Wednesday, October 31, 2012


Our seventh planet from the sun has been known about since ancient times, but most of the ancients thought it was a star, as only a dim point of light is visible from earth.    In the 1970s, we got our first good look at it, and what we saw was a dull green-grey sphere.   However, this planet has a greater significance.

Uranus is one of the odder planets in the solar system.   It has a much greater axis of rotation, being either 96 or 106 degrees, depending on which of the two definitions you are using.   If you are basing it on the way the planet rotates, and assuming the rightwards based rotation  is the north pole, then it's 106 degrees.  It's the coldest planet in the solar system.  There is one planet further way, Neptune, and the numerous dwarf planets beyond like Pluto, but these have additional internal heat from radioactivity that warm them up.

But soon enough on geological time, Uranus will have to become our home.   In one billion years, our home star will become a red giant star.   The innermost planets will be incinerated, and if we can't move the earth in time, it will be charred into a lifeless glowing rock.   And we too would be baked if we can't move the earth in time.

When the red giant phase is complete, the habitable zone, currently in our orbit, will have moved to the Uranus orbit.   I'd like to believe that we'll move the earth into being a new moon, but in all practicality, we'll probably just abandon the earth and rebuild on the various moons that are already there.

We'll need energy, in greater quantities than I can readily imagine, and technology that I can't even dream of, but we have a billion years to do it.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Holographic Universe

So I've seen in several places that a large group of scientists are talking to the press about the possibility that the entire universe may be some sort of hologram or simulation.   Amateur philosophers quickly run to their armchairs to talk about what this means, so I think I need to weigh in as well.
Holography comes from greek words meaning "whole image."  It's a way of recording something 3 dimensional on a 2d surface.   The typical holograms that we interact with day to day are made by shining a laser off the object to record onto film.   The film then develops a complicated photograph that, when that same laser is shined back on it, reproduces a ghostly 3d image of the original subject.
A similar idea floated in philosophy is that the universe is a simulation, or a dream.   These ideas are hardly new -- most Hindu sects were proposing this well over 3 thousand years ago.   Other religions like Buddhism and Christian Science also are very attached to the idea that the universe is a dream or in some other way not the true objective reality.
So, if the universe is some sort of hologram, what would it mean?

Well, for starters, what is it encoded on?   Could we change this encoding?   More importantly, could we change a small part of this encoding without screwing everything else up?  If planets for everyone!

Suddenly huge amounts of physics would cease to be relevant, as we could screw around with the original medium to travel faster than light, reverse entropy, and other patent nonsense.

If not...well, it's an interesting idea, but with no practical implication to our lives, it's relegated to the realms of philosophy to be endlessly argued about by various bizarre factions.

On a similar note, if the universe was some sort of simulation, I think I'd use my programming knowledge to cheat like crazy:

struct wallet{
   *plasticrectangle creditcards[8];
   *paperrectangles money;
   *plasticrectangle id;
   *foldedpaper carinsurance;

Whereupon my wallet promptly explodes due to Pauli principle violations and I use the proceeds to buy a new wallet, house, car, and secret laboratories in Tahiti, Hawaii, the moon, and Mars.

This could also be used to teleport things and people:

struct location
float x;
float y;
float z;

home.location=self.location(x), self.location(y), self.location(z);

I could now arbitrarily teleport myself home:


I guess what I'm trying to say is that these ideas are interesting, if a little impractical.
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