All posts by jack

About jack

Author, Columnist, Physicist. Specialties include math algorithms, embedded systems, space science, dynamic simulation, trajectories.

Politics

If you’re under 30, and are a conservative, you have no heart.  If you’re over 30 and are a liberal, you have no brain — anon.

I’m over 30. ‘Nuff said.  From time to time, I’ll be commenting on the current state of our country’s political system, and politics in general.  I welcome your comments as well. Be advised, though, that I won’t accept nasty comments from extremists at either end of the spectrum.  So please keep it clean, respectful, and sane.

Normally, I try to avoid political controversy.  But lately I’ve become Continue reading Politics

Cars

4-continentalLike most teens growing up in the postwar era (WWII, that is), I’ve always been fascinated by cars of all kinds, especially the classic 40’s vintage and 60’s musclecars. In another lifetime I built and raced my own car, a “Micro-Midget” (not as small or slow as the name implies). I also built a heavily-customized (sectioned) 40 Ford Tudor. Soon I’ll be writing more about the cars I’ve driven, which are:

  • 28 Model A Roadster — great fun, but no brakes
  • 39 Buick Century — the original musclecar: dual carbs, smooth ride
  • 40 Ford Tudor — beautiful, V-8 sound to die for; heavily customized
  • 55 Chevy Delray Coupe — plain outside, elegant luxury inside, power pack V-8
  • 58 Renault Dauphine 850 — efficient little 4-door, great handling
  • Abarth 750 Zagato “Double-Bubble” Coupe — mini hot rod, sleek aluminum body
  • 63 Lincoln Continental 4-door 430 — cruising in ultimate elegance
  • 67 Plymouth Belvedere Wagon 383 — 140-mph Corvette killer
  • 68 1/2 Lincoln Continental 460 —  can a luxury car also be a musclecar?  You bet!
  • 72 Datsun 510 — smooth, reliable. Paul Newman’s favorite race car
  • 80 Nissan 510 — the update. Ran great, ultra reliable
  • 94 Nissan Sentra SE-R — Nissan’s sleeper pocket rocket, with Infinity 2.0L
  • 98 Buick Ultra — supercharged, sports suspension. Another sleeper
  • The Micro Midget(s)
  • Racing Kart
  • Quarter Midget Racers (for my kids)

Cars I wish I’d NEVER bought:

  • 66 Ford Fairlane wagon 390 — total dog. Engine blew at 500 mi
  • 73 Ford Fiesta — death trap in the wet. Brake in turn, car goes straight

This entry was posted in Cars, Great Rides and tagged cars, hot rods, musclecars, race cars, racing, vintage by jack. Bookmark the permalink. Edit

 

Bikes

Triumph Trophy TR5T Trail 500I’ve been riding motorcycles since age 12. I love it. I’ve ridden street bikes and dirt bikes, I’ve competed in field meets, road racing, enduros, autocross (yes, on a bike) as well as a bunch of impromptu flat track. scrambles, and motocross events.

In 1956-59, I was a Triumph dealer. Some of my favorite rides would now be treasured as collector’s items and/or cafe racers. Soon I’ll be writing more on my favorite bikes, including:

  •   46 Whizzer motorbike — engine on special-order Schwinn. Nicely done, but no brakes!
  •   48 Harley 125 — 2-stroke, rubber suspension, but nicely done
  •   49 Harley 125 — first bedazzled with chrome, later stripped as enduro bike
  •   Army Surplus Harley 45 — flat-head engine.  Shift on the tank, clutch on the foot
  •   Norton Dominator 500 twin.  Great road rider, but I turned it into a 500cc dirt bike!
  •   Triumph Trophy 500 twin — light, aluminum-block trials bike;  wonderful
  •    BSA 500 twin — fast, solid, reliable
  •    Triumph 500 twin — souped to the max by Hurtis Carr
  •    Triumph Cub 200 Scrambler — sedate when stock, rocketship when modified
  •    Ducati 250 single — good ride, solid engine, but junk electrics
  •    Yamaha 305 2-stroke twin — surprisingly fast, dead reliable
  •    73 Yamaha 100 Enduro — my son’s bike, utterly unbreakable
  •    73 Yamaha 175 Enduro — his ran so well, I had to have one too

Reply: <original was lost; talked about the rider’s favorite BMW

Reply:   jack on March 22, 2014 at 11:55 am said:

I assume that the BMW is a road cruiser sort, right? I’ve never been much for road riding, but to each his own. My favorite “big” bikes were the Norton 500 and the Triumph Thunderbird.

For dirt and enduro riding, I went much smaller. The Yamaha 175 was perfect for me. My rule is: never ride an enduro bike that’s too heavy to carry up a mountain, if you have to.

Reply:  Bruce on March 22, 2014 at 3:26 am said:

My favorite old bike was the Moto Guzzi 850 T3. It was never fast but a smooth ride and a pleasure to maintain.

If I could afford a new bike today, it might be the BMW 1200 Adventure.

Just 1 problem, I still have a liking of the simpler machine and the new bikes have too many electronics and gizmos.

Reply: jack on March 22, 2014 at 11:49 am said: I know what you mean about the gizmos. The Japanese bike builders, in particular, just don’t seem to be able to resist the temptation to add yet another light or switch.

My favorite peeve is the light to tell you what gear you’re in.  I figure, when the time comes when I can’t figure out what gear I’m in, it’s time to hang it up.

Even my favorite dirt bike, the old Yamaha 175, came with all kinds of electrics, including turn signals, the neutral indicator, etc., etc. On a DIRT bike. I must have taken off 100 pounds of wires and gizmos.

The bike ran much better after that 😉

Science v. Religion

Yes, it’s true: I’m a believer and a serious Christian. I make no apologies for that.

It could have been different. Trained as a scientist, I was taught to believe only in what I could see, hear, or feel (never mind that most scientists today can’t do any of those things — think quarks and black holes).   Growing up, I was at least an agnostic, if not an atheist.

Fortunately — if uncomfortably — for me, I had an “advantage”: a number of encounters with supernatural stuff, including having grown up in two haunted houses. Such encounters definitely have a way of changing one’s perspective.  I was forced to face the fact that there’s Something Out There. In fact, SEVERAL Somethings. Some of these Somethings are nice and benevolent. Some are not.

I think perhaps the reason I majored in Physics was in the hope that I’d find a physics equation that could explain these experiences. But the more I learned, the more I came to realize that I wasn’t going to find my answers in Newton’s equations, or Einstein’s, or Maxwell’s, or Schrödinger’s. It would take a different book entirely.

Think about it. Physics is the study of the physical world, otherwise known as the natural world, or simply Nature.

By definition, things like spiritual beings and happenings don’t exist in nature. They’re supernatural. Duh. You can no more use physics to understand supernatural things than you could study the Moon’s motion using a CAT scanner. If you want to learn more about the entirety of human knowledge, you might want to expand your reading list.

The great (atheist) paleontologist, Stephen Jay Gould, spoke about the worlds of science and religion as “non-overlapping magisteria.” His idea was that we had no need to argue which one was true, because of the very fact that they addressed wholly different parts of existence.   Which would all be very nice and pleasant if folks mired in one magisterium didn’t sometimes feel moved to declare that the other one doesn’t exist (can we say “Richard Dawkins”?).

Let’s be honest: As in politics, extremists and ideologues abound on both sides of the issue. Fundamentalist, New Earth Creationists tend to think of all scientists as spawns of the Devil. They say things like “The Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it.” Don’t waste your time trying to confuse them with facts.

Darwin’s Theory of Evolution has its own set of fundamentalists, and believe me when I say, they can be every bit as dogmatic, closed-minded, and offensive as the worst fundamentalist. They call me and other believers “Fundies,” regardless of what we actually believe, and they tend to resort to ad hominems rather than dialogue.

Ask any Darwinist how any species appeared and he’ll fall back on the mantra, “Random mutation followed by natural selection.”  As if that explains anything.

I say, “A plague on both your houses.” If you are so stuck in your own “magisterium” that you can’t even acknowledge that other intelligent, thinking people see things differently, then you have no place here. This section is reserved for people who have not lost the ability to think, and are able to discuss the issues with their claws retracted

Note:

When this site was hacked, I lost the thread of comments.  The best I can do is to repeat them here:

Reply: Will on December 15, 2014 at 11:55 am said:

“You can no more use physics to understand supernatural things.”

If you interact with something it must have at least a projection in the natural world. This projection can be explained by physics. Maybe it needs new theories but certainly can be done.

Reply:  jack on December 15, 2014 at 12:27 pm said:

Projection, yes, definitely. Adhering to the laws of nature (aka physics), not so sure. Paul said, “Now we see through a glass, darkly.” That thought seems very much in line with the notion of a projection.

Perhaps you’ve seen shadow dance shows, where they hang a big sheet in front of the stage, and lit from behind. As the performers dance, and the performers dance, you can see only their shadows. They can create some truly amazing effects as their shadows overlap, or as they move closer to and farther away from the light source.

In such shows, we see only the two-dimensional projections of a 3-d environment. I’m definitely open to the idea that the 3-d space we move around in is only a projection of a four- or more-dimensional world.

By scientific observation, we can of course develop laws of physics that apply here in our 3-d soace. But we can’t begin to know what laws apply in that larger space.

As you know, the modern “Theory of Everything” models involve as many as 10 spatial dimensions, and maybe even 2 or more time dimensions. One thing’s for sure: In such a universe, there’s plenty of room for all kinds of multiple realities.

Reply : Bob Snyder on December 15, 2014 at 3:49 pm said:

It always strikes me as odd that people who have serious discussions about a 10-dimensional universe, in which most of the dimensions are not available to our senses, would be unwilling to consider the possibility of a spiritual dimension.

Reply:  jack on December 15, 2014 at 7:16 pm said:

Exactly so. In my mother’s day, there was a lot of interest in mind-readers, seances, and the like. The spiritualists used to talk about “different planes of existence,” or “parallel planes” … that sort of thing. Could they have been right?

I wonder if anyone has told the “Brane” people that their idea is impossible.

Reply: Dave on January 9, 2014 at 3:14 pm said:

And I always felt like I was the only one who thought like this !!!

With no doctorate (but a couple of masters in electrical and computer engineering) I’d like to think I have some experience with the scientific magisterium. In fact, the area of scientific endeavor IS based on two metaphysical concepts that must just be accepted as true. They are:

  1.   The universe obeys certain laws.
  2.   Humans are capable of understanding these laws

Don’t get me wrong, I’m NOT saying science can not lead humankind to deeper understanding of the physical world. Only that at some level, there is an ASSUMPTION about how the universe works and that humans can UNDERSTAND how it works. The fact that we don’t understand everything in no way detracts from science. Many uncertainties of the 1800’s are quite well understood now. On the other hand, some ideas like wave vs. particle motion of light remain unknown. Like you Jack, I’ve walked down several roads and in the process investigated several belief systems with the intent to find a system that both best fits our collective experience of reality as well as our place in the “Something”. Thanks for your insightful articles on all things embedded and for your openness about your beliefs.

Reply: jack on January 9, 2014 at 9:02 pm said:

I was always taught that science is all about learning how things work. To find out, we read books, take courses, perform experiments, and seek knowledge wherever we can find it. We’re supposed to follow the trail of knowledge wherever it leads.

It’s always struck me as odd that some of the very people who declare themselves the most dedicated and skilled scientists sometimes seem to be saying, “Yes, I’ll follow the trail wherever it leads … except THERE.”

If there are indeed two magisteria (overlapping or not), why in the world would a good scientist not want to learn about both? It’s a bit like walking into the most complete library in the world, and saying “I’m going to read all the blue books I can, bot none of the red.”

Reply:  dad_wins on September 25, 2012 at 6:52 pm said:

Thanks Jack, great post in my opinion. I think non-overlapping magisteria is a wonderful description of the situation. I am weary of the dogmatism from both sides leading only to anger, intolerance, and division. The extreme “religious-minded” side throws out the teachings of love, personal growth, joy, and fulfillment that come through service to others and a higher purpose, ideal, or being that they claim to embrace in favor of casting out and subjugating the heretical. While the “scientific-minded” side chooses to abandon the ideals of rational open discussion, critical analysis, experimentation, and often rejection or reworking of current understanding that lead to much of our modern view of the physical world in favor of emotional personal attacks and disparagements of character for those who don’t tow the line of the orthodoxy. I personally believe that the two magisteria can play nice, and having a foot in both,

Reply: jack on September 27, 2012 at 9:59 am said:

Thanks for that reply, Dad. I couldn’t have said it better. Like you, I’m fed up with extremists on both sides, who consider everyone on the other to be evil and hateful and all the rest. That’s not supposed to be what religion is about. It’s not even what science is supposed to be about. Real science says, “Follow the evidence, no matter where it leads.” Dogmatic science says, “Follow the evidence, anywhere except _THERE_.”

Personally, I feel very comfortable with the position of having a foot in both boats. As a scientist, I’m trained to seek knowledge. Why would I NOT seek it, wherever it’s hiding? Just because a book isn’t published by Houghton-Mifflin or McGraw-Hill doesn’t mean it’s not worth reading.