Saturday, November 22, 2014

[qocvmftl] Quasars versus intelligent life

Assume all civilizations hunger more and more energy, so they will all naturally gravitate toward the most powerful compact power source available: a rotating supermassive black hole, extracting rotational energy from it perhaps by the Penrose process.  In this way, they will all become Kardashev Type 3 civilizations.

If this is true, then we would expect that most galaxies to already have their supermassive black holes tapped out.  We should not expect to be so lucky as to be seeing a quasar or active galactic nucleus before some civilization taps it.  Both quasars and AGN are thought to be powered by the rotational energy of supermassive black holes.

Then, what could the fact that we do see quasars mean?

* There is no intelligent life in the universe, where "intelligent life" means type 3.

* The universe is still too young too see significant galactic and intergalactic conquests.  This is especially true for distant quasars which we observe in from the early universe.  Perhaps type 3 civilizations occur extremely rarely, far less than 1 per galaxy, and intergalactic travel, needed for the sum of such civilizations to tap most of the supermassive black holes in the universe, is so slow that that it hasn't happened yet.

* Quasars and AGNs are flukes that are perhaps weird or temporary that most type 3 civilizations don't find it worth the effort to tap when their are plenty of other "normal" supermassive black holes out there.  Perhaps they are galaxy mergers.

* Extracting energy from supermassive black holes is always so much more difficult than, say, capturing the energy of all the starlight in a galaxy that it is never worth it for a civilization to do.  I suppose this is a dark matter theory: there exist dark galaxies, a tremendous number of them, whose light is being mostly harnessed by a civilization, but they still do (of course) show up when accounting for mass.  But I think we would still expect to see their heat output.

* There exists some other power source that all civilizations discover that makes tapping supermassive black holes not worth the effort.

[ywofedam] Supermassive black holes shouldn't rotate

Supermassive black holes grow by swallowing other matter.  However, due to frame-dragging, a rotating black hole will preferentially swallow matter approaching it at the wrong angle, against its rotation, so with the "wrong" angular momentum, causing it to rotate slower.  Matter approaching it with the "right" angular momentum will be more likely to receive a kick in velocity due to frame dragging, and that kick may allow it to escape being swallowed.  Also, that kick will consume some of the black hole's rotational momentum also slowing the black hole's rotation.

This ought to result in supermassive black holes with almost no rotation.  But quasars are thought to be powered by a supermassive black hole's rotational energy (Blandford-Znajek process).

[uydztnvm] Artificial Berlin

Consider a simple chess variation in which the initial position is altered by removing both queens.  This could be easily incorporated into orthodox chess by some some initial knight maneuvers.

Inspired by the Ruy Lopez Berlin endgame.

In popularizing the Berlin Defense, showing it can withstand Kasparov, probably the greatest of all time (in opening theory, at least) under championship match conditions, Vladimir Kramnik may go down in history as one of the greatest influences (for better or worse) that shaped how the chess opening is played.

[bqrkysqw] Manipulating the press

A female game developer allegedly tries to manipulate the press and all hell breaks loose.  Uber allegedly tries to manipulate the press and all hell breaks loose.

The common thread is the parties feeling it worth it to attempt to manipulate the press.  This suggests a failure within the journalism institution itself.  In order to maintain credibility, one would expect journalistic institutions to have developed powerful mechanisms to avoid manipulation.  And the market rewards discovering and publicizing if a journalistic competitor is being manipulated by whom and why and how.  These forces should be making it so difficult to manipulate the press that no one should even be trying.

The one exception is government: a government has so much power that no private journalistic institution would be able to resist government manipulation, which is why we have explicit freedom of the press.

Counterpoint: maybe readers don't care about the credibility of their journalism much, regarding journalism not as a source of truth but entertainment.  In which case we would not expect journalistic institutions to have deployed powerful mechanism to avoid manipulation.

[zcyhopvf] Transcription to text figures

The existence of text figures (lowercase numbers) suggests a lossless encoding of text to numbers, preserving punctuation and capitalization. Use the straddling checkerboard.

It is not intended to be a strong code, but rather artistic.  Perhaps to make text easier to OCR.

We need some escape characters to encode numbers themselves.  The straddling checkerboard provides 2 (8+10+10-26) which is just enough for "The next character is a numeral" and "The remainder of this word is a number".

Friday, November 21, 2014

[xneezhkh] List or cons cell

In Lisp, despite its name, the fundamental data structure is not actually the list, but actually the two-element cons cell.

Should this be regarded as a fundamental feature or an artifact of implementation?  In praising the simplicity of Lisp syntax, I usually ignore this artifact, as it introduces one more lexical atom: the period.

It seems anything that can be done with a cons cell can be done with a two element list.  I suppose a cons cell automatically enforces that the length of the list is exactly 2.

[oiqhiqrl] gpg passphrase hint

GnuPG needs an additional field in private keys in which to store a passphrase hint.

While usable in the standard way (possibly weakening encryption), the way I would like to use it is to store the parameters to an external PBKDF algorithm (e.g., scrypt) which can exceed the 65 million iteration limit that standard GnuPG imposes in its S2K key stretching algorithm.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

[ltykhuqq] Volcanic mountain ranges

What mountain ranges are composed entirely of material from volcanic eruption, as opposed to uplift? Inspired by wondering if every hill in the Cascades is an eroded volcano formerly on par with the current tall ones.

Obviously Hawaii.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

[fhhksoph] Star Wars Redemption

Darth Vader's conversion back to the Light side reveals a profound horror to the Jedi: they had always been too quick resort to violence -- murder -- to deal with the Sith.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

[rjbnzsca] Suffrage 2nd order cynicism

The standard cynical explanation of why women were granted the right to vote is it was purely means to power by political forces which inherently care nothing about human rights but only political power.  They invoked the standard "you are oppressed; we will make things better" message (or lie) to mobilize political action.

However, if this explanation is true, why wasn't it successful earlier?

[thtgtfiw] Universal backdoor

If the universe is an engineered device, then we might expect there to exist backdoors for the engineers to be able to make on-the-fly changes to it.  What might such a back door look like?  It has to resist accidental discovery by both the infinitude of natural forces as well as any intelligent races looking for it.  If using it leaves any evidence of its existence, intelligent races may be able to reverse engineer it.

Root access to the universe.

[acnsnyls] Exponential computer

We imagine a ludicrously hypothetical computer whose power increases exponentially with the number of cores it has.

All computation is not done in this universe but in a constructed alternate compute universe, and the computational result gets exported from that universe back to here.  Each core of the computer constructs an additional dimension in that universe.  The compute universe can search over the space bounded by all of its dimensions in time linearly proportional to the longest dimension.

Actually the computation time can be looser than that and still retain exponential power, perhaps any function of the longest dimension and the number of dimensions such that the number of dimensions does not appear as an exponent.

[cfruapxv] Guess your age

I can guess your age from your answers to only a few simple questions.

  • What year were you born?
  • What calendar system do you use to count years?
  • How much time have you spent traveling close to the speed of light?
  • How much time have you spent near strong gravitational fields, e.g., in the vicinity of a neutron star or black hole?

(Inspired by a silly online quiz asking different questions that guesses very wrong.)

[jmfyhsnr] Artificial volcano

A country wishes to become notable by constructing a mountain taller than Everest (but probably only slightly taller). (Merely building the world's tallest building is so passé these days.)  One way this might be done is to artificially induce and sustain the eruption of a volcano.  Would it work?  Can mountains formed by volcano exceed the height Everest formed by uplift?  It probably depends on the material properties of rock.

Artificially duplicating the conditions underneath Everest, i.e., crashing two continents into each other, seems far more difficult.

An artificial volcano also seems easier than the straightforward approach of constructing a mountain, laying down stone or concrete.

[smjlopks] Tallest mountain ever

What was (or is) the height of the tallest mountain ever to exist on earth?  This may be rather tricky to define because the sea level, the typical reference point to measure the height of a mountain, has changed over geological time due to ice caps.

The general idea is a mountain may only get so tall before its base liquefies due to pressure, so the tallest mountain ever cannot be much taller than Everest.  But how much?

Possibly exclude the hugely non-equilibrium landscape immediately after the giant impact that created the moon.

[hcohpugz] Airplane earthquake

Express the amount of shaking a plane encounters when flying through turbulence in terms of the magnitude scale established for earthquakes.

[dqkpwhnq] Move elimination order

Create a chess interface in which all available moves for a position are displayed on screen.  In order to play a move, the player must individually select and "eliminate" all other moves except the desired one. Perhaps swipe away.

Obviously not an interface for rapid chess.

Seeing the moves get eliminated in a particular order after certain amounts of time, then sometimes uneliminated to be reconsidered gives spectators insight into what the player is thinking.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

[ffwlukvi] QR everything

Aggressively annotate all text printed on physical media with a QR code transcription.  The general idea is to lessen the need and improve upon the accuracy of OCR.  Text printed in a situation in which computer cut-and-paste is available does not need QR.

All signs, text on paper.

For example, you are presented with a menu at a restaurant, but it is entirely in Chinese, but you don't read Chinese.  However, each menu item is transcribed in Unicode as a QR code, from which you can easily invoke your favorite translation tools.

Monday, November 10, 2014

[ehottbax] Morse code marquee

Notice the difference in difficulty of decoding Morse code transmitted as a single blinking light versus a written, perhaps scrolling, representation of dots and dashes.  The difference is you can see and refer back to the past characters that went by instead of having to memorize them as they go by.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

[efluvlfp] Set Eleusis

Play the game of Eleusis with a deck of cards covering 27 symbols organized as 3^3.  The symmetries offer many possibilities of interesting rules.