A delicious interlude

If you live in Ottawa, and if you love good, fresh, food, have I got a treat for you!

Driving from Bayshore to Bell’s Corners down Richmond road, at the corner of Acres Rd., there is the old Acres House.  It is an NCC (National Capital Commission) owned property, so it is not surprising that it stood abandoned and forlorn for years, but no more.

Acres House has been re-born as ‘Veggie Trails Farms’ has moved in.  But, they are much more than just a fresh produce store – they have started their ‘patio’.

It’s only open from 11-3 on Mondays to Thursdays, it serves a roasted vegetable salad (featuring the veggies they sell) and, to showcase the fruit, the most delicious awesome Pavlova you have ever tasted!

I don’t usually ‘review food’ or ‘places to eat’, but last week, I indulged…and, I’m afraid, will indulge again!

So, if you are in Ottawa and wish to indulge – enjoy!

Thunderf00t: Cesium, the most reactive Alkalai metal

June 22, 2013 – Help Measure the Size of the Earth


CodeSlinger on Combinatorics

A couple of days ago, I mentioned to CodeSlinger that one of my sons was doing research in the branch of Mathematics known as ‘Combinatorics‘.  His response was not only informative, it was just as passionate as my son gets when he talks about the subject. 

So, for your pleasure and elucidation, here is CodeSlinger’s commentary on Combinatorics:

Combinatorics… the art of counting.  Hah.  Sounds trivial.  But it is slowly becoming clear that combinatorics lies at the root of everything.
The fundamental equations of physics are symmetrical in time – if we watch a movie of two particles coming in from infinity, bouncing off each other, and proceeding back towards infinity, we have no way to determine whether or not we are watching it backwards.  Yet a movie in which a vase falls from the table and shatters on the floor is easily distinguishable from the time-reversed version, in which a myriad of shards come flying together, assemble themselves into a vase, and jump up onto the table!
The difference, of course, is that there are many ways for the shards to be distributed about the floor, but only one way for them to be assembled into a vase.  And that difference is the essence of… counting.  This leads us to the second law of thermodynamics: entropy increases with time.  Or, if you prefer, systems evolve towards states of higher probability.  But probability is nothing other than a relative count of possibilities.  Counting again.
Without counting, there is no arrow of time.
But it gets better.  The whole idea of counting presupposes the existence of things to count.  Which requires us to draw distinctions.  And indeed, we find that distinction is the fundamental act by which something comes out of nothing.  Assuming that a distinction can spontaneously arise out of the void, it will do so – because there are more ways for the void to be cloven than for it to be whole.  Counting again.
If we picture a distinction as a boundary in a space – a closed curve in the plane, a closed surface in space, and so on, then we see that the lowest number of dimensions in which a boundary can assume a configuration that cannot shrink to nothing is… three (the simplest such configuration is the trefoil knot).  Thus we see hints of how a universe of 3 spatial dimensions and one time dimension can spontaneously arise out of nothing.  All because of counting.
Similar considerations explain how this universe comes to contain fundamental particles, and why the have the properties they do.  And ultimately, why consciousness is possible.  All of human feeling can be reduced to drawing or perceiving distinctions, and all of human thought can be reduced to classifying and counting them.
Thus we have the age-old question of which is more fundamental: mathematics or logic.  For centuries men have been trying to derive one from the other.  Finally, a little-known genius by the name of George Spencer-Brown settled it by showing that you cannot derive mathematics from logic, and you cannot derive logic from mathematics.  But there is a more fundamental system, which he called the Laws of Form, from which you can derive both.
He begins with one primal element, which can be viewed as an entity (a distinction) or an action (drawing a distinction).  A boundary can be seen as a way of naming the interior (calling), or as an injunction to cross into the interior (crossing).  Having drawn a distinction, we can draw another one, either beside the first (recalling), or around the first (recrossing).  On this base he lays down two laws, as follows
The law of calling: recalling is the same as calling.
The law of crossing: recrossing is the same as not crossing.
If we denote a boundary as (), then recalling is ()() and recrossing is (()), and we can write these two laws very succinctly as
()() = ()
(()) =
where the right hand side of the second equation is literally empty, denoting the void.
And from this basis, utterly brilliant in its irreducible simplicity, he derives all of mathematics and symbolic logic:

Spencer-Brown, G, 1969: Laws of Form, London: George Allen & Unwin.

But this is only the beginning of the story.  Frederick Parker-Rhodes asked what happens when you repeatedly draw a distinction and get a multitude of identical entities.  From this, he developed a calculus of distinct but indistinguishable entities:

Parker-Rhodes, A F, 1981: The Theory of Indistinguishables: A search for explanatory principles below the level of physics, Synthese Library, vol. 150, Springer.

And on that, he constructed what he called the Combinatorial Hierarchy – system whereby the spontaneous emergence of distinctions from the void leads to… the standard model of particle physics.  Astounding!  Even more astounding, he never published this work!  It was finally published for him posthumously by John Amson (see linked pdf):

Parker-Rhodes, A F, & Amson, J C, 1998: Hierarchies of descriptive levels in physical theory.  Int’l J. Gen. Syst. 27(1-3):57-80.

The construction he outlines in this paper was implemented as a computer program by H. Pierre Noyes and David McGoveran (again, see linked pdf):

Noyes, H P, & McGoveran, D O, 1989: An essay on discrete foundations for physics.  SLAC-PUB-4528.

So when I say that combinatorics lies at the root of everything, I really do mean everything!
It is brilliant!

The ‘top 12’ lists

A few days ago, I had asked who are the 12 people (famous enough for the rest of us to have heard of them) whom you’d like to spend a day/have dinner with.  Some very, very intriguing people got nominated in the comments – some of whom did make it to the early versions of my list, but did not make the cut of being in the top 12.

And, I promised I’d post mine (I wrote them down before asking posing this question in the above-mentioned post), along with some others:  well, this is that post!

My list is as follows:

  1. Richard Feynman
  2. Xanthippe
  3. Hypatia
  4. Hatshepsut
  5. Cixi
  6. Archimedes
  7. Giordano Bruno
  8. Ludwig Von Mises
  9. Samo
  10. Mika Waltari
  11. Margaret Thatcher
  12. Mark Twain

My hubby’s list:

  1. Galileo Galilei
  2. Thomas Jefferson
  3. Albert Einstein
  4. Neil Armstrong
  5. Leonardo da Vinci
  6. Pete Townshend
  7. Chris Hadfield
  8. Julius Caesar
  9. Alexander the Great
  10. C. D. Howe
  11. the first human
  12. the last human

My younger son is in his early teens, so, citing the inexperience of his youth, he only picked 6:

  1. Richard Feynman
  2. Notch (Markus Persson)
  3. Albert Einstein
  4. Nicola Tesla
  5. Robin Walker
  6. Gabe Newell

Interestingly, my older son’s list starts with the same man as mine and his brother’s:

  1. Richard Feynman
  2. Euclid
  3. Leonhard Euler
  4. Archimedes
  5. Plato
  6. Isaac Newton
  7. Gottfried Wilhelm Leibnitz  (on the grounds that he’d like to get the two of them in one room, then bring up Calculus…)
  8. Georg Cantor
  9. Edsger W. Djikstra
  10. Douglas Hofstadter
  11. Alan Turing
  12. Alonzo Church

His girlfriend’s list is also very interesting:

  1. Empress Wu
  2. Zhuge Liang
  3. Emperor Qing Shi Huang
  4. an early hominid
  5. Richard Feynman
  6. Beyonce Knowles
  7. a common Japanese soldier who participated in the Nan Jing massacre
  8. Karl Marx
  9. the Buddha
  10. an African pygmy before contact by European explorers
  11. a Mayan ruler
  12. a native of the Easter Islands





Here is the ever-enigmatic CodeSlinger’s list:

Alexander the Great
Genghis Khan
Julius Ceasar
Jesus Christ
The architect of Göbekli Tepe
Thomas Jefferson
Mayer Amschel Rothschild
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Carl Friedrich Gauss
Albert Einstein
Paul Dirac

And, young Juggernaut has a short list:

  1. Jim Morrison
  2. Friedrich Nietzsche

My mom also contributed ‘her 12’:

  1. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
  2. Claude Monet
  3. Edgar Degas
  4. Napoleon
  5. Jesus Christ
  6. Mary, mother of Jesus
  7. Obama
  8. George W. Bush
  9. Jack Kennedy
  10. Marilyn Monroe
  11. Jan Evangelista Purkyne
  12. Ray Charles

My dad, however, gave perhaps the most Aspie answer possible:

Totally alone!

Though, he did say he’d like to bring this book.

Now, I’m going to have fun looking up and learning about all these people!

Posted in human nature. Tags: , . 3 Comments »

A little light-hearted fun

The days are growing long, the weather is getting warm – it puts one into a whimsical mood.

So, what if you could spend a day with 12 people – famous people living or not.

As for ‘famous’ – it could be anyone you can name or describe (example:  the first person to invent the wheel) them.

Send your top 12 in in the comments and in a few days, I’ll make a post of the lists.


Posted in about. Tags: . 7 Comments »

How to Make Friends with Wild Ravens


CSIS makes a smart move

Like thousands of other Ottawans, I went to ComicCon this past weekend.  And while I only lasted a few hours, it was immensely fun!

My favourite part (predictably) was to sit back and watch the people walking by…some of the costumes were awesome!

And it seemed like everybody there seemed very, very happy:  despite the crowds and line-ups to go see people and events, I don’t think I saw a single grumpy person there.

One thing I noticed, though, was very interesting:  among the booths of artists of all stripes and metal-smiths and guilds and steam-punk accessory stands and t-shirt vendors and and and…there was a CSIS (Canadian Security Intelligence Agency) booth!

Of course, I had to know what they were doing there:  recruiting!!!

They were looking for computer-skilled people – and ‘reading between the lines’, it became clear that they were looking to recruit people with some hacking skills.

Smart place to look!



Posted in society. Tags: . 1 Comment »

Now this guy is serious about dominoes!

Something a little light-hearted:

Posted in Humour. Tags: . Leave a Comment »

Quantum Mechanics 5 – Schrödinger Equation