Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Still working on the post for the second force of the universe, Electromagnetism. Lots of great stuff about EM on the way but been a little busy lately. One of the things that's kept me from writing, besides work, kids and other writing is watching TV. The best channel around is HBO. They stink at running movies because I never watch movies on the HBO just like I don't watch Music Videos on MTV anymore. But where HBO shines is its original programming. It just kicks buttotie on that. There isn't a station around that matches HBO for its writing, production, acting and originality in programming. I mean it. Nothing. I'm hooked on The Sopranos, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Entourage, Deadwood and my newest addition, Rome.

By Jupiter this show rocks! It's just too good to describe in one post but it's probably better than anything I've seen on TV in many years. The characters were all fully fleshed out, the story was full of action and intrigue, there was a lot of great sex and of course violence. The writers did not pull any punches here. People behave badly in this show, they abuse each other, betray each other for their own gains and act, well, human. Production-wise, this show is also top-notch. The scenery and costuming was fantastic, colorful and seemed authentic. To my eyes, which are not well trained in Roman antiquity, they looked like the real thing.

Also, there was the acting. The acting. I can't believe how great everyone of these guys was. Except for Brutus, who came off as a little unbelievably in his motivation. He lacked depth and he was too easily manipulated into killing Caesar by his mother after the man brought him back into his embrace. I also thought he seemed a little whinny when Caesar proposed he go into exile for a while because there were rumors that Brutus was going to kill him. If I were emperor and there were drawings all over the city of my close friend, who was once a betrayer, stabbing me in the back, I'd get a little nervous too. Caesar was simply asking Brutus for some penance. Brutus was very unsympathetic but I guess that's the way he was supposed to be.

Caesar a strong character who moved the story along by pushing it all out in front of him. He knew exactly what he was doing the entire time, except that he trusted people too easily. While everyone conspired around him, he crowned himself emperor and remade Rome into his own vision. His flaw was not hubris as so many in those Roman stories find is their downfall but trust. He never thought that the Senators had the balls to turn against him. He also did not predict the vengeance of those same Senators as he tried to make his Rome at least seem more Democratic by inviting the Gauls and the low men into the chamber of the Senate. Those Senators who plotted his death were afraid of their own power becoming diluted by Ceasar's actions. They cast Caesar as a self-proclaimed king while they worked to preserve their own high-born stranglehold on Rome.

Pullo and Lucious were such a great display of common bond and brotherhood throughout. Though they came to bump heads many times they each had their place within their own low caste. Pullo the servant to Lucious. The problems of soldiers assimilating after years at war reflects the inherent problems of Roman society. Everyone has their place in Roman culture and there is little room. Slaves, Soldiers, Citizens and even Senators have a place and they cannot cross lines. That is shown in Pullo and Lucious. Caesar tries to expand the system and move his pieces around but that liberal idealism leads to his untimely end.

In an epic fashion that spanned years and many countries the story threads and braids all the characters in such a flawless plot that I found myself looking for plot holes that did not exist or were so small as to be virtually meaningless. And even though they seemed to have brought the season to a close there is too much left open to let it go. I look forward to Season 2 with great enthusiasm.

If you have HBO on Demand and haven't watched the show yet go and rewatch the show in its entirety. It's worth it.


Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Happy Thanksgiving

My post for today…

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone. Please remember those American soldiers around the world who can’t be with their families and those in New Orleans who can’t be in their homes this holiday season.

Sunday, November 20, 2005


During the next week I will be composing my Part 2 to the Four Forces of the Universe post (Sounds a lot like the Justice League of America!) but there were some housekeeping issues I wanted to get out of the way first! I will be interupting the Science Posts once in a while to interject these smaller ones between because the science posts take longer to write and I am trying to submit this work to professional markets and work full time and write my fiction stories and novel as well. Whew!

Happy Thanksgiving.

I’m a sucker for the holidays so below is a link to a very funny Thanksgiving song that has been going around the internet. Check it out:

Turkey Day Song!


Next, I wanted to promote some of the podcasts that I listen to on politics, general interest, science & science fiction. If you have an iPod (which I recommend) or any MP3 player you can listen to these at work, on the road or anytime. Great stuff.

Washington Week

From the show’s about page: For 38 years, Washington Week has delivered the most interesting conversation of the week. Washington Week is the longest-running public affairs program on PBS. The show first aired locally on WETA on February 23, 1967. A few months later it began broadcasting over Eastern Educational Network, a group of 14 stations located between Washington, D.C. and Maine. In January 1969, it became the first local program to air on the new Public Broadcasting Service (PBS). Washington Week features a group of journalists participating in roundtable discussion of major news events.


From the show’s about page: Slate will offer regular weekday podcasts of one or more of our articles read aloud (mostly by me, Slate's resident radio guy). Think of this as books on tape—only without the books and without the tape.

On The Media

How do you keep the Washington press corps honest?
Why do we both love and hate the Hollywood blockbuster film?
Is television coarsening our culture?
Who can turn the world on with a smile?
Those are the kinds of questions the On the Media staff handles every week. As you might imagine, not just any staff can handle that kind of material.

Slacker Astronomy

Funny & informative astronomy. From the show’s about page: Pamela Gay and Travis Searle are the golden disembodied voices that sing you to sleep every week. Pamela has a PhD in Astronomy and works at the Harvard Science Center. Travis as a BA in Broadcast Journalism and works at the American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO). They both are certifiably nuts. The show was created by Aaron Price, the Director and head writer. He has a Masters in Astronomy and is working on a Doctorate. He works with Travis at the AAVSO, where he has been for 7 cool years. Prior to that he was a dotcom burnout.

Universe Today

From show’s info page: Are you interested in the space and astronomy news but feel like there's just too much going on to stay on top of it all? Universe Today is different from your regular news website. Instead of writing in-depth articles, we just provide an overview, and links to sites where you can get more detail - from where the news first breaks to all the media coverage, and even related resources. We find all the stories, even the really obscure ones, and gather them together in one fast, easy-to-read newsletter (free of technical jargon). You only need to spend 10 minutes a day, and you'll be completely up-to-date on all the breaking news in the space industry.

The Naked Scientists

From about page on website: The Naked Scientists are a media-savvy group of physicians and researchers from Cambridge University who use radio, live lectures, and the Internet to strip science down to its bare essentials, and promote it to the general public. Their award winning BBC weekly radio programme, The Naked Scientists, reaches a potential audience of 6 million listeners across the east of England, and also has an international following on the web.

Are We Alone?

From the show's about page: As astronomers find planets whirling about other suns, and hi-tech rovers scour the sands of Mars in search of ancient lakes, scientists are asking fundamental new questions about the origins of life on this planet and the prevalence of life in the cosmos. This is the exciting science of astrobiology - and we cover it every week on Are We Alone?

Winging It', Slice Of Sci-Fi & Cover To Cover

Two guys, Michael and Evo, and their side-kicks, The Kiss-Ass Mystic Ninjas, who produce three separate podcasts about science fiction including one where they drink beer and talk about anything, one which covers sci-fi on the Tube & the Big Screen and another that is strictly an interview show with authors. Good and funny!

I Should Be Writing

I Should Be Writing, the podcast. A podcast by a wanna-be writer named Mur for wanna-be writers. Great voice, good advice.

A Little About Why I Really, Really, Really Like Podcasts Because I Listen To Them On My Commute To Work And They're Free And Easy And Informative And Addictive As Hell And It's A Nice Close-Knit Community And I Am Thinking Of Starting One Myself.

Umm.... what he said.

Also, I like podcasts because:

  1. It updates automatically by subscribing to the feed through iTunes.

  2. I can keep up to date on stuff I’m interested in without having to sit down and read everything on the web, which I don’t have time to do.

  3. And most importantly: It’s free! You have to buy an MP3 player like an iPod and something that will transmit your iPod to your radio like an iTrip but after spending $400 or so on that set-up, it’s free.


Blogs are a little harder to keep up on because I have to read them regularly and if you read this one you know what that’s like. But here are a few I enjoy because they are very well done and most importantly, are not just daily diaries of what people do in their lives everyday which is very boring to me. (Sorry.)


The Phoenix! My Number One read! He works in some sort of super secret quasi government agency that allows him access to cool info that he then frames in a funny, creative way. You will find out stuff in his blog that was not meant for public consumption, which is why I love it so. Go, Go Phoenix!!

TPM Cafe

From the blog’s about page: TPMCafe is a public meeting place to read about and discuss politics, culture and public life in the United States. The site hosts both blogs and public discussion areas. It is owned and operated by TPM Media LLC, edited by Joshua Micah Marshall, and powered by the collaborative media application, Scoop.

A Medieval Moment

From the about this blog: Was life in the Medieval era really what you imagine it to be? Each post will take you back in time and show you the truth.

Citizen Of The Month

From his Technorati profile: Neil Kramer is a writer and web producer living in Los Angeles who writes about the humor of personal relationships and pop culture.

Small Town Press

From the web page’s title bar: Observations of a small town hick. A conservative who’s had it up to here with the “conservative right.”

Exclamation Mark's B-Movie Reviews

A fan of reviewing sci-fi/horror B-movies and cult films of yesteryear. Films of the 1950s a specialty.

Teh Blog Father

Funny blog reviews and blog promotion. He is truly Teh Blog Father. If you have a blog and want it reviewed by the best, go here.

Bad Astronomy

His name is Phil Plait and the crazy thing is that he promotes Good Astronomy and debunks the Bad so maybe his website should be called Good Astronomy but that doesn't sell as many Books! Both the web page and the blog are world famous and rightfully so. From the site's intro page: As an astronomer, teacher, lecturer and all-around science junkie, I am exposed to all sorts of people and their ideas about what goes on in the sky around them. I have been delighted to find that most people are very curious about the night (and day!) sky, but unfortunately a lot of misinformation is spread about astronomy. I feel obliged to right these wrongs when I can. The Bad Astronomy web pages are devoted to airing out myths and misconceptions in astronomy and related topics.

OK. I think that’s it for now.

Read my post below on Gravity below which is where a post on gravity should be, below, I mean...


Thursday, November 17, 2005

The First Force. Gravity!

All the forces in the universe stem from four basic forces. These forces dictate just about every interaction that is undergone in the universe from the largest to the smallest scale in some way. Once we describe the four forces, we can look at how and why there is a question as to the Theory of Everything. It really boils down to one basic problem that, although exceedingly simple, pretty much avoids any solution we have dreamed up so far, at least experimentally.


Everything in the universe attracts everything else with a force that is a proportional to the products of their masses and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them. That generally means that the more massive they are, the more they attract each other, at a force that depends on their distance away from each other. More simply, Mass and distance determine the force of gravity. Or even more simply, things attract each other but the further they go away from each other, the less they attract to each other. I can put it more simply, but do I really have to? Here’s something to think about: You attract the earth a little, tiny, bit to yourself. Yep. That’s right. When you jump up in the air you are attracted back to the earth by the force of gravity but a teensy, weensy, bit, you are attracting the earth up toward you. Like I said, everything in the universe attracts everything else with a force… You get the point.

Isaac Newton is the father of the modern theory of gravity. He realized that gravity on earth was the same force that dictated the motion of planets. Every piece of matter attracts every other. In Philosophiae naturalis principia mathematica he explained his theories of celestial and terrestrial mechanics using older geometric methods despite having figured them out using the Calculus. It was like using longhand, I guess. Among his other contributions to science were the Laws of Gravity and Motion, beginning work in the Calculus and amazing enough, he discovered that white light is actually a composite of many colors and that light was made of tiny units of corpuscles. Later his theory of corpuscular light was thrown out in favor of the wave theory of light but then it was recombined when Quantum Theory was put forth. Newton is considered one of the greatest scientists who ever lived. He was also quoted to have said the famous phrase, “If I have been able to see further, it was only because I stood on the shoulders of giants.” Additionally, he held the Lucasian Chair of Mathematics at Cambridge, the same Chair that Stephen Hawking holds today, a great honor.

Back to Gravity. An object responds to a force by accelerating in the direction of the force by an amount that is inversely proportional to the mass of the object. So you are not only attracted to the earth but the earth’s attraction makes you fall to the earth at a speed that increases in proportion to your mass. You can also say that in a miniscule amount the earth accelerates toward you. We see this a little better when we look at the planets.

Johannes Kepler lived from 1571 to 1630. He was a great Mathematician and he was an Astrologer, like a Renaissance Jean Dixon. In Kepler’s time Astrology was as important as weather forecasting today and probably a little more accurate. To supplement their income most Astronomers were also in the business of Astrology, although Kepler pretty much disdained the types of Astrologers who made predictions solely based on fashion to appeal to kings and people in power instead of basing their predictions on "fact." Kepler’s interest in figuring out how heavenly bodies affected earthy concerns was the inspiration for his scientific study. See, although he would never engage in the Psychic Network type of forecasting popular today, he was a firm believer in the Astrology of his time and wanted to improve it.

When Tycho Brahe invited Kepler to his observatory to become his assistant and study from his vast collection of observational data, Kepler used that data to develop his three laws of planetary motion. It should be pointed out that Tycho Brahe, for all his faults, built and maintained the most sensitive observational equipment of his time. It was providence that brought together the foremost observational astronomer and the genius of Kepler’s analytical mind in both location and time; an observation that Einstein himself would call fortunate given the pliability of the space-time continuum, or perhaps it is the anthropic quality of the universe that these serendipitous occasions occur. In any event, after Tycho’s death—resulting from holding his pee too long at a dinner party—Kepler was left to study the data at last in peace. He developed his three laws of planetary motion:

1. Kepler's elliptical orbit law: The planets orbit the sun in elliptical orbits with the sun at one focus. An Ellipse is a foreshortened circle. In other words, take a circle, put on its edge on the floor and sit on it. It becomes slightly flattened on the top and bottom and rounder on the sides.

2. Kepler's equal-area law: The line connecting a planet to the sun sweeps out equal areas in equal amounts of time. Put simply, it goes something like in this diagram. Here is a direct quote I found on Wikipedia regarding this image and Kepler’s Second Planetary Law: “Kepler's equal area law. If the time interval taken by the planet to move from P to Q is equal to the time interval from R to S, then according to Kepler's equal area law, the two shaded areas are equal. The reason it speeds up, as later found by Newton, is that the planet is moving faster during interval RS than it did during PQ, because as it approached the sun along QR, the Sun's gravity accelerated it." I think that pretty much sums it up, don’t you?

3. Kepler's law of periods: The time required for a planet to orbit the sun, called its period, is proportional to the long axis of the ellipse raised to the 3/2 power. The constant of proportionality is the same for all the planets. That means that the further the planet is away from the sun, the slower it rotates.

All this from studying the observational data of Tycho Brahe! Tycho kept some tight records, that boy did. I forgot to mention that Tycho Brahe had his nose cut off in a duel and usually wore a copper prosthetic in it’s place. What does this have to do with Gravity? Well the sun keeps the planets in place by its gravitational pull. What does Tycho's nose have to do with gravity? It fell off didn't it? I think we've already established that the earth was forever changed by the gravity of a part of Tycho. Literally.

Galileo Galilei is credited with formulating the concept of inertia and experimenting with it. He said that anything that is in motion should continue with that motion unless another force acts upon it to change that motion. So if you roll a ball it should never stop rolling unless there are other forces acting upon it. It should roll forever, that way! But we know that’s not true. There are many forces including friction, gravity and so forth acting on every object on earth. But what about in space?

Think of centrifugal force. Think about it. As a matter of fact go and get a ball and attach a string to it. Then swing it around your head. While you’re doing that I’ll explain to everyone else what’s happening. See how the ball goes around and around. That’s similar to the force that controls the motion of planets around the sun. Here’s how it works. Inertial forces make the planet (or the ball) want to keep going in a straight line that is tangent to the circumference of the circular orbit. But the force of gravity (here represented by the string) pulls the planet toward the sun. The combination of forces makes the ball (or the planet) go around the sun which is the object exerting the force at the center of the orbit. So the inertial force makes the ball want to escape the orbit in a straight line but the gravitational force holds the ball in place. Combined, the two forces produce an orbit, which is the simplest way to explain why the planet earth doesn’t shoot off into space.

So what is gravity? This other guy, named Albert Einstein once wondered such things but he did it in German while working at a Swiss Patent office. He formulated the Special Theory of Relativity. It was a grand theory that among other things postulated that the Speed of Light was constant no matter what the motion of the observer relative to the source of light.

This is what he meant: If you are traveling on a train and walking toward another traveler holding a flashlight, and there is a person outside the train as it passes by, the speed of the light will be measured as the same by all observers. There is an aspect of light, because it's a wave that does change according to the observer, that's the red-shift. If a light source is moving away from you the wavelength of the light moves toward the longer, redder spectrum. If a light source is moving toward you, then the light wave is compressed toward the shorter, bluer end of the light spectrum. This is called the Doppler Effect and is similar to how a siren whines higher pitched when it's approaching and longer and lower when it's moving away from you. In this way, Hubble, deduced that the light of galaxies, shifted to the red spectrum, is moving away from us. The red shift was evidence that the universe was expanding. This odd quirk of the law of the Speed of Light in the universe also poses other problems.

Einstein also postulated that the physical laws of the universe should be the same to any observer moving at a constant speed. Because of this, and the nature of the speed of light Einstein came up with some of the wildest discoveries in his theory. Time and length relative to an outside observer’s frame of reference changes as something speeds up. For instance, the clock of a subject moving at a high but constant speed ticks slower than the clock of an observer not moving relative to the moving subject's clock. It’s complicated because both clocks are moving relative to an observer standing off the earth accounting for the rotation and orbit of the earth. Also, when measuring an object moving very fast the length of the object will seem to get shorter as it speeds up. These are called length and time dilations. Of course if you are the object going at the high rate of speed, everything around you seems to move at a normal pace. You experience time and length as normally.

Additionally, as an object speeds up its mass increases. This is why it is impossible to go the Speed of Light, because, as anyone knows the more massive an object the more energy it takes to move it and at some point when you reach the Speed of Light, mass becomes infinite so the energy needed becomes infinite. Photons, the particles of light, are massless, their entire mass is kinetic energy and since Energy equals Matter times the square of the Speed of Light, its mass is all energy.

In actuality there is no such thing as a definite stationary observer and that is one of the fantastic things about the Theory. You can only be stationary relative to an enclosed space where everything is moving at constant acceleration. You see this phenomena everyday because everything on the earth is moving relative to each other and the rotation of the earth. Because it is so large and we are so small we do not feel this movement. The few reference points that will tell you that you are moving are the celestial objects and they are large and far away too so they provide a very small point to measure against. Any observer will realize with enough time that the earth is not stagnant and that it moves in relation to the stars, sun and moon. (Except the Catholic Church.)

The Special Theory of Relativity has been proven to a fine degree. A jogger or a race car driver is not going to experience time much different than you are because the difference is miniscule and can be all but ignored on our scale. You can't live longer by running fast all the time although it is an interesting idea. We’re talking very fast. Like almost light speed (which as we know is just about impossible).

What does this have to do with gravity? That’s exactly what Einstein thought. “What does this have to do with gravity?” In German. Instead of sitting there scratching his head like you are, he developed the General Theory of Relativity to include Gravity into the mix. Einstein wondered what a person would feel if he fell off a roof. Fun right? I think he meant before the person landed. He postulated that in mid-air the person would feel weightless. Like a person in a free falling elevator, that person would not feel his own weight, until he crashed. Then, ho-boy look out, I mean, like, GRAVITY!! Comin' at ya'.

This moment, Einstein said later, was the happiest moment of his life because he realized that he could now link Gravity to his Special Theory of Relativity. In the Special Theory of Relativity it was impossible to distinguish an experiment in a uniformly accelerating frame of reference from one done in a non-accelerating reference frame in an equivalent gravitational field. That means that in a small space, accelerating at a constant speed where all the laboratory equipment in the room is accelerating at exactly the same speed and there is no other reference point to measure against, then the experiment should yield the exact same results in any laboratory on earth in a gravity field. This theory is very complicated and has many other factors, but this is the most basic explanation.

There are other variations that need to take into account the fact that a strong gravity field is not near the accelerating laboratory and there are no tidal forces affecting the space. This would distort the pure effects of the reference frame. A tidal force is when a gravity field pulls you in one direction stronger than another at the same time or at different times. The moons of Jupiter feel tidal forces as they revolve around the planet stretching the structure of the moon heating it up. The tidal forces stretching and pulling the moon keep lava flowing and the surface and core hotter than they would be normally so far from the sun’s rays. The energy of the Gravity causes friction and heat. An interesting effect of gravity.

On a more dramatic scale, the immensely strong gravitational pull of a black hole would stretch your feet out first and then your body and head as you fell in past the event horizon. Digressing even further into the zaniness of the force of gravity is a black hole itself. Interestingly, the French originally distained the term "black hole" because it sounded so risqué! Imagine that! This from the people who invented tongue kissing! They caved when it was pointed out that a black hole was just that, an area of blackness that nothing, not even light can escape. Cooler heads prevailed, and then we sent them Jerry Lewis.

What makes a sun burn is fusion, forming complex particles by combining hydrogen atoms. What prevents a sun, a very massive object, from collapsing on itself, is nuclear forces, basically propping up the weight of the sun from collapsing on itself. When a sun’s energy is burned out it does collapse on itself and one of a few things can happen.

1. It becomes a white dwarf and continues to burn slightly and then burns out.
2. A heavier star will collapse and then explode into a supernova.
3. An even heavier star will collapse into a neutron star.
4. Even further, a very heavy star will continue to collapse under its own weight and become a singularity.

A singularity is an odd result of physics where the gravity and size of the object becomes infinite. An area around the black hole is a sort of point of no return called an event horizon where gravity is so strong that even light cannot escape. Escape velocity is the velocity an object needs to reach to escape a gravitational field. Rocket scientists know this quite well because it is the speed a rocket ship must reach to escape the earth’s atmosphere and reach space. The escape velocity of a black hole is that of the speed of light. Nothing goes faster than the speed of light hence, black hole. Nothing escapes.

If you have ever seen the movie, The Black Hole, then you might think that a black hole is a swirling hole like a whirlpool. Not true exactly. A black hole is a point of intense gravity like a sphere because the sun that collapsed to cause a Black Hole was a sphere of sorts. Black holes “catching” matter in its gravity causes an accretion disk to surround the event horizon. Much like a solar system surrounds the sun but even more crowded and full of energy. The energy is produced as the matter speeds up and heats. This is said to reduce the energy of the black hole, slowing its rotation a bit. Quantum effects also are said to produce an effect that causes the black hole to shrink over an extremely long time.

This brings us back to General Relativity. Einstein, by expanding Special Relativity to include gravity, opened up the idea that light, because of E=MC2, has mass and even a photon, whose mass is entirely inertial energy, will be affected by the force of gravity. As well, the force of gravity on light escaping a gravitational field will be stretched or red shifted. Because light is theorized to be affected by gravity it opens up all kinds of strange and wonderful physical effects in the universe, like black holes, as discussed. Originally Black Holes were theoretical but science has now found evidence that a Black Hole may be at the heart of just about every galaxy.

What is the nature of the force of gravity? Einstein said that the universe is made of four dimensions: The three usual directional dimensions and time as a fourth dimension, described as space-time. A massive object, like the sun, actually bends space-time around it in much the same way a bowling ball stretches a smooth mattress toward it when placed on a bed. The surface of the bed is like space and the bowling ball is the sun. Now when any smaller object is placed on the bed in the vicinity of the bowling ball that smaller object is drawn toward the bowling ball because the bed is bent toward the center of the ball. Think of this on three dimensions, and time because of the pliable nature of time in a constantly accelerating reference frame, and a gravitational field, since according to Einstein both are indistinguishable. In a very strong gravitational field, like a black hole, time will slow to a stop, presenting a paradox not able to be resolved by physics as yet in a singularity. Gravity is the bending of space-time! The structure of the universe is actually bending under the mass of a very large object.

Gravitational lensing is another example to the strange nature of gravity in the Einsteinian universe. A star’s light can be redirected and intensified by an intervening massive object. The gravity of the massive object bends the light of the distant star around it and focuses it, if we happen to be looking in a direct line of the refracted light. This effect can cause a light source to be bent around a massive object like a galaxy and be refracted around it on two or more sides. This way we see a duplicate of the star on either side of the massive object. Astronomers have found evidence of gravitational lensing and use it to observe distant objects. The space around a massive object is bend thereby making the light follow a bent path through real space called a geodesic. An idea has been put forth to use the sun as a sort of lens to increase the light of distant stars in far future telescopic observations. This would require instruments to be sent far out into space to produce the effect, effectively.

Quantum Physics. Even though Einstein’s formulas helped create this whole wonderful and mysterious field of science called quantum physics, it became a monkey on his back. Up to the day he died, Einstein tried to merge the ideas of Quantum Physics with Relativity although I think he only concerned himself with combining electromagnetism and gravity. The reason for this problem is that on a Quantum scale, which is of the very minute, smaller than microscopic, atomic scale, gravity has negligible effect. How does one resolve gravity with the three other forces of the universe that have such strong effects? Why is gravity such a non-factor in Quantum Mechanics? Also, how do we combine a theory of three of the four major forces that depend on particle fields, quanta, to describe their effects? Electromagnetism is carried by photons, the W and Z Bosons carry Weak Nuclear Force and the Strong Nuclear Force is carried by Gluons. What particle carries the force of gravity? According to Relativity, nothing! Gravity is the result of space bending to the shape of massive objects. According to Quantum Mechanics, an as yet undiscovered particle called a Graviton carries the force of Gravity.

In some calculations, a graviton is needed because Quantum Mechanics requires a static time background to Quantum interactions and Relativity predicts a pliable space-time background.

You can see how this can’t be resolved easily. This is one of the most pressing problems in physics now. There are competing theories and ideas that will find the answer to Quantum Gravity and produce the holy grail of physics, the Theory Of Everything (T.O.E.).

Next Electromagnetism!

Friday, November 11, 2005

Democrat Rant

Again this was a comment on another blog that I have converted into a post on my own blog.

I guess like most Democrats today we are all over the map. That's the unfortunate side effect of trying to encompass everyone who is not ultra-conservative these days. We have a scattering of ideology. That's the major sin of Democrats. We can't get to those few issues we can all pretty much agree on because we don't want to seem as stiff and dogmatic as the GOP. Every time we do the GOP seems to be able to splinter us apart and we end up with Democrats all over saying to reporters "Well, yes I support the president because people die in Iraq when I don't." They backtrack too much and this was never more evident than during the last Election.

This administration laid out the rhetoric that contrary opinion causes death in Iraq. They said because we don't 100% support this war that we allow young men to die or even worse want them to be unprotected. Where was it written that people who opposed the Vietnam War wanted a weak America? I beg to differ. Sending young men to die in a war that most Americans don't even understand the basic principles of does not strengthen a country.

Bush said we have to support the Iraq War because if we don't we look weak to terrorists. By what logic does sending Americans to fight against a regime that had absolutely nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks end that form of terrorism. In that case Bush should have send troops to Saudi Arabia since they were the ones with a large representation of nationalities in the terrorist attacks. Plus Osama Bin Laden, the mastermind, was Saudi. Osama turned to us because he was too afraid to fight his own country. He turned to us to make a point. He made us strong for a few moments but because of the weak leadership we fell apart. He proved to the world what he was saying. That America responds with force against the weakest scapegoat we can find.

By this administration’s own admission we should be attacking North Korea right now. Bush included them in the axis of evil including Iran. North Korea was very flagrant about their nuclear policy. Iraq never announced to the world they would begin researching nuclear power like Iran has done. What have we gained in Iraq? Even if the mission is 100% successful in instilling a legitimate democratically elected government what have we done to make the world safer from terrorism? Nothing. How has this Iraq War broken the backs of Al Qaeda?

Thursday, November 10, 2005


Warning: The following post has some adult content. So if you are easily offended, my mother or anyone else who should not be reading this, I warned you!

Setting: A bank; where I work as a mortgage broker, no less. My life is Glengarry Glen Ross, without the irony. For some reason I am playing the straight man to someone else’s jokester. Somewhere in Chicago is a guy playing Costello to my Abbot. He’s the Hardy to my Laurel, the Madison to my Unger… You get the point.

As a Loan Officer (or LO in the vernacular of the Mortgage biz) I must be on top of just about every deal everyday while going out and generating new business. It’s kind of like riding a unicycle and spinning plates on a stick at the same time. Everything needs my full attention all the time. It’s a delicate balance.

So when I come into work and I get a message on my email from my manager that says I’m not taking care of a particular problem on a particular loan and the email says something to the effect of “A little urgency is needed here!” I tend to get a little frustrated to say the least. By frustrated I mean like when I was a kid and I played Dungeons and Dragons.

I walk into his office and unsheathe my double-handed broad sword and split his head right in half. Inside the cavity is a thousand squirming little worms and rotten piece of meat. Just as I suspected! He’s one of the undead. Probably a zombie brought to the world of the living by my arch nemesis, a dark and shadowy figure hell-bent on my utter mediocrity.

I blame my nemesis for everything that goes wrong. Case in point:

When I was twenty this is where I thought I’d be at this point in my life:

  1. Million dollars in the bank

  2. Apartment in Manhattan overlooking Central Park.

  3. Career in the arts, probably famous painter or something like that.

Here’s what I got:

  1. A million dollars of debt looming between the mortgage and the potential on my kids’ college education.

  2. McMansion on Long Island

  3. Career in banking, loan officer. (Waht, Wahhhh –to the sound of a very low trumpet signaling gloom.)

I blame it on the evil figure looming just out of sight, around the corner, wringing his hands, laughing maniacally. “Why, oh why does he torture me so. What crime must I have committed in a former life that he tracks me across multiple planes of existence to ensure my utter defeat.” Not that I don’t have a great wife and kids, I do.

Since my family (and by my family I mean my wife) decided to move from our current home to upgrade our school district and square footage we’ve been in a packing frenzy. We are Biggie Sizing the McMansion and I got a call from my wife at the office.

“Hi honey, what’s in this box labeled perfect pecker?”

Hello, what’s this?

A friend of mine works as the manager of an adult shop. By the way, the manager of an Adult Shop makes more than a Loan Officer, just so you know. Oh and as a Post Script to that, neither job requires a college education. When said friend heard we were moving, he was more than happy to provide boxes to help us pack. When you hear about porn coming to your house it usually comes with the image of a discreet, sort of generic looking, brown paper wrapped package. We were assaulted with boxes with labels screaming such lovely and appropriate phrases like Dildos, Perfect Pecker and Flesh Colored Butt Plugs. (Whatever those are they sound painful.)

“What about Translucent Butterfly or Hollow Bees? Do those sound dirty?”
It was getting downright esoteric.

“I’m not sure honey,” I said trying not to sound amused.

“Well you know these terms better than I do.”

“You know that if there’s any security on this line I’m already fired.”

She sounded surprised that her very casual conversation about sexual products not fit for man nor beast would make me uncomfortable or get me canned.

“You’re right,” she said. “Sorry. I’ll just cross them all out.”

“Better yet, cover them with duct tape.”

“Thanks. Love you.”

“Love you too.”

It was a combination of words that I never thought I’d hear from my recently converted to Judaism, former Irish Catholic wife.

I once heard that the worst type of Jewish Wife was a Shiksa. When I heard that, I laughed. I’m not laughing anymore. She blends the best and worst from both. My existence ping-pongs between her guilt and my guilt. Why, oh Lord, is guilt so entwined with both of the major religions on the planet earth. Couldn’t they be more like Zen Buddhism? I never heard about a guilty Buddha.

As an American Jew brought up in a very liberal and religiously lax household, I attended Hebrew School but we also celebrated Christmas. It never occurred to me that this was odd. I once asked my Mother why we were Jewish but celebrated both Chanukah and Christmas. She said we celebrated Christmas as an “American” Holiday. It made sense to me. Through the years I’ve met Catholics and Christians who couldn’t fathom it. I think my wife was the only one who didn’t find this odd. So I married her. Even before she converted people pegged her for a Jew so I guess she made it official. We joined a Reform Temple, attend Friday services, have weekly Shabbat dinners, celebrate the holidays, we know the Hebrew names for our children and my kids go to Hebrew School.

The other day I was driving home from picking up my son from Hebrew school when he announced that the candy we were eating was made in Hershey, Pennsylvania. Also, he added. “Coke is made in Atlanta, Hostess was made in Iowa by the Mississippi River. It’s my new thing to know where food is produced.”

I wondered about the serendipity of that information. Was it trivial? Was it educational? It’s been just amusing enough for me to deem it educational and I encouraged his quest to uncover this knowledge. I added a few products to the list for his research project.
The juxtaposition of my wife’s phone call earlier that day and this conversation with my son put me on another track. Why was my wife worried so much what the moving men would think seeing the dirty writing on the boxes and not my son’s reaction? I decided that I’d ask her about it when I got home.

Much like so many other things that enter my mind that flew out into the universe as soon as I stepped in the front door. It’s the mind-numbing ray that the shadowy figure has permanently fixed on my head.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Aliens Among Us... (Part 6)

The types of jobs that these people take are generally filled by Americans who would not enter the workforce with certified training or skill. For the most part their skills are learned on the job. A strong back and muscles are more important than finesse. Also the ability to withstand extremes in weather and still keep a somewhat even pace. Those are skills that are not learned. People don’t go through years of training and then find that their job has been taken away by someone who is not American like often happens in the computer field. Also, given the choice when economics doesn’t come into play at such a disadvantage I think most contractors would choose a citizen over an illegal when the choice is presented. I worked in many shops where there were plenty of Americans to work and not an illegal worker in sight. But when the work got stretched and there was no one else to hire (at least on a temporary basis) we’d go pick up some workers for the day to help out. It is a simple concept of supply and demand, more than anything else.

The real problem is that for too many years we looked the other way and now we have this swell of illegal immigrants coming here to work and now we are crying foul. There are those who claim that the immigrants overwhelm our communities by overcrowding our schools when they don’t pay taxes and use our healthcare systems like our hospitals. For so long they filled a niche, gladly I might add. No one complained when cheap labor helped in keeping prices down. And it seems to me that people still do not want to give that up. The general consensus is that it’s fine, as long as it’s not in “my backyard.”


The End.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Aliens Among Us... (Part 5)

Too much has been made of the problem and nothing has been done to produce a solution. We have propositions on Long Island to build safe shelters with bathroom services for these workers to gather but others say it condones their illegal activity. President Bush in a rare show of clarity suggested we give many of the illegal immigrants legal status.

“Out of common sense and fairness, our laws should allow willing workers to enter our country and fill jobs that Americans are not filling,” President Bush said in 2004. (Although this has been considered by some his election year pandering to the Latino vote.)

Nevertheless, this statement shows how deep the immigrant problem has become ingrained into the national consciousness. We recognize two problems that even President Bush can see. The first problem is that we have millions of undocumented workers already here in the United States and the other is that they are providing a vital service in our economy by filling jobs American’s are not willing to do.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics website, in 2004, there was an average of  5.5% unemployment rate with 8.1 million people unemployed. According to the American Immigrant Law Foundation (AILF) there are an estimated 8 to 10 million undocumented workers in the United States right now with about 58% of them from Mexico, 20% from Central America and the other 20% or so from other countries. In 1996 the average unemployment rate was 5.6% and 7.2 million workers were unemployed. In that year it was estimated that there were about 5 million undocumented workers. Over the last ten years the immigration problem has done nothing but increase and become more volatile while the unemployment rate in America has not changed much at all.

According to a study by Dr. Donald Huddle, a Rice University economics professor, in 1996 the estimated net cost to American tax payers for illegal aliens was about $20 billion dollars annually. Since the population has roughly doubled since then, the costs can have said to go up by twice that amount. Of course in a study produced by the Center For American Progress the cost over five years to deport the current population of illegal immigrants effectively would be about $206 Billion. That exceeds the current budget for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) broken down annually. ($41 Billion annually for the deportation initiative verses $34.2 Billion annually for the DHS)

In 1985, the year I took on my first construction job and befriended a new culture, the average unemployment rate was at 7.2% and 8.3 million workers were unemployed. The best estimates for undocumented workers in the United States in that year (1985) is about 3 million persons, 55% being from Mexico, according to U.S. Census reports which did not specifically count illegal aliens. In the past twenty years, the total civilian labor force (employed and unemployed) went from 115.5 million in 1985 to 147.4 million in 2004.

Since 1986 we’ve lowered the unemployment rate for Americans, increased the civilian workforce, and taken on more illegal immigrants to do our labor jobs. In that respect the immigrants are not necessarily taking away jobs from Americans. So that’s not the root of the problem. In our effort to stem the tide of illegal aliens the number of Boarder Patrol officers maintaining the U.S.-Mexican border has tripled in the years between 1986 and 2002.

(To Be Continued)

Monday, November 07, 2005

Aliens Among Us... (Part 4)

With the establishing of this class of workers many areas succumb to the slum landlord approach. Fit as many workers in one house as possible to maximize rent. More and more of these workers need to live close to the suburban middle class that they service. Especially on Long Island where the sprawl has reached all the way out to the eastern tips. In the wealthy and well-known town of Southampton has a population of Hispanics that gather in their 7-11 parking lot and live in their own neighborhood tracts. The East End of Long Island cannot support its growth and sustenance on its own. Even the once exclusive Hamptons have surrendered to a very middle class problem.

The problem is the old saw of America being the land of opportunity. For a new class of immigrants who come here in waves, this country presents a place where there is work to be done and money to be made for a better life. Some can establish themselves and become integral parts of this society. Other are transient, migrating back and forth over the border as much as they can. Others are squatters, coming here once and never leaving, disappearing into the United States to escape from the real oppression, which is their home. It seems simple osmosis causes this border problem. If there is a reason for the illegal immigrants to risk life and limb to get here then they will come over. Where there is too much crowding and not enough work in their own countries there are wide-open spaces and ample work. They can’t help but be drawn here. It’s a simple scientific principle.

There is an even more tragic side to all this. According to the U.S. Boarder Patrol, about 2,000 people dies between 1998 and 2004 trying to cross the U.S.-Mexican boarder. The Sonora Desert that stretches from Mexico to Arizona is a corridor that is said to be the deadliest passage. The people of the Tohono O'odham Indian Reservation in Arizona that is on this pathway of death find many Mexicans dead there every season. Often the immigrants die of thirst and heat exhaustion hours from the border on a trek that takes many days to make.

There are also opportunists among those seeking opportunity. In a recent tragedy a tractor-trailer full of Mexicans crossing the border was found at a truck stop in Texas. Inside nineteen had died of the heat exhaustion while being locked in the trailer on their journey across the border. Apparently the driver noticed a taillight was out and stopped his truck to inspect it. When he saw the condition of the people inside he got nervous, unhitched the trailer and abandoned it. This is the type of risk many are willing to take to cross into America to work and build a better life. It’s a really old story. Other immigrants have died crossing the border on foot, unprepared for the intense desert heat. More have died in railway cars trying the same trick as the tractor-trailer victims. I envision the dying poor who took the berth section on ships crossing the Atlantic. Those who made it across were lucky but the risks were great and the promise of reward even greater. There are few Americans who can imagine the desperation it takes to stow away in a dangerous, dark and hot trailer for a journey to an unknown country where you do not know the language on the hint of a whisper of a chance for a better life.

(To Be Continued)

Aliens Among Us... (Part 3)

At the time I didn’t know how the whole thing worked but they explained it to me. Those guys worked hard all season and saved all their money. In the winter when there was no work they went back to their countries and lived mostly off the money they made. They were living comparatively well to their neighbors who didn’t dare make the trek up to American every year to do the hard labor. It was a reward for those who chanced it. Little did we know at the time that economics and opportunity were coming together and that in the next twenty years a political storm would build.

Over the years I encountered many of the silent class. They tried to stay under the radar but when a thing such as this gets this big it’s too hard to ignore. It got too good for both us and them. We got used to the fact that we didn’t have to do the laborious jobs. Our children didn’t have to go out and mow lawns, carry buckets or haul wood every summer day to make money. They could do other things while the illegal immigrants were more than happy to make untaxed cash for a day’s work. No matter what, they work hard. You have to respect the ethic that created this problem. We have too much of a good thing and we want it to go back underground so we don’t have to look at it everyday.

America’s skin, its boarder, is full of open wounds. The seeping illegals are bleeding through and coagulating on our street corners. But like a cut or scrape its danger is in the wound worsening and infecting the rest of the body. In its most dangerous form the illegals are not Spanish immigrants but Fundamentalist terrorists looking to harm us not leech from us. In the cities where the children of those who came here do not find the education or health benefits of other American children, there is a danger that what was once relatively harmless becomes a national crisis of guns, drugs and crime.

For the most part the crimes have been committed against the community of Hispanics. There are many Americans who do not want these people around in their shops, their neighborhoods. That’s understandable. But some, disillusioned, turn to violence. In a case on Long Island, a couple of young men lured a Mexican worker to a basement on the pretense of a day’s work and beat him. In another, a young American man burned down a house that had Hispanic Workers living in it. I won’t say our streets have become a battleground but that can easily happen as the numbers swell and the workers impose more on our residential neighborhoods. Parts of towns on Long Island have been ghettoized as places that “they” live. Some, interestingly very close to our wealthiest neighborhoods.

It seems that the working class who support the wealthy with gardeners and maids and cooks and nurses aides need a place to live and they like to live within commuting distance of their jobs. I remember well a family who had employed an illegal immigrant as a nanny. She lived miles away in the borough of Brooklyn and worked on Long Island. The woman left her own husband and children to come and spend weekdays and nights taking care of another family. It was so sad to me as a kid. I saw that as almost unfair that someone should loose their time with their own children to take care of someone else’s. The concept gave me my first look into the separation of class and the sacrifice that the underclass needs to make. Was it fair? Probably not. But was it inherently immoral? Not at all. The woman had to work and this was the work she knew how to do. At least her children were clothed and fed.

(To Be Continued)

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Aliens Among Us... (Part 2)

The upside is that some of these people make it here in America. They are as industrious and smart as everyone else in the world. Just because some are uneducated laborers that doesn’t mean every one of them is too. There are those who see opportunity in the work they do. When I worked as a fence installer, a rival company was owned and run by former day laborers who learned the trade and then bought their own equipment and went out on their own. Landscaping is another trade where this phenomenon happens. Painters, framers and roofers all have turned from illegal unskilled laborers to business owners in a few years. These guys are the success stories and their businesses are generally documented and pay taxes. Sadly, an overwhelming percentage of the laborers never make it above their station.

So why is there this problem in the first place? I don’t have the official socio-economic answers. All I have is my observations and experience. When I was about fifteen I worked my first construction job at a commercial landscaping company. The paving company my mother worked at as an office manager did business with them. Little did I know at the time but when the guy who owned the company asked my mother how hard she wanted him to work me, she replied, “Hard enough that he wants to go to college.” Needless to say that a man’s perverse side takes over in a situation like that and he gladly agreed. His foreman was a tyrant (no doubt tipped off by my mother’s comment) and I was glad when I was on jobs that kept me far from him. Being that I was very young I had no real skills and had to do what anyone else in that situation would do. I worked as unskilled labor. That meant lots of raking of dirt preparing it for seed and moving rubbish around like heavy logs and stones to clear medians and vast roadside areas for the county.

My coworkers were almost all Mexican and Central American. I didn’t understand them. I couldn’t speak their language but somehow we communicated. By gestures and simple words we understood what the other was saying. I felt like the minority then. Even though the employers were of my race and language I was “forced” because of my youth and circumstance to work with those who others saw as necessary evils. Like most contractors at the time in the mid-eighties my company hired a group of Hispanics who mostly returned day after day and season after season for regular work. It was also the twenty years ago so I think the problem, although growing was not out of control yet. A couple of the guys took to me and they helped and taught me the job. Some of the senior guys covered for me when I was too weak to lift or too tired to keep up.

I remember one time falling asleep in the cab of the work truck we were packed into on the way home from a particularly rough and hard job. When we got back to the shop this one big guy I’d worked with all day woke me up gently saying something in Spanish. The only word I understood was “Junior.” He and the rest of the Spanish crew called me “Junior” after that. To these guys I was just some kid, stuck there by the boss to do some work and not to be treated too roughly, by them at least. They understood. They showed mercy when the foreman didn’t. My mother’s little plan almost backfired. I loved the job. The harshness of the dirt and the sun only added to my concept of bonding and brotherhood between myself and those alien people. Despite the fact that I was supposed to not like being “stuck” working with the Spanish guys. I really loved it and I learned that you can bond and respect with those who you don’t understand. They embraced me and I have had an affinity for these Hispanic day laborers ever since. When others bitched and complained I tried, although weakly, to defend their position based on economic necessity.

(To Be Continued)

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Aliens Among Us... (Part 1)

When I drive by the group of Hispanics gathered by the road, it looks to me like a depression era snapshot come to life. A working class, invisible, undocumented and ingrained, mill about waiting for scraps of work. I live near an infamous town on Long Island where the gathering of illegal workers (mostly Mexican, but 100% Hispanic) causes tension in the community. They loiter in parking lots, usually convenience stores like 7-11, and people are afraid of them because they look menacing. I’ve worked construction jobs off and on for more than 20 years and to be honest they look intimidating to me too. That’s not to say that it is because of their race. Not true. Anytime you have a large gathering of men dressed in dirty jeans and t-shirts looking tanned, gristly and strong, it’s intimidating, especially for families with children. They are deterred from shopping at those convenience stores because of the crowd.

Granted, the workers must spend enough money in the 7-11’s they gather around to make it worth it or the owners of those establishments would have made them move years ago. So it’s not the loss of business to the establishment that bothers people. It is the perceived danger. Locally, I have not heard of one story in the newspaper or otherwise where the illegal aliens harmed anyone, even each other. There seem to be no fights, they are generally peaceful and stay to themselves. Of course these groups are huge. They swarm the construction vehicles that pull into the parking lot looking for a day’s work. I worked with a friend of mine installing fences for a while. The shop was down the road from two of these 7-11s in either direction. When we didn’t need to pick up helpers for the day we avoided those particular 7-11s because they would bother us and crowd us. Even though it was convenient to go to one of those two places on the way out to the jobs to pick up our coffee and cigarettes we went out of our way to avoid them.

There is also the problem with housing. These people are generally men who come here for the construction season (which because of the booming housing market has been lasting almost all year) and send money back home to their relatives south of the border. They try to save money when here by packing themselves into rental houses. There will be tens of men living in one small house. While this is technically illegal there has been little crackdown. The residential areas around these towns have gone downhill because of this. The perception (rightly so) is that it is a low income, low class area. Again, not because of the nationality of the men but because of the conditions they live in. Generally the houses are unkempt and in disrepair. There are many strange people milling about and they change renters frequently. Sometimes there are women and children are living in these cramped conditions as well. Lately I heard of a few cases where landlords are charged for housing more unrelated people in a house than is allowed by the town. Essays in local newspapers show these crowded conditions where many families or 20 or more men are living in one small house. This is an attempt by the town to solve the problem indirectly.

(To Be Continued)

Friday, November 04, 2005


So when scientists say that their data supports a certain finding, a whole slew of un-skeptical people who lend those scientists Ethos just believe it's true. When a former high-ranking general who has been trustworthy in the past says that there are definitely weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, we tend to believe him. Why would he lie? He must know what he's saying. He’s got the charts and the prospect of letting the situation continue unabated is frightening. If you surround yourself with enough people of supposedly high rank or trust and have them establish arguments, the public has a hard time (as a whole not individuals) believing that they could actually lie to us, especially if they are emotionally charged arguments that gets to our basic fears of safety for ourselves, our way of life and our children.

See you must question motivation behind what people say. Are they being paid? Are they supporting their own or somebody else's agenda? Etc. This is especially true on the Internet. There are all kinds of people trying to part you from your money or to spread their own agenda on an unsuspecting public. People who fall for scams aren’t stupid it’s just that the scammer has made a convincing argument that to the person duped looked convincing at the time. For the most part, a person who was scammed will in hindsight say that if they took some more time to thing about it the scammer didn’t make any sense. That’s because in addition to seeming trustworthy and informative the scammer made the pitch based on emotional response. When faced with an argument, look at all the data being offered. Take a few minutes to ask, why am I feeling scared, happy etc… when I hear this. Make decisions for yourselves. Of course we can’t go through life all the time questioning everything. We must give some ethos to people but we have to be very careful with that. We could end up in a very bad situation.


Pathos is an appeal based on emotion. Fear is a good motivator in Pathos as well as Sympathy. Any kind of emotional appeal will work. This is probably the strongest argument. When you appeal to a person’s emotions they tend to forget to ask the basic questions. Why is this statement making me feel this why and what is the motivation behind the person who is inciting these emotions? That is not to say that Pathos is a negative argument. It may be used to manipulate people but in other cases it can stir people to action that they may not take when presented with cold, hard facts. We have all been the subject of emotional appeal. Everyday advertisers try to get us to buy their products based on our perception of how they will make us “feel.”

Thursday, November 03, 2005


Logos is the authority we give to a statement based on Logic. Generally, scholarly papers are Logos driven. They appeal to reason. We all see this in advertising as well. If A+B=C and we have proven A and B then we generally agree that C is true. This allows the person who reads the article or paper to come up with his own conclusion of truth based on known facts and information. Of course this information is not always conclusive or true in the first place. If we have given you false initial data then the conclusion can be false. All data can be skewed. You must trust the source of the data, which requires a certain amount of Ethos. Relying on quotations, facts and equations are all forms of the logical argument or Logos.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005


Ethos is the power and trust that we automatically give to someone because of the authority we perceive they have. The character of the speaker, his believability and appeal drive his Ethos. We generally accept that what an authority figure says is true because we can't imagine that they are lying or wrong. It is important to establish Ethos immediately and can be very easily done by mentioning the credentials of the speaker or the long-term relationship consumers have with a certain company. To further break down this concept Aristotle says that to have Ethos you must establish wisdom, virtue and good sense. This is the sincerest form of Ethos but in the practical sense, Ethos is granted freely by the public, especially when one identifies himself with a respected organization, like the Church (Priests, Rabbis, or Reverends); the Education System (Professors, and Research Scientists.) or the speaker establishes that the consumers have trusted the organization pitching the claim for many years.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Ethos, Logos & Pathos

I took a great class in college called Human Communication. It was about all the ways we communicate with each other. From scientists, to marketers and advertisers to politicians. My teacher said never to trust statistics from advertisers. He proved to us (and I wish I could remember how) that 4 out of 5 dentists agree that NOT brushing your teeth was good for you. It was fascinating. He also taught us about the elements of an argument.

In Aristotle’s Rhetorica he put forth the basic canons of artistic rhetoric. Artistic refers to arguments that are invented or researched by the speaker. This does not mean the topic the speaker wishes to put forth is created, but the argument or angle that the speaker takes is researched and thought up by the person who wished to convince someone else of his or her position. The sisters of Ethos, Logos and Pathos are all important parts of rhetoric. You can see how many types of professions rely on the concepts of Aristotle’s Rhetorica like lawyers, advertisers and politicians.