©Fernando Caracena 2014
From time to time I get a variety of questions that are a bit off my main topics. I will answer a typical blog entry that has some meaning:
"Howdy! I realize this is sort of off-topic but I needed to ask. Does operating a well-established blog such as yours require a lot of work? I am brand new to running a blog but I do write in my diary on a daily basis. I'd like to start a blog so I can easily share my personal experience and feelings online. Please let me know if you have any kind of recommendations or tips for brand new aspiring blog owners. Appreciate it!"
I began my blog with the vague notion that I had a few things to write about. My first chice was to write about physics. All my life I have had a restless mind. Physics, my main interest, was for me a Godsend because it engaged my mind in my early teens when my thoughts raced through my head at a dazzling speed. Had I not had the tough questions of physics to chew on, my mind may have blown itself apart. I was also interested in other areas of science, philosophy, and of religion where one can get buried deep in thought without being able to resolve anything. So, I just started writing about the the Antikythera mechanism, which was a topic that had caught my interest when I started this blog in April 2012.
The mysterious Antikythera Mechanism showed that the ancients had technological skills and knowledge normally associated with more modern times. Since then I have found out the truth of the Chinese saying, "A thousand mile journey begins with a single step." Once you begin to write, you find more to write about. I began from a technical perspective, in which writing was a necessary task in completing a project, an experiment or a project. I was not used to writing about the kind of thoughts that buzz around in our own heads and hardly ever get out, unless perhaps, when we have overindulged in the spirits. I am also a private person, and prefer one on one conversations. But once I began to write, I did not need alcohol to open locked doors to expressing my thoughts.
The first few blogs that I wrote were deep struggles against what seemed to me to be limitations of WordPress. By the way, I found that the server for my web site already had a resident version of WordPress, so that all I had to do is use it on my own site. I hacked my way through the confusing mess of restrictions of the blogging software to make it do what I wanted it to do, such as to substitute my own photograph for the stock one provided by WordPress. All the while, I had my doubts about whether I really wanted to write a blog or instead, just keeping a more informal web site. The blog won out from pure inertia and laziness. Once I had learned to deal with the quirks of the blogging software, I just settled down to a steady state of writing my thoughts as they came to mind.
The Free-flow of Ideas come with Time
At first, I did not have a free flow of ideas. To establish one, I decided to do what I could do easily. I had taught physics a number of years and had always wanted to write my own book about physics. I say "about physics" because I really did not want to write another text book; but rather, I had the notion that I wanted to write about the deeper levels of intuition that are behind the physics, in retrospect, something like what Einstein expressed to reporters (here quoted from a blog of the Saturday Evening Post)
“I am enough of the artist to draw freely upon my imagination. Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.”
Marco Rubio clarifies the meaning of Einstein's statements (quoted above) in his blog, Einstein’s “Imagination is more important than knowledge", which I just found using the search engine, DuckDuckGo,com.
" The “intuition” that Einstein developed during this time frame is what allowed him to be so confident of the results of Eddington’s expedition. What Einstein calls “intuition” is just knowledge that has become so ingrained that you are no longer cognizant of it."
The above quote, in retrospect is fairly close to what I had in mind in writing a book about physics. I wanted to portray some of the flavour of how physicists use their equations in thinking about physics. I remember that I had encountered the verb, grok, in one of Robert A. Heinlein 's science fiction books; and that word fit pretty much what I had in mind.
After I had been writing for a while, I realized that I was in effect keeping an open notebook, not for doing physics, but for talking about it, and that my ideas connected up with philosophy. Further, I realized that I had enjoyed writing the blog because it helped me greatly in clarifying my own thinking, not just about physics, but about my entire life's experience. In retrospect, I see that I have come a long journey, having everything fall into place as if I had planned ahead. I realized that if there was an original plan there, it was entirely subconscious.
As for the future, what are my plans for the blog? Well that depends on the feedback that I get from my readers, if they could articulate what they really wanted. Otherwise, I will do a stream-of-consciousness type thing, and you will get what I encounter in my mind on the spur of the moment.
To College Students
There are things I do not have to tell you about writing papers for class. Many colleges have stodgy rules about referencing material. My sister, who works for one such institution tells me that a reference to Wikipedia automatically gives the writer zero credit. I do not have a list of acceptable reference sites. But you should keep in mind this stodgy rule when you write a college theme. Having been a college student once and having become familiar with such rules, I violated them in practice but not in reporting results. In the scientific and computer fields many professionals use Wikipedia. I have heard that when it comes to politics, you cannot trust this source. However, in areas that are fact base, which also have a readership that is also technically very competent, no one can get away with being too loose with facts. Somebody will jump in and make the proper connections. So for convenience, I refer to Wikipedia to fill in a lot of technical details in my arguments.
If you are a college student, feel free to use Wikipedia as a tool in you research. In a technical article, such as the one on the Antikythera mechanism, you will find a lot of pictures and references that even the most stodgy academics would accept. But keep in mind that it my not be OK to report your results in a college course by a direct reference to Wikipedia.