Day 1 was driving to our base camp in Albany. The slow way! South to Bennington. One stop to look at gourds:
A stop to pick up a spotting scope being given away for free outside a home in North Ferrisburgh. A ‘spotting scope’ is a telescope meant for not very far distances. This serendipitous find was a good omen for a trip that was mainly about drifting towards whatever seemed interesting. A stop at Cookie Love to kick off Vacation Eating. And din-dins at Madison brewpub in Bennington.
I can’t say I understood any of the physics in this. Yet I read the whole thing. (Save the appendices.) Because she keeps it so funny, and because the premise is simple: we should harbor no expectation that nature should be beautiful; and science should be about finding the truth, not coming up with beautiful theories. “We don’t seek theories to evoke emotional reactions; we seek explanations for what we observe.” Yet physicists keep working on theories where the math is ‘beautiful’, regardless whether these theories bear any relation to reality or can even hoped to be proven or disproven.
Hossenfelder is a physicist based in Germany. She literally travels the world to write this book, interviewing physicists, often wearing out her welcome, to ask each of them about their work; why do they think this is beautiful and the other unsatisfying, and above all, why do they think we should care what’s beautiful. She’s harsh in her criticism of getting “lost in math” to the detriment of what should be the main business of explaining the world. Or in her words:
“Maybe I’m just here to find an excuse for leaving academia because I’m disillusioned, unable to stay motivated through all the null results. & what an amazing excuse i have come up with – blaming a scientific community for misusing the scientific method.”
Some passages that made things simple enough for even me to understand:
“If you have a map of a mountainous landscape that doesn’t show altitudes, winding roads won’t make much sense. But if you know there are mountains, you understand why the roads curve like that – it’s the best they an do. That we cannot see the curvature of space-time is like having a map without altitude lines. If you could see space-time curvature, you would understand it makes perfect sense for planets to orbit around the Sun. It’s the best they can do.”
“It makes sense, intuitively, that our intuition fails in the quantum world. We don’t experience quantum effects in daily life… Indeed, it would be surprising if quantum physics were intuitive, because we never had a chance to get accustomed to it. Being unintuitive therefore shouldn’t be held against a theory. But like lack of aesthetic appeal, it is a hurdle to progress. & maybe, I think, this isn’t a hurdle we can overcome. Maybe we’re stuck in the foundations of physics because we’ve reached the limit of what humans can comprehend.”
I grew a total of two beautiful spaghetti squash this year. I cut them open and was a little surprised to see the green. They had developed plenty of mature seeds so ripeness shouldn’t have been an issue. They tasted fine. Maybe the green parts a little firmer than the other parts. And long as I don’t develop cramps tonight or anything, I call them a success. Even though they didn’t spaghettify very well; but that’s just me. I can’t seem to make spaghetti squash behave like it’s supposed to, but it still tastes fine.
Part of me is not at all sorry when produce season comes to an end. It gets tiring being a slave to what comes out of the garden, and it becomes very attractive and slothful to transform back to a typical American who just buys what she feels like from a supermarket.
I dyed today. I have so much yarn left over from the fair isle hat I could easily do another. But I thought how I would improve it, and I wanted a dark brown in place of the green.
I did not achieve what I wanted. First I come up with a brown almost EXACTLY like the medium brown already in the hat (even though that was a ProChem color and these were Greener Shade dyes). I added green then I got something too close to the green already in the hat. Then I added more orange and got this and said Fuck It.
This was a hard read because it’s narrated from the point of view of one of the mental patients; namely, the Chief, the most memorable character in the movie – I came into this having seen the movie, once, about 15 years ago. I was psyched that it was told from “Chief” Bromden’s perspective at first, but it’s a little hard to go with him down so many of his schizoid journeys.
It was fun to read how Nurse Ratched and MacMurphy were originally written; and the most memorable, climactic scenes were very true to the book.