Monday, November 28, 2005

Space and Scribbling, But Not Scribbling in Space

I got in some good hours of reading this weekend. I spent some time puzzling over the intricacies of space with Brian Greene. I have never thought much about space before but have discovered that it is pretty important if you are a physicist. In one chapter I learned the history of space theory. In a nutshell, Newton came up with a theory of absolute space. To him space was an actual thing and absolute space, even if it was completely empty, is the only way to measure and explain the fact of relative acceleration. Then Leibniz and some others came along and said that space does not exist at all except in relation to objects, i.e. the space between you and your computer, or your house and the neighbor's house. If there are not objects present, there is no space either. This is called the relationist theory of space. But when a guy named Mach got to thinking about it, he agreed with Leibniz but put a spin on it. He said that absolute space cannot exist because relative acceleration (i.e. the speed of water swirling in a bucket vs the speed of the spinning bucket) can only exist in relation to objects. Therefore, the more objects that are present, the faster the acceleration; the fewer objects present, the slower the acceleration. If you should ever find yourself spinning in completely empty space, you would not actually be spinning because there is no point of reference by which to judge your speed--acceleration does not exist in empty space. Pretty heady stuff, and that's only chapter 2! The next chapter is on Einstein. I do believe that his conception of space is about to throw a wrench into the works. I had to balance the cerebral workout with a bit of Clarissa. She's still confined at home and is about to be forcibly removed to her Uncle Antony's house which has a drawbridge, a moat and a chapel where Clarissa is sure she will be made to marry Mr. Solmes. She overheard her brother and sister talking with the very man in the garden. What she heard made it very clear that he wished to marry her only for her property which is conveniently located right next to his. Clarissa has also been deemed by her family as a too ready scribbler, something meant as an insult. She is indeed quite the scribbler. I don't know how she manages to avoid writer's cramp. Not only does she write long letters, but she writes them first as a draft, then makes a clean copy before sending them. Plus, she also frequently copies her copies to send to her friend Anna Howe. Currently she is writing a letter every one to two hours! It's a good thing she is wealthy or I don't know how she'd afford the paper, the quills and the ink. Speaking of scribbling, I have my essay class tonight. I had three essays of my classmates' to read and comment on. I have to finish my essay up this week and make copies for everyone for class next week. Then they get a week to read it before they tell me what they thought. I don't expect anyone to declare it brilliant, but I do hope it doesn't leave anyone grasping for something nice to say about it. Be sure to check out the cartoon slide show of Dale Peck titles we won't get to see since he wrote a children's book instead (scroll down, it's in the Multimedia section). My favorites are a toss up between "America: It'd Be Better Without the People" and "Einstein: The Ridiculous Ditherings of a Man Who Had the Worst Hair of His Generation." And if you need more holiday inspiration, The Guardian offers its list of best books of 2005