Posts Tagged conversation

Call for Advice

Tuesday, November 30, 2010
If you could call any living person for advice today, who would you call?

This is an interesting question, because it really comes down to evaluating the people I know (and know of, as in they are famous) by what I feel most unsure about – and whether those people could help on that subject.  I would say the subject about which I am most unsure is how to integrate my ambition and desire to do something that impacts with the world, with my day-to-day happiness in what I do (day-to-day).  Who might be a subject-matter expert on that subject?

My thoughts came to Bill Gates.  I don’t particularly know whether Gates has had success with day-to-day happiness in his life, but I do know he’s been wildly successful both in the arc of his career and in affecting the world with what he has done.  If the question is how to be impactful, I think he’s a great candidate for expert on that.  In addition, Gates has spent a while now being the head of a large charity organization, so in some sense he also is probably acquainted with how to maintain that impact over a long period and make sure it spreads to those who need it.  My thoughts naturally tended toward solving the impact problem because I am pretty happy right now with my day-to-day (at least, in terms of work – as for personal life, I have my friends to call for advice on that, so I don’t really need to call out “any living person”; they do an excellent job of it!)

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Long December (Ahead)

I’ve been pondering a little bit what to do with my blog, and also how to finish off the year.  I have decided the following, including next month’s theme!

  • December will be a Month of Resolutions.  Now, as Mike rightly pointed out earlier this year, I have been pretty bad at sticking to the other 9 non-blog resolutions for the year.  So I don’t intend to make 31 new resolutions… instead, I plan to use the space to think about how I might effect change in my life, and then at the end of the month, I’ll pick a few (3-5) and make those my resolutions for 2011.
  • I’m going to make an effort to post next year whenever I feel I have something relevant to say.  That might end up being more than once a day on occasion, but likely it will end up being a few times a week.  If I end up not having much to say about what’s going on in my head, my goal is to post twice a week anyway (once on Sunday [wrapping up the weekend] and once on Friday [wrapping up the week]).
  • I think I want to make the blog more of a conversation between me and anyone who wants to contribute.  To that end, I want to figure out (over the break) how to simul-post comments between FB and my WP blog comments.  Splitting the conversation means it’s (1) impossible to follow unless you are a friend of mine and (2) very difficult to follow even if you are!

One of my major goals for December is to have a year-plan by the end of it, so that I attack 2011 a bit more organized.

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Essential Qualities

My sister and I were discussing the game Carcassone, and I mentioned that I thought the interesting (kind of unique) quality of that game was its spatialness. By this I mean that the positions of the tiles that generate the board are mechanically relevant (they form regions that score points, for example). I compared it to Jenga, another game where the physical positions are the mechanics.

Debbie did not see it that way. To her, those two games are very different because the introduction of variance occurs in two very different places – Carcassone has it when you draw out pieces, but Jenga always starts the same way and the random elements come from the player vs. player interaction.

The conversation got me thinking about how a game designer can identify the essential quality of a game – especially when a game is many things to many audiences.  When we talk about theme, and how – in the words of Art of Game Design – all things serve theme, it assumes a unary theme, one thing that binds the experience together.  But mechanically, there’s not always one aspect to a game that is most memorable.  Maybe the key lies in streamlining mechanics, or even choosing a mechanical theme that corresponds to overall theme.  Alternately, one game can potentially be very different to a wide range of players (Werewolf/Mafia is one such game, Apples to Apples another).

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The Kerr Metric

In the midst of a fun conversation about cosmological phenomena (and observability, and Objectivism, and the Rapture) with Zac and Erik today at lunch, I remembered some stuff about black holes and particularly rotating black holes doing something funky.  So, when I got back to a computer, I investigated – indeed, there is a phenomenon called frame dragging predicted by general relativity.  It’s kind of like the fact that space can rotate if enough mass is applied, because the massive object bends spacetime.  This has a peculiar effect on bodies in the vicinity of the rotating mass, and it is clearest from the rotating solution for a black hole, called the Kerr Metric after Roy Kerr, who found this particular solution to Einstein’s field equations.

So how do black holes work?  When an object is so massive that the structure of the object can’t resist the force of gravity causing it to implode, and if the mass is large enough, no force is sufficient to prevent its collapse to a singularity – a point in space, that’s like a rip in spacetime.  The region surrounding a singularity is bounded by an event horizon – within this region, light can’t escape the pull of gravity from the singularity.  But when the singularity is rotating (that is, the body that collapsed but had large angular momentum – rotational energy), it generates TWO horizons – the static event horizon, and the ergosphere, an ellipsoid region of frame dragging surrounding the spherical horizon of the singularity.

The ergosphere’s boundary is the point at which space is dragged around at the speed of light.  But in between that and the event horizon, space is being dragged at MORE than the speed of light – so all objects within that volume must co-rotate with the singularity.  They actually gain energy and can emit into the outside universe (since they are outside the event horizon), hence the name: ergo = work.  Incredibly crazy and cool, and only one of the crazy properties of the Kerr Metric solution: it can also allow for time travel (a closed timelike curve).

Anyway, I thought to myself, I should flex some real physics muscles and derive these results myself, but uh, I was unable to.  Just looking at the equations involved and the number of coordinate transforms being invoked makes my head spin.  Super cool though!

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