I've suggested (& published in 21 journal papers) a new theory called quantised inertia (or MiHsC) that assumes that inertia is caused by horizons damping quantum fields. It predicts galaxy rotation & lab thrusts without any dark stuff or adjustment. My University webpage is here, I've written a book called Physics from the Edge and I'm on twitter as @memcculloch. Most of my content is at patreon now: here

Monday 10 October 2016

Star Trek, Birmingham

This is a more light-hearted blog than normal since I have just been to a Star Trek convention. I know that it is irrational (Star Trek is fiction), but I did enjoy it immensely, like the previous one. Why go? Well, although the people Trekkies come to see are actors, it's interesting to hear the back-story to episodes that you like, to meet people with similar scientific and moral interests, and also when the actors get up on the stage they often talk about the amazing ideas that science fiction writers have forced them to enact. Where else can you hear such ideas presented by passionate and humorous actors?

My friend and I first saw the dignified George Takei (Sulu), who talked about how in World War 2 the US interned even ethnic Japanese orphans, "What's so dangerous about orphans?" and how when his ethnic Japanese family were taken away to the internment camp their neighbours stole their stuff.

The Next Generation panel was a blast with Marina Sirtis who played Troy, Gates McFadden (Dr Crusher) and Will Wheaton (Wesley). Marina Sirtis was hilarious and was the opposite of her psychological 'careful what you say' Betazoid character, and kept dropping loud shock-bombs. When someone said 'When Gene Roddenberry left in 1991..' as if to give the impression that he'd abandoned Star Trek. Sirtis corrected him: 'Actually, he died'. When someone asked her to talk about Shatner's new documentary she said: "Why should I make Shatner richer than he already is!?".

Will Wheaton was in good form, having just rested up in Scotland. He used the collapse of the quantum mechanical wave-function in an analogy, very Big Bang, and when a fellow in a wheelchair apologised for not standing up, Will Wheaton told him not to apologise for something outside his control, which is common sense, but is very Star Trek. My friend and I also met some German Trekkies and we had a frank chat about the terrible corporate-rigged US-western system. Star Trek gives me the sort of feeling that the local church used to give me as a child, that I was with people who at least said decent things, with the huge added bonus that Star Trek is based on logic and science and so is endlessly interesting and makes sense.

William Shatner is always surprising. When I got him to sign something at a convention in 2012 I gave him a short speech about how I've developed a hypothesis that might make faster than light travel possible (see here) and how Star Trek was of course an inspiration, and he showed no interest in astrophysics and just said "You're very welcome". Yesterday, he would not shut up about astrophysics! He's been chatting to bigwigs like Machiu Kaku, DeGrasse Tyson and Stephen Hawking. Hawking apparently, through no fault of his own of course, took half an hour to ask Shatner a question, who was on tenterhooks thinking what profound question it would be, and it turned out to be "What is your favourite episode?". Shatner talked a lot about dark matter, though admirably he teased these three guys for not knowing what it was. I felt like standing up and shouting: "Dark matter does not exist (link) and I have a far better explanation for galaxy rotation!" (see here).

To mix healthy fact in with the science fiction, I was very glad that Al Worden was there too: the Apollo 15 astronaut who orbited the Moon. Worden said he was flying over the Moon one day and when he woke up in the 'morning' the craters looked awful big. He was concerned and phoned Houston who said "Yeah. You're a little close", "How close?" "31 km +/- 10 km" (or something). He then said in his pragmatic American way: "When people give you numbers in a circumstance like that, with a plus or minus after it, you pay attention!". That made me laugh, because I'm always trying to get my students to use error bars. I can use that story in class.


Charles Munn said...

Thanks Mike., your students are lucky to have found you, and so are old wanna-be geeks like me.

Ted Rippert said...

My answer to Stephen's question - Mirror, Mirror.

The episode that forever made the goatee the iconic symbol of evil.

AdamW said...

Did you ever read any E.E. 'Doc' Smith? I only mention it because I suddenly remember he had an 'inertialess drive', for enabling his spacecraft to cross interstellar distances by removing their inertial mass...

Mike McCulloch said...

I never read E.E. 'Doc' Smith, but kudos to him for proposing an inertia drive. I was drawn to inertia because it had never been understood, and as a result it had become a blind spot in physics. MiHsC offers an understanding of inertia for the first time, and if you understand it, you can maybe control it.