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Posts Tagged ‘Time’

The Genesis Machine

The moment of impact in the CERN super-conductor

I’m no physics guy, but from what I gather, that was one hell of an explosion that occurred Tuesday 300 feet below the border of Switzerland and France. Infinitesimally small but immensely powerful.

Two subatomic particles travelling just below the speed of light on a collision path around a 17-mile super-conductor tunnel, successfully smashed into each other, creating 7 trillion electron volts worth of energy and conditions resembling the first fractions of a second after the birth of the universe.

The great hunt is on; researchers at 10,000 laboratories across the world will be looking at the results of this and dozens of subsequent explosions in the years ahead for mysterious subatomic particles that are only theorized to exist. Along the way, they may create tiny black holes and open the door to the discovery of other dimensions. This is pretty heavy stuff.

It’s been a neat and romantic supposition that the world of the very large and the world of the very small are very similar; that electrons orbiting a nucleus are like planets circling a sun. It doesn’t work like that. Electrons don’t orbit. They sort of appear and disappear and appear again at a different place in proximity to the nucleus; no one can predict where they are or where they’ll turn up next. This incongruity between the cosmological scale and the particle scale drove Albert Einstein nuts.

He figured all his theories that proved correct about time, gravity, light and the behavior of physics in the cosmos would be replicated in the small world of particle physics. He went to his grave hunting for the elusive “unified theory” that would have predicted how both worlds operate.

The two worlds are, indeed, very different and the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) has put a $9.4 billion bet on the table that through it’s massive super-collider, the small world may reveal startling answers to exactly what happened in the moments after the big bang brought everything into being.

The Associated Press quotes physicist, Michio Kaku as putting it this way:

This is a huge step toward unraveling Genesis Chapter 1, Verse 1 — what happened in the beginning. This is a Genesis machine. It’ll help to recreate the most glorious event in the history of the universe.

Einstein may have found it ironic and perhaps irritating that particle physics might someday solve the puzzle of the origins of the larger world he pretty much figured out.

Savings vs Standard Time: Stop Changing the Clocks!

March 15, 2010 6 comments

“The only reason for time is so that everything doesn't happen at once.”- Albert Einstein

Well, we have just “sprung forward” and deceived ourselves once again by all agreeing that it will be one hour later today than it was yesterday.  Count me as an enemy of Daylight Savings Time.   Or rather time changes, in general.  Keep Standard Time or Savings Time, but can we please stop trying to manipulate time and just go to one or the other and keep it there? 

I don’t like losing the hour of sleep.  I really, really don’t.  The Monday morning after the spring time-change is hell on a lot of people.  I also don’t appreciate losing an hour of anything much less sleep, much less life.   This is not a trivial matter.  Studies have found that seasonal changes in the circadian rhythm can be severe and last for weeks.  A 2008 study found male suicide rates rose during the three weeks after the change to Savings time.  Another study found heart attacks are significantly more common in the first three days after the Spring time-change.

This past weekend, I put my foot down.  If time is going to mess with me, than I am going to mess with time- at least in my house.  That’s why I set the clock two hours ahead on Sunday.  You see, I love that time in October when we “fall” back because we all gain that extra hour of life.  So to get that feeling again, I figured that if I awoke Sunday morning at 9am, Standard time and now it was actually 10am, Savings time, then by having my clocks set at 11am, there would be a point later in the week when I’ll switch to everyone else’s time and go- “Ha!  I have gained an hour!”

“That’s nuts, Robert,” you may be saying to yourself.  But how different is my unilateral decision to abide by a different measurement of time in my own home, than everyone else’s group decision to all fool ourselves at once outside of our homes?   There are alternatives, you know.   Instead of changing the clocks, why don’t people just go to work and come home an hour earlier?  It’s the same as my unilateral decision to move the clocks ahead by two hours in my home.  We’re all just deceiving ourselves.

 I’ve never really understood the benefits of Daylight Savings Time.  No one has really figured out  how much energy it saves.  It certainly used to mean savings when the use of incandescent light bulbs was a big deal and more daylight after work meant less use of electricity.   But increasingly, our uses of power are not tied to light.  We don’t use computers any less because it’s darker in the morning or lighter in the evening. 

Massachusetts Democratic Congressman, Tom Markey is very, very proud about this Daylight Savings time thing.   I met him once and it was all he could talk about.  He’s the one responsible for going to Savings time earlier in the year and keeping it longer.   In case you were wondering, matters of time are the jurisdiction of the House Energy and Commerce committee, of which he is the Chairman.  Here’s Markey’s reasoning:

The change in the beginning of Daylight Saving Time is just one step towards making our country more efficient in its usage of energy and conscious of our environment.  Not only will Americans have more daylight at their disposal for four additional weeks in the year, but we will also see wide energy saving, less crime, fewer traffic fatalities, more recreation time and increased economic activity. Ultimately, day light saving just brings a smile to everybody’s faces.

Speak for yourself, Markey!  It does not bring a smile to my face; it makes me want to wipe the smile off yours.  But ok, for the sake of argument, let’s award Markey several brownie points for saving energy and reducing crime and car accidents.   Then why the heck do we go back to Standard time in the Fall?   It’s ok to go for 5 months wasting energy, causing more accidents and committing more crimes?

Just go permanently to Savings time and stop messing around with our clocks!  As much as I truly like the guy, sometimes I wonder if what really motivates Congressman Markey is the control he has over our lives.   It is rather heady stuff, if you think about it.  I control the time you live by.   Now, that’s power.