Heat Death of the Universe 1

As of this post, two black holes smashing into each other made breaking news some months ago. It was kind of a big deal, and when astrophysicists get excited about something I try to make it a point to pay attention.

Yet these events sparked something that’s been on my mind. So, let’s get to Heat Death!

To those unfamiliar, “Heat Death” is actually a rather simple scientific concept, and is summed up most *scientifically* in the following Google-found statement:

The heat death of the universe is a historically suggested theory of the ultimate fate of the universe in which the universe has diminished to a state of no thermodynamic free energy and therefore can no longer sustain processes that consume energy (including computation and life).

What this means is that all energy will, eventually, be expended. There’ll be no more energy from the innumerable burning stars out there; they’ll all burn out at some point or another. This is the nature of entropy, and was explored to tremendous effect in Isaac Asimov’s short story, The Last Question.

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Find and read this story.

According to the Second Law of Thermodynamics, heat will equalize in a given system (our 3rd Dimensional Universe). And, since our universe seems to be ever-expanding, the larger it gets, the more literal space energy will be evenly distributed. That means that whatever heat you feel would be spread out across uncountable light-years, which will make the passage of energy impossible. Without movement of energy, we don’t have time, life, thought.

Or heat.

Here’s a great metaphor from Reddit:

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They also call Heat Death the “Big Chill” or the “Big Freeze.” They explore this and explain it in pretty easy-to-grasp terms on the YouTube channel Kurzgesagt.

Yet I derive a strange sort of comfort from the inevitable HDotU. There’s something liberating in an understanding that the choices made by you, everyone you know, and all your descendants until the extinction of our race will likely have no impact on the ultimate fate of the universe, so there can’t be any “wrong choices” (or “right choices,” for that matter). Assuming morality can even be factored into this equation, it sorta suggests that no matter what you do, in the end it really doesn’t matter.

It’s dangerously close to nihilism. But rather, I find that this line of thought is very therapeutic. It really puts our daily stresses into perspective.

I’ve come across this concept, heard it mentioned once or twice in an occasional game of Cards Against Humanity, though at the time I knew nothing about HDotU. Recently, the timing of multiple events seems to have really brought this stuff to the forefront of my consciousness. Here’re the two major reasons why:

As of the time of this writing:
1) I happened to go visit my ‘hometown’ (Woodstock, NY) at the start of February, 2016. It’s typically cold there that time of year. Yet after staying in tropical Viet Nam for nearly two years, the change in climate was disastrous for me; every time I set foot outside I found myself thinking — exaggerated, of course — about walking on the godsdamn moon.

Friends and family assured me that the region had been undergoing a warm winter, but on some days (and often at night) the temperature plummeted to below zero, plus windchill. Farenheit. Oh, that’s all, some of you might say? Well I already had a -25% Cold Resist debuff when I lived in New York as it was. Now I seem to have a -50% debuff going on.

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The moon if it had trees, oxygen and a place called Cooper Lake.

2) I’ve reached a point in my life where having children has been brought up in casual conversation. This is something I’ve been mulling over for some time. And I, with my Big Picture attitude (HDotU, Nihilism/Existentialism…) — coupled with the effective birth control that my screaming nephew and niece have given me — have spent considerable time thinking about the long-term effects of making biological half-copies of myself. I’ll get back to this in a moment.

I imagine the first scenario — cold rural New York in February — is an easily relateable concept, but how does the second one connect to this?

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Rarely do we ponder our own personal strain on the economy and the environment, for our selfish genes and our egos demand that our survival come first. It is the natural way of things.

Put another way, it is a privilege of the people of developed nations to reach the point of awareness where they wonder “How can we do this more efficiently (and with less of an impact on the environment)?” whereas many humans across the globe are foremost concerned with “How can I not die, and ensure that my family won’t die too?”

This can be illustrated well through Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

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By it’s own definition, this is more enlightening than most people will know — if Maslow’s chart itself stands in one of the upper segments.

I don’t mean to put myself on a higher pedestal — I suffer the same selfish desires and impulses as any other living mortal — but when it comes to spawning a brood of my own, my thoughts turn toward the economic, moral, ethical, biological, and philosophical.

  • Economic: Will my child(ren) be “worth” the economic strain it literally costs to raise them? Will their output be greater than what they drain from the economy (or more selfishly, me for that matter)?
    • *Living in an Asian community, I often hear the opinion that a major drive for having children is for the very purpose of taking care of the parents later in life.
  • Moral: Do I deserve to have children of my own when there are innumerable orphans out there in desperate need of families?
  • Ethical: What right do I have to presume my genes are superior to any other and worth spreading? After all, there is something of a history of mental illness in my family (spoilers), so oughtn’t I consider benefiting ‘the herd’ and avoid adding my genes to the pool?
  • Biological: Am I just feeling and/or resisting the urges as per the edict of my genes, as the Dawkins suggests? My genes don’t care about my creative output, or my happiness, or the wellbeing of myself (let alone others). They only care about making more genes.
  • Philosophical: What’s the point of having kids if I’m just producing another vermin to be eradicated when our Robot Overlords rise? Or another fraction of a blink of an existence in terms of geologic time …or cosmic time, for that matter? We crawl inexorably closer to the HDotU, don’t forget.

In other words, what good is there having a child if I know that that child’s life is generally meaningless in the big picture?

nihilism

As I delved deeper into these questions, I found my conclusions growing increasingly nihilistic, so I brought in the big guns. Taking refuge within the rough-sawn domicile of a fellow philosopher, fantasist and creative, I brought my concerns before a friend.

After a conversation that stretched long into the the freezing wintery evening, I believe I have come across a satisfactory answer to my ponderings.

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The domicile in question.

The Three Borders

Similarly in line with my earlier essay about my preference for the number three, I have another philosophical concept I posit before you.

I call it The Three Borders, and in fact these borders are difficult to perceive.

These are not lines between states – well, not political states anyway, but rather states of mind. The world and our perception of it is nothing if not subjective, and I have no doubt that someone else has thought of and written about my idea before more. Often enough, I see reference to at least one of the Borders, but never all three at once.

So let’s dive in.

  • Madness and Brilliance

Simply put, we always ascribe the term ‘mad genius’ to a person or character with an obviously uncommonly high intellect, but equipped with some eccentricities as well. Such individuals can just as easily be of such an elevated level of creativity that they see themselves above the normal conventions of law, morality, and social conduct – making clearly unusual people to observe or to interact with – as they can be completely unaware of such things anyway, so focused are they on whatever endeavor into which they poor themselves.

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The concept that creativity and mental illness are connected is not a new one. Modern science has continually shown that painters, writers, inventors, performers – creatives all – tend to be more prone to developing various psychoses; but there are plenty of people who exhibit a “normal” level of creativity and appear “normal” to their peers.

But I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: it’s the normal ones who scare me.

In any case, I’ve still yet to read any findings in regards to whether one causes the other, or which comes first. But, one could suggest that the divergent thinking of eccentric minds would lead to creative (or at least alternative) solutions to any given problem. A spark of madness, though, might be what it takes to ignite a flame of creativity.

As for me, I’ve yet been unable to really determine the exact border between the two. Perhaps the difference is that, while both do not adhere to convention, the reason behind such lack of adherence is the determining factor. Is convention, normalcy, purposefully shunned or simply unimportant enough to be noticed?

 

  • Cowardice and Intelligence

We see this in fantasy fiction a lot. Any setting where a battle is on the horizon, or a duel about to erupt. Even (especially?) in political intrigue – fantasy or otherwise – we see a veritable rat’s nest of people exhibiting of high amounts of intelligence, cowardice, or both.

It’s almost always in reference to the idea of retreat. Retreating from the face of the enemy on the proverbial battlefield is often enough considered an act of cowardice by the pursuer, or an act of tactical intelligence on part of the one running away.

Run and live to fight another day. This phrase, and similar variants, is oft repeated by the hero – or more often, the hero’s loyal friend, close at hand and restraining said hero – when it would a good time to leave.

13th warrior

Kind of like how in any fight you’ve seen on T.V. where your protagonist, whether evenly matched or in fact smaller than his larger, much more powerfully-built opponent, strikes the adversary in a tender area. When the bad guy delivers a knee to the groin or a hit to the pre-existing gunshot wound, the audience jeers. When the hero produces a knife and slashes the enemy’s leg in a moment of bring held prone, or the time-tested favorite of, yes, punching the big guy in the dick, the audience cheers.

Are so-called ‘cheap shots’ acts of intelligence or cowardice?

I suppose it depends on who you’re routing for. Especially if it’s the good guy, or yourself.

Honor has a problem discerning the two. Or, conversely, discerns the two too hastily. To flee and show your back to the enemy – most dishonorable and cowardly. Unless, of course, your plan is to lead them astray and ambush them later. Then it’s smart. Though, even an honorable opponent would label such ‘dirty tricks’ as cowardly.

I’ll never forget a moment while playing Warcraft 3: Reign of Chaos many years ago with a friend (as an ally, with us playing against computer opponents), and while we were engaging the enemy, I ordered my army in for the attack. When the battle went from unfavorable to grim, my friend pulled his forces out while mine continued fighting. I remember calling him a coward, and his reply was “No, smart.”

To this day I’m certain that had he remained, I wouldn’t have lost my army and we would’ve taken them down.

I’m pretty sure we lost that match because with my forces depleted, the enemy was able to move in and surround his base with an army twice as big. It would have been equal had we stood together.

Was my friend’s flight a tactical retreat? Undoubtedly. But in that circumstance, like many we see in fiction, the real act of cowardice isn’t necessarily about the flight itself, but the intention – and repercussions. It’s leaving others behind for the sake of self-preservation.

This border also takes some thought to really distinguish. What I’ve come to understand, as a general idea in helping tell the difference, is essentially this: if the act is born of selfishness and without regard for (or worse, at the direct expense of) others, then it is cowardly. If the act is born of a cool head and a desire to minimize loss, then it is intelligence.

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  • Stupidity and Bravery

The third and last of the Three Borders is that to be found between these two. It most often comes up when trying to describe a hero, or supposedly heroic act. How do you tell whether a person charging head-long into a dangerous situation is either fearless or an idiot?

One of my earliest memories came about when I was no older than five or six. On a dual-family day-trip to a swampy-lake place we called Wilson State Park, where my father would bring his canoes and kayaks, I was off with a friend some distance away from the group. I remember not how I found it, but I can distinctly remember holding a small snake; having been catching ringnecks, garders and red-bellies since a very young age, this came natural.

But thinking back, it might have been a copperhead, which is notoriously lethal. In any case, I wasn’t bitten, but I remember seeing it threaten to bite me as I held it.

My friend, a girl a few years older than me, remarked that I was very brave. We likely had no idea of the snake’s toxicity if any, but like many people she probably regarded the snake with revulsion. As such, my handling the writhing thing may come off as brave to anyone, except that to me I was just playing with a cool-looking animal I had found.

I have no doubt that I was stupid, not brave. I don’t have a fear of snakes these day, but I do have what I call a very healthy fear of poisonous things.

The difference between being brave and being stupid is that when one is foolish, they simply aren’t aware of the danger.

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A brave person is at least partially aware of the danger, but carries on anyway, and often enough with some regard (if not a complete dedication) toward others.

Which individual comes off as possessing more bravery to you?

The one who says: There’s nothing to worry about;

Or the one who says that they themselves are in fact scared, but do whatever they do  in spite of the danger?

Firefighters make a great example. Most people would not dare run into a burning building. It’s kind of a stupid thing to do. But, of course, firefighters are trained professionals; they are aware of the risks and are prepared in more ways than the average self-described street hero. No one would describe the firefighter profession as stupid.

But it arguably takes a certain degree of ‘lack of thinking’ in order to perform acts of bravery, wouldn’t you say? After all, thinking too much is paralyzing, and that’s certainly something you don’t want. Particularly in a situation where not only yourself, but others, are at risk.

Much like the other Borders, it’s not necessarily the act itself, but the reasoning behind said act that would label it as either that of foolishness or valiance.

~~~

What do you think?

Three

I really like the number three.

Not in that obsessive way, but rather in that geometric and philosophical respect that seems to be overlooked all too often.

Why not the number two, you ask? We are, after all, a dichotomically inclined race of creatures. And we get our natural disposition towards two’s, or halves, or opposites, from a variety of things found in nature.

This post is something of an essay, so here’s some carefully chosen music for you to enjoy.

Dividing something in half is easy for our brains to understand; I remember a High School math teacher of mine (that terrifying old woman with arm hair like a gorilla and a small jar on her desk with a plaque reading “Ashes of the problem students”) once informing us that human brains are incapable of performing equations of more than two sets of numbers at a time.

Which, in fact, happens to be the very definition of an equation.

Our world consists of two very important celestial bodies: the Sun and the Moon. Our very race is composed of two biological genders (I’m not talking about the sexuality spectrum). And we see this translate into a lot of our thinking and impressions on the world — bicycles, binomial nomenclature, a binary computing system that will one day rule every aspect of life as we know it, a bipartisan government (in some places anyway) and of course the Yin Yang.

We have phrases like “On the other hand…”, “Two horns on the same goat,” and “…on the flip-side.” Two comes very naturally to us.

Even in Fast & Furious 7, the character Ramsey, in her monologue about why she trusts ‘the family’ inside a span of approximately seven seconds, explains that:

“Life is binary, zeros and ones. Only two things keep a group like this together, fear or loyalty. And I don’t see a drop of fear among you guys.”

Sounds cool, but I believe anyone who seriously thinks of life as “binary” needs to rethink the meaning of the word analog. I find programmers, and otherwise people I’ve met with a low E.Q., tend to think this way.

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Therefore, as a philosophical argument, I posit that Three is a superior number, and not in that simple additive sort of way.

Rather, I speak more of the triangle, and it’s influences on my own philosophy of life, as well as for writing.

Triangles form the strongest geometrical shapes, and as such are used in a lot of architecture and design. Our visual spectrum is composed of three primary colors (and of course the three secondary colors). In English, we have phrases like “Two’s company, three’s a crowd,” or “Three strikes and you’re out,” and even Stephen King, a man I end up quoting often on this blog, said in his book On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft —

“Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me three times, shame on both of us.”

I didn’t become a big fan of the English Language until later in my life though, nor did I ever really care about baseball, or crowds, or architecture. My influences for the number three came from a few eclectic sources. Most from my youth, but shaped over the course of my life.

The first of which you might recognize if you have any passing familiarity with games.

  • 1/3 The Legend of Zelda series

The Legend of Zelda is easily one of the most iconic Nintendo franchises, though I have admittedly played none of the games after Ocarina of Time. I have, however, been able to follow along many of the games thanks to such notable internet personalities as EgoRaptor (who provides an entertaining and interesting argument between which is the better Zelda game; Ocarina of Time and Link to the Past) and PeanutButterGamer, creator of Zelda Month. Those of us in nonGamer meatspace call it November.

By no means are these people self-described experts at the games. But they do love them and they’re often a joy to watch.

In any case, the notable theme of the Legend of Zelda, first introduced via an unskippable cutscene in Ocarina of Time, describes the creation of Hyrule through the efforts of three goddesses. As such, you see this theme, symbolized in the series throughout as a set of golden triangles, and it is a prominent motif in various structures, symbols, and clothing fashion throughout the mythos.

The three goddesses, their work in creation of the world completed, retired to the Sacred Realm, the Triforce being the mark of their departure. There are a number of recurring themes throughout the series, but I’m only going to linger on the prominence of triangles, and threes.

Perhaps most notable are the symbolic virtues bestowed upon the three primary protagonists of the games – Wisdom, Power and Courage.

The titular Princess Zelda reincarnates with the blessing of Wisdom.

The reincarnating antagonist, Ganondorf, returns with the blessing of Power.

And you, the recurring and reincarnating Hero of Time (canonically named Link, though you can of course name yourself whatever you want at the title screen), are always given the blessing of Courage.

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Trivia: Something a lot of people don’t know is that the Triforce symbol is also the clan insignia of an ancient samurai clan known as the Hojo. Being a game of Japanese make, this should be no big surprise.

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But if the samurai origins is any surprise to you, check out the origin names of companies like Mitsubishi.

Zelda, with her wiseness, is often depicted as a clairvoyant, or at the very least, a seer, and if she isn’t a recurring damsel in distress (a theme that’s been diminishing in Fantasy for a while), she’s a source of guidance and direction to the player.

Ganon, a man always described as evil and ambitious, uses his power to bid for dominance of the world, with varying degrees of success. Like most cookie-cut villains, he hasn’t much to which we can relate, and without much effort he is quickly designated as the source of all problems in the world and must be eliminated.

Link, with his courageousness – cunningly exemplified through a thirst for adventure and curiosity to explore a fantasy realm on part of the Player – is stoically able to delve into dungeons and temples the likes of which most mortals simply have no business visiting.

Zelda, Link and Ganon are characters that always return in nearly every Zelda game incarnation. Just once, I’d like to see them switch it up a little – Ganondorf with wisdom, the Player Character as Zelda with courage, and Link (as an antagonist) corrupt with power.

In any case, everything in these games is centralized around this ‘Theme of Three” (along with a fair share of delightful geometric patterns in the clothing), and I find it satisfying on a number of levels.

For whatever reason, this influenced me at an early age to possess an interest and respect to the triangle.

  • 2/3 The Dark Crystal

The Dark Crystal was another huge influence on my interest in the number three. Anyone who has seen this, especially at a tender, malleable age like I did, can imagine why.

Tell me this isn't mystical as shit.

Tell me this isn’t mystical as shit.

The world of Thra, is a fantasy realm with three suns. As such I hesitate to refer to this place as an actual planet, as opposed to a plane, which certainly doesn’t have to follow the same rules as our world.

Anyway, one doesn’t actually see a prominence of Three, as a recurring theme, throughout that film, and being a stand-alone fantasy, there’s a fair amount of exposition but they don’t really get that deep. It’s pretty clear that the movie’s climax is all about it though – The Great Conjunction, when the triple suns become all conjuncticated.

“When three shines the triple sun…”

I remember reading in a book called Jim Henson: The Works, a sort of “making of” for various Jim Henson productions – including but not limited to the Dark Crystal – they mentioned something about how the presence of three suns would shape every aspect of lifeforms in a world, including their culture and thought.

I wish I could find the original quote. But you get the idea; while we humans on Earth very often and easily think of things in sets of two, imagine an entire realm where thinking in trinary terms comes just as natural?

The events of the story are set forth by the last Great Conjunction (about one thousand years before the movie starts, as the next one is imminent), when a race of all-powerful creatures known as the Urskeks were divided into two separate other races, each race representing one half of their collective personality; the cruel Skeksis, and the gentle mystics. It’s not until the end of the film that (spoiler) the Dark Crystal is healed and the “two halves” are reunited to form the Urskek race once more.

This is arguably a powerful play on the Number Two (two halves of one race, after all, and the creators were no doubt into Taoism), but the triple-sun thing is a recurring event on that world, with every Great Conjunction every nine-hundred-and-ninety-nine, and one years, there is some kind of big event that always happens.

Prophecies and cycles are fun toys to play with in fantasy.

  • 3/3 Something My Teacher Taught Me

I once had a teacher who I have long since forgotten. I believe it might have been Mr. Davis – 6th Grade, Phoenicia Elementary. He was not an English Teacher – in fact his area of expertise was Social Studies, if I recall. But he passed onto me one of the single most long-standing pieces of writing advice that I’ve ever heard in my formative years:

“To make a solid point, cite three reasons for whatever you’re talking about. Two sounds like you don’t know enough. Four is too many. Three is balanced and perfect. Also, never end things with ‘…and stuff.’ What it really means is ‘…and I don’t know what else.'”

For whatever reason I have never forgotten this and have adhered to it whenever possible, subconsciously or otherwise. If you’re the type of reader interested enough to actually look up my previous posts, you’ll see that’s how I often describe things: in sets of three.

In fact an observant reader may in fact notice that *gasp* I’ve listed three primary sources of my interest in Three.

  • So What’s The Point?

Having spent a lot of time thinking about the number three, and the world we think we exist in, my personal philosophy and view of the universe has evolved. Here’s how I like to think of things currently, in the context of three.

People, the world, the universe, concepts and ideas, are not divided into the classic binary categories as we know them. For fundamentally opposite ideas like Good and Evil, Black and White, or Fire and Ice, it’s not really too hard to imagine. We have Neutral, Gray, Warm. Things that are pretty easy to grasp.

But what about more abstract things? Like Life and Death?

What would be the third balance of such a thing? Undeath? Unlife, maybe?

Triforce

Sets of three to all things, a perfect balance, the pillars of geometry and thought. If there appears to be only two of something, only two polar opposites, perhaps it’s merely a matter of thinking outside the box (a dangerous phrase, as it often smacks of pseudoscience) to discover the third perspective. I’m not saying there always is one, but I offer that it is always worth investigating.

But, I also like to think that to all things there is an opposite. Balance comes in many forms.

This I shall extrapolate in another essay to come, which I entitle “The Three Borders.”

Happy Writing.