All aboard. People I very much appreciate:

Monday, November 24, 2014

Talking With Hilbert Space

A couple years ago, I posted a poem entitled "Planting In Hilbert Space". Nine people looked at it but none commented --not an unusual count for my poetry but I have come to suspect some confusion overtook the dynamic of delivery and concept. Nor do I understand what I have just written, so let us examine this enigma together. First, an examination of Hilbert is in order.

Hilbert space is named after David Hilbert (German mathematician, 1862-1943). It generalizes the concept of Euclidean space and extends the method of vector algebra from two- and three-dimensional space to spaces of any finite or infinite number of dimensions. Hilbert decided, "Physics is too hard for physicists", so he devised a kinetic geometry consistent with human imagination. Hilbert Space became a computational model universe that is mathematically complete and can be used to generate proofs of theoretical phenomena.

Hilbert kept it inside his really really big hat.

My success in duplicating this device depended upon carefully collecting the principal components over a period of many years. Normaphoto below shows the apparatus consists of two globes of Hilbert Space, one nickle-plated steel (1920's ice-cube shaver) and one plexiglass (so we can see the plasmoid flux inside), a 1900 Western Electric candlestick telephone, some wires and a bell.

I assembled these items into a unified philosophical instrument and waited...and waited...oh then I remembered to plug it in. Then the bell rang.


"Hello, this is Hilbert Space 1 and 2. What?"

At this point I hurriedly recited my poem:

Planting In Hilbert Space

Something wakes as from a dream,
Shakes itself and begins.
It is you, me, everyone who
Has been and will be.
It can see
Time, swim gravity,
Stretch its electric body
Over rises, bends,
To wonders where
Galaxies spin and what
Is born where all
Of it ends.
Every spark contains our
Hopes, sorrows.
As from a dream, I ask:
Tomorrows, please, can
You promise tomorrows?

To which Hilbert Space replied, "Oh sure, why the hell not?"

Monday, November 17, 2014

Genies, Courthouse Doodlebugs And Lunch Enigmas

                                          [Normaphoto: Robert Matsui U.S. Courthouse}]

I like to think our present selves are genies who grant wishes to selves we used to be, and continue to do so even while the present becomes fixed, certain, passes and turns to stone. Variables disappear. Present self becomes former and joins immutable history like stone doodlebugs.

We can pursue some certainty by asking questions that span time. I asked two of the many mischievous doodlebugs that infest our courthouse down by the river --a process recorded by Norma in the picture above. Doodlebugs are turning to stone. I am on their right, turning to jerky. Here is a transcript:

"Do our minds associate ideas or do ideas, aware of themselves, group out of affection?"


"Are more things far away than close up because there is more room for them?"


"After Galileo and Copernicus shattered Ptolemy's "Celestial Spheres" theory, did he ever let them play with his things again?"


"Is thought the only physical process exempt from the predetermined behavior of matter?"


"To future observers, what is the difference between an arrow shot into a bulls-eye and a bulls-eye painted around an arrow shot anyplace?"


"Why do all children, at a certain age, eat pitted olives off their fingertips?"


"Does zero, which reproduces itself mathematically by subtraction, prove its own absence?"


"If all players in a game of tag touch each other at once, who's it?"


"Can I hang a photograph of itself hanging on my wall?"


The only defense available to stone doodlebugs against human questions is a U.S.Court-Approved Silence Act to minimize annoyance to them. So I left  and joined some family and friends aboard the Delta King, an old sternwheeler docked off Front Street and stocked with food and beer. We all asked each other many questions over the table. I found interrogatives dispel all concept of a stagnant universe and make lunch more fun.

                                                [Delta KingCC BY-SA 3.0  by J.smith ]

Another question did occur to me aboard the riverboat. I thought of Heraclitus, who said, "It is impossible to step into the same river twice." I hoped it would at least be possible to have lunch on it again. I wanted to ask someone about it but my company had already seen me talking to statues and framed their own interrogatives about my sanity, so I refrained. Such an inquiry might defeat its own motive.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Clouds Fly Now


A popularly accepted sign that an older person is about to garrulate are the words, "Young people nowadays..." and "Time was...".  It is a pattern, just as children extend their thoughts beyond available data, just as I often say things I haven't thought of yet. We progress in life from free playground repartee to underwear arguments with college roommates, then brittle tête-à-têtes with colleagues, to finally leaning close and asking, "eh!? what was that?" But there is no really reliable forecast of impending garrulity. That is a myth.

Young people nowadays have it way harder than my generation. Time was, I remember, 40-50 years ago, we had a huge number of young people who wanted, above all, happiness --happiness for everybody. Then it attenuated to happiness for themselves because not everybody could be happy about everything. Then they grew into very loud churches and subcultures that desired their own happiness over the unhappiness of others and paradise was lost. Sorry stuff, but kids now fear for their lives.

Young people nowadays aren't safe. They'd like to be. They'd like to achieve the same safe, sustainable society all generations want. But we are stuck on Heraclitus who observed, "All beasts are driven to the pasture with blows." This does not improve the disposition of new Utopians. Young people are not beasts, they are human. We are human. Humans possess a capacity for nonsense, for imagination, qualities that can thwart designs of corporate voices in the head and brutalities of misrule. Imaginative nonsense can lead us places for which defensive logic is sometimes too ponderously awkward.

Young people nowadays, to them I suggest, consider the clouds. Consider herds of them making their way inland from the sea. They are heading toward distant mountains to resolve into streams, join rivers, enrich the land then return to the sea once more. An ongoing cycle, but it too has changed since I was young. Clouds fly now. Time was, clouds had to walk inland. I'd see them plodding along lonely roads with gravel and weeds sticking to their foggy feet. They moved slowly, wearily, often minus parts that snagged on fences or got sheared by a passing truck. They had dangerous work.

In the evening you could always tell when a cloud was knocking on the door. There wasn't a knock so much as a chuff-chuff, which was all their soft fists could manage. They'd ask for a glass of water. Sometimes they'd want directions to a nice pasture to lie down in, which was sad because they never got up --but it was how we got vernal pools so we accepted it. Then, by and by, something changed.

Somewhere, maybe out on the ocean, a cloud leaned forward and fell in a certain way and, as you and I sometimes do in dreams, began to fly. Clouds, like young people nowadays, are natural rubberneckers and once they get the principle of a thing they do it too. Before long, all clouds got to flying, like the ones in the picture above, and they arrived whole and safe upon high ranges of the earth. Young People Nowadays, go thou and do likewise.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

All I Seem To Do Lately

Above is a Normaphoto of me on the phone to far away offices with strange-sounding names, cheerfully demonstrating an astonishing degree of ignorance. Mercifully cropped from the frame is a drift of brochures and forms --paper forms because I don't understand electronic contracts-- that have occupied my every spare moment for two months, and promise to occupy more months. I remember a time when a series of simple insurance transactions were accomplished in minutes and did not stretch out so and threaten to become a way of life.

Times change, of course, and progress demands electronic intimacy between personal accounts and providers, but I don't like it. I still have two dollars I don't want them to know about. So I decline this brash new technological efficiency for fear I'll disappear in a puff of logic, and tell them so. They doubtless have some coded category in Boolean algebra for my species of idiot but it cannot be entirely defined --it's in the Bible: "The perverse are hard to be corrected and the number of fools is infinite"(Ecclesiastes 1:15, Douay-Rheims American Edition).

Infinity is so big and various that I have used my mental remains to design protection for their residue. I'm not talking about aluminum foil hats here. I'm talking about tinfoil, which is alloyed with lead to keep it from cracking. A hat of leaded tinfoil would deflect all sorts of quantum incursions that aluminum lets right in like a moose through a hole in a window screen.

Consider improvements in human communities that resulted from early plumbing, which was all lead. Yes, lead has a toxicity that lowers the intelligence of those repeatedly exposed to it but many things that advance civilization make us a little stupid --like tinfoil hats and electronic contracts. Excuse me, I have just confused myself.


Saturday, November 1, 2014

Man And Machine

When man is sent to clean up his shed, he will easily find the following items within seconds: cowl from an 1890s Holmes stereoscope; two matching 1940s Kodak lens assemblies; copper carb float from Briggs & Stratton engine; old Bell and Howell Super-8 camera-grip; trombone bits; poem written years ago about dogs and stuff; brass parts off an irrigation control box.

Suddenly, the items link up in man's mind and his tidying chore changes. Where he expected junk, was determined and ruthless against junk and dedicated to its abolition, man is now awed and hypnotized by possibility, by collocation. Collocation is junk that assumes character and purpose in the presence of man --cool junk.

Oddments emerge from three centuries to combine on a bench. Man builds a machine. He names it Hoots. It will do cool stuff: function (function is stuff man is no good at) will follow form. In this case, the machine is a demonstrably remarkable public speaker.

Hoots recites its little poem with all the finesse of its maker --delayed, jerky gestures and sporadic mouth-paralysis. It has equalled man and relieved him from suffering these particulars in public. But, most importantly, it has distracted man from any further silly ideas about cleaning his shed.

{Clip: Hoots On Dogs And Humans}