Wednesday, March 14, 2018

The Sublime and the Ridiculous

"Life", friends and I used to say in about 1980; when we were late twenty-somethings full of ourselves approaching the peaks of our lives, "is a game that should be called 'Gems and Turds'; Every day we reach into the bag and see what we pull out". 

The news today is gems and turds.  On one hand we have the simply horrific, disgusting speech the Hildebeest made - in a foreign country no less - depicting everyone who didn't vote for her as the most vile, despicable, racist, misogynistic, disgusting people she could imagine.  She has gone so far beyond calling us deplorable she can't see it in the rear view mirror.  So I will give the decrepit old hag and her speech every bit of recognition they deserve and not waste another pixel on them.

The gem, though is the life of Stephen Hawking, who passed away this morning on a doubly significant day.  First, today is Albert Einstein's birthday, and nobody in the current generation of scientists has been compared to Einstein as much as Hawking was.  Secondly, it's pi day: 3.14.  There's hardly a symbol more recognizable as math to the general population.

When Stephen was diagnosed with ALS - amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or Lou Gehrig's disease - in 1963, he was given a few years to live.  I don't think anyone would have him expected to live another 55 years to 76.  His biography is worthy of a good story.  He married, had children, divorced, remarried, and divorced again, all the while sliding further into his isolation from the rest of world. 

Yes, I read his most famous book, "A Brief History of Time" along with most of the rest of the planet, but his book was so successful that it had an unexpected side effect: it made him wealthy enough to be sure he'd be able to provide for his children after his disease took him. 

His fame and life story earned him guest spots on Star Trek The Next Generation, The Big Bang Theory and The Simpsons.  He celebrated his 60th birthday by taking a ride in a hot-air balloon. The same week, he also crashed his electric-powered wheelchair while speeding around a corner in Cambridge, breaking his leg.  Five years later, he took a ride with Go Zero G, riding in a specially modified Boeing 727 that flies a roller coaster course allowing short periods of weightlessness.  It was a prelude to a hoped-for trip to space with Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic company aboard SpaceShipTwo.  He said he does these things partly as a message: “I want to show that people need not be limited by physical handicaps as long as they are not disabled in spirit.”

A fairly well done obituary is in the NY Times

Credit Zero Gravity Corp., via Associated Press 

In his later years, Hawking became more anti-faith, changing from talking about “knowing the mind of God” to “It is not necessary to invoke God to light the ... ”, firecracker of the Big Bang. 

Rest well, Dr. Hawking.  For your sake, I truly hope you're right in your beliefs that “I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail. There is no heaven or afterlife for broken-down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.”  I think Blaise Pascal would have liked to talk with you about that. 


  1. And Isaac Newton was born 12 days after Galileo died. Almost makes you wonder if there is, or will be soon, a little kid who'll discover the Next Big Thing.

    Unified Field Theory, anyone?

    Seems like the current crop of Top Scientists are people of non-faith. I wonder if that's because of what the lying, mainstream, corrupt, elite media chose to promote, or if they of non-faith are really in the majority.

  2. Experimental evidence Hawking possessed about causes prior to the Big Bang: None. Given no evidence, why should he come to a conclusion?

  3. Anon, you make a fine point. I'd say that was very "unscientific" of him. Although it does seem that some people who see the suffering (in Hawking's case, who experienced it via disease)in the world assume that there cannot be a "good" Creator if suffering exists in His creation.

    They ignore the wisdom of Eliphas Levi, who explains: "Man accepts suffering in order to be free."

    Hard for those who don't really "get" God/Free-Will to understand.

    1. Suffering exists in Creation because God isn't at fault when you hit your thumb instead of the nail.


      BTW, the company in the pic is ZeroG (goZero-G is just their web addy).

      Zero-G's original aircraft was acquired by them for cheap when a Mexicana cargo operation couldn't keep the plane.

      I flew with them for the FX shots for Matrix II & III in about 2000, getting $50K worth of free astronaut time in a block of airspace over the Sierras from Bakersfield to Fresno, with Chad Stahelski, Keanu Reeves' spittin' image/stunt double, and director of the John Wick flicks, into the actual Neo coat, to zero-gravity kung-fu moves with about a dozen of the Chinese martial artists who did Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. (So unless you're an astronaut, one of their employees, made Apollo XIII, or fly high-performance aircraft, I have probably more zero-G time than *you*.)

      30 seconds of being Superman, followed by a 3G pullout. Lather, rinse, repeat.

      Absolute best week of my entire life: two hops a day, land for lunch and refueling, and get paid for it.
      (Because at 40K', *I* was 9-1-1.)

      The guys who ran it were the founders, all laid-off NASA guys with between 10-30 years of experience running the actual Vomit Comet, back to the Apollo days.

      I suggested a couple of things re: Hollywood, and they had a pretty good idea for how to run an adventure-based airline. They now have about 30-40 employees, up from the three guys that started it.

      Most crushing sadness: I told 'em I'd be their in-flight medic anytime, anywhere, and when they were coming back out to SoCal again, e-mailed me, and I was going to get to go up again, gratis, when they took me up on my offer.

      So all I had to do was meet them at the airport nearby, on Saturday.

      September 15th.


      Still hurts to think about, 16+ years later.

      I can only imagine what it must have been like for Hawking, wracked with ALS, to do it.

    2. I am seriously jealous of that! Talk about a sweet plum job assignment. Yeah, every job has elements of suck to it, but - dang - what an environment.

      When I looked up the company I was really interested in it until I saw the price tag.

  4. It's a bunch of circular argument fallacies for straw man purposes. 'If there is a God, who is understandable like a Man, then I can make more progress reasoning about stuff. If humans are really, really special, then they deserve the attention of the creator of the universe to manage them.' Show me how you justify that first step. Just like 'interpretations of quantum mechanics', the experimental data doesn't speak to it so we shouldn't be believing it.

    There appear to be two possibilities: 1) God with nothing above or outside, and 2) an infinite regress hierarchy of Gods. Both options appear to be non-sense, because neither answer the "what's outside" question.

    1. Um, that entire opening sentence is one long Straw Man fallacy of yours.

      There may be a way to state what you intended without falling prey, but that ain't it.

      Take another whack.

    2. Data from experiments is used to determine which hypotheses match reality better. There is zero high energy physics experiment data which speaks to conditions prior to the big bang. With no data, we don't know who or what caused the big bang.