The Mind of God: The Promise of String Theory

Musings from the Home Planet

There is a Russian proverb which goes: If you chase two rabbits, you will not catch either one.

I was thinking of that saying these last few weeks while I try to find time  to write my stories (a full time job in itself), blog, draw, and experiment with my new camera – all while holding down a full time job. Then there are the children and the grandchildren – all of whom I want to spend more time with.

Not willing to give up on any of these rabbits, I’ve also been doing a lot more reading.  Which brings me to the subject of my current read: Not Even Wrong: The Failure of String Theory and the Continuing Challenge to Unify the Laws of Physics by Peter Woit.

I’ve had this book for a long time and started to read it several times. Unfortunately, it brought back such conflicting emotions about my college days (where I earned a Bachelor of Science in Physics and a minor in Computer Science) that I kept putting it down. In those days, I felt confused over the material we were learning. We studied a great deal of mathematics that we were assured would help us with post graduate studies, but seemed to have nothing to do with science. I was never a stellar student to begin with and I left the university feeling depressed about it. To be fair to myself, I had a lot of personal troubles at home which left me with limited time to concentrate on my studies. Still, I felt that I had no future in Physics since I felt lost in the last year or two, where I began to pick up Computer Science courses. Here, I easily excelled (thanks to the Physics and Mathematics courses).

Mr. Woit did Post Doc work in Physics, but eventually switched over to Mathematics. The  reassuring part of the book for me was that he felt the same confusion as I (and many of my classmates) felt as an undergraduate.

It’s very hard for people who don’t have a firm grasp of Calculus to follow current ideas in Physics (it’s hard for people who do, too, unless math is a natural talent). He writes about the split in the physics community over how to approach modern physics. Having reached a point where we are limited in our ability to observe smaller and smaller particles directly, do we abandon the old methods of science where we insisted that the theoretical research match up with experimental results or do we abandon that approach in order to explore theories that are more elegant and interesting, but do not match reality?

Now, to normal people, who deal in the real world, this question seems to have an obvious answer: Go with reality. So, why don’t these very smart people with higher math skills choose that path? In short, the current theory called The Standard Model isn’t very elegant. It’s incomplete. It doesn’t explain every known force that we know of. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could find something clean and simple – that could explain everything- like String Theory.

The trouble is that the String Theory doesn’t predict anything. In fact, it’s not a theory, it’s a bunch of ideas that point to a possibility of a theory.

What I find fascinating is that just as Physics reached its peak of prestige (last half of the previous century) it hit a wall in its ability to describe the universe. When I was in college, we were on the verge of a Unified Field Theory that would explain how everything worked in the universe and when we did that we know the Mind of God.

All these years since I graduated in 1979, while there has been some real progress in Particle Physics, there is still no answer to a unified theory. The high priests of science are split into two camps – those who believe reality (experimental results) should play a role in physics and those who think insisting on working on theories that match reality is a hindrance to a fuller understanding of the universe. This second group believes that studying all possible worlds (mathematical constructs – not actual worlds) will eventually reveal the one that we live in.  It’s a “Fake it to you make it” type of approach. Or you might say it’s like trying to catch all the rabbits because one of them is the magic rabbit which will tell you the secret of the universe.

Like everyone who watches the news and goes to the movies, I’ve been following the effects on the culture these ideas have had. We have physicists telling us about multiple dimensions, time travel, and alternate realities in ways that indicate that they believe these things exist and there is proof that they exist. Yet, there are no observable data ANYWHERE that indicates that any of these things exist.

Don’t get me wrong – I love science fiction. I can suspend my skepticism long enough to enjoy a good story. But, I know it’s fiction. There’s no flux capacitor (Back to the Future) and there’s no Warp Drive (Star Trek). How about uploading your brain into a computer? Because once we figure out what the universe is made of, figuring out the brain will be a snap. Yes, well, don’t count on it. But, you say, isn’t the brain really a machine? IT COULD HAPPEN.

(Sigh) So, okay – even if you could duplicate an actual brain it wouldn’t be you, but a copy of you. So, what good does it do you? What kind of immortality would it bring YOU, the person reading this? None. You are still going to die even if a copy of you goes on. Then it will die and so on.

So, now, I’m going to leave you with these thoughts while I go back to figuring out how to catch all my rabbits. Yes, I know there are only 24 hours in each day, 7 days in the week, and with luck I might live to 100. I’ll make it work. After all, I am a scientist…

We all have our blinders to reality – it’s in our nature.  😊


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We Will Be Gods: Can Humanity Live Forever?

Musings from the Home PlanetWith the death of Stephen Hawking this week we are reminded of his warning to humanity that we must colonize the universe or face extinction. The reason we must leave Earth is that staying here is too risky for humans. Asteroids, a sudden burst of solar activity, or our own self-destructive behavior threatens the human race at any moment. The idea is that we leave the nest, Earth, and spread out into the universe increasing our survival chances.

This idea was certainly a popular one among Baby Boomers. We grew up with Science Fiction stories about humans populating the universe and eventually evolving into immortal beings. This was a comforting idea for children who grew up in the Cold War era where the fear of sudden nuclear annihilation was constantly lurking in our young minds. Naturally, we looked for ways to overcome that threat. But, is this really the future of humanity or an unrealistic belief system built on an instinctive human desire to defeat death? Is all that is necessary for humans to evolve into gods is to give us enough time?

Elon Musk seems to believe that space travel is the right path for humanity. I don’t doubt he’ll have many volunteers ready to commit themselves to a suicidal flight to Mars. But, why are they volunteering? Is it for adventure or for a mythological future they believe in?

I’m all for adventure and pushing the limits of human achievement, but I wonder at an effort that promises so much about a future we can’t possibly know.

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Tidal Wave – Art For Non-Artists


I think one of the obstacles for those who are learning to draw or paint when they are adults is that they are overwhelmed with the vast number of objects they want to learn to create. We worry, we don’t have the time (perhaps we feel we are running out of time). This can create such an intense anxiety one is apt to quit out of sheer frustration over where to begin.

Children have an advantage over adults because they draw what they want when they want. They do not worry about “running out of time. They are not worried about getting on to the next thing before because that is what children do – they are learning a great number of new things every day. There’s always tomorrow.

Try to adopt that childlike attitude. Art doesn’t come to anyone overnight. Instead of trying everything at once – pick one thing you love.  If you love the mountains – draw mountains. If it’s the city – draw cityscapes.  Cars – then study that. That way – even if it gets tough or you are down about other matters, you can escape to your own artistic space with images that give you peace.

The next thing to do is find artistic styles you like. Don’t spend a lot of time with a style because you think it’s good, but doesn’t appeal to you. Choose ones that speak to you. Find some version of that style that you can imitate. Eventually you’ll find the one that’s your own.

By choosing subjects and styles that you want to imitate – you’ll begin to collect resources that you can use. But, there is one more thing to think about: There are many great art teachers and aids out there, but not any one method works for everyone. I know from homeschooling my six kids that everyone has a different learning style. Don’t stick with a method that doesn’t work for you – even if other people say it’s the best – if you aren’t getting anywhere with it. Try another method until you start to make progress.  You are unique. Remember that.

I am finding that the Zen Doodle community (on Facebook and Youtube) are great places to start. They give a new artist freedom to draw without judgment. And this one needs in abundance when starting out. But, they are limited in other areas such as perspective and lighting. For now, I’m not too worried about those things, as I need the encouragement to practice what I have learned. My point is that the more you draw or paint, the more you understand that the teachers are talking about when they speak about fundamentals.  At first it all seems like magic, but the more you do “art” the more you see “art”. It’s a strange process of training your hands, your eyes, and your brain.

For me, I love the ocean. I have no idea why, but I do. So, for now, that is what I am focusing on: real and imaginary ocean scenes.

The above painting (Tidal Wave) was done using the software program: Artrage. I wish I had a studio working with real brushes and real paints, but for now this will have to do. This was done in Artrage 4. Recently, I bought their upgrade to Version 5. I’m a little nervous about learning new tools. But I also can’t wait to try it out.

I used the filler tool (blend mode – sky preset), the roller tool, the spray tool, and the square oil brush. I found a picture that I liked on the internet and used it as a guide. There is an option to import images onto your working space. Don’t be afraid to use other pictures as guides for your own work.

I’m sure I couldn’t reproduce all the steps that I did to create this image, but I did enjoy doing it.  I know I’m a long way from being “good”, but at the moment I’m just happy to be able produce art that makes me happy.


For more on posts on Art for Non Artists (AFNA), go HERE.

Best Laid Plans…February Fail

girlunderwatercropaSo, figuring I’d have more time to blog with this new job, I predicted that I’d be here more than I have. Seems I spoke too soon.

It turned out I do have more time and energy, but I also had such a large back load of things that needed to be done at home (plus a few minor family crises), that I haven’t been able to live up to my new resolution.

However, I have been writing and working on new things, so let’s see if March turns out to be a better blogging month. I’m going to give it my best shot. 🙂



Art for Non-Artists: Creating text messages as art: Avery’s First Text

Avery's first text
Avery’s First Text Message to Olivia


Today I am going to discuss using text messages as an art form.


Olivia (Year of the Numen) has a lot going on in her life which she keeps to herself.  Because of the format, I have to write short, compelling conversations. This will force me, as the author, to not get side tracked for too  long into these side stories and yet fill in some background about the main characters. I plan to sprinkle the text of the story with snippets of Olivia’s text exchanges.

Continue reading “Art for Non-Artists: Creating text messages as art: Avery’s First Text”