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Fri, Jan. 1st, 2010, 01:01 am
Welcome to the Private Journal of Eric Herboso

Hello, and welcome to the private journal of Eric Herboso.

Because this is a private journal, I only give access to the articles within to those friends that pass the 'one year threshold' test. If you've been my friend for over a year, whether online or in person, I will likely give you access to the articles I compose within. Just send me an email at EricHerboso@gmail.com, and I'll add you to my friends list. Please be aware that you must create a free LiveJournal account in order to view the entries.

However, all is not lost to you others who wish to read some of my writings. I keep an open public blog at EricHerboso.com.

If you have any questions, comments, or otherwise want to say something, please feel free to either leave a comment here or send me off an email. I promise to read everything I receive. (c;

Be well.


Wed, Nov. 19th, 2008, 06:34 pm
End Child Hunger in America

As most of you know, I work as the webmaster of Share Our Strength, a national organization dedicated to ending child hunger. When I first joined, I did not know nearly as much about the issue as I do now. What I've learned has astonished me.

Poverty is complex; solving hunger is easy. We already know what works, and we already have the tools in place to ensure no child in America has to go hungry again. The only thing we lack is money.

Let me repeat that for emphasis. The ONLY thing we lack is money.

Change.org is accepting submissions of ideas on how we can change America and will be submitting ten of them to then President Barack Obama on inauguration day. I want the #1 issue that he sees to be ending child hunger in America.

To do this, all I need is for you to go to change.org and vote on this issue. With enough votes, we can ensue that first thing President Obama sees is a plan to end child hunger in America in less than a decade.

This issue is big enough to make a difference, yet small enough to be doable RIGHT NOW. With one in six American children at risk of hunger, it is abominable that we could conceivably justify spending money elsewhere. We already have proven scalable solutions to ending domestic child hunger. Let me repeat: WE ALREADY HAVE PROVEN SCALABLE SOLUTIONS TO ENDING DOMESTIC CHILD HUNGER. All we lack is funding. All we lack is legislative will.

Please go to change.org and vote on this issue, and please send this message to all of your friends. If we do this, we really and truly can eliminate child hunger in America within ten years. Within ten years!

It's time to do this, America. Let's end child hunger in our country once and for all. Yes, we can.

Fri, Nov. 14th, 2008, 07:09 am
EricHerboso.com is finally up!

After multiple delays, I have finally gotten EricHerboso.com up and running!

While I will still occasionally post to LiveJournal for private entries, all public posts will now be posted to EricHerboso.com. Please point your RSS reader to EricHerboso.com/blog/feed/rss to continue to receive updates, and don't forget to visit EricHerboso.com to see my new site!

Fri, Feb. 15th, 2008, 01:42 am
My Thoughts on Science (& a Bit on Religion, too)

I always have such a tough time explaining how I think to other people. No one ever seems to be able to follow my train of thought no matter how hard I try to explain myself, and I consistently end up thinking that maybe there's some part of me that is crazy in a way that is obvious to others but is completely invisible to me.

As I write this, I think I am undergoing a process that is wholly indescribable in the limited vocabulary I now possess (though my rss subscription to Erin McKean is slowly fixing this problem). I am, I think, falling in love with science, even as I abhor further and further the idea of 'science' that I held as a child. I'll try to explain.

As a child, I was taught the scientific method: observe, hypothesize, test, conclude, repeat. It was presented to me as a way of approaching truth in our world. Through science, we get closer and closer to the true reality, and although at any given point in history we are incorrect on the specifics of how things work, at each successive stage we get closer and closer to what is real. (I.e., in Newton's day we had strong knowledge of classical physics, which was correct to a certain degree of fine-tuning; then came quantum physics which gives identical solutions as classical physics in the aggregate, but gave better knowledge when the fine tuning was tuned ever finer.)

I really did trust in this way of thinking for a long while, and I know many (if not most) current scientists agree with this conception of what science is. It is, after all, what was taught to me in school, and what I read in the science for laymen books of my childhood.

But today, as a philosopher, I find such a conception to be slightly naive. Science, in my eyes, may or may not be building ever closer to the real theory of reality. But that's not the point. The point is to find what works, and to go with it.

Scientists do science by taking showers in the morning, sleeping at night, or meditating in the afternoon. Great discoveries are found through inductive reasoning, which they then reconstruct deductively in order to write a paper that will convince fellow scientists. The art of science is very different from the linear logical argument you'll find in most peer-reviewed papers. When I first realized this, I thought it a crisis for science, because it seemed to really contradict the idea of science as it was taught to me as a child. The true scientific method differed so much from what I recall from my old science textbooks.

But in the end none of this matters. What matters in science is not how an idea is arrived at. What matters is that the idea is tested and thrown out if it disagrees with experiment.

In essence, science is a negatively defined discipline.

What makes science great is that you can take a testable hypthesis, test it, and when it breaks you get rid of it in some fashion. Historically, we've 'gotten rid of' old theories by keeping them mostly intact and adding in a few bulges and denting in a few kinks so that they continue to correspond with experiment. Eventually, the theory becomes so convoluted that it is deemed better to start with a fairly clean theory that looks similar to the old one, but has a few fundamental differences. But the point is that none of this matters. The important bit is that, over time, we eventually prove such and such wrong and move on to something else. Because we're human, we happen to pick a new thing to replace it that is as similar as possible to the old idea. But it really could be whatever we wanted, so long as it, too, fit the data we have available. In fact, the only theoretical benefit of having a current theory that is favored over others is that we can then, as a group, all simultaneously work on figuring out why this one idea is wrong. (As opposed to, say, each scientist holding a different theory that they then attempt to disprove. Also, it should be mentioned that a nontheoretical benefit to having a single favored theory is that it makes iteasier to communicate with each other--another is that it allows nonscientists to have a worldview from which engineers can come up with useful contraptions and the like.)

Science, in this higher level negative sense of the word, is a beautiful, beautiful thing. But the science taught in public school in Alabama is ugly and dogmatic; it is arbitrary rule-making for no good reason. If you want to be a truly good physicist, you need to NOT learn the model, but to knowthe DATA. Models are good as a memorization aide. Models are good as a starting point to create hypotheses. But ALL that matters is the data.

I say this even though models have had some particularly good hits in the past. Newton models gravity, and reality turns out to follow it to a degree of accuracy far beyond the data Newton originally had access to, simply because he went with the solution that seemed most elegant, and nature just so happened to comply. Another example is the atom, modeled as a physical item rather than just a set of properties that could easily have fit the data we had back then just as well. Then further properties of the hypthesized atom were derived which then corresponded to nature once again, showing that the model was in fact closer to reality than my earlier paragraphs seem to imply they usually are.

But in science, as in life, it is often the case that we recognize the hits while forgetting the misses. Especially in science, since we get so used to recording both hits and misses (at least in nonparapsychology studies) that we forget that we aren't recording data when models break down the way we do when we break down those models. And the truth is that most models do in fact break down with nature not being so kind as she was with the gravity model or the atom model.

Anyway, my point is that whatever models we now have, no matter what it is (evolution, gravity, black holes, stars, blood circulation) is most likely fundamentally WRONG. Just think about it: the data we have right now on, say, blood circulation, is pretty extensive. The data is (as far as I know) very good, and the current model we have does an extremely good job of intuitively explaining this data in a way that makes logical sense. But there are an infinite number of alternative models that might also fit those same exact data points, and most of them are extremely dissimilar to the current model of blood circulation that we now hold as gospel.

Scientifically, in the old sense of the word, it makes sense to me why we should keep the model we now have. It makes teaching students easier, it gives nonscientists (medical doctors, for example) a starting point from which to come up with useful devices that may save our lives, and it even gives scientists a base from which they can start hypothesizing things that seems to spring up as ideas merely because they're starting with the idea of the model as truth.

But philosophically, the odds that 'the model we currently are using is even remotely similar to whatever reality is' are effectively zero. We use the model we now use because it is convenient; not because it is true. Nor even because it is close to truth. Science tells us NOTHING of what is true, nor even of what is close to truth. It merely tells us what isn't true.

This negatively-centered view of science is something I adore. It is something I am falling more and more in love with with each passing day. But I must stress again that it is very different from the 'science' of my childhood, which I view as exceedingly dogmatic and inane. So when I say that I am falling in love with science, this is the science I mean.

So, too, does this argument extend to religion. Truly, I am agnostic. But I am agnostic not because I cannot pass judgment on God's existence, but because I cannot pass judgment on anything at all! Even in science, where I implied that at least science disproved hypotheses even when it failed to ever prove anything in the least way, these disproofs are (to me) only the slightest of obstacles. There are a great many premises which must be first granted before you can even start to disprove hyptheses. My skepticism is kept at bay when it comes to negatively-centered science only in short bursts, and only by the fact that science has such an INSANEly good track record. Just the fact that I'm typing this on a laptop is incredibly god anecdotal evidence for the success of science. And it is anecdotal evidence like the inventions that surround our lives every day that compete against my skepticism against the so-called 'truth' of disproving hypotheses in negatively-centered science.

Anyway, that should make it clearwhy I am an agnostic. Really, I could not be anything but an agnostic, given the philosophical views I hold.

BUT: atheism draws me in the same way science does, but in an even stronger way, the way the anticipation of sex makes me crave women.

I'll steal an old atheist argument just to prove my point. Think of how utterly absurd it would be to say Poseidon is a true god. Think of how utterly obvious it is to be atheist with regard to Poseidon. That is how I feel with regard to the personal God of the West. The feeling of atheism is perhaps the strongest feeling I have on a regular basis. It is stronger, in fact, than any sexual or hunger urge I've ever experienced. (Maybe this is because I've never experienced true starvation, but this is immaterial to my point.) Yet as strong as those feelings of atheism are, they cannot stand up to my feelings when it comes to philosophical skepticism. I am an agnostic first, and an atheist second--even though I think my feelings on atheism are far stronger than most religious people's views on their god.

If you've read this far, then I congratulate you. Now the question is: am I just mad? Was the above completely retarded in your eyes? If so, please just tell me. I can handle being told I'm wrong, especially when I fear that that is indeed the case.

I only ask because most people don't agree with what I wrote above. In fact, most scientists I know don't agree with these things. Even when it comes to philosophers of science, I find very few people who write on themes similar to the above. Most phil of sci types tend to think the negatively-centered view of science is falsified by the fact that that's not how scientists really think. So forgive me if I fear that my opinions on these matters may be flawed in some way that I don't yet fully recognize.

Of course, all of this tirade may just be because it is Valentine's day, and I have absolutely nothing to do except write a lengthy nerdy article like this. Not to mention the lengthy public political article I wrote at eric.herboso.com earlier today. But I can't be entirely full of self-pity; at least Mary is in town. We haven't gone anywhere yet (she just flew in a few hours ago), but I plan on taking her out to see the sights of DC. I just hope I can pull her away from the religious crap like the nat'l cathedral* and catholic university long enough to see the int'l spy museum. That place sounds awesome, and I haven't yet visited.

(*: Not to say that the nat'l cathedral isn't architecturally interesting, but I think my two previous visits were more than enough for me.)

(PS: I did not even get into the idea that reality might not even have a form that any model, no matter how sophisticated, might not be able to accurately conform to the possible dataset. This concept is rather scary, and is rather difficult to comprehend at first, but the idea is that while there are an infinite number of conceivable models, there may in fact not be a model in this infinite set that corresponds to the particular data that the universe gives us through experiments. I.e., when you make a one-to-one correspondence between 'best theory' and 'current dataset', you may (not only) run out of theories before you run out of datastets (, but also run into datasets ordinally larger than any individual model can account for. See transfinity on wikipedia for details.)

Fri, Jan. 4th, 2008, 04:46 pm
The Will to Be Myself

The class was an utter disappointment. I had had such high hopes for that class. Every time a new semester begins, I always find myself optimistic that this time I will find the class that turns everything around for me. Every time, I fool myself into believing that I've finally reached that point in my academic career where I will find a class that pulls me in and exhilirates me the way that college always seemed like it would do from the perspective of my old high school days. But no, this class was no different from the rest. Not in any important distinction, at least.

Being a pure mathematics major in a world of engineering students and future high school teachers is a tough thing. Each new math class sounds so very interesting at first: linear algebra, abstract mathematics, advanced calculus IV, geometric proofs, differential equations, knot theory. My head swims each time I see a new class title, and I end up having to take every class my small school offers. I just can't do otherwise, because there's always the possibility that this time, that new class will be the class that will start that golden age of my life where mathematics will finally be as exciting and powerful as it keeps seeming to be from a distance.

I don't always have the prerequisites. But this is important enough to me where I actually go through the trouble of writing a letter to the dean to specifically request permission to be admitted into the class annyway. After all, I'm certainly intelligent enough--that's never been any barrier--and the few conceptual underpinnings I may technically lack now will definitely be mastered quickly, and on my own time, once I know what exactly they are. I've always been an autodidact, you see; I get most of my learning through reading books on my own time, and so most classes have been such an utter disappointment because they only repeat what I learned myself a few years back. And when I do on occasion happen into a class that gives me new material, by the second day a teacher is still trying to hammer these ideas into the 99% of the class that aren't pure math majors, I am already bored by the whole thing. That isn't to say that there aren't some classes that I do terribly in--I'm by far the slowest learner in my ancient greek class, for example--but, at least when it comes to mathematics, if I don't know what I'm talking about, I can always find out within a short enough amount of time, and usually without any help from the teachers who always concentrate on giving the future high school teachers their money's worth of education.

This class, I think, is an exception to the rule. Its title was amazingly enticing, as math class titles inevitably always are. And the material was advanced enough where after two days of class I realized that I would have to actually spend time on learning what it was all about. But....

I've taken boring classes before. Sometimes you just have to, especially if the required classes at your particular institution are as intensive as at the school I attend. But this was the first truly boring math class I've encountered since long division way back in the day. And I don't mean the execution of the class was boring; no, I literally mean that the material itself is by far the most uninteresting field of mathematics I've yet to encounter. And since I've already encountered arithmetic, you know that this is quite a thing to say.

I won't offend anyone by naming the actual subfield of mathematics this class was on. It really doesn't matter. Mathematics is a huge field, and every mathematician, whatever her specialty, will almost certainly find some other part of mathematics to be quite inane. Mathematics, at its core, is really just the study of patterns (or lack of such), and if you by chance happen to know two mathematicians, it is very likely that neither one will know what the hell the other person does at work each day.

Anyway, I could tell after just two classes that I was never going to go to this class again. Ordinarily, I might just attend class on test days, as I did with calculus and such, so I can at least make my 'A' even if I never really attended the lectures proper. But since this was a field I really didn't know, and I really had no intention of ever learning it within the next few months, just coming in for test days would be a waste of time, and I'd very likely get an 'F' for my efforts. Really, the best course of action would be to drop the class. Once dropped, it is as though I never signed up for it in the first place, and there would be no negative consequences whatsoever.

Dropping a class is not a difficult procedure, especially this early in the academic year. All that needs to be done is for me to log in on the school website and click the "drop class" button at the appropriate place. Really, the whole process would take less than two minutes. But, instead, I find myself sitting in front of the computer with my current theme music playing on repeat for six hours while I continuallly hit 'refresh' on my rss reader in the hopes that someone I know will have posted something within the last forty-five seconds that I have yet to read.

It's not that I'm embarrassed to drop the class. Far from it. I don't care that I specifically had to write the dean in order to get in; I really have no interest in the class whatsoever, and the act of dropping it itself is no barrier to my pride. It's a stupid subtopic of mathematics anyway.

It's not that I don't want to drop the class. I absolutely do not intend on ever sitting foot in that classroom again. In actual physical reality, I have, for all intents and purposes, already dropped the class. At this point, I just need to make it official. There is no psychological barrier preventing me from wanting to drop the class. I really do just want it dropped.

Yet, as I continue to sit here, listening to the same song for the eightieth time in a row (my computer keeps track, so I'm sure of the exact number), I fully realize that I do not have the willpower to go through the effort of logging in in order to drop the class. Hypothetically, I think that were I already logged in, and were the drop button on the screen in front of me, that I could push myself enough to bother with moving my mouse in order to click the button. But, as things currently stand, I am not logged in, and dropping the class before the add/drop period ends is looking rather less likely.

I regret my actions on this already, you know. Not that I signed up for the class, nor even that I went through special procedures just to even get into the class. No, I regret solely that I will not be officially dropping the class, because that means I will get an 'F' for the course, and it will ruin my gpa quite markedly (more so, in fact, than greek class). I regret it as though I were already in the future, past the add/drop period, and I am looking back on my past self, saying: "I can't believe I was so lazy that I couldn't bother to log in to drop the class, even though it would have saved me from all the trouble I now have to experience because of it." But, in reality, the add/drop period has not yet expired, and so I am instead saying: "I can't believe that I am so lazy that I can't bother to log in to drop the class, even though I am perfectly aware of the consequences for not doing so being so much greater proportionally than the effort involved in just dropping the class."

It's not a value judgment. It is not that I actually think logging in is not worth the effort. I fully recognize that it is worth the effort. The problem is that despite this, I still find myself refreshing my rss reader instead.

I'm not going to drop the class. I know this in advance. It's not that I've made a decision to not drop it; on the contrary, I want to drop it extremely badly, and from now until the add/drop period ends, I'm going to do all that I can to try to make myself log in to drop the class. But I realize that my efforts will be in vain. I simply do not have the willpower to do as I wish.

That's the problem. I don't have the willpower necessary to do what I want to do. It is an odd condition. I was born with it, although it doesn't seem to be hereditary. I haven't noticed it in others unless they were sufficiently intelligent--but that may just mean that the non-intelligent with the same condition fail so utterly at life that I never run into them.

I suppose it was just the luck of a die roll, for better or ill. Although most dungeon masters I know will let you reroll such a terrible score (or at least give a bonus point or two to make up the difference). But I did well on other attributes, so I really shouldn't complain. It's just that such an utter lack of willpower is totally perplexing to me.

How is it, for example, that I could bother with all the trouble needed in order to even get accepted into the class, yet now that I've decided to drop it, I've lost the capacity to do anything more than listen to the eighty-fifth straight play of the song that will from now on come to represent this particular period of my life?

I think, perhaps, that the carrot dangled in front of me each time I see a new math class offered at my college is enough to entice me to go through extraordinary measures, but that the stick of a failed class, no matter how harshly applied, will never be enough to spur me on to anything at all.

And that, I think, is the crux of this whole issue. I seem to respond to a strong positive benefit that I truly want much more readily than the guaranteed negative drawback that I'd really rather avoid. Not because I value positives more than negatives, but because I literally respond more easily to a positive than a negative, even when I value the absence of the negative more.

But not just any positive will do. A reward sufficient to justify action on my part must be intense. So intense, in fact, that so far the only rewards I've come across are entirely the product of my imagination.

It is the class that I've always dreamed of that makes me work so hard to get accepted without prerequisites. It is the woman of my dreams that makes me put up the effort to attempt to meet new people in my own limited way. It is the sleep that lets me dream of my heart's desires that makes me push so hard to find time to sleep in whenever possible. In pursuit of these goals, I put forth concomitant effort. But in all else, I am just plain lazy.

(I should note that this puts me in the rather unique category of considering myself lazy the majority of my active day, yet not considering myself lazy whenever I sleep in for extended periods of time.)

But, for all my lack of willpower, at least I remain true to myself. Through extended association, I have come to learn just who I am not only as a person, but as an idea. And though it took a long time before I truly understood this, I now realize that remaining true to myself is more of who I am than it is for most people. So even though I won't go through the effort of dropping the class (even though I want to), by allowing myself to receive an 'F', I am being me more than I am myself through the philosophy I hold, or the ethics I stand by.

As I listen to the song start again, after double-checking that no one has posted anything online for the past forty-five seconds, it occurs to me that almost no one who reads the preceding paragraph will understand what I mean in just one read-through, even though that paragraph is, in many ways, the main idea of this entire essay. So forgive me if you already understand, but I feel that I must explain myself.

Most people see themselves as others see them. They say things not because they wish to say them, but because saying those things will produce an effect in others' reaction to them that they find positive. Girls wear makeup as though it is a good thing that they have to change their own face before they can consider themselves pretty, professional american football players play games while their arms are in a cast despite not being paid any extra for the added risk, and scientists use latin and greek words when a perfectly suitable saxon version exists merely because they think it looks more scholarly.

It would be wrong to say that these people are not being themselves. Who you are is dependent solely on a perfect description of yourself. If you move with the latest fashions, and do as the crowd does, then it is not true to say that you aren't being yourself; rather, who you are is as the fashions change. In a very hegelian sense, you are yourself, changing or not changing according to whatever perspective you may choose to hold, but always yourself. If you associate yourself with the crowd, then that is who you are, and it would be wrong to charge you with not sticking to a solid foundation of yourself, since whether or not you consider 'changing with the crowd' to be static or fluid is simply a matter of preference.

Even in the case where one moves with the crowd, yet considers themselves apart, the true description of this person is of one who moves with the crowd. What one does matters. No matter who you want to be, if you murder, then you are a murderer. If you lie, then you are a liar. Intent does figure into a perfect description of who you are, but it is an extremely minor part, once all is told.

Furthermore, of those who don't move with the crowd, most either move with a smaller crowd or else deliberately choose whatever path the crowd doesn't take. Either way, what such a person is is defined by the actions of others. (Nevertheless, they are still themselves, insomuch as who they are is as a portion of some larger group.)

In all these cases, the people involved are defined by their surroundings. I do not say this as a negative thing. I've heard others talk of the 'masks' that people wear, and how, underneath it all, the 'real' person exists. But I cannot see how this is the case at all. If they are masks, then they are masks that guide the formation of the face underneath. When you wear such a mask, then that is who you become. And if you are accustomed to putting on new masks when others of a group do, then the very act of those succession of masks is the real person. I do not mean to make light of such a way of life. Although it is not what I choose, I can see how the masking of a particular group one associates with can be a rewarding and fulfilling way of living life.

But, for me, not donning new masks is an important aspect of who I am. To be sure, I am not maskless; but the mask I wear is pretty much permanent, and the change I have ahead of me is mostly due to the fact that my face still needs time to adjust to the required dimensions. So while it is within others' natures to change to the new thing, whether that be of a subculture or even an anti-culture, for me, to do as I am to do is being myself. When I don't drop the class, it is because that is the person that I am. For others, such an event might be worthy of donning a new mask, so that, in the future, they can drop classes whenever they feel like it. But, for me, not dropping the class is quite literally who I am. Remaining true to myself is literally more of who I am than it is for other people.

So while I will spend the next couple of weeks trying to get myself to drop the class, and while I already regret not having done so, I am also simultaneously glad that I am who I am. I may not be the perfect fit for a society that requires things that I do not have the willpower to do (mail bill payments, file for taxes, keep up my gpa so I don't lose my scholarship), I don't mind the extra work that this entails (automatic withdrawals, overpaying on taxes all year, losing a scholarship which is nothing but money anyway). Not because the negatives are necessarily worth less than the positives, but because the mask I wear uses a skewed scale such that laziness wins out even when I would value more the opposite conclusion. And that is who I am, so it's all good.

Now I think it's time for a new song, after 120 replays. I think I'm ready for something a bit more upbeat. (c;

(Please note that the above essay is an experiment in creative nonfiction. Although the ideas are true enough when applied to me, some details were changed, most notably the absence of mentioning philosophy courses that have really sparked my interest over the years. Also, I'm currently at a grad school where I'm pursuing philosophy, not mathematics, but mentioning this within the essay took something out of it that I felt it needed. I should also apologize to a number of my friends, whose various quirks and experiences were absorbed into the charcater of myself for dramatic purposes. Most notably, the failed class I describe was the experience of Dorek, and not myself, though I did at one time fail a math class because I did not bother to ever actually go. For the record, the most boring subfield of math I've experienced thus far is arithmetic. Applied math is also frustratingly inane, but more because it is nonsensical than because it employs boring techniques. Please feel free to comment on any suggestions on how I might improve this, especially with the title, since I'm very unhappy with it. Thanks in advance.)

Thu, Dec. 20th, 2007, 02:32 pm
Lack of Updates

Okay, so a distinct lack of internet access has made me not update in a while, especially on the public side of things. Don't worry; new updates are certainly coming, but you're just going to have to wait until I can get a wifi connection at home, as this quick update from work really isn't what I'm supposed to be doing with my time. (And yes, I said this on a public entry, and yes, my employer will probably see it at some point, since it is a tech company, after all. But he's cool, so it's all good.)

Mon, Nov. 26th, 2007, 09:26 pm
Humanity's Biggest Mistake may have been in 1998

Okay, while I'm still in physics mode, I wanted to bring something to everyone's attention. For reference, I am getting the following from arXiv.org. Popular reviews are also in the press at New Scientist, Ars Technica, and Wired.com.

The paper in question, by Lawrence Krauss of Case Western Reserve University, and colleague James Dent, is taking a well known fact and applying it to something new, and getting a startling result by doing so.

It is well known that quantum states are more defined when you observe them, and less so when they remain unobserved. Somewhat lesser known, but integral to this paper, is that when something at the quantum level is in the process of decaying, repeated measurements can 'reset' the decay.

If you have something that is going to decay from state A to state B, before it decays, it will be in a superposition of both decaying and not decaying. If, at that time, the event is observed, the superposition of states will go away to show either it decaying or not decaying. Since the decay happens only at a fractional percentage, it is very likely that state A will be chosen rather than state B. Therefore, if you have a quantum object that wants to decay after five seconds, but you observe it every four seconds, it has a very large probability of never decaying.

Yeah, I know. That's fucked up. But this is already known--Krauss and Dent's paper goes one step further.

If it is true that the universe is a quantum fluctuation, which many, many physicists believe is true, then it, too, can be treated as a quantum object. This is step one of the paper.

Step two involves the false vacuum state of the universe's existence, if it is indeed a massive quantum fluctuation. Decay of false vacuums occur at two completely different rates. Exponential decay occurs at first, but after the false vacuum energy gets sufficiently close to zero, decay starts changes to a mere power law. In other words, it decays much more slowly.

Now if our universe is indeed a quantum object, then it lives in a false vacuum, and the false vacuum energy is in the process of decaying right now, just as it's been decaying from the beginning of the universe.

If the decay switches to the slower power law soon enough, then the expansion of the universe will be faster than the decay, and our universe will not be able to fall apart due to false vacuum decay. But if we remain in the faster exponential decay law, then our expansion will not be fast enough to overcome the false vacuum decay, and at some point the universe will cease existing when the false vacuum pops out of existence.

I hope I haven't lost all of my readers yet. Just hang on a bit longer--the good bit is coming up.

So now notice that in 1998, we observed dark matter, and found the vacuum energy of the universe to be just above zero at 0.01 eV. So if, in fact, we were on the verge of switching from the fast decay rate to the slow decay rate, and if the universe was in a superposition of states of each type of decay rate at the time of this observation, then the fact of our observation may have caused the universe to fall back into the faster decay rate.

If this happened, then by observing dark matter, we may have lessened the life span of the universe as a whole.

I need to be clear that I don't mean that we would have caused the lifespan to lessen, but that the lifespan of the universe will indeed be shorter due to the fact that it was observed. Don't ask why this is different from 'causing' it to happen--the answer to that question is quite complicated, and I'm not sure that I understand it. But just know that had we not observed dark matter, the universe may well have avoided a destruction by false vacuum that it now very well may have to endure.

Now, I'm very much the skeptical type when it comes to science. But this one sounds pretty air-tight. If we accept Krauss/Dent's assumptions, then the rest of the logic seems to follow pretty deductively. It _is_ a fact that we can force decay not to occur simply by observing, and it is true that we did happen to observe the decay of vacuum energy at a point when it was very near zero, at the point where calculations indicate the decay rate should change from exponential to power law. So we very well may have caused it to not switch to power law, and, by this action, helped to cause the universe to die a death by vacuum energy rather than heat death/big crunch. And since all calculations show that vacuum energy death would occur much sooner than heat death or big crunch would, then the universe may die sooner because of our actions.

Of course, it is still rather unclear as to what counts as an 'observation'. Some theories have it going after size, so since distant galaxies continue to observe dark matter every second, it may not matter that we observed it in 1998. But observation-by-size theories seem rather arbitrary, and believe it or not, physicists have already created life-size objects that exist in superpositional states. So despite sounding extremely weird, I have to admit this article seems credible.

I'll give an update after it's been peer-reviewed.

Sun, Nov. 18th, 2007, 06:33 pm
All about water. (courtesy youtube)

I'm sure you've all heard the story about Archimedes in his bathtub. The king had a new crown made of solid gold, and when it was delivered, he questioned whether or not it was truly made entirely of gold, and not impurified with silver. But the only way to test this at the time was to melt some of it down to see what it was made of. So the king gave the problem to Archimedes, royal smart guy, to figure out how to tell if it is solid gold without hurting the crown.

Days passed, as Archimedes thought about the problem, and got nowhere with it. Then his wife told him to take a break and relax in the bath; as he got into the tub, though, he noticed the water rising just as stepped in--and he had the realization that because gold has a specific density, and silver has another, then the two substances would displace different amounts of water, and so it could easily be seen whether or not the crown was impure. His discovery was so amazing that he leaped from his bathtub and ran home through the streets stark naked, shouting Eureka, Eureka!, which means "I have found it, I have found it!" in English.

(Incidentally, the story wasn't written down until two hundred years later, so it's probably embellished. But if the dates weren't also embellished, then it would seem he made this discovery at 22 years of age. 'Tis quite an impressive feat, no matter the specific circumstance.)

Anyway, I was dreaming about water just now. Specifically about how if you increase the pressure of water, eventually will become crystalline, i.e., ice, regardless of temperature. I recalled that when water turns to ice, it takes up more space, unlike most substances. And also that water's compressibility is very, very slight. Putting these together, I realized something.

Superheating is an interesting phenomenon in that superheated water is hot enough to boil, but yet doesn't boil because the water tension keeps it from doing so. Breaking the water tension on superheated water will cause it to boil instantaneously.

But water can also undergo a similar halfway state with regard to pressure and freezing. No, I'm not talking about supercooling, like in the below video. There, water is put below the freezing point, yet doesn't turn to ice because there is nothing to form a crystalline structure around; this changes when it hits the bowl, and the water turns to ice immediately.

What I'm talking about is different. Included in the water will be a point to crystallize, and the pressure may be high enough to induce a freezing phase transition. But instead, the water will stay as liquid.

My mental image was of a planet of nothing but water. In the core, the pressure might be great enough to induce ice to form. But doing so would increase the volume of the water, thus displacing the rest of the water to go uphill, against gravity. There is therefore a point at which there is enough water 'above' the core to discourage it from turning to ice, even though all other conditions are met. I can't find any description of this in the literature, though to be honest, I didn't look past a few google searches. But I find it an interesting phenomenon, for if you remove a bit of water from the surface of this planet, the water in the core will spontaneously freeze.

Too bad there's no youtube video for that.

Tue, Oct. 30th, 2007, 09:21 pm
Gravel is webcasting LIVE right now!

Watch Gravel at NBC Presidential Debate

Mike Gravel, who was banned from the tonight's democratic presidential debate by NBC is going to answer all the debate questions from across the street, and broadcast this live on the web at Gravel2008.us.

If you plan to watch tonight's debate, then you should also watch Gravel's webcast! If we let GE and its subsidiary, NBC, dictate who is and who is not allowed to become president, then it is not Mike Gravel that loses out, but all of democracy itself! How can we claim to have a free society when this kind of thing occurs, and no one acts to stop it? Why are we not revolting in the streets right now, as they would be doing in any respectable developing country? We cannot--we dare not allow the giant news corporations to dictate to us who is allowed airtime on these presidential debates! If we want to call ourselves free, then we must push for freedom!

Watch the debate live tonight, at Gravel2008.us! (6pm pst/9pm est)

Watch Gravel at NBC Presidential Debate

Update: The debate is now over. You can see the taped debate on my public blog.

Fri, Oct. 26th, 2007, 11:57 pm
NBC is Offered $1,000,000 if They Let Gravel Speak

I've just learned that a multi-millionaire Mike Gravel supporter has upped the ante by offering NBC $1,000,000 if they will let Gravel speak at the 30 October democratic presidential debate.

Please see my public blog for more details, and if you want the word to get out as I do, please don't hesitate to digg the story as well!


The same guy is also offering a $25,000 reward for whomever creates the best Gravel youtube video between now and the end of the year! See my blog for details!

Tue, Oct. 23rd, 2007, 06:01 pm
NBC Bars Mike Gravel from Attending Debate

Mike Gravel, US democratic presidential candidate, is the person I am backing for office in the 2008 US presidential elections. I have volunteered for his campaign and donated money to his cause--for those of you who know me well, you might well then realize how serious I am about helping his message get out.

Unfortunately, NBC (a subsidiary of GE) has decided to refuse to allow Mike Gravel from attending the 30 October democratic presidential debate. This is intolerable. Their arbitrary decision was made at the last moment, and is likely 'payback' for Gravel's talking points in the last debate, where he brought the nation's attention to the fact that Hillary Clinton's vote to consider the Iranian Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization is tantamount to admitting a pretext for war.

I beg of you all to visit http://ericherboso.blogspot.com/2007/10/nbc-bars-mike-gravel-from-attending.html where I detail what can be done to stop this. If you truly feel strongly about this issue as I do, I also urge you to visit http://digg.com/2008_us_elections/NBC_Decides_to_Screw_Mike_Gravel to digg this story, and make it more visible to the many people who visit social bookmarking sites every day.

I want to thank in advance all of you who take the time to visit this website and, if you agree with my position, I want to thank even more strongly those that sign the petition to let Gravel speak. Please, if you really want to make a difference, e-mail this information out to your friends and family as well, so that as many people as possible may see what is going on today.

Thanks you all.

Wed, Mar. 14th, 2007, 08:18 pm
Who is Eric Herboso?

Disclaimer: This entry will likely be mercilessly edited in the future. Rather than keeping this entry as a record of my current thoughts, I intend to use this space specifically for more current, up-to-date information.

You know, it's always really tough to describe oneself. Sure, you can list your interests, and maybe even give a few anecdotal accounts of you living your life. But to really get at the core of whom a person is requires something more. You must put forth a worldview that truly reflects one's inner thoughts. A manifesto that clarifies one's intentions. This LiveJournal entry will attempt to do just that.

But first, I must start with the basics.

My name is Eric Jonathan Herboso, although I regularly go just by Eric Herboso online. At one point in my past, I used my middle initial more often (this explains my LJ username), but no longer. I also have a number of pseudonyms that I no longer actively use; these include Garacan, MG377, and Martican Garamonde. In some places, I also go by a separate pseudonym which I will not disclose here.

I am twenty-five years old. I was born on 1 July, 1981, within five minutes of the exact middle of the year, in Mobile, Alabama, USA. I have lived most of my life in Alabama, though I have also lived for long stretches in Fort Collins, Colorado, and Germantown, Maryland. I will be moving to Annapolis, Maryland, very soon for college.

I am a lifelong student; I realized pretty early on that I love academia, and I never want to leave college. So after I get my degrees, I will be staying in college indefinitely as a teacher and student. Currently, I am finishing up my bachelor's degree in pure mathematics at Spring Hill College in Mobile, Alabama, and I will be starting at St. John's College in Annapolis, Maryland, in September to study philosophy at a great books school. Afterward, I plan to receive my doctorate in mathematical philosophy.

to be finished later

Tue, Mar. 13th, 2007, 10:26 pm
Friends Only

Well, it's finally happened. I'm making the switch over to 'friends only' for a number of my entries. This doesn't mean that I will not post public entries anymore; on the contrary, I very much like the idea of openly allowing my info to be 'out there', available to anybody at all. But certain sources close to me have requested that I not publicize my involvement with them. It has been a difficult decision, but I have determined that I'd rather write up those entries in a private setting that not put them up at all. So certain entries of mine will from now on be kept private, including some past (previously public) entries.

If you would like access to these entries, please leave a comment below. Also note that because of this change, I will be trimming my friends list to include only those that may be legitimately interested in what I sometimes have to say.

To all: be well.