A Modest Proposal

There are two standard systems of measurement used in the world today.

The oldest in common usage is the American version of the old Imperial English units. There are inches, feet, yards, miles, acres, quarts, cups, teaspoons, tablespoons, tons (both short and long). There are also units for time with origins in antiquity.

The other and by far the most common worldwide is the Metric System. This is based on a standard unit of length, the meter. A cubic meter of Water at a standard temperature and pressure is then used as a standard unit of volume (kilo Liter). The Meter is divided into decimal units. 1/100 meter is a centimeter. 1/1000 of a meter is a Millimeter. There are continuing units both larger and smaller than the Meter.

A meter was originally defined as the distance from the North Pole to the Euqator through a specified point. This point was to be London when the system was first proposed, but England didn’t want it. So, it was proposed to France. There it was accepted, so the median line was taken through Paris France. This means that the earth is 40 Million Meters in circumference by definition. Or, it would be if the earth was a perfect sphere. But, the Earth isn’t a perfect sphere. So, the French devised a workaround. they calculated carefully, and crafted a standard meter bar, made of Platinum, and kept it in a vault at a standardized temperature Until the last half of the last century, this was the reference Meter.

Then the United States stepped in. Technology had progressed enough that the standard would not give enough precision any more. Two forms of quantum energy radiation were selected to give both a reference time and a reference distance. Time came from a Cesium clock. This gave a source that could be replicated anywhere, and would give the same length to a time signal. Distance came from a Krypton Laser. This gave a replicable distance measure. But the light was a very small wavelength. True, it was much more reliable than the platinum bar, but it wasn’t really easy to get. It took a specific number of wavelengths, including a fractional part to get the length.

So, we have two different measurement systems, on based on very old measurements, and one based on the Earth, ultimately. The future looks like it will take us off of the earth, and out to the other planets and space, eventually we hope to make it to the stars. We can’t continue to rely on strange numbers based on a planet we will have left for accurate measurement.

If we are considering a future of Humanity that includes moving at least some people off of the Earth, then we should ask ourselves why we are using a measurement system that is based on the earth. The entire Metric System is based on the size of the Earth. Standard measurements are based on what is considered normal for the surface of the earth.

Absolute measurements which can be independently verified with relatively simple equipment is a real need. This would help long term for us as well.

Consider a few examples. The Volt, the basic unit of measurement for electric force is based on a length of carbon in a stack, and a level of current. The current is in turn based on a relatively random number of electrons. So are the units of capacitance, magnetic impedance and the basic unit for magnetism.

The same things are true for the basic units of pressure and viscosity.

Temperature is another case that doesn’t make any real sense. The two temperature scales commonly used are based on the thermal expansion of some material. This expansion is then read off against a scale. The most common material is colored alcohol. Formerly, liquid Mercury was used, but bi-matellic strips or solid metal rods are also used. The scales used vary, but the two that we all run into are Celsius (Centigrade) and Fahrenheit. The Farenheit scale uses a graduation of 100 equally spaced ‘degrees’ between the hottest day and the coldest day of one particular year in Germany. The Celsius scale uses the freezing and boiling points of water, with 100 equally spaced ‘degrees’. There are several reasons why this is a bad way to measure temperature.

For one, on the Celsius scale for example, water freezes at 0 degrees. But, freezing starts at around 4 Degrees Celsius, and continues as the temperature drops. If the pressure changes, then the freezing and boiling temperature also changes. The famous 100 degree boiling temperature is true only at a specific atmospheric pressure. If the atmospheric pressure is increased, the boiling temperature increases, and if the atmospheric pressure is reduced, the boiling temperature decreases. If the pressure is reduced enough, then body temperature will boil water. That is why high altitude pilots and astronauts must wear pressure suits.

First we should ask what are we measuring when we measure temperature? What we are measuring is the atomic momentum of the material. The real energy that is placed into the material speeds up the atomic motion. This is a non-linear function to the ‘temperature’ measurements. This means that there is a complicated formula for adding energy to reach a desired temperature. A much more correct unit would be Electron Volts (EV). This is a direct energy measurement. In thousands (K), millions (M) and billions (G) of EV this is what high energy physics uses instead of temperature. What works for physics would make much more sense than what we are using now.

For high temperature projects, Scientists commonly use the total energy content of the material. For instance, look at Fusion research. The various fusion reactors use the energy content of the plasma. It is a function of both temperature and density. The energy content of the gas needs to be great enough to both strip the atoms of electrons, and for the momentum of the Hydrogen nucleus to overcome the nuclear force trying to keep it from combining (or fusing).

Common reporting on these projects report temperatures of ‘Millions of Degrees’. The Physicists on the other hand expression these temperatures in KEV, MEV or even GEV. Electron Volts are a unit of energy. The same kind of measurement used in particle research. It’s not just a different measurement, it is something that is more directly measurable and much closer to the real energy barriers that need to be overcome.

So, why do we continue to measure the average energy around us by using the expansion of common or uncommon materials? looked at independently, it doesn’t make any real sense.

I would like to propose a much more sensible set of units. I call this a Standard Hydrogen System (SYS) of measurements. The standard unit of mass would be a neutral Hydrogen atom. The standard unit of electromotive force would be the bonding strength of the Hydrogen atom. This is approximately 1.5 Volts in the current Metric System. You have seen it. It is the natural voltage of most batteries cells. The standard unit of electric current would be a single electron. This would be scaled up to much greater levels. Computers are good at that. Common values used in every day life would be much greater values of course, but the values would be easily converted.

For values of distance and time, I would like to propose that we use another convenient property of hydrogen. There exists for Hydrogen both a set of emission lines and absorption lines. Astronomy uses one of these absorption lines as a standard. This is the famous 21 cm line. This gives us a convenient quantum length that is close to a human related scale. It also gives us a basic unit of time/frequency. The base value would be the Beat. a speed of one beat per beat would be the speed of light.

I would also like to use a base 16 system for changes to these units. Yes, I know that it is not Decimal Friendly, the major advantage for the Metric System. But, the Metric system has many physical reasons why this is not really an advantage.

By 300 BC, Greek geometers knew that while a line could be bisected (divided in two equal lengths), it could not be trisected. (divided into three equal lengths). In fact, by the methods of geometry, a line cannot be exactly divided into any odd number of pieces. Ruling out all of the odd number factors, leaves us with only powers of two as the candidates that can be subdivided exactly.

What geometry can do, other physical processes can also do. what geometry cannot do, other physical processes cannot do exactly, only approximately. This means that in every decimal process, there are always errors.

That is why computers use Hexadecimal mathematics internally. 16 is a convenient value for a base, and as a power of two, it makes the circuitry easier to design.

Yes, it is not Decimal, but decimal numbers are not really hard wired into us as people. Most people assume that a base of ten is ‘natural’, but that isn’t true. There are languages that are used today that don’t have numbers larger than three or four. These people use our number names for larger numbers.

English actually has three different bases for numbers built into our number names. Consider. I don’t believe that anyone would seriously argue that the numbers from one to ten are not a base ten number system. and it is, but consider eleven and twelve. These are easy example of English supporting a base twelve system. That dates all the way back to Babylon, where they wanted to make fractions easier. A base of twelve makes it easier to deal with fractions made up of bases of 1, 2, 3 and 4. The Babylonian scholars even took the next step and added 5. That means that the minimum base system is base 60 (3x4x5) And before you say that it is silly, and no one would ever use base 12 or base 60, please answer these two questions.

First, considering that Babylonian scholars considered Day and Night to be two different periods, how many hours are in a day?

Secondly, How many minutes are in an hour? How many seconds are in a minutes?

See, you are still using both Base 12 (by two, to include both day (AM) and night (PM)). You are also using Base 60. The influence of ancient Babylon is still dominating some aspect of our lives, four thousand years and more after it was commonly practiced. (By the way, Horoscopes also came to us from ancient Babylon. So you also know many people who adhere to Babylonian superstitions.)

There is one other number base built into the English language. That is a base 20 system. The number names from thirteen to nineteen give evidence of that. You probably learned twenty as the next number. But, there is a twenty-six, but no twenty-seventeen. That is because the last number in the old German counting system was not twenty, it was one score. (Remember Lincoln’s famous Gettysburg Address, “Four Score and Seven Years ago..”) A score, like a dozen is still with us.

So, number systems of up to 60 have been used, and number systems of up to 20 have been widely used, even by people you might consider completely uneducated.

So, I conclude that using a base of 16 for more exact measurement is doable, and if we understand the reasons, can even be simply implemented.

Computer people need to become comfortable in Hex, base 16 arithmetic. And they do. It usually takes place in college, and takes about a half a semester for them to become used to it. They often get calculators that support ‘Hex’ math. If started earlier, First Graders could be as good at Hex Math as they are with Decimal Math. The number after fifteen then would be Hex.

I will leave it to others to name the units that would be needed to make this all work out. Constants would of course be easily converted by computer.

An atomic clock, and a quantum based micrometer could be easily fabricated as a semiconductor chip. The base frequency would be close to 1.4 GHZ. If we chose a base time, say some convenient value close to the age of the universe, then our time calculations would never need to have any negative numbers.

See how much better everything would be if we would just get off of our parochial dependence on local or even nonsensical measurement systems, and get on a true universal measurement system? why delay, we should start today!

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Degenerating

Consider what it means to degenerate. Degeneration is the decline or loss of capacity. It is used to describe the condition of machines and of societies. It is sometimes used to describe men and women too. Machines can definitely degenerate, so can buildings. Ecologies can also degenerate, as can animals, including men and women. But, though people may degenerate, they are not themselves degenerate. Noun and verb. A degenerate condition is not a person. An action or group encouraging an action can be degenerate, because they encourage a degenerate condition.

A persons actions though may cause degeneration in themselves, or in society as a whole. This happens when the actions of a group or an individual do not support the continuation of society. To find out when this occurs, let us look at what a society needs to exist and continue.

A society is a group of people who behave in a certain way, with expectation of others also behaving in certain ways. To continue, the society must have a common bond, must have common standards, and must have over time some mechanism to draw in new people, because it is certain that over time, the current members of the society will die.

Examples of societies could include the Elks Lodge, members of a Christian Church, Accountants, or any other relatively cohesive group.

For a larger society, such as say Western Civilization, the common code is the Judo-Christian ethic. The assumption that there are certain things that are right and others that are wrong. There are common laws, and punishments for breaking the law. Renewal of Western Civilization is done by raising children, and educating them in the fundamentals of Western Civilization. This includes things like reading, writing, mathematics and the Scientific Method. It also includes religion and a respect for god and other men and women.

Any action which causes these values not to be passed on to the next generation, or which acts to reduce or damage the next generation will thus be degenerate acts, as they will not allow the proper continuation of Western Civilization. The same things could be said about other societies, such as the Chinese, the Eskimos, or Islam. What the society values may change, but the basics are still a common set of rules, and training of children to take the place of the adults in the future.

Look at the actions of groups that are commonly considered “degenerate”.

Drug users, recreational drug users, that is, are a group that are engaged in unhealthy behavior. They commonly suffer from shorter life spans, and damage to surrounding communities due to crime to find the money for this very expensive habit. New drug users are recruited by giving foolish or ignorant people drugs, and to then encourage the behavior. New drug users are mainly recruited. So, drug addiction can be considered as a degenerate behavior.

Homosexuals are another group. Exclusive homosexuals will not have children. Homosexuality is propagated by recruitment from the surrounding communities. Because of the reduced rate of child bearing and child rearing means that the society that contains homosexuals is damaged by the presence of a homosexual community. Thus, homosexuality can be considered a degenerate behavior.

Divorce results in broken homes. Children of divorced homes have been found to not do as well in school, and to have lower self esteem and problems in relationships. This is further compounded when one parent has custody of the children, and the other parent no longer contributes to the maintenance of the children. This leaves the children in relative poverty. Poverty results in other damage to the potential of the children, thus, a society that encourages divorce is degenerate. Serial marriage/divorce prone people are thus degenerate.

Couples who chose to not have children are not contributing to the next generation of society, thus movements which discourage children are thus also degenerate.

There are other behaviors that result in degenerate actions and damage society.

Degenerate behavior does not mean that a person is not a person, but it does mean that society is being damaged. Repair of the society requires either the elimination or the control of the degenerate behavior. In Ancient Rome, for example, young men were encouraged to have homosexual experiences up until they were of marriageable age. This was done to reduce the incidence of pregnancy in young unmarried girls. The Romans got this custom from the Greeks.

After marriage, young men would be ridiculed if they continued homosexual behavior. Julius Cesar was one who was ridiculed for a time after his marriage. But, he did come around to being a doting father. He had one daughter in Rome, his wife died in childbirth. He also fathered a son by Queen Cleopatra of Egypt. Cesar’s daughter kept the peace between Cesar and Pompey, until she died.

In Arab countries today, the common binding is Sharia law, and a declaration of reverence for the Koran and its reputed author Mohammed. This system has had to be bent considerably to compete with modern technical societies, such as France and Great Britain. Countries that have tried to go back to pure Sharia law, such as Afghanistan, and Sudan have slipped back to technology levels of several hundred years ago. But, they do manage to maintain the culture. Others, such as Egypt, Syria and Libya have constant tension between the Religious authorities and the people who want the things technology brings. This is being played out in various stages throughout the Islamic world. Only time will tell if Islam will be able to change, or if Islam and technology are forever incompatible. Certainly, there are Muslims who are technically very able, and are able to reconcile the two. But, can the culture do so? And, if they do so, can they live in peace with their neighbors? In the past, Muslims have made very poor neighbors, just ask the Christians of Syria, Turkey, Egypt, and the Sudan. The Crusades were not held to thank Islam for being so good. In a world with Nuclear weapons, biological and chemical munitions, it doesn’t work for one group to want to destroy all it’s neighbors. But, Sharia law demands it.

So, we are left with a series of difficult situations. If society is to continue, then many popular practices must be left behind. People do not agree on what to continue and what to leave behind. Homosexuals, Athiests and Humanists want to leave behind the religions that have inculcated the moral codes that make society possible. To date, no other mechanism for imbuing people with a moral code has emerged. Some Religions want to leave behind the science and technology that make modern life with the high population levels we see today possible. To abandon those would doom billions to death by starvation and violence. Some Religions are not compatible with modern society, and are demonstrably false, or contain conflicting paradoxes for those who espouse them.

A resolution is needed for all of these and more. For the future, the degenerate behaviors that are so prevalent will need to be reduced and controlled. Meanwhile, we should remember that the people who practice degenerate behaviors are still people. They just need help and understanding to control their behavior.

If not, then we all have no future.

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The Four Logics

There are four ways of thinking that the majority of people use. Each of these is a self-contained, logical and often valid thought process. Some are used more than others, and some are respected more than others. I will call these Deductive, Emotional, Analogical and Revelatory. You probably use each of them at some times.

First is Deductive. Deductive logic is linear. If A and B then C is true. All of Mathematics and most of Science and technology is developed with Deductive logic. Deductive logic is very powerful, but does have some weaknesses.

All Deductive logic uses proofs and starts from a base of axioms. Axioms are those things that are assumed to be true. Without those axioms, deductive logic can come to no conclusions. Most people never question their axioms. With deduction, you go from A to C then on to F. After several steps, it is easy to have a conclusion that has no relation to reality. This happens in Physics all the time. In Physics there are Theoreticians and Experimentalists. They often have disagreements. The Theoreticians propose things, and the Experimentalists try to prove or disprove the prediction. Theoreticians use nearly pure deductive logic. But, without the checks from the Experimentalists, modern scientists would be no better off than the medieval philosophers who argued about how many angels could dance on the head of a pin. Even mathematicians, the most logical of all, check to make sure that their theorems are correct. The lesson for us all here is that no matter how sound your logic is, you need to check periodically to be sure that it matches reality. If not, your logic is faulty.

If there is no failure in your logic, but the conclusion is still wrong, then you have a problem in your axioms. Any paradox is the result of faulty axioms or incorrect processes.

This explains why logic is not infallible. Always check your conclusions against reality.

The Second is Emotional Logic. Emotional logic is often derided by deductive logic thinkers as inferior. This is not correct. Emotional logic is non-linear. It works by attaching values to things or actions. Those values are increased or decreased based on experiences and associations. Emotional logic is the logic of feelings. The relations are done by using a weighted total of the inputs. Often, an emotional conclusion cannot be deductively explained. But the feelings can be explained, even if not with deduction. If deductive logic is linear, emotional logic is parallel. Many different values all contribute to the total conclusion. The relations between these feelings may seem tenuous at times, but the relationship is there, at least to the thinker.

All decisions are emotion based. Any good salesman can tell you this. A very logical (Deductive people always think that deduction is the only logic) person just places a very high value on deductive logic.

Quick decision makers use emotional logic. They may have many associations, both good and bad to apply to a situation. The best quick decision makers will let their emotions be swayed by other logic. But only so far. Deduction can be applied wrongly and lead to bad decisions too.

Emotional logic can also lead you astray. When your feeling are not appropriate to the situation, you will make decisions that are also not appropriate. If you love dogs, and so approach a large junk yard dog and get attacked, you will regret it.

In use of emotional logic, always try to be open to reasons to adjust your emotional values.

Third is Analogy logic. This system relates something unfamiliar to something familiar. A good key to analogy as a form of logic is the term ‘like’. A car is like a wagon, it has four wheels. A car is also like a horse, it can carry things. It is like a ship, it can be steered. It is like a plate of spaghetti, it is a complicated mess inside. All of these are analogies that can be used to explain a car to someone who is not familiar with a car.

We all use analogy when we meet something new. Analogy can allow us to deal with the unfamiliar. But, while the analogy may fit, it is never a perfect fit. In the analogy above, if you try to feed your car oats because it is like a horse, you will not have a good experience.

Always try to be aware of the limits of any analogy.

The fourth is Revelatory. This is the most uncommon form. A revelation is a sudden understanding that seems to have no link to any thought process. It may come from inside or from outside of you. If you are searching to find where a jigsaw puzzle fits, and suddenly you see it, that is a revelation.

Many principles of science were discovered by revelation. Most religions were started as a result of revelation. There is a strong feeling associated with the sudden understanding that comes from this logic.

Revelation though, needs to be checked against reality too. Just because something comes to you in an instant, doesn’t mean it is true. It doesn’t mean it is false either.

……..

In dealing with the world, it is vital match reality with thought. In dealing with other people, we often need to deal with their perception of reality, which may differ from our own. Politics takes groups of people, often large groups, and tries to run things by their perception. When the popular perception is incorrect, the results are not the best. The further from reality the popular perception is, the worse the results. With strong emotional attachment, the political systems will often just try the same things harder, with the result of making problems even worse. This explains much of politics.

Most people will go to great lengths to avoid admitting error in their cherished beliefs. There are strong emotions attached to those beliefs. They will often resort to blame assignment and name calling to avoid any admission of error. This also explains much of political, religious and business behavior.

I have found that having someone to blame doesn’t fix problems. Fixing the problem doesn’t always mean that someone needs to be blamed. Politicians and lawyers seem to always want to fix blame, but seldom if ever fix the problems. I am an Engineer. I am interested in fixing problems. That is after all what an engineer really does.

If there were no problems, we would need no engineers. Buildings and bridges would stay up, roads would never wash away or have curve problems that cause cars to slide off. The office would never be too hot or too cold, Electricity would cause no fires, and there would always be enough power of the right type at any outlet. Cars would never break, and planes would always fly right.

But, that’s not the world I live in. In my world, there are never perfect solutions. There are always better solutions. I would like to see things get better.

What kind of world do you live in? If Barak Obama or Sarah Palin are always either right or wrong, then you don’t live in the real world. If the Democrats or Republicans (or the Greens or Social Democrats, or any other political party) have all the right answers, then you don’t live in the real world either. We should discuss what is important. I hope I can help. You are not the problem, but your emotions or assumptions may be part of the problem. Finding more correct values and breaking things down to a manageable size is where we can find what is important, and then see how to fix things.

More to follow…

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