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Jay Dugger
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Jay Dugger

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In "Account of a conversation between Newton and Conduitt", the aged Newton reveals some of his speculations about the true system of the world to his inlaw https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Conduitt : Principia had laid out celestial motion, but it didn't explain how old the Solar System was or how God kept it stable, how long the Sun would burn until its fire went out, what is the fate of humanity, or the role of comets.

He explains his hints to Conduitt: celestial bodies grow by accretion due to gravity, and as they grow bigger, pass from moons to planets to even larger (!) comets. Comets, in looping past the Sun, slowly become 'cooked'. The Sun would go out due to its constant conflagration, but fortunately, it is constantly renewed and powered by the fresh fuel provided it by comets passing nearby. 'Intelligent beings' (angels?) oversee this whole process of regular fueling of the sun, but unfortunately the https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Comet_of_1680 passed so close to the Sun that it seems likely that it will soon fall directly into the sun, rather than feeding it a small measure of fuel. With an enormous quantity of fuel abruptly dumped into the Sun, it will flare up like a bonfire and quite likely roast the Earth (like a red supergiant might, incidentally), naturally killing everything on it. This possibly happens regularly, since humanity seems to have been created only recently, as evidenced by how recently such major innovations like printing or needles had been made (contradicting any supposition humanity had existed for more than a few thousand years). After this, possibly God would renew creation by repopulating instead the moons of Saturn or Jupiter.

This is a remarkable cosmology and has a lot of sense to it (how does the Sun burn more than a long time without a magical process like fusion or regular resupply?), but is still very alien. Angels in charge of comets! Things really were different then.

It would make for an excellent retro SF or steampunk novel, if nothing else. (Naturally, the heroes would be recruited by the angels to help deal with the crisis of the return of Newton's comet... Perhaps Ted Chiang would like to write a followup to "Exhalation" http://www.lightspeedmagazine.com/fiction/exhalation/ or "Seventy Two Letters" https://web.archive.org/web/20010802144026/http://www.tor.com/72ltrs.html ?)

It's also interesting for why it's wrong: Newton needs comets to be at least planet-sized, because comets are too rare to be plausibly fuel sources for the Sun if they're small (they wouldn't dump enough fuel in to keep combustion going for another few years/decades/centuries until the next big comet), but of course they're very small; if they were planet-sized, you'd think they'd severely disturb planetary orbital calculations, so was the existing astronomical data insufficiently precise to prove the absence of such orbital disturbances or was there some other issue?

The argument for the short duration of the human race is also wrong, since we know anatomically modern humans have been around for at least 50,000 years at this point. What's particularly interesting about his argument is that if he had made it at a randomly chosen point in human history, then he would have correctly concluded the opposite, that the human race was ancient, due to the lack of discernible progress: in fact, he could only have made this argument in a tiny window between the start of the Scientific/Industrial Revolution and the archaeological/geological/evolutionary proof of mankind's antiquity starting around the 1800s, so maybe 400 years or 0.4 millennia; he had to have the bad luck to be born into that exact 0.8% historical window for the argument from progress to be wrong! Kinda remarkable.

(Linked in http://www.thenewatlantis.com/publications/the-unknown-newton-a-symposium )

#newton #astronomy #anthropics #sf  
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Jay Dugger

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Women's suffrage is the right of women to vote and to stand for electoral office. Limited voting rights were gained by women in Sweden, Finland and some western U.S. states in the late 19th century. National and international organizations for

"Women's suffrage" on @Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Women%27s_suffrage?wprov=sfia1
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A workers' council is a form of political and economic organization in which a single place of work or enterprise, such as a factory, school, or farm, is controlled collectively by the workers of that workplace, through the core principle of tempora

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The Sino-Soviet border conflict was a seven-month undeclared military conflict between the Soviet Union and China at the height of the Sino-Soviet split in 1969. The most serious of these border clashes—which brought the two communist-ruled countrie

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Yevgeny Ivanovich Zamyatin was a Russian author of science fiction and political satire. He is most famous for his 1921 novel We, a story set in a dystopian future police state. Despite having been a prominent Old Bolshevik, Zamyatin was deeply d

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And a reminder why I dislike much of the Ursula K. LeGuin's work.


The Hainish Cycle consists of a number of science fiction novels and stories by Ursula K. Le Guin. It is set in an alternate history/future history in which civilizations of human beings on a number of nearby stars, including Terra (Earth), are cont

"Hainish Cycle" on @Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hainish_Cycle?wprov=sfia1
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The Russian Empire was a state that existed from 1721 until overthrown by the short-lived liberal February Revolution in 1917. One of the largest empires in world history, stretching over three continents, the Russian Empire was surpassed in land

"Russian Empire" on @Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russian_Empire?wprov=sfia1
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Batman
- survivor's guilt
- Code Vs. Killing 
- boy wonder
+ twin .45 automatics
+ telepathy
+ informants
= The Shadow

And for those of you who need a little help, see the video clip below.

Still here? He's good enough to show up in Planetary #1, you know.
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The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics abbreviated to USSR or shortened to the Soviet Union, was a Marxist–Leninist state on the Eurasian continent that existed between 1922 and 1991. It was governed as a single-party state by the Commu

"Soviet Union" on @Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soviet_Union?wprov=sfia1
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Project Socrates was a classified U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency program established in 1983 within the Reagan administration. It was founded and directed by physicist Michael C. Sekora to determine why the United States was unable to maintain eco

"Project Socrates" on @Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_Socrates?wprov=sfia1
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"By the Waters of Babylon" is a post-apocalyptic short story by Stephen Vincent Benét first published July 31, 1937, in The Saturday Evening Post as "The Place of the Gods". It was republished in 1943 in The Pocket Book of Science Fiction, and

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An excellent reminder of why I dislike Kurt Vonnegut.

Player Piano, author Kurt Vonnegut's first novel, was published in 1952. It is a dystopia of automation, describing the dereliction it causes in the quality of life. The story takes place in a near-future society that is almost totally mechani

"Player Piano (novel)" on @Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Player_Piano_%28novel%29?wprov=sfia1
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