...Prove Their Worth...

"Problems worthy of attack
prove their worth
by hitting back." - Piet Hein

A kind of running diary and rambling pieces on my struggles with assorted books, classes, and other things, as they happen. You must be pretty bored to be reading this...

Monday, June 03, 2002

Well. To imitate another blog, I'm going to try to sketch a rough intellectual 'plan' for myself.

To make a long story short, my latest obsession was kicked off when I read a book. This is how almost

all of my obsessions start, actually, except obviously ones involving pretty young ladies, which aren't

the subject of this blog (if you've got a hankering for that, there are plenty of websites

specifically devoted to such matters).*

The book is called The Life of the

, by Lee Smolin. It's a mindblowing book. There's a bunch of mysteries in physical science

today. One of the biggies is the mismatch between quantum physics and general relativity. Another is

in cosmology - why the hell is the universe the way it is, and why are we possible in it? Smolin

tackles the latter question head on, along with a huge array of related philosophical and science

issues. He avoids the unsatisfying anthropic arguments, instead presenting a radical, yet highly

seductive and persuasive argument. He argues that there are an infinite number of universes, with

varying properties. And they can 'reproduce' - when a black hole is formed, a universe is created. So

a kind of evolution on the scale of universe operates, tending to favor universes which have physical

laws conducive to the creation of many black holes. And he then argues that universes that make a lot

of black holes also end up being favorable for life as we know it.

Now, this all sounds like kookish handwaving bullshit, but it should be emphasized that Smolin is far

from a kook, but is instead a leading theoretical physicist in the field of loop quantum gravity (LQG)

and related areas. He manages to marshall arguments which make all the above far-fetched ideas sound

plausible, and lays out a way to actually 'test' his arguments. For more, read the book. Highly


As I noted above, Smolin works in LQG, and mentions some work in that field in his book. It was real

interesting, but I kind of left it at that. A few months later, I bumped into a paper by Seth Major on

spin networks (another way of talking about LQG), and I tried (and failed) to work through it. But I

became very interested in the topic.

A few months after that, I bought a
href="http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0198534469">math textbook
, on impulse, from a local

Borders. It turned out to be an absolutely fantastic book, and it's the one I'm currently reading. First time I've ever really enjoyed math. (Well, there was that abortive attempt at learning tensor calculus a couple of years back, but that ended disastrously, and I don't want to talk about it.)

So, err, now I finally get to the Plan. It's a crappy plan, very hazy, and won't ever actually be followed. It's main purpose is an attempt at motivation.

The plan is to learn enough mathematics and physics to read papers on quantum gravity research. And understand them.

To that end, I'll be studying complex analysis (in progress), real analysis (in progress), groups, categories, group representations, differential geometry, general relativity, electrodynamics, mechanics, and other things.

This is all intended to be worked through on my own. You can see why this is a crappy plan.

I also intend to finally read some T.S. Eliot, Milton, Keats, and generally try to become a bit more cultured.

* - Well, ok, not specifically about my favored young ladies (I don't run, or contribute material to, any adult sites, despite constant offers for over a year now to one of my email addresses to join the growing industry of adult sites devoted to assorted randy barnyard animals and their relations with sexy lolita sluts.)


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