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Deconstructing and Reconstructing the Universe

Friday, September 8th, 2017

The Universe can be pulled apart and put back together again, like Lego blocks. What might such a deconstruction and reconstruction tell us about the real nature of the Universe? Maybe that real nature is of a virtual nature.

Deconstructing the Universe: The most complex structure in our Universe are chemical compounds as everything that’s apparently more complex can actually be separated into their component chemical compounds, and of course there are multi-millions of compounds, some more complex than others.

Compounds can be deconstructed down to their component atoms, so water can be reduced to hydrogen and oxygen. Atoms in turn can be deconstructed down to electrons, protons and neutrons and protons and neutrons in turn deconstructed to up and down quarks.

Lurking in all of this are the neutrinos as well. Like electrons, neutrinos can’t be deconstructed down to anything more fundamental.

There are also three generations of particles that the above deconstruction can be applied to, although the second and third generations are so short-lived that they can for all practical purposes be ignored.

A similar deconstruction can be applied to antimatter as well as to matter.

All of the above deconstructions down to the fundamentals yields a small zoo worth of elementary bits and pieces. That’s Part One of our deconstruction.

Part Two: Such a deconstruction could actually be our (as in our Universe’s) fate. In the far, far, far future there might be a deconstruction of the Universe via the Big Rip, or perhaps just through complex stuff decaying into simple stuff. For example, any neutrons that get isolated will decay into a proton, and electron and a neutrino. The latter two are basic, but some speculate that protons too will ultimately decay into a positron and a neutral pion. The neutral pion then decays into a couple of high energy photons. So, any standard atom will eventually become just a bunch of electrons, positrons, neutrinos and photons, all basic staff that can’t be further deconstructed – unless of course the electrons and positrons deconstruct into pure fundamental electromagnetic energy.

Part Three: Because particles interact, we can deconstruct the fundamental bits and pieces responsible for those interactions. Those bits and pieces are the force particles and they can’t be deconstructed from anything more complex. Photons are photons and gravitons and gravitons and they don’t combine to form something else further on up the complexity chain.

Collectively the matter particles and the force particles all together consists or makes up that small zoo of elementary things called the Standard Model of Particle Physics.

One can now ask, what are the fundamental properties that these mass and force particles have? They would all seem to share motion – even if just vibration – and to exhibit mathematically predictability and have absolute causality in their actions and reactions.

Reconstructing the Universe: The simplest universe one could imagine would be an absolutely empty one – a universe of pure absolute nothingness. Boring!

The next rung on the ladder would be a universe with just one particle in it, like a lone electron universe.

Some interesting issues arise with a one electron universe. If there is a one electron universe, can there be any properties associated with said single electron? There can’t be mass hence gravity since there is no other object that can be attracted gravitationally. Our one electron can’t orbit anything. In fact our lone electron can’t even have motion. There can’t be motion for the motion of one particle is and can only be apparent if another particle is present. Lastly, though electric charge is a fundamental property of an electron, in a one electron universe there’s nothing for that charge to act on so one has to ask whether or not it is meaningful to attribute that electric charge property to that lone electron.

Logically, the next step would be a universe with lots of just one type of particle. One might imagine a universe that contained nothing but a multitude of electron-neutrinos.

Before you can even have atoms (hence molecular compounds) you actually need a variety of fundamental building blocks that can fit together like, well, Lego Blocks or like a jigsaw puzzle. If any of the variety of fundamental building blocks have the wrong shape or the wrong properties, then there can be no atomic structure.

Presumably there could have been a near infinite variety of fundamental particles and associated properties which could never physically associate with each other in order to build up more complex structures. That the fundamental particles and associated properties were just-so is in and of itself suggestive (but not proof) of intent or design.

For some reason(s) the Standard Model of Particle Physics is enabled or fine-tuned in such a way as to result in atoms and molecular compounds. That probably needs some explanation on the grounds that it would have been more likely as not, based on chance, that the variety of fundamental building blocks would have the wrong shape or the wrong properties. It would really appear that some degree of fine-tuning and design is afoot.

For example, the electric charge on the electron is EXACTLY equal and opposite to that on the proton although the electron and the proton are otherwise as alike as chalk and cheese. Even weirder, the electric charges on the up-quark and the down-quark have to be just so in order to form protons and neutrons, and how weird is it that one has a charge of -1/3 and the other +2/3? But, without those exact values, no protons and no neutrons.

Further, because positive charged protons will not willingly congregate in cheek-by-jowl arrangements, there’s the apparently designed and fine-tuned strong nuclear force (gluons) to bind them together. And because negatively charged electrons would be attracted to positively charged protons there has to be another apparently designed and finely-tuned mechanism in place to keep that from happening; to keep electrons in their ‘orbits’ and not spiral down and smash into their oppositely charged protons.

So, for an atom to exist at all, it’s not just one just-so element that needs to be in place but many just-so elements.

Now one would argue that using a card analogy that any one hand that is dealt is as probable as any other. However, we give special significance to, say, a Royal Flush. As far as we, the card player is concerned, a Royal Flush is finely-tuned to our needs (profit) and the wider community of card players have attached special meaning to that particular design. A Royal Flush was designed by the card playing community to be special. However, there was no intelligence or design behind you’re being dealt a Royal Flush.

So, are the laws, principles and relationships inherent in physics designed and fine-tuned in any way such that our fundamental particles can interact to form atomic and ultimately molecular structures? If our Royal Flush Universe is just as probable as any other type of universe, then we are indeed lucky to have been dealt that hand and there was no intelligence behind that design or fine-tuning involved just like there’s no intelligence behind you being dealt a Royal Flush. Or, and this can’t be absolutely ruled out, perhaps there was some intelligent design and fine-tuning involved and our Royal Flush Universe was deliberately dealt!

There’s one other piece of evidence I need to introduce here. That’s “The unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics in the natural sciences” (as stated by physicist Eugene Wigner) in describing those laws, principles and relationships inherent in physics and related natural sciences. Physicist Max Tegmark goes one step further to state that the natural (physical) world IS completely mathematical. Many a philosopher (like Immanuel Kant and Bertrand Russell) and scientist (like Albert Einstein) have pondered the meaning of this observation.

One related facet, the mathematics tends to be relatively simple with exponents and coefficients that tend to be low value whole numbers (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, etc.) or relatively simple fractions (1/2, 1/3, 1/4, 1/5, 2/3, 3/4, etc.). That would appear to defy probability based on random chance.

Now combining apparent design with apparent fine-tuning with the apparent unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics all suggests to me one possibility – software.

Now philosopher Nick Bostrum (Oxford University) has put forth a strong argument why our Universe could just be a software-generated computer simulation. My discussion here doesn’t duplicate that or draw on it in any way, and so is just complementary.

Now if you have a software program, any software program, it has to be intelligently designed (which doesn’t exclude design via an artificial intelligence). Software programs don’t write themselves. The software has to be fine-tuned such that you don’t get GIGO – garbage in; garbage out. That is, if, for example, you have a shoot-’em-up video game, the game has to be fine-tuned such that if you shoot straight you hit the target. And of course programmed software is mathematical, just bits and bytes.

So software produces the fundamental matter and force particles as simulations or virtual reality. Software then combines them in precise ways to generate simulations of atomic and molecular structures.

Beginner’s Guide to Buying a Desktop Computer

Friday, September 8th, 2017

People certainly aren’t camping outside stores in the rain to get the latest and greatest desktop computer these days, but PCs are far from dead. Simply put, there are certain functions that mobile devices and laptops either can’t do or can’t do nearly as well as a desktop.

Not to mention, there’s no beating the price. A budget desktop is going to be miles ahead of a budget laptop. It’s expensive to make things small. The small size is what appeals to some people when choosing a new computer, but these days big honking towers aren’t your only choice.

Styles of desktop computers

There’s a lot more variation and choice in the desktop form factor, which is great in some ways, but also makes the buying process that much more complicated. You can find computers in each of these categories at a variety of price points, so the most important thing to keep in mind is how you plan to use your desktop.

Tower

The classic desktop form factor, towers have stuck around for good reason. It’s hard to fit a lot of power into smaller devices like a laptop or tablet for a reasonable price. The power to price ratio of tower computers is pretty much unbeatable.

There’s also a lot more flexibility with a tower. There’s more room to upgrade and expand the system when newer technology comes out, whereas with smaller devices you may just have to buy a whole new system.

Towers do, however, take up quite a bit of space and if space is at a premium in your home, a tower could be out of the question. They also require a separate monitor, keyboard, and mouse. There are some cases where those accessories are included, or you can get a discount if you buy them at the same time as the computer, but plan for buying those when you’re making up your budget.

All-in-One

All-in-one computers offer a simple and space-saving set up. These are, in essence, a cross between a desktop and a laptop. They feature a large monitor with all the necessary components built into the back or base.

The small design gives you a lot more flexibility with placement and keeps your work area clutter free. Plus, because everything is all in one, set up usually just involves plugging it in. You do still need a separate keyboard and mouse however.

Because these computers are smaller, they aren’t as powerful as a tower and you can’t customize and expand them (although this also makes them much simpler). There’s also the issue that if the monitor breaks, you need a whole new computer.

Mini and Stick PCs

These computers use mobile components to keep them small (like all-in-ones). As such, they’re not very powerful, but they’re extremely portable. Mini PCs are small enough to be hidden behind a monitor or TV set up and stick PCs are slightly larger than a thumb drive. Because of the small size, they’re not very powerful and internal expansion is limited to impossible.

While you won’t be able to do any advanced gaming or multimedia editing, they work great for day-to-day tasks, browsing the Internet, and watching media. Set up is extremely easy and they’re quite versatile in that you can use it as a home office during the day, and then plug it into a TV for a home theater at night.

The different operating systems

The question of which operating system (OS) to go with isn’t asked as often with desktops as it is with tablets and smartphones, but it’s still something to consider.

Windows 10

This is definitely the most common desktop OS so you’ll have a big selection of hardware as well as compatible third party software. It’s designed around a touchscreen interface, though it still works great with the classic mouse and keyboard, so if you don’t buy a touchscreen monitor you won’t have any problems.

macOS Sierra

If you’re in a family of Apple lovers, then Mac could be for you. Sierra is only found on Mac computers, so you’re limited in your hardware, but these are well-made computers that historically have fewer problems with viruses. A Mac will also pair seamlessly with your other Apple devices and programs.

Chrome OS

If you’re just looking for simple, no-frills computing the Chrome OS will be right up your ally. The OS runs custom apps and cloud-based programs as opposed to other operating systems that run software. It’s not suited for demanding tasks like gaming, but it’s great for email, file-sharing, and browsing. You will always need to be connected to the internet, but that’s usually not an issue with desktops.

Types of desktop computers

Not everyone is going to use a desktop for the same reasons, and how you use it will influence the type of computer you buy. After all, you don’t need a complex, high-powered machine just to check your email.

Business PCs

These PCs are stripped back, no-frills machines that don’t allow for advanced computing, but are easy to service and upgrade. They also usually offer extra security, software and hardware certification programs, software support, and some even have on-site tech support.

Workstations

These are specialized PCs that feature multicore processors and intense graphics. They’re perfect for scientific calculations, media creation, and other high-powered tasks that wouldn’t be even remotely possible on a laptop.

Gaming PCs

These are (as the name suggests) made for gaming. They feature specialized graphics cards, extremely fast multicore processors, and many have flashy design elements although those generally cost more. Upgradability is a must as newer and more immersive games are released.

Learn the lingo

There’s a lot of terminology you need to know before buying a PC so that you actually know what you’re buying. This list from PCWorld goes into further detail, but here’s a quick breakdown of the terms you should know and understand.

Processor (CPU)

This is the brain of your computer. Processor speed is measured in gigahertz (GHz) and generally, the higher the clock speed, the better the performance and the higher the price. The more cores a processor has the better the performance as well. Desktops either have an Intel or an AMD processor.

Memory

The random-access memory (RAM) determines how good your computer is at multitasking. The higher the RAM the better, especially for high-powered tasks like gaming. For simple tasks like email and web browsing 2GB is fine, but for anything more advanced than that, look for a computer with 4GB or more.

Internal Storage

The amount of storage your desktop has determines how much stuff you can keep on your computer. Desktops almost always have more storage than laptops and for a fraction of the cost. It’s also easy to upgrade your hard drive for more storage, or upgrade to a solid-state drive.

Wait for the best price, but don’t wait too long

Once you’ve figured out which computer you want (and have read plenty of reviews to ensure that it’s actually up to snuff), it’s time to buy. This can be tricky with a desktop because they can be pretty expensive and technology is always evolving.

While it can be tempting to just buy the computer when you’re ready, you might miss out on a great deal or the latest tech. Shop regularly for a stretch of time instead of spending an entire day looking around. You’re more likely to catch a deal that way. Also check the release dates of new models. You’ll most likely get a good deal on an older model, or you might just want the latest technology.

Waiting for a sale also means you can bump up your computers specs with the money you save, meaning your computer is a bit more “future-proof” than if you were to just go for the cheapest one you can find.

However, this is a balancing act. If you spend too much time waiting around for the perfect deal or the latest model, you’re never going to end up buying your desktop. So be patient and wait for sales, but once you find the model you want in an acceptable price range, go ahead and buy it.