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Friday, June 6, 2014

Quantum Household Mechanics

On Wednesday of this week my assistant and I installed a bathroom exhaust fan timer. It took us five hours. I imagine a professional would only need about 15 minutes, but then a pro would have all the tools he needs with him when he starts the job. We probably spent an hour scurrying around looking for tools. Didn't find the utility knife until it was all over. It was sitting on the shoe shelf out in the garage. Who put it there? I'll bet it was North Korean agents, breaking in to confuse and harrass me.
    The surprising thing is we didn't have to go to the store for anything before we had gotten the timer all hooked up. Which means, of course, that once we turned the power on, it didn't work. Per the instructions we tried swapping the load and line wires, and when that didn't help we tried swapping the ground and neutral. When that didn't help, we gave up and went to the store and bought a new timer which worked perfectly as soon as we hooked it up and turned on the power.

    I don't believe in the multi-verse. I think this universe is the only one there is. However, I am not convinced that we are seeing the whole truth of the way things are. We have our models, stories essentially, that purport to explain how things work. But there is some stuff that we still don't understand, and some of our explanations are a bit thin (I'm thinking subatomic physics and astronomy).
    There have been several times where I have taken apart a non-functional machine, found nothing wrong, put it back together and had it work perfectly. My facile explanation is that the machine was feeling unappreciated and simply wanted someone to pay some attention to it. The rational explanation is that a piece of dirt had found its way in between two contacts, and dis-assembly and reassembly dislodged it. Or a vacuum line that was sucking air is now holding a seal. You know, some small thing that would not be noticed without a forensic analysis with a microscope.
     I have suspected before that our brains might be capable of quantum communication. It's not something we will likely ever be able to prove, but it would give credence to some of the bizarre stories we hear, notably the ones where someone tells us that they felt it when a close family member died half a world away.

     The timers we installed are electronic devices, rather than the old mechanical kind, though I'm not sure it would have made any difference in the way things went down. I suspect what happened is that the house (or the part of my brain that is concerned with the house) realized that I had not yet gone to the store for this project, at least not on that day, and "reached out" and glitched the timer. It wouldn't take much, moving a few molecules of doping compound in a semiconductor, or breaking a tenuous solder connection, or maybe just blocking the flow of electricity in some obscure part of its internal circuitry.
    "You haven't gone to the store?", by all that is holy, that is a sacrilege of the first order. No timer shall work in this place until you have performed adequate penance. So I went to the store and bought a new timer, took it home, hooked it up. And it worked fine.

    Watched Pacific Rim on HBO last night. What a fine film. Yeah, right. What a silly movie actually. Alien sea monsters come out of a inter-dimensional portal in the bottom of the ocean. Ridiculous, everyone knows aliens come from outer space. But then I thought about it a bit, and you know, it could happen (I give it the same probability as monkeys flying out of my butt, but work with me here).
    We don't really know what goes on under high pressure. We've only managed to penetrate a few miles into the Earth, and it's 4,000 miles to the center. Maybe you could create a wormhole with the kind of pressure you would find down there. I mean that's how you make a black hole, right? You pile up enough dirt that it collapses down to nothing. Who's to say what you could do with a modest amount of dirt, like just a single planet's worth? I don't see us figuring out a way of dealing with those kind of pressures any time soon.

P.S.#1. Corn can tell the difference between Carbon 12 and Carbon 13.
P.S.#2 The mechanical men and the monsters in Pacific Rim were very impressive. Computer generated, sure, but an astounding level of detail.
P.S. #3 Idris Elba from Luther plays the hard nosed boss in Pacific Rim. I was surprised to see an actor of his caliber in this movie.

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