Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Dilbert Bridges the Liberal/Conservative Divide.

I've often said that Dilbert is "the story of my life."

Well, this recent strip is, IMHO, the funniest (and most true) ever.

This strip has triggered quite an active cross-discussion on the Dilbert website. Unfortunately, some of the comments are "flaming" (hostile and insulting interaction), so be forewarned.

However, one comment that caught my eye included a pithy P. J. O'Rourke quote:
"The second item in the liberal creed, after self-righteousness, is unaccountability. Liberals have invented whole college majors — psychology, sociology, women's studies — to prove that nothing is anybody's fault. No one is fond of taking responsibility for his actions, but consider how much you'd have to hate free will to come up with a political platform that advocates killing unborn babies but not convicted murderers. A callous pragmatist might favor abortion and capital punishment. A devout Christian would sanction neither. But it takes years of therapy to arrive at the liberal view."

-- P.J. O'Rourke

This strip also plays into the Liberal/Conservative (L/C) theme of quite a few postings on this blog, with links to some below.

Just click on the blue titles to read them. Some include serious, extended, courteous cross-discussion
between me and my friends and colleagues, including the Chairman of my PhD committee, Howard Pattee. Some of those may even qualify to be published alongside the dialogs and writings about Socrates by Plato and Aristotle. Enjoy!


Ira Glickstein

Monday, August 17, 2015

Trump Golf & Tower - Washington DC

[from Bill Lifka, Graphics by Ira]
Upon reflection, I may have been too hard on Donald Trump. Without question, he’s brought attention to the irritation of many conservatives with the excesses of the Obama regime and the inability of republican legislators to counter their impact. 

Thinking positively, I imagined how The Donald could win my support for the U.S. presidency. If Mr. Trump promised, as his first initiative, to remodel Washington D.C. as a theme park and resort, I’d switch my allegiance to him in a heartbeat and forget that, originally, it was my idea. 

[Read Bill Lifka's original 2010 idea American Government Theme Park on this Blog] 
Graphic by Ira - click it for larger version.


I’d even support his intent to rename the Washington monument Trump Tower II and turning the mall into a golf course. His expertise in real estate development and doing deals is ideal for pulling off this long-needed conversion of what once was swamp land into a solid money maker. 

I’m confident he could complete the transition in his first term. No doubt, he’d want a personal piece of the deal but aligning national interests with Trump’s business interests would ensure the success of the endeavor. This plan could be announced as the centerpiece of his platform late in the campaign when he feels pressure to add some substance to his message. 


Stephen F. Hayes wrote about NJ Governor Chris Christie’s encounter with an 83 year old female Trump backer at a NH town hall meeting. She took on the NJ Governor for thinking he could do better than Trump who has been successful and understands what capitalism is about and has done extremely well. 

“And,” she said, “don’t tell me it’s because you have political experience; I don’t really want to hear that.” 

Christie responded: “I love the fact that you asked the question and tell me what I have to answer.” 

“I’m like that,” she responded, “That’s the way I am.” 

He answered: “Now I understand exactly why you like Donald but it’s not possible to shout, ‘You’re fired!’ at a congressional leader who tells you he doesn’t have the votes. You can do that on a TV show but you cannot fire the Speaker of the House or the Senate Majority Leader because you don’t get what you want.” 

That seems like a perfect summary of objective objections to Trump’s objective if his real goal is to attain the presidency. Is being a successful business person a qualification or an obstacle? Does one need to have demonstrated political skills? The answer to the first question depends on the kind of business and how the business person went about becoming successful. The answer to the second question is that political skills are necessary to win a party’s primary, to win the general election and, like it or not, to succeed in the presidency. 

Donald Trump has spent his life buying and selling real estate and resorts, various entertainment businesses and, mostly, in promoting himself and his name to iconic status. The last of these endeavors may well be his most valuable asset, which he’s now risking. Great risk is routine in big time real estate dealing but not so good for rational national governance. 

Big time real estate dealing invariably
 requires paying off public officials. 

The same thing might be required to make 
political deals but is more likely to backfire. 

More to the point, The Donald runs a one man company which hardly requires him to negotiate with employees or a board. 

Governor Christie has a point. To qualify as a viable candidate, Mr. Trump must explain his governing principles (like Carly Fiorina suggested) and his plan to achieve goals like erecting a border fence paid for by Mexico.


Every day my Email delivers several dozens of requests for campaign contributions. If one was to promote a debate between Hillary and Carly, I’d contribute hugely even though I know such a monumental confrontation could never occur unless both were either presidential candidates for their respective Parties or both were vice presidential candidates. 

The first possibility is out of the question because I don’t think Carly has a shot at the top slot. The second possibility is not beyond belief because Clinton’s popularity is sagging from the weight of all her baggage; would she accept second seat to placate women? If she did, Carly would be a fine choice for Republican VP candidate and she would rip Hillary to shreds; in a feminine way, of course. 


Carly isn’t a politician; she’s spent her entire career in business, ending as CEO of a corporation ranked # 20 on the Fortune 500 listing. A long list of knocks about her performance in that last job were assembled by Democrats in her run for the U.S. Senate seat against long time Senator, Barbara Boxer. Another thing is the belief she was soundly beaten by Boxer based on the 10 percentage point margin of victory. Since CA is overwhelmingly Democratic (mostly of the far left variety) and Boxer had 28 years of granting U.S. government favors for California voters, losing by 10 points is almost a victory for a Conservative. In the prior defense of her Senate seat, Boxer won by 20 points. 

The attacks on Carly’s HP experience include: she was fired, managers hated her, she fired thousands of employees, HP lost tons of money under her leadership and the list goes on. She has good answers in one liner responses and longer, reasoned arguments but a constant drumbeat takes a toll. Here are my short answers. Many good executives have been fired including Steve Jobs and me, Bill Lifka.

Carly argued with her board constantly: a group of prima donnas which demonstrated its incompetence before and after Carly as well as during her CEO stint. Carly had to orchestrate spinning off the original HP businesses and it’s acquisitions into Agilent, a newly formed company and merging HP computer businesses with Compaq and its many acquisitions. At one point, the directors wanted to organize in 34 distinct businesses despite their focus on similar technology, similar products and similar markets; Carly argued for 4. The so-called HP way went with the spin-off. Carly wanted a management culture that matched the realities of the new computer market; old managers resisted. 

Carly’s term of office coincided with a collapse of the entire computer market; HP’s firings were in line with other companies in the industry. In the end, HP emerged bigger, stronger, more profitable and more competent technologically; at least that’s Carly’s argument. She may be right. 

If one wished to check Carly’s credentials, her history at AT&T might be of greater value. There she rose from management trainee to SVP and was, seemingly, the principal executive who orchestrated the spin-off of Bell Labs and Western Electric into Lucent. 

The question is whether she had any successful line experience in hands-on operations. Her record with Lucent and HP suggests relevant experience in moving strategic chess pieces on a huge game board but that’s not the same as experience in the trenches. 

Nevertheless, managing high tech manufacturing companies in truly public corporations is more relevant to governing a democratic nation than managing a real estate business in a dictatorial organizational structure.

Bill Lifka

Friday, August 7, 2015

Grandchildren: The Grandest of the Grands!

Last week, I had the distinct privilege of hosting Michaela and Samantha, two of our triplet grandchildren, for a week of Florida fun and sun adventures (and a bit of rain). They stayed with me at Freedom Pointe Independent Living, The Villages, FL, where my wife and I live.

(The third triplet was with our daughter in California. My wife,Vi, was in Georgia due to medical issues with our daughter there, so I had the honor of hosting them alone.)


Here they are at the pond near Spanish Springs Town Center. Samantha (right) is a junior ornithologist who unfailingly identifies the birds and records them in her journal. She plans to study biology when she goes off to college in 2016.

Michaela (left in the photo above and middle in the second photo) is a junior chef who plans to study hospitality when she goes off to college in 2016. She had an opportunity to talk to Catherine (left), a Cornell hospitality student who served as an intern in the Dining Room at Freedom Pointe. Michaela demonstrated her culinary talents in the cramped kitchen of our condo. (Yum, yum Delicious.)
Samantha, Michaela, and I exercised our bodies as well as our minds as we cycled around The Villages.

 (When we stopped for water at a postal facility, Susan, a complete stranger who was walking her dog Lulu, volunteered to take this photo. Proof that The Villages is "the friendliest home town".)

We even cycled to one of the family pools, where Michaela (bottom) and Samantha (top) "horsed around". Michaela is a competitive swimmer, so she also swam in our Freedom Pointe indoor pool and even joined us in a water aerobics class (getting a peek at what she will look like 50-60 years from now :^)

Of course they had to try out Grandma and Grandpa's golf cart.

They are accomplished auto drivers with their MA drivers licenses, but I insisted on "checking them out" for golf cart driving and etiquette by having them drive from Freedom Pointe to Spanish Springs Town Center and through the complex Morse roundabout with concentric car and cart paths, as well as the cramped tunnel below El Camino Real near Buena Vista so they could get to the Publix supermarket.

They learned to always park their cart to one side of a space to leave room for another cart. (The photo above was taken from our fourth floor window at Freedom Pointe, facing El Camino Real.)

More bird watching by Samantha. (The photo was taken from the fourth floor balcony, facing the golf course pond behind Freedom Pointe.)

(For bird watching fans, here is one of my You Tube videos of the "Congress of Birds" in the Amberwood golf course pond behind the Village of Chatham home where we lived a few years back.)


We kayaked the Rainbow River (with good friends Phyllis and Chuck).  Michaela and Samantha  (shown here at the State Park swimming area by Rainbow Springs, the source of the River) found the trip enjoyable, while, for me, it was challenging.

At few years ago, at this same State Park swimming area, my friend Warren narrated the mis-adventures of our friend Dee (whom I lovingly call the "Ditsy Brit") visiting from England. I posted it to You Tube. You may notice black bars, top and bottom, intruding into the image and wonder why. Well, after I uploaded the original video to You Tube, their computer noticed that the image was unsteady (because Warren was taking it with a hand-held camera in a tipsy kayak). They suggested that I make use of their free service to steady the image, and I did so, with the result seen. Pretty good, I think!


We couldn't miss the Glass-Bottom Boats at Silver Springs. Here Samantha and Michaela view some fish near a deep blue spring under our boat.

This is the first time I've been back since the State of Florida took control from the former commercial operators who were having financial problems. The rides and animal park adventures are gone, but the original Glass-Bottom Boats are as good as ever.


Another great central Florida spring is Homosassa Springs State park, home of the Manatees and much more, including an impressive array of birds. Like Silver Springs, this was once a commercial tourist attraction that ran into financial difficulties and was taken over by the State of Florida. In keeping with the slogan "The Real Florida", they decreed that only native Florida animals could remain, and, over time, the non-natives were relocated. However, "Lou the Hippo" an African native, was too big and getting too old to relocate. So, the Florida Governor gave Lou special dispensation, and declared him a legal Florida resident.

The photo shows Lou, now about 55 years old, with a life expectancy of about 60. When we arrived for the Hippo feeding show, Lou was almost completely underwater, with only his ears showing. However, when he heard the keeper unlock the gate, Lou immediately rose up to participate.

The photo shows me and Michaela with three rescued American Eagles who, unfortunately have suffered injuries that will prevent them from ever being released into the wild.

Many birds call Homosassa State Park their home. Some, like the Eagles, are rescued and will never be returned to the wild, others will be released after rehabilitation, and some are permanent residents, confined by netting. In addition, we saw quite a few voluntary visitors who were attracted by the free food and shelter.

 Here we are with a Roseate Spoonbill, who let us get remarkably close.

More photos and text on my FaceBook page


Perhaps the highlight of the week (at least for me) was sharing "intellectual" matters with Michaela and Samantha. By a stroke of careful planning, I was scheduled to speak to our local Philosophy Club the very week they visited, and they consented to attend.

My talk was about "Visualizing Einstein's Relativity". See the topic on my new Blog "Visualizing Science and Technology with Ira", and download my animated Powerpoint slides here.



During the week, we also had wide-ranging discussions about several topics, including politics and religious belief. Although we don't exactly see eye-to-eye in some of these areas, I respect their high intelligence and opinions, encourage diversity of opinion, and sometimes engage as "Devil's Advocate" to spur intellectual growth (mine, as well as theirs :^)

Although I do not happen to believe in God in the "traditional" sense, I am far from being an Atheist. To appreciate my views, please have a look at these Blog postings:

god is NOT Great by Christoper Hitchens (a GREAT Writer)

The GOD Delusion by Biologist Richard Dawkins (a GREAT Biologist).

Other Blog Topics Related to God by me (a GREAT Grandpa).

Each of these Topics is followed by what I consider a very high-level intellectual cross-discussion with with my PhD Advisor, Howard Pattee (a GREAT Teacher and Physicist), and other intellectually distinguished friends with diverse  backgrounds and opinions. (Perhaps, years from now, these may take their place among Plato and Aristotle's dialogs and writings that enshrine Socrates :^)

I should mention that, despite my (and my wife's) lack of "traditional" belief, our three daughters, and our triplet grandchildren, attended Hebrew classes and were Bat Mitzvah (Jewish Confirmation). We did so out of a kind of "ethnic solidarity" rather than "traditional" belief.

Here are some selections you might find interesting:

god is NOT Great

god is not Great - How Religion Poisons Everything by Christopher Hitchens is an easy read - that man can really write! I found it interesting but full of irrelevant information and cheap argumentative tricks.

I know the scriptures are the writings of humans without the benefit of modern scientific educations. I know they have been translated and edited by humans for thousands of years. I am not a literal believer. Therefore, the rather obvious lack of scientifically verifiable content in holy books does not surprise me at all.

Hitchens claims (page 8) that religion has retarded development of civilization. On what evidence? None that I could find.

The very fact that all societies and great civilizations of the past have been infused with what many of us judge to be irrational spiritual belief seems to argue for the benefit of religion for their survival and spread. If religion retards civilization, one would expect non-believing societies, free from religious retardation, to have been most successful. Can anyone cite an example? History proves the opposite!

Hitchens relates how he was asked by Dennis Prager if, approached by a bunch of men on a dark evening in a strange neighborhood, he would be less worried about his safety if he knew they were coming out of a prayer meeting. He spouts (page 18) a litany of cities (Belfast, Beirut, Bombay, ... "and that is only the B's") where, during certain times in recent and ancient history he would be less confortable if confronted by men exiting a religious meeting. Hitchens lives in Washington, DC and spends most of his time away from home in New York, London, Los Angeles, and so on. What would any honest person's answer be to that question?

He goes out of his way to trash both Mother Teresa (page 145+) and Ghandi (page 182+).

Hitchens was a Marxist before he lost his faith in that hopeless cause. He supported Trotsky who was exiled and later murdered by Stalin. One wonders if Hitchens would still be a Marxist had Trotsky turned the tables and eliminated Stalin.

Based on experience of loss of faith in Marxism, he laments (page 153) the pain he knows his book is inflicting on the religious faithful. I wonder if he is simply jealous of their faith? Like a kid whose balloon has popped, he savors the experience of popping everyone else's balloon.

He misquotes Rabbi Hillel, one of our most influential Jewish scholars, claiming Hillel stated the Golden Rule in the postitive version (page 213): "Treat others as you wish to be treated." In fact, even the slightest research would have shown that Hillel used the negative version favored by most Jewish scholars. Hillel wrote: "That which is despicable to you, do not do to your fellow, this is the whole Torah, and the rest is commentary, go and learn it."

He has an entire chapter entitled "Is Religion Child Abuse?" and concludes it is much worse (page 217) "'Child abuse' is really a silly and pathetic euphemism for what has been going on; the systematic rape and torture of children ..." He cites cases where children have indeeed been abused by priests of various religions, but that is an argumentative trick. If some Englishmen rape and torture children would it be right to say English civilization is all about rape and torture of children?

On the positive side (at least for me as a Pantheist) he notes Leslie Orgel's comment (page 84): "... evolution is smarter than you are." (Orgel was an associate of Francis Crick, DNA pioneer.)

He also writes (page 165) "... people can be better off believing in something than in nothing, however untrue that something may be."

The GOD Delusion

Unlike Christopher Hitchens's "god is NOT Great", written from an historical/literary point of view "The GOD Delusion", by a respected biologist, contains actual science-based arguments.

Evolution of Memes

Richard Dawkins previously wrote "The Selfish Gene" (1976) where he introduced the word "meme" (from "mimeme" derived from the Greek "mimeisthai" which means "to imitate"). The word "mneme" was used by others in a similar way as early as 1927 (from the Greek mimneskesthai" which means "to remember").

A meme is the cultural equivalent of a gene. Dawkins wrote: "DNA is a self-replicating piece of hardware. Each piece has a particular structure, which is different from rival pieces of DNA. If memes in brains are analogous to genes they must be self-replicating brain structures, actual patterns of neuronal wiring-up that reconstitute themselves in one brain after another."

The etymology of the word "meme" itself is an excellent example of the evolution of the cultural equivalent of genes. “Meme” is one letter shorter than “mneme” and far easier to pronounce. A challenge arose in 1980 when E.O. Wilson introduced a new word, "culturgen" for the same concept. That word has all but died out as “meme” survived and replicated in the natural human selection process. Clearly, the word “meme” is the “fittest” (best fits into the human cultural environment and brain structure).

A Personal God IS a Delusion – But is it a Useful Myth?

Although I agree with Dawkins that the "traditional" concept of a personal God, external to the Universe, is, strictly speaking, a delusion, I am surprised at the vehemence with which he attacks it.

He minimizes the significance of the fact that the various religions which survived and reproduced over millennia and encompassing the belief systems of billions of people are the “fittest” beliefs (best fits into the human cultural environment and brain structure, regardless of whether or not they are literally true). As such, they must have provided some real benefit to believers and the societies that promoted and still cling to religious beliefs.

About half-way through the book, he finally acknowledges, however grudgingly, the facts. He writes [pg 163 …166]:
[W]e should ask what pressure or pressures exerted by natural selection originally favoured the impulse toward religion. … Religion is so wasteful, so extravagant; and Darwinian selection habitually targets and eliminates waste. …no known culture lacks some version of the time-consuming, wealth-consuming,hostility provoking rituals, the anti-factual, counter-productive fantasies of religion. [Emphasis added]
David Wilson and Group Selection

Dawkins searches, in vain, for rational explanations for the survival of the God delusion. He mentions David Sloan Wilson [pg 170] a colleague of Howard’s and one of my favorite professors at Binghamton University who Dawkins rightly calls “the American group-selection apostle”.

Group selection makes the claim that groups, including religious associations, which promote cooperative, altruistic behaviors, survive at the expense of less religious groups. While I accept multi-level selection (gene level and meme level), I am not sure that true, pure altruism exists and have gone round and round discussing this with Wilson.

Dawkins Belief there is “A generalized process for optimizing”

He goes on his apparently subconscious defense of pantheism [pg 139]:
It is clear that here on Earth we are dealing with a generalized process for optimizing biological species, a process that works all over the planet, on all continents and islands, and at all times. … if we wait another ten million years, a whole new set of species will be as well adapted to their ways of life as today’s species are to theirs. This is a recurrent, predictable, multiple phenomenon, not a piece of statistical luck recognized with hindsight. [Emphasis added]
Dawkin’s “generalized process for optimizing” is Omnipresent (“all continents and islands … all times”), Omnipotent (“whole new set of species”) and Omniscient (“as well adapted to their ways of life as today’s species”). Change it to “Generalized Optimizing Device” and we have our familiar Pantheistic “GOD”. QED :^)


Grandchildren are GRAND. I may be biased, but I think ours are the GRANDEST!

The photo below shows the Nathan's Coney Island t-shirt they presented to me as a thank-you for our week together. Note how it fits into the theme of the "office" part of our Freedom Points Independent Living bedroom.

Do you see the Coney Island Parachute Jump print with Cyclone and Nathan's Hot Dogs, and the Coney Island carry bag?

At left are my US Patents, top is my IBM and Lockheed retirement memento, top right my NJ and CT vanity plates. Middle right is my 1976 US bicentennial needlework based on 13 cent stamp of the time, but with a subtle change. 

(At far right notice legs reflected in mirror. They belong to Samantha who stood on the bed to take this memorable photo.)
Ira Glickstein

Thursday, July 2, 2015

A Faith Restoring Event (a father, his son and his wife)

[From Bill Lifka (who I believe is a Cubs fan :^)] America is about to celebrate its 239th birthday. Sometimes I doubt it will reach 250 without collapsing for financial/economic reasons or the American Civil War II. When I get to thinking that way, something happens that restores my faith in Americans. It’s American people who will determine America’s future, so the faith restoring event always involves people. It doesn’t take a lot of good people to boost my morale since, as the song goes, “Give me ten stout-hearted men and I’ll soon give you ten thousand more.” 

This time it took three: a father, his son and his wife. Strangely enough, the event occurred in Illinois, the only State most likely to precede California into bankruptcy because a majority of its citizens have refused to admit what’s wrong. Adding to the unlikely setting, the event occurred in Chicago where the murder rate of young Black men exceeds that experienced in the Gulf Wars for the American military because a majority of citizens have refused to admit what’s wrong. 

It happened in Wrigley Field: the site of so many failures by the Chicago Cubs baseball team. Two days after Father’s Day, Keith Hartley took his son to a night game between the Cubs and the Dodgers. That isn’t unusual except the son Isaac is seven months old and wife, Kari, tagged along for boy’s night out. 

So there they are sitting a few rows back in the first base box seats and Isaac (I’m betting his nickname will be Zack.) is eating like the rest of the fans, except his is a bottle of milk capped with a nipple. The Cub’s batter fouls one off in their direction. The fans in the first two rows lean away and try to ward off the incoming ball. 

Not Keith and Zack. 

Keith moves to the wall and neatly snags the ball in his bare right hand as the Dodger first baseman lunges futilely over the rolled infield tarp. Meanwhile, Zack is neatly tucked into his Dad’s left arm, his eyes on the ball, his bottle firmly clutched in his hands and mouth. 

Others may complain about risks but I applaud Keith’s instincts. He’d be one of my choices for the first ten stout-hearted men. Twenty years from now, Zack would make the first ten, properly taught by his father how to act like an American. The first lesson was in taking him to Wrigley Field before he was old enough to know the Cub’s historic record. Sure, they fall short of the mark most of the time, but they hang in there swinging and running and occasionally hitting the ball and often catching it. 

It’s the perseverance that’s deserving of emulation by all Americans, not to mention keeping one’s eyes on the ball, which Zack seems to have mastered at an early age. 

Then there’s Kari. She remarked, “I was a little bit nervous………. he held on tight to both the ball and Isaac, so we were OK.” There’s no reason why Kari couldn’t have been the one to catch the ball but I doubt she harbors any resentments it was Keith who did the job. Kari is one of those All-American wives and mothers who accept and encourage maleness in their men. 

How does this apply to all the nonsense in Executive Branch, Congress, Supreme Court and our international policies? America is going wrong because its leaders are like the guys in the first rows at Wrigley Field. They shy away from the ball for fear they might miss it and people would blame them. It might hit them on the head and knock them out of the game. They might catch it and not know what to do with it. With all the Republican candidates is there one who is a Keith Hartley act-alike? Forget the Democratic Party. Forget those Republicans who are demagogues. 

Bill Lifka

Friday, June 26, 2015

VISUALIZING: General Relativity

It took some ten years for Einstein to publish an extension of his (Special) Theory of Relativity from the relatively [pun intended] simple case of constant velocity inertial reference frames to the more General case of accelerating frames of reference. His General Theory of Relativity was published in 1915.
VISUALIZING Relativity - PowerPoint Show
VISUALIZING Relativity - Excel Spreadsheet
VISUALIZING for Science and Technology - Blog Posting
VISUALIZING Einstein's "Miracle Year" - Blog Posting
VISUALIZING My Insight Into Lorentz Gamma - Blog Posting
VISUALIZING the "Twin Paradox" - Blog Posting

Again, Einstein utilized his uncanny ability to VISUALIZE a complex situation and gain a unique insight. He recognized that:

  • Gravity is equivalent to Acceleration, and 
  • Massive bodies cause SpaceTime to CURVE in their vicinity.

He VISUALIZED a scientist, confined to a sealed box with instruments, and tasked to determine by measurements, if the box was "at rest" on the surface of the Earth, and therefore subject to Earth Gravity or in a spacecraft far from any massive object, and being accelerated at 9.8 m/s2 (32.2 ft/s2), which is the acceleration of gravity on Earth. Einstein concluded that the scientist could not make that determination.

[This is not strictly true. Given very sensitive accelerometers at head and foot level, not available in Einstein's time, the scientist would note a small difference if "at rest" on Earth because head and foot are different distances from the center of the Earth and Gravity varies as the square of the distance from the center of mass. In an accelerating spacecraft far from massive bodies, the acceleration at foot and head level would be equal.]


In my research for this project, I happened upon a fact that is not prominently mentioned by many Internet expositions of Relativity. Namely that:
 the Relativistic Effects of Gravity 
in the vicinity of a massive body 
are exactly equal to 
the Relativistic Effects in a spacecraft 
(in deep space far from any massive body) 
moving at the Escape Velocity 
corresponding to that level of Gravity!

Escape Velocity from the Earth Surface is 11.2 km/s (about 25,000 MPH). It is defined as the launch speed required for a spacecraft, pointing straight up, such that it will not fall back to Earth (ignoring air friction and rotation of the Earth).

The formula for Escape Velocity from the vicinity of a massive body is the square root of 2GM/r, where G is the universal gravitational constant (6.67×10−11 m3 kg−1 s−2), M is the mass of the body, and r is the radius from the center of the body to the spacecraft at launch.

From this equation you should be able to deduce that Escape Velocity is less if the spacecraft is flown to a position that is high above the Earth Surface, and launched there, increasing r. That is one reason for multi-stage rockets. The final stage does not fire until far from the Surface. Less obvious is that a horizontal launch requires less speed than a vertical launch. Thus, the spacecraft is usually placed into high orbit prior to the final acceleration to escape.


When you throw a ball straight up into the air, at some initial vertical speed, it continuously slows until it reaches the point where its speed is zero, and then it falls, continuously increasing downward speed, until it returns to your glove. If we ignore air friction, the ball will strike your glove at the same speed as your initial throw.

This is a perfect illustration of the exchange of Kinetic Energy for Potential Energy.

Your initial throw imparts a given vertical speed to the ball. From that speed, you can compute the Kinetic Energy. As the ball rises and slows due to the force of Gravity, the Kinetic Energy is converted to Potential Energy (ignoring loss to air friction). At the highest point, the ball has zero Kinetic Energy, and maximum Potential Energy. By conservation of Energy, the Potential Energy at the peak is exactly equal to the initial Kinetic Energy of the throw. As the ball falls, the process is reversed, with the Potential Energy being converted to Kinetic Energy.

Please note that we are speaking here of the Kinetic and Potential Energy referenced to your glove height. If you happened to be near a deep hole in the ground, such as a well, you could drop the ball and it would speed as it fell, because your glove is at a higher Potential Energy level than the bottom of the well.

If the hole extended all the way through the Earth, the ball would speed, gaining Kinetic Energy (converted from the Potential Energy) until it passed the center of the Earth, where the Potential Energy would be zero, having all been converted to Kinetic Energy. The ball would continue to the other side of the Earth, trading Kinetic for Potential Energy (again ignoring air friction and assuming the ball does not touch the sides of the hole, etc.)

The first equation in the graphic is the equation you probably learned in your physics class for computing Kinetic Energy, using Newtonian physics. This equation is "close enough" for virtually all practical engineering applications on Earth. (m is the mass of the ball, and v is the initial velocity.)

The second equation is based on Einsteinian Physics, and must be used to obtain absolutely accurate results for Kinetic Energy at speeds that are a significant fraction of the speed of light. (m is the mass of the ball, and v is accounted for by ϒ. See previous posting in the Blog series for the definition of ϒ the Greek letter Gamma).

The third equation is based on the equivalence of Kinetic and Potential Energy. It solves for Potential Energy, using Einsteinian Physics, given knowledge of  G, the universal gravitational constant (6.67×10−11 m3 kg−1 s−2)m is the mass of the body, and r is the radius from the center of the body to the ball (or spacecraft).

Ira Glickstein

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Bernie Stopper

Bernie Stopper passed away yesterday at Hospice in The Villages, FL. He leaves his wife Nonie, daughter Robin, and son Doug, plus an unlimited number of friends from New York (IBM/Lockheed Owego, where he was my second-best manager :^) and Florida (The Villages, where he was my second-best friend and bicycling/kayaking companion :^). He will be missed.


Vi and I loved to socialize with him and Nonie. As a manager, he exhibited the very best of traditional IBM ethics and thoughtfulness for his employees, plus unparalleled competence and thoroughness in all aspects of avionics engineering management and business planning. Here in The Villages, he leaves his mark as webmaster for the Village Bicycle Club site and for the "We Bike for Kids" charity, and as a great friend to so many of us.

I've been looking through my photo collection and found several that should be of interest to those of you who knew Bernie.

However, I noticed that, more often than not, it was Bernie who unselfishly took the photos of me and others at interesting events, rather than hog the spotlight.

In 1997, Bernie and Nonie hosted Vi and me at their cottage on Cayuga Lake. Fun, food and friendship was the rule.


We stopped at a British Pub on our Business trip to England (with Software Engineer, Sherry  Ives).

London Underground.


Kayaking in Florida.

Bernie took this photo of me very close to what we originally thought was a fake plastic 8-foor gator.

Well, it turned out to be real.

Read about it here: HERE!


In September 2011, Bernie and I (along with Jerry Bauer and other members of the Village Bicycle Club) did a wonderful Belgian Bicycle Barge trip from Brussels to Bruges.

Here, Bernie stands alongside our barge, the "Magnifique". There were about 20 of us, all from our club, plus an attentive crew of four, one of whom guided on our daily cycling trips.

Below, with Jerry and a not-so-private moment in Ghent.

We slept on the barge for a week, eating breakfast each morning and packing a lunch for our bicycle trip to the next port, generally about 30 miles. The cycling included stops at historic and scenic places. We'd meet the barge at the next port, enjoy a great dinner prepared and served by the crew, and repeat the process the following day.


The most recent photo I have of Bernie is from this 2014 visit by Charlie and Sara Porterfield to The Villages, FL.

From Left: Charles and Sara Porterfield, Vi and Ira Glickstein, Lee and Maureen Danielson, BERNIE, Nan and Lloyd Smith.

(Nonie is missing because she took the picture!)


Everyone who knew Bernie, even casually, will miss him. His can-do attitude and helpfulness was positively contagious.

I, especially, will miss him. Until several months ago, Bernie was a stronger cyclist than me, even trying to keep up with our friend (and Owego colleague) Garf Cooper. Yet, he patiently bicycled with me, often two or more times a week. My Parkinson's Disease has taken a toll on my balance, and I often dismount when we have to cross a major intersection or make a sharp turn. It takes me a while to get going again, sometimes walking the bicycle to a level or downhill grade.

Yet, until several months ago, Bernie would show up at Freedom Pointe at 7:20AM on most Tuesdays and cycle up to the Springdale Pool to meet Jerry Bauer and others for our regular cycling tour of the Marion County part of The Villages, and up to the Mulberry Recreation Center pool, where I would do my deep water aerobics. He'd also meet me (and Jerry) at Mulberry at 10am on most Saturdays for our ride to Paneras in the Spanish Plaines Town Center, where we'd meet the "real bicyclists" (who took  more strenuous trips to our common destination) and enjoy coffee and sweet rolls. He'd also join me and a Freedom Pointe friend for our easy 8-mile trip starting around 11am Wednesdays.

Until Vi and I moved to Freedom Pointe, in 2012, I owned a kayak and Bernie and I would regularly paddle with The Villages Canoe and Kayak Club, or do trips on our own.

It was also our pleasure to host Bernie and Nonie for dinner at Freedom Pointe and to join them for meals at local restaurants (especially the "Bang-Bang Shrimp" at Bonefish Grill). We attended meetings of the Village Bicycle Club, the Science-Tech Club, and the Vestal-Apalachin Club.

Every time I walk down the stairs to the Freedom Pointe parking garage where I keep my bicycle, I look for Bernie where he used to wait for me.

Bernie's departure, 
for what I hope and trust
will be
 greener pastures, 
smoother roads 
and even more pleasant rivers and lakes,
 has left a big empty spot 
in my life 
and my heart 
and my soul.

Condolences to Nonie and Robin and Doug and the grandchildren from me and Vi.

Ira Glickstein

Saturday, June 20, 2015

VISUALIZING: The "Twin Paradox"

In Einstein's ground-breaking 1905 paperOn the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies, he provides the basis for the well-known "Twin Paradox" (where one twin takes a space journey at high speeds, and finds, upon returning home, that he or she has AGED less than the stay-at-home sibling):
If one of two synchronous clocks at A is moved in a closed curve with constant velocity until it returns to A, the journey lasting t seconds, then by the clock which has remained at rest the traveled clock on its arrival at A will be [1 - α] seconds slow*.
To VISUALIZE Einstein's thought experiment, let "A" be a location on Earth, where the stay-at-home twin resides, and the "closed curve" be the path followed by the traveling twin, moving at 87% of the speed of light (v/c = β = 0.8660) where α = 0.5 as depicted below.

VISUALIZING Relativity - PowerPoint Show
VISUALIZING Relativity - Excel Spreadsheet
VISUALIZING for Science and Technology - Blog Posting
VISUALIZING Einstein's "Miracle Year" - Blog Posting
VISUALIZING My Insight Into Lorentz Gamma - Blog Posting
VISUALIZING the "Twin Paradox" - Blog Posting

As depicted, Blair and Aden are 20 years old when Aden takes off on a long space journey at ultra-high speed while Blair remains home. Aden's journey, at an average speed of 87% the speed of light, extends out to the vicinity of a Neutron Star (or a Black Hole) where Aden's spaceship "slingshots" and speeds back to Earth.

When Aden is at the half-way point, Blair has AGED 30 Earth-years and is 50 years old. However Aden, due to being in a state of high Kinetic Energy with respect to Blair, has AGED only 15 years and is only 30 years old.

By the time Aden returns from the journey, Blair has AGED an additional 30 Earth-years and has reached the ripe old age of 80. However Aden has only AGED an additional 15 years, and returns home a sprightly 50 year-old!


First of all, this is only a "thought experiment" and there are many practical limitations that make it unrealistic. None of our current spacecraft are capable of even 1% of the speed of light, much less the 87% imagined for Aden. Furthermore, even if we had such a spacecraft, and even if it carried only a clock and not a fragile human being, considering the G-forces involved,  it would take a number of years to accelerate up to 87% of the speed of light, perform the "slingshot", and decelerate to land safely on Earth.

A more realistic depiction would include those years of acceleration and deceleration and would require some portions of the journey to be faster than 87% of the speed of light so as to average 87%.

Note that the Einstein quote is from Einstein's 1905 SPECIAL RELATIVITY paper and he (wisely) specifies that the "closed curve" be at "constant velocity". It would take an additional ten years, and Einstein's 1915 GENERAL RELATIVITY paper to account for the Relativistic Effects of the acceleration and deceleration required for a practical journey. It turns out that the acceleration and deceleration of the traveling twin in the spacecraft would actually increase the difference in AGING somewhat. However, 60 years of Earth gravity, to which the stay-at-home twin would be exposed, would actually decrease the difference in AGING a bit.

On the other hand, some of the explanations of the "Twin Paradox" I found on the Internet expose what I think are misinterpretations of inertial reference frames and simultaneity.


Symmetry and Simultaneity Run Riot !

In my explanation above, I state that, at the half-way point, Aden, on the spaceship, has aged 15 years while Blair, on Earth, has aged 30 years. Well, some would complain, if Aden has not yet done the "slingshot" turn-around, it is improper to state anything about difference in aging between Blair and Aden since both are still in their original frames of reference! They claim a symmetry where each twin sees the other as moving and the other as having a slower clock. They claim there is no such thing as simultaneity.

Different Inertial Frames

For example, right near the top of the Wikipedia explanation:
... each twin sees the other twin as moving, and so, according to an incorrect naive application of time dilation and the principle of relativity, each should paradoxically find the other to have aged more slowly. However, this scenario can be resolved within the standard framework of special relativity: the travelling twin's trajectory involves two different inertial frames, one for the outbound journey and one for the inbound journey, and so there is no symmetry between the spacetime paths of the two twins. [My emphasis]
Well, prior to the turn-around, each twin had one and only one inertial frame, not "two different inertial frames". So, does this explanation mean to say they both aged more slowly, or neither aged more slowly? Does it mean to say that, during the turn-around, the traveling twin suddenly got younger or the stay-at-home twin suddenly got older?

Sadly for me (an old engineer who cannot understand the meaning of minus two people - see the Physist/Engineer joke in my prevous posting ) YES, they do seem to think that the ages of the twins can suddenly change, based on how they do their calculations!

Gravitational Time Dilation

Further confusion in the Wikipedia explanation:
.... Explanations put forth by Albert Einstein and Max Born invoked gravitational time dilation to explain the aging as a direct effect of acceleration.
According to this Wikipedia quote, the Einstein/Born explanations invoke "gravitational time dilation to explain the aging as a direct effect of acceleration."  Well, the traveling twin certainly had to be accelerated and decelerated during launch and recovery and during the turn-around, and we learn from General Relativity that Relativistic Effects of gravity are equivalent to high-speed effects at certain levels of acceleration and speed. However, the amount of reduction in aging is proportional to the total length of time the traveling twin is at ultra-high speed, and the thought experiment could be lengthened to hundreds or millions of years, such that the acceleration/deceleration periods are an insignificant fraction of the travelling twin's journey.

Age Jump Instantly At the Turn-around

Yet further confusion in the Wikipedia explanation:
... For a moment-by-moment understanding of how the time difference between the two twins unfolds, one must understand that in special relativity there is no concept of absolute present. ...For different inertial frames there are different sets of events that are simultaneous in that frame. This relativity of simultaneity means that switching from one inertial frame to another requires an adjustment in what slice through spacetime counts as the "present". ...
... Just before turnaround, the traveling twin calculates the age of the Earth-based twin ... [but] ... Just after turnaround, if he recalculates, ... there is a jump discontinuity in the age of the Earth-based twin. ... [If the twins] regularly update each other on the status of their clocks by way of sending radio signals (which travel at light speed), then all parties will note an incremental buildup of asymmetry in time-keeping, beginning at the "turn around" point. Prior to the "turn around", each party regards the other party's clock to be recording time differently from his own, but the noted difference is symmetrical between the two parties. After the "turn around", the noted differences are not symmetrical, and the asymmetry grows incrementally until the two parties are reunited. Upon finally reuniting, this asymmetry can be seen in the actual difference showing on the two reunited clocks. [My emphasis]
OK, the twins are far apart for much of this thought experiment so radio signals between them will take years to reach their destinations. Therefore, even if the turn-around plans have been settled and the Relativistic Effects calculated before the launch, the stay-at-home twin will not know for sure whether or not they have been successful. The spacecraft may have blown up or gone off the planned course. Similarly, the traveling twin will not know the status of the stay-at-home. The Earth may have been destroyed by a meteor, etc.

But, it blows my mind that some physicists can imagine an instantaneous jump in age by any human being (much less a clock) due to a spacecraft turning around, or a calculation based on a delayed radio message.


Yes, if two spaceships pass in the night, all they can measure is relative speed (even if one happens to be Spaceship Earth). According to all that is currently known, observers on each spaceship will measure the other as being shorter in the direction of travel than it really is (length contraction) and that the other's clock is running slow (time dilation). I got that.

As one Internet source noted, when two cars pass on a highway and each driver looks in their rear-view mirror, the other car appears to be getting smaller.  Of course, in the case of the cars, we know that neither is really getting smaller.

So, what is different in the case of the twins?

Well, for one thing, the spacecraft was loaded with fuel and the stay-at-home twin watched it blast off and accelerate. The traveling twin felt the acceleration to ultra-high speed. Due to that expenditure of fuel, the spacecraft was raised to a higher level of Kinetic Energy than it had when it was sitting on the launch pad.

Throughout its journey, the spacecraft continued at high speed relative to the Earth (assuming that any frictional losses of energy were made up by further expenditure of fuel).

I maintain that the Relativistic Effects of a slowdown of aging (clock rate) for the travelling twin compared to the stay-at-home twin is due to a relatively higher level of Kinetic Energy. (When we get to General Relativity later in this Blog series, we will learn that high levels of Potential Energy due to the acceleration of gravity have similar Relativistic Effects.)

Ira Glickstein

* Note: I've substituted "1 - α" for the equivalent, but more complex equation in Einstein's original paper, where α is the Square Root portion of the Lorentz Transformation ( \scriptstyle{\epsilon = \sqrt{1 - v^2/c^2}}) as described in my previous Blog posting.