Kalifer Deil -- Science Page

Kalifer Deil - Collected Works


Home

Bio

True Stories

Science Writings

Fiction

Science Fiction

Plays

Poems

Audio

Philosophy

Sayings

Interesting Links

WordPress Blog

Science Articles

From the Freezer
Interstellar Travel
Mind Reading
Moving the Bar
An inflatable "rigid" space station
UFOs Hoaxes?
Economic Prediction and the $ix Syndromes
Simulation of the Universe
Making a Haunted House

Online Science Articles

From The Freezer

“From the Freezer -- Nanobots and Human Cell Repair” by Kalifer Deil

It is speculated by some nanobot enthusiasts and organizations that freezing Humans after death will enable them to be revived someday with nanobots. They envision nanobots repairing cells that have been damaged and ruptured by freezing then other nanobots repairing the damage that was the original cause of death. This is actually a much more complex operation than putting Humpty Dumpty back together again.

Lets look at what happens when an ice crystal has punctured a cell. For nanobots to get to a target site the human circulatory and lymphatic systems would have to have some integrity. This would be needed to provide pathways for the nanobots to get to the afflicted areas. The problem is that defrosting a body to that degree would allow punctured cells to empty their contents into the intercellular space or into one or the other of the circulatory systems. This would put most of this material beyond retrieval and therefore beyond the ability of nanobots to repair.

A more recent view of nanobots includes the molecular mechanism that makes up the workings of the cell and the natural machinery that we all possess for repair. Some have argued that by building on and augmenting this bio-based system we could enhance the ability of human self-repair. There is little doubt that this will happen and is already happening to some degree. The real argument is whether this will ever be sufficient to make up for the damage done to brain tissue by the current freezing process. In the process of thawing the damage multiplies rapidly since the body’s machinery isn’t really working yet. If you artificially start pumping blood multiple hemorrhages will quickly make a very bad condition much worse.

It would seem that the only way to treat frozen tissue would be in the frozen condition. But there is a problem. It is hard to conceive of nanobots that would be small enough, hardened enough, smart enough and strong enough to bore their way into the damaged area and make a repair without doing more damage in the process. In any case such nanobots would be in a far distant future and those that are frozen today need a different solution.

The real problem is the freezing process. A better method is needed for the freezing of the whole human body if one really desires to reanimate a person in his own flesh and blood. No matter what methodology is used for revival it will be necessary to freeze the body of the deceased while preserving cell integrity. The current technology is too destructive on large bodies but can work on smaller bodies like an insect, minnow or tiny rodent. They can be frozen in a more uniform way that can suppress ice crystal formation since their surface area to volume ratio is larger that that for larger animals.

It may be possible to develop better antifreeze like liquids that are compatible with blood and lymphatic fluids. Another possibility is to use strong magnetic fields to constrain the vibration degrees of freedom in a full sized body, reduce the temperature to near freezing, then release the magnetic fields. This would suddenly increase the vibration degrees of freedom causing the temperature to drop to below freezing suddenly and perhaps without the formation of destructive ice crystals. The defrosting process could perhaps be done with the careful application of microwave radiation.

This, of course, is all very speculative and many experiments need to be performed on large animals to develop better freezing and thawing techniques. Very little in the way of recent animal experiments have been done to develop and perfect suspended animation techniques. This may be due to the horrible human freezing experiments that Dr. Josef Mengele performed on inmates of Dachau during WWII. Single-handedly, he has probably set back this field of study by 50 years. There have been some minor experimentation on rats and guinea pigs and one recent experiment on a dog to study the effects of freezing for suspended animation. A least one cryonics firm is planning rabbit experiments to study this problem.

Another area of concern is what happens between dying and being processed for freezing. Ischemic damage (when the blood stops circulating) happens very quickly for brain cells. When these cells stop getting oxygen and ATP (Adenosine TriPhosphate, the fuel of the cell) and free radicals accumulate they become damaged very quickly. This damage can be reduced by the application of a drug protocol and quickly cooling the body after death. This is an area that has received a reasonable amount of research attention since it has application for surgery on the circulatory system. If someone dies in their sleep in the middle of the night it is probably too late to rescue their brain cells the following morning. The damage is likely beyond any repair mechanism that we can imagine at this time.

The only chance for revival for those that are being frozen today is to plan to just get their head frozen. If done properly, this will cut down on the damage to brain tissue due to freezing. The only practical revival would consist of slicing the frozen brain tissue, scanning it for neural bodies, axons, dendrites and synaptic junctions and emulating the neural connections in a computer designed for the purpose. This is far from simple but the technology for doing this appears to be within reach within the next 50 or so years. Damage on the molecular scale would be less important since it is believed by many neurobiologists that the morphology of the CNS (Central Nervous System) down to about 100nm is all that is necessary for functional replication. The measurements of synaptic junctions are likely to be one of the more salient pieces of information since their size determines the coupling weight between neurons. Clearly, at least the afore-mentioned morphological information needs to be preserved for functional replication and we may be close to being able to do this now. A few of the heads that are in liquid nitrogen in cryonics companies now, I believe, have a half a chance of resurrection by this means and probably only by this means in the next half century.

A virtual existence may not be too bad. In the beginning it may be a little bit like living in a video game since many items in this virtual universe may only be crudely generated at first. I suspect this phase will change very rapidly as graphics programmers themselves enter this environment. Current trends in graphics seem to indicate that we are quickly approaching computer generated actors that rival the real thing. I think the real risk is this may be even better than reality.


Interstellar Travel

“Interstellar Travel -- Are We Alone?” by Kalifer Deil

It has been said that Interstellar travel is impossible because the distances are just too great. The contention is that we are quarantined to our miniscule corner of the universe. Even at the speed of light we are talking about many years for a round trip. So let's be conservative about this and assume that it will take us one hundred years of travel to get to the nearest star. Such a ship will probably be within our capability to construct within a couple of hundred years. Also suppose that we can put people in a state of suspended animation or extremely low metabolism. That should also be attainable within a couple of hundred years as well. Would people volunteer for such a journey even if it was one way? No question, they would; I would. Would someone or some entity put up the money for such a trip. A company would get one hundred years of advertising from such an enterprise so maybe there will be a Virgin Spacelines of the future that will do it.

A much more interesting possibility is that flesh and blood people will not make this journey but rather people that have been resurrected in neural emulators. Radiation hardened emulators will not require the environmental support systems and amenities that normal humans require and are far more suitable for space travel. The emulators will likely have an android body to perform those tasks we would normally send a human to do. Power can be conserved by shutting down for years at a time. Travel times in thousands of years are now not out of the question since there will be little wear and tear of the spaceships internal systems coasting in deep interstellar space.

So, that brings us to the question; why haven't we been visited by little green men or bug eyed monsters? Perhaps we have. If so they have done a really good cleanup job after each visit. There doesn't appear to be a scrap of evidence in the hands of any university or credible source that would indicate that such a visit ever occurred. Maybe the government is holding something back but I suspect they aren't. There are several reasons for this. One, the secret is far too large to keep for any length of time and cleanups (like Roswell) require far too many people to hold the lid on for very long. Two, conspiracy theorists make far too much money from books and TV productions to come clean with the public. An exception is Erich Von Daniken (Chariots of the Gods) when caught red handed admitted to writing fantasy. Three, There is a large segment of the population that wants to believe that we have been and are now being visited by other beings. Some are even hoping that they will save us from our own poor performance at planet stewardship. I don't see any evidence that aliens are intervening in our current global warming scenario which will ultimately create planetary wide havoc.

So, what about those little balls of light in the night sky? Lets call them UOs rather than UFOs since we don't really know if they are flying. They are, for the most part, unidentified. Are there earthly ways to make such displays? One I can think of is using either UV or infrared lasers that are computer controlled. Using multiple beams of sufficient power that intersect at a point in space. A luminous ball can be created at the point of intersection. This can be made to appear to fly at any speed by merely shifting the intersection point. When I was in my early twenties and if lasers and portable computers had been around I probably would have done this. I did launch a balloon full on natural gas with a candle under it into the night sky over San Francisco Bay many years ago. The candle ignited the balloon and it exuded a billow of fire and descended into the water. A few people saw it, phoned the police and reported a UFO. There's a nearly infinite number of other ways to create bogus UFOs. However, like so many things that are fun, hoaxes are illegal.

This doesn't rule out that UOs are natural phenomena. Rare phenomena often times don't get scientific scrutiny since repeatability is the cornerstone of scientific research. An example of this is ball lighting. Only recently have they been able to create a small plasma ball in the laboratory but the circumstances were such that they still have not been able to study the phenomena in detail. The point is that nature has many surprises for us and in spite of the great progress science has made in the last two centuries there is much more to discover and understand in our own backyard. We don't have to give credit to Gods or space aliens just because we don't understand it.

This brings us to the point that there probably is no intelligent life of a space faring nature within at least a few hundred light years of us. If they were more advanced than us we surely would have been visited by now. If they were very advanced, say a few million years ahead of us, they probably would have spread throughout the Milky Way Galaxy and we would have been visited. They probably would have populated our planet in lieu of us. No, we are not them. Our DNA is too related to our ape cousins to consider that possibility. Hey, if I were those aliens I would at least have left a card.


Mind Reading

“Mind Reading via Muscle Electro-potentials” by Kalifer Deil

Abstract
The basic idea is most people think with a voice in their mind. This is a sub-audible voice that some cannot control (as in Turret’s syndrome) and the “mind” voice becomes audible, highly revealing and disturbing. What is interesting here is even a mind voice like a mind reviewing any physical action has a physiological effect that in most normal people is too small to be noticed. Imagine throwing a baseball. Although your arm doesn’t actually move to go through the motions it does on the neurological scale. Nerve impulses are sent down the arm just as if you were throwing the ball except they are well below the threshold of that required to actually excite the muscles into action. This is why it is often possible to improve one’s ability to play a sport or a musical instrument by just practicing the action in their mind without the actual physical action.

Taking this a step further it should be possible to monitor, using external sensors on the skin of the face and neck, activity associated with sub-audible speech. One would have to have the subject speak with this appliance on for sometime to calibrate the device but it should be as easy as single speaker speech recognition from that point on.

Such a device could have a number of applications outside of interrogation in the fields of psychiatry and medicine as well. People without vocal chord could possibly use such a device to regain speech as long as they controlled the on-off switch.

History
The origin of this idea actual came to me almost 50 years ago in a biology class in high school. The teacher showed a film of a baseball player with two electrodes attached from his arm through an amplifier to an oscilloscope. The baseball player then threw a ball and the scope simultaneous showed a burst of pulses. The next scene showed the baseball player just thinking about throwing the ball, again a burst of pulses. This time not as many pulses and, as a consequence, no movement of the arm. This prompted me to think about speech as being a muscle activity also, albeit more complex, but the same general principles should apply.

Applications of the principle of using externally accessible muscle electro-potentials have been used for excitation of computer controlled artificial limbs. Although present results have been crude the principle has been amply demonstrated.

Very exotic techniques have been developed to read excitations of single ganglia from external sensors but these sensors are bulky, expensive and likely unnecessary for the above purpose.

The Setup
The first setup is an experimental one. A flexible sensor grid is applied to the mouth, jaw and throat area of the subject. Each sensor is attached to a miniature high gain amplifier, fed to an analog to digital converter then to a computer. Less than 100 sensor-amplifier-A/D converter groups would probably be adequate. The subject (a voluntary one for this phase) would be instructed to read a text containing a training set for the speech recognition program. The input, instead of being audio, would be a set of varying firing potentials picked up by the sensors.


Phase 1: Audible Training – Using volunteers
1) Speaker speaks training set that the computer captures and files away.
2) The training set of files is repeatedly played to the recognition algorithm until there is a high degree of match to the desired word set. This may have to be done with several subjects to get the most universal set for initial training. This becomes the base set of weights for Phase 2.

Phase 2: Inaudible Training – Using volunteers
1) Initialize algorithm with phase I weights.
2) Have volunteers read training set without speaking but vocalizing in their mind. This
becomes a new digital training set.
3) As before the training set is repeatedly played to the recognition algorithm until there is a high degree of match to the desired word set. This becomes the base set of weights for the recognition algorithm. An input to the algorithm is a level indicating whether it is audible or sub-audible mode during training and sensing.

Phase 3: Trials – Using volunteers as bad actors
1) Initialize algorithm with phase 2 weights.
2) Question volunteers to get speech samples.
3) Train the algorithm on the speech samples
4) After the training see what the algorithm can pick up from sub-vocalized speech from the volunteers and match with what they believe they thought at the time. If this proves to be fairly close then we are ready for phase 4.

Phase 4: Interrogation of hostile subjects.
1) Initialize with phase 2 parameters
2) Question subject to get speech samples.
3) Train the algorithm on the speech samples
4) After the training question the subject on issues that he previously refused to provide answers for. This should elicit responses that will provide information not otherwise obtainable.

Setup – Production mode
The learning algorithms will quickly show which sensors are important and which ones don’t contribute to the outcome. The weights associated with inputs that are unimportant will (if filtered properly for mutual independence) have diminishingly small weights associated with them. It is probable that fewer than half that many sensors will be needed since there aren’t more than that many muscle groups involved in speech that can be accessed in the manner described.

The Computer Program
The computer program would have to perform the following functions:
Filtering function – Filter out 60 Hz and sensor cross correlated activity to get only local electrical activity.
Learning function – This can be an artificial neural net algorithms from which there are a large variety to choose, Fuzzy associative memories, stochastic adaptive filters, simulated annealing or some combination of these and other techniques.
Output function – Display output in text form and/or synthesize voice.
The program will have a learning or training mode which will determine the weights or parameters used within the algorithm and a feed forward mode when just responding to sensor input.

The above is just a suggested path for a researcher to follow with ninety-nine percent of the detail missing. I would be particularly interested to see if this could help people that have had their vocal cords compromised or removed due to cancer or some other affliction. There are hundreds of thousands of such cases. Such a device could be made cosmetically unobtrusive using a latex appliance colored to appropriate matching skin tones.

Well it look like this one has already been done by NASA. (see http://www.newscientist.com/article.ns?id=dn4795)

Moving the Bar

“Moving the Bar -- Under the Gaussian Curve” by Kalifer Deil

Most of us are familiar with the normal distribution or bell shaped curve that is used to describe the distribution of all manner of physical and social phenomena. For example, the height of men has an average of about 5’7” with most men falling in the range of 5’4” to 5’11”. In this case the bell shaped curve is centered on 5’7” falling off either way toward 5’4” and 5’11”. Now if the availability of growth hormone is made available on a prescription basis for children that are shorter than normal the distribution will get tighter toward 5’11” and the average will also move up to perhaps 5’8”. The introduction of the growth hormone, in effect, moves the bar compressing the distribution in the upward direction.

This same effect can be seen in law making as well. Human behavior can be constrained in the positive direction by the judicious application of regulations. Take recently passed smoking ordinances in many cities as an example. By putting cigarettes in locked displays out of easy reach of children (and adults for that matter) you will cut down on children stealing them from display racks and will require them to be much bolder in attempting to purchase them. The inconvenience will cause some (not all) children to smoke fewer cigarettes at a young age and thus reduce their likelihood of getting hooked on tobacco. This doesn’t mean that cigarettes will be unavailable to those that are determined to get them, it just means that fewer cigarettes will be available and that they may have a chance to wake up to the addiction and health dangers before full addiction takes place.

The principle here can be simply expressed as “You get what you allow”

Now lets go back to the height example again. Suppose growth hormone would be made available over the counter at you corner drug store (I know, there aren’t any corner drug stores). In this case a broad spectrum of boys would take it. Some would want to get on the basketball team. Others would want to be taller than 6 feet because they get the girls. What would happen in this case is the distribution would not get compressed but would be moved in the upward direction with the bulk of men eventually in the 5’9” to 6’3” range with the average in the 6’0” range.

In the cigarette case, the upfront display has the effect of society saying cigarettes are good as does movie actors, sports figures and cartoons (Joe Camel) smoking and setting a scene of apparent sophistication or camaraderie. These tend to move the distribution toward smoking. Elimination of cultural go signals will tend to push the entire distribution in the non-smoking direction.

Actually more than one principle is at work here. Cultural go signals can breed feedback signals in the peer group which will accelerate the process. Those that are not moved by the direct efforts of the cigarette company are often reached by their peers who in turn are reached by the company.

Similar arguments can be made for most any behavior good or bad that society would like to influence. The distribution associated with that behavior can be spread (increases standard deviation) or narrowed (decreased standard deviation) or moved left or right simply by societal reinforcements and constraints. This flies in the face of much liberal thinking that permissiveness breeds self control but I'm forced to the conclusion that self control only works for those that already have it.

The real problem is society must decide what it wants for an outcome and then do what it thinks is appropriate to get that result. I believe the harder problem will be for society to figure out what it wants for an outcome. Achieving any reasonable outcome becomes attainable if everyone agrees on what it should be.


An Inflatable "rigid" Space Station

The big question is how do you put a giant space station of the 2001-Space Odyssey variety into orbit. The short answer is make it a giant inner tube, inflate it in orbit, then give is some spin to create an artificial gravity. This short answer is far from an adequate answer. Running around inside an inner tube with poor structural integrity is fraught with many problems including not having the ability to sustain even a reasonable fraction of Earth's gravity inside the rim. So the question is how do you use the concept of inflation in orbit and have all the benefits of a rigid rotating station with artificial gravity in orbit.

First we take a lesson from steel belted radial tires. You would have steel wire annular rings embedded in the inflatable "inner-tube" at regular intervals. These annular rings will have a post on the inside diameter that protrudes from the skin that will accommodate cables that will go to a central hub. Steel wires can be pulled through the skin in the longitudinal direction after inflation giving strength in the other direction. These would be mainly on the circumference facing outward. This would all be done with the station in a very slow spin creating only a slight artificial gravity for stability.

We now have something that looks like a bicycle wheel. This isn't exactly what we want. We want to enter at the center and get to the rim by means of a tube of some sort. There can be more than one of these and they would likely be placed in such a way to balance the wheel. We don't want the center hub position to oscillate with the rotation of the station. This also means that these tubes should also be inflatable and reinforceable in a similar fashion to the outer "inner tube".

How do we connect these? You need to create rigid connection modules for these intersections. So here's the parts list for a rudimentary station.

1 Hub docking module
2 Rim connection modules
2 Inflatable connection tubes
2 Inflatable rim tubes
50 Spoke cables
40 Rim wires (20 longitudinal wires per rim tube)
50 Connection Tube wires (25 longitudinal wires per connection tube)

At his point we have a station with some structural integrity but it is far from being a rigid structure. If the inside of the inner tube is given a conductive surface we can apply carbon fiber sheets and electrostatically spray paint them onto the hull of the tubes with a binder resin. This will make the hull more rigid and give it much additional strength. This will also create a surface that can be "glued" to false flooring supports and wall cabinet supports. Power and signal cabling can be run under modular false flooring. The outer surface of the station can be covered with flexible photovoltaic cells. This won't be an ideal receiver of solar power but it will serve two purposes in addition to generating power, It will provide another layer of protection from solar radiation and also some protection against micro meteorites. In a few short years such flexible solar panels will be relatively inexpensive. Eventually the spoke section can also be covered with solar panels as well.

Windows? Probably not in the inflatable sections. Instead video cameras can be connected to the external wall and flat panel displays can be on the inside for a view. The video cameras would be fitted with automatic shutters that would be activated by direct sun light to protect them. You don't want to hurt the integrity of the hull by creating holes for windows. However, there may be port holes on the docking hub and the rim connection modules.

A 0.5g gravity station could be of modest size radius of 32 meters and make a complete rotation once per 50 seconds. This could become a good halfway station for moon travel where the gravity is 1/6 g. Such a station could be built today with less than 100 million dollars in custom materials and thrust into orbit within four or five payloads on the largest Proton class Russian rocket. NASA claims it would cost a trillion dollars to build a Space Odyssey style station and I have no doubt that that estimate is correct for NASA. The right outfit to do is, of course, Burt Rutan of Scaled Composites Company. Paul Allen, time to step up to the plate, again!

Similar rotating sections like this station could be created for deep space travel to Mars and beyond. The primary negative for long space travel is bone loss and even a partial artificial gravity would mitigate this. That's why the Space Odyssey space ship also has the circular rotation section.

UFOs Hoaxes?

Before discussing UFO Hoaxes it might be good to review things that can be mistaken for UFOs. See Bogus UFOs for some explanations of what many mistake for UFOs.

Some of the more popular UFO sightings seen by hundreds of people include lights in a large triangle formation or in a string formation. Much is made of the fact that the triangle seems to remain rigid with lights at each apex. They travel rather slow then seem to take off with amazing speed. I'm not saying that these are not alien vehicles but they can be easily made using very inexpensive materials.

Lets take the string of lights first since that is a bit simpler and the same building blocks can be used to make the triangle. Imagine a small thick translucent white balloon with colored LEDs inside controlled by a microprocessor. The microprocessor cycles through the colors and can also alter the brightness by controlling the duty cycle of the LEDs that are being pulsed at 1KHz or greater. Each balloon is rigidly supported under a small glider with a 36" wing span (that may or may not be microprocessor controlled). several of these are attached in a chain by nylon fishing leader which can be reeled in by tiny microprocessor controlled winch (fishing reel). This assembly is then towed by a larger Radio controlled glider style aircraft with electric motor driven ducted fan engines.

The radio controlled craft takes off with its ducklings in tow and all lights off. At some point the lights are turned on and the people on the ground see a string of equally spaced colored lights in the sky that seem to have an eerie iridescence. At another point in the travel the winches pull the lights together and at the same time make them dimmer giving the illusion that the lights have suddenly gone up in the sky at tremendous speed. If there is cloud cover then they can be cut off abruptly in the simulated travel. The unlighted craft with its ducklings can then return to base totally unnoticed.

The triangle is only slightly different. It uses the same gliders and microprocessors and radio controlled lead aircraft. The lead aircraft tows one glider that in turn tows two gliders. Note that the same winch can be used to haul in two gliders if both leaders are threaded through a screw eye. The other two "apex" gliders have a leader between them that is reeled to the same length as the leader to the head glider. Note that only one of these trailing gliders need a winch.

It is a little bit tricky getting the gliders to take off but once in the air the two trailing gliders steer apart until the leader between then is taunt, Now you have a triangle and you can turn on the lights. Again, the illusion of a quick escape can be attained by reeling in the leaders at the same time as dimming the LEDs. Also the illusion of the large triangle tilting and maneuvering is simple to attain since all the gliders can be microprocessor controlled to make a pitched turn. Material costs? Probably less than one thousand dollars.

The other, non-alien explanation, is that this is a secret experimental lighter than air craft made with carbon fiber composites. Such crafts can now be made in almost any shape. A large triangle probably has aerodynamic qualities that make this shape desirable.

Another type of Hoax that is more expensive to carry out is objects flying about, not necessarily in formation, above a city and maneuvering at great speed. One possible way of creating this illusion is to use multiple infrared or UV laser beams that converge on a spot in the sky. If powerful enough they will instantly excite the air molecules at that intersection to incandesce. If these lasers are computer controlled they can make this incandescence fly in any manner desired. Governments might do this for a variety of reasons such as distract the public, see public reaction, gauge military reaction, create hysteria or confuse an enemy in a conflict situation (foo fighters - not the rock group). Note that lasers and digital computers are not necessary for this if you have powerful IR or UV sources and analog computer controlled platforms, both available to both sides during WWII.

Economic Prediction and the $ix Syndromes:

There are many stock market pundits and economists who claim they predicted various economic downturns and upturns. The Stopped Clock Syndrome (SCS) is that a static prediction will always eventually come true. A stopped clock is right twice a day; likewise an economic bear will eventually predict a bear market and an economic bull will eventually predict a bull market. The upshot is never pay any attention to bears or bulls, or more generally never give credence to anyone who has a strong point of view. They will be right sometimes and those are the times they are going to remember and tell others about.

Who do you trust? Trust no one but listen to those who are analytical and data driven. The truth lies in accurate data from the correct data set if it can be discerned. We have added two qualifiers and we have hardly started. If the data is inaccurate or not the right data was collected then the conclusions can be false. Life and death military decisions often go awry due to either or both of these problems. There is a body of stock prediction 'professionals' called technical analysts who use past moves to predict future performance. They predict future performance of a stock based on a variety of patterns in the stock price movement. A few of these indicators can be traced to stock fundamentals but most are whimsy based on flimsy correlations. I call this the Market Astrology Syndrome (MAS) since the useful data can be gleaned from checking the stock and market fundamentals (like the tides can be predicted by the movement of the moon) and the rest is market nonsense that can cost you your shirt, pants and shoes.

Very bright and creative people are continuously called upon to look at economic data and draw conclusions. The validity of those conclusions are usually limited to their particular area of expertise and the validity of the data they have access to. This leads to the Nobel Laureate Syndrome (NLS); an expert on one narrow area often assumes they are infallible not only in that area but in all other areas as well. Also be aware that Nobel Laureates are often scientists who just got lucky and are not necessarily better than the rest of the pack. The loudest are usually the most opinionated and as such should be taken with a grain of SCS salt. You should expect all predictions to come with a set of caveats since very little is unconditional, not even the proverbial death and taxes.

Does success engender failure? Sometimes it does. That would be the Beauty Parlor Syndrome (BPS). In this case the beautician does a beautiful job on first time customers but after the fish is landed does a lesser and lesser job on subsequent visits. This is also sometimes the case with “experts” who have made a name for themselves through hard work but are now coasting on their former success. They may land an important job in government or in a brokerage house as an analyst or they may use their former success to launch a consulting career or start their own firm. What is amazing is how long people like this can coast, sometimes for decades or until retirement. Saying they have BPS is sometimes being kind to these experts since their motivation can be far less than pure.

This brings us to syndrome number five, the Fox in The Hen House Syndrome (FHHS). You might think that the SEC has this covered since someone who touts a particular stock must state whether they own it or not and those privy to inside information are not allowed to act upon it. This goes on all the time and the ones who get caught are usually caught because they got too greedy and caught the SEC’s attention (actually the SEC computer’s attention). There are also many quasi-legal ways to profit that, although on the shady side, are done all the time. A Radio or TV talking head or through newsletters, email or twitter may state that he owns shares in xyz corporation which is now 18 and he believes is going to 30. Perhaps he bought it at 20 and wants to dump it. His pronouncement causes the stock to go to 22 at which point he sells. More likely he has a pile of xyz options with a strike price of 20 that he bought for $3.50 and ends up selling at $6.00 (when xyz stock reaches 22) for a 71% profit. This “pump and dump” scheme is often done with thinly traded stocks but if the person has a large enough audience it is done with blue chips as well. If the person's actual trading is off-shore, even if SEC rules are violated, they may be beyond the reach of the SEC. There are at least a thousand schemes like this to profit by duping others and unfortunately most are legal, especially if options are used since the tracking of options is not as automated as stock tracking is. This finally has reached national attention since banks and investment houses were duping each other with CDOs until it all imploded causing a national and international crisis while making many insider traders very very rich.

Then there are experts who generally are well prepared with good answers but are asked questions that are outside of their preparation. This introduces syndrome number six the Homework Not Done Syndrome (HNDS). The economic landscape can change very quickly from day to day and sometimes hour to hour. One can barely track one small corner of the financial universe let alone track multiple areas simultaneously. Inevitably, interviewers ask them to make predictions outside their comfort zone where they are not up to date and many will go out on a limb to satisfy the interviewer. The viewer or listener is often not aware that this expert is not speaking to the interviewer like he would speak to a client using well researched data.

There you have SCS, NLS, BPS, MAS, FHHS and HNDS which leads to; trust no one, check everything, then proceed with great caution. This goes for any investment including stock, commodities, property, collectibles and even buying businesses or franchises. You have to become an expert in your own investments. Always remember that the market drivers include three human emotional factors Fear, Uncertainty and Greed (FUG). When fear and uncertainty are rampant that is usually the time to buy and when greed is rampant that is often a sell signal. It is human to think that a ride up will never end and a ride down will end at zero. Clearly, the ride down can end in zero (Lehman Brothers) and sometimes and the ride up can last a long time for some stocks (Apple) so you always have to check fundamentals as well.

Simulation of the Universe

A recurrent science fiction theme that some serious scientists entertain on occasion is 'Is our Universe simulated?' (I used the theme myself in 'The Picnic.') This question takes on an entirely different level of complexity depending on what is being simulated. There is the monopolar simulation in which only one being is fully simulated [you] and all the rest are 'mechanical' actors or agents to support the illusion that physical reality exists. People that truly believe this are usually regarded as mentally ill. A simulation that simulated all the people of Earth becomes immensely more complex by many orders of magnitude. If we assume that many of the planets of the universe are teaming with life then the simulation assumes many more orders of complexity. Remember we have to simulate not only the consciousness and physiology of these individuals but everything they experience.

This brings us to a Zen-like question: If a tree falls in the woods, should it make a sound?

One could easily jump to the conclusion that if there is no one to hear it then it doesn't have to in a simulation. In the case of this kind of simulation the hearing of animals would also have to be included since their being frightened by the sound could cause them to do something that would leave evidence of the sound. On the other hand, this can be logically turned around. If no sound were generated then no animals would do strange things. Well, that isn't quite true either. An animal standing near a tree might get crushed by a tree if it didn't hear it and that might be evidence that the tree made no sound when it fell. Probably the easiest answer for such a simulation is either generate the sound or make all animals 'mechanical' actors and have those that should run from the falling tree do so, sound or no sound. The intelligence to handle the mechanical actors isn't trivial either so going ahead and making a sound seems the simplest solution.

So, what about Pluto?

Should the planetoid Pluto be simulated if there is no one to see it. There is probably no need to do so up until there were telescopes powerful enough to see it. At that point something reasonable needs to be planted in the simulation that has the appropriate history. That's much harder than you might imagine since an orbiting body has gravitational influences on other bodies as well over the life of our solar system. Also, Pluto will contain it's own history in it's rocks and ice. In all these cases it seems that the short cut of not simulating a component of our system until needed seems to be at least as complicated as simulating the component from its origin.

Switching from a telescope to a microscope we run into the same questions with similar answers. As we go deeper and deeper into matter with powerful tools like the Large Hadron Collider one could ask whether all the nuclear reactions and particles we see were there before we had the tools to look at them. Emissions from stars and cosmic rays give us a clue that the answer is yes. Either that or very powerful simulations were done to see what the consequences would be for these reactions and those results were planted to fool us into believing they were there all along. Again, it is probably easier to simulate the entire universe from the beginning of the big bang and let it run on autopilot from there.

What about the disconnect between Einstein's physics and Quantum mechanics?

There are several theories that try, with varying degrees of success, to unify quantum theory with the physics of Einstein. This includes Quantum Gravity, String Theory, Superstring Theory, M-Theory, Grand Unified Theory, Loop Quantum gravity, The Theory of Everything and Supersymmetry. A few people have taken the gulf between these physical extremes as proof of God, others as proof that we are being simulated. There are phenomena that appear to change as they are being observed indicating to the 'we are a simulation' crowd that the change is due to the Universe simulator switching to a special case for this viewer. This harkens back to inventing gods of lightning (Thor) because we didn't understand what we were looking at.

What would it take to do such a simulation?

The problem is not so much the compute power although it would be well beyond anything we can imagine right now. As things got more complicated and the computer had to take longer to compute the next instant of time, we would never know. That's because our time line is the computed one and not the one the computer is manifest in. The memory of the computer is another matter. Since it will have to compute states for all the subatomic particles and energy waves in the Universe the number would exceed a googol (One followed by a hundred zeroes) by many orders of magnitude. The amount of matter necessary to build such a computer in the computer's universe, if matter has mass there, would likely cause it to collapse into a giant black hole.

Why do people believe either the God's dream or simulation hypothesis?

This explains anything you want to explain except the origin of that other Universe that God inhabits or the Grand programmers. Since that's unknowable the trail ends there. Since the creation of such a machine seems more unlikely than the seeming physical Universe we see before us I vote for physical over simulated. At least this Universe could be a happy accident of branes colliding (M-Theory) rather that a purposeful invention of someone living in some other Universe whose origin is also in question. It just leads to another infinite regress.

Making a Haunted House

What I’m about to describe is a haunted house that is not for the faint of heart. You should probably have those visiting this haunted house sign a liability release form. It will be a haunted house that even the best “ghost busters” would have trouble figuring out. It will scare the hell out of even the most fervent non-believer in ghosts.

First, I must point out that I do not believe in ghosts. Most of the things shown on the TV program “Ghost Hunters” are very simple phenomena very easy to replicate. A talented magician like James Randi can easily replicate everything seen on Ghost Hunters even assuming that the Ghost Hunters team isn’t fudging results to capture an audience (not a new phenomena for TV programs.)

So lets take a look at how to make a haunted house that beats all. First find an old house that is about ready for demolition. If it has a haunted history that’s even better. If it doesn’t make one up that is plausible that jibs with most of the know facts about the house. We are now going to make a few modification to the house that will even fool the best ghost hunters.

You need to put together a team and you will need a few thousand dollars to pull this off. You will also need a team that includes an electronic engineer and a good craftsman.

Monitoring:
First you need to know what is going on with the visitors in the house so that you can respond to them. This means installing microphones in the walls and low light miniature cameras behind one way glass mirrors or in light fixtures. The wiring must be shielded and hidden so that’s where the craftsmanship comes in. Wiring can be hidden behind hollowed out molding or under the floor if that can be accessed. This wiring and all other control and power wiring should go underground to a cooperative house next door. Old water or sewer piping is a good conduit for these wires. There should be no people in the haunted house except the visitors. Having people dressed up as zombies, the freaky butler or Dracula is not scary except to little kids and will destroy the profound creepiness they are about to experience. The house should be dark but the visitors are allowed to have flashlights and any electronic equipment they choose to bring along.

Sound:
If the walls are covered in sheetrock rip out some of the sheetrock, install flat panel speakers in the walls and re-sheetrock. A bit of artistry is required to make it look like the rest of the old sheetrock. If these speakers are magnetic (as opposed to electrostatic or piezoelectric) then you might want to shield the magnet as much as you can with mu-metal so that a simple magnetic compass won’t find it. Now the sound media should not be blood curdling screams or dragging chains. Muted cries, footsteps or a faint voice of a little girl singing are the kinds of things that work best. Making the voice travel by fading from speaker to speaker is desirable. Make sound tracks on a computer that can be easily called up at the appropriate moment. I would recommend a minimum of eight sound channels for as many speakers. There are a variety of inexpensive software packages that will allow you to create almost any desired effect with little effort. Make sure your amplifiers have no background hum or noise.

RF Fields:
Radio Frequency fields can be in the 400 KHz range and if AM modulated can be picked up by many audio recorders that have emitter follower inputs to their microphones. Some video cameras may also pick this up. This will produce the so called EVP (Electronic Voice Phenomena.) Mix the desired audio with a helping of white noise so that the message is barely discernible. You could create a bunch of these to handle a variety of responses to questions and have them activated by clicking on a computerized menu. Don’t over do it but using their name in a response will really creep them out. The antenna for the RF can be in baseboard, coving or trim. The transmitter should only be turned on simultaneously with the audio modulation otherwise the carrier noise in the recording will give away that this is a transmitter. This signal should not be overpowering or it will become suspicious.

Magnetic Fields:
A pulsed low level (0 .15 to 0.3 Gauss) magnetic field around 5 to 8 Hz (Theta Wave) can stimulate the temporal lobe and the angular gyrus therein. This part of the brain is responsible for integrating sensory signals and direct electrical stimulation of the angular gyrus can produce out of body experiences (OBEs). In the laboratory this magnetic stimulus produces a range of psychic experiences from feeling the presence of someone next to you to emotional surges and hallucinations. In the lab this was done by using a helmet with small attached electro magnets. This isn’t really necessary. Large loops of wire in the walls will create a large extensive field. A chair at the right place so that the persons head is in the field will do the trick. It generally takes about 5 minutes of exposure before things start to happen. Maybe you had better not do this one since they may sue and claim brain damage. You will then have to prove that you didn't do something to their brain and that is an impossibility.

Cold Air Masses:
People get creeped out when they run into a cold air mass. There are a variety of ways to create cold air masses. The most obvious way is to blow a cold air mass into a room from a hidden vent. If the cold air mass is cold enough and the humidity is high enough a fog blob will be created. Unless this is carefully done the source is easily discovered. A tongue-in-groove plank wall where the tongues are shaved short and the back edge of the interlocking plank is removed. This will create a leaky wall and cold air can be piped in behind the wall from the ceiling or the floor. A pulse of cold air should be followed by room temperature air. Moving air makes noise so this should be done with some subtlety to suppress the noise. Removing a strong magnetic field also causes a temperature drop but this is not recommended since magnetic fields of this magnitude will cause watches to stop and metal objects to fly around.

Orbs:
Most orbs that are reported by ghost hunters are actually flying insects or flecks of dust close enough to the camera to be well out of focus. Some are even inside the camera chamber itself helping a ghost hunter find orbs all over the place. Start with reflected light that will look suspiciously like an orb might be just around the corner. Miniature white LEDs throw out a nice spot of light. Best to light up one of these out of sight of the visitors so that only indirect light is seen. The LED can be made to move and retract into a hiding place by using a piece of nitinol wire.

Flying Objects:
If an object has a bit of ferrous material (Iron) (A small piece of concrete with some rebar or a small piece of wood with a nail) it is easy to get it to fly across the room as if it had been thrown. A computer controlled electromagnet that can attract the object then shut off just before the object is over the magnet. All you need is a somewhat smooth level surface that the magnet can be embedded in and wires that can be easily hidden. A concrete or brick retaining wall is ideal for this. A child's toy made of metal is ideal.

Lights and Appliances:
It is really simple to turn lights and appliances on and off using X10 control but this is too obvious. Also, coil filament incandescent bulbs often have coil filaments that break in one spot but can re-fuse and turn on due to a vibration. What you want is something that you can turn kind of half-on like a child's electrical toy. A battery operated robot toy made to operate with no batteries in the battery compartment will do the trick except they are likely to take it to see what makes it tick. Of these the bouncing ball is probably the best. A very light ball is on a dresser that is either perfectly level or very slightly tilted back towards the wall. An electromagnet under the floor boards pulls down on the floorboard the dresser front feet are on to tilt the dresser very slightly forward and the ball rolls off and bounces across the room. A child's voice goes laughing down the hall. The electromagnet then gently releases the floor board so that when the visitor puts the ball back on the dresser it stays there.

The most interesting part of this will be the embellishments that the spooked visitors will add to their experience. Their own imagination is more powerful than all the tricks you will play on them.

Here's an article that will give you the vanilla stuff that happens in houses that make people think they're haunted: Ghost Mysteries Article. The important thing to remember is don't overdo it. Never repeat a sound or effect for a given audience (ye olde magician's rule). Try it out on yourself. If it raises goose bumps and the hair on the back of your neck then you've succeeded. Be subtle. Have fun and don't forget the liability release forms.

Copyright © 2003-2012 Kalifer Deil. All Rights Reserved.