A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Archive for October 2012

[LINK] “Possible Bubbles of Spacetime Curvature in the South Pacific”

Mathematician Benjamin K. Tippett‘s arXiv paper “Possible Bubbles of Spacetime Curvature in the South Pacific” is superb.

In 1928, the late Francis Wayland Thurston published a scandalous manuscript in purport of warning the world of a global conspiracy of occultists. Among the documents he gathered to support his thesis was the personal account of a sailor by the name of Gustaf Johansen, describing an encounter with an extraordinary island. Johansen’s descriptions of his adventures upon the island are fantastic, and are often considered the most enigmatic (and therefore the highlight) of Thurston’s collection of documents.

We contend that all of the credible phenomena which Johansen described may be explained as being the observable consequences of a localized bubble of spacetime curvature. Many of his most incomprehensible statements (involving the geometry of the architecture, and variability of the location of the horizon) can therefore be said to have a unified underlying cause.

We propose a simplified example of such a geometry, and show using numerical computation that Johansen’s descriptions were, for the most part, not simply the ravings of a lunatic. Rather, they are the nontechnical observations of an intelligent man who did not understand how to describe what he was seeing. Conversely, it seems to us improbable that Johansen should have unwittingly given such a precise description of the consequences of spacetime curvature, if the details of this story were merely the dregs of some half remembered fever dream.

We calculate the type of matter which would be required to generate such exotic spacetime curvature. Unfortunately, we determine that the required matter is quite unphysical, and possess a nature which is entirely alien to all of the experiences of human science. Indeed, any civilization with mastery over such matter would be able to construct warp drives, cloaking devices, and other exotic geometries required to conveniently travel through the cosmos.

I quite like the bibliography, too.

[1] M. Alcubierre. The warp drive: hyper-fast travel within general relativity. Class. Quantum Grav., 11:L73, 1994.
[2] W. Dyer. At the mountains of madness. Ast. Str., Feb-Apl 1936.
[3] W. Hawking, S. and G. Ellis. The Large Scale Structure of Spacetime. Cambridge University Press, 1975.
[4] S. T. Joshi. A private correspondence, 2012.
[5] E. Komatsu and et al. Five-year wilkinson microwave anisotropy probe observations: Cosmological interpretation. Astr. J. Supp. Ser., 180:330–376, 2009.
[6] M. Morris, K. Thorne, and U. Yurtsever. Wormholes, time machines, and the weak energy condition. Physics Review Letters, 61:1446–1449, 1988.
[7] E. Poisson. A Relativist’s Toolkit. Cambridge University Press, 2004.
[8] F.W. Thurston. The call of cthulhu. Wrd. Tls., Feb. 1928.
[9] B. K. Tippett. Gravitational lensing as a mechanism for effective cloaking. Phys. Rev. D, 84(104034), 2011.
[10] R. M. Wald. General Relativity. The University of Chicago Press, 1984.
[11] Note: Johansen’s personal testament is currently archived in the rare books section at the main library at Miskatonic University.While we have not yet been able to inspect them ourselves, academic consensus has it that Thurston’s summary is consistent with it in most details [4]. Thus, the specific descriptions we will be referring to are Thurston’s, and not
Johansen’s directly.

(Francis Wayland Thurston and Gustaf Johansen both feature in “The Call of Cthulhu”. Run with it.)

Written by Randy McDonald

October 31, 2012 at 11:55 pm

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[META] Semagic cross-post test


Written by Randy McDonald

October 31, 2012 at 11:43 pm

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[META] Testing crossposting

Test, test, 1 2 3 test.

Written by Randy McDonald

October 31, 2012 at 9:28 pm

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[META] rfmcdonald at Dreamwidth

A Bit More Detail is now online at Dreamwidth, username rfmcdonald. My thanks to springheel_jack for the gift of a startup code. Please follow me there.

At present, Dreamwidth is importing my information. The entries and comments will take a while–in doing its backup, Semagic told me that there were eleven thousand entries and three times as many comments–but they’ll get there.

Written by Randy McDonald

October 31, 2012 at 7:57 pm

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[META] On transitioning from Livejournal

As a result of the ongoing changes in LiveJournal, I’ve decided to transition away from that platform to something more durable.

WordPress–where I already maintain a blog–and Dreamwidth are the front-runners at present. I’ll let everyone know where I end up.

Most importantly from my perspective, can anyone offer suggestions as to how I can transport my ten years’ archived posts from LiveJournal over to one or both destinations? WordPress.com’s online forums haven’t been much help of late, and I shudder to imagine what problems I could encounter at Dreamwidth. (No one will be surprised to learn that LiveJournal’s ability to export data is laughably bad. Here’s hoping my Semagic copy will be exportable.)


Written by Randy McDonald

October 31, 2012 at 12:24 pm

[LINK] “GCC Expansion at a Time of Arab Turmoil”

http://rfmcdpei.livejournal.com/2813707.htmlMoroccan journalist Ahmed Charai has an opinion piece at The National Interest talking enthusiastically about the expansion of the Gulf Cooperation Council from its heartland among the oil-rich monarchies of the Persian Gulf to the much poorer and non-Gulf Arab monarchies of Morocco and Jordan. The expansion noted in March 2011 really is going to take place.

Whereas the announcement of GCC expansion was viewed as an exciting, historic development among member states and their populations, in the West it found a cool reception. Coming as it did amid the early euphoria of the Arab Spring—a time when many outsiders predicted that liberal democracies would soon emerge in Tunisia, Egypt and elsewhere—the news from the Gulf was viewed somewhat cynically. Shadi Hamid, a fellow at the Saban Center for Middle East policy in Washington, interpreted GCC expansion as follows: “The Saudis worried that if the U.S. was able to turn its back on one of its closest allies in the region when former President Hosni Mubarak left, will they do it again if unrest erupts somewhere else in the region? Who will they throw under the bus next?” Other experts characterized the decision as a desperate move by autocrats to insulate themselves from the winds of change.

Sixteen months later, the regional situation has indeed changed. Amid an Al Qaeda resurgence, chaos in Libya, an ascendant Iran and a Syrian civil war spreading beyond the country’s borders, the Arab Spring states are struggling to achieve stability. The United States is also hard-pressed; it turns out not to be so easy for Washington to chart a steady course having lost Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak as a strategic ally and anchor in the region. In this context, a reappraisal of the GCC’s expansion is now warranted. The group is swiftly coalescing into a strong, constructive actor on the Arab stage whose concerns are congruent with those of the United States. Not only can an expanded GCC serve as Washington’s partner in addressing the region’s instability; its member states can also support incremental political change throughout the Arab world—both among Arab Spring states and within the alliance itself.

[. . .]

Viewed as a whole, the new eight-member GCC will border every major flashpoint in North Africa and the Middle East. The Gulf states corner the southwestern portion of Iran; its nuclear-power plant in the city of Bushehr lies barely 180 miles east of Kuwait City. Jordan straddles Syria, Iraq, the Palestinian territories and Israel. And sandwiched between Jordan and Morocco —the GCC’s new outpost on the Atlantic—lie the fires of Libya and the tensions of Tunisia.

Each member of the new GCC has a distinguished track record of mitigating neighborhood crises. Amid lethal violence in Libya and Syria, the kingdoms of Morocco and Jordan have hosted three hundred thousand refugees from those troubled lands. Jordan serves as hallowed ground for risk-averse international NGOs who wish to encounter and engage civil-society groups from Palestine and Iraq. Both Jordan and Morocco have also served as “fire departments” in the war on terror—lending troops, spies and expertise to help snuff out anti-Israel jihadists and Al Qaeda networks. Noteworthy as well is the extent to which these two cash-strapped kingdoms have supported each other in these endeavors; Morocco, for example, has endowed a military hospital at Jordan’s Syrian border to tend to victims of the Assad killing machine. Moreover, the financial viability of both countries will be ensured by a cash injection from the Gulf, initiated by Saudi Arabia, amounting to $1 billion annually for five years. This economic aid will be invaluable to both countries and partly offset the United States’ foreign-aid burden at a time when the American economy faces challenges of its own. King Mohammed VI’s visit last week to four Gulf states as well as Jordan served to underscore the cooperation between these states as well as foster Gulf business investment in Morocco and Jordan.

A desire to end Iran’s nuclear-weapons project preoccupies all eight countries. While Americans and Israelis debate the role of sanctions, sabotage and air strikes in countering Iran, the expanded GCC’s member states are prepared to support all of the above. Saudi Arabia has spoken out boldly against Iran—and invested substantially in destabilizing the country by working with its disaffected ethnic minorities, such as the Arabs of Iran’s Khuzestan province.

The idea of an alliance of the Middle East’s status quo monarchies, mostly absolute but including some constitutional monarchies, reminds me of the Holy Alliance of post-Napoleonic Europe more than anything else.


Written by Randy McDonald

October 31, 2012 at 2:23 am

[URBAN NOTE] “New York Subway System Faces Weeks to Recover From Storm”

Via Joe. My. God. I learned about the terrible damage inflicted on New York City’s subway system by the recent storm. As summarized at length by Bloomberg News, the damage–especially but not only to the vast infrastructure necessary to knit together a megalopolis–is daunting. My sympathies to all, and my most fervent hopes for a rapid recovery.

New York’s subway system may take weeks of work and tens of billions of dollars to be restored to full service as officials assess the toll from floods, hurricane-force winds and electrical damage that crippled the most populous U.S. city’s transportation hub.

“I can say unequivocally that the MTA last night faced a disaster as devastating as it has ever faced in its history,” Metropolitan Transit Authority Chairman Joe Lhota said at a news conference today.

Sandy, the Atlantic superstorm, exceeded officials’ worst- case scenario, Lhota said. It wreaked havoc on the entire transportation system in New York and New Jersey, including subways, buses, roads and commuter railroads.

Damage on the MTA, the largest U.S. transit system that carries an average of 8.7 million riders on weekdays, was so widespread that officials today said they couldn’t tell when they’ll be able to assess it. Seven subway tunnels under the East River flooded, as did six bus depots. The South Ferry station was filled to the ceiling with water, the agency said.

Klaus Jacob, a research scientist at Columbia University who co-wrote a 2011 study forecasting damages of $50 billion to $55 billion to transportation infrastructure from flooding in a severe hurricane, said that scenario appears to be coming true.

Written by Randy McDonald

October 31, 2012 at 12:15 am