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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humor, philosophy, photography

Ecclesi-ICE-tes

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Time ~ Pic and a Word Challenge #131

I want to add another line that starts with “A time to” in the Bible passage Ecclesiastes 3:1-8.  The new line could be anywhere in the series.

To every thing there is a season,
     and a time to
         every purpose under the heaven:

A time to freeze and a time to melt;
     a time to be rigid, and a time to be fluid;

icicle-bright_840x1086

Don’t blink or you’ll miss it!

While I could not resist giving this post a silly title, I do respect the yin/yang wisdom of Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 and have already proposed a related serious addition to the “A time to” lines.  Those who have seen and liked yet another addition are welcome to comment with a line and/or a link.

growing old, haiku, philosophy, photography

Wisdom in Wood

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The haiku titles in my response to

Wisdom ~ Pic and a Word Challenge #124

stretch the word.  Another response stretches it similarly.

maple-far_800x1240

After the leaves have fallen in a wooded area, the good news is that we get a relatively unobstructed view of the tree trunks and branches.  The bad news is that it is not clear which of the trees are alive.

With one exception, all the trees and branches shown in this post are alive.

maple-hole-crop_800x595

Wisdom in Wood #1
|Singing silent songs
|of injury and healing,
|trees refuse to quit.

Wisdom in Wood #2
|Never die?
|No, the choice is to
|never quit.

ash-trunk_800x453

humor, philosophy, photography

Old Gold

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Tattered old gold still glows.

gold-point_800x600

But is it really silver?

silver_800x600

Or some nameless pearlish color?

Shifting light; flaky white balance; …

Ultimate reality is elusive (or maybe illusory).

Rashomon

All photos in my response to

Gold ~ Pic and a Word Challenge #111

were taken by daylight on sunny late winter mornings in 2017, using the same dried silver dollar plant in the same corner of the same room.  The old camera’s unpredictable white balance sometimes lucked into interesting images.  It also inspired a riff connecting an old Beatles song to a recycling incentive, but the old camera was replaced after showing more signs of senility.

Another response to the same challenge shows that silver dollar plants sometimes do look golden in natural light!

haiku, humor, math, philosophy, photography, science

They Are Beyond Space & Time

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Taught myself a crash course in digital photo manipulation to respond to

Numbers ~ Pic and a Word Challenge #106

by posting how Plato bounced back from an encounter with intellectual ancestors of Karl Popper.  Hope I did not flunk.

Plato woke up with a nasty hangover after a symposium that had gone badly for him.  Some new sophists who called themselves “natural philosophers” had come to Athens, and the kind of philosophizing they advocated was anything but natural to Plato.

The new sophists spoke about “observations” and “conjectures” and “predictions” rather than abstract reasoning about perfect ideal forms.  Plato could tolerate his student Aristotle’s interest in easy casual observations and simple inferences from them, but the new sophists were different.  They wanted to measure minute details of how the shadows on the walls of Plato’s metaphorical cave flickered.  They would consider anything imaginable as a candidate for “explaining” their observations, even things so fanciful that Homer would never have dared to sing of Odysseus encountering them on his way back to Ithaca.

Instead of trying to establish a conjecture by reasoning to it from first principles, the new sophists wanted to reason from it to a prediction about what they would observe.  Conjectures that led to many diverse predictions matching what was actually observed were to be accepted as true, but only until somebody came up with “better” conjectures that yielded more accurate predictions by more elegant reasoning.  As one of the brasher “natural philosophers” said,

All knowledge is provisional,
never more than the best we have at the moment.

Flummoxed by such craziness, Plato had been hitting the wine harder than usual.  He had passed out just as another “natural philosopher” began replying to the brash one:

Well, that is a little over the top.  For example, …

All that was last night, when stars had carpeted an inky black sky.  Now the sky was light blue, the sun was shining, and Plato’s head was aching.  He winced when he remembered a new sophist’s remark that each star might be something much like the sun but almost inconceivably farther away.  That example of a loony conjecture had prompted a nightmare with Athens (and its circling sun) lost in a humongous whirling vortex of innumerable stars (rather than stationary near the center of the universe, as Athens so obviously was).

The cash bar at the symposium had been pricey, and Plato wondered if he still had enough money to buy some willow bark to ease his headache.  He put his coins on the nearest flat surface and counted them.  Five should be plenty.  Then he noticed that three coins had the side with the face of a leader facing upwards, while two coins had the side with the leader’s mansion facing upwards.  Suddenly, Plato felt much better.  He even felt ready for another encounter with that brash sophist.

Athens_724x505

Plato’s Revenge
|Three plus two was five
|before any mind could know.
|Where do numbers live?

haiku, humor, philosophy

Yin and Yang

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Carpe Diem #1229 Yin & Yang

The ancient insight that «seemingly opposite … forces may actually be complementary … and interdependent» has modern echoes in wave/particle duality and concerns about work/life balance.  The insight is profound but (like many insights) is sometimes pushed to absurd and pernicious extremes.  I refuse to shrug off falsehood as the yin that complements the yang of truth.

Maybe the yin of solemn generality needs a little more of the yang of irreverent specificity.

Harmonious Completion of Necessary Cycle
|Balanced yin and yang.
|Spinning world will not wobble.
|Cosmic clothes washer.

enlightenment, haiku, humor, miracle, philosophy

Miracle: Satori from an MBA

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It started so gaily.

A tongue-in-cheek post about writer’s block led to
 a tongue-in-cheek comment that led to
 a tongue-in-cheek post that led to
 a tongue-in-cheek comment that seemed to
merit a tongue-in-cheek reply.

But the volleyball hit the floor before I could whack it upward.

That last comment in the cascade included the question

What made you the lucky poet whom God speaks through?

While the comment’s “you” is me and my claim to prophecy was indeed tongue-in-cheek (and perceived as such by the commenter), I could not get past the fact that many people do claim (seriously and stridently) to speak for God.  Many of those who are serious and strident are also willing to coerce people they cannot convince.  Many of those who are willing to coerce are also willing to kill people they cannot coerce.

lesson-learnedNON SEQUITUR © 2014 Wiley Ink, Inc.. Dist. By ANDREWS MCMEEL SYNDICATION.
Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.

While I cannot just keep it tongue-in-cheek, I still see the wisdom in Oscar Wilde’s remark that life is too important to be taken seriously.  So I will continue semiseriously.

Sometimes it is hard to distinguish literature from either literal truth or bogus claims to tell it.  Now I will tweak the font as a gentle reminder that the rest of this post is just lit.

Management consultants are often hired by executives who want an outsider with “MBA” after their name to bless what they have already decided to do.  While God could bless well enough on His own, He did want advice from a management consultant on how to get out of a procedural rut.

Aware that the complexity of the Real World (and how to thrive in it) was beyond immediate comprehension, He had endowed some otherwise unremarkable creatures with abilities to observe and learn, to imagine and reason, to build bridges and write poems.  He had tried repeatedly to nudge them in good directions by inspiring a few of them, with a little success and a lot of failure.

As He told the consultant:

I keep it simple and age-appropriate, but they oversimplify half of what I tell them and obfuscate the rest.  The Golden Rule gets thru as something to proclaim but not as something to practice.  Absurdly much of what they think has been revealed to them is just their own bigotry and bullshit.

The consultant read over the case histories and concluded that there was a personnel issue:

U have been inspiring people who mean well but score high on credulity and low on humor.  Maybe it would help to go outside the box.  For example, U could inspire a nerdy atheist who digs sacred music and pushes the envelope of haiku poetry.

God was skeptical:

Does anybody like that exist?

The consultant smiled the enigmatic Mona Lisa smile that sometimes appeared when he was moonlighting as a Zen master.  He leaned forward and spoke softly:

Does anybody like U exist?

At that moment, God attained enlightenment.