Friday, March 23, 2012

Lots of jobs available, but no one with skills to fill them

With over crowded Universities, still only 30% of the total population with any form of a College Degree, and the high pay for tradesmen these days, I am amazed that so few people are going into the trades. To make matters worse, the high school drop out rate is as much as 30% in many areas now (and even much higher in particular areas). It's almost like people either go to college, or they don't bother trying to get a good start on a career at all.

We don't all need college degrees to have a lucrative career. In fact, the wrong college degree can stifle a career. There's a lot of money to be made in the trades. Good examples are Electricians and Plumbers. Plumbers are already making as much money per year near the start of their careers as many people with well positioned degrees from a University. (Some degrees will command nothing more than $30K/year for someone just out of college, which is much less than a Journeyman Plumber who spent the same period in an Apprentice program.)

I got my start in the trades as a Drafter. I was working my first professional job when I was 18 after graduating Trade School (I had been working since I was 13). I didn't get paid a whole lot at the start, but even as a kid, I was aware of the need to have a marketable skill set (though I would've never used those exact words as a teenager).

There is a tremendous and growing skills gap between available jobs and those available to fill them. A recent article by Rick Badie discusses this problem. The article points to a machine shop with positions to fill, a stack of resumes, but no one qualified to take the available positions. This problem is happening all over the country. It's even a little frustrating. There are availble jobs. By some estimates, openings are literally in the millions that aren't getting filled!

mikeroweWorks was started by Mike Rowe, who is also trying to raise awareness of the opportunities in the trades, but also working to improve respect for the job that these tradesmen perform.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Notion: dimensional time eliminates need for branching universes

This post is only going to be a superficial discussion and isn't going to explain anything in any real depth. I'm trying to simplify advanced quantum physics in the best way a "lay" person can.

In 1957, Hugh Everett introduced the idea of branching universes to solve a problem we encountered regarding seemingly random choices that the elements of the universe (waveforms in particular) when observed. Sometimes light appears as a wave, sometimes as a particle, and there is no way to know which a head of time. Everett suggested that the light doesn't make a choice when is it forced into one form or the other. It is always both a wave and a particle. The Universe branches into two each time the light is observed and forced to make a choice. In one Universe, you observe light beam taking on wave behavior. In the other Universe, another-you observes the light take on a particle behavior. Thus, the idea of branching Universes says that a two Universes are created every time a choice like this is made. There's a certain bit of faith required to believe this, but pure math doesn't lie, right?


The challenge
Now, I'm no physicists. I'm not going to challenge the math that goes into this notion. It's been tested many times and found to be sound. However, math is nothing more than a numeric language that we created ourselves to parse out elements of the Universe to understand it in our terms. Keywords being "our terms".

Everett's assertions about branching Universes (or Many-worlds interpretation, as it is formally called) are based on time being both linear and two dimensional at the same time. Each branching Universe is 1 dimensional, created within 2 dimensional time, like branching lines being doodled on a piece of paper. Well, that means it could be said time is 1.5 dimensional. I know many physicists will cringe at my interpretation of branching Universes. However, at least from an intellectual point of view, this seems to me to be a reasonable simplification. My point is the the concept of branching Universes offers an unnecessarily complex and convoluted explanation for something as simple as a beam of light acting one way instead of another.

Spontaneous creation of matter and energy?
Another problem I have with branching Universes is this. Where is all the infinite energy coming from to create all these infinite branches? Infinite energy is the same as infinite mass (E=mc2). If the Universe really started off with all of this infinite energy, it would have immediately collapsed back on itself, never to grow in the first place. Or, if the energy didn't exist at the Big Bang, there's no mechanism now that can continuously double the energy within a Universe to spawn new versions of itself. Thermodynamics has yet to be disproved by quantum physics.

Why is gravity so heavy?
Yet another problem. If gravity exists outside of the Universe, as current understanding quantum physics now suggests, it would be impacted by the creation of new branches of the Universe. As such, even if infinite energy is being created on the fly (as opposed to being there at the start of the Universe), gravity would weaken so rapidly, its decaying influence on this Universe could be readily measured and would likely lead each Universe to fly apart to nothingness shortly after the Big Bang. There wouldn't be enough gravity to form a single dust particle, let alone entire galaxies.

Every point in the Universe knows about every other point, 13 billion light years away?
One more problem? Sure. For entire Universes to be created instantly and constantly by the actions of a single particle or waveform in a highly localized point, every bit of energy, every particle, everything that exists would have to be instantly duplicated. These means that every bit of energy, every particle, everything in existence would have to be in instantaneous communication with every other bit of energy, particle and every object in the Universe, 13 billion light years across! This creates a new problem! If the action of every particle in the Universe has the ability to replicate the entire Universe, the information of the Universe has to be immediately available to all points within the Universe at the same time. But if the Universe is constantly branching, there is no preferred frame of reference from which the Universe can be infinitely replicated! There's no sorting mechanism to give one choice a preference over another when they happen at the same time. This leads to yet another problem.

Branching causes information bottleneck
The very act of infinitely and instantly replicating the Universe would create huge gaps in information on whatever the current state Universe is in. Things happen simultaneously all the time. How are quadrillions of simultaneous actions supposed to be instantly reconciled to instantly form quadrillion x quadrillion Universes? Some suggest that the ends of the Universe (whatever is just beyond 13 billion light years in any direction) may already be out of touch with each other. This would make the Universe impossible to instantly resolve to form all of these simultaneous branches. Even if all information about the Universe is known to all points in the Universe at any given instant, there would be a measurable bottleneck of the branching activity. Time would slow down at an increasingly observable rate.

2D Time makes branching unnecessary anyway
Here's the kicker. If the Universe is 1 dimensionally branching within 2 dimensional time, then time is already considered 2 dimensional. If time is 2 dimensional, then there's no need for the branching to take place. If the Universe is a waveform in 2 dimensional time, the objects within it are smeared across this these two time dimensions. We are simply seeing a 1 dimensional view of our Universe intersecting with 2 dimensional time.

Ball passing through a plane acts the same as our view of time
This is similar to a 3 dimensional ball that passes through 2 dimensional plane. As the ball passes through the plane, an observer on the plane simply sees a line that grows, then shrinks. He doesn't see the ball itself. Depending on where the ball intersects the plane, the observer sees a shorter or longer line (even just a point). Any measurement of the line is just as valid as any other, but only the portion that intersects the plane can be measured at any one time. So, this is also true of the Universe if time is 2 dimensions, and the Universe is a waveform that intersects it at different points.  We simply see different view points of the same event each time we make an observation. There's nothing random about the observations! We just cannot see the whole shape in our limited view!

We aren't creating new branches of the Universe when the Universe "makes a choice". We are simply observing where our Universe is intersected by 2D time!
When we observe something that forces the Universe to "make a choice", it's not random. We are simply observing which portion of our Universe (or the element being observed) is currently intersecting within the 2 dimensional time. This doesn't mean that there aren't parallel Universes that resemble our own. It just means that those Universes have been there since the Big Bang (not branching), using a measurable portion of the Big Bang's energy for their formation, just as our Universe has.

To be clear, I offer the above as a notion to point to other interpretation of Quantum Physics. It's not meant to be the final word on anything, nor does it represent a tightly held belief of my own. I certainly haven't done any math to back any of this up. However, I do believe there are physicists that are already moving along similar paths of reasoning, so I'm trying to get the word out as the concept of branching Universes has been gaining momentum in recent years with very little in the way of observations to back it up.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Where'd that T-Rex come from?

Allie and I posing with a Tyrannosaurus Rex

Here's a funny photo that Allie and I took at a tourist trap somewhere just off the freeway in Arizona or New Mexico while on our cross-country road trip just after Thanksgiving last year.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

My beautiful afternoon and New England quirks

The fact that today's afternoon was beautiful has nothing to do with me. It's mine because I was able to enjoy it. I had dropped Tobzilla off at a pet hotel yesterday for reasons I'm not going into here. On my way to pick him up today, I stopped off at a bagel place for the first bagel I've had in Massachusetts this year. In a rather ironic twist, bagel shops aren't all that common in the MetroWest area. There around, but there's just no prolific quality chains, like Noah's Bagels in the West Coast (to the people that hate Noah's, they are still far better than many places, so I consider them quality by comparison). I'm sure there's a bunch of bagel places closer to the Boston area, but I'm not driving an hour for bagels. Anyway, the place I went to was OK. Service was slow and understaffed for a Saturday. The bagel was fine.

I picked up Tobzilla from the pet hotel and then drove to a farm ice cream "parlor". I'm not sure why it's called a "parlor" since you don't actually get to go inside. I think I mentioned this in a previous post. I had a small ice cream in a waffle cone. You got to watch out at the farm ice cream places. Smalls are typically still quite big. Tobzilla was a bit impatient with me as it took me forever to eat my delicious ice cream cone.

The farm ice cream shops opened earlier in the season this year since Winter weather ended a bit early. One surprize in New England is that the Diary Queens typically close during Winter too. I've never seen Diary Queens do that before. It was quite disappointing in November to be forced to get soft serve at a McDonalds. As an alternative to Diary Queen, I do miss Foster Freeze, which is a smaller California chain of soft serve ice cream parlors (you actually get to go inside at these places). Oh, one more comment about the farm ice cream shop; they do serve soft serve, but I had "hard serve" today.

After coming home, I relaxed on our balcony in the sunny and warm afternoon. Tobzilla doesn't get to go on the balcony often, so he was sniffing around quite a bit, and investigating how far he was above the ground. When I went back inside, he followed quickly.

Both of us then sleep for the rest of the afternoon with the Sun peaking through the blinds of the bedroom. I think I'm well rested now. I might actually not fall asleep during SNL tonight.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Meeting Mike Rowe

The Joke
When travelling across country late last year with my wife, I discovered a section of our hotel store at the Grand Canyon that was dedicated to Dirty Jobs with Mike Rowe. There was a foam board cut out of Mike Rowe’s image. To joke with my wife, who loves Mike Rowe but who never found her way into the store, I took a photo of me with the 2D cut out. The joke turned out to be so little, Allie forget all about the photo within a couple of days.

Irony a few months later
In a bit of irony, I actually did meet Mike Rowe at SolidWorks World 2012 earlier this year. Yes, he graciously took his photo with me. Can you tell which is the real Mike Rowe?



SolidWorks World 2012 is a design conference dedicated to 3D CAD related products and services for engineering and similar fields. The conference happened to fall on Valentine's Day this year. It was in San Diego. This means, I (and many attendees) were away from our spouses on Valentine's Day. I asked Mike Rowe if he would write a Valentine's Day message to my wife (an autograph written to Allie). He signed my conference badge. I'm not going to show it here because its my gift to my wife. It is an autograph that will never be sold, and it's up to Allie to show it off!

I thanked Mike Rowe a bit too much and then told him that my wife and I have been fans since he was on Evening Magazine in the San Francisco Bay Area. He looked at me surprized, if not a tiny bit consternated.

On Stage
On stage at the conference, Mike Rowe talked about the need to bring recognition and honor back to the blue collar trades (plumbers, electricians, etc). He founded mikeroweWORKS for this purpose and to help people connect with each other in the trades.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Alaska Cruise Day 7: Not Alaska (B.C.)

Day 7 of our Alaska cruise was highlighted by a visit to Victoria, British Columbia. Many people don't realize that the name Columbia was used by our North and South American forefathers to name a bit of land that they really didn't have a name for. Columbia is the "poetic" name for the Americas. There's also Washington, District of Columbia (Washington, D.C.) and the actual country of Columbia.

Victoria is a very nice city with many interesting buildings, good food and they freely take U.S. dollars (1:1 with the Canadian dollar these days).





My In-laws liked it a lot. We had a relaxing time, just walking around without too much of a schedule to worry about. We had a great dinner at a local steakhouse. There was this Celtic themed store with some of the highest quality clothes I've seen (and the prices to match). I even have a video around somewhere of Darth Vader playing the violin (street performer).

The vibe in Victoria is definately different than Vancouver, B.C.

One of the reasons we chose to take a cruise with Norwegian is that the cruise starts and finishes in Seattle, WA (within the borders of USA). Many cruises start in Seattle, but then end in Victoria. That means we'd have to take an international flight home; a painful experience which I am always more than happy to avoid.

So, even though Norwegian wasn't everything we expected it to be, it was everything it needed to be. I guess that's not a great endorsement, huh.

Overall, the trip was enjoyable. Some pluses (many of which cost more $$$) and some minuses (many of which were part of the cruise package for no additional $$$). We did our trip to Alaska. We did our first cruise (and prolly last, at least for a long while). We took my In-laws on a big vacation and had a lot of quality time with them. And, I got to see my best friend and his family before and after the cruise.

Please see the full Alaska Cruise article list.