Jared’s Papers: Narration: The Elegant Universe Chapter 1

This is a narration from his science reading.


For a sizable portion of the last century, scientists have largely ignored the makings of a serious complication in their model of the universe. This model of the universe has largely been formed by two major theories in physics.

Without a doubt, the two most important fields of the 20th Century have been the general theory of relativity and quantum mechanics. These fields have together come to describe much of the universe, allowing us to finally gain a glimmer of understanding of the strange forces that govern the world. The general theory of relativity, broadly speaking, describes time and space as a whole, explaining the motions of some of the largest objects we are aware of, from planets to stars to black holes. Relativity tells us that time and space are not fixed constants across the universe. Instead, they remain in flux depending on the way matter moves and other conditions. Quantum mechanics explains the opposite side of the universe, describing how particles inside of atoms move and behave. This field speaks of even stranger wonders than relativity, such as objects that appear out of nowhere and objects with variable characteristics until they are measured.

As far as we can tell, both fields are true. Elaborate, almost unbelievably accurate experimentation has confirmed both of them. Our knowledge of relativity keeps GPS working accurately, while many modern computers wouldn’t be possible without quantum mechanics. Both theories correctly describe the basic nature of the universe. The complication lies in the fact that they contradict each other.

It is not simply that they say mildly different things about the universe. They are too wildly different to be compatible. Any equation that attempts to factor both the general theory of relativity and quantum mechanics will fall apart into a string of nonsense. Both theories are true, but both hold the other to be false.

Could it be that the laws of nature are different between the colossal and the infinitesimal? If so, then what size is the dividing line? Scientists have managed to ignore these questions for decades, but it is quickly becoming apparent that they can do so no more. There are circumstances in which relativity and quantum mechanics interact with one another, and we currently have no knowledge of how this is possible. In the inside of a black hole, entire star systems are pressed into microscopic spaces. How are we to calculate what happens next—by using relativity, or quantum mechanics? What of our models of the Big Bang, when the entire universe exploded out of a subatomic space? If two indisputably true theories contradict one another, then how does one make sense of the universe?

The answer, according to some scientists, is to introduce a third theory. Superstring theory, often shortened to string theory, is an attempt by scientists worldwide to discover the basic rules of reality in order to gain a fresh vantage point with which to compare relativity and quantum mechanics. String theorists maintain that from a more knowledgeable perspective, we may find that relativity and quantum mechanics don’t contradict each other at all, and may even compliment one another. They search for the unified theory longed for by Albert Einstein, who formulated the general theory of relativity to that end only to be frustrated by quantum mechanics in his later years. The researchers of string theory seek the ability to define the universe in a simple statement.

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Jared’s Papers: Narration: Visual History of the 20th Century

This is a narration from his history reading. He found the topic of interest, so he did a bit of additional online reading on the topic before he wrote this. I think his report reads better than both of his models.


The early 20th Century was a time marked by significant technological advancements. Automobiles slowly began to replace carriages, and the Wright brothers built the first airplane at Kitty Hawk. Geniuses like Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla worked hard to achieve new mechanical marvels, creating devices never before seen on the planet. Guglielmo Marconi was one of these geniuses, a pioneer in the field of long-distance radio communication.

Marconi’s radios were truly marvelous pieces of engineering, capable of delivering messages instantly over great distances, without even wires to carry signals. The nations of the world immediately saw a great future for the device. But as is usual for new pieces of technology, there were uses that were not immediately forseen. The year of 1910 saw the first criminal caught with the aide of the wireless radio.

Hawley Harvey Crippen was a certified doctor from the U. S. A., married to an opera singer who went by the stage name of Belle Elmore. In 1897, Crippen and his wife moved to England, where, with insufficient certifications for medical practitioning, Crippen began to work for a pharmaceuticals company. To make up for his meager check, he supplemented their family income by renting their building to lodgers. Not long afterwards, his wife began to openly have affairs with these same lodgers, provoking Crippen in turn to take a local typist named Ethel Le Neve as his mistress.

While clearly dysfunctional, nothing truly suspicious occurred in the Crippen residence until January 31st, 1910. In the aftermath of a party taking place in their home, Belle Elmore disappeared. Hawley Crippen began to tell local residents that his wife had taken time off to visit America. At the same time, Ethel Le Neve moved into the house, and was frequently seen wearing Elmore’s clothes and jewelry. As his former wife’s friends grew more and more suspicious, Crippen told them that his wife had died while in America, and her remains had been cremated in California. Skeptical of the claims, one of Belle Elmore’s friends in the entertainment industry alerted the local police to the going-ons at the Crippen residence. A Scotland Yard Inspector named Walter Dew arrived at the home with a search warrant, where he discovered a dismembered corpse in the cellar and a suspicious absence of Crippen and Le Neve.

Unbeknownst to the Inspector, the couple had already fled from the house and arrived in Belgium. Crippen had shaved his moustache and removed his glasses, going by the name of Mr. Robinson. Le Neve disguised herself as a young man and claimed to be his son. The duo planned on taking a ship to Quebec, Canada, where they planned on starting a new life together away from the meddling of the law.

Unfortunately for them, the ship they had boarded was in the possession of a wireless radio transmitter and an observant captain. Captain Henry Kendall recognized the pair from the descriptions on local police posters, and used his radio to inform Scotland Yard about his confidence that the fugitives had taken refuge on his ship. On July 31st, Crippen and his mistress arrived in Quebec only to be introduced to Inspector Dew. According to eyewitnesses, Crippen admitted that the suspense of the chase had been getting to him and cheerfully surrendered himself into custody.

Upon returning to England, a trial was conducted to investigate Crippen’s involvement with his wife’s disappearance. While the body in Crippen’s cellar was too mutilated for immediate identification, a scar found on a piece of torso matched a specific scar Belle Elmore was known to possess. The body was also found to contain a high quantity of a poison Crippen was known to have purchased. In November, Hawley Crippen was found guilty of murder and hanged, claiming his innocence till the very end. Ethel Le Neve was acquitted of her charge as an accomplice.

This last century, Hawley Crippen has become moderately well-known as the first criminal to be captured with the aide of wireless communication technology, starting a long involvement between police and new technologies culminating in the modern use of 9-1-1 as an emergency telephone number. The incident was perhaps the dawn of a new age of technology, as new devices began to work their way into fields never considered by their creators.

Ironically, just as a new technology was responsible for the capture of Hawley Crippen, even newer technology might establish his innocence. In 2007, a team of researchers working with tissue samples from the crime scene claimed that the corpse found in Crippen’s cellar had an entirely different genetic structure than Belle Elmore. Another team of American researchers performed an even deeper genetic analysis, and determined that the body wasn’t even that of a woman. While debate rages as to the validity of the tests, there is certainly a new element of doubt in the case. The possibility may always remain that Marconi’s radio transmitter may have caught the wrong man.

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Jared’s Papers: Descriptive Writing: The Emerald City of Oz

This is a descriptive writing imitation from LLTL Level 5.


The Nome King was in one of his rages again. Over and over again he stormed from one end of his cavern to the other, all the while shouting and cursing incoherently at the rough stone walls that surrounded him. Every now and then he plucked one of the many gemstones that protruded from the walls, and threw it as far as his short arms would allow across the cavern. Repeated incididents of this behavior had left most of the cavern walls that were within his reach bare of the glittering jewels. A line of dull stone thus struck right through the middle of the jewel-studded walls, serving as a testament to the Nome King’s very violent way of coping with his problems. The Nome King seemed to see this patch of ugliness as yet another outrage that warranted his gibbering, cursing, and the throwing of large objects across the room.

About midway through one of his furied charges across the room, the King suddenly skidded to a halt, ceasing his shouting as an altogether more ominous look came into his eyes. His eyes flitted to the large gong he kept in the room, and in a moment he was savagely beating it, sending its deep rumbles throughout the cavernous complex that was his kingdom. For such a person as the Nome King, a tantrum held only so much pleasure without someone to torment.

Within moments, the Chief Steward of the Nomes had arrived in the throne room, sticking only his head through the main door and into the cavern. A fist-sized emerald barely missed striking him in the face, clattering off the wall beside him. Summoning up a bit of courage, the Steward opened his mouth and began to speak formalities.

A ruby struck him in the eye, dropping him straight to the ground. His vision blurred as the Nome King’s ranting filled his ears.

“You’re not here to speak! Bring me the Counselor! I said, bring me my Counselor!”

The Chief Steward had just enough time to scramble to his feet before one of the largest saphires he had ever seen went flying past his ear. Despite a fat body and short legs, the Steward took off down the narrow halls of the caverns at an incredible speed.

A few minutes passed before the Chief Counselor stuck his head through the door. The Nome King was still angry, but in a subdued way—a silent, predatory rage that conveyed more danger than if he were shouting death threats. The Counselor had seen enough rage from his king to make a fair comparison.
The Counselor entered the throne room, bowing low before the glaring monarch. “You have summoned me, my lord?”

The Nome King’s narrow eyes fixed on him.

“I am angry at the moment,” he breathed softly, slowly rotating a melon-sized crystal in his hands.

“Yes, my lord. Are you appropriately enjoying your anger…?”

“Anger is a poor subsitute for godhood, Counselor. While a good rage gives one the feeling of true power, it is ultimately empty. Boring.”

The Counselor’s eyes drifted to huge crystal. Clearly he did not find the King’s rage to be particularly boring.

The Nome King suddenly threw the crystal into a wall and began his ranting anew.

“My Belt is gone, fool! Every so often I wish for it. I remember the feeling of godhood that accompanies it. I remember the impossible things I could accomplish with it girdled around my waist. But now, the power to reshape this universe is out of my reach. This causes a… certain amount of ire on my part. What, my Counselor, would you suggest?”

The Counselor wrung his hands helplessly. “I have little to suggest, my lord. Surely you in your wisdom can find a much preferable answer that whatever I might—”

“What would you suggest, fool!”

The Counselor swallowed. “Well, my only thought would be that, if your rage is tied to your wanting for magic, then, perhaps, it might be prudent to simply… learn to do without magic.”

The Nome King stood quivering for a moment before falling to his knees with a cry of rage. His clawed hands went to his own face, clawing at his bearded cheeks and drawing blood. Cries of pain mingled with bellows of rage as the King rocked back and forth in this manner. Abrubtly his head moved upwards, his eyes fixing on the Counselor, who had been slowly backing away towards the door.

“You are a fool!” the King shouted, still scratching at his own face.

For the first time, a hint of defiance seemed to manifest in the Counselor. “If I am a fool, then at least I am in good company.”

With that, he turned and hurried out of the room, his heart beat echoing just as loud in his ears as the ear-splitting shriek of the Nome King.

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Jared’s Papers: Foreshadowing in the Wheel of Time Series

Spoilers!


All great books consist of a well-planned story filled with realistic characters and actions that advance the plot. In many books, the literary technique of foreshadowing is used. Foreshadowing consists of subtle hints about future events in the narrative. It can serve to stimulate the reader’s curiosity about the novel’s ending, or to guide the reader into accepting large revelations later on. Now, if foreshadowing hints at the future of the storyline, then it stands to reason that a longer storyline will hold the potential for more cases of foreshadowing than a shorter one. Such is the case in The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan, a fourteen-volume epic fantasy series incorporating no less than four distinct types of foreshadowing.

The first type of foreshadowing is also the most common in the world of fiction in general. This type consists entirely of simple statements throughout the series, which serve to pave the way towards eventual revelations. For example, the character Thom Merrilin tells the protagonist Rand al’Thor that he is “as tall as an Aielman.” This pronouncement is made to the character several times in The Eye of the World alone, until it is revealed in The Shadow Rising that Rand is actually part-Aiel. The frequent foreshadowing makes the reveal more believable. Similarly, the character of Egwene is told on a number of occasions that she may become the youngest and most powerful Amyrlin Seat for hundreds of years—and she does so within the course of the series.

The second major source of foreshadowing in the books are prophecies. While less prevalent in general fiction than the former type, prophecies are still very common in works of fantasy and science fiction. In the Wheel of Time, prophecy takes the form of the Prophecies of the Dragon, written works describing the future actions of the protagonist Rand as he becomes the figure known as the Dragon Reborn. Fragments of the Prophecies are cited throughout the books as Rand slowly fulfills them. While new details concerning the Prophecies may be revealed, it is generally assumed that they will not change or grow in number. Prophecies are a fixed form of foreshadowing, allowing little change in their structure until they are fulfilled.

Similar to Prophecies, but more dynamic in nature, are the Foretellings. Foretellings are similar to premonitions in other works in that within the narrative, they are given within the time frame of the series. While the Prophecies of the Dragon were written thousands of years before any of the protagonists had been born, Foretellings can be new pieces of information that appear in the current period. The character of Elaida gives multiple Foretellings through the series, including the prediction that Rand will be central to many great happenings in the world. Foretellings are essentially new additions to prophecy, or may serve as tools towards understanding the original.

The final major type of foreshadowing in The Wheel of Time is also the most unique to the series. This type is the special power possessed by the character of Min. Min is capable of seeing images around other characters, which hint at the futures of their lives. When she looks at the character of Mat, she sees a dagger with a ruby in it, which later becomes an important part of Mat’s personal story arc. Her power adds a unique flavor of foreshadowing with a visual component.

While many series possess foreshadowing, Robert Jordan was certainly one of the great masters of the technique. His foreshadowing, as is ideal, is both subtle when first seen and obvious once the hinted events transpire. Readers are both bewildered at the level of planning involved and even annoyed at their failure to predict the twists in advance with the clues they were given. The Wheel of Time series, made up of fourteen books filled with delicately placed hints, is truly one of the greatest models of foreshadowing in literary history.

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Jared’s Papers: I Find Your Lack of Gray Areas Disturbing

George Lucas’ Star Wars series of movies is set “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away,” and tells the story of the Jedi Order, a secretive group of warriors who keep the peace in the galaxy. The original three films are set after the fall of the Order and concern its restoration, while the prequel films showcase the Jedi in their heyday. The Jedi are described as “the guardians of peace and justice in the galaxy.” They are the frontline against the Dark Side of the Force as represented by the Sith. However, even in the heavily idealized world of Star Wars some disturbing glimmers of Jedi behavior can be seen. The depictions of Jedi and their foes throughout the films casts an unsettling shadow over the supposed “good versus evil” theme. The system of government in Star Wars displays characteristics of a totalitarian theocracy headed by the Jedi, while the films themselves resemble nothing more than pro-Order propaganda.

An objective analysis of the films must begin with the identification of the narrators. The story’s protagonists are always Jedi or Jedi sympathizers. The story is told exclusively from their perspective. We as the viewers see the Galaxy through their eyes and their eyes only. Through their eyes we see several traits that may lead us to question whether they are reliable narrators.

The Jedi share many traits with religious orders. They believe in the abstract concept of the Force, which powers their supernatural abilities. According to Jedi teachings, the Force binds all living things in the universe together and guides them in their ways. The Jedi character Obi-Wan Kenobi defines it in a decidedly spiritual way: “the Force is what gives a Jedi his power. It’s an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us. It binds the galaxy together.” A Sith antagonist even tells a man who disbelieves in the Force, “I find your lack of faith disturbing.” The Jedi are in addition a closed sect. Those biologically capable of wielding the Force are collected at a young age to be taught proper Jedi doctrine and behavior. They are then sequestered in the Jedi Temple, and rarely, if ever, see their parents again. They are not allowed to marry. The lives of Jedi are governed entirely by the Jedi Order. The spiritual nature of Jedi ideology proves that the Star Wars protagonists are speaking from a biased perspective. Anything seen in the films is thus seen through the lens of Jedi faith.

No where is this more apparent than in the depictions of non-Jedi. There is no room in Star Wars canon for intelligent, ethical beings who disagree with the Jedi. Aside from the Jedi, the only other Force-wielding individuals are the Sith, said to be followers of the Dark Side of the Force. The Sith are shown as universally evil beings who are utterly consumed with hatred, spending the entire film series attempting to secure the Jedi’s position as the dominant force in the Galaxy. Other characters in the series who lack Force powers and oppose the Order are consistently portrayed as evil or exceptionally dumb and greedy. Jabba the Hutt is a crimelord who who encases an ally of the Jedi in stone for failing to pay off his debts. Jango Fett is a merciless bounty hunter who aides an anti-Jedi faction as well as a Sith. Watto is a slave owner who seems obsessed with money. When a Jedi protagonist attempts to sway a decision of his using the Force, Watto says “Mind tricks don’t work on me. Only money.”

Despite the lack of evidence of any Sith wrongdoing, the Jedi constantly seek to eradicate them due to their connections to the abstract Dark Side of the Force. The Jedi repeatedly use the mantra of “Dark Side” to justify any course of action that could cause harm to other peoples. When a number of planets attempt to secede from the Jedi-influenced Republic, the Jedi attempt to violently put down the insurrection, justifying the resulting war by claiming that a Sith has orchestrated the rebellion. This is not grounds for a war. This does not seem like the firm stand against the forces of evil that it is portrayed as; this resembles, more than anything else, an act of religious persecution.

These facts seem to show us a morally skewed universe, in which there is only one ethical political system and all those who oppose it are evil and should be destroyed. This is incongruous with the standard perception of reality, but there is a common type of media which shares these traits: the propaganda film. From an objective viewpoint, Star Wars resembles nothing so much as the films produced by the Nazis during World War II. A good example of a comparable Nazi film would be the 1943 production Titanic. The movie centers around courageous German soldiers who attempt to persuade the greedy British captain from forcing the ship through iceberg-thick waters. The German soldiers of the film are universally heroic, the British capitalists are wicked and depraved, and bystanders who do not directly side with the Germans are cowardly and despicable. The film ends after the sinking of the Titanic, after the capitalists responsible for the disaster survive and go unpunished for their actions. The epilogue states that “the deaths of 1,500 people remain un-atoned, forever a testament of Britain’s endless quest for profit.”

Compare this with the opening crawl of The Phantom Menace: “Hoping to resolve the matter with a blockade of deadly battleships, the greedy Trade Federation has stopped all shipping to the small planet of Naboo… While the congress of the Republic endlessly debates this alarming chain of events, the Supreme Chancellor has secretly dispatched two Jedi Knights, the guardians of peace and justice in the galaxy, to settle the conflict.” Before the film has even began, the audience has been told precisely who the heroes are. The Jedi embody peace and justice, while the Trade Federation is motivated entirely by greed. The elected representatives of the Galaxy are uselessly bureaucratic, and so it is up to a single religious order to make political decisions. The message is blatantly theocratic.

Another characteristic of propaganda shown in the films is the depiction of the Sith. The original trilogy in particular portrays the Sith as utterly monstrous in appearance. The Sith Emperor is pale and withered with small unnaturally colored eyes. He is also shown to be sadistic, cackling madly as he inflicts pain upon others. His apprentice, Darth Vader, is a mutilated cyborg whose voice is characterized by a slow, menacing breathing. Without his mask, he is pale and looks diseased. Vader eventually redeems himself by killing the Emperor and leaving the Sith, later appearing as a handsome spirit as opposed to his twisted form from before. The dehumanization of the Sith is analogous to German antisemitic films of the 1940s. The Eternal Jew, for example, repeatedly shows clips of the filthiest, most ragged and diseased Jews the filmmakers could find and argued that this was the natural form of the race. It is worth noting that the ragged and diseased Jews they found were trapped in the Warsaw Ghetto; the Jews were living in these filthy conditions not by nature, but because of government interference. American propaganda of the same time depicts severely caricatured Japanese people, with dark yellow skin and enlongated fangs. Modern North Korean propaganda frequently includes American soldiers engaged in horrifically sadistic activities. The exaggeratedly brutal depictions of an enemy are signature characteristics of propaganda, and the Star Wars films seem to go out of their way to portray all who oppose the Jedi as morbid and disturbing.

From a neutral perspective, the Star Wars films do not merely tell the story of noble Jedi defeating wicked Sith. The point is stressed repeatedly that the Jedi are always noble in their actions, and that those who oppose them are universally villainous. The Galactic government is at its best when it is subject to strong Jedi influence, and at its worst when governed by Sith. The films portray an idealized world from the Jedi perspective: a world in which they have free rein over the Galaxy. In this world they are permitted to use mind-altering powers on random civillians. It is a world in which they can violently put an end to any attempt to break free of Jedi influence. It is a world in which nobody will speak to their religious and political enemies for fear of becoming corrupted. In their ideal world, a Jedi can dismember a woman in a crowded bar and avoid scrutiny simply by saying the words, “Jedi business. Go back to your drinks.”

As we thus review these films, we begin to hold an entirely different view of the events portrayed. The Jedi infuse the story they tell with their own idelogy, an ideology which is surprisingly intolerant and even violent. The Sith seem almost cartoonishly simple in their motivations, and we are told that only the wicked would even consider opposing the Jedi. With these observations, the Star Wars universe becomes at once more shallow as we understand the political and ethical bias behind the scenes, and deeper as we consider what secrets and mysteries are hidden from us by the Jedi narrators. It becomes apparent that our forrays into the Galaxy far, far away have only scratched the surface of the subtleties that must exist. If the Jedi are only showing an idealized version of themselves, then what are they really like? What have they hidden to protect their image? Are they truly heroes, or are they a tyrannous cult with good public relations? Are the Sith as awful as they are shown, or do they make valid ethical arguments which we never had the privilege to hear? As J. J. Abrams ushers in a new chapter in the Star Wars saga with Episode VII, we can look forward to catching new glimpses of the mysterious world behind the Jedi’s carefully crafted veil. To quote a completely unrelated science fiction franchise, the truth is out there.

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