Jem And The Holograms

I think about a lesson I learned each day, and then I share it with you… because if it is in my brain, it needs to come out so I can make room for new stuff.

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Today is not really a lesson but rather expanding a post on FaceBook, explaining the Holographic Principle in playful, Science-for-Dummies terms. If you like to think big, though (I mean, really BIG), you might like this…

As our technology progresses, we make simulations to help predict the future. We make weather simulations, flight simulations, social simulations…we even make games like The Sims to help predict the actions and nature of people.

So we can reason that our simulations will continue becoming bigger and better as we continue figuring out how to throw more computing power into them. Eventually, we will build simulations of the universe, maybe even virtual reality simulations of the potential fate of everything. Can you imagine?

Well imagine, then, that maybe we already have. Maybe our species (or another) has acquired the technology and knowledge to create completely realistic simulations of the whole universe, from start to finish, to test theories, fine-tune the laws of Physics, or introduce absurd laws (like Quantum Physics or String Theory) to see how a simulated world might react.

This means, of course, life, as we know it, might not even be real. We could be a self-aware 3-D holographic simulation. Imagine a super-advanced alien race that creates magnificently complex games for their entertainment. We might simply be the avatars of a cheap throwback game in their X-Box 10000.

If you are nerdy, you can think of it this way: what if all of Star Trek: TNG never really happened? What if it just took place in an (close to) infinitely large holodeck, but no one on the Enterprise ever realized it? They just played out the program as they might have done thousands of times before. (If you are a more contemporary nerd, you could just say you took the blue pill…)

Going a step further, this means our laws of Nature, Physics, and Reality are not the actual laws of the real Reality outside the game–they might be completely different in the “real” world!

One more thing… and this is where it gets really goofy and starts to break down… if the originating species could build a simulation that complex, and the simulation is so collectively intelligent that it is building simulations… then we could be a simulation inside a simulation inside a simulation, etc… (we can do this all night.)

At any rate, don’t try wrapping your mind around it. In the end… it’s turtles all the way down!

 

(If you don’t get that reference, I’ll leave it to you to look it up.)

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What Are You Filling Your Space With?

I look at each day and figure out what life lesson I learned from it. I share each lesson on this blog.

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To create more time to spend together, Nicole and I have built some efficiencies into our otherwise busy days (such as trading breakfast for pre-prepared smoothies). Our plan worked. We have more time in our evenings now.

Ironically, we found ourselves not knowing what to do with that time and on at least a few occasions we have spent our extra time trying to agree on what to do with the time.

As a society, our lives are cluttered with work, social affairs, hobbies, and passions, and habits. In fact, our lives are much like those overstuffed closets you see in cartoons. When you yank something out of it, you create space and everything falls into that space, burying you. Many people fail at breaking a habit (like smoking, for example) because they do not have any idea what to fill the time and space that habit used to take with (such as exercise or bubblegum chewing–something that is equally mindless and a little alluring).

When you create space in your life, you must be intentional about what you will fill that space with. If you do not decide what to do with your life, then everything else (and everyone else) in your life will decide for you.

Incidentally, we ended up playing cards, staying up late to finish the game. Nicole won, this time…

 

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Back In Time

I challenge myself to find a valuable life lesson in every day. Then I share that lesson with you. This blog is our journal of lessons learned. Here is today’s entry…

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In our quest to build things we dream of in science fiction, we forget we have already built many of them in science fact.

We want to have time machines that transport us to the past. Ironically, we are also the only living creatures with a cohesive sense of the long-term past. We are the only creatures we know of who are able to look at fossilized bones or shells and draw conclusions about where they came from. We are the only creatures in the known universe capable of putting the pieces of history together and creating a cohesive narrative of what came before that led to now. Only we humans can ascertain how the world, life, even the universe, evolved.

Through observation, testing, and recording results, we have ascertained how Rome rose and fell. We are able to look back into the past and imagine what dinosaurs looked like and where and how they lived. We can follow the path of plate tectonics to envision what the land and oceans of Earth looked like millennia ago.

Only we humans can revisit the past and alter the course of any would-be future based on our knowledge of the known past.

We want to build time machines to travel to the past but we have already built time machines through the science of carbon dating, archaeology, anthropology, sociology, philosophy, written language, cosmology, stories, art, etc.

No other creature on Earth knows Earth’s history–only humans. No other creature can speculate about Time, Space, Matter, or where any of those came from–only humans.

We do not need to build time machines to visit the past. We are the time machines.

 

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A Paradox of Time

Every day I strive to learn a lesson in life. Then I share it with you. Here is today’s lesson…

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I am no astrophysicist (so if I say anything patently stupid here–and you are an astrophysicist–feel free to call me out), but my brothers and I love to chat about space, time, and the fate of the universe. In one of those conversations, Milo and I discussed the wackiness of Time, when I tripped across a paradox I had not considered before.

This might be a little nerdy and confusing but I will try to keep it straightforward since you might like to talk about this, too.

We know time travel exists because we are doing it now. We are always moving forward in time, from present to future. The real problem is traveling backwards through time.

It is fun to think of different ways to make visiting the past work, but there is a logical and fundamental flaw that will, I think, always prevent us from going back in time.

When you travel through time you also travel through space (when I cross a room, for example, I am traveling through space to reach the other side of the room and it is also later in time when I get there).

Therefore, theoretically, you should be able to cross time-space backwards and end up in the past, just as you can walk backwards across a room (but time still moves forward). The catch is, to go back in Time, you must travel faster than the speed of light.

Everything emanates light, including people. Thanks to this property of the universe, we are able to see into the past. When I look at you, for example, I actually see you as you were a fraction of a second ago. It took light a (very) small amount of time to travel from your face to my eyes so I could see you. This means that light, to travel through time, must also travel through space. Because of this, when we point our telescopes to the Andromeda galaxy, we actually see Andromeda as it was about 2 million years ago–the time it took the light from Andromeda to reach Earth.

If you were walking down a busy street today in the Andromeda galaxy, someone on Earth would not know for another 2 million years because that is how long it will take the light from that moment to travel across space and reach us humans.

Think about this. The light from every moment is always traveling across space, in all directions. However, every moment that light is followed by the light of the next moment, and the next moment, and the next, etc. It happens so fast and so close to simultaneously that it seems like everything is happening all at once.

If I could somehow travel through time to the moment you began reading this article, I would have 3 major problems, though:

1. I would have to travel faster than light so I could get ahead of the light in my present moment. I can never escape the present because I can not travel faster than light.

2. If I could travel faster than light, then I have an even tougher problem. I could not see where I was going. There is no light if I am ahead of it!

3. Even if I conquered the first two obstacles, when I arrive in the past, that light will have already moved on. There would literally be no past to see.

 

The inherent problem with time travel to the past or future is if you master the mechanics needed to do it, you still would not be able to find anything because the light is either not there yet (future) or has already left (the past).

It is fun to play with the ideas, but I guess the important thing is, regardless of what life you want to live–past, present, or future–use your Time wisely, because when you run out of it… there is nothing more to see.

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Office Spaced

Today’s Lesson: If you want to innovate, invite the Weird.

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Traditional office spaces suck.

Cubicle farms, desks with monitors, filing cabinets, pen cups, rolling desk chairs, grayish carpeting, etc… It is all designed to inculcate boredom and efficiency. At the same time, companies and leaders are chanting mantras of innovation, empowerment, work-life balance, transparency, etc…

These are opposing forces. Innovation does not come from maximizing efficiency and following cookie-cutter practices. Innovation is almost, by definition, messy and creative and sometimes a little destructive.

It is easy for leaders to say things like, “We want our employees to have fun and enjoy their work” but how would your top leaders react if your employees were truly embracing their creativity?

Look at your office space. Does it invite creativity? Your people might be weird but does their work space invite them to embrace their weirdness? Are they encouraged (through more than words) to pull forth the creative sides of themselves and blur the lines between “work” and “fun”?

For those companies still not ready to leave the office behind altogether and become a fluid, adaptable, remote work team operating more like a swarm than an old battleship, start by re-thinking your environment. What is weird about it? How can you encourage collaboration as creative play? How can you maximize people colliding (and thus ideas colliding) while also respecting quiet time and space for individual contemplation?

How can you make the “weird” normal and celebrate it?

Would it be weird if you walked by an office and saw a company vice-president sitting in lotus-pose on top of her desk, meditating?

Would it be weird if you were in a meeting where the notes and ideas were being jotted down in multi-colored crayons and pictures instead of words?

Would it be weird if two grown adults went running by your office after you heard someone shout, “Tag! You’re it!”

Would it be weird if you saw someone sprawled out on the floor, head on a pillow, taking a 15-minute nap in their office?

We do not associate any of those things to productivity but I challenge you to consider play, creativity, and rest to be the essence of productivity. The most innovative ideas of our time have not come from project management spreadsheets and TPS reports. They have come as flashes of insight, often in someone’s garage while they are tinkering, or as a result of a conversation in a bar, or having just awakened from a dream, or simply from quiet time in the bathroom (we all know we do some of our best stinking thinking there).

The obvious place to start encouraging the weird is in your office space itself. What would make your team excited to visit their work space each day? What can we do, as leaders, to have our team go home and talk about work and share their passion with their friends and on their social media (as opposed to sharing all the negative parts)?

Here are 3 easy ways to start. You certainly do not have to adopt this list but it might get your inner weirdness to perk up.

1. Look at the obvious and already successful model for inviting productivity and collaboration: Starbucks (or any local coffee-house). Starbucks is probably not the first place that comes to mind when you think “weird” but it was the very fact that they were weird that made them famous. A coffee-house is weird in a good way. It has an open floor plan with often kitschy or eccentric local art and decor that invites conversation.

A coffee-house is a central place where people gather and chat while also working. There are tabletops of varying sizes for both group and individual work, couches centered around coffee tables, mellow upbeat music, coffee, tea, wi-fi, and plenty of places to both plug-in and unplug, not to mention outdoor seating. How many of your team members would appreciate some outside time on a warm, breezy day? With laptops, tablets, and smartphones at our disposal, why does work still happen in dreary, dark corners as if it is something shameful, to be hidden away from the light of day?

2. Replace leather office chairs and fake mahogany tables in conference rooms with end tables surrounded by bean bag chairs and Indian-style sitting pillows. Make sure each chair is a different color or type than the rest. If sitting on the floor is too icky for you, then go with high top tables and bar stools. Just get away from looking like a bunch of lawyers discussing politics.

3. If removing most office walls is out of the budget, consider painting them different colors. Have a red wall, a blue wall, a yellow wall. Splash other colors on them. Encourage your team to write their favorite lines of lyrics or poetry on the walls or paint pictures on them if they are artistically inclined. Free, local art! Create an environment both your team and your clients will go home talking about.

There are plenty of ways to make work better for everyone. Go nuts with embracing the weirdness secretly residing in your people, begging to be let out.

Make a nap room full of nothing but big durable pillows.

Make sure there are chairs, pencils, crayons, and swaths of paper or writing boards in the hallways for spontaneous meetings.

Instead of motivational posters, decorate the halls with dry erase boards to capture ideas or share stories as people walk by.

Play games. Instead of a project update meeting every Monday morning, how about a board game meeting every Monday morning?

Make your office pet friendly. How many employees would love to bring their dogs or cats to work? It is definitely a hassle but worth the joy on most faces when the pets come to visit their area (those who are allergic can avoid the pets or be told upfront that the office is pet friendly, or they can work outside).

 

You get the idea.

If you want innovation, start by inviting the space to be innovative. If you want boring, predictable, drab, mediocre results, then by all means make your business look like every other business… and you will be just like them.

 

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Space For Living

When in doubt, throw it out!

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Part of simplifying my life means ridding myself of non-essential things I carry around that do not contribute value to my life.

I tossed out my old journals along with a lot of bad poetry I have held onto since I was a kid. I did keep one or two good(-ish) pieces, though. Maybe I will tidy them up and share them later.

I also went through my library of books, which I already pared to my 50 or so “essentials”. Still, there were a lot of books I have not read for years. Some of them I have not read at all. I have been saving them for when I have time to pick them up. Of course, when I do make time to read, I choose other books anyway. I have merely been saving them for the sake of saving them, it seems. Same for audio books and music CD’s.

I can buy new books or buy again the old ones I meant to read but never have (and probably never will) and it will be cheaper than storing them for decades and lugging them around wherever I move. With CD’s, outside of a few rare singles, local artists, or hard-to-find albums, most of my music is available online (which means it does not have to take up space in my apartment–less cleaning, storing, and clutter to move around).

If I do actually miss anything, I can always buy it again, but I usually find I do not miss things that much. There is so much new music, new books, and new gizmos and gadgets produced that there is no need to hold onto things for the sake of holding onto them.

Today’s Lesson: The less clutter you keep, the more space you create for living. That’s why we call it “living space” instead of “clutter space”.

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Time to Die, Part 4 (of 5)

Over time, I think humans will become essentially immortal.
Looking at current trends in technology, it is not a leap to consider humanity may be on the verge of an unprecedented leap forward. We may cure death within the next hundred years. In 300 years, we might even be challenged with what it means to be human when our physical bodies are no longer necessary (and might be a liability).

When that happens, we will be able to travel farther than we can imagine and with unlimited resources and lifespans to throw at the universe’s biggest problems, we could potentially solve issues like being able to travel faster than light. What would that look like? (Well… I suppose it would not look like anything because if we were moving faster than light, we would be unable to see what is ahead!)

If we can beat the barriers imposed by Relativity and move faster than light, we would also have access to purely science fiction technology like time travel.

Consider this: when we look into space, we look into the past. It takes time for the light of other objects to reach our eyes, even someone standing in front of you. Light travels so fast (about 186,000 miles per second!) it seems like you see people and things instantly. Of course, that is not true. It takes time for light to reach your eyes because light has to cross the space between the object you are looking at and you, the same way your body has to cross space to reach the other side of a room.

Bigger spaces require more time for light to cross. When we look at the nearest galaxy to our own (the Andromeda galaxy), we are seeing it as it was about 2 million years ago. The space between our own Milky Way galaxy and the Andromeda galaxy is so great it took the light, traveling 186,000 miles per second, about 2 million years to reach our telescopes! That means they also see our galaxy as it was 2 million years ago. If someone in the Andromeda galaxy today could see Earth, they would see dinosaurs roaming the planet now. You and I have not even been born!

You do not have to travel to another galaxy to grasp this concept, though. Just think of how we have other time zones on our planet. Some of us appear to be either 3 hours in the future or 3 hours in the past from others. It is not the same, of course, but it is an easier scale to understand.

Because you and I reflect light, too, we can think of our lives as channels on television being broadcast forever, until it reaches the edge of space. We are the ultimate reality TV shows for the universe! That means if you can race faster than the signal (light) of your own life, then theoretically you could be in front of it to be there when it reaches you and you could watch your life again!

If we want to travel backward in time, the trick will be to out race light. This raises more questions than I can possibly explore in a series of posts (or even in a hundred years of blogging about it) but it is a fun thought experiment, and in a few hundred years, it may not be an experiment at all. We may be dealing with the results of that experiment (or we may already be dealing with it!).

Here is the core of today’s lesson: when you think about it… really, truly, quite literally… anything is possible.

 

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Today’s Lesson: Time Keeps On Slippin’, Slippin’, Slippin’… [141004]

I think I accomplished more in that 2 hour time span than I did throughout yesterday. Sometimes I feel absurdly productive and sometimes I look back at the day and feel like I did not accomplish much of anything!

24 hours is 24 hours, right? Then why are some days are so much more productive than others?

“Time is crawling by,” we say, when it feels like we are not gaining any forward momentum in our lives. We say, “Time flies,” when we feel as if life is moving almost too fast to enjoy!

I have a crazy crack-pot idea that both statements can be true. When you think about it, Time is just something we made up. Hours, minutes, seconds… these are just arbitrary labels we gave to a phenomenon we do not understand very well (we do not know where Time comes from, for example, or why we can not easily move backwards through it, or why we can stop the motion of physical objects in space but still can not stop Time with them).

What if Time is elastic, like a rubber band? When it is being stretched taut, it takes longer to move from one area to another (“Today is taking forever…”) but when it is relaxed, it condenses. There is less space between points, then, and areas can be crossed swiftly (“Boy, today is zipping by!”).

Maybe, like a finger walking along a very big rubber band, we will eventually meet ourselves again, when we return to the point where we started.

I don’t know. Just a crazy idea. Hopefully, no one snaps us with that rubber band, though. That would probably leave a mark…

Anyway, today’s lesson is, regardless of what Time actually is or how it works, one thing we do know is it is moving forward whether or not we do. So choose the things you are willing to spend your Time on wisely. Don’t let it pass you by!

 

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The Lesson I Learned Today… 140715

If all you have is a hammer, then everything looks like a nail.” –Bernard Baruch (American financier and philanthropist)



Nicole decided to give up sugar for a week. I didn’t have to join her, but it sounded like an interesting experiment so I thought I would show support by giving up sugar for a week, as well. Solidarity!

Giving up something is not easy. Our lives are so full and there is so much junk and baggage all around us (emotional, spiritual, mental, and material). Whenever you give something up, you essentially try to create space, either for something else or just to have breathing room.

The funny thing is, when you create a clearing for something in life, that space is immediately filled with the excess baggage, junk, and clutter the same way clearing a space in a pond is immediately filled with water when you pluck a rock from the bottom. What fills that space is what is already surrounding the space, whatever is pressing in from all sides.

For me, only a few minutes after giving up sugar, everything looked like a lollipop! All I could think about was sugar. I wanted a Pepsi, a scoop of ice cream, a sugary latte, Cap’n Crunch, a brownie, anything!

I made it through the day, but not until I realized the problem wasn’t a desire for sugar. My problem was not protecting that clearing and letting something else fill the space instead.

This same effect happens when we try to give up anything, like smoking or alcohol, for example. When you give up smoking, all you want to do is have a cigarette. Your day is consumed by trying to rationalize why you should have just one or just a few hits or screw it–you can quit tomorrow, etc.

We struggle because we made the clearing but forgot to protect the space. We must consciously choose what goes in that space or the brain will choose the easiest solution by default–usually, whatever was there before! If that is not an option, then the alternative default setting is boredom, and our brains avoid boredom more than anything else.

Once I recognized that I was not protecting my space, especially when I was feeling bored mentally, I found other things to do. In place of my sugary thoughts, I jumped into work (there’s always plenty of that), then I left the house to meet friends, and, of course, I blogged.

It turns out sugar is not something I need. It’s just something I use to fill the space of a much worse habit: that awful boredom.

Remember, when you clear space for something in your life, you must protect the space by consciously filling it with something better (exercise, a different habit, meditation, writing, etc., whatever works better for you). Our default baggage is boredom or just going back to what was already there.

Whenever you drop a habit, be quick to put what you want there in your life and then protect that space so it can grow! If you are doing that, you’ll probably never be bored and will struggle much less.

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Where Is The Other Intelligent Life?

 

I like thinking about the universe and Humanity’s place in the scope of Everything.

My friends sometimes ask my opinion on big outer-space questions–maybe the most common question I hear is, “do you think there are aliens?” Of course, my friends mean, do I think there is other intelligent life in the universe?

Yes, is my answer. There almost certainly is other intelligent life, but the question actually implies an additional question. The implied part is “…And are they here?” That has a different answer, I think. The answer is no, and no we have not been visited before, and no, we almost certainly will never find other intelligent life in the universe.

Here is how I think about it: it’s a numbers game. The universe is infinite (or nigh-infinite, but close enough as far as we are concerned). There are hundreds of billions of galaxies out there with hundreds of billions of stars inside each one. As you approach a number like Infinity, it becomes evident every possibility has an increased chance of becoming true–maybe even millions or billions of times over.

Think about it in terms of winning the lottery. Your chances of winning the mega-millions jackpot (matching the numbers of 5 balls, each numbered between 0 and 56) is one in 175,711,536. Not impossible, but certainly not very good. The lottery jackpot is usually shared between one, or a few, states. What if we had everyone on Earth playing for the same jackpot? The chances of you winning become slimmer (because there are 7 billion of us on Earth–many more than the population of a few states), but the chances of someone winning increase. There are 7 billion chances instead of just a few million (the population of a few states).

If the jackpot we are playing for is finding other intelligent life, then again, the chances of us hitting the jackpot are unfortunately very small, but the chances of someone hitting the jackpot eventually are very good.

The likelihood that all the right combinations of ingredients to create life have occurred before and elsewhere are high. The universe could be teeming with life. But we will almost certainly never find it, and it might not be a good thing if it finds us first.

The reason we will likely never encounter life is simple: space. The distance to even the nearest star (Proxima Centauri) is 4.2 light years. That means if we had the technology to travel 186,000 miles per second (the speed of light) then it would take us more than 4 years to get there. We, of course, can not travel that fast and with the best technology we have, it would take us hundreds of years, if not thousands. That’s assuming there is life anywhere near Proxima Centauri, and that we could find it or that it could find us.

Here’s the more logical issue, though: if space aliens developed the technology required to get here (technology we can not imagine yet, even if they were in our own cosmic backyard), then we would be of almost no significance to them. If they can get here, they will seem so far advanced to us we would not even be able to communicate. It would be like us trying to talk to amoeba. Not to mention, if they can get here, they will already have had the technology to study us from afar and may not even need to come. It is only our vanity that makes us think they would care enough to probe us or want to sit down for a chat or engage in war.

The same is true in reverse. If we develop the technology required to defy Time and Space and travel the cosmos at any significant speed, whatever species we encounter would seem, well, retarded. In fact, chances are if we have the means to warp space or exceed the speed of light, we have evolved beyond anything you or I would recognize as human. We would more likely be, at that point, a race of energy beings, perhaps indistinguishable from light itself. Our fragile human bodies simply could not endure faster than light travel so we would need something new.

It is not difficult for me to imagine (even within the next 100 years) a technology that essentially allows us to “upload” a personality (via brain-mapping, and then transfer of information) onto the world wide web for storage and then download the same personality into a different body later. We could potentially travel this way, carrying in our spaceship only the separate ingredients of a human body, to be assembled molecule-by-molecule when we arrive at our destination. That might even be thinking too small. If such a scenario becomes reality in the near future, we might stop thinking about the human body as an ideal form anyway. Instead, we might download our personalities to specialized robot bodies specifically fitted for the task of, say, surviving an atmosphere like that of Mars.

 

This is a very simplified view, but the main take-away is there is almost certainly other intelligent life in the universe, though we will almost as certainly never find each other. If we did, it would look nothing like it does in the movies.

Space aliens would not be interested enough to want to steal our resources (or if they were, the war would not last but a few seconds–there would be no hand-to-hand combat–if they have the technology to get here, we have already lost), and space aliens would definitely have no interest in anally probing hillbillies. Arizona just needs to accept that.

I love thinking about space aliens and being part of an even more enriching universe. I love sci-fi films; I never miss a space movie–but I also recognize it is only hubris that compels us to buy into conspiracy theories and make fantastic the unexplained.

Sadly, the only space aliens we will likely ever see are the ones created by special effects and comic book artists.

 

But it’s still fun to imagine we are not alone.

 

 

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