Hamster + Wheel
Having determined I was not rabidly partisan, the old guy – perhaps a bit older than myself – complained with more than a tinge of regret that no one would listen to his concerns about the state of the nation. I got the impression that lecturing his descendants had proven frustratingly and markedly lacking in efficacy. I cautiously suggested that the young people who had turned their deaf ears to him … well, it’s their world now, sort of. Still lots of elders in control of lots of stuff, but at least culturally the world belongs to the inheritors, so bemoaning the fading mores of yesteryear will change nothing. Well, that’s a bit strong perhaps. Let’s just say that there are no precedents, so the odds are slim to none.
The old guy craved a return to a world that he understood, but a world I strongly suspect only ever existed in verisimilitude. Still, were his perfect world spread out before me I rather think I’d find it attractive in many respects. But really, I’d prefer Paris in the 1920s: Paris, the Luminous Years. Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris, as I’ve said before, and elsewhere, was an interesting depiction, but a character in it craved an even earlier time: La Belle Epoque. The main character suggested that such nostalgic cravings are natural, but they are will o’ the wisps, for the benefits attached to one age over another are illusory. Well, but you know, not always. I don’t crave America in the 1950s, nor much of anywhere in the world during the Great Depression (exception below).
The world I am gradually leaving has become uncomfortably factional, to the point that factions on the extremes wish extreme violence on factions on the opposite extremes, this involving – preferably – death. I was in college during a time of equal or greater factionalism, albeit more focused, I would say. I was the same age as those who died in the Kent State shootings. That sort of thing was less satisfying to the perpetrators than you’re maybe thinking, whichever extreme you favor.
Still, that event does not stand alone. The violent suppression of dissent is a time honored tradition throughout the world, and all of its history. Kent State is about as big an event on that list as is the murder hornet scare on the list of 2020 horrors. But, you know, crowds will go mad; and I will continue to resist going mad with them. I did that a little bit in the 1960s. Neither sorry nor proud.
Out of the line of fire in books
Speaking of yearning for other places in other times, I recently read a perfectly wonderful book: Harry’s Bar: The Life and Times of the Legendary Venice Landmark, by Arrigo Cipriani. I suppose I wouldn’t recommend it to the majority of millennials and Zs, for they will not understand why they are not the book’s focus, nor why this memoir has so many eccentric characters that are not excoriated for their lack of adhesion to modern doctrinaire …
Ooh, careful, Geoffrey. Careful. Put the old guy curmudgeon back in its box. Back away … slowly …
So, anyway, for those whose tastes are even remotely like mine, I recommend it. On the Cipriani website it has this to say:
“On May 13, 1931, Giuseppe Cipriani Senior opened Harry’s Bar in Venice. Over the years, Harry’s Bar became the place where writers, painters, artists, aristocrats, kings and queens would meet. Among them there were: Barbara Hutton, Katherine Hepburn, Gary Cooper, Giancarlo Menotti, Peggy Guggenheim, Orson Welles, Frank Lloyd Wright, Joe di Maggio, Truman Capote and Ernest Hemingway. The keys to the success of this tiny Bar were: service, freedom and lack of imposition.”
In particular, “freedom and lack of imposition”. That is, not woke. The book is hilarious, for its cast of characters includes delusional faded aristocrats, along with all the others of greater or lesser celebrity. The manner in which they all fit into this tolerant and forbearing milieu is a wonder to read, and occasionally very Fellini-esque, with the distinction that the story told in Harry’s Bar is true. It’s not Paris in the 1920s, but I’d be happy to be transported to Harry’s Bar in, say, 1932 or so.
But this is not possible. All these moments are “lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die.” Well, maybe not time to die just yet. 2020 has been so bad in so many ways, but although it kept SWMBO and I home, foregoing our yearly trip to the EU, and it presented me with the uncomfortable knowledge that I had a brand of stage 4 cancer, in keeping us home, it also kept us close to MGH, where I initiated a connection with a couple of excellent doctors. Quick action, and efficacious (so far) treatment, has given me hope for future trip(s) to the EU. I won’t be able to put in the miles of walking I did previously, but my favorite memory is of sitting in a cafe on Rue Cler in Paris. The sun was out, we had a table outside next to the rue, and before us was a parade of locals walking their little boofie dogfaced beasties (my term for animals of the canine persuasion, for they are beasties, they have dog faces, and they go boof, on occasion). Anyway, that hour or so we spent there was bliss, involving not only a Paris cafe, but dogs – adorable ones. Such experiences will have to do until we figure out how to transport me back in time to ….
You know, never mind that. I’ll take Paris, sun, cafe, and fluff ball parade over that other stuff. Still, Harry’s Bar does sound attractive.
Where’s the science?
I intentionally left out the science this time, but recently I got an email request – from someone who is more highly regarded in the world of theoretical physics than myself – wanting my thoughts on why there are 3 generations of lepton/quark families. I responded:
So, 3 generations. I outlined my suggestion in my 2004 JMP paper. Basically anywhere the number 3 pops up in any mathematics that has been connected to physics there is an enthusiastic collection of supporters touting that 3 as THE 3. Triality; Exceptional Jordan algebra; E₈ (ahem); Cohl’s Clifford algebra thing; …
Anyhum, I’ll go to my grave in 3+ years still quietly repeating my mantra about resonant mathematics, and in particular the two finite resonant sequences: 1,2,4,8; 1,2,8,24. The first is connected to the parallelizable spheres and the division algebras; the second to lattice theory (a la my last publication in AACA). In my 2004 paper I used this second sequence to simultaneously explain why I couldn’t use just T, but needed T²; and to explain why we seem to have 3 generations. In particular, the starting point shouldn’t be:
T = C ⊗ H ⊗ O
It should be
T⁶ = C¹ ⊗ H² ⊗ O³.
This is a hybrid spinor space for which we presently do not have concomitant mathematical tools … as far as I know.
Anyway, this thrills me because it involves both 2,4,8 and 2,8,24. It is much harder to think about than triality, Jordan algebras, big groups, or Clifford algebras, all of which are comfortable notions with long histories … too long.
In my view, the nice thing about T⁶ is you don’t have to tack on spinors later. It is a spinor, incorporating 3 families of Dirac spinors, and their antifamilies, and all the groups fall out of the maths. But, as I made clear in 2004, we do not presently have the mathematical architecture or tools to make this a full fledged meaty model. It is skeletal.
But, like a lot of people now, I believe particle physics is at a minimum in a very deep coma, and I’m far from convinced that blather about black holes, dark mattergy, and 40 year old debates about the meaning of QM, are likely to end the coma. And I’m very ignorant in very many ways, but AdS/CFT? Is it not known that our universe is deSitter? But again, AdS is evidently so much easier to deal with mathematically, so …
T⁶ hasn’t got a prayer.