definitive proof that time travel is impossible

If time travel is possible, then the present is the past for an infinite number of futures. (Assuming the time stream is changeable by travelers, and not fixed).

In an infinite number of futures, there are a sub-infinity number of those futures in which a time traveler exists who finds today, the day you are reading this blog post, a fascinating and pivotal moment in history.

Therefore, even if only a small fraction of those infinite future travelers obsessed with our today actually bother/have the means to travel to today, there are still an infinite number of them.

Therefore, today there should have been an infinite number of time travelers appearing from an infinite number of different futures. Or, as Douglas Adams would have said, “whop

Of course the same argument holds for every moment of every day in all of recorded history, so basically we should be inundated with infinite numbers of time travelers arriving at every moment of time for all time.

Since that is clearly not happening, time travel must be impossible.

I’d love to see a What-If XKCD on the idea of an infinite number of time travelers arriving today, actually… would probably be a mass extinction, the Earth would suffer gravitational collapse, and we’d be in a black hole. I think.

why I love the snow (a #Nemo tale)

In Wisconsin, we got the tail end of Winter Storm Nemo last night, with just a few inches, and today it’s a beautifully sunny day. The outlook for the east coast however is between a foot and two feet, which is truly monstrous.

But no matter how much it snows (and living in Wisconsin these past few years, I’ve seen and shoveled my fair share), I can’t resist the snow. It is just beautiful, it always manages to enchant me. One of my favorite writers on the internet, Auston Habershaw, penned a perfect paean to snow that speaks to me as well as for me:

Snow is something enchanted. It changes the whole world, flake by flake, degree by degree, until we emerge from our hiding places and find ourselves somewhere new and clean and fresh. The drab ordinariness of our daily world is now blanketed in silence and light, glowing beneath an invisible sun. You breathe deep, and the air sears your lungs with its chilly clarity. It’s like waking up from a bad dream and letting all the heavy, sticky violence of your nightmare fall away. There ‘s just you, alone, calm and surrounded by the quiet beauty of a new world.

It is no accident to my mind that CS Lewis had Lucy stumble through the wardrobe and into a Narnia locked in eternal winter. There seems nothing else in nature that captures the mystery and enchantment of life than a wood cloaked in shimmering ice.

there’s more, read the whole thing. I shared it on Facebook too and I hope it goes viral. Snow is beautiful. Even if you live in Northrend.

Also, did you know that it’s the Weather Channel that started naming these winter storms, not the National Weather Service? Literally an invention of their marketing department, and inspired by Twitter. Go figure.

pathological chemistry

FOOF goes BOOM
By way of this entertaining tall tale about how really nasty chemical compounds make for the best rocket fuels (with some conspiracy theorizing about “red mercury” and Chernobyl thrown in for fun), I ended up reading about FOOF, and was treated to one of the more entertaining lines of text I’ve read in some time:

If the paper weren’t laid out in complete grammatical sentences and published in JACS, you’d swear it was the work of a violent lunatic.

Context is king, so start here and then go here. Any chemists in the house?

(here’s the paper online with link to full text PDF!)

forget Obamacare and SCOTUS: it’s Tau day! it’s Back to the Future Day!

So, apparently there was this big hoo-hah today about some political thing or the other. But the real significance of today is this:

Back to the Future.. but the Future is NOW!

That’s right – today is the day that Doc set as the Future in the first Back to the Future movie!

UPDATE: No, it wasn’t. Three years too early. Sigh.

What’s more, today is also June 28, or “6/28” – which means it is Tau Day! What is tau, you ask? It’s the true circle constant (6.28), unlike that upstart Pi. For more details on the primacy of Tau and the centuries-old conspiracy that is Pi, see the Tau Manifesto, though really I think this image says it all:

Tau is one turn

and here’s a snappy little music video too:

so, enjoy today, a most historic and important day! And don’t worry/gloat too much about that other thing. It’s really not as important as this.

Obama and Uhura – the Great Communicators

I hope that the sheer awesomeness of this photo transcends politics. Actually, I know it does:

The Great Communicators

via Nichelle Nichols herself, who tweeted at the time:

I’ve always thought Obama had a bit of that Spock Cool about him – that classic photo of Nimoy and his Buick somehow encapsulated the character better than any on set.

Spock's Car

and of course, now in the “Alternate Reality” Spock and Uhura are getting it on. So there’s cosmic resonance.

Japanese nationalism and the Nanking massacre

Japan and IslamRemember this old fracas a few years ago? In a nutshell, a Japanese muslim found my site Talk Islam and revealed a very ugly side of Japanese nationalism that I had never really known about before. He really got set off y a pretty reasonable comment by Steven, and eventually left promising never to return. Well, he returned, promising a more temperate mindset about the Chinese people. However, he has resumed denying the Nanking Massacre ever occurred, which frankly is new to me. I rank this up with Armenian and Holocaust genocide denial, but the depth to which he as a Japanese nationalist believes that his nation was incapable of such atrocities is astounding. He argues poorly but I’ve seen that same mindset before, in response to 9-11 of course being the main example.

Anyway, just though I’d mention it here, despite it straying uncomfortably close to the political line I try to avoid at all costs.

Here’s a more representative picture of Japan’s muslims, by the way.

I love @Target – here’s why

The New York Timaes has a fascinating article on how Target does datamining on its customers:

For decades, Target has collected vast amounts of data on every person who regularly walks into one of its stores. Whenever possible, Target assigns each shopper a unique code — known internally as the Guest ID number — that keeps tabs on everything they buy. “If you use a credit card or a coupon, or fill out a survey, or mail in a refund, or call the customer help line, or open an e-mail we’ve sent you or visit our Web site, we’ll record it and link it to your Guest ID,” Pole said. “We want to know everything we can.”

Also linked to your Guest ID is demographic information like your age, whether you are married and have kids, which part of town you live in, how long it takes you to drive to the store, your estimated salary, whether you’ve moved recently, what credit cards you carry in your wallet and what Web sites you visit. Target can buy data about your ethnicity, job history, the magazines you read, if you’ve ever declared bankruptcy or got divorced, the year you bought (or lost) your house, where you went to college, what kinds of topics you talk about online, whether you prefer certain brands of coffee, paper towels, cereal or applesauce, your political leanings, reading habits, charitable giving and the number of cars you own. (In a statement, Target declined to identify what demographic information it collects or purchases.) All that information is meaningless, however, without someone to analyze and make sense of it. That’s where Andrew Pole and the dozens of other members of Target’s Guest Marketing Analytics department come in.

They are so good at this that they are able to predict due dates for pregnant women just based on buying patterns of lotions, vitamins, etc. and sends targeted coupons to those women. This sounds like a privacy nightmare, but it’s actually awesome. It would be great if Target sent me customized coupons for the products I buy regularly – or products that I want to buy, or am thinking about buying.

I want to see more of this kind of targeted enticement, not less, from the retailers I patronize. For example, if I had a coupon for a discount on a Kindle (which for me is a want, not a need) I might take the plunge. And the coupons would save me money in the long run.