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The gods must be crazy (Physics article)
U.S. News and World Report ^ | September 8, 2003 | Charles W. Petit

Posted on 09/12/2003 9:39:02 PM PDT by RightWingAtheist

More than 60 years ago, G. H. Hardy, an English mathematician besotted with abstraction, wrote, " `Imaginary' universes are so much more beautiful than this stupidly constructed `real' one." Were Hardy around today, he'd find plenty of company. From astronomers peering out into space to particle physicists inspecting atomic innards, the more scientists study the universe, the more preposterous, random, and, yes, ugly it becomes.

But hold it. How can the universe be thought ugly? This realm of wheeling galaxies whose stars explode gloriously to seed space with the building blocks of life? A cosmos that bore at least one planet on which mortals find joy in sunsets? Mathematically minded scholars admire such things, too. But for generations they have expected to discover a few simple, elegant rules from which the cosmos's workings spring.

Today, that search is going to extreme lengths, as scientists posit hidden realms, such as extra dimensions or parallel subuniverses, that could help make sense of our apparently random cosmos. They're also planning giant experiments that may turn up hints of these shadow universes. "Some wonderful discoveries are out there, and we are building machines to do this very soon," exults Maria Spiropulu, a young experimental physicist at the University of Chicago's Enrico Fermi Institute.

Cosmology desperately needs such a revelation. Once an academic playground where theorists freely speculated about the nature of the universe, the field now swarms with real data. Astronomers and physicists are busy compiling the universe's stats--its age, composition, and the nature and strength of the forces at work in it. But instead of becoming simpler, as scientists had hoped, this new portrait of the universe is an ever more random-seeming hodgepodge of apparently unconnected constants, particles, forces, and masses.

Fading glow. The last straw for noted physicist John Bahcall of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J., came last March, when NASA trucked out what, by any measure, was a genuine triumph. A satellite called the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe had plotted, in unprecedented detail, tiny temperature variations in the microwave background radiation that fills the sky. This fading glow of the big bang reveals our universe at about 370,000 years (less than a 10,000th of its current age) and holds clues to its exact age and mix of matter and energy (box, below). The agency had invited Bahcall to comment. He dutifully noted his pride. "Every astronomer will remember when they first heard the results from WMAP," he said. Then he confessed. He had hoped against hope that growing evidence of the nature of our universe would turn out to be wrong. "The WMAP results have convinced me," he said. "We have to learn to understand this unattractive universe because we have no other choice."

Bahcall later explained: "It really is strange and--to our perhaps uneducated eyes--arbitrary, ugly, or accidental. To live in a universe where only 4 percent of matter is ordinary matter I find awkward at best, implausible at the least, but there it is." Even worse, he said, was WMAP's confirmation that most of the substance of the universe consists of a mysterious "dark energy" that is pushing all of space apart. "If I didn't have all of these facts in front of me, and you came up with a universe like that, I'd either ask what you've been smoking or tell you to stop telling fairy tales."

WMAP's data on the universe at large only underscore the puzzles physicists find right down to the smallest scales of matter. One is the "hierarchy" problem of the immense disparity in forces. The gravitational pull of an electron on a proton is less than a trillionth of a trillionth of a trillionth of their electromagnetic attraction. Why these forces are so vastly different is, to scientists, just plain weird. Similarly, physicists have long known that there is no such thing as empty space. Even the vacuum boils with particles and antiparticles appearing and disappearing in a subatomic quantum foam. That foam could generate "vacuum energy"--an antigravity effect very much like that dark energy astronomers have now detected. Trouble is, standard physics suggests that the vacuum energy, if it exists at all, should be incredibly larger than what is observed, by a factor of 1 followed by 55 zeroes.

Then there is the "fine-tuning" problem. The universe appears marvelously constructed to produce stars, planets, and life. Scientists have calculated that if the force binding atomic nuclei were just 0.5 percent different, the processes that forge atoms inside stars would have failed to produce either carbon or oxygen--key ingredients for life. If gravity were only slightly stronger or weaker, stars like our sun could not have formed. Yet physicists see no reason why the constants of nature are set just so.

To some, this is all good news. Perhaps, as many religious people say, God exists and wanted it this way--case closed. For many scientists, who try to avoid supernatural explanations, the accumulation of mysteries merely signals that the time is right for a breakthrough.

One of the newest, most daring hypotheses is that the explanation lies somewhere weird, near yet far: in extra dimensions. As in the land of Narnia in writer C. S. Lewis's novel The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, behind obscure passages in this rambling mansion we call a universe may be hidden wings that make the house beautiful. "There may be a whole new universe of large, higher dimensions beyond the ones we can see and every bit as big and rich," says Joseph Lykken of the University of Chicago and the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory.

Earlier this year, at a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Spiropulu organized a session for Lykken and other, mostly young physicists to discuss such extra dimensions and how to find them. Sean Carroll, also of the University of Chicago, is fond of calling the universe preposterous. He explained the appeal of extra dimensions, saying, "One way to tackle a tough problem is to spread it out."

While it may sound like science fiction, extra dimensionality has a solid pedigree in string theory, born in the past 35 years as a way to simplify fundamental particles like quarks and electrons. Traditional physics regards them as points, with a diameter of zero. Zeros wreak havoc in equations, but if fundamental particles are seen instead as tiny vibrating strings and loops, their math quickly settles down. Among string theory's triumphs is that it unites the theory describing gravity, Einstein's general relativity, with the theory governing nature's other forces, quantum mechanics.

Wrinkle in time. Standard string theory requires at least seven extra dimensions, but, unlike the ones we know, they are "compacted," or wrapped into tiny arcs less than a trillionth the size of a proton. In the past few years, however, theorists have concluded that some extra dimensions could be as infinite as our familiar up, forward, and sideways. Another wrinkle in string theory, called M theory, holds that higher dimensions can form membranes--branes for short. Our universe might occupy one brane, while others, perhaps just a short "distance" away, may be home to different physics.

Confused? Don't feel bad. Even experienced physicists have a hard time visualizing such things. With branes, says Harvard University's Lisa Randall, another panelist at the meeting, "the [apparent] weakness of gravity starts to make perfect sense. It's not weak. It only looks that way to us." She and a colleague, Raman Sundrum of Johns Hopkins University, propose that gravity loses its strength as it leaks out of our familiar universe into the "bulk"--that unseen realm of higher dimensions. Other theorists, like Savas Dimopoulos of Stanford University, suggest that gravity originates in a parallel "braneworld" and seems weak to us because only a portion of its strength leaks onto our brane. Dimopoulos also thinks that dark matter, a mystery ingredient of the universe known only from its gravitational pull, is the shadowy echo of a parallel braneworld, or even a sign of folds in our own braneworld that allow gravity to take shortcuts to distant neighborhoods.

M theory has many other variants and oddball jargon, including flat branes, weak branes, colliding branes, skinny branes and, Spiropulu jokes, "my big fat Greek brane." But best of all, large higher dimensions like branes should be much easier to detect than the ultratiny packets of the original string theory. Experimenters see a good chance that a new, more powerful version of Fermilab's Tevatron particle accelerator or the European Large Hadron Collider, due in a few years, may slam protons, electrons, and other particles together so hard that signals of big extra dimensions will finally turn up. Such hints could take the form of so-called supersymmetric particles, predicted by string theory; "gravitons" that carry the force of gravity; or even tiny black holes that would evaporate instantly but leave a telltale signal.

Nobody pretends yet to know the answer. String theorist James Cline of Canada's McGill University sees rapid progress toward a new kind of physics, whatever it is. "There may be large extra dimensions; there may not be," he says. "These are wonderful times. New things are coming out every day. I think the chances that any one of the ideas around today is true are slim. But when we do find the right answer, it will look, and smell, just right."

In other words, it will be beautiful.


TOPICS: Extended News; Miscellaneous; Philosophy; Technical
KEYWORDS: astronomy; cosmology; crevolist; physics; science; stringtheory; theories
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I found the link to this news article on the Fermilab website. Annoyingly, Yahoo has removed about half of its science categories, including particle physics, from its news section.
1 posted on 09/12/2003 9:39:03 PM PDT by RightWingAtheist
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To: RightWingAtheist
Bump for an interesting article.

This explosion of new discoveries brings to mind a great physics professor of mine in school, who got up the last day of class and read from a newspaper clipping. It quoted a leading scientist at a national science gathering, who said that all the major discoveries in science had now been made, and it only remainded to flesh out some of the finer details. My professor then read the date of the article--sometime in the late 1800s (I forget the exact date).

We are on the upper asymtote of a geometrical explosion of knowledge. Each succeeding decade is going to be more remarkable than the last. The wonders my children will see can't even be imagined today.
2 posted on 09/12/2003 10:19:48 PM PDT by B.Bumbleberry
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To: RightWingAtheist
Today, that search is going to extreme lengths, as scientists posit hidden realms, such as extra dimensions or parallel subuniverses, that could help make sense of our apparently random cosmos. They're also planning giant experiments that may turn up hints of these shadow universes.

The Bible also speaks of 3 heavens in an unseen area. Biblical theologins say there may be as many as 7 different demensions- a Holy number in the scriptures.
The Bible says in the end of time as we now it, the "veil" between these universes, i.e., between the seen and unseen demensions, will be lifted.
Quantum physicists throughout the ages have come to a conclusion that something, a word, thought, a push, had to have started everyhing somewhere. Many of the quantum physicists were very spiritual people, but somehow had to be able to mathmatically explain their theories. That's where the separation of spirituality, or what they refered to as mysticism, divided it and the world of physics as we know it today. They couldn't put the mystery of the unseen into a mathmatical, physical formula.
I've reciently been reading a book titled "Quantum Questions" by Ken Wilber. He's compiled the various theories between mystisism and quantum theories by Heisenberg, Schrodinger (who's cat is STILL dead), Einstein, De Brogle, Jeans, Planck, Pauli, and Eddington. So far, I'm just starting the 7th chapter.

3 posted on 09/12/2003 11:04:32 PM PDT by concerned about politics (Lucifers lefties are still stuck at the bottom of Maslow's Hierarchy)
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To: RightWingAtheist
If the universe is "unattractive" and "ugly," then why are these scientists so enamored by it, to the point of making it their life-work?

And I'd posit that the universe is not "hodge-podge" or "random," but more complex than our mortal minds can fathom.

I'd argue that the universe is full of wonder beyond our imagination, a thing worthy of our fascinated investigation. :-)
4 posted on 09/12/2003 11:04:53 PM PDT by Theo
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To: Theo
I'd argue that the universe is full of wonder beyond our imagination, a thing worthy of our fascinated investigation. :-)

Somehow, in my little world of imagination, I expected the planet Mars to appear much larger when it came this close to earth. I was hoping to see a planet, but instead saw a large star. It was interesting, but it popped my bubble. *sigh*

5 posted on 09/12/2003 11:09:38 PM PDT by concerned about politics (Lucifers lefties are still stuck at the bottom of Maslow's Hierarchy)
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To: RightWingAtheist
Bump for a good read.
6 posted on 09/12/2003 11:23:34 PM PDT by lonevoice
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To: RightWingAtheist
Experimenters see a good chance that a new, more powerful version of Fermilab's Tevatron particle accelerator or the European Large Hadron Collider, due in a few years, may slam protons, electrons, and other particles together so hard that signals of big extra dimensions will finally turn up.

Signals from aliens with giant brains (note spelling), poking into our universe and yelling, "Stop that!"

7 posted on 09/12/2003 11:26:35 PM PDT by irv
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bump
8 posted on 09/12/2003 11:31:29 PM PDT by spunkets
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To: RightWingAtheist
Coming soon to a universe near you: Pinky and the Brane!
9 posted on 09/12/2003 11:44:18 PM PDT by sourcery (Who's the actor who plays Gray Davis?)
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To: concerned about politics
The Bible also speaks of 3 heavens in an unseen area. Biblical theologins say there may be as many as 7 different demensions- a Holy number in the scriptures. The Bible says in the end of time as we now it, the "veil" between these universes, i.e., between the seen and unseen demensions, will be lifted.

Well, it may seem like the Bible prophecy, but really, it's a stretch to compare the scientific theory of extra dimensions to the pre-scientific conception of Heaven. If the extra dimensions do turn out to exist, then the Bible writers just made a lucky guess, like Democritus did when he predicted the existence of atoms

Quantum physicists throughout the ages have come to a conclusion that something, a word, thought, a push, had to have started everyhing somewhere.

Er...quantum physics is just 103 years old, and the history of science has been characterized by a move away from teleological explanation and towards a more mechanistic explanation of events.

Many of the quantum physicists were very spiritual people, but somehow had to be able to mathmatically explain their theories.

Of course they had to mathematically explain them; otherwise, they wouldn't be valid scientific theories. :) Seriously, yes many of the quantum theorists have been spiritual people, beginning with Max Plank himself, a devout Lutheran. They have included devout Christians, such as John Polkinghorne and Erwin Schrodinger, Orthodox Jews such as Yuval Ne'eman, and yes, devout Muslims such as Abdus Salaam. But their contributions to quantum theory have been important because they all are or were good scientists, not because they were spritual people. David Bohm has received a lot of press for his fusions of quantum physics and mysticism (and for being a fellow-travelling lefty) but very little of his work had any actual scientific merit.

They couldn't put the mystery of the unseen into a mathmatical, physical formula.

Actually, I'd say they've done a darn good job at doing so.

10 posted on 09/13/2003 12:04:50 AM PDT by RightWingAtheist (Currently doing his Ph.D in Communication Studies)
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To: Theo
If the universe is "unattractive" and "ugly," then why are these scientists so enamored by it, to the point of making it their life-work?

It's their job to find the beauty just underneath. When scientists speak of "beauty" and "elegance" or "ugly" and "unattractive" they're using these terms in a manner different from everyday parlance. A "beautiful" theory is one manages to explain simply and concisely a given phenomena or set of interconnected variables. The new evidence makes the universe seem "ugly" just because much is inconsistent with or difficult to expalin with the "beautiful" theories at our disposable. By explaining the evidence through a new set of theories, scientists hope to "touch up" the universe and make it look pretty again.

And I'd posit that the universe is not "hodge-podge" or "random," but more complex than our mortal minds can fathom.

The universe is complex precisely because it is hodgepodge and random, and our mortal minds seem to have evolved precisely so that we can understand objects of great complexity. I believe Einstein once said something to the effect that the universe is wonderful not because it is beyond our understanding, but by virtue of the fact that we can understand it.

I'd argue that the universe is full of wonder beyond our imagination, a thing worthy of our fascinated investigation.

Amen to that! There's a big difference between being beyond our imagination and being beyond our understanding.

11 posted on 09/13/2003 12:30:22 AM PDT by RightWingAtheist (Hold on...did I actually just say "Amen"?)
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To: Theo
I'd argue that the universe is full of wonder beyond our imagination, a thing worthy of our fascinated investigation. :-)

Aye, "there are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy..."

12 posted on 09/13/2003 12:30:40 AM PDT by Chemist_Geek ("Drill, R&D, and conserve" should be our watchwords! Energy independence for America!)
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To: Doctor Stochastic; Junior; js1138; BMCDA; CobaltBlue; ThinkPlease; PatrickHenry; ...
Ping for the science "branes"!
13 posted on 09/13/2003 1:04:08 AM PDT by Aracelis
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To: VadeRetro; jennyp; Junior; longshadow; *crevo_list; RadioAstronomer; Scully; Piltdown_Woman; ...
PING. [This ping list is for the evolution side of evolution threads, and sometimes for other science topics. FReepmail me to be added or dropped.]
14 posted on 09/13/2003 3:57:38 AM PDT by PatrickHenry
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To: B.Bumbleberry
"Everything that can be invented – has already been invented," and other famous invention-related quotes

This (in)famous quote has long been attributed to the commissioner of the United States Patent Office, a Mr. Charles Duell, back in 1899, and it’s one of my personal favorites. Since the patent office opened in 1790, it has registered more than 6.2 million patents.

When I called the patent office in an attempt to verify the accuracy of this quote, the lady on the other end of Mr. Bell’s invention told me that the commissioner was misquoted when he said that. Whether or not she was being honest is anyone’s guess; you really couldn’t blame her if she was simply towing the company line in order to avoid embarrassment.

Either way, the jury is still out on whether the former patent commissioner is an early inventor of the art of being misquoted.

Surprisingly, though, this wasn’t the first time someone had made such a remark. In 10 A.D., Roman Engineer Julius Sextus Frontinus said, "Inventions have long since reached their limit, and I see no hope for further developments."

This began a long line of infamous invention-related notable quotables, such as:

"That’s an amazing invention, but who would ever want to use one of them?" ... President Rutherford B. Hayes in 1876, after Alexander Graham Bell demonstrated the telephone to him at the White House.

"There is no likelihood man can ever tap the power of the atom," ... Robert Milken, Nobel Prize winner in physics, 1923

"Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible," ... Lord Kelvin, President Royal Society, 1895

"Who the hell wants to watch movies with sound?" Who said this? Believe it or not, it was the president of Warner Brothers Studios, Harry Warner, sometime around 1918.
15 posted on 09/13/2003 4:33:51 AM PDT by Movemout
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To: RightWingAtheist
Good article. It points out something I've been saying all along, that run-of-the-mill scientists refuse to see the true nature, and revert to "dark matter" as nauseum, when all it takes is a simple look at G to see we are talking topology.

But nothing that explains the expansion of the universe tells about life, a different matter entirely, it's easy to understand the pulse of life, but impossible to know it's destiny.
16 posted on 09/13/2003 4:41:43 AM PDT by djf
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To: RightWingAtheist
Such a negative attitude in this article. Ugly? Random? I was waiting for the subject of Einstein's search for the Grand Unification Theory to come up when I read this:

Then there is the "fine-tuning" problem. The universe appears marvelously constructed to produce stars, planets, and life. Scientists have calculated that if the force binding atomic nuclei were just 0.5 percent different, the processes that forge atoms inside stars would have failed to produce either carbon or oxygen--key ingredients for life. If gravity were only slightly stronger or weaker, stars like our sun could not have formed. Yet physicists see no reason why the constants of nature are set just so.

No reason? Denial of deliberate or intelligent design at even this level? What do these physicists want, a Book spelling it all out? (Oh, wait, never mind...)

17 posted on 09/13/2003 4:54:51 AM PDT by ovrtaxt ( http://www.fairtax.org ** God may not be a Republican, but Satan is definitely a Democrat!)
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To: RightWingAtheist
Perhaps, as many religious people say, God exists and wanted it this way--case closed. For many scientists, who try to avoid supernatural explanations, the accumulation of mysteries merely signals that the time is right for a breakthrough.

Ha ha. The false dichotomy. One breakthrough has already happened. It's just that too many have too much vested interests to protect to acknowledge Halton Arp and others' observations of quasars that serves up a dead Big Bang complete with little X's over its eyes. And this matter of vested interest is not a small consideration. In my own field, I know of someone whose very solid work is regularly slammed. Once at a conference some other scientist threw something across the room and stalked out. At another, a guy yelled at him, saying that he was messing with people's lives, with their careers. Ooh, I guess we can't have a better or more complete understanding of nicotinic acid receptors do anything like upset someone else's comfy career based on an incomplete understanding. That just wouldn't be nice.
18 posted on 09/13/2003 4:56:19 AM PDT by aruanan
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To: RightWingAtheist
I'll read this later
19 posted on 09/13/2003 4:57:42 AM PDT by fso301
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To: aruanan
It's just that too many have too much vested interests to protect

Aw, man, your depiction of scientists as self interested, paycheck guarding mercenaries has really blown my perfect, shining, disattached, PBS style image of these people.

You mean to tell me that some scientists actually have AGENDAS they wish to advance? Not just pure observation? Not just emotionless facts, the cold, hard Truth?

He's very disappointed.

20 posted on 09/13/2003 5:18:11 AM PDT by ovrtaxt ( http://www.fairtax.org ** God may not be a Republican, but Satan is definitely a Democrat!)
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To: concerned about politics
"The Bible says in the end of time as we now it, the "veil" between these universes, i.e., between the seen and unseen demensions, will be lifted."

WHERE is the land of Luthany,
Where is the tract of Elenore?
I am bound therefor.

‘Pierce thy heart to find the key;
With thee take
Only what none else would keep;
Learn to dream when thou dost wake,
Learn to wake when thou dost sleep.
Learn to water joy with tears,
Learn from fears to vanquish fears;
To hope, for thou dar’st not despair,
Exult, for that thou dar’st not grieve;
Plough thou the rock until it bear;
Know, for thou else couldst not believe;
Lose, that the lost thou may’st receive;
Die, for none other way canst live.

When earth and heaven lay down their veil,
And that apocalypse turns thee pale;
When thy seeing blindeth thee
To what thy fellow-mortals see;
When their sight to thee is sightless;
Their living, death; their light, most lightless;
Search no more—
Pass the gates of Luthany, tread the region Elenore.’

Where is the land of Luthany,
And where the region Elenore?
I do faint therefor.

‘When to the new eyes of thee
All things by immortal power,
Near or far,
Hiddenly
To each other linkèd are,
That thou canst not stir a flower
Without troubling of a star;

When thy song is shield and mirror
To the fair snake-curlèd Pain,
Where thou dar’st affront her terror
That on her thou may’st attain
Perséan conquest; seek no more,
O seek no more!
Pass the gates of Luthany, tread the region Elenore.’
--"The Mistress of Vision", Francis Thompson

(Emphasis added by Boris)

21 posted on 09/13/2003 5:43:43 AM PDT by boris (The deadliest Weapon of Mass Destruction in History is a Leftist With a Word Processor)
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To: Theo
If the universe is "unattractive" and "ugly," then why are these scientists so enamored by it, to the point of making it their life-work?

They majored in Cosmology and minored in Cosmetology, or vice versa.

22 posted on 09/13/2003 5:54:00 AM PDT by Consort
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To: boris
Poetry and Physics, I was thinking more along these lines...

Oh star! The fairest one in sight,
We grant your loftiness the right
To some obscurity of cloud.
It will not do to say of night
Since dark is what brings out your light.

Some mystery becomes the proud,
But to be wholly taciturn
In your reserve is not allowed.
Say something! And it says: "I burn"
But say with what degree of heat.
Talk Farenheight! Talk Centigrade!
Use language we can comprehend,
Tell us what elements you blend.
It gives us strangely little aid,
But does tell something in the end.

And steadfast as Keats' eremite,
Not even stooping from its sphere,
It asks a little of us here,
It asks of us a certain height.
So when at times the mob is swayed
To carry praise or blame too far,
We may choose something like a star
To stay our minds on, and be staid.

- Robert Frost

23 posted on 09/13/2003 6:06:55 AM PDT by Dutchgirl
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To: RightWingAtheist
Baha'i cosomology says there are "many worlds of God" and here is just one of them.
24 posted on 09/13/2003 6:15:00 AM PDT by Semper Paratus
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To: RightWingAtheist
Good post.

Today, that search is going to extreme lengths, as scientists posit hidden realms, such as extra dimensions or parallel subuniverses, that could help make sense of our apparently random cosmos.

Mr. Bahcall continues...

This fading glow of the big bang reveals our universe at about 370,000 years (less than a 10,000th of its current age) and holds clues to its exact age and mix of matter and energy...

Makes you wonder if there is an Intelligence out there that has bridged the space/time continuum.

5.56mm

25 posted on 09/13/2003 6:40:25 AM PDT by M Kehoe
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To: concerned about politics
Somehow, in my little world of imagination, I expected the planet Mars to appear much larger when it came this close to earth. I was hoping to see a planet, but instead saw a large star.

I searched the skies since 8/27 looking for something resembling a red moon. When we finally saw a bright point in the sky which was Mars, I, too, was disappointed, but when considering its size and distance from Earth, it really is a wonder that it's close enough to be visible with the naked eye.
The universe is still full of mysteries despite our knowledge thus far; especially when we consider that fascinating discoveries about life in the deep sea are still being made right here on our own planet. We are only on the brink of a frontier which will be key in determining our destiny.

26 posted on 09/13/2003 6:57:31 AM PDT by stanz (Those who don't believe in evolution should go jump off the flat edge of the Earth.)
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To: concerned about politics
Schrodinger (who's cat is STILL dead)


What is the story on the cat and why is it still dead? Sounds like a crazy story...amuse me
27 posted on 09/13/2003 7:15:39 AM PDT by Taffini (I like Tony Soprano eventhough he is a fat boy)
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To: Piltdown_Woman
Thank you oh so very much for the heads up! Extra dimensionality is my favorite area of science and I love to stay on top of the news.

For Lurkers: here are two sources for higher dimension, non-compactified, speculations:

Max Tegmark: Parallel Universes

Space-Time-Matter Consortium


28 posted on 09/13/2003 8:00:21 AM PDT by Alamo-Girl
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To: RightWingAtheist
Thanks for the kind and instructive words. That helps me understand better. It seems to me that they could have selected better words than "beauty" or "ugly," but if that's their jargon, I'm not going to change that. :-)

The end of my view that the universe was designed and brought about by a beyond-our-comprehension being leaves me with a sense of gratitude and wonder and respect and awe. It seems to me that the end of your view that the universe came about because of chaos and randomness would leave you maybe *feeling* awed, but *thinking* meaninglesses and futility and nihilism. Very sad....
29 posted on 09/13/2003 8:20:50 AM PDT by Theo
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To: RightWingAtheist
I am not "confused" the answer is quite evident, but men is their "wisdom" refuse to believe it. The answers to the article are found here:

"The heavens are telling of the glory of God; And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.

Day to day pours forth speech, And night to night reveals knowledge.

There is no speech, nor are there words; Their voice is not heard.

Their line has gone out through all the earth, And their utterances to the end of the world. In them He has placed a tent for the sun,

Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber; It rejoices as a strong man to run his course.

Its rising is from one end of the heavens, And its circuit to the other end of them; And there is nothing hidden from its heat." (Psalm 19:1 -1 6)

For He (The Lord Jesus Christ) rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son,

in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

And He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.

For BY HIM ALL THINGS were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and INVISIBLE, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him.

He is before all things, and in Him all things HOLD TOGETHER." (Colossians 1:13 - 17 Emphasis mine)

The Lord Jesus Christ created it all and He is the superglue, the mysterious force that is holding it all together.

That is the answer plain and simple and God even gave it to us!

But men in their pride refues to believe, note the statement in the article:

Then there is the "fine-tuning" problem. The universe appears marvelously constructed to produce stars, planets, and life. Scientists have calculated that if the force binding atomic nuclei were just 0.5 percent different, the processes that forge atoms inside stars would have failed to produce either carbon or oxygen--key ingredients for life. If gravity were only slightly stronger or weaker, stars like our sun could not have formed. Yet physicists see no reason why the constants of nature are set just so.

To some, this is all good news. Perhaps, as many religious people say, God exists and wanted it this way--case closed. For many scientists, who try to avoid supernatural explanations, the accumulation of mysteries merely signals that the time is right for a breakthrough.

How sad, the answer is right in front of their face, but becaue they refuse to add God to their equasion, they are left looking for some unknown, mysterious "breakthrough".

The following scripture is so appropriate to this situation it is enough to bring one to tears.:

19For it is written,

“I WILL DESTROY THE WISDOM OF THE WISE,

AND THE CLEVERNESS OF THE CLEVER I WILL SET ASIDE.”

20Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made FOOLISH the wisdom of the world? 21For since in the wisdom of God the world THROUGH IT’S WISDOM DID NOT COME TO KNOW GOD, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. 22For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for WISDOM; 23but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles FOOLISHNESS, 24but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25Because the foolishness of God is WISER than men, and the weakness of God is STRONGER than men.

26For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; 27but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to SHAME the wise, and God has chosen the WEAK things of the world to shame the things which are strong, 28and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, 29so that no man may boast before God. 30But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, 31so that, just as it is written, “LET HIM WHO BOASTS, BOAST IN THE LORD.” (1Corinthians 1:19 – 31 Emphasis mine)

30 posted on 09/13/2003 8:44:22 AM PDT by Jmouse007
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To: Taffini
"Quantum theory, as first introduced by Plank in 1900, is based on the concept of using the quantum unit to describe the dynamic properties of subatomic particles and interactions of matter and radiation. It is a departure from the classical Newtonian mechanics in which certain physical quantities (velocity, acceleration, position) can only have individual discrete values assigned to them. Quantum mechanics gives a statistical description of the behaviour of physical systems.

Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle discusses the calculation of the uncertainty in the measurements of momentum and position of a particle. A consequence of the principle is that any measurement of a system must disturb the system under investigation, with a resulting lack of precision in the measurement. Erwin Schrodinger proposed an illustration of the problem of viewing these particles in a "thought experiment":


"Suppose we put a cat in a cage with a radioactive atom, a Geiger counter, a hammer, and a poison bottle; further suppose that the atom in the cage has a half-life of one hour, a fifty-fifty chance of decaying within the hour. If the atom decays, the Geiger counter will tick; the triggering of the counter will activate the hammer, which will break the poison bottle, which will kill the cat. If the atom doesn't decay, none of the above things happen, and the cat will be alive. Now the question, What is the state of the cat after the hour?"

Schrodinger's thought experiment asks whether the cat is dead or alive after an hour. The most logical solution would be to wait an hour, open the box, and see if the cat is still alive. However once you open the box to determine the state of the cat you have viewed and hence disturbed the system and introduced a level of uncertainty into the results. The answer, in quantum mechanical terms is that, before you open the box the cat is in a state of being half-dead and half-alive.

This paradox arises because the atom, being microscopic, must be described by quantum mechanics. Therefore after one hour inside the box, before it has been observed, the atom is in a state of superposition of being both undecayed and decayed. Therefore, as the state of the cat in the box is directly related to the state of the atom, the cat must also be in a state of superposition being both dead and alive. This is known as a coherent superposition, many different solutions exist simultaneously. However the superposition breaks down as soon as the cat is observed as dead or alive."

31 posted on 09/13/2003 11:18:04 AM PDT by visualops (Support independant musicians - shop for music without the RIAA label!)
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To: ovrtaxt
Aw, man, your depiction of scientists as self interested, paycheck guarding mercenaries has really blown my perfect, shining, disattached, PBS style image of these people.

Aside from perfect and shining, how disattached do I seem? ;-} As far as intelligence goes, most are in the very top percentiles of society. As far as motives go, they're just like everyone else: there are a few really, really good, a few really, really bad,* and all the rest move back and forth to varying degrees between complete altruism and total selfishness.

*A graduate student in my lab told me that a visiting scientist who has an up-and-coming, really hot lab in California was trying to chat up the student's interest in going to do a post-doc with him after graduating. The student said he was interested until the guy told him that in a few years, "We're gonna f--king dominate." The student is more interested in science as a means of finding out more about the world. The visiting scientist appeared to be more interested in using science as a means of self-promotion and power. From what he told me, this guy is setting himself up to be the withered bitter old fart mentioned in the previous post lamenting about the possibility that truth could undermine his career.
32 posted on 09/13/2003 11:36:00 AM PDT by aruanan
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To: Taffini
What is the story on the cat and why is it still dead? Sounds like a crazy story...amuse me

From Cecil Adam's "The Straight Dope" newspaper column, when asked a rhyming question about Dr. S's cat:

Schroedinger, Erwin! Professor of physics!
Wrote daring equations! Confounded his critics!
(Not bad, eh? Don't worry. This part of the verse
Starts off pretty good, but it gets a lot worse.)
Win saw that the theory that Newton'd invented
By Einstein's discov'ries had been badly dented.
What now? wailed his colleagues. Said Erwin, "Don't panic,
No grease monkey I, but a quantum mechanic.
Consider electrons. Now, these teeny articles
Are sometimes like waves, and then sometimes like particles.
If that's not confusing, the nuclear dance
Of electrons and suchlike is governed by chance!
No sweat, though--my theory permits us to judge
Where some of 'em is and the rest of 'em was."
Not everyone bought this. It threatened to wreck
The comforting linkage of cause and effect.
E'en Einstein had doubts, and so Schroedinger tried
To tell him what quantum mechanics implied.
Said Win to Al, "Brother, suppose we've a cat,
And inside a tube we have put that cat at--
Along with a solitaire deck and some Fritos,
A bottle of Night Train, a couple mosquitoes
(Or something else rhyming) and, oh, if you got 'em,
One vial prussic acid, one decaying ottom
Or atom--whatever--but when it emits,
A trigger device blasts the vial into bits
Which snuffs our poor kitty. The odds of this crime
Are 50 to 50 per hour each time.
The cylinder's sealed. The hour's passed away. Is
Our pussy still purring--or pushing up daisies?
Now, you'd say the cat either lives or it don't
But quantum mechanics is stubborn and won't.
Statistically speaking, the cat (goes the joke),
Is half a cat breathing and half a cat croaked.
To some this may seem a ridiculous split,
But quantum mechanics must answer, "Tough @#&!
We may not know much, but one thing's fo' sho':
There's things in the cosmos that we cannot know.
Shine light on electrons--you'll cause them to swerve.
The act of observing disturbs the observed--
Which ruins your test. But then if there's no testing
To see if a particle's moving or resting
Why try to conjecture? Pure useless endeavor!
We know probability--certainty, never.'
The effect of this notion? I very much fear
'Twill make doubtful all things that were formerly clear.
Till soon the cat doctors will say in reports,
"We've just flipped a coin and we've learned he's a corpse."'
So saith Herr Erwin. Quoth Albert, "You're nuts.
God doesn't play dice with the universe, putz.
I'll prove it!" he said, and the Lord knows he tried--
In vain--until fin'ly he more or less died.
Win spoke at the funeral: "Listen, dear friends,
Sweet Al was my buddy. I must make amends.
Though he doubted my theory, I'll say of this saint:
Ten-to-one he's in heaven--but five bucks says he ain't."

--CECIL ADAMS
There's a lot more to it than implied by the poem, though. It's not just a matter of, "if we can't tell what it's doing when we're not observing it, why speculate" -- countless tests in quantum physics all seem to indicate that quantum events really *are* in a multiple superposition of possible states until we make a test (i.e. "observation") that "forces" the events to "choose" a specific result.

That's not such a big deal at the level of electrons or whatever, but as Schroedinger's proposal about an experiment using a cat demonstrates, we can set things up such that the subatomic weirdness can be caused to have effects in the human-level scale (i.e., whether a cat is alive or dead -- or both?). To further complicate the "huh?" factor, there's the question about whether the cat itself rises to enough of a level of "observer" to "collapse the wave function" before a human even opens the chamber to take a look, but that adds a further paradox -- there's only an observer if the cat isn't *dead*.

33 posted on 09/13/2003 11:46:08 AM PDT by Ichneumon
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To: aruanan
As far as motives go, they're just like everyone else: there are a few really, really good, a few really, really bad,* and all the rest move back and forth to varying degrees between complete altruism and total selfishness.

Your truthfulness is much appreciated. I see way too much self importance out there, whether it's the scientific community, the media, (politicians are the worst), or the hollywood/artsy/style crowd. As someone who's not easily intimidated by the intelligence or the position of others, I usually find it humorous.

Thanks for the injection of perspective. :0)

34 posted on 09/13/2003 12:30:59 PM PDT by ovrtaxt ( http://www.fairtax.org ** God may not be a Republican, but Satan is definitely a Democrat!)
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To: RightWingAtheist
Regarding this article and the comments on Schrodinger's Cat...

I would be much more charitable towards the quantum physicists if they would either

  1. Give an operational definition of "measurement" that is consistent with experimental results and not too absurd, OR
  2. Admit that the current understanding of quantum mechanics has holes that you could drive a train through.
BTW, "decoherence" didn't seem to be getting much traction for the "measurement problem" when I looked a few months back. They STILL don't have a good answer for the Schrodinger's Cat question. When does the probability wave collapse? What particular event (on the particle scale) precipitates the collapse? Why doesn't the entire universe exist in a state of quantum superposition of ever-increasing complexity?
35 posted on 09/13/2003 1:16:57 PM PDT by Kyrie
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To: ovrtaxt
If gravity were only slightly stronger or weaker, stars like our sun could not have formed.

The problem, however, is that while this universe is a nice "control" universe, we don't have any other universes with different fundamental properties in which to test these hypothesis -- se we have no way of knowing if life could arise in a universe with different fundamental properties. Sure, life as we know it might not be possible, but why not life that behaves according to the alternate fundamental properties?
36 posted on 09/13/2003 1:24:54 PM PDT by Dimensio (Sometimes I doubt your committment to Sparkle Motion!)
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To: Theo
If the universe is "unattractive" and "ugly," then why are these scientists so enamored by it, to the point of making it their life-work?

That was a very poor choice of words to express the idea that the mathematics that is currently envoked to characterize the laws governing matter and the interaction of matter in the universe are very complex.

e=mc2 is beautiful. F=ma is beautiful. They are beautiful because they are simple and explain features of nature on very grand scales. The great hope is that the laws governing the universe and the formation of the universe and the smallest particles will ultimately be defined by equations as simple of these. My guess is that this will only happen when we find a perspective (perhaps a multi-dimensional universe) or a new mathematics where the math suddenly simplifies and a great white light shines on us all.

I hope to live long enough to see it.

37 posted on 09/13/2003 1:38:31 PM PDT by InterceptPoint
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To: Kyrie
"Give an operational definition of "measurement" that is consistent with experimental results and not too absurd,"

A measurement is a quantified observation of anything that can be observed.

"They STILL don't have a good answer for the Schrodinger's Cat question. When does the probability wave collapse? What particular event (on the particle scale) precipitates the collapse? Why doesn't the entire universe exist in a state of quantum superposition of ever-increasing complexity?

There are no points and there are no waves. They are mathematical representations of reality, not reality itself. The representations and mathematics describe and predict observations, that's all. They are not reality itself. The only useful understanding from the mathematical statement-superposition of states- is, that the entity is not interacting with anything at the moment. In otherwords, it can't be observed by anything any other entity that could observe it. When considering the word observer in physics, consider that a window and a ball are observers.

38 posted on 09/13/2003 1:40:01 PM PDT by spunkets
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To: RightWingAtheist
"It's their job to find the beauty just underneath. When scientists speak of "beauty" and "elegance" or "ugly" and "unattractive" they're using these terms in a manner different from everyday parlance. A "beautiful" theory is one manages to explain simply and concisely a given phenomena or set of interconnected variables."

Just an example here, the laws of classical physics, ie Newton's laws and the classical law of gravity, just a few simple equations, do a very good job of explaining and predicting the very complex set of motions of the various bodies of the solar system. Of course in practice where there are hundreds (if not thousands or more) bodies in motion all affecting each other, and a certain degree of precision is wanted, the application of those laws and equations can become very complicated indeed, but they all stem from those very simple equations.

As time went on, of course, it became apparent that even with perfect knowledge of the bodies involved and their motions that those theories couldn't explain certain observations. Enter Einstein and his theories to explain those deviances. And again those theories were quite simple. Without them you had unexplained deviances that would require various "fudge factors" and modifications to the previous equations to make them work, but had no elegance or beauty.

It's quite possible modern physics has reached this point and the theories put forward so far may do a better job of explaining and predicting what we observe, but are not getting at the fundamental processes underneath that drive things. The way that Kepeler's theories of eliptical orbits, for example, did a better job of explaining the motions of the solar system's bodies than the previous models, but didn't explain why they should be so, as well as leaving unexplained a variety of deviances.
39 posted on 09/13/2003 2:30:30 PM PDT by -YYZ-
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To: Theo
"Random" is the most complex you can get.
40 posted on 09/13/2003 2:31:31 PM PDT by Doctor Stochastic (Vegetabilisch = chaotisch is der Charakter der Modernen. - Friedrich Schlegel)
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To: visualops
The real question in quantum mechanics, and I believe it remains so, is whether quantum superpostions of objects at the macro level really do exist. We know that quantum effects at the particle scale are real enough, as can be seen in the classic two-slit experiment, but do they scale up to the macro level that we live in, or do they collapse at some particular scale?
41 posted on 09/13/2003 2:34:26 PM PDT by -YYZ-
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To: concerned about politics
"The Bible also speaks of 3 heavens in an unseen area."

Do you happen to know where? I'd love to check that out.
42 posted on 09/13/2003 2:53:46 PM PDT by keats5 (And don't you dare correct my spelling!)
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To: visualops
Well, I didn't understand all that. But I think they should have used a rat instead.
43 posted on 09/13/2003 3:14:46 PM PDT by keats5 (And don't you dare correct my spelling!)
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To: Ichneumon
Thanks for that poem. That's priceless.
44 posted on 09/13/2003 3:19:45 PM PDT by keats5 (And don't you dare correct my spelling!)
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To: RightWingAtheist
anyone have a physics ping list? add me!
45 posted on 09/13/2003 3:20:54 PM PDT by Capitalism2003
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To: -YYZ-
Fate...do we change the path by imagining a choice?

I'm into fractals myself.
# --- L-System Parser/Mutator --- Lj Lapre
18 # recursion level
10 # basic angle
200 # starting thickness
^^^^^C # axiom
#-------------------------------------- Creature
C=LBW
#-------------------------------------- Body
B=[[''aH]|[g]]
a=Fs+;'a # upper part
g=Ft+;'g # lower part
s=[::cc!!!!&&[FFcccZ]^^^^FFcccZ] # upper spikes
t=[c!!!!&[FF]^^FF] # lower spikes
#-------------------------------------- Lungs
L=O # 8 recursions delay
O=P
P=Q
Q=R
R=U
U=X
X=Y
Y=V
V=[cc!!!&&&&&&&&&[Zp]|[Zp]]
p=h>>>>>>>>>>>>h>>>>>>>>>>>>h
h=[++++!F'''p]
#-------------------------------------- Head
H=[cccci[>>>>>dcFFF][<<<< d=Z!&Z!&:'d # left
e=Z!^Z!^:'e # right
i=-:"i
#-------------------------------------- Wing
W=[%[!!cb][<<<!!cb][>>>!!cb]]
b=Fl!+Fl+;'b # arc
l=[-cc{--z++z++z--|--z++z++z}]
#-------------------------------------- End
@


46 posted on 09/13/2003 4:46:22 PM PDT by visualops (Support independant musicians - shop for music without the RIAA label!)
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To: Jmouse007
“I WILL DESTROY THE WISDOM OF THE WISE, AND THE CLEVERNESS OF THE CLEVER I WILL SET ASIDE.”

That's what the underachievers always say to the honor students...

47 posted on 09/13/2003 5:49:40 PM PDT by Ichneumon
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To: RightWingAtheist
I believe Einstein once said something to the effect that the universe is wonderful not because it is beyond our understanding, but by virtue of the fact that we can understand it.

Wow, talk about a wrong turn!

Here's what Einstein really said:

"Physical concepts are free creations of the human mind, and are not, however it may seem, uniquely determined by the external world. In our endeavour to understand reality we are somewhat like a man trying to understand the mechanism of a closed watch. He sees the face and the moving hands, even hears its ticking, but he has no way of opening the case."

Einstein sounds to me like a man who knows his limitations, unlike the arrogant twits referred to in this article.

Here's another Einstein quote:

"Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former."

Cheers.

48 posted on 09/13/2003 5:56:03 PM PDT by Stallone
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To: Gary Boldwater
Pink Matter Alert II
49 posted on 09/13/2003 7:41:56 PM PDT by aruanan
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To: visualops
Interesting, I played around a bit with fractals myself in university. Interesting thing about them is that you'd never really know what beauty hides inside those simple computations without the power of computer visualization.

Is that some kind of computer language? Awfully strange looking one, but not so much stranger than a densely written Perl prog full of regular expressions and pattern matching and special variables. Or LISP - never could quite get the hang of using recursion to do everything.
50 posted on 09/13/2003 7:47:13 PM PDT by -YYZ-
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