Saturday, April 29, 2006

Backwards Walking

Mile 67: Dick's Creek Gap to Neel's Gap

I started the Appalachian Trail with my wonderful girlfriend this past week, walking backwards into Georgia from the GA/NC border. As previously mentioned, I am skipping the Springer-Neel's section, as I had hiked it in 2003.

With the exception of a few days, we had wonderful weather. The interesting part was watching the terrain get milder and milder the further into Georgia we went. By the end of the hike we could see well into the Piedmont.

Tray Mountain was fantastic, and Blue Mountain Shelter (although cold, as everyone mentions) had a fantastic view.

We met a stray dog at Deep Gap shelter. It followed us out in the morning for about a mile, then tore off after something in the woods. We heard barking, then growling, then yipping. The stray tore back to the shelter. Apparently it met a critter that didn't feel like playing. It's no mystery how this pup got lost. We hope Bubba from Tampa or another northbounder got him to Hiawassee.

Monica picks her way over some rocks.

I'm sort of wet in this picture.

Tomorrow Monica drops me off at Dick's Creek Gap to continue north. I return to walking. Tomorrow will be very hard.

Saturday, April 22, 2006


This is a test entry using my Palm and the collapsible keyboard it uses. It is a fairly small 4 row keyboard and takes some getting used to.

Battery life on the unit is supposedly good, though, and you can get used to any keyboard in a few days. I thought I'd never get used to a laptop keyboard, but now it seems pretty natural.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Being There

Athens, GA, April 21, 2006

I left home for the last time yesterday, and am spending three days in Athens for my girlfriend's sister's wedding. On the long drive I wondered, what makes me be here? In this car, heading up to the trailhead via a wedding? Why am I not, say, in the star-realm of Kosmexx, where macrointelligences manipulate superclusters of galaxies into big-bang- defying shapes? The reason I am here and not there can be summed up in one word: bandwidth.

An entity's location (defined in any number of dimensions; spatial, temporal, or probabilistic) may be practically defined by where the majority of its information comes from. I am pretty sure that I am an entity (forgive me Gautama Buddha), and, as it turns out, the fattest pipe for this me-entity comes through my body's senses. My body exists in a pretty narrow range of probability: you can't change much about the world without changing yourself beyond all recognition. So my mind tends to like these senses because it's the best data provider.

Nothing is actually tied down to one possible universe, however. Time is not a line. I actually can be in Kosmexx, or, with the help of a computer, wander off to be a superhero, or an Orc, or what-have you. Our minds are not as limited as our bodies in this sense. But our data rates to and from these alternate universes is an inestimably small fraction of the data rates we get from our senses in this world. We creative types need to remind ourselves of this occasionally. Focusing too much on the possible cuts you off from the real. And there ain't nothing like the real thing.

As technology advances, however, and the bandwidth of the senses is matched by our artifice, we may find ourselves living in a different kind of universe. Just as the aircraft opened up the third spatial dimension, and written language opened up the temporal fourth dimension, hacking the senses may open the gates to parallel universes. It's not that farfetched. You're reading this. You're already there.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Enplaned goes dark

Enplaned, my favorite airline news site, has gone dark. Blogger says the site can not be found. I hope he hasn't been fired or killed by rabid airline CEOs gone mad from board meetings and tiny little liquor bottles.

Whoever he was, he was a great analyst and a funny writer.

We'll miss you, Enplaned.

Saturday, April 15, 2006


Why is there a drive in the universe towards order? The most simple explanation is that if there wasn't, I wouldn't be able to be writing this. This argument smacks of solipsism, and solipsism does not make for good science. The fact remains that the current cosmology tends towards order- but does it do so regardless of the sophonts' ability to record it? Is there order without the observer?

In short, yes. In the multiple-universe interpretation of quantum physics, it makes sense for named entities to get as big and complex as possible. The more particles and complexity soemthing has, the more possible universes it may occupy. It's got a world -multiple worlds- open to it, and can choose the one it sees fit. Complex universes win.

Other possible universes, say, where fermions never glued together, would have no entity larger than a ray of light. Heat death on methamphetamines. So the entities from these universes don't have a very large span into other possible world. Massless, they can draw nothing to themselves, sort of like existentialism.

But this is, to some extent, rot. When you make everything out of photons the scale of complexity gets very small and very fast; compare, for example, the electric impulse to the neuron's action potential. A creature made out of photons and gravitons would see a rapid heat death universe as marvelously complex, or, would be horrified by the spectre of a solar mass. Only recently have we stopped making the same assumptions ourselves. My old anthro texts always declared base-10 mathematics as the stepping stone to civilization, when all it means is "I have 10 fingers and 10 toes". The perception of order is dependent on the existence of an internal order within the observer. Our inhabitants of the photonic universe live faster and smaller, but they may achieve greater levels of complexity due to the ease of information transfer from entity to entity.

So the drive to complexity remains somewhat mysterious. It's built into the fabric of four and five dimentional space. How did it happen? Or, taking this a step further, what if someone, somewhere in the future, had made sure that all possible universes had a tendency towards order, so that all possible universes would be knowable by the mysterious someone in Dimension X.

What if the organizing principle of the multiverse were somehow predicate on the existence of sophonts?

It's not that farfetched. Imagine you are an incredibly advanced civilization in a very distant possible universe, separated by incredible amounts of probability. Photonic unicorn land. You've built systems that span solar systems and galaxies or their equivalent. You've noticed, though, that the universe has a chronological end. It stops at some point. What do you do? Maybe you start experimenting on the fabric of space outside of the temporal dimension. What if, you think, I can modify myself so that I don't only exist here, but in all possible worlds?

Come get me now, Big Crunch.

To some extent everything exists in a number of multiple worlds. The bigger it is the more inevitable it is. Black holes exist in all possible universes from the moment of their creation. Primordial black holes exist in all possible universes for the duration of the universe. They are everywhere possible. It would be interesting to see a map of them, and perhaps divine the existence of structure and ultrastructure.

Monday, April 03, 2006

A Modest Experiment

For legal reasons, I've decided to reveal a modest experiment being run by some of my "friends", so I am not indefinitely detained by the not-at-all merciless iron fist of the GWOT. It's painfully post-modern, so it will tickle some of my friends while irritating others. I'm just enough of a self-hating liberal that I can find this concept amusing, though I still avoid seminars like "Washing the Laundry: Examining Subtexts in Early 20th Century Feminism".

The idea was that these "friends" would read my real trail journal (this one), then post another journal, ostensibly by me, on a myspace site. A sort of metajournal, roughly corresponding to my real adventures but deviating in some very particular and unforgettable ways. We went over a couple of these but frankly I don't remember the whole exchange.


Real Journal Entry: Beautiful Sunrise on Roan Mountain
Metajournal Entry: Rain Death and Fire on the Cities of the Infidel

Real Journal Entry: Girlfriend visiting tomorrow!
Metajournal Entry: Forced Sodomy and Canoists: A Guide

Real Journal Entry: First Bear Sighting
Metajournal Entry: Herr Goebbels is my Spirit Shaman

So, if "I" take "credit" for anything "terrible" that "happens" on my through-hike myspace journal, it's probably just my drunk friends trying to get me sent to Gitmo. It's good to have friends.