Lockdown fits me like a glove

Previous posts not withstanding, now that I’ve been living in this state of lockdown for more than a month, I realize that it is not so bad. In fact, when I hear how others are freaking out and protesting the current situation, my reaction is something like “really??!!”. Then I remember that, when it comes to normal humanity, I’m probably a bit of an outsider.

It helps to be an introvert, which means that alone-time is always valued much higher than time with people. Make no mistaken, I do enjoy the occasional social time with friends or family, but too much of that drains my energy and makes me feel awkward.

However, being an introvert is not enough to help one enjoy lockdown. There is this one dangerous condition called boredom that afflicts most people in lockdown, leading to cabin fever and then to all sorts of other things that we need not elaborate on.

Boredom

So what would be an effective way to counter boredom? One would need lots of things to do. Many people perform what they call “spring cleaning.” (However, if you think about it, cleaning during lockdown is the opposite of spring cleaning.)

There are other activities that one may become involved with due to the lockdown such as cooking. However, if cooking was not part of you daily routine and if it does not suddenly become a new found passion, then it can soon develop into a onerous chore. The same applies to many other chores that are suddenly imposed on one by the lockdown situation.

So what would then be an effective activity to counter boredom? The answer is flow. You need something that you are passionate about, something that involves activities that challenge you, but for which you are capable to meet these challenges. It can keep you busy for hours. While you are doing it, you enter a state of flow; you don’t even realize that time is flying by. Instead, you are completely focussed on what you are doing. And you enjoy it!

My passion is theoretical physics research. When I’m busy performing those calculations or developing those derivations, I am almost unaware of anything else going on in the world. The activity puts me in a positive frame of mind and keeps me there for the duration of the activity.

It is a good thing that I have embarked on a particular challenging project just before lockdown started. There are times that I don’t have anything interesting and challenging to work on, but now I do. My setup at home is perfectly geared to perform this work. In fact, it is even better than at work. So, I’m glad for the opportunity that lockdown provides me to do this work. I hope I can finish it before lockdown is lifted to the point where I need to go back to work.

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Neutrino dust

It is the current understanding that the universe came into being in a hot big bang event. All matter initially existed as a very hot “soup” (or plasma) of charged particles – protons and electrons. The neutral atom (mostly hydrogen) only appeared after the soup cooled off a bit. At that point, the light that was produced by the thermal radiation of the hot matter had a chance to escape being directly re-absorbed.

Much of that light is still around today. We call it the microwave background radiation, because today that light has turned into microwave radiation as a result of being extremely Doppler-shifted toward low frequencies. The extreme Doppler-shift is caused by the expansion of the universe that happened since the origin of the microwave background radiation.

It is reasonable to assume that the very energetic conditions that existed during the big bang would have caused some of the hydrogen nuclei (protons) to combine in a fusion process to form helium nuclei. At the same time, some of the protons are converted to neutrons. The weak interaction mediates this process and it produces a neutrino, the lightest matter particle (fermion) that we know of.

So what happened to all these neutrinos? They were emitted at the same time or even before the light that caused the microwave background radiation. Since neutrinos are so light, their velocities are close to that of the speed of light. While expansion of the universe causes the light to be red-shifted, it also causes the neutrinos, which have a small mass to be slowed down. (Light never slows down, it always propagates at the speed of light.) Eventually these neutrinos are so slow that they are effectively stationary with respect to the local region in space. At this point they become dust, drifting along aimlessly in space.

While, since they do have mass, the neutrinos will be attracted by massive objects like the galaxies. So, the moment their velocities fall below the escape velocity of a nearby galaxy, they will become gravitationally bound to that galaxy. However, since they do not interact very strongly with matter, they will keep on orbiting these galaxies. So the neutrino dust will become clouds of dust in the vicinity of galaxies.

Hubble Space Telescope observes diffuse starlight in Galaxy Cluster Abell S1063NASAESA, and M. Montes (University of New South Wales)

Could the neutrino dust be the dark matter that we are looking for? Due to their small mass and the ratio of protons to neutrons in the universe, it is unlikely that there would be enough neutrinos to account for the missing mass attributed to dark matter. The ordinary neutrino dust would contribute to the effect of dark matter, but may not solve the whole problem.

There are some speculations that the three neutrinos may not be the only neutrinos that exist. Some theories also consider the possibility that an additional sterile neutrino exists. These sterile neutrinos could have large masses. For this reason, they have been considered as candidates for the dark matter. How these heavy neutrinos would have been produced is not clear, but, if they were produced during the big bang, they would also have undergone the same slow-down and eventually be converted into dust. So, it could be that there are a lot of them drifting around aimlessly through space.

Interesting, don’t you think?

Self-publishing

Finally got things somewhat under control. Been letting the dust gather here for long enough. Not being among those with an aptitude for admin, I went through a bit of a struggle to get to this point. But here we are. Things are looking up.

So, what have I been busy with that allowed all the dust to gather? I wrote a book. Yes, that’s the one: How do we know what we know? It was quite the adventure, especially the publishing part. I decided to try the self-publication route. Over time I’d like to tell the tale of this adventure, and perhaps also some advice to those that wish to follow this path to publication.

The first question that I imagine anybody would ask is: why would you want to self-publish a book in the first place? The obvious answer may be that you may want to avoid all those challenges associated with getting a traditional publisher: finding a literary agent, writing a book proposal, and waiting for a year or so to get any response. On top of that, once you found a publisher that is interested, you have to sign away the copyright to your hard work and settle for a tiny portion of the income that comes with the sale of any book.

However, there are benefits in using a traditional publisher. They take over the responsibility of marketing the book. It does not mean that you are not involved, but you have help. In the case of self-publication, the marketing of the book is your responsibility.

Another benefit of a traditional publisher is credibility. Some types of books are refereed before they are physically published. Obviously, a self-published book does not necessarily go through the same process. So, when people decide to buy a book, they may be prejudiced against buying a self-published book, because they may feel its contents have not gone through the same verification process as a book from a traditional publisher. This issue does not affect all genres. So, it depends on the type of book that you want to publish.

Don’t forget about the editing! The traditional publisher would have professional editors to do the copy editing, proof reading, and so forth. When you self-publish, you need to find your own editors. That is a nightmare all by itself. Rather don’t publish the books without having it properly edited first.

When it comes to the design of the book, which includes the interior design and the cover design, the preference depends on what you want. The traditional publisher would have professional people doing the design, and apart from making some choices and giving approval, you may not have much direct involvement in this part of the process. Perhaps that’s how you prefer it. With self-publication you can also hire professionals to do the design, but you have the freedom to do it all yourself. If you are not very good with this, it could affect the success of your book. If the result is good, then you can be proud of having done it yourself.

In my case, the choice to follow the self-publication option, was based on the fact that I didn’t want to waste time on book proposals. Frankly, I don’t think I have enough of a “profile” to convince traditional publishers that a book I wrote will sell enough copies to make it worth their while. I also liked the freedom to do my one design. Whether the result is good enough to improve the sales remains to be seen. But even if I don’t sell so many of them, the adventure of doing it all myself (and all that I have learned in the process) makes it worth the trouble.

Feel holidays

Ever seen the Eiffel tower? No, not a photo of it. The real thing. With your own eyes. Was it a big deal? Or perhaps the Victoria falls? There are many things in this world to see and many people spend large amounts of money to go on trips to see these things. They would take photos when they are there and come back to tell everybody about how amazing that was. Perhaps that makes one feel … mmm, I should save up some money to go on a trip to see it myself. With my own eyes.

Well, due to the nature of my work, I often get opportunities to go some places. Some times these places include some amazing sights. Things that one has seen photos of and that are famous for some reason. For instance, not too long ago, I had the opportunity to go to Paris for a conference and then had some time to go sightseeing.

So there I found myself looking at the Eiffel tower with my own eyes. Yes, it is different from seeing a photo of it. One gets a real perspective of its size. One can also get a sense of its surroundings, which somehow adds to the sensation. I didn’t go up in the tower. That is not something I’d enjoy due to my fear of heights. So what else is there to do about it? Oh, I can take a photo or two, or ten if you like. So I did that. What else? Well that’s just it. Once you’ve seen it, took the pics, bought the t-shirt, perhaps went up, its done. Somehow all that leaves me a bit vacant.

It is not only the case for the Eiffel tower. Any sightseeing that may be associated with some famous place in the world just does not appeal to me that much. There is simply not so much to it for me. Perhaps other people feel differently about it. People often still have that wow-feeling that they had when they were small, but somehow I’ve lost that. I do not get wow-ed by seeing famous sights.

As a result, any holiday that is designed arround going to some place to do sightseeing simply does not succeed in being a great holiday for me. So, such expensive overseas trips are a complete waste of money, as far as I am concerned.

That does not mean that all overseas trip are like that. It depends what one is looking for. I’ve recently discovered a different kind of overseas trip. These trips are not about what you see but rather about what you feel. So I call them feel holidays. These holidays are for instance planned arround going to see friends or family that live in other countries. It makes one feel happy, feel companionship, feel love. Often one may feel emotions that one haven’t felt in a long while. That makes them worthy holidays for me, much more valuable than sightseeing holidays.

I’m currently having such a feel holiday. Perhaps I’ll tell you about it some other time.

Negativity

Ok, so I guess one cannot agrue that South Africa is the best country in the world. (If you meet a person that has that opinion, back away slowly and don’t make any sudden moves.) However, that does not mean one needs to hammer on all the negative points all the way.

The reasons unbeknownst to me, there is basically only one radio station that plays my taste of music and for which I have good reception at my house. Now there is this DJ in the afternoons on this radio station. He’s very popular, judging from all the awards he wins. But, oh dear, does he ever love to wallow in the mud. If it’s not about the number of serial killers that are prowling around our neighbourhoods, then it is about the latest corruption scandal in the government or the most horrific way that somebody died somewhere.

It is starting to affect me. I’ve noticed that I’m becoming wary to go out or worried about the future situation that I may have to face. Even grocery shopping has a raised level of stress, simply because I’m trying to avoid certain situations that I heard about on radio.

This is not helping. If the discussion about these negetive aspect could somehow lead one to improve the situation somehow, then one could understand and even welcome such discussions. But, in general one cannot do anything about these things. So, it only serves to upset me. If it upsets me it surely upsets more people, because I’m sure there are a large number of people listening to this radio station during the afternoon drive home. What is the long term affect of such negativity? A general mistrust in our fellow citizens? More people walking around with guns? An increase in the number of people emigrating to Australia?

Now, I do understand that the name of the game is to attract as much reaction as possible to increase the ratings. However, does this have to be at the cost of our general well-being? Why not rather focus on the positive aspects of this country? Surely, there is enough that is uplifting which one can talk about.

The day will come when I’m going to buy a bigger antenna so that I can tune into a different radio station. Either that or a one-way ticket.

Revival

The word revival means to give life to something that has lost it somehow; to restore something (or someone) back to life. It is obvious why would want to revive a person or a pet, but what about something other than a person, an animal or a plant? Would one bother to revive a hobby society if there is nobody interested in it anymore?

One would revive something if it has some value beyond its revitalized state. This is how I felt about this blog. The last entry was posted in 2011. Then it went quiet. Part of the reason was that the interaction died down, perhaps because many of the regular visitors closed their blogs and moved on.

However, while it was active it was a source of joy, not only for me, but I think also for those that visited regularly. Therein lies some value. Some evidence if that is that more than 6 years after the last entry this blog still receives a reasonable amount of traffic.

It is obviously not reasonable to think that one can go back to a situation that existed before. I don’t expect that. It is gone, with only the record of the previous entries to remind one of that. A revival does not have to be a regurgitation of the past. A revival should also be a renewal – starting new ideas and pursuing new avenues.

That is part of the reason for writing in English. The previous entries were exclusively in Afrikaans. So the renewal is to be less exclusive and to explore broader vistas. It is not that I’m ashamed of my native language. I’m proud to speak Afrikaans. However, while almost all native Afrikaans speaking people can speak English, the opposite does not apply.

So, to explore broader vistas and hopefully attract visitors from further afield, I decided to blog in English. Hopefully, I’ll be placing regular entries from now on.

Nuwe insigte

Aan al diegene met wie ek altyd so lekker oor filosofie gestry het en teenoor wie ek altyd ruiterlik erken het dat ek eintlik niks van filosofie weet nie, julle sal dalk verheug wees om te hoor dat ek toe vir my ‘n boek oor filosofie gaan koop het. Moet egter nie vir my vra watter boek dit is nie want jy gaan waarskynlik terleurgestel wees.

Ek het nou al ‘n redelike ent in die boek in gelees. En … ?

Wel so vêr moet ek sê dat my opinie oor filosofie tot ‘n groot mate bevestig is. Daar is maar min daarvan wat die moeite werd is om oor huis toe te skryf. Mens kan die klomp filosowe min of meer in drie kategorieë verdeel.

  1. Die wat eenvoudig snert praat
  2. Die wat goed kwyt raak wat in elk geval algemene kennis is
  3. Die enkelles wat iets sinvols kwytgeraak het

Vanuit die derde kategorie moet ek eers bietjie stilstaan by Descartes. Dis nou die ou wat gesê het “I think therefore I am.” Wel die storie daaragter is dat hy wou bepaal wat hy met sekerheid kon agter kom bloot deur filosofies daaroor te dink. En al wat hy op die ou end met sekerheid kon verklaar was dat hy bestaan.

I rest my case.