The Independent Variable - Matt Haugland

Friday, June 23, 2006

Advanced life on Mars

Several days ago I went to the Tech Museum in San Jose and saw an IMAX movie about roving Mars. The Mars rovers found numerous signs that water once existed there. That made me think.

Is it possible that intelligent life developed on Mars, but millions (or even a billion or two) years before it developed on Earth? Think about how far humans have advanced just in the past 100 or 1000 years. Multiply that by 1,000 or 100,000.

Take that a step farther. What if, far beyond what we can perceive as the universe, another planet existed billions or even trillions of years longer than anything in our 'universe'. Multiply the previous thought by a million.

Is it possible that these ultra-advanced beings had the capability to create matter and energy, virtually without limit? Maybe one of them (let's call it/him "Yahweh") created what we know as the universe, including human life in his image. Let's say he decided to give a few hints about this to his creation. How would they describe him? Would it not be similar to the way God is described in the Bible?

How would an atheist deal with this? If they say there is no God, wouldn't they also have to say there couldn't be any life forms in the universe that could've (over millions of years) developed the capability to create and arrange matter and energy? That might be hard to justify considering their belief about how life came into being on Earth.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Reading minds

I wonder how good life would be if people always told each other exactly what they're thinking and how they feel about each other -- especially in dating type situations.

While I think that would be great, why is it so hard (even scary) to do? Is it that I don't tell them because they don't tell me, or do they not tell me because I don't tell them? Revelations from both sides seem to come all at once, but usually require some kind of catalyst.

Maybe it's like an earthquake... the pressure builds up between the plates for a while, then it only takes a little slip somewhere to make both sides shake together.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Inside the Hayward Fault

Yesterday a friend and I went inside the Hayward Fault in Fremont, California. It was part of an exhibit for the anniversary of the 1906 earthquake.

The fault separates land that is moving in opposite directions. Evidence of this movement can be seen nearby. Notice the displaced curb in the picture below. The displacement occurred because the sidewalk slabs have been moving opposite directions for a few years. This movement also causes streets to crack, requiring frequent road work along the fault.

The edges of the fault move (relative to each other) approximately 3 centimeters per year. Near downtown Hayward, where this sidewalk (below) has been in place for many years, even more displacement is visible.

I noticed that many of the houses on the fault were for sale. I think the biggest problem in living on top of a fault is cracking of the foundation (as opposed to stronger shaking during an earthquake, which also could be a big problem). But I think it would be very cool to live there.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

4.7 Earthquake

This morning at 5:24 we had a small (4.7) earthquake. I talked to several people who felt it, but I didn't.

Maybe I'll have better luck tomorrow. A friend and I are planning to go to an exhibit in Fremont where people can walk down inside the Hayward Fault.

I think earthquakes contributed a lot to my interest in science while growing up. They're definitely something I miss about living in CA.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Dr. Fast Food?

One of my dreams since high school was to some day get a Ph.D. and then (for a short time) work at McDonald's or Target or deliver pizzas, or something like that. That dream may soon become reality. Well, it's at least possible now.

I'm in an interesting situation right now. Since May 31, I'm no longer on the NSF Fellowship. I'm planning to start a company but it will take time, probably several months at least. The business will require a lot of initial research and development, which I am doing now. But I don't want to work for a university because they will own partial intellectual property rights to whatever I develop while on their payroll. And I definitely can't work for a meteorology company (for similar reasons). So I pretty much can't work in meteorology this summer.

I'm sure I could do graphic or web design somewhere. But I've already done that. I've never worked in fast food or at a store, and I'll probably never get another opportunity to do so. So it's an option I'm considering. I don't know whether or not I'd tell them I have a Ph.D. What do you think?

I think I'd learn a lot from it and it would be a great experience. But I wouldn't want to take such a job away from somene who needs it more than I do. And I might be unqualified, as I've never had that kind of job before.

Any ideas?

Thursday, June 08, 2006

United Airlines

I've always had problems with Delta, but never with any others. That changed yesterday. I was to fly from OKC to DEN to SFO in time for my brother's 8th grade graduation in SJ at 7:30. My flight from OKC to DEN was delayed, but I still made it to the gate 15 minutes before my flight to SFO was supposd to leave.

You only need to be there 10 minutes early, so I had 5 minutes. Or so I thought. Nobody was at the gate. When I was finally able to flag someone down, I was informed that the flight was overbooked and there were no more seats available, so they couldn't let me on. That's so wrong. Imagine if other kinds of businesses could get away with some of the things airlines do.

Fortunately, I was able to get on the next flight. It arrived a little late, but I was still able to make it to the graduation with 2 minutes to spare. Many congratulations to my brother! I'm very proud of him. Next year he'll be a Leigh Longhorn like I was.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Six six six

Today's date was 6/6/06. I'm sure you've heard a lot about that already. I've noticed a lot of 6s today. I had 6 hits in softball tonight. My jersey is #66. On the way home, I got $6.66 in gas.

But there's a real story behind the number 666. According to the book of Revelation (in the Bible), the number 666 refers to the number of a man's name. In Hebrew, because there are no numerals, every word or name also is a number. It was common to refer to someone's name as a number (i.e., the numerical equivalent of that name). My name in Hebrew, "Mati", is eqivalent to the number 450.

So who's the "beast" (or emporer, as the word "beast" means elsewhere in Revelation) whose name was 666? I believe it clearly is Nero Caesar, the evil emporer who tormented Christians around the time Revelation was written. His name in hebrew is equivalent to the number 666.

But not all copies of the Bible say "666". Some early manuscripts say "616" instead of "666". Why? When Nero's name is spelled in the Latin form, it is equivalent to 616. That can't be a coincidence. Though people today find all kinds of imaginative meanings of 666, it appears the early Christians understood just fine.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Jerry's butler

To me, Seinfeld is more than a TV show. It's a guide to life. I try to live by it whenever possible. Today was a good example.

During Season 4, Jerry and George wrote a pilot for a new TV show based on their lives. In the story, someone gets into a car accident with Jerry, doesn't have insurance, and can't pay to fix the car. So the judge sentenced him to be Jerry's butler.

My situation is kinda similar. I have a good friend who needs web design work but doesn't have a lot of extra money to spend on it. So instead of paying me, he agreed to become my gardener. That's almost as good as a butler.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

The "B" word

"Billions." According to a leader in the meteorology field, it refers to how many dollars my invention could be worth to the U.S. economy.

Someone saying/writing it does not make it true. Still, that word has been ringing in my head lately. Regardless of whether the "B" word is true or not, just knowing there's a possibility that my work could have an impact on the world (or even just on my field)... wow! What an amazing feeling!

Friday, June 02, 2006

New Blog

Now that I've been back in the U.S. for several months, it became time for a new blog name. Thanks to everyone for the suggestions. The new blog is up and running, but there may still be a few bugs to work out. Please let me know if you have any problems, comments, or suggestions for improving it.

The old blog (140 Days in England) will still be available at