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The Universe and Everything in It

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Windwalker
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Welcome, travelers

Postby Windwalker » Tue Jan 23, 2007 12:01 pm

Travelers from near and far, welcome to Starship Ni'ván.

Make yourselves at home and share your stories.
For I come from an ardent race
That has subsisted on defiance and visions.

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rocketscientist
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Postby rocketscientist » Wed Jan 24, 2007 10:18 am

Thanks! I think I will!

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intrigued_scribe
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Postby intrigued_scribe » Wed Jan 24, 2007 9:38 pm

Thanks for the lovely welcome!

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Marie
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Welcome

Postby Marie » Wed Jan 24, 2007 11:38 pm

Thanks for the welcome!
Love this wonderous creation. The Gallery is absolutely stunning! I can hardly wait until we have a whole pluthera of posters when we go live. I am feeling my way around to become familiar and so far everything is a go in my estimation.
Captain, you have really out done yourself this time. A comment by rocketscientist tells it all. "This is the prettiest SciFi site I have seen" and I concur wholeheartedly. :!:
Marie

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caliban
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I'm new to *you*

Postby caliban » Thu Mar 01, 2007 7:21 pm

Greetings! Athena (Our Beloved Moderator) invited me to join and has asked me to introduce myself: I am a professor of physics with a background in nuclear physics and astrophysics, and teach computational physics and quantum mechanics.

What Else You Should Know About Me: Wild, new-age claims about quantum mechanics--cf "The Tao of Physics"--is one of the best ways to make me angry :x. Saying "it's only a metaphor" cuts you no slack, because I have spent time in poetry seminars and have published poetry, so I know the difference between good metaphors and sloppy ones, although admittedly a lot of awful poetry gets published. My collection of minor publications extends beyond poetry to SF, having studied SF and writing under Kim Stanley Robinson, Joanna Russ, Algis Budrys, Peter S. Beagle, and Tim Powers, and if you were to ask Steve Baxter or Karen Joy Fowler if they know me they would not deny it, at least not under oath.

This, I strangely enough feel, gives me the right to teach a course on Science and Science Fiction, a class where students get science credit for reading science fiction rather than doing calculus--and yet they still complain it's too hard, because they have to read six books.

Cheers,

Calvin a.k.a. "Caliban" (having a "handle" or usename makes me feel like I'm one of the X-men--I have this sudden urge to put on yellow spandex. Unfortunately my mutant power is merely the ability to get worked up about, yep, bad science metaphors.)
"Results! Why, man, I have gotten a lot of results. I know several thousand things that won't work." --Thomas A. Edison

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Windwalker
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Welcome, O Caliban!

Postby Windwalker » Thu Mar 01, 2007 7:41 pm

I am very happy and excited to have Calvin join us. We met when we were both starting in our respective scientific research careers, and have stayed in touch every since as friends, SF denizens and readers of each other's work. Calvin's works combine imaginative concepts with subtle execution. He can communicate complex scientific concepts in literary terms and create nuanced non-Western future human cultures, both rare achievements in SF.

As someone who broke out in hives when I read Penrose and Kaufmann's quantum microtubule "theory", I totally agree about sloppy metaphors (and sloppy thinking). As for spandex... black is OK, as long as the wearer has Wolverine's or Rogue's body shape! (*laughs*)
For I come from an ardent race
That has subsisted on defiance and visions.

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Marie
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Welcome Calvin aka Caliban

Postby Marie » Fri Mar 02, 2007 12:44 am

Welcome to our fellowship of sci-fi/fantasy devotees, authors, essayists, artists and of course scientists, professors, researchers etcetera, so on and so forth.
I love your moniker of Caliban and thought he received a bum rap by the "Bard" in The Tempest. However, he achieved his redemption in the 1994 Tad Williams novelette, Caliban's Hour.
As I read over your brief bio, I noticed you teach quantum mechanics. Although I am not a student of science, :( maybe you can give me a layman's briefing on the n body problem of celestial mechanics.
It has been bugging me since its short appearance in the old film "The Day the Earth Stood Still" from the early 50's.
The Fantasy Worlds of Peter Beagle was a book that captivated me years ago and especially The Last Unicorn (which, by the way, has just been released in new DVD form with all the appropriate bells and whistles to make it worth while.)
So, again, welcome! We look forward to your input on the forum or in the blogs.

Marie

PS: Don't know about yellow spandex, I agree with Athena black is definitely better. It does wonders with almost all body types :wink:

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caliban
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Re: Welcome Calvin aka Caliban

Postby caliban » Fri Mar 02, 2007 1:22 am

Marie wrote:I love your moniker of Caliban and thought he received a bum rap by the "Bard" in The Tempest.

I love "The Tempest."

Almost all scientists think they are Prospero, and share his arrogance and over-confidence. I think Shakespeare critiques Prospero through his servants Ariel and Caliban too--don't forget the scene where Ariel shames Prospero into compassion for the wrecked ship. Caliban has grievances with Prospero, and "The Tempest" debates nature vs nurture. (And the scenes with Caliban and Stephano and Trinculo, properly done, are some of the funniest in all the English language.) So I find it appropriately humbling to identify not with Prospero but with Caliban.

Along with "The Day the Earth Stood Still," one of my favorite SF movies is "Forbidden Planet" which is a retelling of "The Tempest."

Not only that, but of course Miranda exclaims the famous phase "O Brave New World that has such wondrous creatures in it!" The real meaning of Huxley's title for his seminal SF novel comes in Prospero's sneered response, which Huxley does not reference but must have had in mind, at least unconsciously: "Tis new to thee."


Whew.

As for the n body problem, perhaps we should start a forum on science etc.
"Results! Why, man, I have gotten a lot of results. I know several thousand things that won't work." --Thomas A. Edison

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Windwalker
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Colors and threads

Postby Windwalker » Fri Mar 02, 2007 1:42 am

caliban wrote:Caliban has grievances with Prospero, and "The Tempest" debates nature vs nurture.

Very much so -- and, in the end, Prospero decides that both nature and nurture matter. I also wonder if Shakespeare knew that "kaliben" means "black" in Romany. He might, given that in most eras gypsies and actors were social outcasts in Europe and often traveled together.

caliban wrote:One of my favorite SF movies is "Forbidden Planet" which is a retelling of "The Tempest."

The Forbidden Planet's Caliban (the Monster from the Id) was remarkable, both conceptually and visually. It was genuinely scary, even with the fifties limited special effects.

caliban wrote:As for the n body problem, perhaps we should start a forum on science etc.

If you like, start a thread in the Poetry and Prose of Science forum!
For I come from an ardent race
That has subsisted on defiance and visions.

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Postby rocketscientist » Sat Mar 03, 2007 10:52 pm

Hello there! Welcome! Just a warning - if Sanscardinality gets all metaphysical on you just tell me. I'll smack him. :wink:

Great to have you. I read some of your writing on your site and would be thrilled to read more here if you ever care to post!

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Postby sanscardinality » Mon Mar 05, 2007 9:44 pm

As a dedicated fan of "What the Bleep do we Know", I would like to point out that modern physics proves once and for all that the universe is indeed balanced upon a turtle's back and is 5618 years old.

;-)

SC
Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative.

Oscar Wilde

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Postby sanscardinality » Mon Mar 05, 2007 9:45 pm

PS> Welcome aboard Caliban!
Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative.



Oscar Wilde

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caliban
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Postby caliban » Mon Mar 05, 2007 10:20 pm

sanscardinality wrote:As a dedicated fan of "What the Bleep do we Know", I would like to point out that modern physics proves once and for all that the universe is indeed balanced upon a turtle's back and is 5618 years old.

;-)

SC

Lucky you I can indeed detect sarcasm and irony... else beware the wrath of Caliban.

Once my wife was undergoing a minor medical procedure that nonetheless required her to be put under general anesthetic. While talking beforehand with the anesthesiologist, he expressed great admiration for "What the Bleep." We gritted our collective teeth and said nothing--best not to insult a man about to put your loved one on the edge of death--and hoped that, like most physicians, his knowledge of physiology far exceeded that of the other sciences.

I often hear bad science metaphors justified as "it's only a metaphor." I am a mediocre poet, but I do know something about metaphor, and I say that's BLEEEEEEEP. So here's a tip you can all use when in that situation, even if you are not sure if the science is actually wrong:

Metaphor and analogy are used to explain the unfamiliar in terms of the familiar. Using unfamiliar and obscure ideas, e.g., from science, completely defeats the purpose of metaphor and analogy.

(Why, then, does this practice persist? Easy: because science is perceived as being magically powerful. By using science analogies, people are hoping to invoke that power of science for their own uses.)
"Results! Why, man, I have gotten a lot of results. I know several thousand things that won't work." --Thomas A. Edison

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Windwalker
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Postby Windwalker » Mon Mar 05, 2007 10:25 pm

caliban wrote:Using unfamiliar and obscure ideas, e.g., from science, completely defeats the purpose of metaphor and analogy.

(Why, then, does this practice persist? Easy: because science is perceived as being magically powerful. By using science analogies, people are hoping to invoke that power of science for their own uses.)


Which brings us to postmodern deconstructionism and Alan Sokal's immortal hoax! (*laughs*)
For I come from an ardent race
That has subsisted on defiance and visions.

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Postby sanscardinality » Mon Mar 05, 2007 10:42 pm

I think there are analogues between different metaphysical perspectives and the implications of certain scientific discoveries. Of course, these are generally weak connections and also generally backfire as science moves on and further refines what we do know and the metaphysics stay locked into dogmatic views.

For example, the Christians I know tend to really like the Newtonian/Einsteinian view of a deterministic physical universe, even to the point of demoting God beneath logic. It seems to fit better with a Creator than does a universe with quantum smears and messy probability taking such a prominent role. On the other hand, Buddhists tend towards pointing out associations between their dogma and quantum theory. So while it may just be people trying to affiliate themselves to science in error, in many cases I think it's recognition (or the perception thereof) of an idea that they already adhere to, and so excitement at science "discovering" their already known "truth." It makes them feel smarter.

Personally, I find all "metaphysics" to be by nature incapable of accumulating evidence to support their positions, and so for me are relegated to the "nice fiction" bin. Some metaphysics may someday become physics, and then I'll pay more attention to them.

That said, I do find metaphysical concepts (whether from a good song, or from someone's "holy" book) to be useful in understanding what it is to be human and for that matter an engineer and student of science. Not a guide for those things, but useful in understanding them - almost in a role-playing sort of way (how would an Aristotelian think about this? Egad - Never mind!)

SC
Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative.



Oscar Wilde


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