humor, mundane miracle, philosophy, photography, science

Partially Reflected Light

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As the natural light outdoors fades, a mundane miracle occurs.  Tho I have no supernatural powers, I create light and see that it is good.  There is much to celebrate in the simple act of flipping a switch, and the resulting light provides many other mundane miracles to ponder.

Light ~ Pic and a Word Challenge #133

Before I close the curtains, a pine tree across the lawn is still visible thru the window.  Conversely, a bird roosting in the pine could see the light fixture I have just turned on.  Most of the light that my fixture throws toward the window goes right thru the glass, harmless and unharmed.  My fist could not do that.

It gets better.

Some of the light that hits the window is reflected back.  I see my fixture as a ghostly sphere, apparently hovering between me and the pine.  Hmmm.  Consider a single photon among the zillions that whiz from my fixture toward the window.  How does it decide whether to continue on toward the pine or bounce back toward me?

globe-pine-1_840x840

I know.  Photons are mindless particles that do not decide anything.  They just do whatever a divinely perfect knowledge of physics would say they do, and a humanly possible imperfect knowledge of physics is rather good at saying what big groups of them do.

By far the best current human knowledge says that what a single photon does is unpredictable.  Not just unpredictable because we do not know all the details about the laws of nature or how the photon is moving or what is in the glass where the photon hits it.  Not just unpredictable because exact calculations are not feasible. Intrinsically unpredictable!  On a photon-by-photon basis, even divinely perfect knowledge of the rules and the current situation does not determine what will happen in the next picosecond.  Even God must wait and see.

Dunno whether I will succeed in posting more about intrinsic unpredictability and its consequences.  (Don’t hold your breath.)  Without wrangling equations, a great deal can be still be said about the quantum physics behind partially reflected light and its wider implications.  See pages 173-176 of the excellent book Dice World by Brian Clegg (or web pages like the one U can visit by clicking here, if U do not have the book handy).

 

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growing old, haiku, humor, mundane miracle, photography

Mundane Miracle – Pond

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For me at least, a major consolation for the decreased mobility that comes with age is an increased appreciation of mundane miracles close to home.  One example is considered here; I hope to post a few more in coming months.

Long ago, I drove/flew/drove to a motel in the town on the western edge of Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado.  Soon afterwards, I hiked into the park, admired an alpine lake, ate a trail lunch, and hiked out in a thunderstorm that mocked my “waterproof” boots.  Nothing epic, but well beyond me now.  That’s OK.  I did it once (which was more than enough for the thunderstorm part).

Some people consider it a miracle when the government does something right.  Over the years since that trip to Colorado, the EPA adopted (and enforced!) vehicle emissions standards.  I can walk the roads near my house w/o being assaulted by trucks and school buses belching black diesel crud.  Their exhaust is still smelly and unhealthy, but not bad enough to ruin a walk on a breezy day.  So I can often walk about 1.5 miles to the far end of an artificial pond beside the road.  An artificial pond ringed by hilly pasture land is not the same as a natural lake ringed by mountains, but water is water and blue sky is blue sky.

sparkle-geese

kiyawana-sky

After a few rainy days, excess water in the pond rushes thru a culvert under the road and into the little brook that was dammed to create the pond. I can admire the exuberant splashing on the rocks in the brook w/o dwelling on the artificiality of the scene.

Happy Heraclitus
|Life flows and splashes.
|No things are permanent and
|all things are precious.

outflowoutflow-closeup

(reblog), language, mundane miracle, photography

The Transition to Created Light

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A rose by any other name would smell as sweet, said the Big Bad Bard.  That is a good approximation; one striking exception is a photo by Elusive Trope that is effectively reblogged below.   (I say “effectively” because there were technical reasons to avoid the [Reblog] button in this case.)  A really good title can enhance work that is already good.  (Giving a nice name or title to junk may help sell it but will not dejunkify it.)  When Mark Twain likened the difference between “the right word” and a merely adequate word to the difference between the lightning and the lightning bug, he was stretching the point.  In the case of Elusive Trope’s photo, however, he nailed it.

Originally posted on Elusive Trope:

IMG_2459_picmonkeyed

The Transition to Created Light

View original (if link can be restored)

We look at the photo and see an austerely beautiful composition with strong colors.  One possible title (inspired by the actual title of Whistler’s famous painting of his mother) would be accurate but rather clunky and stuffy:

        Composition in Blue, Black, and Yellow: Light Fixture

Maybe we should use the time of day.  Saying just “Dusk” or “Twilight” would be accurate and mercifully brief, but those words have a sad or ominous connotation.  Our distant ancestors had good reason to fear nocturnal predators.  There is nothing sad or ominous in the light fixture’s defiance of the coming darkness.

Maybe we should be more specific about what is happening at dusk, with something close to the actual title:

        The Transition to Artificial Light

Adequate? Yes, but still not quite right.  The phrase “artificial light” has a milder version of the connotation of “artificial color” or “artificial flavor” as something to be confessed, not proclaimed.  Changing one word leads to the actual title used by Elusive Trope:

        The Transition to Created Light

Now the title reconnects us to the creativity of distant ancestors who invented campfires that discouraged their nocturnal predators.  Then there is the creativity of more recent ancestors who invented candles and lamps that let them mend their nets or write their thoughts during long dark evenings at high latitudes.  Still more recently, the creativity of people like Edison and Tesla made it so easy to light the darkness that nowadays we do it too much and appreciate it too little.  (The failing is ours, not theirs.)  Elusive Trope found the right word; we thrill to the lightning; Mark Twain’s ghost says “Told ya!” between puffs on his cigar.