Star Trek Pagh

I just got through watching “A Matter of Honor”, the Star Trek TNG episode where Riker is temporarily posted to a the Klingon ship Pagh. At the end of the episode, he takes command by deposing the Klingon captain and says to the Klingon crew, “I’m your captain now”.  With weapons armed and a crew which is ready for a fight, he hails the Enterprise and orders Picard to lower their shields and surrender. So I started thinking… what if the Klingon weapons officer had fired a photon torpedo at that moment?

Suppose the Enterprise were destroyed by the hit. Kargan was aboard the Enterprise at that moment. That leaves Riker as permanent captain of the Klingon ship Pagh. His first office is now Lt. Klag. Naturally, Captain Riker would chastise the weapons officer, possibly kill him. But it would be too late to undo the damage.

Neither Troi nor LeForge appeared in that episode, so it’s possible that they were not on board the ship at that moment. Also, Beverley Crusher was at StarFleet Medical during season two, so she would have survived as well. Maybe some strange twists of fate would get Troi, LeForge, and Crusher transferred to the Pagh as well, and then Captain Riker and his mostly Klingon crew could travel the galaxy having adventures aboard the Pagh.

I think this is an interesting though experiment.

And, according to Rule 34, somebody somewhere has made porn about it.

Bring out the popcorn!


ten crazy theories you can’t disprove

Everything you know is based on information you gather with your senses, compared to memories that are stored in your mind. You believe that this knowledge comes from your interaction with the real world and the objects and people which inhabit that world. Plato pointed out that a person who lived their entire life in a cave, seeing nothing but shadows and never seeing the objects which cast the shadows, would think the shadows are real, just like we think the world we see is real. But what if that’s all an illusion? Could you prove it?

Here are ten crazy theories about the universe which cannot be disproved.

#1 This life is really just a dream you’re having while you’re lying in a hospital bed somewhere, in a coma.

Every detail of your life, and every memory you think you have of it, is really just a highly detailed dream you’re having. None of it is real. Any minute now, you might wake up and find yourself lying in a hospital bed, in a world with a completely different history, and say to yourself “Oh, it was all a dream.” Right now, you think you’re a 32-year-old real estate agent with 2 kids but the truth is that you’re a 60-year-old school teacher who never got married, having a dream about being a 32-year-old real estate agent with 2 kids. Some dreams can seem very real when you’re in them and you never know for sure until you wake up.

#2 This life is really just a dream and Earth doesn’t exist at all.

Similar to #1 above, you’re in a coma having a dream but the hospital bed is on an alien planet which is very different from Earth. In fact, Earth doesn’t exist. You just dreamed it up. You think you’re a Homo Sapiens but you’re not. As the philosopher Chuang Tzu asked, if a man can have a dream about being a butterfly, how do you know that you aren’t really a butterfly who’s having a dream about being a man?

#3 The entire universe doesn’t exist, except for you.

This world is a dream all right, but you aren’t lying in a hospital bed on Earth or any other planet because there are no planets. You dreamed the very concept of stars and planets. The truth is that your mind is the only thing that exists in the cosmos and everything else (even your body) is just part of this dream you’re having. Rene DesCartes famously said Cogito Ergo Sum ( I think therefore I am ) but the only person you know for sure to be thinking is yourself, so you exist and maybe that’s all there is. Just you. Thinking and existing.

#4 The universe is real but it was created five minutes ago.

For reasons unknown, an omnipotent god decided to create a universe with you in it, complete with galaxies and stars and planet Earth, and everything on Earth, including other humans. But this god didn’t have the patience to spend 6 days creating the universe and then wait 6,000 years for history to unfold gradually, leading us to this exact moment in time. This impatient god decided instead to create the entire universe, just as you perceive it to be right now, five minutes ago. Any memories you have of things that happened more than five minutes ago are false memories. Those memories were created five minutes ago. Any artifacts you find which appear to be more than five minutes old were actually created five minutes ago, complete with features which give them the illusion of being much older, and those features were created five minutes ago.

#5 The world as we know it is just a computer simulation.

Remember the game The Sims? If computers keep getting better and better, it may become possible to program a simulation which is so detailed that the characters in the simulation become self-aware. The world they inhabit seems very real to them. It’s the only world they have ever known. It’s perfectly consistent for them, even if the rules are slightly different from those of the world inhabited by the programmer who wrote the simulation. Now, given the idea that there could be thousands of such simulations running on thousands of different computers, and only one real world, what are the odds that this world, which you think is real, is actually the one real world? Isn’t more likely that it’s one of the many many simulations? Perhaps it was created by a programmer in the far off future who wanted to see what life might have been like here in our time, which is the ancient past from the programmer’s point of view.

#6 You’re in a simulation which is running parallel to the real world, on trial for a crime you haven’t committed yet.

Similar to #5 above, you’re in a simulation, but it’s not the ancient past, it’s present day. There’s the real you who inhabits the real world, and there’s a thousand simulated yous who inhabits a thousand simulations. The real you has been arrested by the thought police who suspect you are about to commit a crime. They’ve programmed a thousand computers with a simulation of the real world, and put into each one a highly detailed simulation of you and your personality. They are monitoring the simulations to see what you’ll do. In each simulation, there will be a situation where simulated you will have an opportunity to commit a crime where simulated you thinks no one will ever find out. If the majority of the simulated yous go through with the crime, then the real you will be punished with horrific torture. So, dear reader, you think you’re real but actually you’re just a simulation and the real you is handcuffed in a police station awaiting the results of this test. If you, the simulation, commit a crime (which crime? impossible to say…) then the real you will be tortured for a very long time. So watch yourself.

#7 You’re in a parallel simulation, accused of treason and being tested for loyalty.

Similar to #6 above, you’re one of a thousand simulated yous whose actions will have dire consequences for the real you which is handcuffed in a police station. This simulation is your chance to prove your loyalty. The problem is… loyalty to whom? You don’t know. Perhaps the programmers are Nazis who are giving you this chance to prove your loyalty to the Nazi Party. If you denounce the Nazis in this simulation, the real you will suffer for it. Or maybe the programmers are Communists fighting the Nazis who are expecting you to denounce the Nazis and demonstrate your loyalty to Communism. There’s no way to tell what it is they want you do do or say. But if you make the wrong choice, the real you will tortured for a very long time.

#8 You’re in a simulation which appears to be 14 billion years old but really it was created just 6,000 years ago and you’re being tested for… something.

Is the simulation real, or does it just seem real? Either way, you find yourself on planet Earth, surrounded by people, a few of which are desperately trying to tell you that the universe is only 6,000 years old. You laugh at those people but actually they’re right. And you’re being tested. The creator/programmer wants to see how you will act. Certain actions will prove your loyalty and the real you will be rewarded, other actions will show your disloyalty and the real you will be tortured. But which actions are which? The creator/programmer has deliberately put false clues into the simulation regarding the age of the universe. What if there are other false clues telling us to do certain things and not do others when really that’s precisely what condemns us to torture? Does the creator reward people for being gullible? Does the creator reward people for being skeptical? There’s not way to cover all the bases. No matter what you do, there’s a risk that you’ve chosen the wrong answer. In the words of Bill Hicks, “Does that bother any of you? That God might be fucking with us?”.

#9 You are immortal.

The world is real, you are real, but you can never die. You see other people dying around you and you believe that some day you will die but the truth is that you’ll keep avoiding death, somehow. Every bullet fired at your head will miss by a few inches. Every disease you catch will just fail to kill you. You’ll keep getting older, of course, but no matter how bad your health gets, you never… quite… die. The only way to disprove this theory is to actually die but then if and when that happens you aren’t conscious anymore so you never have that “Aha!” moment where you can say “Look, I’m dead!”. So there’s no way to know for sure that you aren’t immortal.

#10 Everyone is immortal.

According to the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics, every event splits the world into two worlds, one where it happened and one where it didn’t happen. Suppose the real you branches into this world and a ghost you branches into the other world. This happens millions of times each second. At every single branch point, there is at least one branch which leads to a world where you survive. For example, someone points a loaded gun right at your head and pulls the trigger. Will the gun misfire, yes or no? That event splits the world into two worlds, one where you are alive and one where you are dead. The real you follows the branch into the world where you are alive and in the other world it’s just a ghost you. The ghost is dead. But the real you is still alive, in another world. So the real you is immortal, because every single event has some possible way that the real you could survive (even if the odds are astronomical), so the real you always will survive. In those other worlds, other people see you die but it’s not the real you, it’s a ghost you. And the same thing is true about other people! Their real selves always branch to a world where they survive, but it may not be the same one that the real you is in. So you see people dying, but it’s just ghost them. The real them is still alive. And they see you dying, but it’s not the real you either. Everyone is immortal. Again, the only way to disprove this would be to have an “Aha!” moment after you’re dead. But if you’re dead, it’s too late to have that moment.

None of these theories can be proven false. There aren’t any experiments that you could conduct whose outcome would confirm or deny the truth of these theories.

But hey, there’s probably nothing you can do about it anyway, so don’t waste time worrying about it.

Freedom of Speech

I’ve seen dozens of articles where people complain about being told they can’t fly the American flag and they say it’s violating their right to Freedom of Speech. Pretty much every single case I’ve ever seen, when you dig down into it, you find out that the real problem had nothing to do with the flag itself. For example, somebody puts up a flagpole at the edge of their property and it turns out to be on the public right-of-way. The government tells the property owner to move the flagpole. The next day, you read a story about “They tried to stop me from flying the American flag!”. Nonsense.

Here’s one about some school kids who almost started a riot on Cinco de Mayo. It seems the white students were trying to intimidate some Mexican students, basically sending the message “we belong here and you don’t”. At one point, they chanted “USA! USA!” while waving a giant American flag, and the Mexican students replied with “Fuck those white boys”. The school administration told them to knock it off. And then someone says “OMG they won’t let you fly an American flag? What about Freedom of Speech?”

This sounds a lot like the shouting-Fire-in-a-crowded-theater exception to me. Basically, SCOTUS is saying Freedom of Speech doesn’t give you the right to shout “I hate negroes!” in a crowded lunchroom. In that Cinco De Mayo story, the flag itself wasn’t a problem, it was the way that certain students were using the flag. If you read the details of what they did and understand the emotions behind it, it seems obvious to me that it was a huge disruption. That’s why the school told them to knock it off. Disruptions don’t stop being disruptive just because you incorporate a “sacred” symbol into it.

People get bent out of shape over Freedom of Speech and I shake my head and think “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.” When the President dissolves Parliament and orders the arrest of anyone who complains about it, THAT’S violating Freedom of Speech. When the President runs for reelection and orders the arrest of anyone who runs an advertisement suggesting a vote for the challenger, THAT’S violating Freedom of Speech. When the President-for-Life starts a war and orders that anyone who criticizes the war should be rounded up and prosecuted for treason (or better yet, just detained indefinitely without a trial) THAT’S violating Freedom of Speech. The whole point of the 1st Amendment is that, if the government does something bad, the problem will never get corrected if it’s illegal to complain about the problem.

While I think it’s ludicrous that the FCC slaps broadcasters with huge fines for not bleeping certain words, that’s a far cry from slapping broadcasters with huge fines for criticizing members of congress. THAT would be violating Freedom of Speech.

Having said that, I do think that there are times when we’ve come close to the line. I heard several conservatives in 2002 saying that criticizing POTUS during a time of war is borderline on treason. Luckily, they didn’t actually start arresting people for it (or if they did, we never found out about it). Edward Snowden is another example; he blew the whistle on some nefarious government spying and he they want to prosecute him for treason. There was a time when children were compelled to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, basically violating Freedom of Speech by in a backwards way by not giving them the option to refrain from declaring their loyalty to the government. But thankfully that changed and SCOTUS recognized the right to refuse a loyalty oath.

So you gotta ask yourself. Would you rather live in a country where once in a while somebody has to take down their flag? Or in a country where failure to show respect for the Glorious Leader gets you arrested in the middle of the night?

Ripley’s is bad at math


Okay, pop quiz. Grab a random person off the street. Find out what day of the week they were born. What are the odds that they were born on the same day of the week as you?

Wait. Before you answer, consider this alternate version. Grab two random people off the street. Find out what day of the week each of them were born. What are the odds that they were born on the same day as each other?

Do you think both versions have the same solution? If so, you’re right. The answer is the same for both. The answer is 6 to 1 against.

There is 1 chance out of 7 that two people were born on the same day of the week, and 6 chances out of 7 that they were born on different days of the week. That’s a ratio of 6 to 1.

Suppose you were born on a Friday. And you meet someone else who was also born on a Friday. What are the chances? 1 out of 7. “Aha”, you say “but it should be 1/7 for me times 1/7 for the other person, which is 1/49” but you would be wrong to say that. The reason you’re wrong is that this story works equally well for any day of the week. It doesn’t matter at all what day you were born on. Whatever day it happens to be, it’s the same day as itself. The only thing that matters is what’s the chances of the SECOND person also being born on the same day. So it’s 1 chance in favor and 6 against, ratio of 6 to 1.

Alright. You meet a couple walking down the street pushing a stroller in which is their baby. You stop to chat. They tell you that they have an amazing family because all three of them were born on a Tuesday. How amazing is that? What are the odds?

The chances are 100% that the dad was born on the same day as himself. The chances are 1 out of 7 that the mom was born on the same day as the dad. And the chances are 1 out of 7 that the baby was born on the same day as the mom and dad, so we multiply 7×7=49 and we get 1 chance out of 49 in favor and 48 chances out of 49 against. So the odds are 48 to 1 against.

Not really all that impressive, huh. On average, every 49th couple has this same story to brag about.

Finally, let’s take a look at the April 8th 2015 Ripley’s Believe It or Not cartoon. It says that there’s a couple with a baby and all three of them have the same birthday. What are the odds? Let’s ignore leap years to keep it simple.

What are the chances that the dad was born on the same day as himself? 100%. What are the chances that mom was born on the same day as dad? 1/365. What are the chances that the baby was born on the same day as dad? 1/365. Multiply those together and you get 1/133,225 which means 1 chance in favor and 133,224 against, hence the odds are 133,224 to 1 against all three having the same birthday.

But Ripley’s said 1:48,000,000.

This is the third time I’ve seen Ripley’s make a math error.