Saturday, December 3, 2011

Question: What is your favorite word?

Since it is cold and a bit dreary today, I thought it would be fun to harken back to those early days of Yester-Commentarama when words were cheap and plentiful. So much has changed since then, but maybe your taste in verbiage has not. Here's a simple question to occupy your late afternoon that shouldn't be too taxing. So relax, clear your mind and...

Question: What is your favorite word or phrase?*

*Choose your word or phrase carefully because there just may be a "Part II" to this question for a later date.


AndrewPrice said...

Intriguing puzzle Bev. I can't wait to see what part 2 brings. And it's a tough question as there are so may good words to choose from. And of course there are different reasons to like different words. I think I'll go for the word "complicated," though I can't really say why.

LawHawkRFD said...

Over the years, I've had many. Right now, during the Obama doldrums, I think my favorite word would have to be "resign."

Tennessee Jed said...


close second - propinquity

I like the way they sound

darski said...


I once read a book (called Verbiage) that considered many words that really demonstrated the breadth and depth of the English Language. I loved the fact that we had a word for something before that something even began.

ScyFyterry said...


Now that's a cool word and a heck of a score at Scrabble. But it makes me wonder what an onomatopoeia sounds like?

BevfromNYC said...

Andrew - Why can't you say why, is it it too...complicated? Ooh, I see what you mean!

BevfromNYC said...

LawHawk - Great word..."resign". I prefer "former"!

ambisinistral said...


Upon first hearing it you don't need to look it up in a dictionary to know what it means.

BevfromNYC said...

Scyfyterry - I believe Ambi's word is exactly what your word sounds like!

patti said...

mine are mostly curse words, so i'll refrain from sharing. eep.

USArtguy said...

This time of year I'd have to go with "clearance".

Individualist said...

Bev the phrase for me is...

"I refuse to beleive that God plays dice with the Universe"

Eistein said this to Oppenheimer regarding quantum theory. He dislioled the chaotic nature the Universe would have to follow if it were correct and although he could not dispute the theory because it works and is proven again and again he thought there would be a new revelation that showed it wrong.

Einstein was a Predeterminist and felt that God had already decided the fat3e of the Universe.

AndrewPrice said...

USArtguy, Is more of a warning to me "low clearance."

And Bev, yeah, it's hard to explain. ;)

tryanmax said...

Buckley was a wordsmith of the first order, so naturally my favorite phrase comes from him:

"I won't insult your intelligence by suggesting that you really believe what you just said."

tryanmax said...

I think Einstein and Oppenheimer were both right. Whether or not one believes in a Creator, the fate of the universe is already decided. We just haven't worked out the physics to say what that is, exactly. But in the meantime, those same physics allow for an infinite number of possible occurrences to take place.

Think of the universe as a bird that has taken flight. It is a foregone conclusion that the bird must eventually land. But, while the bird is aloft the fact that he must eventually land has no bearing on the his flight.

Of course, if the bird is wise to the things a bird must be wise in, the eventuality will affect his flight in the decisions the bird makes. But this becomes a function of the bird's free agency. A foolish bird might very well exhaust himself and doom himself to a rather uncomfortable landing.

Returning to the metaphysical debate, those who believe in a Creator tend also to believe that the eventual end is spelled out to us by that Creator so that we, like the wise bird, can prepare for a safe landing.

tryanmax said...

BTW, does anybody know another word for synonym?

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, There is a flaw in that theory though and it's one that science is starting to suspect is true -- the fate of the universe may not be decided because the universe appears to keep growing when it should be slowing down so it will contract. If that's true, then the universe has no end, which means it truly is infinite in all ways including time.

AndrewPrice said...

Another word for synonym? Hm. I would have suggest analogy, but analogy is not the same thing as the same thing.

T-Rav said...

Hmmm. That's a tough one. I'm going to go with "immanentize the eschaton." Before you ask, you have to do a little research on your own to figure it out.

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, Isn't that Pig-Latin for "extra cheese"? Yum... pizza.

T-Rav said...

Ooh, an astrophysics topic! I love astrophysics stuff (sort of).

The universe acceleration thing is a fascinating study. No one even suspected the rate of expansion was increasing until ten or fifteen years ago. It goes to show how little we understand about the cosmos, as it's being driven by forces we don't understand. Even this new theory shouldn't be taken as the gospel truth; scientists still aren't entirely sure about it, or about the implications. But it's interesting stuff, certainly.

Individualist said...


Whether Einstein is right has yet to be proven however there are expirments that show that the effect of quantum mechanics may be that their is a partical that is a pilot to the wave.

Einsteins problem was with the randomness of Quantum Mechanics itself. By the By Eistein is not the only physicist with this problem. Qunatum Mechanics is so weird and chaotic that many are convinced we will discover a theory that replaces and explains it. For Now thought the standard model of quantum mechanics is a theory that has held up to observation better than any. We must remember that a theory is not how the unverse work but rather our best model to explain how the universe works. There is a subtle but importnant difference.

Specifically the problem was with HAlf Lifes. When we say that an atomic isotope decays at a specific rate or has a half life of say 1000 years we mean that in 1000 years roughly half the particles in a substance will decay.

However this is a representative of the probability that the decay would occur. If we looked at any spciecific atom it mioght decay in 1000 years, it might decay in the next instance or it might never decay. We only know that gather enough of the same atoms together then on average they will randomly decay at a specific rate.

This drove Einstein crazy because if flew in the face of the order to the Universe that he was sure was there. Thus his quote to Oppenheiner telling him look I know I can't argue with what we are observing but I am telling you one day we are going to figure out that it just does not work that way.

We shall see.....

BevfromNYC said...

Tryanmax - There is no synonym of "synonym", but it is the antonym of "antonym".

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, Astrophysics is cool. I love all of it -- string theory, multiverses, missing matter, and is there gravity.

The whole CERN thing was really cool because if they're right, they've just proven that gravity is leaking out of the universe into another universe. Plus, then there's the whole faster than light thing. I love reading/watching about this stuff!

AndrewPrice said...

Bev, The antonym of antonym is "groupthink" -- a state where everything is the same once it's told to be the same.

tryanmax said...

Andrew, no flaw at all. Being well aware of that new information, I did not allude to what the eventual end of the universe might be. But if the physics show that the universe continues to expand, then the outcome of that fact is merely eventual.

If anything, continuous expansion spells a more certain end to the universe. If the universe were collapsing, we would be led to theorize that the outcome would be a repeat of the Big Bang and another round of existence, maybe repeating infinitely. On the other hand, endless expansion would seems to suggest an eventuality of cold equilibrium.

There is, however, one other possible explanation for the accelerating expansion of the universe: It is still exploding.

And a still greater question remains: What is the universe expanding into?

AndrewPrice said...

Ok, that is where I start having problems with the concept. In math, you can have a zero. But in real life you really can't. Zero is really the current absence of an existing thing - it is not ZERO, it is NOT-ONE. Thus, when we say the universe is expanding out into nothing, that makes no sense because that would imply that 0 is becoming 1, even though in real life there can be no true 0... there can only be NOT-ONE is becoming 1. But that just pushes the problem to the other side of the NOT-ONE.

Thus, I think the whole concept of the universe is flawed.

Indeed, thinking about it, there can be no universe because there is nowhere to put it because wherever you put it would also be universe.

But that would mean none of this exists, which isn't possible because the very fact I can ask this question means that SOMETHING exists. IF something exists, then there is a universe to put it in.

So frankly, I'm stuck. We have an impossibility -- we have a something sitting in a nothing when even the nothing is something. And we have a something created out of a nothing which isn't possible either.

WTF!!! Blech.

What all of this tells me is that there is a flaw in our logic. If something that cannot be true is true, then it is not the thing that is wrong, it is the theory that says the thing cannot exist that is wrong.

And if something this basic is beyond our understanding, then I suspect any true understanding of the universe is beyond our reach until we can solve this problem in the way we think.


tryanmax said...

T-Rav, I don't think that was a Buckley original, but he was certainly fond of it.

BevfromNYC said...

Perhaps our universe is the same as an atom. Maybe our universe is just part of cluster of atoms on a grain of sand in another world. Kind of like in "Horton Hears A Who". I am not kidding by the way. That theory intrigues me.

AndrewPrice said...

Bev, The Horton Theory is an interesting one, but it doesn't really solve the underlying problem of what ultimately exists outside "the universe" (meaning our universe and whatever universe we are in.

On the cartoon Futurama they actually had a pretty great explanation for this. Two scientists in two universes simultaneously created the other universes and had them in boxes. Thus, each universe was inside a box in the other universe. Oddly, that makes sense because it means there is no border to either universe.

tryanmax said...

I personally believe the problem lies in trying to define both time and space in physical terms, since neither is a physical reality. Space only exists in the relationship between objects and time only a measure of change in those relationships.

I'd love to get into it more, but I'm missing Star Trek.

T-Rav said...

tryanmax, way to go, figuring out Buckley used it! I'm impressed.

You're right, it's not something of his originally, it was coined by the German political philosopher Eric Voegelin (who wound up teaching at LSU and then Stanford after being chased out of Austria by the Nazis, and then out of the East Coast by the Communists). He wrote a lot on the origins of totalitarianism, arguing that all forms of it were a political religion; it sought to realize on earth (or make immanent) the perfection of the spiritual realm (or eschaton). Thus, to "immanentize the eschaton" means the attempt at creating Utopia, which of course always works out so well.

Buckley was a big fan of this expression; or, as he put it when flinging the accusation at liberals, "YOU immanentize the goddam eschaton!" (I'm just quoting his profanity, so it's okay.)

T-Rav said...

Andrew, I know about the "faster than light" thing, but you're going to have to explain the CERN story. (I don't believe it, anyway; at least, not yet. With the timing and distances the scientists doing that experiment are working with, it seems more likely someone made an error somewhere.)

Regarding the nature of the universe--to just casually stroll from another topic into this one--I have frequently heard scientists try to explain this "What's outside the universe?" question by saying that we really shouldn't think of the Big Bang as an explosion but rather as a rapid expansion. So it's not a matter of bursting into or through something, it's everything filling a larger and larger space.

As to why this expansion is speeding up, the working hypothesis recently was that this is the result of "dark energy," which we don't really understand but seems to be a kind of vacuum-pressure force that only operates on an extremely large scale. So the bigger the universe gets, the stronger this force becomes. And it doesn't end in the cold nothingness tryanmax suggested: eventually, the tug on matter and energy this force exerts will become so strong that it will tear everything apart, from the galaxies down to the subatomic level. But that's about 50 billion years from now, if I recall, so it's nothing to get alarmed about.

T-Rav said...

Also, since this too came up, one interesting theory advanced for how the universe came to be--that is, what happened before the Big Bang--was that it was born out of another universe that collapsed in on itself and formed a singularity, like what happens in the formation of a black hole. That singularity--infinitely small, infinitely hot, infinitely dense--somehow burst into our Big Bang.

My only problem with this explanation is that it requires throwing out almost every rule about how our universe operates. But then so does the Big Bang itself, when you think about it, so I don't know.

(Just imagine: somewhere in New York, Bev is wondering how her topic question spun into this.)

BevfromNYC said...

T-Rav - have you sent your kitty-faced spy brain wave catchers to read my mind? Gee all I wanted was a nice list of words and it's now spun off into the ends of the universe...literally. Much more interesting that I could have imagined!

Hey, you kitty-faced spy brain wave catchers get out of here, NOW! Stop de-immanentize MY eschaton!

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, I'd heard the same thing you did -- that the universe would eventually pull apart even at the particle level and would just basically fade into nothing. Sad, isn't it?

CERN is the particle physics lab in Europe that got the tin-foil hat brigade so upset. They are slamming particles together at such speed that mini-black holes are being formed -- this got the kooks thinking they would end up destroying the planet with the first black hole they created. Didn't happen.

What they did were doing was this: according to theory, there should be a certain amount of matter and energy in the universe. Part of this energy comes from gravity. But there isn't enough gravity for what the theories predict. That got people wondering why it's not there and the thinking became that it might be bleeding out into another universe. To prove it, they planned to slam two particles together to cause them to explode. Then they would monitor the amount of energy released. If there wasn't enough energy, then that might be proof that the gravity energy from the explosion left our universe. Interesting idea.

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, The problem with the Big Bang theory is that they can only make sense of it starting right after it happened. They can't reach the Big Bang itself or what happened before. So in many ways it's like saying "I don't know how this boiler got here, but here's how it's worked since it's been here." And that means that while the Big Bang is suggested as the start of our universe, they really aren't saying that.

The newest thinking actually goes in other directions -- string theories, bubble universes, etc. The thinking now seems to be that we are just one of many universes and many dimensions and no one really knows what's beyond our own universe/dimension.

It's a fascinating time to pay attention to this stuff because they are thinking much more broadly than even a decade ago. I would expect a lot more cool stuff to come out within the next couple decades.

As for Bev, you're assuming she's in New York, but does New York even exist? ;)

tryanmax said...

Star Trek ended. "Dagger of the Mind" Great episode. I am now in love with Dr. Helen Noel and have been for years.

* * *

Andrew, While I agree that it is cool that scientists are thinking more broadly about things, I can't help but wonder how much of it is just wishful thinking. This sort of harkens to our other conversation about fact vs. consensus. It occurs to me that because science fiction has preceded science fact a number of times, some areas of science have taken to merely attempting to reconcile reality with fiction.

In a way, this isn't to far afield of how the sciences began: as an attempt to reconcile the Bible with nature. The only problem with that is that modern scientists would not likely take too kindly to the suggestion.

BevfromNYC said...

"As for Bev, you're assuming she's in New York, but does New York even exist? ;)"

If we don't exist, does that mean I don't have to pay my bills this month?

tryanmax said...

T-Rav, I'm a language nut, and Buckley is like crack to me.

AndrewPrice said...

Bev, Exactly! Just write on the bill "prove that New York exists" and send that sucker back! :)

tryanmax said...

For some reason, I think that might work in New York.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, "Dagger of the Mind" -- awesome episode... one of my favorites actually. Speaking of which, I'm planning to introduce a Star Trek day each week at the film site starting next year.

On science, I'm assuming most of it will turn out to be garbage. But I think it's good that we've broken out of the very stale world of the last 40-50 years. For example, I recall scientists in the 1980s scoffing at the idea that there were other planets. They honestly said it was an impossibility and anyone who said otherwise was a crackpot. But to me, it was obvious there had to be other worlds -- just like it's obvious to me there's life out there. The universe just doesn't do something only once. In fact, I expect the universe is teeming with life.

To me, it felt like too much of science was wrongly considered "settled" a couple decades ago and people are now proving that wrong.

So while we may be headed down a lot of wrong roads, I'd rather be doing that than sitting in the car at a stop light saying "close enough" as we were.

T-Rav said...

Bev, I would never de-immanentize your eschaton. I consider you a friend (sort of). By the way, if you do use that as your excuse--New York and taxes don't really exist--you'd better be prepared to claim those black helicopters don't exist, either.

AndrewPrice said...

Don't worry Bev. They might decide you are crazy, but crazy people don't have to pay taxes! Plus, then you get to yell ay statues in parks and no one tries to stop you! :)

DCAlleyKat said...

Favorite word....eternity.

Phrase - "If you truly knew half of what you think you know you'd never know it." but then I'm also fond of "These are not the droids you're looking for."

T-Rav said...

Ah, I do remember about CERN and the controversy, now that you mention it. (Although, I wouldn't call myself a tinfoil wearer, but trying to create mini-black holes on planet Earth seems like a bad idea to me. Just saying.) I hadn't heard about the gravity energy experiments, though. Interesting.

On the Big Bang, the problem is we don't have a unified field theory, something everyone since Einstein has been working on that would unite our understandings of gravity, electromagnetism, and every other force in the universe (except the kind used by the Jedi, of course). And because we know that all these forces were united into a single super-force for a fraction of a second after the Big Bang, something that only happens in the presence of extremely high temperatures and densities, we can't explain what happened during that period.

A major question for me is, why didn't the universe collapse in on itself immediately after the Big Bang? When gravity is estimated to have kicked in, the universe still had way too much matter and energy in way too small a space to have been able to expand. It should have formed a black hole right away. Maybe I'm missing something, but the laws of physics, it would seem, must have been very different at this time. Or maybe it was divinely inspired (my preferred explanation). Who knows?

tryanmax said...

What's to say that the Jedi force couldn't be explained with the rest?

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, All true. And if you can come up with a unified theory, you will be quite famous, though I can't promise you there's a lot of money in it. :(

In terms of imploding on itself, I offer two expert suggestions (and by "expert" I mean "totally unqualified guesses"):

1. Maybe the universe is just so big that the implosion takes more time than we realize and we're still in the middle of it? Won't we be surprised!

2. Maybe the explosion was so massive and so fast that all that matter and energy got so far away so quickly that there wasn't time for the gravity to convert everything into a black hole?

Or maybe, the whole theory is wrong? :/

Yeah, I agree that forming black holes seems like a bad idea, but there also wasn't enough energy/mass to sustain them.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax makes a good point about the Jedi.

And I love DCAlleykat's quote! :)

tryanmax said...

Since I wrote it, I've been considering the possibility that the universe is accelerating in its expansion because the explosion is still occurring. Since I extracted that idea from my nether regions, I decided I'd better figure out what the heck I had just posited.

It seems that there is no scientific consensus on the definition of "explosion," but what is agreed upon is vague enough to support my claim: "a rapid increase in volume and release of energy from a confined space."

The definition relies on an understanding of time and space, both relative concepts. Since the universe has nothing to relate to but itself (definitionally), it might seem to render the concept moot, but not so fast.

If the rate of expansion is increasing, that means that the universe not only grows larger from moment to moment, but is also growing more each moment than it did in the moment prior. Imagine tree rings that grow increasingly further apart rather than the usual closer together and you will see how the universe can relate to itself. And since the rate of growth is increasing from moment to moment, from the universe's perspective, that's fast.

The physics of what goes on in an explosion are beyond me, but one basic thing is simple enough to grasp: a whole lot of acceleration happens really fast. Once things start decelerating, the explosion is technically over. (That doesn't mean that the damage is done, BTW.) Thus, if the universe is still accelerating in its expansion, that could be interpreted to mean that it is still exploding.

That puts a new twist on the Big Bang. Rather than it being the source for all that exists, it IS all that exists.

Either that or it's getting too late for this sort of thinking.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, I believe the definition of explosion is "that which hurts the coyote only." ;)

That's an interesting idea that the big bang is all that exists. That would kind of put a new complexion on it, if the universe only exists as part of a temporary explosion and then it ceases to be once the explosion stops. It's probably a little late at night to figure out exactly how that would change the universe, but I'm sure it would. It would probably mean at some point all the force (gravity, energy, etc.) just stops. But then I guess we would need to know what happens with an explosion in space where there is nothing to drain it of energy and thereby stop its motion.

Good question.

On a related note, I wonder if we have any theoretical physicists who read this site? They are probably thinking "idiots" right about now. :)

Joel Farnham said...

The real problem with theoretical physics is that it is a theory. At some later date, we might find that a bird never landed. That new species spontaneously sprang up.

That reality is illusion. A collective joke that we thought up ourselves and sprang it upon us but forgot about it along the way.

DCAlleyKat said...

"In the beginning [time] God created [power] the heaven [space] and the earth [matter],and the Spirit of God moved [motion] upon the face of the waters."

tryanmax said...


Nice observations. I've often said that Genesis 1 is an description of events we lack the words to understand. It is a description as unto a child. But learned men do not like to think that they only understand things as a child, so there has sprung up an argument as to the literal truth of the Bible.

I'm not saying that the descriptions of Genesis 1 are not literally true, but they are a simplified version, as an adult would explain a complex fact to a child. Clues to the complexity still peek through. For instance, the events are marked in days before days as we understand them are described.

Also, the first thing God spoke into existence was light. We are only just beginning to understand how complex and mysterious a thing light is. Another clue, all the stuff in Genesis 1:1-2 was there before God spoke. But pointing that out really upsets some people.

Tehachapi Tom said...

My favorite phrase at this point in time,
Mr. President I would like to agree with you but then we would both be wrong.

Individualist said...

Andrew even weirder are the expirments where we look at the world through the strong forces.

They did an experiment that challenged the hypothesis of parity between left and right. This is the assumption that anything you can do in reality you can also recreate its mirror image as well.

They bombarded some strontium atoms at near absolute zero and determined that the atoms all went one direction no matter which way the particles came from.

Essentially it proved that there was a discernable difference between left and right when dealing with the strong force that was not there when dealing with the lectromagnetic forces.

I have also hear that there is what the physicists are calling an "axis of evil" in that matter seems to have a drift toward one section of the univere.

I am sure the physicists are calling us idiots but then again since they understand much mpore than us they know how much is out there that is not known. That is the beauty of theoretical physics. None of us are ever totally correct. We are all bumbling blind through the cosmos.

AndrewPrice said...

Indi, I hadn't heard that about the strontium, but it is interesting. I wonder what it means?

I know for example, that they haven't been able to find most of the matter in the universe and that's how they came up with the idea of "dark matter."

I don't care if a bunch of theoretical physicists call us idiots. They're just angry because they can't figure out if a cat in a box is really there or not unless they peek. Nerds.

rlaWTX said...

y'all are making my head hurt on this lovely Sunday afternoon.

RE: beginning of the universe - see DC's Genesis quote

RE: favorite word - Grace (as in, God's)

Re: favorite phrase - "I'm on vacation tomorrow"

tryanmax said...

I just discovered the practical problem of all this hypothesizing. While I was catching up on latest posts, my daughter stole my lunch. What good is unraveling the secrets of the universe if you are hungry?

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, Sounds like a genuine tragedy! :(

Individualist said...


I read a book by Kip Thorn that explained the expirment.

Essentially he was saying that the hyupothesis that the Universe has parity was proven wrong. There are four kinds of parity although I misremember what I read. This expirment dealt with left and right being similar.

In other words anything that do, the image you saw in a mirror can always be replicated. This is ture for the electromagnetic force which is the one that we use to interact with the world. Photons of light are electromagnetic and the force we feel when touching something that makes things appear solid are the electrons repeling each other.

However evidently when you look at the strong force which is hard to detect because it effects small areas such as the nucleus there is a difference between right and left. In other words parity is broken. When you look in the mirror what you see in the image cannot be replicated.

Odd as this sounds an experiment costing millions to perform that allows one to tell their left from their right gives insight into a basic understanding of the universe.

Part of the problem I think we have in discovering the true nature of physics is that there are four fources:

Strong, Weak, Electromagnetic and Gravity

but we only seem to be able to view the world and interact with it by the electromagnetic force. Light and touch use the electromagnetic forces. Sound (the feeling of vibrations a form of touch, and taste and smell another form of touch) use these as well. Therefore the other tghree forces are only observed by the way the affect the electromagnetic force around it. We therefore have an issue in what is lost in the translation. Like trying to get an in depth understanding of the nuance of the chinese language by only reading the English translations.

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