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On False Vacuums

January 18th, 2019 #

One of the doomsday scenarios going around is the false vacuum, a theory where our universe exists as a bubble that may collapse at any point.

On a walk today I started pondering about what it would look like if this was the case, and considered sending a mail to xkcd "what if", but it would probably be ignored. So I kept pondering.

Let's say the collapse happens at the speed of light or faster (because, when talking about universe-scale things, laws such as speed of light don't necessarily apply) we don't really need to care about it, because we won't have any warning. It just happens, and from one moment when everything exists, everything stops to exist on the next.

If the collapse happens slower than the speed of light, things get more interesting. The farthest star we've detected so far (as of April 2018, anyway) is about 9 billion light-years away. The light we detect that originated from it has spent 9 000 000 000 years travelling. Let's say the collapse happens at 99.999% light speed. When it hits the star, light has just escaped it and races towards us, and when it finally reaches us, the collapse has spent those 9 billion years racing behind it, only 0.001% slower, and when we have a chance to notice that something is wrong, we'd have.. 90 000 years left. I'm pretty sure that's enough time to crypto currency mine ourselves to extinction.

But what would it look like? Would space just cease to exist, or would it contract? If it contracted uniformally, we wouldn't see anything weird happening, because we also exist in the same space. Well, laws of physics might break, but if that was the case, we wouldn't be around to notice it. Not for long, anyway.

How I'd imagine it would be that space contracts very steeply at the border, so it would look pretty much like a wall of black hole approaching us. How large the event horizon would be I am not qualified to figure out, but that border area just outside the event horizon would be rather strange. Stars would seem to accelerate steeply away from us and then disappear.

And it would be a wall, not a sphere, because the probability that we're at the center of the universe is rather small. We're likely to be somewhat off to some side, and thus the collapse would look like an approaching wall to us.

None of the above has any real physics behind it, because I don't have any theoretical physicists on call, but it's interesting to think about, nevertheless.

Now, what if the area outside the event horizon was really, really large? That would mean that it would seem like the universe was expanding, everything accelerating away from us.

Which it kinda does look like..

The Annoying Weight of Being Nice

January 9th, 2019 #

I consider myself a nice person. When someone asks for help, I tend to do so, unless they're approaching the matter as if they're owned something. A little bit of humility goes a long way.

Sometimes things that are difficult for someone are easy for me, and I go out of my way to help.

And then, there are situations where we do something wrong. We own our mistakes. We apologise. We try to make things better.

If, for example, our dog does something, we do something that nobody in this town seems to even consider: we apologise. We try to make things better. When I've been in situations where a dog escapes a yard and comes barking at me, scaring me, it seems like nobody apologises. (This has happend to me several times, different people, different dogs). In some cases they're just angry at me, as if I did something wrong that caused their dog to escape their yard and come barking at me.

At one point I held a door open for someone so they don't need to - and thus we both would continue our journey faster - and the person stopped and started calling me names for some reason.

I live in a town with both finnish and swedish speaking people. It feels like many of the swedish speaking people absolutely refuse to try to comprehend what I'm saying. When they talk, I try, with my limited swedish, but talking to them feels like they consider me a sub-human. If I say happy new year to people, the finnish speakers answer, the swedish speakers act as if I didn't exist. Mind me, not everybody, but this has occurred several times in the past few years.

It feels unfair. Why must I be nice when nobody else seems to bother?

It's because if everybody was nice, this would be a lot nicer place to live. I want to make the world a nicer place to live in.

It becomes even harder when people are not nice to you in a way that you can't publicly talk about it, because then you become the target, you're the bad guy, even though it's you who have been wronged.

There's freedom of speech, but not freedom of consequences. Even if you're in the right. People who are not nice to you might be able to be really not nice to you if you rock the boat.

And so it feels unfair.

I hurt. I feel bad. And I can't even talk about it. It's not physical. It's not material.

I'll be fine.

Alesis DM Lite Drumkit

January 6th, 2019 #

About six months ago I was visiting some store with my family and there was a test unit of the Alesis DM Lite kit on the store floor. My son tried it out and said he'd want one to play with. I checked the prices once we got home and it's pretty cheap - around 200-300 eur. I can't remember the exact price (and we bought a bundle anyway) and I can't seem to find it for sale anywhere anymore. Since the kit also works as a USB MIDI device I figure it's not a total loss if the kids get tired of it.

The kids got tired of it.

I plugged the kit to my PC and tried recording something to Reaper, and.. it didn't work out. For some reason the data wasn't in the format the program expected. I left that be for a few months, and came back to it just recently.

I figured I could use a MIDI feedback driver / virtual MIDI cable (the one I actually used was loopMIDI) and a simple program that listens to the drum kit and transforms the commands to whatever the DAW and/or VSTs expect. This was actually pretty easy to do using the RtMidi library (which I find much nicer to use than PortMidi - I'll have to change SoLoud piano demo to use RtMidi at some point).

After setting things up to transform the commands to whatever NI Polyplex wanted, things were much more fun. The drum kit itself contains a few different sample sets but nothing really "fun"; by using VSTs, you can have just about any kind of sound, and feed it through filter stacks too for even more crazy experience.

That's when the trouble started.

The connection to the drums seemed to die in 1-20 minutes, totally randomly. In the interest of brevity, here's a list of things I tried (but are not limited to):

  • Sending timing messages back to the drum kit.

  • Sending dummy note on messages back to the drum kit.

  • Sending actual note on messages back to the drum kit.

  • Disabling Win10 USB sleep power option in power plan.

  • Disabling Win10 USB sleep in device manager.

  • Restarting the USB port with windows driver kit devcon.exe.

  • Updating to Windows 10 version 1809.

  • Changing the drums to a powered USB2 hub from motherboard USB3.

The last bit seems to have solved the issue. Now, what I think happens, or has happened, is that in pre-win10 versions windows had this funny habbit of "checking" if USB devices are awake by shouting at them all the time, causing them to stay awake. This was pretty bad for power saving, but made it possible to make USB devices that left keeping the connection alive to windows.

Then Microsoft fixed that behavior, exposing the bugs. I've seen some USB devices which outright refuse to work unless you explicitly set the USB power saving off in device manager. For some reason turning those options off did not help in this case, which may be a bug in windows. There's also probably a bug in the drum kit itself that leads to the connection not being kept alive. If either of these bugs didn't exist, this wouldn't be a problem.

When I moved the cable to the powered hub, I took away windows' power of powering off the USB port. Moving from a USB3 to a USB2 port may also be a factor. In any case, there's a workaround, and there's bugs somewhere, possibly in multiple places.

The utility can be downloaded for windows here on github.

Well, That Was 2018, Let's Try Again Now

January 2nd, 2019 #

To rephrase myself from last year, let's hope 2019 ends up better than 2018 was.

2018 wasn't exactly a great year for me personally, and the global politics didn't look too great either. Maybe this year will be better?

Take a deep breath, and have a zen moment with the new year's demo:

If you have VR gear you may want to download the demo as it contains an OpenVR version too. A making of writeup is also available.

Last year my mother died, followed (within days) by my dog dying. On positive side I finally got over my SoLoud burnout and got a new release out, which fixes tons of bugs. I also got the SoLoud manual out to print, so if you want a physical copy of the book, just use your favorite online bookstore, it might be listed there.

I did not manage to write more, even though I hoped to.

I did, however, get a VR kit together and tinkered a bit with it (see the demo above for an example). I did not finish the zx spectrum game I've been tinkering on, but I managed to make a build system by accident.

I won the 20th TMDC. There has not been a TMDC after that.

So what will I try to do this year?

I want to release a game. As in, for money. Itch.io is a likely platform. Steam, I suppose, could also work since they publish basically everything now. I already have a bunch of game prototypes I could start from, I just have to pick something I can realistically finish in a very short timeframe. Don't hold your breath though, as game projects tend to eat deadlines for breakfast.

Since it's trendy, I'll try to form a new habit or two. I've been solving some puzzles in the mornings for a month or so, so I figured I could throw money at brilliant.org and work through their material in the mornings. Everything there seems to be bite-sized so it shouldn't be impossible to do just a little bit of that every morning.

My doctor has also told me to track my blood pressure. That's another thing that needs to be a habit that I do regularly or I won't remember to do it.

Those three things should be more than enough goals for one year.

Not resolutions.

Goals.

 

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