A theory of everything (ToE) is a hypothetical theory of theoretical physics that explains how our reality behaves.

The history of this question is traced back scientifically to ancient Greece, but I’ll bet humans have been asking how things work almost as long as we’ve been wondering why they do.

Modern physics explains how reality behaves using “fundamental forces” which are combined in the process of “fundamental interaction”. The “fundamental forces” include the Strong Force, the Weak Force, Electromagnetism and Gravitation.

Those four “fundamental forces” belong to different studies (Quantum electrodynamics, Quantum chromodynamics, Electroweak Theory, and Einstein’s theory General Relativity).

These scientific theories don’t really explain how everything works together, rather how each “force” operates.

And please note my mention of General Relativity as “Einstein’s theory”. That’s because it’s based on Einstein’s hope of black holes that operate exactly according to his theory. If black holes hold any surprises they would probably crush General Relativity. Fortunately for General Relativity fanboys, black holes can’t be described without a theory of quantum gravity and they cannot be observed.

Modern theories of everything seek to unite these separate studies into one single theory. All ToE theories fall into two camps; those that can be validated using physical experiments and those that cannot.

String theory is probably the most popular model today. It cannot be proven or disproven with a physical experiment and it requires 22 new dimensions. I don’t like String theory because I only believe in four physical dimensions; Space (x,y,z) and Time. I think Extra Dimensions are String theory’s Black Holes. Again, they are essential to the theory but can NEVER be observed.

I used the same sort of argument as a child regarding my powers of invisibility. I would claim to be invisible, but only if you weren’t looking at me. …Think about the similarities between that and General Relativity or String theory.

The whole idea of reality being made up of independent forces is very old, Wind used to be considered a force of nature. I think it’s funny that science has shortened their list but kept their old argument, but I digress.

I want to be clear that I’m not claiming String theory or General Relativity is wrong. I’m trying to explain why they don’t conform to deterministic experimentation, experimentation capable of proving or disproving a theory.

In my opinion all science falls into two camps; one that suffers the burden of proof and another that seems to be exempt from it. I have more respect for the former then the later.

Most of Theories of Everything don’t allow deterministic experimentation, experimentation capable of disproving the theory. …Most of them don’t, but Garret Lisi’s new theory does!!!

Garret’s Exceptionally Simple Theory of Everything can be tested using a particle accelerator. His theory explains how everything might work, how all fundamental forces interact. I like his theory, if for no other reason, because it can be easily proven or disproven. I think he’s doing real science the right way.

So, who is the man behind this new theory? Antony Garrett Lisi, a surfer-bum who just happens to have a Ph D in theoretical physics. And he sounds as exceptional as his paper reads. Garret’s theory is based on a mathematical structure known as E8. Garret thinks it can be used to explain the behavior of everything, literally. This structure was only recently plotted/calculated/drawn by the world’s largest super computer. I won’t try to re-write Garret’s paper or better explain his theory, but I do want to show you what E8 looks like…

That picture jogged my memory. A few years ago someone handed me one of those growing/shrinking sphere toys at a party. I don’t remember how much I’d had to drink, but I was totally memorized by the shadow it cast. I’d completely forgotten about that memory, but it came back in a flash when I first saw the E8 pattern.

After some quick Googling I found the picture above on Google. Isn’t it odd how that spherical toy cases an E8-like shadow? Would the correct structure cast an exact E8 pattern?

Garrett’s theory has been receiving an amazing amount of interest. A new article on this subject appears on http://news.google.com every hour. A lot of people (including distinguished scientists) think Garret might be onto something, but many scientists (especially lovers of String theory) disagree.

String theory fanboys and craky physicists have bashed Garret saying he doesn’t understand the math well enough to approach this topic (did they forget that Einstein’s wife helped with his math). Some of these critics don’t think his theory should have even been published. Sometimes these critics include math in their arguments against Garret’s theory.

Personally, I can’t speak to Garret’s math or that of his critics. I’ve been trying to understand the math behind this and I don’t think I ever will. All I can say is that it’s very complicated. This exercise made me wonder, if mathematicians are so smart why can’t they communicate with words? I realize that many brilliant people are only brilliant on certain topics, and total loons on others. …Is it too much to ask for one brilliant critic who’s also a brilliant communicator?

One argument I did understand against Garrett’s theory is that it would send science back to Keplers idea of one tiny universal particle if it were correct. ….But so what if the universe might be made up of one kind of ultimately tiny particles?

In my opinion mentioning Johannes Kepler only gives Garrett more credibility. Especially since Kepler believed geometry was the key to understanding science. In fact, that premise was the key to many of his discoveries.

One of Kepler’s key discoveries was the rotation of Mars. Below is a picture, the line ends where it would continue in reality. Prior to Kepler it had been thought that things moved on a maze of perfect circles.

Kepler proved there was complex geometry behind orbits. We now acknowledge an abundance of geometry in nature, so why it impossible is that everything operates within the bounds of a single geometry? If I understood the paper, Garrett’s theory contends that everything conforms to the geometry in E8. That seems like a good guess to me.

How many Windows Mobile users have been lusting after the iPhone’s finger flicking functionality? I know I have. Finger flickin’ is useful and a fun effect. Last night I decided I would make it mine the hard way (coding).

So I got started around 9pm, this video is what I ended up with around 1am. The video might not do it justice, but it works wonderfully. It’s very responsive and there is no screen-flicker. I was surprised how simple this actually was.

Basically there are only six strings I’m drawing with the text. Those move to give the illusion that the list is scrolling. The painting is done by overriding the OnPaint event. I implemented double-buffering there to prevent any flickers.

If you’re interested in a copy of the source code just fire me an email.

Parsing a PodCast in C#

October 2, 2007

Recently I assimilated the Windows Media Player into one of my projects, today I decided to add PodCast capabilities.

I was surprised how easy this was, I guess I’d expected more of a challenge. I went into this knowing nothing about PodCasts, once I realized it was RSS I knew this would be easy. RSS used to be Rich Site Summary, until people figured out how useful it was and renamed it Really Simple Syndication.

I know this is really simple code, frankly that’s part of why I’m posting it. Simple examples save people time. I tried to find a quick Copy+Paste solution for Podcasts on Google just before I wrote this. After three minutes of searching I quit and spent five writing this.

The example I wrote is a console application (yes, it runs from the DOS prompt) that grabs a Podcast page and loops through all the Podcast listings. I use console apps for examples because there isn’t a lot too them. This helps coders quickly Copy+Paste the code they need from my examples.

So without further adieu, this is how simple it is to do Podcasts in C#…

//This is always included in Console applications.
using
System;

//This contains the XmlDocument, XmlNodeList and Node objects used below.
using
System.Xml;

namespace ExamplePodCastParser
{

class Program
{

static void Main(string[] args)
{

//This loads the Podcast
XmlDocument doc = new XmlDocument();
doc.Load(http://obama.senate.gov/podcast/index.xml”);

//This builds a list of the Item nodes
XmlNodeList items = doc.SelectNodes(“//item”);

//This loops through the list and writes out the title and URL.
for (int i = 0; i < items.Count; i++)
{
Console.WriteLine(items[i].SelectSingleNode(“title”).InnerText);
Console.WriteLine(items[i].SelectSingleNode(“enclosure”).Attributes[“url”].Value);
}

}

}

}

 

Click here to download the Visual Studio project.

I have been accused in the past of being a Halo fanatic. This might have something to do with the thousands of Halo matches I’ve played. However, recent sales numbers seem to indicate these people are simply out of touch. Check this out…

Microsoft says Halo 3 netted $170 million in sales in the U.S. in its first day.
This figure beats all past sales records in the entire entertainment industry.

Sony – Eat your heart out.

Those not familiar with the game might also be interested to know that it’s based on Jihad. Of course they don’t call them Muslim-radicals, but a race of religious zealots spends most of Halo 1 and 2 trying to destroy humanity in order to complete a prophecy.

The little religious zealot aliens even call the human characters infidels. The entire second game was about one zealot who realized his religion was a lie and ends up joining the humans. Funny how the media isn’t really talking about this huh?

My thoughts on Ubuntu

September 26, 2007

Linux is just a kernel (the core of an OS) each “distro” contains a unique set of applications that control the look and feel of linux.

Ubuntu is a Linux “distro” that offers a Vista-like look and feel. Here’s a screenshot of the default install…

Of course there are also Kubuntu, Edubuntu and Xubuntu distros. …These all use the GNOME “Desktop Environment” to display programs, navigate, etc.

Randomly I found this cartoon today. It expresses my feelings on Ubuntu perfectly…

But don’t get me wrong. I don’t hate non-Microsoft operating systems. I just poke fun at them. I think Linux is great for some systems, like servers running as a “black-box” with no monitor or keyboard.

By the way, since we’re on the OS topic again I have to bring up Vista. I love bragging about how well it’s doing, since everyone else keeps lying about it.

You can monitor OS popularity using this NetApps site. I wasn’t surprised to see Vista gained 6.2% since last September while Mac OS gained 0.55% and Mac OS X has only gained 1.98%. So much for that momentum Stevie always talks about.

In all fairness though, I do think Mac OS X is the best Unix distro EVER. It’s a great operating system. I strongly recommend it to people who don’t know how to use a computer and have no interest in learning.

I’ve always said Apple’s OS is great for people who don’t mind drawing inside the lines. *snickers*

Viva La Vista!

I’ve been working on some software for my Treo to replace the Windows Mobile UI for a while now. I think marketing and executives ruined Windows Mobile, and operators like Verizon only multiple the problem with their annoying almost-functional software. The reason I liked the iPod was that it was simple.

Amidst hundreds of flashy, cumbersome and confusing MP3 players the iPod was born. This wonderful Apple device was so easy to use even dogs can use them (though it seems to make them a little fruity)…

Unfortunately Apple has joined the usual suspects and gone flashy with the new iPod Touch and iPhone. I think Apple will refine MultiTouch until the interface is simple and easy to use, but it might take a while. My point is that they didn’t get it on the first try like they did with the iPod, and their new sales figures prove that.

Back to my software, I think your mobile phone should simple know where you are if you have GPS. I don’t want to fiddle with settings and menus. I simply want my phone to know where I am. Is that asking too much? So far I’ve written the interface to the device and the background service. …Next I need to finish my mapping, directions and phonebook services. I’ve only done %5 of the total work, but the rest is http parsing and UI.

Right now most people will have to use an external GPS solution because cell phone carriers are criminals. However, external devices have at least one advantage; they use their own batteries so they won’t be draining your phone.

I chose the GPSlim240 and paid something like $120 for it about a year ago. You can buy one today at MWave for $79. I’ve already got my money out of this gadget, and it lived up to my expectations. That’s rare.

This unit tracks 20 satellites (normal but not great) for up to 8 hours under continuous use (much longer when used sporadically). It connects to your phone using Bluetooth, which is a really special (think small-bus) wireless networking technology. It’s not perfect, but it does exactly what I wanted it to and it’s smaller then I thought it would be. This is what it looks like…

I tethered mine on my keychain because it’s small, and my jeans aren’t going to stop satellite signals. It works well in my pocket and while my key is in the ignition. This is what it looks like while I’m driving…

Here’s a picture of what Microsoft’s cumbersome Live Search Maps program looks like…

I’ll probably blog more about the software I’m working on later. Right now I just wanted to show you the GPSlim240. Hopefully Microsoft will just fix their software before I finish my own, but I’m not holding my breath.

My phone cassette adapter

September 16, 2007

It’s always annoyed me that there isn’t a SIMPLE way to connect audio devices (iPods, CD players, phones, etc.) to cars. It’s fairly common place now in new cars, but not in 1997 when they build my BMW. …So I had to hack a solution.

I sync my favorite playlist to my phone and I wanted to connect that to my car. This is my end result. It cost about $20 to build and it sounds MUCH cleaner than the Bluetooth and FM adapters I’d tried in the past. It also doesn’t skip or pause randomly like Bluetooth, and you don’t have to adjust it all the time like FM adapters.

This is what my cassette adapter looks like…

Below is an up-close shot of the adapter without the phone connected. The Velcro and old Xbox jack hang off a regular cassette adapter I modified to work with my phone. I couldn’t find a cassette adapter that had a 2.5mm jack, CDs, iPods, etc. all use 3.5mm. Cell phone companies use 2.5 (because they’re evil).

Below is the adapter outside of the cassette slot. I realize it’s not that pretty, but it’s always hidden so who cares.

And here’s a video of me explaining what I did and how you can build one. Just post a comment if you have any questions, anybody should be able to do this. Even if they have almost no experience with electronics. The real trick is to go to WalMart and buy a cassette adapter that can be easily taken apart like mine.