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Tensors and Phantoms

Date: 15-Mar-2007/20:55+3:00

Tags: , , , , ,

Characters: calculator guy, me

I was using Gmail, and messages kept popping up at me about how the email I was writing was blank and was I sure I wanted to send it anyway. I sent more messages with text like [this message intentionally left blank]. This resulted in more stern warnings, like "the last messages you sent have been marked as RED."
An administrative message came through telling me something about how "pursuing a disruptive agenda without the approval of a sanctioned academic research project will not be treated favorably". I was taken to some kind of "suggestions" screen where I could try and work up a case for the feature that I thought should be implemented.
The next thing I knew, I was walking through a mall with a fellow who I understood to be a living calculator. We were talking with about the issues where some beings were trying to create more space by warping time.
calculator guy: "It's a very complex maneuver to engineer. And it's all based on the need to have places to put lots of things, yet not generally needing those things to be accessible most of the time. It takes much longer to get access to those objects if they are inside the expanded space."
Note Though we can't typically make a piece of real-estate twice as big as it is if we agree to run our clocks at half the speed, this tradeoff is an everyday phenomenon in computer science, where it is known as the Space-time tradeoff.
me: "Something that I've been meaning to ask you...do you think you could have done the math from the Manhattan project in your head?"
calculator guy: (scoffing) "Come on. It was only 33 tensors. It wouldn't have been that hard."
me: "I know it turned out to be pretty simple in your view, but forgive me for asking. You guys know that's not the kind of scientist I am. I'm probably not a scientist anyway. Maybe I should change my title to 'artist-scientist'?"
It's very curious that such a math-technical term as "tensor" would have come into play here. I've heard the word, but if you'd asked me to define it prior to looking on the internet I'd have shrugged...just said it has a mathematical meaning. I don't know enough about math or nuclear weapons to say, but this quote indicates there could be a connection:
About 1912, Einstein began a new phase of his gravitational research, with the help of his mathematician friend Marcel Grossmann, by phrasing his work in terms of the tensor calculus of Tullio Levi-Civita and Gregorio Ricci-Curbastro. The tensor calculus greatly facilitated calculations in four-dimensional space-time, a notion that Einstein had obtained from Hermann Minkowski's 1907 mathematical elaboration of Einstein's own special theory of relativity.
...so I wonder if anyone can verify that the calculations they were doing to make an atomic bomb had anything at all to do with tensors, or 33 of them.
We passed an internet terminal with an interface to YouTube, and I decided to look up Depeche Mode to see if the dream world had any videos I hadn't seen. The first thing that came up was a song called "Phantom Starters". The lyrics went like this, roughly:
Hey, Let me tell you about the other side
They don't have health insurance
and they aren't allowed to morph
though they really want to morph
they're only phantoms
Hey, you should see me from the other side...
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