Friday: Hili dialogue

It’s September 16, and Professor Ceiling Cat (Emeritus), much improved, is back to work. Now if I just don’t overdo it today, I’ll be fine. Today is National Guacamole Day and National Cinnamon-Raisin bread, both estimable comestibles. It’s also International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer; good luck with that!

It’s not a big day in history, though. On this day in 1908, General Motors was founded (if you’re good, you’ll be able to name a rock song that includes the name of that company), and, in 1959, the first successful photocopier, the Xerox 914, was demonstrated on live television. I remember the days when we had only mimeograph machines; what will we have in another 50 years?

Notables born on September 16 include Lauren Bacall (1924; I met her once ♥) and Peter Falk (1927). Those who died on this day include mountaineer Edward Whymper (1911) and Mary Travers (2009). Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili must have been smoking something:

Hili: Are there dwarf giraffes?
A: Probably not.
Hili: A pity, because I would like giraffes the size of mice.

In Polish:
Hili: Czy są karłowate żyrafy?
Ja: Chyba nie ma.
Hili: Szkoda, bo takie wielkości myszy bardzo by mi się podobały.
And, in a rare nod to d*gs, I’ll present Stephen Barnard’s border collie puppy, all grown up (he’s catlike, which is why I’m making an exception). Stephen’s note:
Hitch, named after Christopher Hitchens. He’s a curious, intelligent, courageous, and affectionate dog, which suits his name. Loves the water.


  1. Matt G
    Posted September 16, 2016 at 7:00 am | Permalink

    I don’t know about General Motors, but there IS a song which mentions General Electric. The song is Show Yourself, performed by Jefferson Starship, with Grace Slick on vocals. The poignant line in the song is “Who runs this country?”.

  2. Posted September 16, 2016 at 7:02 am | Permalink

    Aw, Hitch is cute!

  3. Dominic
    Posted September 16, 2016 at 7:07 am | Permalink

    I am interviewing people all day 😦

  4. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted September 16, 2016 at 7:07 am | Permalink

    “what will we have in another 50 years?”


    Quite seriously, the idea of a teleport (with today’s technology) is absurd. But if we could replicate an object (such as a person) precisely down to the nearest atom, I can think of no reason why that duplicate wouldn’t be alive. Then it just comes down to a matter of bandwidth.

    (It does raise issues of how to scan the original without killing them and how to deal with the fact that you now have two identical ‘clones’, though)


    • Michael Fisher
      Posted September 16, 2016 at 8:55 am | Permalink

      Replicating living beings: Imagine the difficulty of replicating a flywheel while it spins such that the copy is also spinning – that’s a tall order even if the flywheel were made of only one type of atom.

      Now imagine doing the same for a LIVING E.coli bacterium – it’s an assemblage of hectic, blindingly fast continuous activity at the molecular scale. What you’re suggesting is probably impossible e.g. you’d have to recreate the relative positions & motions of the 10^10 atoms [of different elements] at one instant… a tall order! For something like us it’s perhaps 10^28 atoms.

      There’s also the problem of the energy budget – how do you dissipate all that heat created when you force atoms into the necessary close proximity?

      The other big problem is computing. We have to use mathematical shortcuts to simulate the future relative locations & speeds of just THREE bodies in a gravitational field – we don’t have equations that can give us the positions/speeds even for just 3 objects in a simple field. How we would cope with 10^10 objects under the influence of all the forces of nature [is there 3 or 4 of those?] + quantum physics too? Nah – ain’t happening. Ever.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted September 16, 2016 at 9:35 am | Permalink

        Once we invent AI, they’ll take care of all that for us. 🙂

        I’m reading the Hyperion series right now and the AI build “farcasters” which allow humans to travel between worlds using blackholes they create. However, the AIs use the farcasters for their own benefit, which I’ll not reveal since it is a spoiler.

        • Michael Fisher
          Posted September 16, 2016 at 10:04 am | Permalink

          I enjoyed the first book very much, particularly the Shrike beastie from the far future

          It was also pleasing to note that in that universe the future RCC shrinks to fringe cult status with only a few thousand followers

          If you enjoy that series of books, then I recommend the Culture novels of Iain M. Banks. Simmons’ work appeals to me except for the lack of humour makes it hard going at times – Banks hasn’t got that problem.

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted September 16, 2016 at 10:13 am | Permalink

            Ah yes. I have the first Culture book as a “to read”.

            • HaggisForBrains
              Posted September 17, 2016 at 3:41 am | Permalink

              The Culture novels are pure dead brilliant (as we say in Glasgow). Iain M banks was a great loss.

      • Christopher
        Posted September 16, 2016 at 10:38 am | Permalink

        Lawrence Krauss discussed the problems with teleportation in his book The Science of StarTrek, and I believe that one major issue is that of the amount of energy required to move the great amount of information in a person from one place to another and reassembled correctly. I forgot how much, I read it several years ago, but it was pretty much unattainable. Perhaps another reader can recall better than I.

        • Michael Fisher
          Posted September 16, 2016 at 10:47 am | Permalink

          Ah yes – thank you. I found this from a Scientific American interview of Krauss re his Star Trek book:

          On to, “Beam me up.” How plausible are transporters?

          As I discovered pretty quickly, I would not make a transporter the way the Star Trek writers do. First you decompose somebody into a matter stream, although taking a person apart at the atomic level would require heating them up to a few billion degrees. Then you turn them into energy. However, the energy equivalent of an average human being is something like a 1,000-megaton nuclear weapon, so that’s not environmentally friendly either.

          So I would do what I do when I surf the Internet—I’d move the bits. I’d scan you and try to get all the information, the bits, which make you a human being. But that’s a hell of a lot of information. From Earth, you’d have to stack 100-gigabyte hard drives a third of the way to the center of the Milky Way or so to hold it all. And at current information transfer rates, it would take longer than the age of the universe to transmit that much data. But the key obstacle is still the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, which says I can’t scan you and measure you at the atomic level to make an exact replica of you, much less actually put you together in a remote place with atomic resolution. [As Krauss points out in his book, the Star Trek writers get around this physical showstopper by outfitting transporters with “Heisenberg compensators”.—Editor’s note]

          [url=]FULL INTERVIEW HERE[/url]

          • Posted September 16, 2016 at 11:20 am | Permalink

            I wouldn’t mind some physicist trying to work out what the quantum no-clone theorem would say about the resulting chemistry (never mind biology) too, even though the other problems make teleportation (Star Trek style anyway) ridiculous on their owns.

            Any takers? 😉

            • Mike
              Posted September 18, 2016 at 6:27 am | Permalink

              I can see a future where, your ( “mind” which essentially is all you are ,your body just being a vehicle to transport “you” about) could be stored in a quantum computer, and then transferred to an Android when the need arises to go on a long space trip or explore some Planet hostile to our kind of life, personally I think that is the future for us if we need to leave the Planet, which we will have to do someday if we wish to survive, even as an Android.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted September 17, 2016 at 2:31 am | Permalink

        The problem of motion had occurred to me. I suppose you’d have to freeze the original in order to scan it (him), and generate the copy in a deep-frozen state, then thaw it out. All of which would be extremely slow. But it does get around the computation problem (well, part of it, anyway).

        I’ll concede right off that teleports may be forever impossible, for practical reasons.


        • gravelinspector-Aidan
          Posted September 17, 2016 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

          I suppose you’d have to freeze the original

          to absolute zero. Which is impossible.

          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted September 17, 2016 at 9:33 pm | Permalink

            No, not to absolute zero. Just to the point where everything stops ‘moving’ (vibrating) by more than the dimensions of, say, an atom.

            But the idea of teleportation seems to raise difficult problems at every turn.

            Not to mention the bandwidth consideration – it seems the fastest way to ship the information over moderate distances might be too put the original into a rocket and shoot him there. 😉
            (See for example this article on the bandwidth of a station wagon full of memory cards )


            • gravelinspector-Aidan
              Posted September 19, 2016 at 5:57 pm | Permalink

              The station wagon full of memory cards has been a staple of bandwidth negotiations since CDs were not large enough.
              At work, I’d often get datasets comprising several gigabytes as “client rushes” and then have to distil them down to a few tens of megabytes because the internet pipe wouldn’t transmit more than about 25MB without a 50% chance of dropping the connection. And indeed, memory cards of encrypted data, did get put in people’s pockets and their crew change re-routed through the client’s head office to get the raw data home ASAP.
              Sometimes it would take me 3 or 4 days of re-trying data packets to get it all back and the memory card would beat me. But the hard part was often explaining to “kids today” users in the head office how to splice 20 files together bit-perfect to rebuild a 500MB zip file. Do people today not use the command line?

              • infiniteimprobabilit
                Posted September 20, 2016 at 3:05 am | Permalink

                Ah, unfond memories of Zmodem (I think it was) on a noisy 56k dial-up line.

                “Do people today not use the command line?”
                I think they’re frightened of it. When I think of all those handy *nix commands…
                But a lot of handy GUI programs are just front-ends for those commands.


              • gravelinspector-Aidan
                Posted September 22, 2016 at 8:05 pm | Permalink

                Those who forget `rm -r /*’ are condemned to repeat it.
                dd if=/dev/zero of=/dev/sda1 bs=4096
                Fiat lux!

  5. Posted September 16, 2016 at 7:15 am | Permalink

    Awaiting on You All by George Harrison

  6. Posted September 16, 2016 at 7:21 am | Permalink

    Also: “Stretch of the Highway” and “Money Machine” by James Taylor (are they rock songs? Maybe not)

    “F.A.I.T.H.” by the Violent Femmes

    And: “I Love You More Than You’ll Ever Know” by Blood Sweat and Tears

  7. AD
    Posted September 16, 2016 at 7:34 am | Permalink

    One Piece at a Time. Johnny Cash. “GM wouldn’t miss just one little piece”

  8. rickflick
    Posted September 16, 2016 at 7:47 am | Permalink

    Who, of a certain age, can forget the smell of mimeographed sheets? As the sheets were handed out and I’d always give it a good long sniff. One of the rewards of grade school. Where did that distinct odor come from?

    “This emulsion commonly used Turkey-Red Oil (Sulfated Castor Oil) which gives it a distinctive and heavy scent.”

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted September 16, 2016 at 9:37 am | Permalink

      Ha ha – I remember our teachers telling us not to sniff them because of the alcohol & of course as soon as the teacher wasn’t looking I’d give a deep sniff of the whole sheet.

      We called them “dittos” & after a while they became so blurry, even our young 7-year-old eyes couldn’t see what was printed on the page.

  9. Mike Cracraft
    Posted September 16, 2016 at 8:42 am | Permalink

    Also, Maria Callas died on this day in 1977.

  10. Diana MacPherson
    Posted September 16, 2016 at 9:37 am | Permalink

    I’m still sick. My head is killing me. Stayed home from work today.

    • rickflick
      Posted September 16, 2016 at 7:32 pm | Permalink

      Bless you my dear. I’ll pray for you. May God, in his wisdom, alleviate your suffering.
      Well, none of that really, but you get the idea. Get well soon.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted September 16, 2016 at 10:16 pm | Permalink

        Thanks! Normally my face hurts everyone else but with this sinus pain, today it’s hurting me! Ba dum dah!

  11. Posted September 16, 2016 at 10:03 am | Permalink

    But I bet Hili wouldn’t like mice the size of giraffes.

  12. Jenny Haniver
    Posted September 16, 2016 at 10:03 am | Permalink

    Not a rock song, and apparently even predates the establishment of General Motors, though the car was produced by GM, but the first song that came to my mind (because the refrain is an ear worm for me) was the 1905 song “In My Merry Oldsmobile,” with the refrain “Come away with me, Lucille / In my merry Oldsmobille…” Here’s an amusing “1931 promotional cartoon” created around the lyrics

    And,ah yes Callas. A voice like no other. I remember being very loaded on takruri (Tunisian name for cannabis), lying on the roof of my apartment in Tunis, looking at the stars and listening to a BBC broadcast of “Norma” with Callas. The Casta Diva was wonderful. A great video of her singing it when she was young

  13. Posted September 16, 2016 at 11:21 am | Permalink

    Hm, I like raisin bread, and I like guacamole, but I am not sure I’ve ever had them together …

  14. Kevin
    Posted September 16, 2016 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

    Who doesn’t love water.

  15. Torbjörn Larsson
    Posted September 16, 2016 at 9:25 pm | Permalink

    It’s also International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer; good luck with that!

    Thanks, we are doing great!

    “After three decades of observation, scientists have finally found the first fingerprints of healing in the notorious Southern Hemisphere ozone hole.”

    “Solomon’s team found that, in recent years, the hole is not eclipsing the 12-million-square-kilometer threshold until later in the southern spring, which indicates that the September hole is shrinking. In fact, the researchers believe the ozone hole has shrunk by more than 4 million square kilometers. Furthermore, the hole is not as deep as it used to be.

    “The fact that the ozone hole is opening later is really the key here,” says Solomon. “It is opening later, it is smaller, and its depth is depleted. All of the measurements are independent, and when they all point to this [healing], it is hard to imagine any other explanation.””

    [ ]

  16. Larry
    Posted September 16, 2016 at 11:01 pm | Permalink

    You met Lauren Bacall? Well done! Ms. Bacall was in some great films… To Have and Have Not, The Big Sleep (my favorite), Key Largo, and Dark Passage, all films noir. She was a wonderful actress.

  17. gravelinspector-Aidan
    Posted September 17, 2016 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

    Hili: A pity, because I would like giraffes the size of mice.

    With one mighty leap, legions of geneticists and developmental biologists attack the problem. Hail to the Hili!

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