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I was trying to show off my vast intellect to a friend the other day – a completely untenable situation, all things considered – by posing the following question: are all statements about reality subjective? Well, I came a cropper even quicker than might be expected when she fired straight back at me the question: is that question itself subjective?

Hmmm. That showed me up! But it got me to thinking that to say everything is subjective is rather self-defeating, since it must therefore itself be a subjective thing to say and so rather lacking a firm foundation. And that got me to thinking that the whole ‘I thing therefore I am’ train of thought is highly shaky. What is certain? The only thing I can think of that is certain, considering that everything might be a chimera, is that information exists. Even if you & I do not exist, there is some exchange of information somewhere to make us think that we do.

The big question that arises from that is: can information exist on its own? I tend to think not. For information to exist, surely there has to be some energy or matter somewhere to engender it. Perhaps this then leads to a less presumptive statement ‘I appear to observe a changing universe around me, which requires information and so something must exist’. Not the most catchy of maxims, I admit!

As ever I am probably missing the point and would be very grateful for your help in furthering my understanding.

ps – sorry for any typos, but my slightly odd cat is going trough a frenzy of licking my hands as I type this!

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Time for chaos

It’s been a while since I last posted, but I had other things on my mind! Well, I have now had some thinking time, and this is what I thunk:

Do the laws of thermodynamics mean that time has to travel forwards only?

This is my reasoning, which I beg your indulgence to read and kindness to comment on gently: as I understand it, information is the building block of the universe, energy and mater being expressions of information. Information cannot be destroyed.

Aside to this, entropy must always increase and the universe becomes ever more chaotic as a result. Now, chaotic systems take more information to describe them, so greater entropy surely means that there is more information in the universe. Since it is being created all the time as entropy increases, but can never be destroyed, then the system cannot go in reverse and so time goes only forward. It doesn’t matter that most other laws seem to work as well backwards in time as forwards, as they will be constrained by increasing entropy/information to being applied in the forwards direction alone.

I will be interested to understand where I am going wrong with that run of logic!

Thanks.

Do we think or are we automatons? Where in our heads does the cinema projection of our sight take place? What is conscious thought?

The argument appears to rage unabatted about all this and each peice of conflicting evidence appears to be just as compelling as the last. I can contribute very little to this – as ever – but I have observed something odd about my thoughts. well, lots of people probably have, but this is about how I have thoughts, rather than what I am thinking!

Often in conversation I will come out with witty and intelligent allusions to quotations and previous moments in the conversation, but I don’t realise I am doing it until someone else notices and acts impressed. I thought it was conincidence at first, but the more it happens the more of an intelligent design there appears to be (ahhh, I am indeed the god of my own thoughts). I now find my conscious mind monitoring what is coming out of my mouth to spot the intelligent references before others do – otherwise it can lead to embarassment and confusion all round!

It seems obvious that a lot of thought comes from the subconscious or some such: after all, if someone swings a baseball bat at your head you will duck before your internal voice has had its say. Either that or wake up with a headache! Is it possible that this obvious reactionary response is actually just the tip of the non-conscious iceburg? Is our conscious mind – that inner chatter that seems to run our analytic thought process – nothing more than a monitoring system for our real thoughts?

We can think without language and did do before we could talk, so perhaps we still do all our real thinking at a pre- or sub-language level. Perhaps what we think of our consciousness and personality is a chimera: the ‘panem et circenses’ with which the real masters of our minds satisfy our egos. It may be impossible to be aware of our real conscious thoughts, since they are the bits that are doing all the thinking – it’s a bit like the impossibility of seeing your own eyeball.

Personally I think that this all rather points to our self-observable thoughts – the inner monologue – being a monitoring and safety mechanism that became necessary as we evolved our complex language and social interactions. It would need someone far brighter than me to work out exactly how and why, though!

Oh, and I have no idea about the cinema-of-our-sight thing.

If you’re looking for titillation or the Hayne’s Manual of sexual technique, it is time to retrace your steps as this is about fundamentals. Some say that sex is mainly in the mind, but that is blatantly wrong: it is ALL in the mind. Obviously so, really, since that is where all senses, perception, ideas and mores are processed to create our concept of reality. For instance, things that would tickle normally will delight when aroused. So the important questions are: what, fundamentally, is sex? Why is it wonderful?

The answer, as with almost everything in life, is lots of things. It can be comforting, an adventure, exciting, an expression of love, an ego boost, pure sensory pleasure and much more besides. But this is still not its essence, but its effects. It is not enough to be amazingly dextrous, fit and breath through your ears; you have to understand the spiritual nature of sex before you can get the physics right.

So what is sex? Please think before you reply, as even the mechanics of it are not as simply defined as you may think. It is not all grapple & grunt: potentially you do not even need to touch each other to have great sex. Although usually, I’ll admit, it does help.

The simple answer is that sex is about communication. I don’t mean talking. “Further to the left” or “Do you like it when I rub this?” might be practically useful, but do not provide much insight. The communication I mean is on a primeval level that is more basic than language. It harks back to our evolutionary past, to our uncivilised and animalistic core. Sex allows us to connect to another human on the spiritual level, allows the fundamental essence of your being to join with another.  Sex alone allows us to join absolutely with another, allows us to penetrate our loneliness and briefly lose our isolation. Well, some serious narcotics possibly get us there too, but that is a different discussion!

Well, I am glad we got that sorted, so we can all now toddle off and have multiple orgasms. Ah, of course, there is the question of ‘how’. What is it we actually have to do to connect to someone else? The answer, as with almost everything in life, is lots of things! The first and most important is to want to connect and to give pleasure. Its all in the giving, I’m afraid, so stop right now and don’t waste any more time reading this if you just want to have more fun yourself.

You have to deeply like the person you’re with. Love is not directly related to sex, but helps in as much as you will be serious about giving to someone you love. The next bit will be easier as well, as you must open yourself up to them. You must expose the inner you, take down all defences and show yourself naked to the core. The only way you can join with someone essence-to-essence is for the cores of your beings to touch, and the only way for that to happen is for both of you to strip away all outer layers of you personas. Stand down your defensive shells, demolish your facades, can your carefully constructed character traits. It’s very temporary, but is still tricky to do. Someone has to start and help the other along (or help each other), as otherwise you will remain just two bodies rubbing bits against each other.

Don’t worry if it doesn’t happen straight away. It is complex and difficult and will take time to come together (so to speak). One practical way to start off is to concentrate on the other’s reactions: try to feel what the other likes and dislikes, try to predict what they want next. We are pack animals and programmed to understand very slight changes in body language, so although this may seem a bit of a Jedi Power at first, you can become highly attuned to your lover. You will find that you get better at this, possibly even knowing more about what your lover really wants than they do, but the real point is that you will be communicating. As you read them, so you will be sending signals back and they will be reading you too.

This stage is good! You work well together, become great at pleasuring each other and sex becomes fabulous. Keep going, use your desire to drive you towards connection and you will get to the body-and-spirit-tingling moment when you both drop your last barriers, surrender entirely to each other and truly become ‘with’ another person. Add in the physical, sensory delights of sex and whoa! Its fun time!

Some couples will never get this, others can get there during a one night stand. It is not about what you do or who you are, but about being compatible. Every person is capable of this, but only with the right partner. Or partners, possibly. Some people may be able to connect with every lover they have, others perhaps with very few.

If you cannot connect with your lover, perhaps you shouldn’t be together. A survey recently found that 1 in 7 couples remain deeply in-love all their lives, never losing the heady feelings of their first few years together. I suggest that these are the people that can connect at the deepest, most intrinsic level.

This could be all of us, we just have to make the right decisions in life, be with the right person.

p.s. let’s take a moment to reflect on how lucky we are. Most animals merely copulate: a compulsive attempt to breed that has little pleasure (part from pygmy chimps, obviously). But we can take immense pleasure from indulging in sex as frequently as we desire. If there is a God, surely this is compelling evidence to show that we are Her special children!

I have a problem with Fenyman’s sum over histories and the buckyball twin slit experiment. Well, I have several problems, the worst of which is being far too stupid to understand what it’s all about, but that is not what I want to explore here. No, the topic for discussion today is observation.

 

As I understand it, a C-60 molecule buckyball is fired at a screen with two slits in it and hits a screen behind. Due to the whole sum-over-histories malarkey, the  buckyball interferes with itself as it passes through the twin slits*: there is a possibility of it passing through both slits on the way to the screen, hence the interference. This works as long as the buckyball is not observed, at which time the path of the buckyball is fixed and the interference no longer happens.

 

Now, surely something as massive as a buckyball is being observed all the time. It is moving in the earth’s gravitational field, so surely must have some interaction with it. This is a form of observation, no? Even if conducted in a vacuum outside of any field, there is a chance that particles would spontaneously arise in the path of the buckyball and so observe it during the collision. In the weird world of quantum, isn’t it the chance of things happening that counts?

 

Surely it should not matter what is doing the observing, however small or unconscious it is, as long as something is there to observe. I see no reason that any interaction with the buckyball should be insufficient to count as an observation, just because it cannot allow a human researcher to find the location or path of the buckyball. Is it not true that anything that exists (or has probability of existing) can observe, whether quantum particle, energy, wave, planet or person?

 

The alternative is that the observation has to be orchestrated by something sentient, such as the person doing the experiment. This opens a whole new can of worms, such as any interference of solo buckyballs meaning that there cannot be a God, as otherwise His omnipresent omniscience would be an observation and so stop interference from happening. Or, perhaps, that He does exist but has a wicked sense of humour, putting this little conundrum into the universe on purpose.

 

I realise the whole sentient observer thing is complete nonsense, so where am I going wrong in my reasoning? What makes an observation an observation?

 

Thanks for your help!

 

(*ooh-errr misses!)

Hopefully, this will help you live within the planet’s means: work out your impact on the planet & plan your year ahead to reduce that impact to sustainable levels. Want to fly off on holiday? Well, turn your heating down a bit & buy fewer clothes so that you can. Read on and learn how to balance your budget!

To make lifestyle budgeting easy, I have translated all our ecological impacts into carbon emissions; or tried to. There is still a lot of uncertainty surrounding things like resource depletion, toxic emissions, habitat destruction etc. This lifestyle budget is based on so many shaky assumptions, rues of thumb, approximation and downright guesses that it probably all falls out in the wash anyway. Basically, it is a first approximation of a sustainable lifestyle to aim for. Something to work towards.

 All assistance in making it more accurate and inclusive will be most welcome! So far, this is how it works:

Every person on the planet has 3.5 tonnes of CO2 they can produce a year. Anything more is unsustainable, meaning you start to deplete resources and add to climate change. The following figures give you carbon outputs for various activities (emissions + ecological impact), so that you can budget properly: save a bit of carbon here to spend it there. Remember that things like electricity can be shared between everyone in the house – they are not per person, but per household.

 The basic figures for working everything out are given first, then examples about how to use them to plan your year’s activities to be sustainable: balancing your carbon budget.  

All figures are per year per household, unless otherwise stated.

 

Thing                                                                            Carbon emissions

 

Background life support                                                                 

Rubbish: recycling                                                                              0

Rubbish: wheelie bin to landfill                                                          5kg per bin

Electricity small house                                                                        1,500kg

Electricity large house                                                                         3,000kg

 

                           Savings: being careful & turning everything off save 500kg*

                                          Using green tariff divide emissions by 5

 

                           Extras:    use a tumble drier? Add 640kg

 

*This means turning the TV & other kit off when not watching/using it, turning lights off when you leave the room, unplug chargers when not in use etc.

  

Heating with gas small house                                                             600kg

Heating with gas large house                                                              1,600kg

 Heating with oil small house                                                               750kg

Heating with oil large house                                                               2,000kg

Heating with electricity small house                                                   1,500kg

Heating with electricity large house                                                   4,000kg

                           Savings: well insulated and careful divide by 3.5

                                          Using green tariff divide by 5

                                          Turn the thermostat down save 200kg per 1oC

General water use (av person London)                                               17kg per person

Showers, washing & washing-up (including hot water)                     200kg per person

 

                           Savings: quick, low flow shower (3 minutes) reduce by 100kg

                                          Wash clothes half as often & at 30o reduce by 100kg

 

Food

Home grown (fairly organic)                                                              0

Veggie (from veg box)                                                                        0.07kg per meal

Veggie (supermarket veg)                                                                   0.1kg per meal

Meaty & cheesy                                                                                  1.5kg per meal

Ready meal/processed food                                                                2kg per meal

 

Booze (shot of spirit, glass of wine, pint of beer)                               0.2kg each drink

Coffee, tea, soft drinks                                                                       0.3kg per cup

Cordial & tap water                                                                            0

 

Transport

Car small, new & eco (160kg per 1000 miles driven)

                           Seldom used (3000 miles)                                        480kg

                           Often used (12000 miles)                                        2,400kg

                           Hardly out of the car (20000 miles)                         3,2000kg

 

Car large, old & nasty (640kg per 1000 miles driven)

                                         

                           Seldom used (3000 miles)                                        1,920kg

                           Often used (12000 miles)                                        7,680kg

                           Hardly out of the car (20000 miles)                         12,800kg

                          

                           Commuting sums: rough length of journey one way x 480 = miles per year

 

Public transport (95kg per 1000 miles travelled)

 

                           Short commute (2 miles)                                          90kg per person a year

                           Medium commute (25 miles)                                   1,125kg per person a year

                           Long commute (75 miles)                                        3,375kg per person a year

 

Flying short haul                                                                                 100kg per hour flying

Flying long haul                                                                                  70kg per hour flying

 

NB the driving figures are for the car – if there are multiple occupants, then they will share the carbon between them. Flying & public transport figures are per person.

 

Holidays

UK holidays do the transport only (car journey or public transport)

 

2 week holiday with short haul flight (1000km)                                450kg per holiday

2 week holiday with long haul flight (5000km)                                 1,800kg per holiday

 

NB the figures for holidays involving flying are per person

For 1 week holiday short haul is 400kg, long haul 1,400kg

 

Consumerism (buying stuff)

General rule for everything                                                                 0.8kg for every £1 spent

 

Electronic stuff (TV, mobile, computer etc)                                       1kg for every £1 spent

Clothing                                                                                              0.6kg for every £1 spent

Sofa                                                                                                     300kg each

Toys (general)                                                                                     0.9kg for every £1 spent

Toys (plastic, electronic)                                                                     1.2kn for every £1 spent

Toys (eco)                                                                                           0.2kg for every £1 spent

Appliance                                                                                            680kg each

Car                                                                                                      4,000kg each

 

Motorsports

 

Waterskiing, motocross etc                                                                 0.7kg per hour

 

 [sorry – the formatting of that has gone a bit weird from Word, but I really can’t be arsed to correct it]

 

Doing your budget

First of all, do not be afraid to use fudge-factors or estimates to extrapolate between the figures given. For instance, using a tumble dryer less will save some of the carbon: half your use & save 320kg.

 

So, take an example of an average family of four in a decent size house:

 

Total normal carbon spend per year (assuming they are a bit crap at turning things off etc)

Heating 1600kg

Rubbish (1 wheelie bin a week) 260kg

Electricity 3000kg

Water us (17kg each) 70kg

Washing etc (200kg each) 800kg

Food (1 main meaty meal a day each 4×1.5×365) 2190kg

Booze (1 glass wine a day for parents 2×0.2×365) 145kg

Car (12000 miles, fairly large but fairly new car) 3500kg

Stuff (buy £5000 of stuff a year total) 4000

 

Total: 16000kg carbon per year (roughly).

 

So, they want to live more sustainably, which means they need to get down to 3,500kg each: the total needs to come down to 14,000kg. They also want to go on holiday to Spain for 2 weeks. How can they do it?

 

In all they need to shave off 2,000kg from their normal lifestyles to become sustainable in everyday living, plus save another 1,800kg during the year to ‘pay’ for their holiday (which is 450kg each). So, in total they need to get their everyday living to emit 3,600kg of carbon less over a whole year. Tough call!

 

The first thing to do is start turning things off: never leave TVs blaring to an empty room, unplug all chargers when not in use, turn lights off when they leave the room, don’t leave stereos or games on standby and generally think about every way to reduce electricity consumption. Do it right and save 500kg. Then switch to a green tariff, like Ovo (about cost neutral to normal electricity suppliers & quite helpful – I use them), which will divide the remaining 2500kg by 5. Total saved on electricity use 2500kg.

 

Stop using the tumble drier most of the time & buy a drying rack (Brabanita do a good one) save 500kg. Heat the house to 1o lower, wear a jumper some of the time & save 200kg.

 

Stop buying so much unnecessary tat and start actually doing things with their time instead, save £2000 and 1,600kg.

 

Well, that takes them to 4,800kg saved over the year, which is more than enough for them to enjoy their holiday to the full! And all with very little effort and probably an improvement in lifestyle, as they will be pulling together as a family and doing more stuff rather than just shopping.

 

If they go even further and start eating less meat and get a veg box, take shorter showers, wash their clothes less and even use the car less (walking or cycling is very healthy anyway), then they should have enough carbon left over to go skiing. The money they save means that they will be able to afford it too.

The worst thing about GPs being given their own cash to manage, it seems to me, is that we have seen a resurrection of the term ‘postcode lottery’. Apparently one of the evils of taking control away from central bureaucrats is that we might not all get exactly the save quality of care.

Who cares? What sort of snivelling, petty, mean spirited ingrate would worry that they might not get quite as much as everyone else? Surely the only thing to matter is that there is a general improvement in service, no matter that some of us might get fantastic improvement and some of us only slight or no improvement? The whole concept of whingeing about postcode lotteries is just pure jealousy, indulged by idiots who have never grown out of playground squabbles over who has the best lunch.

Life is not fair: we were born into inequality and we will die there. Trying to force the in-between bits into a wholly unnatural state of fairness will cost huge amounts of money and achieve nothing, except perhaps giving people false expectations & creating dissatisfaction. Let’s just be honest and admit that shit happens. This will let us focus our limited resources on creating achievable benefits, improving life as much as possible for as many as possible. We should concentrate on absolute benefits (most people in the UK happy with their medical care) rather than relative equality (nobody has to wait more than 6 days to see their GP).

Pragmatism in politics would be a great thing.