Ignorance of the law

Ignorance of the law is no excuse. That is the principle we are expected to live by. If we embrace the full implication of this principle, it may merit being adopted as a Constitutional principle that places the most effective constraints on government overreach.

If ignorance of the law is not an allowable excuse, it is imperative for government to enact laws that people can read and comprehend to remain in compliance. Moreover, the laws for crimes and misdemeanors, as well as the regulations that every person must comply with must be readable and comprehensible in totality for the average person without requiring professional legal counsel. This requires that all crimes, misdemeanors, and regulations must not exceed a certain maximum number of words in their totality. That limit should be established to be what an average student can read and comprehend by investing one hour per day during four years of high school. The government is forbidden from writing laws and regulations that exceed this limit, so as not to instigate ignorance of the law.

 

 

faster than light travel

The article NASA May Have Accidentally Created a Warp Field is getting people excited about faster than light travel.

You don’t need to travel faster than light to go arbitrarily far in arbitrarily less time. All you need to do is travel closer to the speed of light. As you get closer to c, time dilation and space contraction will contribute to bring arbitrarily distant destinations within reach. Although the travelers will experience relatively manageable passages of time, it is their friends observing from home who will age much more quickly. Travelers moving at nearly c in space have most of their velocity contributing to movement through space dimensions and almost none through time. At home, we are moving at c almost entirely in the time dimension, remaining motionless in space. The laws of physics give everything no option but to move at c through spacetime; we can only choose what part of our motion is through the space dimensions and the remainder is through time.

The benefits imagined from warping space are to alleviate this huge difference in the passage of time, so that travelers can go places and return without generations dying off before they return home. The “faster than light” travel is about how outside observers perceive the traveler’s motion, so that they can share in the experience within their lifetimes. Travelers have no need for FTL motion to reach any destination within their own lifetime, with enough acceleration to move at close to c through space. The desire for FTL motion is for non-travelers who don’t want to die waiting for the travelers to return.

The search for intelligent life

The search for intelligent life outside of our solar system is a difficult one. We tend to think that if we expand the scope of our search to include more galaxies, this is sufficient. But we must accept that even if we had the technology to examine every galaxy exhaustively in perfect detail, we are only covering a minuscule part of the search space, which is almost entirely inaccessible to us by the laws of physics.

We can only see something in the current snapshot in time. Let’s try to imagine a search for human radio signals on Earth from the perspective of a distant alien civilization. The Earth is 4.4 billion years old. Humans started producing radio signals in 1894, so these radio signals have been transmitting for the past 121 years. These signals have only had the opportunity to propagate 121 light years away from Earth in that time. Beyond that distance, no alien civilization would be able to detect these signals. Moreover, an alien civilization would have to coincidentally have developed at a pace in which their technology was at least as advanced at exactly the right time to detect such signals during this tiny window in time upon their arrival. This is a 121 year window out of the 13.82 billion years in which the universe has existed.

my position on abortion

Since the topic of abortion is in the news again, I will once again restate what I believe to be a reasonable position on this issue.

I agree with Rand Paul that abortion is personally offensive. However, a legislator’s personal feelings ought to have nothing to do with public policy and the protection of rights.

I agree with Rand Paul that a seven pound baby in the uterus has rights. Finding the best way of protecting the rights of both the mother and child is not easy.

I agree with Rand Paul that certain exemptions should be permitted by law to perform a late term abortion. This debate is not about abortions before 24 weeks of pregnancy, the limit of viability.

I believe a fetus’ right to life can be asserted when the baby is viable outside the womb. This may be facilitated through modern medical technology at an early stage of gestation, as evidenced by many premature births. Therefore, it is perfectly reasonable to protect a baby’s right to life, when it develops into a viable person who can exist separated from the mother’s body. At that point in a pregnancy, killing the fetus should be disallowed, and the baby should either be allowed to develop to full term in the womb at the mother’s option; or delivered prematurely. Sure, there are dangers to a baby for it to be delivered prematurely, but certainly less danger than homicide. If the parents do not want the baby, it can be adopted by another family. The demand for babies far exceeds the supply.

See also: on the rights of a fetus.

Universal rest frame

Sometimes we see stories about searching for the origins of high energy particles called cosmic rays. These are massive particles like protons, which have been accelerated by something in deep space to nearly the speed of light. The usual suspects are black holes, neutron stars, supernovae, and other exotic phenomena. The puzzling thing is that some of these particles seem to have traveled great distances, farther than thought possible without losing momentum (slowing down by bumping into things like photons).

What I wonder is whether the human perspective on Earth is far too biased. Einstein’s theory of special relativity says that there is no preferred rest frame in the universe. A fast moving particle is moving fast relative to us, but it is equally valid to say that the particle is at rest, and it is we who are moving fast relative to it.

If indeed there is no preferred rest frame in the universe, shouldn’t there be a uniform distribution of velocities for distant galaxy clusters? Because of the strong influence of gravity, galaxies within a cluster would be bound to move together. But galaxies that are not close enough together will move independently. Wouldn’t one expect that two galaxies separated in space and time by 12 billion light years have an equal probability of moving at any speed between zero and c relative to each other?

However, indeed our picture of the universe seems to be of a relatively organized structure like a web of filaments, possibly with a flow in a particular direction. It is far more accurate to describe the structure as static than it is to say that it is randomly moving with a uniform distribution of velocities. This means there is a definite bias for a rest frame, where the relative motion of the large scale structure of the universe is minimized. Am I wrong?

 

Modular home construction

I wonder if one day we will build homes like we do the space station—in prefabricated modules. Perhaps rooms can be built in standard dimensions and standard interconnections to adjacent rooms for electricity, networking, coaxial cable, HVAC, hot and cold water, natural gas, etc. Each room would be somewhat over-engineered, but this extra cost is offset by savings from the economies of scale due to mass-production. A home builder would simply assemble a chosen configuration of modules, and provide some finishing touches, such as the exterior facing, roofing, and utility hookups.

This approach would benefit from guaranteed quality of workmanship, replacing skilled labor (e.g., carpenters) with robots and 3D printing, and rapid construction. Moreover, the big innovation comes years later. As technology improves, and the homeowner wants to uptake improvements, it becomes a simple matter of replacing modules, and possibly reassembling them in a different configuration.

Cosmic inflation unnecessary

There is no time without clocks. There are no clocks without mass. There is no mass above the temperature at which bosons acquire mass through spontaneous symmetry breaking. Massless particles travel at the speed of light. When traveling at the speed of light, all components of its motion are through space and none are through time. All events in the universe become space-like.

Wouldn’t these conditions of the early universe by themselves explain the homogeneous and isotropic qualities without needing cosmic inflation? If energy can radiate arbitrarily far in space without time passing, there is no need for esoteric explanations of how that happened so quickly.

[Paraphrasing Penrose: E=mc^2 combined with E=hf (and f=1/t) means that without mass there can be no clocks and therefore no time.]

Non-Aggression Principle

The Non-Aggression Principle (NAP) is the only criterion for libertarianism. One might expect libertarians to be contemplating deeply and writing the most scholarly articles on the topic. One might expect libertarians to be forming the most precise definition of aggression and non-aggression. Alas, a search of the most prominent libertarians yields only passing references on the topic. Libertarians believe that the NAP must be self-evident, despite the lack of agreement on the precise definition of what constitutes aggression and what does not.

This matters not only as an academic endeavor. More importantly, it is the libertarian position of non-intervention in foreign policy that depends on a clear understanding of what the principled libertarian view is on foreign aggression. Presidential candidate Ron Paul was perceived by many conservatives, who otherwise supported his libertarian positions, to be off putting for his foreign policy, not because they believed so much in US military intervention, but because the libertarian position of non-intervention is effectively silent on when it is appropriate to deploy military assets in the face of foreign aggression to defend American interests. A libertarian candidate for Commander-in-Chief cannot evade this essential topic, because it is the foremost qualification for the job. It is not enough to hand wave a general remark about supporting a strong national defense. Because of the libertarian position on non-intervention it is incumbent upon a libertarian candidate for POTUS to assure the citizens that with restraint also comes an impassioned intolerance for foreign aggression and no hesitation to deploy overwhelming military force and unspeakable violence in retaliation to any foreign power that initiates force against America. Non-intervention does not mean pacifism or appeasement or isolationism or weakness.

Now what exactly constitutes aggression? And what is the proper response to various acts of aggression? Silence on these questions is what is losing libertarians nominations, because a void in leadership on matters of defense is catastrophic to the preservation of liberty at home.

Applied Cosmology: The Holographic Principle

The Holographic Principle says that a full description of a volume of space is encoded in the surface that bounds it. This arises from black hole thermodynamics, where the black hole entropy increases with its surface area, not its volume. Everything there is to know about the black hole’s internal content is on its boundary.

Software components have boundaries that are defined by interfaces, which encapsulate everything an outsider needs to know to use it. Everything about its interior is represented by its surface at the boundary. It can be treated like a black box.

Applied Cosmology: The Self Similar Paradigm

Robert Oldershaw’s research on The Self Similar Cosmological Paradigm [http://www3.amherst.edu/~rloldershaw/concepts.html] recognizes that nature is organized in stratified hierarchy, where every level is similar. The shape and motions of atoms is similar to stellar systems. Similarities extend from the stellar scale to the galactic scale, and beyond.

Managing complexity greatly influences software design. Stratified hierarchy is familiar to this discipline.

At the atomic level, we organize our code into units. Each unit is a module with a boundary, which exposes its interface that governs how clients interact with this unit. The unit’s implementation is hidden behind this boundary, enabling it to undergo change independently of other units, as much as possible.

We build upon units by reusing modules and integrating them together into larger units, which themselves are modular and reusable in the same way. Assembly of modules into integrated components is the bread and butter of object-oriented programming. This approach is able to scale up to the level of an application, which exhibits uniformity of platform technologies, programming language, design metaphors, conventions, and development resources (tools, processes, organizations).

The next level of stratification exists because of the need to violate the uniformity across applications. However, the similarity is unbroken. We remain true to the principles of modular reuse. We continue to define a boundary with interfaces that encapsulate the implementation. We continue to integrate applications as components into larger scale components that themselves can be assembled further.

Enterprises are attempting to enable even higher levels of stratification. They define how an organization functions and how it interfaces with other organizations. This is with respect to protocols for human interaction as well as information systems. Organizations are integrated into business units that are integrated into businesses at local, national, multi-national, and global scales. Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway has demonstrated how entire enterprises exhibit such modular assembly.

This same pattern manifests itself across enterprises and across industries. A company exposes its products and services through an interface (branding, pricing, customer experience) which encapsulates its internal implementation. Through these protocols, we integrate across industries to create supply chains that provide ever more complex products and services.

Insights into innovation