America is the home of, among many many other things, two individuals that go by the name of Ben and Teller. They’re the hosts of a show called “Bullshit,” in which they point out the ridiculousness (yay for spellchack) of many systems and habits in modern day’s society. I used to watch with much interest, because they think outside the box -and the law- and fall back on common sense and reasoning rather than some status quo. As a European, I was thrilled to see they had a new episode out, called “Gun control”. I for one, hate the very idea of a nation packing guns, so I sat back to listen what they had to say about it.
As always, they started off with dozens of examples on the list, but this time my confusion only grew as I couldn’t make out what their point was. And then, also as always, they came to the conclusion and introduction to the show: “Gun Control… is Bullshit.” My jaw dropped.

Halfway though the show, I closed the window and never watched those two again. While before the idea was to point out the senselessness of the law and why it doesn’t work, they now used a literal interpretation of it as an argument. In fact, they brought up a case trial in which it came down to a comma in the constitution that made the difference. That was their argument: A comma. In the fucking law.
Apparently Winston Churchill (or some other president, I’m not sure) wrote that the US people should be actively armed, like a militia, so that the government would fear repercussion when abusing their power. Apparently his idea of a healthy nation is one where the decision takers have to fear for their lives with every signature they put down, because I don’t think many of them will please everyone, least of all in the States.
Newsflash, world. Your government is not afraid of you. You are manipulated and lied to, on a small scale if not on a large one. You can have all the guns in the world, the government that you elected will still fuck you over a barrel if they so feel like it. And what are you going to do? Shoot them?

Not long ago I found and posted a video, 10 minutes of high-speed recordings of bullet impacts on various kinds of material. I encountered it on someone’s blog site, and he mentioned that he can’t think of any reason why these hollow tips aren’t outlawed. In the reactions I found something in the vicinity of,

“If some nutcase breaks into my house, I want to hit him with the best tip available.”

Understandable, yes, but also unforgivable, in my eyes. What if this “nutcase” is your son, coming home when you think he’s out on holiday? What if this is someone else’s son, who happens to have gotten stuck on the wrong track and needs some quick money to get out of debt? Because it is always someone’s son. Do you think that stolen TV is worth more than an explosion in the gut? Or maybe, is an ordinary 9mil to the knee, that isn’t fabricated to fuck people’s insides up as much as technologically possible, inadequate to stop someone dead in his tracks? Have you even felt anything like it?

It’s psychotic. It’s schizophrenic. It is madness.
From a perspective of someone living in a country where guns are heavily regulated and registered, it seems that people thinking this way are all out to harm each other. Yes, I know, no one gets killed at a gun meeting. But tell me, since we’re playing God now anyway: What would it take for someone to die? A threat? A fistfight? Someone eating the cake before the reception starts? If you’re so insistent on deciding over life and death, you immediately show that you are incapable of doing so.

Yes, we too have nutcases out to kill others. But here’s the difference: they don’t have the means to murder half of your neighborhood’s school. Just recently a man walked into a nursery school and proceeded to stab several teachers and children. As horrible an act as that may have been, when I heard the news I thanked Europe for not letting this man get his claws on a semi-automatic, or worse.



Senses are a funny thing. No seriously: have you ever decently considered them? Despite what certain (cough female cough) people might go on and on, and on and on and on about, we have five. Each. The only thing I might consider a sixth sense is reasoning, since it, like the others, can give you information about your surroundings.

Senses are through which we perceive our reality. It’s only natural that you sit down and have a good hard think about them. It might go a little like this:

Senses. They are undeniable, although subjective. They’re here to stay. In order of importance, they would most likely be smell, taste, eyesight/hearing, and touch. Touch being the most important because it seems kind of relevant to know if something hurts or not. Of all people born with some sense impaired or missing, those without the sense of touch are the most proper fucked. They do exist, you know. Although usually not for long.

Although smell could be considered least essential, it is still a very important aspect of everyday life. First of all, it is crucial for taste to function. If you don’t believe me, try eating a tablespoon of cinnamon with your nose pinched shut. It will taste like flour with a slight sting to it. Secondly, from what I heard it is an important factor in social interaction. Things like someone’s scent and even pheromone spread are all perceived that way.

Taste… not much to say about it aside from the fact that from evolution’s perspective, ours has gone haywire. We choke on sugars because they’re our primary source of short-term energy. In a civilization where food is abundant, sugars are largely expendable and even bad for the body in larger quantities. We eat all kinds of shit that we aren’t supposed to and why? Because it tastes good. It’s nature’s way of saying “You’ll be back.”

Now, hearing and sight are the most interesting, in my humble opinion. I kind of linked them together in importance because they each have their unique attributes. First of all, socially, it is more interesting to be blind than deaf. It is extremely hard to have a conversation with a deaf person, especially if they’ve been deaf from birth. Their speech is hard to make out at all and lip-reading only works that well.
However other than music, there’s not all that much you’re missing out. Whenever I go out I have my headphones on and don’t hear jack shit, and hardly even notice. If I were to be wearing a blindfold however, that would be a different story.

Your eyes are strange things. They’re not open, even when your eyelids are. you just angle them somehow and they give you unimaginable loads of information about what’s in front of you. Like little radars, they pick up astronomic radiation and translate them into information.
Ears on the other hand, don’t need to be angled or tuned. They remain pretty much idle until something happens around you that causes vibrations. With a four degrees accuracy, you can tell where it came from, and most often make an educated guess about what the cause might be.

Here’s a funny thing: We have two ears, one on either side of the head. It makes sense that if something sounds to your left, you can tell where it came from because both ears give a very different sound image. But what if something happens dead in front, or behind you? Both ears perceive the exact same sound, so technically there should be no way for you to determine if the sound came from behind or in front of you, or above you for that matter.
The answer lies in the shape of the shells, that morph the sound depending on where it came. In other words, subtle differences in sound image tell you where the vibrations came from. I think it will be a while before they can replicate that on robots…

One’s life could be divided into five unequal parts that represent our senses. With each one missing, you miss out on a great deal of life and living. Lose them all and (I don’t easily say this) you might as well be dead.

To me, it goes without saying that thankfulness is more than appropriate. If not to some god or other, then to life itself. Or, perhaps those that have to make without.

A little while ago I posted some unpopular thoughts on the relation of space and time. I used whatever limited knowledge I had and attempted to follow the reasoning of actual scientists in reaching their conclusion. According to Lawrence Krauss however, both I and those Italians were dead wrong. And I have to believe him because he’s the scientist and I’m the roadie.

When I try to comprehend reality, my equations look very much like the one I used to retrace those thoughts and in the end, deduce that time is slowing down:

\bar{\mathbf{v}} = \frac{\Delta \mathbf{x}}{\Delta t}.

And that is putting it more complicated than I perceive it. However, I do remember (and no I didn’t cheat) that the triangle is called ‘delta’ and means “difference in”. V is a vector because that’s what velocity is, it has a direction, sense and value. X is distance, and t is time. In English: Speed equals difference in distance divided by difference in time. Speed equals distance divided by time.
Equations that scientists use are more of this category, though:

\int_r^\infty gm \left(\frac{r}{s}\right)^2 \, ds
& = gmr^2 \int_r^\infty s^{-2}\,ds
= gmr^2 \left[-s^{-1}\right]_{s:=r}^{s:=\infty} \\
& = gmr^2\left(0-(-r^{-1})\right)=gmr.

This regards escape velocity somehow, which is the speed needed for an object to escape a gravitational field. However to me, this spells:


If you disagree, you’re only reading this for a good laugh.
What troubles me about astrology, theoretical physics and all that scientific masturbation, is that it’s so god damn incomprehensible for mere humans like myself. I read an article on the multiverse and string theory the other day, and while I appreciate them putting things into understandable language for me, it quickly turns into the extremely absurd. Before you know it, they will tell you that reality has a color, taste and smell, can be folded over itself, and does karaoke with its many real girlfriends on every Saturday night. And I have to buy that, because they know about this, and I… don’t.

Another frustrating aspect about quantum physics combined with astrophysics is its humbling effect. As our friend Lawrence puts it:

This completes, in some sense, the ultimate Copernical (Copernicus was the astrologist who first stated that the earth revolves around the sun, not vice versa) principle. Copernicus told us we didn’t live in any place special. We now know (…) one thing:
This tells us that we are more insignificant than we ever imagined. If you take the universe, everything we see, (…) if you get rid of it, the universe is essentially the same.

Again, let’s put it simple:
We are irrelevant. Our perception is irrelevant. Our presence is irrelevant. Our universe is irrelevant. Our reality is irrelevant. And worst of all: Our opinion, is irrelevant. All of this, separate and combined, is as insignificant as if none of it ever existed to begin with.
The big bang theory now includes that the universe is created through quantum fluctuations, which balance themselves out. If those quantums or whatever the fuck they are happen to “whoops” fluctuate the other way, we would reach that point of zero again before reality would be fundamentally redefined. We would simply, coldly cease to exist before noticing our very atoms are suddenly impossible.

Frightening, no? One moment we are here, the next moment reality gets an itch and we vanish. It’s been fun, goodbye. Never to appear again. Nothing we could possibly do to stop it.
I’m all for modesty, but reducing myself to the significance of a grain of sand on a beach on a continent on a planet in a galaxy in a universe in a reality that never existed in the first place?
Ouch, man.


One response

  1. Dieter

    Great mind wanderingsLike you said, the point of view is everything. From that of the universe, humans are most definitely irrelevant.Yet inside our own minds, our self-preservation is the most important thing on earth. Heck that\’s also evolution; It\’s obvious that individuals who realise that they\’re irrelevant won\’t live long, because they\’re like "we might as well die" anyway.Only those with the most stingy feelings of self preservation survive.And hey, it\’s fun to pretend that what we do actually matters, so why abandon that illusion :)I know trying to decipher scientific articles is downright frustrating, I\’m in the same boat once in a while.But I think the alternative – putting everything in everyday words so average Joe can understand – would be the other extreme: frustrating for the scientists. Any article they publish, they\’d have to make foolproof first and think of cute metaphors so everyone understands. The progression would be very slow that way.Well, comprehensible articles might be hard to find but they do exist, but apart from that I guess we can\’t do much but accept that these geeks are just smarter than us…

    28 October 2009 at 11:22

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