Newton's Cannon

The Earth is falling into the sun and the moon is falling from the sky.

Once upon a time, Sir Isaac Newton had a cannon. Noisy thing that. Orbitologists call the figurative device “Newton’s cannon.”
I managed to borrow one of these cannons from the National Museum of Orbitology and Conjecturism, and am standing next to a large pile of cannonballs (see image).
Depending on all sorts of factors, like how much gunpowder, how big the cannonball, etcetera, I’ve discovered the cannonball leaves the cannon around 1440 feet per second. Alas, after leaving the cannon, the speeding cannonball gets affected by wind, gravity and distance it has to travel.
The first factor is the wind resistance. At 1440 feet per second on a calm day, the spherical ball of lead immediately encounters 1440 feet per second wind resistance in the opposite direction of flight. The cannonball’s gonna slow down.
The second factor is gravity. No matter how fast that thing travels through the air, it’s still going to fall toward the ground for the same reason we plant our feet here. Gravity.
A third factor, I suppose, is if we’re shooting at a target or just an open space to see how far the ball will travel. Since I want to see how far the ball will go, I’m in an open field.
A fourth factor is trajectory. Am I shooting level to the ground, or in a big arc? Obviously it’s going to travel farther if I angle the barrel of the cannon up and shoot the ball in a big arc. So what to do? Let’s just put a level on the barrel and shoot it parallel to the ground to see how far the projectile is going to travel before wind resistance and gravity pull that hurdling ball of metal down to the unyielding ground below and then it bounces and rolls until it comes to a halt.
Now that we’ve fired the cannonball, let’s take a tape measure and see how far it went before it hit the ground. Surprising distance it seems for such a big heavy object. I wonder if we could make it go any farther?newtgun
This is the example of Newton’s Cannon. Given a condition of no atmosphere, and enough speed, that ball would travel around the curve of the earth, hitting further and further away from us. Speed it up even more and it will never hit the ground (see illustration).
That’s an orbit.
Umm….wait. Something’s seriously wrong here. My brain puts up red flags. I’m a layman, not a real scientist, so what do I really know about physics and all that stuff. I’m a buff isn’t it enough? Seems to me that a falling object should accelerate, not just fall at a constant speed. Seems to me the rate of acceleration of a falling object is (Googling it now) 9.8 m/s/s.
“Free-falling objects are in a state of acceleration. Specifically, they are accelerating at a rate of 9.8 m/s/s. This is to say that the velocity of a free-falling object is changing by 9.8 m/s every second.”
So the cannonball should not just curve around with the curve of the earth, but accelerate downward as it falls, thus never achieving orbit and always hitting the ground. Therefore nothing can orbit anything and the moon can’t stay in the sky and the Earth is going to fall into the sun. The International Space Station is doomed tomorrow and all the GPS satellites are going to fall down. Forget about Dish Network, DirectTV, SeriusXM Radio, weather satellites and Google Earth. It’s all coming down.
Well, obviously wrong, but why wrong? This is a question this layman has pondered over many an hour sitting in pondering places at various pondering moments in this pondering life. I suppose I’m going to have to just ponder up another Google search. I will ask this question another way posted here, and after you read that one you can read here and then here!

The Ghost in the Machine – is it us?

Gorilla interacting with his own image in a mirror.

Is this gorilla self-realized? How about the other wild animals? How about the people that put up the mirror in the first place?

To me, “self realization” implies realizing the very core, or nature, of one’s self – to realize oneself as separate from matter, I suppose. The ghost in the machine which is us.

According to Wikipedia, self realization is defined as the “fulfillment by oneself of the possibilities of one’s character or personality.” To me this appears convoluted – a definition that misses the mark.

Maybe if we could sit still, I mean really still – call it meditation or what have you – then we could see who we are. And maybe then we might be able to realize the truth of the self. Maybe we’d see, oh yes, I really am just a combination of the chemicals in my brain, or oh no, I’m something different.

Typically, scientists think our inner selves, our being, our self awareness, is ultimately just a connection of neuron and chemicals. It can be duplicated with artificial intelligence (AI).

We’re using AI all the time now days. My phone’s got it. Google’s got it. Amazon’s Echo has it. Siri has it. IBM’s Watson, the famous Jeopardy winner, has it too. Heck, some cars even park themselves, or drive down the road without you touching the steering wheel. They have it on all four wheels.

You own a smart-phone, right? A computer? A programmable coffee maker maybe? Does anyone really think these things know what they are? Does IBM’s Watson know? Your car? Your coffee maker? Your laptop? Yet we seem to be aware of ourselves.

I sat by myself a few days ago thinking about this. I think. I have feelings. I can communicate. I would be described by a visitor as intelligent life (or so I’d like to believe).

But animals can do it too. At least a little bit. Take gorillas for example. They can learn signing. They can communicate with you via signing, a common language shared by them and their trainers. They really do express emotions, like sadness or happiness. Even Brandi, my overly sized Canaan Dog, certainly expresses the emotion of happiness when I come home from work. She can listen, and obey (sometimes). She can talk too. She can say “I love yoouuuu” so clearly it’s disconcerting. My parrot Hamlet once asked me “Where are you going?” when my wife and I were getting ready to go to the movie theater. So are gorillas and dogs and parrots conscious?

Obviously the answer is yes, it seems so.

At least a little bit. And no, parrots don’t just repeat what they’ve heard. I know you repeat that because you heard it, but in reality those birds can learn meaning of words. We never taught Hamlet “where are you going?” and yet the bird put together a question all by itself. The bird put together a sentence better than some of the high-school graduates that work where I work.

But does the ability to learn, or the ability to listen, or speak, mean the ability to be self aware? To be, shall we say, self-realized? Is that gorilla or dog or bird conscious of itself?

You look in the mirror, see your reflection, and comb your hair or lack thereof. But can animals look in the mirror and see themselves? Can they understand themselves?

There was a time when people called me “self-realized.” I was an “enlightened person,” a guy who, presumably knew what a guy like me was all about. Well, obviously that didn’t pan out at the time. I was no more self-realized than the average Joe on the street. But if I could see myself – would I realize my true nature? Would I see that ultimately I’m not just heavily influenced by chemical reactions in my brain but I am myself the chemicals in my brain?

Or perhaps I might discover a different kind of world. A world that really doesn’t seem to behave by the laws of physics as we know them, somehow. Would we learn of some different dimension where we exist that we might called our spiritual self? Would we ultimately find that we are part of this mysterious consciousness that is an extension in someway of God himself, or would we see that we rose from ashes and we will return to ashes, but it’s a fun ride while we’re here? Perhaps we collectively evolve and change as a species, both physically and metaphysically, trial and error, learning by mistakes of the past, but in the end die as we were born – a biological entity undergoing chemical reactions and transforming to dirt in the end.
We’d like to think otherwise. We’d like to have eternal life. People go to church. They pray. They think that people who don’t do as they do will go to hell, an eternally bad place, and hopefully they will go to heaven, an eternally good place.

But will we really?

There have been subjective realizations, visions and so-forth, some well documented, of religious experiences throughout human history. When we look in our microscopes and our telescopes and our understanding of the laws of physics, it doesn’t seem probable that there’s a God out there somewhere, just beyond the Oort cloud, or the dark energy that pulls us all apart. But is there? Could there be something else that we’ve missed – something inside us that is at the same time separate from the body and the brain? Could we be, as the Hare Krishna’s say, different from our bodies? Could we be that something inside that thinks “I am,” perhaps?
If there is, I haven’t found it yet. I may never. I’m still looking inside – trying to get a handle on it. I know many wise and intelligent people before me have done much better at this than I will ever accomplish. But I’m soon to be 64 years old. Bill Paxton, the actor, a couple of years younger than me, just died. Do I have to wait and see what happens when I die? Is that what happens to all of us, or can we find out before hand?

I need a moment to think about it. A really quiet moment without distractions. I’ll let you know if I find whatever it is. I didn’t figure it out earlier in life. I’m sure not going to suddenly have the ultimate epiphany and tell you what it is here. Go figure it out yourself. This is just a blog.

The Binary Model 

Astronomers believe most stars are part of binary systems rather than solo systems. A binary system means two stars orbiting each other.
They think Pluto is somewhat of a binary object with its inordinately large moon. The center of gravity between the two is outside Pluto itself.
Similarly, in a binary star system you have two stars going around a center of gravity that lies somewhere between the two of them but outside the sphere of either.
This happens a lot in space. Even here on Earth our own moon is relatively large. This is one of several explanations for the Earth’s wobble (along with droughts) and certainly why the moon wobbles. When that wobble becomes such that essentially both objects wobble around each other that’s a binary system.
Such bodies can be two stars, two planets or even two black holes that revolve around each other. Even a galaxy behaves in such a way that the stars orbit a center of gravity outside of themselves.
Recently astrophysicists have even wondered whether our own sun is part of a binary system revolving around an unknown brown dwarf hiding somewhere in the Oort Cloud.
But binary systems are only part of the story. Out there where no man has gone before there are trinary systems or even more.
The universe is not well understood though we like to think we know more than we do. There are great mysteries out there we may never understand.