post-foo The Thoughts and Sayings Of Baba Doodlius: August 2008

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Drawing You In

Howdy all you Steeplechasers of Inquisitiveness running around the Track of Knowledge, leaping the Hurdles and Water Hazards of Obfuscation, to win the Gold Medal of Truth! Baba Doodlius here, with a Revelation of another Mystery of the Universe!

  • Seriously, humans, what's up with that "steeplechase" thing? It sure seems like a strange athletic event, running around jumping over walls and pools of water. Throw in some crocodiles, vine swinging, and gold bars and you could call it "Pitfall".

Left: Steeplechase now. Right: Steeplechase made more interesting by adding vines and crocodiles.

As you may have noticed, I have athletics on my mind lately, ever since a friend told me that I should watch these "Olympic Games" that you humans love so much. I started watching, and I had not been able to tear my eyes away until the closing ceremonies were over. The things you humans do are just fascinating! And it's not just the performances - even coming up with some of the events took some serious human ingenuity. I mean really, only humans could have come up with "Rhythmic Gymnastics" - what the heck are they doing, jumping around with a big ball or a ribbon on a stick? I never would have even thought to do anything like that, and humans make a world-wide contest out of it! And I'm not even going to get into the global geopolitical ramifications of "Synchronized Diving".

Left: She's doing something called "Rythmic Gymnastics". Right: I'm not really certain what these guys are trying to do.

Everyone has their favorite events, and I don't mean to belittle anyone's preferences, but like most humans I have mostly been paying attention to the "marquee events", like swimming, track & field, gymnastics, and basketball. For those of you who have not been paying attention, I shall hereby summarize each of these event categories:
  • Swimming. From the press coverage, I'm pretty sure there was only one serious competitor in the pool at this Olympics, and his name is Michael Phlippers. He won every event, including the Women's 4x8000 Meter Blorkstroke.

  • Track & Field. Jamaicans run faster than any other humans. In fact, one of them called Usain "Lightning" Bolt (I swear I did not make that name up) actually runs faster than most horses and a more than a few gazelles.

  • Gymnastics. The citizenry of China is stronger and more agile than everybody else on the planet, making the other countries' gymnastics contestants look like a bunch of seasick porcupines.

  • Basketball. The United States men's team is made up of freaks of nature who can jump over adult male African elephants and won all of their games by a combined score of 3,176 to 25.

So these Olympics are not so much about human versus human contests - its more like a series of utterly dominating performances. So the Olympic Spirit is not really about beating your fellow humans, it's more about competing against the very Laws of Nature. Frequently the worst law for competing against would be the Law of Gravity, which tends to make the primary Olympic activities like running, jumping, and throwing hugely difficult. And with Gravity we have a Serious Mystery of the Universe!

Right now you might be thinking "There's no Mystery about Gravity. Sir Isaac Newton figured most of it out over 300 years ago and Einstein pinned it down about 100 years ago, so there's no room left for any Mystery at all!" Well lah-tee-dah, just who's the Mystery expert around here anyway? It just so happens that Gravity is one of the most enduring Mysteries in all of science! It's such a tough Mystery that most physicists won't even ask the big question

Just What the Heck Is Gravity, Anyway?

Think about it: two objects are mysteriously drawn towards each other, even if they are separated by billions of kilometers! Under extreme circumstances, like near a Black Hole, even light cannot escape the inexorable pull of this spooky force. Sure, thanks to Newton we can describe how Gravity works, and Einstein said Gravity is caused by massive objects denting space-time like a big dude on a trampoline, but nobody in the world really knows WHY it works like it does. What kind of force is so incredible that it could bend the very fabric of the Universe?

An illustration of Gravity: Imagine the big guy in the middle is the sun, and space is the trampoline. Not hard to see that things are gonna get sucked right down into the middle, eh?

One of the big projects in science right now is to detect "gravity waves", which, if Einstein was right, would be produced by such common things as two black holes orbiting each other. Currently there is a herd of science-type folks out there hard at work looking for these waves - and by "hard at work" I mean "they're spending a veritable assload of money designing instruments sensitive enough to detect them". Finding gravity waves would yield great insight into the true nature of gravity, but so far scientists have had no luck in this cosmic endeavor.

Being of such curious nature, I decided to take my super-duper Bird Cam out, take some close-up pictures of orbiting black holes, and see if I could use my unique analysis skillz to get to the bottom of this whole gravity wave Mystery.

So here's a pic I took of some orbiting black holes, about 7 billion light years from Earth. (I have one hell of a zoom lens!)

Two orbiting black holes, magnified about 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 times.

Not much to look at, really. There are no obvious signs whatsoever of any gravity waves. But the Universe is no match for my photo enhancement ability! If there's a gravity wave in there, I'll find it!

Let's see... change the brightness a little... tweak the saturation... add some color for contrast and visual effect... aaaaaand voila!

A Gravity Wave is clearly visible! What's more, the shape of that wave reveals the True Nature of Gravity, a force capable of altering the curvature of the Universe itself!

Gravity Waves are heart-shaped, leading one to the inescapable conclusion that

Gravity = Love!

That's right, the reason that every object in the Universe tries to get closer to every other object is because they all love each other! The entire Universe is nothing but one big-honkin' group hug of epic proportions!

Those who say that "Love makes the world go 'round" are exactly, scientifically correct. So c'mon all you humans - let's stop with the hate and war and violence against each other and just let Gravity take its course!

And in the spirit of the day, I hereby refuse to fight Gravity/Love by not going to the gym to lift weights tonight. The Way of Love is a whole lot less tiring, but also much less likely to lead to me getting any Olympic medals. Guess I'll just leave that to Mr. Phlippers.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Water on the Brain

Howdy folks. I am posting today not to reveal a Mystery of the Universe, but rather because I have a Mystery I cannot definitively solve. This Mystery is so confounding that without concrete evidence I honestly can say that I have exactly zero idea what the solution to it is.

This Mystery concerns that little event which you humans periodically hold which you call the Olympic Games. Not being a human and also not being of a particularly competitive nature, I would normally not have a huge amount of interest in such activities, but a human friend of mine told me today that there was something I should see. He pointed me the following web page containing an interesting story and accompanying video clip:

Men's 4 x 100 Meter Freestyle Relay

If you haven't seen this race, I have to suggest that you do so. Not being an aquatic bird, I don't swim at all, and I have no particular desire to watch humans swimming most of the time, but I took my friend's advice and watched the video of this race and I have to say that my appreciation of human accomplishments grew dramatically in the 3 minutes or so the race took to complete.

In case you didn't watch the race or read about it, here's the Reader's Digest version:

This relay race, with each 4-member team swimming a total of 400 meters, was completed by the winning team from the United States in 3 minutes, 8.24 seconds. The second place team from France finished in 3 minutes 8.32 seconds. That's a scant 0.08 seconds separating first and second place. The previous world record was 3 minutes, 12.23 seconds. So both of the first two finishers beat the previous world record by nearly 4 seconds.

World records are generally very, very hard to eclipse. This is the way it ought to be, really - nobody in the history of history has ever done activity X as fast as that, so going even faster should be very difficult. Breaking one by four seconds in a fairly short race is an accomplishment of Herculean proportions! The thing with this particular swimming race was, not only did the first two teams break the old world record (by a huge margin), but a total of five teams broke it! That's' right, even the team that finished in fifth place was faster than anybody who ever swam it before. At four swimmers per team, that's a grand total of 20 humans who were faster than anybody had been in history! Even the team that finished in eighth place was fast enough to have won the Gold Medal in the Olympics of four years ago!

So what's the Mystery of the Universe in all this, the one that even the Great and Powerful Baba Doodlius cannot solve? Here it is:

How the heck can all those guys get so damn fast all of a sudden, and all at the same time?

C'mon people, it's almost embarrassing how seemingly easy it was to break that world record! From the perspective of someone unfamiliar with that whole 'swimming' thing, I'd have to say that if I had tossed a bunch of deformed chimpanzees into the pool next to those guys they would have had at least an outside shot at breaking the old record.

I have a couple of theories about the cause of this huge performance improvement, neither of which I can prove without proper laboratory analysis:

1) Swimmers are taking fish oil dietary supplements, and they are beginning to turn into fish themselves. This would explain why they're all wearing those full-body swim suits nowadays - they're hiding the scales growing on their legs.

Is Olympic swimmer Cullen Jones hiding a nice crop of scales under that suit?

What with security the way it is at the Olympics right now, I can't get close enough to any of the athletes to check for scales and gills.

2) The entire pool is doped with EPO. I tried to get a sample of the water to test this theory, but about 500 Chinese guards chased me out of the arena. (My Bird Fu may be the best, but 500 to 1 odds is just a little too much to overcome.)

So I am at an impasse. Without evidence I cannot solve this Mystery, and I just know the solution would probably blow my mind and the minds of all you readers. Whatever the truth may be, I would just like to say congratulations to the entire human race for putting on such a captivating display of athletic prowess. Who knows - someday you may sprout wings, and when that happens I know a few Peregrine falcons who'd love to challenge you to a fly-off!