Sunday, December 31, 2006

The Sermon

by Ed Rehmus

The Sermon


Sonnet III: The Muse

Karyn Huntting headshot by Karyn Huntting

Return to me o muse in dreams redeem thy course
By sleep the dust of stars doth carry thy embrace.
In raging tears of angst doth thou with no remorse
Full baptize hand of mine and bathe my pen in grace.

Thine eyes ensconce long-darkened tomb in golden light,
Illumineth thy sweet advance my most demure.
Disquietude thou dissipate by veil of night,
Thy softly-whispered words my mortal fears abjure.

And offer thou apothecary’s potion nigh
That i should drink with certain hand and toast to thee.
To winged flight ascend thy poesy or die,
In death as life to lie beneath the judas tree.

From dusty headstones hearts are lifted from their strife,
From ashes rise unbound to soul’s immortal life.

— Karyn


Strange Being

by Ed Rehmus

Strange Being


Saturday, December 30, 2006

Falling Apart

Charmaine Frost headshot by Charmaine Frost



by Ed Rehmus


A Child’s Garden of Values

Charmaine Frost headshot by Charmaine Frost

Once I imagined that the dusk, each day,
Would dust crags golden and let fall a shower
Of gold coins that the high sky's bronze vault
Could no longer hold. That, of course, was why
The morning lawn showed and showed off
A wealth of dandelion heads not there before —
Pure gold disks abutting, overlapping, in tiers
Rising like piles of newly minted, pure gold coins.
So I thought in awe until they all, by years
Wiser, scolded, "Dandelions are only yellow.
Don't ever call one gold; they come too freely
To have worth, financial or of other kind,"

And so demoted the sky to miser and riches
To mere yellow weeds best mowed over, fool's
Gold, a counterfiet specie. Still, when by drops
The day's luster slipped away, I wondered where
All those colored chips had fallen, onto which
Green laps the largess had randomly splattered;
And wondered why no touted pansies or petunias
Could so multiply overnight and grow glowing
Like new money or a thousand sprinkled tiny suns
As one disgraced mere weed always could.


Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Windy Day

by Jacquelinne White

Windy Day


Another View of Relative Motion

Rejecting Action at a Distance Resolves Precession of the Perihelion of Mercury without Requiring General Relativity

Fred Vaughan headshot by Fred Vaughan

"…What would happen if the Earth were suddenly dropped into place, at its proper distance from the Sun? How would the Sun 'know' that the earth was there? How would the Earth respond to the presence of the Sun?…But the Sun would not 'know' that the Earth had arrived until there had been time (Faraday had no way of guessing how much time) for the Earth's gravitational influence to travel across space… and reach the Sun."1

Fred Vaughan
the author encounters the gravity of the physical world

Newton's action at a distance involving instantaneous transmittal of forces was problematic from the first. If one is to eliminate action at a distance from the classical equations acknowledging that it takes time for forces of interaction to be transmitted between objects but retaining Newton's other concepts of a centrally directed gravitational force, one is faced with a dilemma — the elliptical orbits will precess. But once this has been taken into account by the gravitational force, general relativity is not required because the precession implied by removing action at a distance accounts for observations without further emendation.

Much of the simplicity that Newton was able to incorporate into his laws of nature might seem necessarily to have become obfuscated if action-at-a-distance does not apply, however. We encounter, for example, the situation of the "central"force being directed, not along the line of centers of two massive objects, but offset at an angle in a direction to which there would seem to be no source for a force. If the transmittal speed of the potential energy that drives the force is equal to that of light in a vacuum, then the angle of relativistic aberration determined by the relative velocity of the objects would determine the "line of sight"to where each object would appear. This then would serve also as the realized direction any associated force. This has the merit, of course, of both objects experiencing the force to and from the direction at which the other object appears, even if not where it is. But the framework in which this is true is not an inertial coordinate frame; it is an accelerating frame of reference - at least with respect to the location of the center of mass of the two objects as it is usually accounted. Newton's laws of motion had, of course, been accepted as applying exclusively with respect to such inertial frames of reference.

Determining the center of mass of the two relatively moving massive objects is problematic from the start. Without action-at-a-distance, wherever there is relative motion there will be alternative perspectives caused by the direction from which the light (or force in this case) arrives, which will be in the direction to which the object had been located when the light (force) was emitted — not to where it is located when it arrives. This "aberration" will result in assessments of the center of mass being at variance. Look at the system of two equally massive objects depicted in figure 1. Since the minimum separation of their two straight line trajectories as drawn from a third perspective of an observer C half way between them (defined so as to provide symmetry) is non-zero, aberration distorts their assignment of a center of mass to the system (i. e., CMA, CMB, and CMC) as shown. About which of these points will the objects orbit?

Figure 1

In figure 2 we have drawn the circular orbit of radius R of what could be a planet p about a star S. Of course, the planet would be moving at the astronomically high speed of 0.449 times the speed of light, c to produce this much aberration. The darkened circle S is drawn where we conceptually envision the star to "be" and S' is drawn where it would appear from the vantage of the planet in its path about the star (assumed to be much more massive than the planet so the center of mass of the system is approximately that of the center of the star). The planet's orbital speed was merely chosen in this case to accommodate the planet completing one orbit in exactly 14 times the length of time it takes the force field to travel from the star to the planet so it could be easily visualized. (However, if the realities of actual planets being unable to achieve viable orbits at distances compatible with this speed is a drawback to the reader in understanding what is at issue here, then assume the integer 14,000, or 140,000, or an irrational number for that matter; it really makes no difference to the point of this article.) So if we evaluate the status of the situation 14 (or 140,000) consecutive times during the course of an orbit as shown, we see that in a reference frame stationary with respect to the center of mass, the orbit of the planet whether about the actual star or about the apparent star is the same! See panels a and b of figure 3. However, in the latter case (panel b) the orbit is out of phase by one fourteenth (or one hundred and forty thousandths) of the orbital period such that p1 is to S as p2 is to S2', etc.. (Also S as well as p orbits S' in this case.) This relationship of pi being to S as pi+1 is to S', etc. will be the same no matter what the relationship of the speeds v and c as long as the separation of pi and pi+1 is R v/c, but if c is not an integral multiple of v, there will be a change in the phase shift from one orbit to the next that is proportional to the residue.

Whether the actual star S (which is not seen from the planet) or the apparent star S' (that is seen) is envisioned as orbiting also (at the radius R v/c) about the center of the planet's orbit may seem of little import since the planet's path will be the same in either case. Of course, there are major epistemological differences in these perspectives. One tends to care little whether mere ephemeral conceptual constructs gyrate in strange ways to accommodate mathematical models, but for an actual star to orbit a void point other than the center of mass of the system from the perspective of comoving surrounding systems might seem to involve some travesty of thought. It is, after all, only in the accelerated frame of the ephemera that the unseen but "actual"star orbits. However, it is only in that frame of reference that our familiar concept of an inverse square law force "actually"applies. So, after all these mental gyrations, where are we? Maybe this just seems to work because we are dealing with a circular orbit here rather than the more general conic elliptical orbits. How would this alternative to action-at-a-distance play out with an elliptical orbit?

Figures 2,3

The answer is that the elliptical orbit (as seen from the comoving surrounds of the star) would involve the precession of an otherwise stationary closed elliptical orbit, whereas the elliptical orbit solution about the appearance of the aberrant star for which the central force equations apply would not precess. And this brings us to the famous test of Einstein's general theory of relativity with regard to the precession of the perihelion of Mercury by 41 seconds of arc in a century, which is unaccounted for in Newtonian mechanics. We are repeatedly reminded that the phenomenon is finally resolved by general relativity with the determination having been made by Schwartzchild of the appropriate gravitational metric tensor from which to determine the Ricci tensor, Ricci scalar, and stress-energy tensor from which the result can supposedly be computed. Needless to say, "That ain't necessarily easy for neophytes!"It is much easier, in fact, to merely acknowledge that it takes time for forces of nature to travelthrough space and determine the relative locations of the interacting bodies at appropriate times as shown above. That makes sense!

In looking up the data on the precession of Mercury's perihelion to check out the viability of all this, I ran across a very learned article published in, January 20, 1906 by Jaume Giné on the internet1, which exhaustively describes the history of such efforts as mine and extols the efforts of a German school teacher named Paul Gerber who in 1898 proposed just such an approach. It resulted in accounting for only 14 seconds of arc and not the entire 41. However in analyzing those results Giné was able to show that using the round trip time instead of the one way force interaction time as suggested by the collaboration of Wheeler and Feynman on absorber theory in 1945, that the entire phenomenon is thereby completely accounted. See figure 4 taken from the reference.

In the diagram of figure 4 the retardation parameter τ is equal to what we would have referred to as R v/c2 above. And the fact that the two pie-shaped segments differ in the second panel in figuring the round trip delay is that the orbit is not assumed to be circular as we did for didactic purposes in figure 1. In Giné's article he does not associate retarded potentials directly with the special relativistic aberration phenomena, but this association is inevitable.

Figure 4

To update my own analyses as Jaume Giné did for Paul Gerber, the relationship would have to be made between pi being to S as pi+2 is to S', etc.. What this says in interaction terms is that the force "signal"sent out by S is in response to a complementary force signal received from p, so that the force received by p from S will be in response to where p was located two intervals back. It should be obvious that this makes sense once action-at-a-distance is done away with.

So, although I feel somewhat "scooped" (albeit narrowly by only one hundred and eight years), it is refreshing to know that, however rare, perspicacity has always lurked around every corner. And there is some, however, vestigial memory of the right answers to real problems.


1 John Gribbon, The Scientist, Random House, New York, 2002, p. 423. In reference to a presentation made by Michael Faraday to the Royal Institution on 19 January 1844.



The Playwright

Karyn Huntting headshot by Karyn Huntting

Midnight’s velvet curtain obscures the ancient stage
Avon’s murky waters still lay in silent wait
Slowly actors gather for their long-awaited wage
Stratford’s dusty pages their hollow yearnings sate

The moon’s orb rises higher, commands the star-crossed sky
Lumens flooding Avon, its secrets hidden still
The curtain slowly lifting, the stage’s hemlock dry
Players take their places, the playwright grasps his quill

The pulsing night’s blood quickens, the scenes to pages flow
Breezes coyly shifting, plays ending far from sewn
What tragedy lay waiting, no earthly spirits know
Stage borne into reality, its martyrs still unknown

The audience is fading, far stars now growing bright
And we are now the playwright, the ink our mystic night


Monday, December 25, 2006

More May-hem

Richard May headshot by Richard May


Richard May drawing
the author before the debilitating onslaught of advanced thought

After so many years of striving I finally became a blind rodent, incessantly gnawing its way through a limitless garbage heap, contemplating its own sublimity; listening with resentment to the gnawing sounds of its blind fellows nearby.

Valentine's Moment

I've never met anyone like you before, the Prince said to himself. The Princess was in complete agreement, saying that she also had never met anyone like herself either. After a chronon or two in each other’s presence the Princess and the Prince unfortunately came to what passed for their senses. Sadly they finally stopped doing drugs, both recreational and psychotropic pharmaceuticals, and even worse stopped consuming endless amounts of sucrose; experienced an immediate and disturbing reduction in their reality deficit disorders; awaked from the delusional dreams of Western culture, only to discover that neither was a Princess nor a Prince at all, nor even a person.

The "Princess" was actually an empty mirror attached to the wall of a room. Immediately opposite this mirror was another mirror, which had dreamed it was a "Prince". When the room was filled with people, the mirrors reflected what passed before them, causing them to identify with the passing drama of those others who also thought that they were actual people. But when the room was empty, the two opposing mirrors each reflected, and even mirrored, each other with perfect, but depthless, fidelity; Empty mirrors looking into each other eternally or at least until someone turned off the lights.



Martin Hunt headshot by Martin Hunt

From Martin Hunt's Fibonacci series of computer generated images.


Sunday, December 24, 2006

Happy dog

from down-under

Maria Claudia Faverio headshot by Maria Claudia Faverio

It was hot on the bus
in mid-December,
and the bus was crowded with people
wedged into immobility,
heads buzzing with thoughts
of hurried love, pre-wrapped parcels
with cloned angels and Santa Clauses
on glossy paper.

Banned from the unalloyed
happiness of the masses
unable to identify meanings
behind the ohs and ahs,
I looked out of the airtight window
and suddenly saw a dog in a car,
his snout leisurely laid on the frame
of the wound-down window,
eyes shut, ears and hair
waving in the streaming air.

I turned around almost instantly,
somewhat disturbed by that image
of unattainable freedom.
And there they were again,
the sweating faces,
high-flown elbows, buffeting feet
and blank eyes unwillingly
the unstoppable summer
sun outside.

- Excuse me -, I stuttered.
The person next to me swerved
on the faded seat
to let me through,
and I ran out
into the grotesque freedom
of the garish street.


Alert Bay

by Jacquelinne White

Jacquelinne with dog
Jacquelinne enjoys animals.

I had one of the greatest compliments I ever had the summer I visited Alert Bay, British Columbia.

I had been teaching art to kids in Comox where my aged mother lived in an old folks' home. I loved working with the responsive children; they did superlative work and I could visit my mother every day. Besides that a group of young people in their early twenties, adventurous small town kids, visited me while I was working. They invited me to their "hippy" parties where they danced and smoked pot and sang. One of the girls made me a lovely red cloak with a green satin lining. It was a very nice summer. Rich.

My daughter and her two small children were spending the summer with close friends at Alert Bay which was further north and on an island off the east Coast of Vancouver Island. I had a phone call about the time my classes were over telling me I was needed at Alert Bay because my daughter had suddenly been taken very ill. I took a bus to Powell River where, as I remember, I had to take a boat to a Finnish fishing village where I would catch a small plane to Alert Bay. While I was sitting reading and waiting for my boat a small boy suddenly appeared right in front of me.

"Are you going to Alert Bay?" he asked. I told him I was. "Take me ?" he asked, and added "I am little but I am old. I am fifteen. My name is Danny."

He told me his family lived at Alert Bay and he needed to get home. I decided to take him. Shortly the boat came in and Danny and I found places to sit on long plank seats. I asked him where he had been away from home. He told me he had been in a detention center for delinquent children.

"Good Heavens, Danny," I said, "What on earth did you do that you were sent to the detention center?"

"B and E," he smilingly answered.

"What is B and E?" I asked.

And he answered, "Breaking and Entering."

"Good Heavens," I answered," Was it worth it?"

"Oh, yes," he eagerly replied. "They taught me how to fix cars. If I get to go back I am going to learn about planes."

At the Finnish fishing village, the name of which I cannot remember, Danny and I waited for the plane. When it came in, a bright yellow little job, a handful of passengers started to board. The cocky and friendly pilot came over to me and asked. "Where did you get the kid." I told him what I knew of Danny. The pilot said he would split Danny's fare with me.

It was on the short ride in the littel yellow airplane that I was given the great compliment.

"Who are you?" Danny asked me, and he went one more, "You are not white that is for sure. But who are you? And then his bright little face lit up, "Oh, I know, I know," he chuckled." You are Haida. Wait until I tell my mother a Haida lady brought me home."

totem pole drawing

Me, Haida? The Haida Indians live on their own set of Islands off Vancouver Island and they are the people who make the most wonderful of the totem poles. And they make huge ceremonial bowls and carved boats. They make what we have learned to accept as the best of all Indian carving and ornamentation. Their totem poles are world famous. I have never been on their islands and that is the one thing I want to do more than anything before I die. I shall do it.

I need to, don't you think? After all I was taken for a Haida woman by a wonderful Indian boy — Danny. Little but old. Canny. Able to survive. Someone who spoke as poets speak. When I had asked him when he had gone to the detention center he told me he did not actually know the date but it was oyster picking time.


Saturday, December 23, 2006

The Truth about Xmas

Charmaine Frost headshot by Charmaine Frost

candy cane Rudolf refused a simple nose job,
And so was abducted by a cop;
The Yonkers lights had all gone bonkers;
Rudy's nose blinked traffic to a stop.

The elves read a Workers' Manifesto
So skate on glaciers while on strike;
Santa advertises for cheap labor,
Cursing every greedy griping groping tyke.

Mrs. Claus, 3 centuries married,
Bored, is filing for divorce;
The Old man can keep the igloo palace
And elves (Their manners are too course).

Santa, age 400, has got brain rot,
And so wears wool in tropic air;
Someday he'll die of heatstroke
Or break high rise windows on a dare.


Friday, December 22, 2006

Santa And The Government Grant

by Bob Seitz

I'm sure we all know Santa's been a success,
But how many know that his money's a mess?
With never a cent from Accounts Receivable,
Debits have swelled till they're barely believable!
Orders have multiplied year after year
Till Santa's now smothered in holiday cheer.
Last year got so bad that tried a new slant:
Santa applied for a government grant!
Their auditor said, in a scandalized tone,
"No way does he merit a government loan!
He'll never repay it! You know that he can't,
Which makes him ideal for a government grant!

Your typist can stamp it, to give it some class,
But make sure she logs it to cover your-lass."
The form was submitted on Valentine's day,
But then it got lost until halfway to May,
When auditors went to review his accounts,
And make sure his books showed the proper amounts.
But when they arrived, they were shocked as could be -
He hadn't kept records since 40 A.D.!
Somehow, it was handled, and forward they went,
Hoping to wrap up the folly by Lent.
The next thing that tripped them were open-bid laws,
So Purchasing tried for a small-business clause.
But Santa's among the world's larger affairs.
(Do you think that he makes all those goodies with mirrors?)
And since word had spread throughout land, sea, and sky,
Department stores wanted a piece of the pie.
(They also had Santas and wanted to bid.
With Uncle Sam paying, they'd wow every kid!)
So back at the circus, the lawyers finagled-
Talked with competitors, argued and haggled-
Till Labor Day saw the grant ready to go
So Santa could function before the first snow.
But 'ere they could sign, word came down from the buyer,
From Congress or Heaven, whichever is higher,
That funding was frozen till Congress could see
How long it could posture and still disagree.
And now, we have come to a new fiscal year —
And lo, Santa's money is no longer here!
Well, you can imagine! This late in the season,
Withdrawing his money surpasses all reason!
This far in the fall, what can anyone do
To fabricate presents for me and for you?
And Santa, of course, is fit to be tied!
A Santa-less Yule hurts his virtue and pride!
He pondered for days till he saw what to do:
The Salvation Army could help him pull through.
His helpers would bolster their troops at their pots,
And spread out to cover additional spots,
And then, if his workshops produced day and night,
There's still a good chance we could come out all right.
But Christmas depends on amassing some cash
So the Salvation Army can finance the bash.
So tell all your relatives--make sure they know-
Then rush down to Walmart and dump in your dough!
You won't be rewarded with thank-you's alone.
What you give them this year will soon be your own.
And then let's help Santa. We know now he can't
Depend on the likes of a Government grant.

Bob and Tommy


Thursday, December 21, 2006

Postcard #5 From The Shape-Shifting Dreamplate

Karyn Huntting headshot by Karyn Huntting

Down so, so far it shimmered and waved. The copper drain was never a circle at all. It would never be one. It would never be anything but a shape-shifting metal dreamplate swimming down in the turquoise.

What things to ponder. How could I know what shape the dreamplate really was? If I assumed a circle, did that make it so? Look up, look up! The bamboo trees groved together along the far end of the pool, all the way to the fence. The sky so blue. Cumulous clouds were white. Was there a heaven like people said there was? Was it above the clouds?

My hands clutched the rough concrete, held it tightly. Don't fall, they say. Don't fall in. You'll drown. Kicking your feet in the water is okay, though. If you stopped kicking for a few minutes, the water slowed to a wave tank. All the cumulous clouds were there, the blue, and maybe a reflection of a maybe heaven? It was all transparent. Less real than the shape-shifting dreamplate, and it wouldn't stay still. It was all moving. Look up. Look down. Close your eyes. Mmm. Yes, maybe that's it.

It's dizzying. I have some ideas now. I can see … wait! Falling, cold, turning, screaming. Open your eyes. Now. This is reality. See it, dammit! This is it! The water no longer moved. The dreamplate was a perfect circle, shiny copper. Everything placid until this moment — bamboo, sky, cumulous, concrete, house, fence — now shimmered and moved. Nothing was solid anymore. All of it, a grand illusion! A facade! Laugh if you can, fools! It's not solid!

But nothing came out of my open mouth. I knew now that tears were just like warm water, that they were only natural and lost in the heart of it all. In reality. The copper was smooth. I could feel it with my fingers. I cried. I asked why, but I knew not to whom I posed my question.

Answers came to questions not asked. I sat for the first time in some Antarctic movie theater to watch a film of strange progression. Pictures, and pictures of answers. But the plot was tragic, senseless. It was all wrong, I screamed in silence. All wrong!

But nobody was listening. There was pressure, so much pressure. So sad to have to go, now that I knew the secret of cotton ball clouds and their reflections. Say goodbye to your self, say it in silence. Nobody else can hear you. Or maybe everyone can. Yes. I felt a bit of a smile.

The answers are so tragic and simple. Everyone. One. Yes, that's it. It just didn't matter. Those who understood the secrets of the tragic answers would hear me even if I never uttered the words. Goodbye. Goodbye. I'm not afraid anymore.

The voices were far away and growing louder. And then there was the pain. Choking, gasping, a stabbing pain in my chest. They were talking to me. Open your eyes, can you hear me, breathe, oh God please breathe….

-- Karyn


Wednesday, December 20, 2006

A Visit to St. Nick

by Ed Rehmus

In Earthly Powers, Anthony Burgess describes the libretto of an opera based on the life of St. Nicholas, borrowed largely from an account by Anatole France. Since few people know anything about this peculiar person, other than that he is the patron saint of children (and shipwrecked sailors), it might be interesting to take a closer look. The opera is far too long to quote verbatim from the novel, but briefly this is the gist of the plot up to the end of the first act.

The story begins, somehow, with the corpses of Bishop Nicholas' three sons (Mark, Matthew and John) who have been put into a pickle barrel, whereupon, because of the pickle acid, they have been resurrected. The first son turns Nicholas's house into a brothel & Nicholas is tempted by sins of the flesh. Nicholas invokes Jesus Christ, who appears as the naked god, Pan, whereupon the poor man yields to his weaknesses. Afterwards, he flagellates himself & is thereby purified enough to be able to attend the Council of Nicaea in order to denounce the Aryan heresy. In case you've forgotten, the Aryan heresy suggests that the Father and the Son are the same substance: Homoousia. Whereas the True Faith insists that they are only of similar substance: Homoiousia, thus proving the importance of an iota.

Meanwhile the second son is busy forging documents to denounce Nicholas as an even worse heretic; At the Council, the women of the town, appear in order to ask for prayers for their men who are in a storm at sea. The Council, of course, wants to throw them out for disrupting their holy deliberations, but jolly old St. Nick intercedes for the sailors' wives by wrestling with an Aryan bishop. At this point Matthew reveals the documents proving that his father has stated that the only true God is Venus. Nicholas is ecclesiastically disgraced just as all the ships at sea go down.

In the second and final act of the opera, Nicholas, after a stint with sackcloth and ashes, has been reinstated by the Pope and is now once again a full bishop. However, it seems that a number of German tribes have been converted to Xtianity by Arians and the heresy is going full blast. John, the third son, is all for going to Germany in order to torture and kill heretic women and children. Nicholas argues that theirs is a religion of love, but John points out that "These are foul heretics who believe Christ to be co-eternal with the Father!" So Nicholas is persuaded to join in the holy war, though he soon regrets it. He asks heaven to send down Love, and "Venus herself appears, as goddess of brothels for soldiers." Mothers are screaming for miracles and one of them hands Nicholas the bloody corpse of her child. Nicholas, with the child in his arms now asks God why he brought the three wicked sons back to life in the first place and when there is no answer, "You are a God of Hate, a God who murders the innocent!" There is no reply and the curtain descends.

Thus, to this day, the red suit represents Nicholas's sins of the flesh, which he atones for with the ashes of chimneys, while the bag upon his back is his burden of shame. Of course, in our time, we no longer honor shame, so the bag merely contains the poisonous fruits of materialistic Capitalism.


The Near Shall Be Far; And The Far Near

Richard May headshot by Richard May

In already-withered futures everyone will be incredibly famous throughout uncountable worlds of unimaginably remote galaxies in other parallel universes; considered celebrities by innumerable life forms unrecognizable and incomprehensible to them. However, the closer one approaches to anyone proximate, the more darkly obscure she will become, and then increasingly unfamiliar with the passage of time; No one nearby will be dimly recognizable or ever be known, even by rumors; Languages will have no words for mother or other; Standing before the mirror, one will see no reflection; Yet this will be considered unremarkable.


Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Holly Daze

Charmaine Frost headshot by Charmaine Frost

Holly-day folly for this Festivus --
Who'll be the guest v' us
On this feast for the best v' us?
Will he come from the east or the west v' us,
Bearing gifts that are the test v' us?


The Statistics of Stereotyping

Fred Vaughan headshot by Fred Vaughan

In Albert Frank's article "The Interpretation of Statistical Tests" he provides formulas and examples of the errors one can get into when applying a test of a known high reliability to determine whether subjects taken at random qualify as members of a select (generally a negatively perceived) group. This is the problem with "racial profiling" that was identified by "Renaissance" in his posted comment which many fail to understand properly.

Let us take as a given that a particular racial type that is readily identifiable happens to be represented at a much higher incidence frequency in some sort of crime or other. This could be theft, murder, terrorism, or whatever statistics provide convincing "justification." And let us suppose further that the statistics that are used are completely valid such that, for example, although one race constitutes only 10% of the total population, its members who perpetrate said crime outnumber those of the majority racial type who also perpetrate such crimes. Why would profiling in such cases be unwarranted even (or especially) from a mathematical perspective?

Here's why.

Suppose that there is a test in place that can be applied to individuals that is extremely reliable (defined as f as in the original article) with regard to determining the culpability of an individual having already committed (or who will in the future commit) said crime. There is nothing in the justification statement given above that has any direct bearing on the appropriateness of implementing such a program. Although those may be completely valid statistics, they are not sufficient to determine the efficacy of a program which they attempt to justify. The appropriate statistic is "what is the probability that an individual of the subject race may commit such a crime — the parameter a in Albert Frank's article. This number will always be small — much much smaller than the probability of an individual having already committed the crime being a member of the subject race. This may seem like a subtle difference, but it is not!

Suppose the racial mix of a population is only 10% A and 90% B and that some precentage aa of those who commit crime C are from the subset A. So far we have nothing to go on. We need to know the percentage of the entire population who commit crime C. Let c be that probability. Then we can determine the likelihood of a member of A or B comitting that crime. If we define a and b as the probabilities that members of A and B will, respectively, commit the crime, we can then solve the problem using what we know as follows:

a * (0.1) + b * (0.9) = c, and
a * (0.1) / c = aa

Given aa(which is usually all that is given and that is usually insinuated as though it were a itself — which it is not), and one of the following, a, b, or c, we can determine the effectiveness of profiling for a given reliability of testing.

Let's say by way of example that one in a thousand (c = 0.1%) of the total population commit the crime. Then for aa= 0.6 we would have:

a = aa / 100 = 0.006 and b = ( 0.01 − 0.1 * a ) / 0.9 = 0.00044.

Since in racial profiling the population is effectively reduced to that of A rather than the much larger A + B, it is a (as defined here) that corresponds to the same term in Albert Frank's article. So in order to avoid the use of profiling producing law enforcement nonsense, the reliability of testing an individual once he is subject to test must be so good that 1 − f would be much less than 0.006 or there will be as many or more unlawful (false positive) arrests as lawful ones. And in law enforcement a reliability as high as even 0.9 (let alone the required 0.994) is unheard of!

Therefore quite aside from the issue of the impertinence of the practice, it is a very ineffective approach to fighting crime.

stereotyping doodle
Doodles in Author's Anthropology Class Notes from 1962


Monday, December 18, 2006


Richard May headshot by Richard May

Freedom, peace and prosperity are far better than their absence or negation. But ideologies are one-dimensional left-right maps of multidimensional territories of phenomenal processes and values; the attempted depiction of a cube or tesseract using only a straight line segment. There are no front-wingers or back-wingers, and no up-wingers or down-wingers. Moreover, unlike conventional maps, ideologies usually better serve the manufacturer of the map than the individual attempting to find his way."



Sunday, December 17, 2006

Better Image

(A Modern American Christmas Story)

Charmaine Frost headshot by Charmaine Frost

smiling santa Santa leaned back in his extra-wide Barca-lounger and pushed the remote control's "off" button.

"Bertha!" he called. "I've decided to make some changes. A mid-life personal upgrade."

Mrs. Claus waddled to the archway and leaned her flabby arm against the ice portal until the cold burned through her red velvet jacket and woolen underwear.

"You can't be middle-aged," she snapped. "You're supposed to live as long as the world's around; you can't know if you're middle-aged unless you know when the world's going to end. And what's this mean - a personal upgrade?"

"Read this," Santa muttered, and handed his wife a holiday copy of Modern Maturity; the edition was only a year old, very up to date for someone who'd lived as long as Santa.

Mrs. Claus read: "Despite his wide girth and a woefully retro fake-ermine and red velvet look that calls to mind the fashions of guillotined kings, Santa remains the most widely pictured figure of human history. The greatest miracle of Christmas is Santa's longevity; scientists should study Old Blubberbelly's DNA to learn how he has survived for hundreds of years, free from diabetes and cholesterol-packed arteries, despite morbid obesity. Historians might research the famous eccentric's early life for keys to some long mysterious magic tricks and clues to extremes of human adaptability. How does he never get stuck in chimneys despite his girth, how does he enter high rises which are heated electrically? Does he really shout Ho-ho-ho when he awakens in July to another breakfast of polar bear stew, in a wintry wasteland where angels fear to tread?" Mrs. Claus glanced at her frowning husband.

"So?" she shrugged. "You're a famous guy and unlikely to fight back from up here; critics always attack the renown and helpless. Besides, the writer's probably a Hindu."

"Look at this." Santa clicked the remote until the TV showed a gaudily decorated street. On every roof, lit from inside, a giant plastic Santa glowed; reindeer made from tiny blinking lights leapt over the chimneys and frolicked behind the Santas. "It's Santa Claus Lane in Suburbia, USA, telecast to every country including the North Pole. All the reporters rant about the epidemic of obesity but here I am, with a holiday honoring me and 580 pounds."

"Dear," Mrs. Claus whispered. "I don't know if the North Pole is considered a country. And remember a baby called Jesus?"

Santa grunted. He recalled picture books featuring a divine kid born parthenogenically while Daddy Joseph happily looked on, content not to contribute sperm and never suffering a twinge of jealousy. Wise men galloped on camels as fleet as reindeer, guided by a magic supernova to that rickety manger where Mary groaned in labor on hay scented with dried donkey dung; old shepherds hiked for miles, leaning their exhausted frames against giant candy canes when they paused to rest. Santa had delivered many such books to the children on his route, even though the story strained credibility even more than one of the National Enquirer's publicized births of a three headed freak.

"Maybe so," Santa huffed. "But I'm better known. Ask any kid what they think of when they hear 'Christmas'; they'll all shriek 'Santa'! And, given that I'm so well known, it's time for me to improve my image."

Mrs. Claus sighed. Probably, hubby was bored again; when he was bored, he started scheming. Like the time five years ago when he'd gotten thousands of cats licensed as professional vermin trappers in hundreds of states, kingdoms, principalities, republics and archdiocese, then ordered the workshop tailors to stitch together vole and mouse pelts so that each elf could strut about in lederhosen of velvety vole fur and tug at a belt woven from mouse tails. Like the time he built a special battery, that would never go dead, to power Rudolf's nose.

"It's a matter of doing unto yourself as you have done unto others." Santa exclaimed. "Now it's time for a new image for me, a make-over. In the morning, I make an appointment for liposuction."

"Liposuction?" Mrs. Claus gaped, then sucked in her own stout belly. A thin Santa might look like any other old man, liver spotted, with horny yellow fingernails and sagging jowls; she might not even recognize her husband in the stooped figure with shattered bifocals forgotten in the back pocket of baggy red pants that smelled of Ben Gay. In a world where Santa was thin, tinsel might grow naturally from fir limbs; shuffling pines might brandish hatchets and invade houses, to cut down humans as they slept. "You'd confuse all the kids," Mrs. Claus objected.

"And then, a facelift; fat old fogeys just aren't in fashion. But first," he bellowed, "Something I can correct now! Bring me scissors! Bring me a razor and brown dye from one of the gift kits! It's time for the clean shaven look."

Mrs. Claus sighed, then whistled for an elf.

After Christmas, the sleigh skidded to a stop in front of the igloo and a slender man in a newly tailored, red velvet suit climbed out silently; the ermine trim on his cap contrasted stylishly with his glossy dark hair and his tight belt emphasized a firm, muscular abdomen. He lingered by each reindeer, patting its sweaty neck and letting it munch from a bucket of chocolate chip cookies donated by children from everywhere; then he flipped off the switch to the light in Rudolf's nose.

"Hmmmm," he muttered, as he shambled past his wife.

Santa's skin stretched, taut and glossy, over a prominent chin and cheeks; curly locks hid the few forehead creases which plastic surgery couldn't smooth away. He looked young, only 50; for the first time in centuries, Mrs. Claus worried about her own attractiveness. A slim rugged man, especially one as rich and generous as Santa, would attract women. She dusted quickly around the Barca-lounger as he staggered towards it, slid a steaming cup of coffee on the table beside it and offered him her cheeriest, fat-cheeked smile.

"No Ho-ho-ho this year? How was the trip."

Santa sat on the edge of the Barca-lounger, stoop shouldered and staring listlessly at the floor.

"Dogs tried to bite me, cats hissed at me," he moaned. "Some mothers called the cops when they saw me tiptoeing to the tree; the New York City police tried to arrest me as an imposter. Worst of all, the kids didn't recognize me when I walked the streets a few days before. Some told me to stuff pillows under my jacket. Others asked me where I'd dropped my beard and suggested that I use better glue next year. A few asked me why such real looking reindeer came with a fake Santa."

Mrs. Claus sat beside her husband and patted his muscular thigh. "They'll get used to the new you; give them time," she reassured. "Change is always hard. They just need a few years to adjust to the new look. With some clever advertising from the Madison Avenue gang, they'll be comfortable with a thin Santa in just a few seasons."

Santa shook his head. The few who'd recognized him instantly didn't like the change. Fat cheeks seemed jolly, a fat belly seemed comforting like a big soft pillow. Fat was expansive and uninhibitedly generous, like the man who tossed gifts under every tree and shouted a "Ho ho ho" that echoed from the rooftops. A thin, firmly muscled man seemed too deliberate to give with abandon; he was the kind of man who'd exercise on schedule, carefully calculating exactly what he'd take in or give.

"No, the people don't like me," Santa grunted. "And I'll have to do something about that."

Santa lifted the phone and pushed a long series of buttons, hoping that the Arctic winds hadn't knocked out his connection. Mrs. Claus stared.

"Hello, Doctor," he barked into the receiver. "I need waist implants - you know, like breast implants, but at the belly. And butt implants. And cheek implants, to make my face look round and rosy... Yes, yes, I know you just made me skinny... And I'll need a referral to a cosmetics expert, someone who can teach me how to draw wrinkles on my skin."

After arguing for several minutes, he made an appointment with his plastic surgeon.

"There," he sighed. "Problem solved." Then he leaned back, closed his eyes and began to snore.


Friday, December 15, 2006


Martin Hunt headshot by Martin Hunt

A photograph of a lithograph produced by Martin Hunt.


Thursday, December 14, 2006

Pink Moon Rising

Fred Vaughan headshot by Fred Vaughan

I see a pink moon rising
Like a mushroom from green, but graying earth.
Streamers of mold lose hold,
Quivering for a moment in release.

It is Fall and night is falling in shapes
Beneath the leaves that tumble.
And piercing through these falling dead
Icy fingers snatch each treasured piece of darkness.

Consummated now, the putrid kiss is but an echoed hiss.
The pallid under-mushroom pink has broken loose
And drips with poignant stench upon the ripples
A meaning I purpose now never to remember.


Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Postcard #3: From The Splitting Pane Window

Karyn Huntting headshot by Karyn Huntting

It took time for my eyes to adjust to the fact that the only light came through the splitting pane windows from the hazy twilight, showing every dancing particle of dust in its path as it fell to the floor at my feet. His harpsichord began to take shape as it sat quietly on the green shag carpet in the darkened corner beside the 1959 Kelvinator Electric Icebox.

I used to play concerts, he breathed, stroking his greying beard with one hand while the other held a chipped mug of Foldger's. I nodded, taking a sip from the only unchipped mug. But that was so long ago. Still stroking, as if he were keeping time to some unknown metronome in his memory. I nodded again.

Raisinette? Thanks, I said, taking three from the painted purple candy dish he had gingerly placed between us on the couch. He pulled his hand from his beard, and the shock of it caused my metronome to stop. Silence, yet the dancing dust kept on as if the music had never ended.

It's getting dark out. I really must be going. So soon? I hardly ever have company, you know. Yes, I really must. But thank you for the coffee. Oh, and the Raisinettes. I was hungry.

Will you visit me again soon? One hand on the grey beard, still in anticipation. His eyes stepped into the dust dance as he rose to see me out. I saw the tiredness in the brown coffee saucers as they blinked at me.

Of course, of course. He no more believed me than he could play concert harpsichord. I slipped into his outstretched arms and held him. Trust me, I whispered in his ear. His head nuzzled my neck and I stroked his hair over and over. The metronome was such a jester.

As I walked out onto the freshly wet street below, I was haunted by the brown coffee saucers. What day was today? Oh, yes. Thursday. I looked down at my watch.

Reaching my left hand into my coat pocket, I pulled out the crumpled receipt from the electric company. Yes, Thursday. I turned and looked up at the darkened splitting pane window on the second floor. He was there, watching, hand still on his beard in the darkness.

Two silent waves. I spun around, still waving, and began to walk away, heels echoing off the pavement. Just then my shadow suddenly appeared before me, backlit by the warmth of incandescent light.

The paper fell from my fingers. Goodbye, I whispered.



Maria Claudia Faverio headshot by Maria Claudia Faverio

Brainwaves fractal


Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Is A Photon (just) An(other) Object?

Fred Vaughan headshot by Fred Vaughan

Fred Vaughan back in the day
the author back in the day

Even very intelligent people tend to abandon logic in dealing with concepts of the special theory of relativity and especially with regard to those involving frame independence and mutual observability - the latter of which most have never even considered. These notions derive from a common sense presumption that a "ray of light" (read photon) emitted or detected at a given point in spacetime could have been emitted or detected by any other source or observer, respectively that happened to have been coincident at that particular instant in time. The presumption results from Einstein's insistence that Lorentz transformation "relations must be so chosen that the law of the transmission of light in vacuo is satisfied for one and the same ray of light (and of course for every ray) with respect to…"1coincident observers in uniform relative motion. Thus a photon was presumed to be a mutually observable real object. Well, it isn't.

Subsequent to Einstein's coining of this phrase concerning "the law of the transmission of light" in the first decade of the last century, much that was common sense about light had to be reevaluated and corrected because of light's notoriously non-commonsensical behavior. Einstein himself was a major contributor to that revised understanding that did not near completion for another twenty years. In fact, when he received the Nobel Prize for physics in 1921 it was for his powerful insights into the nature of light and the "photo-electric" effect in particular which involves the interaction of light and matter. In bestowing that honor, no mention was made of his more exhaustive efforts in relativity and most certainly not this "law" that gave rise to frame independence and mutual observability.

There have been notable challenges to the doctrine. For example, as early as 1926 in discussing the "nature of light" Gilbert Lewis who was the one who originally coined the term "photon," stated, "…we can no longer consider one atom the active agent and the other as an accidental and passive recipient, but both atoms must play coordinate and symmetrical parts in the process of exchange."2So that to presume that a photon of light is just an object that passes a point in spacetime available for inspection by any observer (rather than a specific emitter/absorber pair) had become extremely questionable within a very few years of Einstein's having coined his own catch phrase. Re-evaluation of whatever concepts depend upon it became an outstanding obligation, but in this case it was an obligation never addressed by those accepting the established interpretation of the Lorentz equations. But Lewis's position was notably cited by Wheeler and Feynman in their analyses of light as an inter-particle interaction in contrast to its being just another object or "wave/particle duality".3 But such interaction concepts with regard to the transmission of light do not seem ever to have been addressed specifically in the context of re-examining this cornerstone of the established interpretation of the Lorentz equations. Cramer did, however, address this misconception in his Transaction Interpretation of quantum mechanics.4

Einstein's and Minkowski's interpretation of the Lorentz equations postulates that events involving the emission, refraction or absorption of light in one frame of reference must be observable in these same senses by observers in any momentarily coincident frame of reference using their own equipment. This interchangeability insists not only on the possibility of coincident observation by relatively moving observers, but posits coincident observation of the very same events, which denies the unique role of the observer (absorber) in effecting Lewis's ultimate observation transaction. To instruct us with regard to the significance of this mutuality demand with respect to the interpretation of the Lorentz equations, Aharoni lays out the scheme very succinctly as follows: "Had an event not possessed absolute significance there could be no question of transforming its coordinates from one frame to another."5 So quite apart from the experimentally verified Lorentz relationship between observed events, a velocity addition formula was conjectured with no tests for refutation that ennobled the equations as a coordinate "transformation."6 So the very meaning of the Lorentz transformation equations as a transformation of one event rather than a correspondence between two events is what is at issue and resolution of this matter is of major epistemological significance.

Certainly, without experimental verification these equations ought not have been presumed, because of vague similarities to other mathematical forms, to fall into a category of coordinate conversion of identical events rather than a simpler correspondence between unique events related by the nature of observation. The latter is in more or less the same sense that observation is handled in quantum theories where the observer and what is observed are inextricably entwined. This interpretation would not violate other verified aspects of relativity; it would merely indicate that an event observable now by one observer corresponds to a different event on the world line of the source observable now by another. It would be in complete agreement with Einstein's insistence that the results of Lorentz calculations be considered as mensurable coordinate values. Both events would be observable by the other observer at some time, just not while in coincidence. This interpretation is similar to that of the parallax relationship of everyday experience. The Lorentz equations are at least as directly related to such a parallax translation of coordinates interpretation as they are to the usual didactic association with skew rotation employed in typical relativity texts.

The differences between these alternative interpretations of the mapping of events provided by Lorentz's equations must be subject to the usual refutation/verification procedures of experimental physics. So let us consider requirements on experiments that could determine whether such Lorentz-transformed events (more correctly "Lorentz-correspondent events") can possibly be the very same or must be distinct one from the other so as to comply with, or violate, the conjectured frame independence and mutual observability hypotheses.

An adequate test requires each of two relatively moving observers to obtain two types of data as shown in the figure below. The data must include that which an observer himself (or a relatively stationary synchronized assistant) observes directly and that observed and communicated at coincidence by the other observer or his synchronized assistant who will also be in uniform relative motion with the same velocity. The experiment will, furthermore, involve both measurements of electromagnetic emission and absorption events occurring exclusively within each observer's own apparatus and measurements involving interactive phenomena with the atoms and molecules of the apparatus of the other observer. Altogether this requires comparison of four categories of observation as shown.

The six relationships among these four types of experimental data pertinent to refutation of frame independence and mutual observability are also shown. Diagonally related observation types (I and IV, as well as II and III) pertain to observations of "common" events (or more explicitly to one specific event occurring on one particular object) by relatively moving observers and are presumed by theory to be related by the Lorentz equations. Note that these are the proper subject matter of the special theory but it has not been feasible to conduct such experiments. Horizontally related observation types (I and III, as well as II and IV) pertain to observations of analogous (i. e., similar but definitely not the same) events in the other frame of reference. Legitimacy of the assumed analogs depends upon the apparatus of each observer being constructed in accordance with identical drawings and that initiation of the identical experimental procedures by the observers be synchronized so as to maintain symmetry. These are sometimes erroneously assumed to exhibit a Lorentz relationship ostensibly pertaining to that between II and III (and presumably I and IV) and to have thereby confirmed length contraction and time dilation. Data obtained in horizontal categories (I and III as well as II and IV) require communication between observers with coincident assistants involved as appropriate for a definitive comparison. The relationship between I and III (and between II and IV) would seem by covariance to be an identity, but this is counter to the established interpretation in which the other's clocks are presumed dilated, etc.. Performing all these tests would substantiate or falsify the conjecture concerning light being just another object upon which so much of Einstein's and Minkowski's interpretation rests.

relativity observations possibilities
Four categories of observations possible in tests of relativity and their various relationships

Although experiments are still not feasible for comprehensively comparing all these measurements, one can at the very least use logical consistency as a criterion of validity for the various interpretations of Lorentz's equations. The author believes there to be a serious lack in the required consistency.

1 A. Einstein, Relativity - The Special and the General Theory, Crown, New York, p. 32. (1961)

2 G. N. Lewis, "The Nature of Light," Proc. N. A. S., Vol. 12, pp. 23-24 (1926)

3 J. A. Wheeler and R. P. Feyman, "Interactions with the Absorber as the Mechanism of Radiation," Rev. Mod. Phys., 17, 157 (1945); and J. A. Wheeler and R. P. Feynman, "Classical Electrodynamics in Terms of Direct Interparticle Action," Rev. Mod. Phys., 21, 425 (1949).

4 J. Cramer, "Transaction Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics," Rev. Mod. Phys., 58,3, 647-687 (1986).

5J. Aharoni, The Special Theory of Relativity, 2nd Ed., Dover, New York (1985), p. 38.

6 See R. F. Vaughan, Aberrations of Relativity (on sale through lulu publications on The specific articles referenced are: "Are There Inevitable Uncertainties in Our Maps of the Universe," pp. 56-60; "The Certainty Principle," pp. 61-62; "Learning Addition All Over Again," pp. 63-68.


Monday, December 11, 2006

Things Change

Brian Schwartz headshot by Brian Schwartz

Brian Schwartz outside sitting Shortly after my ninth birthday, I transferred from Hunter elementary school to Friends Seminary. A few hours ago, a yellowing paper fell off a shelf in my apartment. On it, in my handwriting, is the draft for a speech written on my last day at Hunter.

"Class 536, Mr Pollock, and student teachers: As you probably know, I am tranferring schools, to a school called Friends, where I shall struggle to uphold the glorious Hunter tradition. I wish to say goodbye to all of you. You may or may not be sad to see me go, but I will be sad to see you cease from being a part of my school life. I hope you will carry on the wonderful Hunter tradition when I am not a part of your daily lives and, when you join the junior high school of your choice, I hope you will make the teachers and children say to each other, 'He is that Hunter child. How Hunter strives to attain a good reputation, and how wonderfully he carries the glorious tradition on.' "

I don't remember writing this speech and I don't know if I actually gave it. I don't know that person at all.

I have trekked in forests at the edge of the known world, with the blood roaring in my ears as my heart pounded in fierce desire to explore the unknown. I have danced and laughed and talked till the dawn, then walked on dewy grass to welcome the sunrise, giddy with the joy of it all. Where is that person now?

At school I had a small circle of friends. The sixties were over but no one had told us. Laughing, exuberant, we all moved to the same music. Where are they now? Married, with children the age we were then. I imagine them sitting on lawn chairs watching their children gush and giggle, shaking their heads with content bemusement. How can anyone have so much energy?

And if we met today? I'd want it to be as it was. I'd want to talk for hours. We'd try, gamely. But we'd have nothing to say to each other. I don't think it's age or aging. I think it's change and changing. And I think it can be observed on a wider scale. History moves in cycles of joy and weariness. Some decades are golden. But nothing gold can stay.

Postscript: Must We Grow Old? Brian Redux

Just after graduation, I had a party for my friends in my dorm room. I bought enormous amounts of pastries at an Italian bakery in east New Haven. The night passed in a giddy blur of cake and reverie. And then it was over. School was over, the harsh world outside the campus beckoned, and the long long summer of love that had started in the late sixties was winding to a close. We went our separate ways.

Twenty years passed. One summer night in the late '90s, I went into a staid, quiet workers' bar in Brooklyn. I expected the usual crowd of morose drinkers hunched around the bar. Instead I walked into a Mardi Gras. People were dancing. There were party hats and streamers. It was LOUD!! It wasn't the usual crowd, either. These people were young and tanned and athletic. They were golden.

You could get beer for three bucks a quart. I don't quite know how it happened, but after a few of those quarts I was up there dancing with them. The magic was back. And it has stayed. They made me young again.

I've lost count of the parties we've been to since that time. My memories of our times together are a kaleidoscope of gaudy, ever-shifting color. I'm seeing them tonight.

I don't know why people grow apart. I don't know why they slow down. I don't know why the party ends. But I have learned it is NOT inevitable.

We used to talk about that sometimes, my law school friends and I. It was as if we knew what lay ahead. Lynne, our shining star back then, said we're like a diamond falling through velvet black space. A spotlight hits us. First one facet blazes, then that turns to dark but another facet shines. Lynne's favorite song was about that. She used to play it all the time and I haven't heard it since:

All the people we used to know
They're an illusion to me now.
Some are mathematicians
Some are carpenter's wives.
Don't know how it all got started,
I don't know what they're doin' with their lives.
But me, I'm still on the road
Headin' for another joint

Note: "Nothing gold can stay" was taken from a poem by Robert Frost.

Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.