheads and storage facilities are going to rot over time, and the earth will soak up the poisons left behind like vinegar in a sponge.

Doomsday is not a question of whether-or-not but of fast-or-slow. There is no upper limit to the size of a hydrogen bomb, so fast is doable. A rogue group with enough resources could construct a bomb powerful enough to obliterate the earth.

No one can undo the poisons that now exist, so slow is inevitable.

47 TONS

RISK

9 – What is the evolutionary reason that human beings are superficial and attracted to external appearances more than towards intrinsic qualities such as intelligence, character, integrity, honesty and virtuosity?

My reading and life experience tell me that humans are attracted to symmetry.

There could be any number of reasons, but it is easy to argue that symmetry seems to create less stress in those who encounter it, which may make them more receptive (and less reluctant) to mate with those who have it.

Reduction of cognitive dissonance is a major driver of conscious-life; symmetry seems to reduce dissonance in sentient beings like humans.

Interest by humans in mathematics and art seems to confirm, at least to my mind, that folks are driven to imbibe “harmonies” and “patterns” in nature; these symmetries provide them with reassurance that the world is not hostile and that happiness and reduction of stress is possible in the face of accidents, disease, and predators.

Intelligence, character, integrity, honesty and virtuosity are qualities that are not easily perceived and can even be illusory. People are good at feigning all these qualities to manipulate others to satisfy their needs — especially their sexual appetites and their desire for power over others.

Symmetry is not easily disguised (or the lack of it, even with good grooming) and can be an indicator of good mental and physical health, because symmetrical (attractive) people tend to have higher status and are in general less traumatized by mistreatment (on average) than people who do not have this physical quality.

People may mate with high symmetry individuals and later discover than the intangible moral qualities that they value in a life-partner are missing. Such a discovery can lead to separation, but meanwhile offspring have been spawned who have high levels of symmetry, and the process of selection for this quality continues unabated into future generations.

Yes, I have no evidence that this conjecture is correct; it’s not my field, but it seems to be a factor in the world I find myself.

10 – How does Russia stay on par with the USA in many high-tech military systems when their GDP and military budget is so small by comparison? Shouldn’t we be light-years ahead of them by now?

USA military spending is deceptive and classified.

The United States has 800 bases inside 70 countries. It is at war with every country that doesn’t do what it’s told.

Since the end of WW2, the USA has attacked one-fourth of the 195 countries on the earth. Depending on who counts, the USA has killed between ten and sixty-five million people, most of them civilians. Injured people are uncountable.

The high casualty rates are due to the way it fights. The USA bombs the enemy to rubble, then moves in a few troops supported by large numbers of indigenous mercenaries to deny the rubble to the enemy.

Take two countries the size of the USA and put them side by side. The land area is less than Russia. Russia is huge. Its entire population is technically literate.

In the USA, only elites are educated. The vast majority of Americans are poorly trained, because public education is underfunded and neglected. Under the American system, education doesn’t generate profits for the wealthy, so they won’t support it.

Because America is segregated by race and income, it is difficult for visitors to get a sense of how poor the general population is. Wealthy Americans are in complete denial of the simple truth that their country is a train wreck for 75% of the people who live in it.

People with the money to travel don’t explore urban ghettos or rural wastelands. They don’t know things, nor do they want to know.

The USA has the world’s biggest and cruelest prison system for a reason.

Think about it.

Every country in the world, including Russia, is trying to avoid the wrath of the United States. They say nice things to us so we won’t hurt them. They build as much deterrence as they can to avoid being attacked or embargoed.

It’s simple, really.

KILLING FRENZY

11 – Has anyone considered leaving the USA because of the gun laws?

Anyone who has to carry a gun to feel safe is living in the wrong place. My recommendation is to move to safety ASAP.

The guns that many civilians own today inflict shattering injuries that no one who is shot can recover from. The slugs are high velocity and tumble. They are designed in non-conformance with the Geneva accords and are diabolical work-arounds.

I would rather die myself than fire one of these weapons at another human being, no matter what they’ve done.

We have police and soldiers who are trained to inflict mayhem when necessary to protect civilians from human predation. Why not let them do their jobs while we civilians throw our war guns away?

Carrying a high-powered weapon into a wild area that is rife with people-eating predators might be a good idea under some circumstances. I don’t have a problem with defense-by-gun against wild animals who might be trying to kill for food or fun.

My recommendation is to travel in wild areas in a way that doesn’t unnecessarily encourage attack by dumb and innocent animals — because, can we face facts? — they don’t know any better.

Animals have a right to live in a natural way and not be provoked. People are smart enough to travel in the wild and avoid unnecessary contacts with carnivores.

ILLUSIONS

12- What would happen to Hitler if he was captured today?

Well, I believe he would be released and featured in the next GOP presidential debates, win the Republican nomination, lose the popular vote by millions in the general election but win the electoral college, and become president.

As a lunatic with delusions of grandeur, he might do very well indeed.

I don’t think he would kill nearly a hundred million people like he did the last time around. It is more likely closer to two billion. But hey, that leaves five billion humans to abase themselves before him, so it would be worth it, right?

Republicans, can I hear an Amen?

BILLIONAIRE CHRISTIANS

13 – Would you consider the USA a noble superpower when compared to other superpowers like Russia and China?

The billionaires who run the USA believe that private ownership is noble and that public ownership is ignoble. They are in a war against any form of socialism or collectivism.

Since the end of WW2, the wealthy have used the military power of the United States to attack one-fourth of the 195 countries on the earth to prevent a cascade of civilizations into communism. This war has, with a few exceptions, been enormously successful.

Today, they are fighting to consolidate their power. The billionaires of Russia, China, Israel, and the USA are dividing the world up like the New York City crime families tried to do a few generations ago (watch the Godfather Trilogy or read the book by Mario Puzo).

Private ownership (called Capitalism) is a permutation of slavery that can be corrupting to democratic governance — as is obvious to any observer of U.S. history.

CAPITALISM AND INCOME INEQUALITY

CIVILIZATION AND INEQUALITY

KILLING FRENZY

14 – How do you interpret human consciousness? Are you the center of the universe?

Consciousness is the fundamental and foundational principle of the universe. Conscious life plugs into this foundational consciousness in a way analogous to televisions plugging into a cable outlet. A television can be unplugged and replaced. But the cable programming continues. It is eternal. Consciousness is at the center of the universe. Conscious life is at the periphery.

CONSCIOUS LIFE

15 – How would slavery have evolved in society if it was not seen as morally wrong?

“Capitalism” is the modern term for slavery. Owners of plantations, factories, and other businesses accrue the benefits of the plantation owners of former times.

Instead of providing slave quarters and food to their slaves, they pay a tiny stipend (called a minimum wage) to their laborers, which frees owners from the additional responsibility of caring for and protecting workers.

Putting the burden of housing, food, health care, and transportation on the backs of low-paid workers is called “freedom.”

The legal system disciplines unruly workers, while the state unemployment system helps dissatisfied owners replace those workers they believe are unfit.

For a small percentage of Americans, it’s a beautiful system.

Because the USA segregates workers both by race and income, most poor people don’t interact with the wealthy. This lack of contact between rich and poor reduces conflict and promotes peaceful living.

SEGREGATION AND THE GATED COMMUNITY

16 – Who was the most powerful human being that ever lived?

The most powerful person in human history was Jesus of Nazareth.

Modern calendars are organized based on the date of his birth. No one else holds that honor.

He taught the world that love — and suffering to love and save others — is what makes life worth living.

Billions of people have submitted their lives to the cause of Jesus, the Christ.

No other human comes close.

JESUS, THE CHRIST

17 – Which among these countries is the best to live? Canada, USA or Australia? Why?

My question is, which country is the best place to live if you are poor? Most people are born poor.

If people go on living by being born again after they die, the odds that they will be born impoverished is high regardless of how well they lived in their prior life. That’s why its important to make the world a good place to live for impoverished people.

Does anyone seriously believe that they only live once? Consciousness continues somewhere, and it’s all there is, right? Absent conscious-life the universe can have no meaning.

I believe Cuba is the best place to live if you are poor, because it has a good climate and the government tries to provide services to ordinary people that are available only to the well-to-do in places like Canada, Australia, and the USA.

People might want to go to Cuba to find out how the poor live on that island. Then come back and observe how the poor live in their own countries.

The United States is segregated by income and wealth, so it’s hard to find poor people if you are rich, and if you are poor it is impossible to meet rich people.

CUBA

HEY GUEVARA

CONSCIOUS LIFE

18 – Trump wants to develop a lot of smaller, “tactical” nukes. Should the US use these against North Korea?

The USA bombed North Korea back to the Stone Age during the Korean War.

It killed an estimated two million civilians. The bombing was led by General Curtis LeMay of the Strategic Air Command who later partnered with George Wallace when he ran for president back in the 1960s and carried several states including Michigan (if I remember it right).

Wallace was a white supremacist. The Air Force’s own official historians have called LeMay’s bombing of North Korea the cruelest use of military power in world history.

This is the same General who destroyed 67 Japanese cities and burned their populations alive with napalm (fire-jelly) during WW2.

North Korea has done nothing to justify a military strike against its territory.

Nuclear weapons of any size or type should never be used in war, especially when there is nothing to be gained but the reputation for being a monster.

What does Korea have that we could possibly want? The answer is, nothing.

We have a choice to make: are we good or evil? Our destiny depends on how we answer that question.

KILLING FRENZY

47 TONS

19 – I am terrified of single-payer systems as implemented in socialist countries. Can this happen in the US? Was Obama trying to give everyone healthcare all along?

The USA is based on a slave system (now referred to as capitalism or free-market) where the owners of the plantations have doctors, which they share with their favorite house slaves. The field hands get nothing. The plantation owners are terrified that they might have to share their doctors with “unworthy” people should a slave revolt occur, so they have built the world’s most massive prison system to isolate slaves who might dare challenge the status quo.

In other words, people have to work for the right company and have the right job to get access to free health care. Very few do.

The system is so simple, a child can understand it.

Obama threw a wrench into the system by making it possible for people who work for the wrong companies (or who don’t work at all, for whatever reason) to buy access to health care for a reduced fee. Care is still expensive, but it’s not totally out of reach anymore for about three-quarters of the population.

In Cuba (for example) every neighborhood and apartment complex has a doctor assigned to it. What could be more effective than walking down the hall or across the street to be evaluated? If necessary folks are referred for further treatment to a hospital. Otherwise they get the meds they need, and that’s as complicated and inconvenient as it gets.

I grew up in a Navy family. We had free health care. If you got sick, you just drove to the base hospital and the doctors evaluated you. No paper work, no fees. It was a “single-payer” socialized system of medicine. It was better than what we have today as civilians except that protocols, equipment, and medicines are more effective today than they were sixty years ago when I was in that Navy system.

It’s hard for me to believe that this is a serious question by a serious person, but clueless people in the USA are subject to sophisticated behavioral modification protocols due to the immense amount of money that is involved in medicine and drugs, as well as guns, entertainment, food, and transportation.

So it isn’t surprising that people fear a lot of things that aren’t dangerous and are oblivious to dangers that are serious. It’s all about helping a relatively few families and cartels sequester the lion’s share of our nation’s resources.

Someday, maybe things will become more fair than they are now. I hope so.

OBAMA CARE AND THE LAW OF UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES

CAPITALISM AND INCOME INEQUALITY

20 – Why is it assumed that America invented slavery when slavery has been around for much of human history?

America practiced one of the cruelest forms of slavery. It is the only country in the western hemisphere where slave revolts were successfully suppressed.

Today, slavery has been renamed; it is called capitalism. In the USA, slaves are called workers and are free to live outside the gated communities of the wealthy. Workers are segregated by income to minimize the possibility of unrest.

The USA continues to prevent a successful slave revolt by maintaining the largest prison system by far that the world has ever known.

ARMAGEDDON

SEGREGATION AND THE GATED COMMUNITY

21 – What was the worst year of slavery?

Two-thirds of white people came to America as slaves, called indentured servants. This practice started 150 years before the country became a constitutional republic and continued for many decades after. Indentured servitude was a seven year term of slavery that ended in freedom.

For Africans slavery was permanent. 100% of Africans came to America as slaves for life. There were notable exceptions. Billy Lee, George Washington’s slave and best friend, was set free when George Washington died; Billy Lee continued to live on GW’s Mount Vernon estate as a free man until his death.

WHO IS BILLY LEE?

22 – Is it true that until humans become one nation, we will never go further than Mars?

Organizing a human mission to Mars is expensive and dangerous. A coalition of nations might be able to manage the expense and risk.

Elon Musk’s company, SpaceX, is planning a Mars mission. I haven’t heard how the company plans to finance it.

Mars has an iron-nickel core like the earth, but it froze solid many millions of years ago. The magnetic field collapsed, which permitted the solar wind to blow away most of the planet’s atmosphere.

Any biological life forms on or near its surface will have to withstand the stress of continuous, high-energy radiation and the bombardment by cosmic particles with the energy of baseballs.

Travel to planets or moons as far as Jupiter and beyond will take many years.

Unless humans are heavily sedated, it is doubtful that they will be able to endure a journey of several years in a cramped space vehicle. They will lose muscle mass and possibly their sanity — certainly their perspectives that help them maintain a sense of normalcy.

Successful functioning by humans on an alien moon or planet after a journey of several years might not be possible no matter who organizes the trip or what precautions are taken.

FINDING LIFE IN THE UNIVERSE

23 – To Christians: Which scientific claims are incompatible with your faith, and why?

Science confirms my faith, because it seems to be saying that reality is mind-boggling; the odds against a universe constructed like ours with its unusual forces and constants seems to be infinite.

Jesus came to save the ignorant and the despised of the world, which is pretty much everyone. He avoided the subject of science altogether, for good reason.

No reasonable person can believe that the universe started with the big bang of a singularity that then inflated rapidly to create the conditions for conscious life with enough intelligence to understand its origins. That’s cray-cray, but it’s how astronomers explain the universe.

Even with all we know, the underlying reality of existence remains a complete mystery. If Jesus came to earth today, would he talk science to humanity?

I seriously doubt it. I don’t believe humans are hard-wired to understand how the universe works or what reality is. We evolved in an unusually safe place and time in the universe and carry with us all the peculiarities and idiosyncrasies that accompany our unlikely presence.

The Bible says plainly that one day people who have ridiculed the salvation of Christ Jesus will be asked why they didn’t look up at the night sky and wonder why it is that they are so small and dark while the night sky is so large and bright.

How could serious people have missed such an important clue? How could they misunderstand their predicament and the possibility that one day they might realize their hopes and dreams through the love of God who created, cares for, and protects them?

SENSING THE UNIVERSE

RESURRECTION

24 – Keeping the knowledge you have today, would you rather travel a thousand years into the future, or a thousand years into the past?

The risks to survival that faced individuals a thousand years ago far exceed the risks that people will face a thousand years from now, if humans survive another thousand years.

The counter-intuitive statistical reality is that the odds against species survival are actually higher than the odds against the survival of an individual human, should the human species manage to stay viable during the next thousand years.

Most analysts of risk are suggesting that homo sapiens do not have much time left before extinction overwhelms them.

At least two human-like species have already gone extinct during the geological record. The particular species that thrives today (us) faces risks brought on by its technological expertise, which is certain to destroy it eventually.

I would choose to go forward in time, but I would do so with a great deal of fear knowing the old adage that curiosity kills the cat.

If everything turns out all right, the big question would be, how do uneducated, stupid people do in this new world?

Because uneducated and stupid might be exactly what anyone will be who dares to travel one-thousand years into the future.

RISK

25 – What are ways one can approach a complex idea that we don’t understand?

Complex ideas are of two kinds: ideas that one or more people understand, but other’s don’t; and ideas that no one understands.

In the case where humans exist who understand the complex idea, the objective should be to engage them to learn what they know either by talking to them or by reading what they have published. One hopes by this process to gather enough clues to guide oneself to further inquiries and encounters that will lead eventually to understanding.

Many complex ideas require skills in certain subsets of knowledge like mathematics, languages, logic, philosophy, and the technical arts (such as metallurgy or whatnot) to make progress.

In the case where the complex idea can be demonstrated and stated, but no one understands it (an example is “entanglement” in quantum physics) the approach is different. In these cases, it may not be possible to create a model of any kind in anyone’s mind that reduces the annoying dissonance that comes from not understanding.

People waste a lot of time — some go mad — trying to understand ideas that no one understands or will ever understand. Most people seem to believe (in error, it seems to me) that everything can be understood if smart people work hard and are clever.

This idea, which I believe, that complete understanding is not possible is a complex one that no one understands, including me.

TRUTH

BONUS QUESTION 1 – In history, humans have fought and killed each other for every piece of land on the Earth. Why has the massive continent of Antarctica always been out of that conflict?

This absence of conflict may be coming to an end. A National Geographic reporter has been reporting on alarming developments during the past several years that the fake news has all but ignored.

ANTARCTICA

BONUS QUESTION 2 – Why did mankind invent religion?

As far as I can tell, no records of an ancient civilization without religion have been discovered. I think that it is very scary to be suddenly aware that you exist and not know why — especially at night when wild animals roam freely and the sky is full of lights that shouldn’t be there.

LOSING MY RELIGION

Billy Lee

Editorial Board Recommendation:  We are encouraging readers to visit Quora.com to read responses by Billy Lee to hundreds of questions asked by curious people from around the globe.

BILLIONAIRE CHRISTIANS

Donald Trump is the billionaire leader of Christians in the United States today. We might as well face facts. Some are saying that Trump has been a Christian for years. Leaders of southern fundamentalists inside the United States, like Franklin Graham,  joined forces with Russia and Israel to make him president.

It’s true.

Prophet Cindy Jacobs told attendees at Revolution 2017an event held at the Museum of the Bible in Washington DC  (God’s base camp, she called it) — that President Trump ”will be seated and mantled with the power of God.”

I’ve written several essays on the takeover of America by southern evangelicals, like Jerry Falwell Jr., who made a deal with the president to advance his vision of an America submitted to GOD’S WILL, as he himself discerns it.  Links to these articles are provided at the end of the essay for those who might want to review them.

I’m writing this essay, because it seems like the entire country is in denial about what is going on. People driven crazy by religion have embedded themselves into the politics of USA! USA!  and are working overtime to transform the country into their own twisted vision of what they think God wants.

While rabid wolves circle disguised as sheep, the rest of America is starting to understand that it is being enveloped and smothered by a Jim Jones style cult, which some fear will get us killed, because these hypocrites (and they are hypocrites) plan to force their despised and unloved flocks to swallow a strychnine-laced Kool-Aid of evil that will poison the earth with the trauma of mass-suicide and murder.

These sycophants of power want to hasten the “end-times” as foretold in the book of Revelation, which comes last in the Bible; it is an incomprehensible tract that is the capstone of their “eschatology.”

They hope to mess-up the world so thoroughly that it will force a “rapture” that will sweep them up into Heaven as their enemies are tortured and killed.

The wicked imaginations of pedophilic converts and sexually abusive power-trippers make the book of Revelation a mirror to the worms that crawl through the chambers of their raging hearts.

If you aren’t scared, you should be.

Their inspiration comes from the book with the passage they don’t memorize or quote, because they are blind guides. They just kind of skip over it as they slip their way into paradise and leave the rest of us behind.

Your merchants were the world’s important people. By your magic spell all the nations were led astray.  Revelation 18: 23b (NIV)

They seek the power and glory of wealth that is too often hidden in the folds of a prayer shawl.

…the deceitfulness of wealth chokes the word, making it unfruitful.  Matthew 13: 22b (NIV, Jesus speaking)

Billy Lee

Post Script:
Blessed are the gentle, for they will inherit the earth.
  Matthew 5:5 (World English Bible, Jesus speaking)

Note from the Editorial Board:  Every member of the Editorial Board advised Billy Lee not to publish his latest tome, because it might be misunderstood, which would be bad; or it might actually be understood, which would be worse.

In defense of Billy Lee, during its first year the single victory in law of the current national leadership was to lower its own taxes, which were already too low by half.

It was reminiscent of one of the parables: the rich young ruler.  Obviously, our leaders read the parable and modeled their behavior after this eager-to-please young man of the Bible. For those not familiar, click on the link.

In fairness, we would be remiss not to mention that the president continues to repeal everything ”Obama.” So, it isn’t all bad inside the USA — at least for those Americans who hate Kenyan-born, Muslim presidents who misplace their birth certificates.

Our current president led the crusade to expose the ”truth” about President Obama, and many Americans believed it. Think of the good causes our Christian president put together to expose how vile and evil was our first Negro president. He exposed crooked Hillary too, and lying Ted, and little Rubio, and sloppy Steve, and — as we just said — that other low-life he hates, nigger Barry.

No wonder southern evangelicals and the GOP love him. He is our leader — our president — and we must all, every one of us,  learn to love him too, right? — we must abase ourselves before him — because he is a stable genius, if for no other reason. 

The Billy Lee Pontificator Editorial Board

Hating Christmas

Beverly Mae and me live on a cul-de-sac with a lot of old people everywhere. Some of the houses are empty; folks go to Florida, mostly. Some travel to second, third, or fourth  homes located only God knows where. None have Christmas decorations. It’s too much work when people are old and no one comes to visit.

A black kid who must have spent a lot of time making Christmas candles came to our house yesterday. He displayed his wares and gave what I thought was a carefully memorized pitch for the homeless.

How much? I asked.

Most folks give twenty dollars, he said.  I held an IPhone at the ready pre-dialed to  911 in case he tried to rob me.

After looking the boy over, he seemed like a good kid, so I put the phone away and paid the money. The last thing he said as he stepped back to leave was, Thank you, sir, for answering the door. It means a lot at Christmas.

I wondered if I should tell him that the reason people weren’t answering their doors was that they had already left town, most of them.  No, I thought. Better not tell him that.

People live in my neighborhood who, I think, must be more paranoid and racist than me. Some no doubt refused to answer, because they darn well aren’t going to deal with a door-to-door salesman at Christmas-time.  Especially if they look like someone who might hate them for being unable to feign even a little trust — a little kindness and love —  during the Christmas season. It’s scary when strangers approach the house who are male, black, and have never been seen before.

Christmas is supposed to be white as snow, right?

What if I misjudged the young man? Is it wise to tell someone just because they present well that the neighborhood is empty? Their friends might come back to pillage and loot.

Cul-de-sac where Billy Lee lives.

Yeah, it’s going to be a crummy Christmas.

Here are ten things I worry about that make this end of year holiday season especially depressing  — and it’s not the weather, which right now is grey and overcast.

  1. The GOP raised taxes on 25% of the public. Guess who made it into that illustrious group? Me.  I’m in — according to a questionnaire about finances conducted by the New York Times.
    .
  2. The president left the White House without wishing the country a Merry Christmas!  It’s another campaign promise the oinking chief-commander broke.  What good is being free to say Christmas if the president won’t say it? Everyone should be used to his lying-ways by now. Sorry — the fat-man continues to irritate me.
    .
  3. Will the president start World War Three on Christmas Eve? It’s just one more thing to worry about. I’m not going to bed with visions of sugar plums dancing in my head this time. Will he obliterate North Korea because they tested bombs and missiles, something the USA has done thousands of times? Who the hell knows?
    .
  4. Will he fire Robert Mueller, a decorated Marine veteran and arguably one of the most honest men in government? Or will he perhaps fire a random person on Christmas, because, why the hell not?  It’s Christmas, people! The orange-man demands results. He doesn’t mess around when it comes to making America great. He fired the former FBI director, James Comey, because his attempt to clear Hillary Clinton three days before the election failed. You’re fired! quacked the presidential duck. He did it for Hillary. He really did. He was helping an old friend. That’s all it was. I watched him say so on television. Maybe it was fake news. I can’t tell anymore.
    .
  5. One of the best gifts? Trump gave Americans the precious gift of the ObamaCare Repeal. It’s what he said. I saw the video on the nightly news. He promised to replace it with something way better.  Can’t wait to open that present. Unaffordable healthcare is a wonderful thing. It prevents countless thousands of Americans from going to hospitals where they risk being hurt by doctors who are only in it for the money.
    .
  6. Family members who have shopped say the crowds in the stores are minimal. Despite the commercial hype on billionaire-owned media, store sales have crashed.
    .
  7. The stock market noticed. It’s down. Yes, Russian oligarchs  are playing games by pulling out money. It’s a fun prank, especially during Christmas. Why not? I confess; I cut back on Christmas spending. The economy can go belly-up — I really don’t care. I don’t put money in the stock market; I don’t vacation in Vegas. The wealthy are on a shoplifting-spree, like under former President Bush. The greed of his fellow-travelers crashed the country in 2008. The current fool’s friends are worse. So will be the results. How long will profiteering take to cut the legs off the middle-class this time around? Not long, methinks.
    .
  8. Churches campaigned for the biggest boob ever to run for the highest office ever in the history of the world ever and of all  human-kind, ever. He’s huge, the orange fat-man. Churches organized bus-runs to take congregants to hear Franklin Graham  “on tour” who pretended to anyone who listened that he was politically neutral while he ranted against witches (like the unnamed evil Methodist, Hillary) and abortion.
    .
    Omarosé Onée Manigault-Newman predicted that people would bow before the new leader before history as we know it ends. Omarosa is one of the many misfit toys the orange man fired during his climb to ultimate power.
    .
    How can anyone go back to those crazy churches should their bozo-president actually screw-up everything at Christmas? The allure of Christianity rides on the back of a thrice-married billionaire who went bankrupt in the casino business, of all things. Somehow he never learned that casinos don’t make money, they launder it. It’s a big difference. When things eventually go to hell in a handbasket (as they certainly will), which churches are going to get the most credit? If the orange-clown kills millions of people to make a point, who gets the pat on the back? Jesus?
    .
  9. I have sons who have made more money than I ever imagined was possible during those times long ago when I held them as babes in my loving arms. To a man, they think things are just fine. No worries. Yes, health insurance is expensive, but think about one thing for just one minute. (People must know that now is not the time for stupid.) Rich people don’t buy health insurance!  Right? They don’t need it. Anyone who hoards fourteen thousand piles of a million dollars per pile (like the president) doesn’t worry about a $200,000 hospital bill. Billionaires spend more on Rolex watches.
    .

    Video clip of recent Navy UFO sighting here.
  10. During the past week, the media informed the public on three different occasions that at this moment in time when the Russians are dismantling the United States, UFOs scramble over the skies of the world on every continent. Is there anyone out there who hasn’t heard the ominous rumblings of UFOs late at night while they are trying to sleep?
    .
    Since the last news report days ago, not a peep has been heard from the media. Not a line of warning by the replicants who sit in the seats of media-power. They are so life-like, aren’t they? So Perfect. So Desirable. They seem to never mispronounce words or make grammatical errors. Sure, they screw-up. They do.  Listen. Sometimes they say boob-el instead of bubble. That’s how you tell.
    .
    None of this is happening, right? Surely everyone understands by now. It can’t be happening.  Not now.  Not ever.  Cover the eyes, ears, and mouth. Stop screaming.

Why won’t you believe? I’m a pontificator. I’m trying so hard to warn you.

NOTHING IS REAL.

Billy Lee

25 ANSWERS

Two months ago, I discovered QUORA. It’s been around since 2009.

Since 2010, Quora has enabled people to ask experts questions about topics they like; even to answer questions on subjects they claim to know something about.

Quora is a site for geeks and nerds, and so far I  like it. The people who hang out in the areas I hang out tend to be polite, kind, and smart. If they like someone, they follow them and are notified when they post. So far, ten people have signed on to follow me. It’s a start. I think most are from India.

During the first six weeks, 150 or so of my answers were viewed 35,000 times; I got nearly 175 “upvotes”, which enabled many of the answers to move to the head of the line. I wrote most answers in the wee hours between 2 AM and 7 AM when I couldn’t sleep. Insomnia inspired me.

What follows are 25 of the most popular answers I posted to the first 150 or so questions that caught my interest. They are sequenced by popularity—the most read first .

Why not read a few? How many questions can anyone answer? Not many, I’m thinking.

Who knows what you might learn?

What?  You think you know better than a pontificator with no bona-fides? I don’t think so. No way!   😉


1)   What are some of the most popular “mathematically impossible questions“?

Freeman Dyson — one of the longest-lived and most influential physicists and mathematicians of all time — argued that it is impossible to find a whole (or exact) number that is a power of two where someone can reverse its digits to create a whole number that becomes a power of five.

In other words 2^{11} = 2048, right? Reversing the digits to make 8402 does not result in an exact number that is a power of five.

In this case, 8402^{1/5} = 6.09363... plus a lot more decimals. It’s not a whole (or exact) number. Not only that, no matter how many decimal places anyone rounds-off 6.09363... , the rounded number raised to the power of five will never return 8402 exactly.

Dyson claimed that this conjecture must be true, but there is nothing in mathematics that enables anyone to write a proof. He claimed that there must be an infinite number of similar statements—-each one true, none provable.

Click the link below to learn more.

TRUTH

The Snowplow Problem is another “impossible” problem. My differential equations professor assigned it with the promise that anyone who solved it would receive a 4.0 grade, regardless of their performance on tests. I was the only student he ever taught who actually managed it.

The problem goes like this: It is snowing at a constant rate. A snowplow starts plowing snow at noon. By one o’clock the plow has traveled one mile. By two o’clock the plow travels an additional half mile. At what time did it start snowing?

It took me 3 days and two pages of calculations, but I got my 4.0.

Note from the Editorial Board:  Over fifty people on Quora submitted answers to Billy Lee’s Snow Plow problem. One person had the right answer, but would not produce his proof. He did point out an unusual feature of the solution that Billy Lee had not noticed before. Billy Lee characterized the feature as “very surprising.” When pressed Billy Lee refused to reveal its secret. 

2)   How much force is one Newton?

A newton is the force that an average sized apple makes on your hand when you hold it. No matter where in the universe you are; no matter on what planet you stand or how strong the gravitational field, a newton of force always feels the same.

A newton is one kilogram of mass that is accelerating at one meter per second per second. Gravity on earth accelerates everything at nearly 10 meters per second per second. A kilogram of mass feels like 2.2 pounds on earth. One tenth of 2.2 pounds is 0.22 pounds or 3.5 ounces, which is the weight of a typical apple. The weight is the force that you feel against your hand. It is one newton.

On the moon, an object with the mass of a large brick would feel as light as an apple on earth due to the moon’s lower gravity. The force of the brick in your hand would feel like one newton.

3)   x + y = 4 and x^x + y^y = 64 . What are x and y?

The simplest way to solve is to make y = (4-x) and create an equation in terms of x.

An easy version to create and solve is {x^x + (4-x)^{4-x} = 64} . You can solve it by hand using iteration or throw it into an app like Wolfram Alpha and let them solve it in a few seconds.

Either way one value for x is .606098…. The other is 3.393901… , which you can assign to y. The two numbers add to 4.000… and when substituted into both initial equations return the right results.

4)   If I had 1,000,000,000,000,000 times 1,000,000,000,000,000 hamsters floating in space in close proximity, would gravity turn them into a hamster planet?

Assuming the question is serious, it deserves a serious answer.

A typically fat hamster weighs around one ounce, which is about 0.03 kilograms of mass. The number of hamsters in your question is 10E30.

Multiplying the mass of a single hamster by this large number gives the result of 3E28 kilograms.

To compare, the mass of planet Earth is 6E24 kilograms. The mass of the proposed population of hamsters is 5,000 times the mass of the earth.

The sun contains 67 times more mass than the hamster population. If the hamsters are close enough together to hold paws, a hamster planet is almost certain. I haven’t worked out how long the process to congeal would take, but I can estimate that the hamsters would probably die of starvation before the inexorable forces of gravity completed their work.

The hamster planet would be formed mostly from three elements: hydrogen (64%), oxygen (33%), and carbon (10%). 3% would be trace elements like calcium and maybe lithium.

The most likely outcome, given enough time, is a planet-like object. The hamsters have only one-fifth of the mass to make the smallest of the smallest suns — red dwarfs, which populate 67 to 80 percent of the Milky Way Galaxy.

There are way too many hamsters to make a reasonably sized moon.

Their mass (3E28 kg) happens to fall on the border between the range of masses that are required to form celestial objects known as brown dwarfs and the less massive sub-brown dwarfs — sometimes referred to as free-floating planets.

Brown dwarfs don’t have enough mass to ignite like a star, but they do produce heat and can accept small orbiting planets. The chemistry of brown dwarfs is not well-understood and is a bit controversial.

It’s a toss-up, but my vote goes to the notion that the hamsters will eventually form a very large but ordinary planet — a free-floating planet — which I referred to earlier as a sub-brown dwarf. This hamster planet might wander through space for millions (or even billions) of years before being captured by a massive-enough star to begin to orbit.

Because the elements of hydrogen and oxygen are likely to become the constituents of frozen moisture (or water ice), there is the risk that the ice might melt into oceans and perhaps boil away if the hamster planet approaches too close to a star (or sun). In the case where the planet loses its water, a carbon planet with 50 times the mass of earth would form.

Otherwise, should the planet find itself in a far-distant future orbiting in the “goldilocks” zone around a sufficiently massive star, the water would not evaporate. Life could arise in the planet’s oceans. It’s possible.

Life-forms might very well crawl up out of the water and onto land someday where — over the eons and under  ideal conditions — they will evolve into hamsters.

5)   Why is evolution a valid scientific theory despite the fact that it can’t be conclusively proven due to the impossibility of simulating the millions-of-years processes that it entails?

Evolution is a fact that is thoroughly established by observations made in many disciplines of science. Changes in species happen fast or slow; in the lab and in the field.

The mystery is how one-celled life got established so quickly — it was solidly established within one billion years of earth’s formation. It’s taken 3.5 billion years to go from one-celled life to what we have now.

Why so fast to get life started; why so slow to get to human intelligence and civilization?

People have a lot of ideas, but no one is sure. Some life forms have orders of magnitude more DNA than humans. Only 2% of human DNA is used to make the proteins that shape us.

So, yes, there are lots of questions.

NO CODE

6)   Why do cosmologists think a multiverse might exist?

Many high-level, theoretical physicists have written about the obvious problem our universe seems to have, which is that it has too many arbitrary constants that are too tightly constrained to be explained by any theory so far. No natural cause has been found for so many constants, so it’s fertile ground for theorists.

Stephen Hawking, among others, has said that the odds of one universe having the physics that ours has is 1E500 against. He is joking in his English way, because such a large number is essentially an infinity. It’s not possible to constrain a universe like ours by chance unless there are an infinity of choices, and we happen to be in the one that supports intelligent, conscious life.

Two ways of getting to infinity are the concepts of multi-verse and the new one proposed by Paul J. Steinhardt of Princeton University in 2013, which is based on data supplied by the Planck Satellite launched in 2003. Paul is the Einstein Professor of Science at Princeton, so his opinion holds a lot of weight.

Steinhardt has proposed that the universe is ekpyrotic, or cyclic. He has asserted that the universe beats like a heart, expanding and contracting in cycles, with each cycle lasting perhaps a trillion years and repeating, on and on, forever. Each cycle produces conditions — some which are ideal for life. This heart has been beating forever and will continue to do so, forever.

Conscious Life

7)   How will we visit distant galaxies if we cannot travel faster than light? 

We will never visit distant galaxies, because they are too far away; most are moving away from us faster than our current technologies can overtake. At huge distances space itself is expanding, which adds to our problems.

The expansion of space is gradually accelerating. Any increase in performance by space vehicles over the next few thousand years is certain to be overwhelmed by the accelerating expansion of the universe.

As time goes on the amount of objects that are reachable (or even viewable) by earthlings will shrink.

On the happy side, our own solar system has at least 165 interesting places to visit that should keep folks fascinated for many thousands of years. A huge cavern has been discovered on Mars, for example, that might make a safe habitat against some forms of radiation dangers; it seems to be a place where a colony of humans might be able to live, work, and survive — perhaps even flourish.

Elon Musk is planning a mission to Mars soon.

8)   What is the mathematical proof for a+a = 2a ?

Some things that are true can’t be proved. All math systems are based on axioms, which are statements believed to be true but which, in themselves, are not provable.

This link provides a list of axioms for addition: https://sites.math.washington.edu/~hart/m524/realprop.pdf

A lot of interesting philosophical and mathematical work has been done on conjectures that are believed to be true, but can’t be proved.

TRUTH

9)   Can you explain renormalization in physics in simple words?

There is a problem in physics that has to do with the huge variation in scales between the very large and the very small. This problem of scales involves not only the size and mass of things, but also forces and interactions.

Philosopher Robert Pirsig believed that the number of possible explanations that scientists could invent for phenomenon were, in actual fact, unlimited.

Despite all the math and all the convolutions of math, Pirsig believed that something mysterious and intangible like quality or morality guided our explanations of the world. It drove him insane, at least in the years before he wrote his classic book, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.

Anyway, the newest generation of scientists aren’t embarrassed by anomalies. They have taught themselves to “shut up and calculate.” The digital somersaults they must perform to validate their work are impossible for average people to understand, much less perform. Researchers determine scales, introduce “cut-offs“, and extract the appropriate physics to make suitable matches to their experimental results.

The tricks used by physicists to zero in on pieces of a problem where sensible answers can be found have many names, but renormalization is one of the best known.

When physicists renormalize an equation, they cut away infinities and other annoying problems (like dividing by zero). They focus the range of their attention to smaller spaces where the vast differences in scales and forces don’t blow up their formulas and disrupt putative pairings of their carefully crafted mathematics to the world of actual observations.

It’s possible that the brains of humans, which use language and mathematics to ponder and explain the world, are insufficiently structured to model the complexities of the universe. We aren’t hard wired with enough power to create the algorithms for ultimate understanding.

RENORMALIZATION

10)   If a propeller rotates at the speed of light at half of its length, what happens to the outer parts?

Only the ends of the propeller can rotate at near light speed (in theory). At half lengths the speed of the propellers will be half the speed of their ends, because the circumference of a circle is 2πr. (There is no squared term.)

So the question is: will the propellers deform according to the rules of the Lorentz transformation along their lengths due to the difference in velocity along their lengths?

The answer is, yes.

As you move outward along the propeller, it will become thinner in the direction of rotation, and it will get more massive. A watch will tick more slowly at the end than at the middle.

I am not sure how it would look to an outside observer. Maybe such a propeller would resemble in some ways the spiral galaxies, which don’t rotate the way we think they should. Dark matter and energy are the usual postulates for their anomalous rotations. Maybe their shape and motion is related to relativity in some way. I really don’t know.

In reality, no propeller can be constructed that would survive the experiment you describe. But in theory (and ignoring the physical limitations of materials) there would be consequences.

However, no part of the propeller will move at light speed or higher. Such speeds for objects with mass are impossible.

11)   What is the fundamental concept behind logarithms?

The first thing that anyone might try to understand is that the word logarithm means exponent.

Example 1:

log 100 = 2 . What does this expression say? It says that the exponent that makes 100 is 2. What confuses people is this: exponent acting on what number?

The exponent acts on a number called the base. Unfortunately, the base is not written down in the two most common logarithm systems, which are log and ln.

The base for the log system is 10. In the example above, the exponent 2 acts on the base 10, which is not shown. In other words, 10^2 = 100 , right? The exponent that makes 100 from the base 10 (not shown) is (equals) 2.

Example 2:

ln 10 = 2.302585… .  What does this expression say? It says that the exponent that makes 10 is 2.302585… . Again, exponent acting on what number?

The base used in the ln system is 2.7182818… ,which is an irrational number that has an infinite number of decimal places. It happens to be a useful number in all branches of science and math including statistics, so mathematicians have decided to represent this difficult-to-write-down number with the letter “e”, which is known as Euler’s number.

The base for the ln system is e . In the example above, the exponent 2.302585… acts on the base e , which is not shown. In other words, e^{2.302585...} = 10 , right? The exponent on e ( which is 2.7182818… and not shown in the original equation above) that makes 10 is (equals) 2.302585… .

All other logarithmic systems express the base as a subscript to the right of the word log.

Example 3:

log_{7}49 = 2 . This expression says: The exponent on seven that makes 49 equals 2.

12)   Why do so many spiritual types have mental blocks about science and mathematics?

Everyone has mental blocks about science and math including scientists and mathematicians. Like the lyrics to the old song—people hear what they want to hear and disregard the rest—Einstein, to cite just one example, never accepted most of quantum physics even after it was well established and no longer controversial.

People don’t like the feeling of “cognitive dissonance”. The tension between strongly held beliefs and objective facts can bring unbearable psychological pain to most people. Someone once said that genius is the ability to hold contradictory ideas inside the mind. Most people don’t do that well; they don’t like contradictions.

Here is a link to an essay called Truth that some will find interesting:

TRUTH

13)   Is time infinitely divisible?

Einstein said that time and space (i.e. space-time) depends on mass and energy, which are equivalent. In the absence of mass and energy, space and time are meaningless.

The most recent experiments by NASA have found no evidence that time is anything but continuous. However, the shortest time possible is the length of time it takes light to move the shortest distance possible, which is called Planck time. It is thought to be 5.39E-44 seconds.

Time can be divided into as many smaller increments as anyone wants, but nothing can happen in fewer than the number of intervals that add to 5.39E-44 seconds. Time is a variable that isn’t fundamental. It expands and shrinks in the presence of mass and energy.

Some physicists of the past suggested that the “chronon” might be the shortest interval of time. It is the time light travels past the radius of a classical (at rest) electron — an interval of 6.27E-24 seconds. Its calculation depends only on mass and charge, which can change if a particle other than an “at rest” electron is measured.

It seems to me that time is probably best thought of as being continuous. That said, it doesn’t mean that mass-energy interplay isn’t pixelated — much like a digital camera image. Pixelation is critical to a conjecture concerning the preponderance of matter over anti-matter — a conjecture described in the essay CONSCIOUS LIFE.

14)   Which is bigger:  \frac{3}{5} or \frac{1}{9} ?

Think of fractions as pies which are all the same size. The bottom number is the total number of pieces each pie is cut into. The first pie was cut into 5 pieces, which are all the same size. The second pie was cut into 9 pieces which again are all the same size.

The second pie is cut into smaller pieces than the first pie, because there are more pieces. Right?

Mice come along and eat pieces from both pies. The top number is the number of pieces they left behind; the top number is the number of pieces the mice didn’t eat.

So which pie plate has more pie on it? Is it the 5 piece pie that has 3 pieces left or the 9 piece pie that has 1 piece left?

If you think hard you will figure out that it must be the first plate that has the most pie on it. Right?  

15)   Why is a third of 30 equal to 10 and not 9.999999999, as a third of 10 is 3.33333333? 

You can make three piles of ten objects in each pile. When you count the total, it adds to exactly 30 objects. So the answer of “10” is demonstrably true, right? Three piles of ten adds to thirty.

There is no way to make three piles of any identical objects that adds to 10. Three piles of three adds to nine. Four piles of three objects adds to twelve.

We are required to make three piles of three objects and then add a piece of a fourth object to each pile that is smaller than a whole piece.

It turns out that the fourth object is 1/3 of a whole object. When these three piles of three objects plus 1/3 of an object are added up they equal exactly ten.

The problem in understanding comes from trying to grasp that 1/3 — when written as a decimal — is what mathematicians call a repeating decimal. The rules of arithmetic say that the decimal form of 1/3 is calculated by dividing “1” by “3”.

Following the rules of arithmetic when doing the division forces an answer to the problem that results in a repeating decimal — in this case, 0.333333… .

There is no way around these rules that keeps math working right, consistent, and accurate.

Sorry.

16)   Will we be able to have life extension through cloning? 

Cloning not only doesn’t work, it can’t work.

That said, the idea of cloning is to make a genetic replicant of an existing life-form. Extending life-span would require changes to the genome through other means involving changes to structures called telomeres, probably, which straddle the ends of chromosomes in eukaryotic cells. Here is a link:  Telomere

A short discussion of cloning is included in the essay at this link:  NO CODE

No Code is long (8,500 words), but explains in words, pics, graphics, videos, and links some of the complexities, misunderstandings, and dangers of current genetic-engineering in language suitable for undergraduates. It explains basic cell biology, protein production, and much more.

17)   Why does time slow down when we are on a massive planet or star like Jupiter? 

Gravity is equivalent to acceleration. Accelerating clocks tick slower, according to General Relativity, which has been confirmed by experiments. It has to do with the concept of space-time and the fact that all objects travel through space-time at the same rate.

To understand, it helps to read up on space-time, special relativity, and general relativity. The concepts aren’t easy. The universe is an odd place, but it can be described to a somewhat fair degree by mathematics.

Some of the underlying reasons for why things are the way they are seem to be unknowable.

18)   If the ancients had focused on science instead of religion, could we have become immortal by now? 

Immortality is not possible due to the odds of accidental death, which at the current rate makes death by age 25,000 a virtual certainty for individuals.

Worse: the odds for extinction of the human species as a whole is much higher — it’s a statistical certainty for annihilation within the next 10,000 years according to experts. It seems counterintuitive, but it’s true.

RISK

19)    How do I solve, if the temperature is given by f(x,y,z) = 3x^2 - 5y^2 + 2z^2 and you are located at (\frac{1}{3} , \frac{1}{5} , \frac{1}{2}) and want to get as cool as possible, in which direction should you set out? 

 You want to establish what the gradient is, establish its direction, then head in the opposite direction, right?

By partial differentiation the gradient is (6x – 10y + 4z), right? You don’t have to take another partial derivative and set it equal to zero to establish a maximum, because all the second derivatives of the variables are equal to one, right? You can drop the variables out and treat them as unit vectors like i, j, & k, correct?

The resulting vector points in the direction of increasing temperature, right?

Changing the signs makes a vector that points in the opposite direction toward cooler temperatures, correct? That vector is (-6, 10, -4).

The polar angle (θ) is 71.068 degrees and the azimuth angle (φ) is 120.964 degrees. The length (or magnitude) is 12.3288. Right? (We won’t use this information to solve the problem, but I wanted to write it down should I need to refer to it to respond to any comments or to help check my work graphically.)

These directions are from the origin, and you aren’t located at the origin. To determine the direction to travel to get to (-6, 10, -4), you need to subtract your current position. Again, for reference your location is .6333 from the origin at θ = 37.8636 degrees and φ = 30.9638 degrees. Right?

After subtracting your position vector from the gradient vector, the resulting vector is (-6.333, 9.8, -4.5). Agree?

This vector tells you to travel 12.506 at a polar angle (θ) of 68.9105 degrees and an azimuth angle (φ) of 122.873 degrees to intersect the gradient vector. At the intersection you must change direction to follow the gradient vector’s direction to move toward cooler temperatures at the fastest rate.

I haven’t graphed out the solution to double-check its accuracy. You might want to do this and let me know if you agree or not.

20)   What is \sqrt[3]{i} - \sqrt[3]{i} equal to?

The answer is zero, of course.

But not really. It only seems that way. Each number has three roots.

Depending on which roots are chosen the result can be one of six different sums (as well as zero if both roots are the same). We have to start somewhere so:

What is i^\frac{1}{3} ?

i = e^\frac{{i\pi}}{2} .  Right?

Therefore, a third root of i is e^\frac{{i\pi}}{6} .  Right? It’s not the only root.

It’s the principal root. There are three third roots, which are equally spaced around the unit circle. Right?

It’s clear by inspection that to be equally distributed around the unit circle the other two roots must be e^\frac{{i5\pi}}{6} and -i.  Right?

Convert the three roots to rectangular coordinates and do the subtractions.

Here are the roots in rectangular form: (.86603 + .50000 i) , (-.86603 + .50000 i) , and (0.00000 -i).

Here are the six answers (in bold type) to the original question with the subtractions shown to the right:

1.7302 = (.86603 + .50000 i) – (-.86603 + .50000 i)

(.86603 +1.5 i) = (.86603 + .50000 i) – (0.00000 -i)

-1.7302 = (-.86603 + .50000 i) – (.86603 + .50000 i)

(-.86603 + 1.5 i) = (-.86603 + .50000 i) – (0.00000 -i)

(-.86603 – 1.5 i) = (0.00000 -i) – (.86603 + .50000 i)

(.86603 – 1.5 i) = (0.00000 -i) – (-.86603 + .50000 i)

These rectangular coordinates can be converted back to the Euler-form (e^{i\theta} ).  It’s easy, if you know how to work with complex variables. In Euler-form the angle in radians sits next to i.  The angle directs you to where the result lies on the unit circle. Right?

As mentioned earlier, if both roots are chosen to be the same, then in that particular case the result is zero.

21)   What is tensor analysis and how is it used in physics?

Understanding tensors is crucial to understanding Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity.

This question seems to assume that everyone knows what tensors are and how they are represented symbolically. I am guessing that some folks reading this question might want some basics to better understand the explanations of how tensors are used for analysis in physics.

If so, here are links to two videos that together will help with the basics:

22)   What is the velocity of an electron?

Electrons can move at any speed less than light depending on the strength of the electro-magnetic field that is acting on them. Inside atoms electrons seem to move around at about one-tenth of the speed of light. You might want to check me on this number. The situation is as complicated as your mind is capable of grasping.

When interacting with photons of light electrons inside atoms seem to jump into higher or lower shells or orbits instantaneously. That said, it is impossible to directly observe electrons inside atoms.

On an electrical conductor like a wire, electrons move very slowly, but they bump into one another like billiard balls or dominoes. The speed of falling dominoes can be very high compared to the speed of an individual domino, right?

So the answer is: it all depends…

23)   What exactly is space-time? Is it something we can touch? How does it bend and interact with mass? 

Space-time, according to Einstein, depends on mass and energy for its existence. In the absence of mass and energy (which are equivalent), space-time disappears.

The energy of things like bosons of light, which have no mass, is proportional to the frequencies of phenomena called electric and magnetic fields. Small packets of these oscillations are called photons.

Many kinds of oscillating fields like the electro-magnetism of light permeate (or fill) the universe. In this sense, there is no such place as nothing in the universe anywhere at any scale.

The instruments and tools of science (including mathematics) can give a misleading impression that at very small scales massive particles exist.

According to John Wheeler, mass at small scales is an illusion created by our interaction with measuring devices and sensors.

Mass is a macroscopic statistical process created by accumulations of whatever it is that exists at the very deep bottom of a reality to which we have yet to gain access. These accumulations are visible to humans; they span 46 billion light years in all directions from the vantage-point of Earth and are collected for the most part in more than one-trillion galaxies, according to the latest satellite data by NASA.

Mass interacts with everything that can be measured (including everything in the Standard Model) by changing its acceleration, which is equivalent to changing its momentum. Energy changes the momentum of everything in the Standard Model as well.

It is in this sense that mass and energy are equivalent. It is in this sense that space-time depends on mass and energy. Space-time does not act on mass and energy; it is its result.

Space-time is a concept (or model) that for Einstein at least helped him to quantify how mass and energy behave on large scales. It helped him to explain why his idea that the universe looks and behaves differently to observers in different reference frames might in fact be the way the universe on the largest of scales really works. It helped him to describe a geometric explanation for gravity that many people find compelling.

WHY SOMETHING, NOT NOTHING?

24)   Hypothetically speaking, if one could travel faster than light, would that mean you would always live in the dark?

The space in which objects in the universe swim does expand faster than light when the expansion is measured over very large distances that are measured in light-years. A light year is six trillion miles.

At distances of billions of light years the expansion of space between objects becomes dramatic enough that light begins to stretch itself out. This stretching lengthens the distance between the peaks and valleys of the electric and magnetic waves that light is made from, so its frequency drops.

The frequencies in white light can stretch so dramatically that the light begins to appear red. It’s called red-shift.

Measuring red-shift of star-light is a way to tell how far away an object like a star is. As light stretches over farther distances we lose the ability to see it.

The frequencies stretch into infra-red waves (called heat waves) and then at even farther distances stretch to very long waves called radio-waves. Special telescopes must be placed into outer-space to see these waves of light, because heat and radio waves radiating from the earth interfere with instruments placed at the earth’s surface.

Eventually the distances become so great that the amplitudes (or heights) of the waves flat-line. They flat-line because space is expanding so fast that light can’t keep up. Light loses its structure. At this distance the galaxies and stars drop out of the sight of our eyes and even our sensors and instruments. It’s a horizon beyond which the universe is not observable.

No one knows how big the universe is, because no one can see to its end. The expansion of space —  tiny over short distances — starts to get huge at distances over 10 billion light years or so. The simple, uncomplicated answer is that the lights go out at about 14.3 billion light years.

Over the next few billion years the universe we can see will get smaller, because the expansion of space is accelerating. The sphere of viewable objects is going to shrink. The expansion of space is speeding up.

The problem will be that the nearby stars that we will always be able to see (because they are close) are going to burn out over time, so the night sky is going to get darker.

Most (4 out of 5) stars in our galaxy are red dwarfs that will live pretty much forever, but we can’t see them now, so we won’t be able to see them billions of years from now either. They radiate in the infra-red, which can only be seen with special instruments from a vantage point above our atmosphere.

Stars like our sun will live another 4 or 5 billion years and then die. The not too distant future of the ageless (it seems) universe is going to fall dark to any species that might survive long enough to witness it.

25)   What does “e” mean in a calculator? 

There are two “e”s on a calculator: little “e” and big “E”.

Little “e” is a number. The number has a lot of decimals places (it has an infinite number of them), so the number is called “e” to make it quick to write down.

The number is 2.71828… . The number is used a lot in mathematics and in every field of science and statistics. One reason it is useful is because derivatives and integrals of functions formed from its powers are easy to compute.

Big “E” is not a number. It stands for the word “exponent”, but it is used to specify how many places to the right to move the decimal point of the number that comes before it.

5E6 is the number 5,000,000, for example. The way to say the number is, “five times ten raised to the sixth power”. It’s basically a form of shorthand that means 5 multiplied by 10^6 .

Sometimes the number after E can be negative. 5E-6 would then specify how many places to the left to move the decimal point. In this case the number is 0.000005, which is 5 multiplied by 10^-6 .

Bonus Question:  What difficulties lie in finding particles smaller than quarks, and in theory, what are possible solutions? 

The Standard Model is complete as far as it goes. Unfortunately, it covers only 5% of the matter and energy believed to exist in the universe.

And humans can only see 10% of the 5% that’s out there. We are blind to 99.5% of the universe. We can’t see energy, and we can’t see most stars, because they radiate in the infra-red, which is invisible to us.

The Standard Model doesn’t explain why anti-matter is missing. It doesn’t explain dark matter and energy, which make up the majority of the material and energy in the universe. It doesn’t explain the accelerating expansion of the universe.

Probing matter smaller than quarks may require CERN-like facilities the size of our solar system, or if we’re unlucky, larger still.

We are approaching the edge of what we can explore experimentally at the limits of the very small. Some theorists hope that mathematics will somehow lead to knowledge that can be confirmed by theory alone, without experimental confirmation.

I’m not so sure.

The link below will direct readers to an essay about the problem of the very small.

ON THE VERY SMALL

Bonus Question 2 – What if science and wisdom reached a point of absolute knowledge of everything in the universe, how would this affect humanity?   

Humanity has reached a tipping point where more knowledge increases dramatically the odds against species survival. Absolute knowledge will result in absolute assurance of self-destruction.

Astronomers have not yet detected advanced civilizations. The chances are excellent that they never will.

Humans are fast approaching an asymptotic limit to knowledge, which when reached will bring catastrophe — as it apparently has to all life that has gone before in other parts of the universe.

Everywhere we look in the universe the tell-tale signatures of advanced civilizations are missing.

RISK


We hope readers enjoyed these questions. Follow Billy Lee on Quora where you will find answers to thousands of unusual and interesting questions on every subject imaginable.  The Editorial Board  

If it don’t roast, I don’t post.

Billy Lee

CHOSEN

Fundamentalist Christians have the reputation for carte blanche support of everything Israel. Many citizens of Israel hold dual citizenship inside the United States. The third director of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff, is a dual citizen.

It’s not unusual. The current acting director, Elaine Duke, is the grandchild of Sicilian immigrants. Everyone in America comes from somewhere. Divided loyalties are as American as gluten-free apple pie. 

I mention it because since 2006 when George W. Bush was president, the Secretary of Homeland Security joined those in the line of succession. The line of succession is now seventeen names long. None are Democrats. Not right now. A few are independents like General Mattis, the Secretary of Defense. 

Acting Secretary of Homeland Security, Elaine Duke. She is last in line to be president.

The Homeland Security Director is dead last on the list. The current acting director, Elaine Duke, is (in my humble opinion) the only person in the group who is actually qualified to be president. The list includes names like Steven Mnuchin, Betsy DeVos, and Ben Carson. Some on the list form a kind of rogue’s gallery of characters that could conceivably populate the cast of the classic, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. 

The USA’s crazy-Christian, comb-over president leads the list; he directs the country; he is on the top of the world. Like 81% of the fundamentalists who elected him, he is all-in for Israel. Whoever robs and kills in defense of Israel is fine with fundamentalists. They never criticize Israel, even in love. It doesn’t happen. 

The president says that he is moving our embassy to Jerusalem. He lies a lot, so who knows? According to him, Jerusalem is now the exclusive capital of Israel; it is no longer shared with Palestine—no matter what modern history and world opinion have to say.

The USA has the power to make truth and justice on the ground whatever it wants it to be. No need for negotiation. No reason to compromise. And by the way, settlements built on land confiscated from losers are just fine, no problems. Come on. Moral qualms? You’re kidding, right? 

Never mind that the Old City center of Jerusalem is segregated into quarters controlled and lived in by Armenians, Christians, Muslims, and Jews. Never mind that the modern city is much larger; that nearly 40% of the population is Arab; that holy sites of all faiths abound.

The borders of biblical Israel and all the territories within are going to be re-established, just as they were three thousand years ago by God Himself. There is nothing to negotiate. No compromises will be necessary. Thank you very much. 

Christians support Israel, because they believe God has a covenant with modern-day Israel validated by words written in the book of Exodus thousands of years ago. The United States and Israel are joined at the hip like Siamese twins on this one. Israel might as well be added to the collection of fifty states that make the USA.

The reality, though, is that Israel is more like Washington DC. It’s not really a state—it’s a country, obviously—but it has influence on America beyond its size by half. What goes on in Israel affects the United States in big ways (or bigly, as the president likes to say).

Israel is the size of Chicago and its suburbs and has about the same population. Right? Its grip on the United States is vice-like. It rides the U.S. shark like a remora fish. Without its shark for protection, the remora fish gets eaten, like any other small fish in a big ocean. It must be protected.

I’m totally on board. Israel has enemies. The generation that parented the Jewish people who live in Israel today were nearly exterminated by Hitler. The post World War refusal of the west to take in refugees added to their determination to go home to their ancestral lands.

The problem was that people already lived in Israel and had for centuries. Despite the good faith efforts of the nations to broker peace and safety, every Arab neighbor attacked Israel on the day of its rebirth.

Israel won the military contest and occupied lands that international agreements said they had no right to hold. Refugees who had crossed the Jordan River to escape the conflict couldn’t come back. Israel locked them out. It now had a Palestinian problem that would never be solved.

Trust on both sides evaporated. The world today lives with the dangers, resentments, and hatreds that erupted from a failure to love one another during the years when it mattered most.

The Dome of the Rock is controversial within Israel and Palestine. Eighty kilograms of gold leaf cover the dome. At today’s close, the gold’s value is $3,600,307.60. The former King Hussein of Jordan sold one of his London homes in 1993 to raise the money. He died on February 7, 1999 at age 63 from complications of cancer. 

The world owes the Jewish people a safe place to live. They have suffered enough. In the meantime, we need to build a fairer world. Jews, despite the horrors they have endured, do not have a monopoly on suffering. Many people, including Palestinians, have gotten a raw deal. It’s time to set things right.

I don’t see fundamentalist Christians as being helpful. I’m not feeling the love. I’m not seeing an effort to understand that God loves people who are everywhere. People who God loves are sprinkled like salt among the Palestinians and the Jews of Israel.

These are the people that Christ Jesus gave his life to save. I’m not feeling the respect for Christ’s vision from the fundamentalists who right now have an opportunity to comfort the fearful and dispossessed on all sides. All sides. Believe it.

For Jewish people the stakes are particularly high given a history that repeatedly shows that when they don’t have safe haven, haters attack them. The United States and France can be safe places for the most part, but Israel is special. Israel is an established safe haven for Jews, period. They need one. The world, through the United Nations, established it. A lot of history backs the decision to help, some of it recorded in the Bible.

That said, no follower of Christ Jesus, no one who has read the Bible—New Testament, the Torah, the Prophets—believes that Israel was chosen by God to rule the world. I don’t have to quote the Bible. People know what the Lord requires. He asks people to love mercy, act justly, and walk humbly with their Creator. Does anyone believe it? 

Jesus didn’t immolate himself on a Roman cross because people are good, but because they are wicked. People chosen by Jesus don’t rule; they give up everything they have to serve and love others. It’s simple, really.

It’s not easy. Some say it’s impossible apart from the kind of love that was shown to us by a messiah who suffered.

When I studied Hebrew at a local Hillel school many years ago, a girl in the class actually said that Jews were chosen by God to rule the world. Israel would save the earth and bring light to dark. The rabbi nodded his assent. I asked what she thought about the concept of forgiveness. The rabbi waved his hand, and the group moved on.  

After class, the teacher pulled me aside. Grace is a Christian concept, he told me. Grace has no place in Judaism. 

The instructor locked eyes with me and explained in no uncertain terms that a fundamental tenet of my faith was crap. He intended to make an impression, and he succeeded.   

At about the same time a geneticist and his wife came from Israel to America to study at a nearby university. They had young kids the same age as mine. Somehow we met and liked each other. We became close friends. We visited their apartment from time to time. I noticed that they read the Bible to their children, so I asked about it. It’s our history, Yossi explained. We are atheists. But our children must learn who they are. 

A few months later we attended a summer dinner at a kiva on campus where a Jewish writer gave a short talk on Israel. We dressed-up and took the kids. Yossi, his family, and mine walked together on the pathway that led to the building.

I was surprised to learn that to get into the event we had to make our way past a line of about a hundred Palestinian demonstrators. It was like walking a gauntlet.

The protestors held signs, but the odd thing was they didn’t speak. They stayed quiet. It was eerie. More than a few wore ski-masks. They stared through eye-holes in silence. No smiles. I felt afraid. My stomach churned. I smelled fear in my nostrils, but Yossi seemed unfazed. I reached for my children and held their hands.

Weeks later, Yossi brought his family to visit at my place. To make polite conversation I asked Yehudith, his wife, about life in Israel. What was it like living there? She said that she didn’t want to go back. The air-raid sirens in Israel frightened her. When they wailed during the day they triggered panic attacks.

Yehudith and her husband were Sabras—native born Israelis. Born and raised in Jerusalem, they didn’t travel, because they had no money.

They knew no other life. I too was poor then. I was raising two children by myself and living in a small house. It was a thousand-square-feet with an unfinished basement. When Yossi and Yehudith first visited they said it must be a mansion. Yehudith marveled at its size and amenities.

She couldn’t believe how well-off we were. She marveled at how much stuff we had. She gasped at the size of our yard. In Jerusalem people didn’t have yards.

Yes, we did have a big yard. No one nearby had one that came close. It was lush and green. Its size was an accident of good fortune—the result of bad planning by developers.

I decided not to tell Yehudith that we were poor. I didn’t have it in me to make her feel worse. She wasn’t going to believe it anyway. 

Billy Lee