Archive for November, 2007

String Theory

Posted in opinion with tags , , , , , , , , on 2007 November 19 by KLP

In AP Physics, I had the Elegant Universe by Brian Greene as assigned reading. My verbal reaction to it was something like, “this is all very interesting, but isn’t String Theory kind of an idle pursuit?” I recall that my teacher got annoyed. Anyway, I filed String Theory away in my mind for a while, until I watched the Nova special of the same title as the book with Kat and Bidya. I still find it very interesting and I still have a hard time as seeing it as anything more than mental masturbation. If string theory is not true, or if there is no unifying relationship between gravity and the other forces, would we miss it?What irks Kat and I is that String Theory is a sensation and it receives more attention than fields of science that are not only practical, but uncontested as fields of science. There doesn’t appear to be any way to disprove String Theory, after all. What is worrisome is the possibility that String Theory receives grant money. A quick Google search yields no evidence of this, but it isn’t a stretch to charge that for every bit of attention that String Theory gets, the rest of science gets that much less attention. For example, the Nova special on String Theory could have been a special on Medicinal Chemistry instead. Conceivably then, if there is a relationship between attention and funding, there is less funding available for the rest of science. If that’s the case, then it’s a damn shame because labs, such as my girlfriend’s, have to work really hard for their grant money.

But I am not about to take part in any war on String Theory. It is fun to think about dimensions beyond the four that we can perceive and whether or not the void of space is really a void. The truth is that funding shouldn’t be so damn scarce in the first place. The War on Drugs and the War on Terror gobble up more funding than String Theory ever could. [Yes, this article just took a political tack.] Wondering where the AIDS vaccine is, where the Male Pill is, where a viable, safe, and renewable alternative to fossil fuels is? These goals are smoldering in Iraq and decaying amongst sprayed coca crops in Colombia. Consider that in 2005, AIDS claimed an estimated 2.8 million lives. In the same year, AIDS research received $19.7 billion in funding from the US while the Iraq War received that much in a little more than three months. In contrast, it is estimated that 290,000 were killed under Saddam Hussein’s rule of 24 years. Understandably, many have strong opinions regarding terrorism and narcotics. But, if you are thinking of voting for someone who supports the Wars on Terrorism and Drugs, please consider where your tax dollars won’t be going first. When science gets the funding and attention it deserves, then maybe String Theory can finally become the non-issue it ought to be.

QED

The above comic was taken from xkcd.com.

Advertisements

Randall’s Island, NY

Posted in music, Photo with tags , , , , on 2007 November 5 by KLP
I never really said anything about the Arcade Fire concert. It was a far cry from when I went with Kat to see them in February 2005. In fact, here are some of my exact words about that show…

Eventually, some odd music came on. I think it was Win Butler’s grandfather’s music. Then the band appeared. And then, they rocked. Let my try and reproduce the setlist.

Wake Up
Neighborhood #2 (Laika)
No Cars Go
Haiti
Neighborhood #4 (7 Kettles)
Intervention
Une Annee Sans Lumiere
Neighbor-hood #3 (Power Out) / Rebellion (Lies)
In the Backseat (?)
[encore]
Headlights Look Like Diamonds
Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)

[Sigh] I can’t remember very well. Crown of Love and Born on a Train were also played, but I don’t remember when exactly. And there was definitely one more song in the encore.

I know that if you’ve been following this band, you’ve heard or read what I’m about to say before. This concert was the best concert I have ever been to. Coming from me, that doesn’t say much. I have not attended that many concerts. So let me elaborate. I cannot remember a time before seeing the Arcade Fire preform that I felt so close to pure satisfaction, nirvana. Then again, I’ve never been to a concert under the same circumstances. I can’t remember being as close to a band. I can’t remember liking the music as much before hand. I can’t remember a band that interacted with the crowd so well. I can’t remember a band that poured out so much energy, and was so fundamentally earnest in their efforts to not only rock, but establish a warm but fierce intimacy with the audience. Win knew people in the crowd from, apparently, having worked with them from living for a time in Boston. He talked with them. Even at the end of the show, the end of the tour, they came down from the stage and, in funeral procession style, encircled the crowd with their instruments in hand. Win mangled the second highest string on a bass and violently tore apart the strings on a six-string.

And as I said, this left me completely, purely satisfied and free of desire, at least to the extent to which I was aware. I have an extremely elementary understanding of Buddhist philosophy. What I know and believe tells me that Thursday night was a good thing, despite the weather, despite getting lost, and despite paying what was surely too much for tickets. I didn’t even feel that empty, punched-in-the-gut sensation that I normally experience when I pay too much for something.

That passage came from my old LiveJournal. What a time capsule. Anyway, this time around, four bands opened for Arcade Fire, and they were all really good. I’m glad to have finally seen Les Savy Fav live. Tim Harrington, the lead singer, or performer, is crazy and funny, but what’s just plain weird is that his band is totally legit, and they play like he doesn’t exist. Even though I didn’t really care that much about them before the show, I really enjoyed Blonde Redhead. They have a really deep, moody sound that contrasted sharply with Les Savy Fav’s schizophrenia, but they served as an appropriate bridge into LCD Soundsystem’s epic performance. LCD Soundsystem was the only band that night to actually look at home on that huge stage. Their sound, and the accompanying light show impressed this first time LCD Soundsystem listener. Frankly, they outdid Arcade Fire, the headliner. In my concert going experience, the headliner is always louder than the opening acts. Arcade Fire didn’t follow the pattern at this show, and their first two song suffered because the person at the soundboard was probably a little miffed too. Furthermore, the band had a hard time connecting with the crowd, at least to the extend which they did when I saw them two years ago. Contributing to the impersonal experience were the massive, yet cool, visual displays that effectively devoured the band. In an attempt to interact with the crowd, the best Win could do was to bash Mr. Bush, and the best his brother could do was to climb some scaffolding with a drum. Incidentally, it was brother Butler’s birthday, and all this sick person could think was how awful it would be if he fell to his death. Anyway, as much as I don’t like the President, and as much as I like dangerous stunts, I used to think that Arcade Fire was above that. Don’t get me wrong. These guys are great live but they were better when I first saw them. I guess the point is that they’ve changed. But who can blame them. Arcade Fire has been hugely successful, and rightly so. They make good music.

Here are some good pictures that someone from Pitchfork took, and here a slide show that I took. I need to get better at taking photos.

Hiking Photography

Beautiful photos of hiking and other outdoor adventures.

@dmytri

Venture Communist. Miscommunications Technologist. Telekommunisten Polemicist. ThoughtWorks Analyst.