Thursday, May 30, 2013

Into Space with Red part IV - J.J.

This is the fourth in a series of blogs chronicling an expedition into 'space' with Jack Pynesapp and his granddaughter Red. You may want to read these in the proper order by skipping to episode 1: [ click here ]

 J. J.

My son, J.J. ( Red's dad) had stopped over to help me cut up an old tree that had fallen in the yard during a recent wind storm. It took us a couple hours to cut and stack the wood and to drag the brush to a pile for later burning. We were sitting on the back porch enjoying a cold lemonade and admiring the nice wood pile that we had built. We were flush with the feeling of job well done - and from the exercise. And then our conversation turned away from the wood.

"So, Dad," he said, "Red tells me that you guys have been walking and talking."

"Indeed we have, J.J.. And I must say you have raised a very bright young lady there."

"Yeah, I know." He added proudly. "She's a straight 'A' student, you known - always has been."

"Well, she's a joy to talk to and she's quick to pick up on new ideas."

"Well, about that, Dad; her mom and I are a little concerned that you are filling her head with a bunch of nonsense."

"What nonsense?"

"Dad"; he laughed. "Remember who you're talking to here. I know about some of your wild ideas - first hand. You and I used to take walks too, remember?"

"Yes, of course I remember. Those were great times and we had a lot of fun with it. Didn't we?"

"Yes, they were great - and yes, we did."; He admitted.

"And what's so wild about expanding your mind a little?" I pleaded; "What's so wild about thinking out-of-the-box once and a while. It's good exercise."

"I know that, Dad."

I pressed on; "And it's an exercise these kids don't get nearly enough of. Everything they see and hear tries to make them conform to some standard. Even in school - especially in school - they teach them how to pass standardized tests so that the teachers and the school systems can rank highly on some scale so that they get money to continue operation."

"Dad, Dad, Dad, " He interrupted, "you're preaching to the choir here. I know all this. I agree with you!" He continues; "It's just that her mother is worried that you're going to get her in trouble."

"How can I get her in trouble by just talking about 'what if'"

"You know how some institutions in our society react to new ideas and how they treat other people who think too far outside of their little boxes."

"Yes," I admitted, "I remember that, too. But what does that have to do with Red?"

"Well she talks to her friends and to her teachers and she's been telling them about what you guys are talking about."

"That's great. Maybe it will get them all thinking a little outside of the box. How can that hurt?"

"Her mom doesn't want her to be stigmatized any more than she already is."

"How is she stigmatized 'already'?"

"She's a smart kid who gets straight 'A's'. Dad, where have you been? She's already labeled a 'nerd' and soon she'll be old enough for Jr. High where the 'cool kids' always make fun of the nerds."

"So what?"  I insist. "Let them make all the fun they want. In a few years she'll be writing her doctoral thesis while these cool kids are saying 'Do you want fry's with that'.

"I know, Dad. But life is all about making connections and networking with other people. If she starts coming across like some whack job maybe her teachers and counselors will shy away from her and not give her the support she needs in order to get into a good school."

"Oh poop! I can't believe that would happen."

"Neither can I, Dad, but Gwen and I just don't want Red to miss out because of some whack-o ideas you put in her head during these walks of yours."

"Yeah, but you know that we're just thinking! We're just having an adventure of the mind. We're not even imagining that we're right or that we're even asking the right questions or anyting. This is just a mental exercise. A puzzle to keep our minds sharp and open to new ways of lookng at things."

"Nobody knows that better than me, Dad." He sighed; "I remember some of the walks you and I took when I was young."

"Those were great. Why'd we stop."

"Maybe I got too busy with other things: sports, girls, you know..."

"Yeah, I know. That stuff kind of takes over. But that was too bad. We had some interesting adventures."

"I remember walking down those old train tracks and talking about what our souls are made of and where they come from."

"We had fun with that didn't we? "

"Yeah, we sure did ...."

J. J. and I just sat there for a while quietly thinking back on those days when he was young and we used to take long walks together - adventures of the mind. Our favorite place to walk was along the old railroad line that crosses the road just down from our house. This used to worry his mother because she was always afraid that we'd get hit by a train or something. I don't think I ever saw - or heard - more than one train a month go by on those old tracks and by then the tracks were in such bad shape that the trains were never going more than a few miles per hour. Not likely to sneak up on you or catch you off guard.

Those tracks are gone now. They've pulled them all up and replaced them with a bike path / snowmobile trail. Nobody uses trains anymore. Too bad.

J. J. finally broke the silence; "I think we were onto something there, Dad. You know?"

"I know J. J., I do too. We were very close to figuring that out - I think."

"Yeah, too bad we gave it up, huh."

"J. J"; I said.


"This story is about Red and me, you know."

"Oh, yeah." Our brief revery broken; he continued; "I guess you're right."

I sighed; "The story of the tracks is for another time and another place."

"You're right, Dad. I guess I'd better get going, huh."

"Thanks for coming over and helping with the wood. That really means a lot to me and I still love doing things together whenever we get the chance."

"Me too, Dad. I wish I had more time. But you know with family and work and all...."

"I know. Give my love to Gwen -and tell her not to worry so much, Okay? And tell Red that I'm waiting to continue our adventure."

"Will do, Dad. Love you."

"I love you too."; I said as he turned and walked inside to say goodbye to his Mother.

I just sat there for a while, thinking about the adventures J. J. and I used to have; and trying to remember all the things we used to talk about as we walked. I wish those tracks were still there. If I remember right, they were part of the framework around which we fashioned our theories and 'experiments' at the time - they would help us remember - if we ever wanted to go back and try to pick up where we left off. Oh, well. Like I said, that's another story.

[ Click here to continue to Part V ]

[ Click here to go back to beginning chapter]

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Into space with Red part III

This is the third in a series of blogs chronicling an expedition into 'space' with Jack Pynesapp and his granddaughter Red. You may want to read these in the proper order by skipping to episode 1: [ click here ]

The 'journey' Continues.

It was a couple more weeks before I saw Red again. She and her mom - my daughter-in-law - were shopping and they wanted to show grandma what bargains they'd found. After some time, Red sneaked away and found me in my workshop.

"Hi, Grandpa! Have you thought of an experiment yet? "

"Oh, hi Red. It's great to see you, too! And yes I'm fine - thanks for asking."; I kidded.

"Come on grandpa. Seriously, have you thought about our project or not?"

" As a matter of fact, I have."

" That's good because I haven't got a thing."

"You don't? I'm surprised to hear that."

"I'm sorry, grandpa, I guess I didn't finish my home work."


"I was supposed to come up with some ideas or suggestions or something." she said downheartedly.

"Red, don't be silly. There's no homework here." I laughed.

She seemed to perk up a little with this.

I continued; "This isn't school. We're just talking and thinking and letting our minds roam a little bit. If anything, this is anti-school." And right away I wondered if I should have said that.

But Red picked up on my thought. "Like brainstorming! We do that in school all the time, Grandpa."

"Yes, exactly like brainstorming." I said; relieved because she let me off the hook. I don't want to butt heads with the institution of school. And I don't want to give Red any reason to discount the value of what they are doing at school - any more than she might already have, that is.

"Anyway,"  I continued "the only assignment you ever have with me is to come and visit me and bring along your most excellent brain so we can 'storm' together."

"Oh, alright, grandpa. I can do that."  she said with a playful grin. I think I embarrassed her a little because I noticed a little flush coming to her cheeks.

"So," she continued brightly; "what experiment have you come up with?"

As I cleaned the oil from my hands, I explained; "What I'm thinking about is not so much an experiment as it is another walk."

"Okay, I'll bite, grandpa. Where to?"

"Let's walk back over to that shed in the back yard."

"We've already done this, Grandpa .. "; She said skeptically; ".. and it didn't prove anything."

"Well, maybe. But this time could be different."; I say, slyly.

As we started walking around the house and towards the shed, I continued; "Remember we were talking about multiple universes and how they might all fit. And then you said 'fit what?'"

She laughed; "Yeah, that blew your mind, didn't it."

"It did ..";  I admitted; ".. for a while.".

By now we had walked to about 20 feet from the shed and I said; "Let's stop here."

"Okay, why?'

"Notice that nothing has changed from the last time we made this walk, right?"

"Right. "

"Right - but only nearly right." I corrected. "Nothings has changed except that now -- if we believe our eyes and open our minds to your multiple universe idea -- I propose that, as we were going past the house on our way out here, the shed really was small and now it has really grown to nearly it's full size."

"Okay, so we're right back where we started because this is what you were trying to tell me before and you, yourself, said that you were just pulling my leg."

"Maybe I was - and maybe I wasn't." I said coyly. "But now you have come up with this idea of separate universes which gives us a different perspective - or, if you will, a different reality upon which to base our investigation (remember when the earth 'became' no longer flat)."

"Okay. So?"

"So, now let's turn and, instead of going to the shed, let's walk over to that fence post over there."
We walked over to this one fence post which was beyond the shed and off to it's side about 20 feet - when looking from the house.

"Okay." She said when we reached the fence post; "Now the fence post is big (as big as as it can get) but the shed is still a little bit smaller than it can get. I don't see what has changed just because we decided not to go all the way to the shed and to come over here, instead." 

"Okay, think about what we have just done on this little walk."

"We walked from the house towards the shed and then we stopped and instead of going to the shed we turned away and we walked to this fence post."

"So, let's break that down a little bit. How far would you say we have walked?"

"I don't know. Maybe about half a football field."

"Okay, about 150 feet all together." That was probably a little overestimating but it didn't matter to the point I was trying to make.

"And how long would you say it took us to walk here?"

"About 5 minutes. It would've been less if we hadn't stopped to talk."

"Yeah, I know but let's say five minutes." I pressed on;  "So the difference between when we passed the house and when we got to the fence post was about 150 feet AND about 5 minutes."

"So.. "; She offered; ".. we could say we were walking about 3 feet per minute. NOT very fast, grandpa, is that your point."

"No, Red - but good cyphering - my point is that our little walk not only took us through space but it also took us through time!"

"Whoa, grandpa. Good one." You could almost see the light go on over her head.

Then she continued;  " I think I see where you're going here: You're saying that what separates our universes is time - not spaceTime is what makes it possible for them all to fit. Am I right?"

"Well, partially."; I continue; "Since we passed through both space and time to get from there to here, it must be some combination of both space and time. I think they call it 'Space/Time'."

"They've got a word for it?"

"Yes."; I confessed; "You don't think this was all my idea do you?"

"Well, grandpa, you never know with you, you know?"

"Thanks, Red. That's nice of you to say. But remember that we're not the only ones thinking about this. And some of those people thinking about it have been thinking this - and studying this - for most of their lives."

"They've been thinking about your shed?"; She asked, incredulously.

"That's right," I said, not to be outdone, "I'm continually kicking them off of my back porch. They're becoming a real pest."

"Kinda like the squirrels. "; She laughed.

"Yes, yes, yes - just like the squirrels."

I continued; "But grandma's always offering these guys coffee and cookies. It just makes it so much harder for me to ask them to leave."

"Maybe you shouldn't be so quick to kick them out - maybe grandma's got something there, you know. Maybe you could learn something from them."

"You might be right, Red, but - like the squirrels - I really don't understand their language."

"I know what you mean."; She sighed.

About then we heard someone calling Red's name. It was her Mom on the back porch telling her that it was time to go. So we headed back to the house.

"Grandpa?" She asked as we crossed the porch, "So, why did we stop this time and walk to the fence post instead of going on to the shed?"

"I was hoping you'd catch that."; I said slyly - as I opened the door for her to go in. "Give it some thought and we'll talk about it next time you come over. Okay?"

"Okay, grandpa."; She laughed.

 She gave me a quick hug and she was gone.

[ Continue at Part IV ]

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Into Space with Red - part II.

This is the second in a series of blogs chronicling an expedition into 'space' with Jack Pynesapp and his granddaughter Red. You may want to read these in the proper order by skipping to episode 1: [ click here ]

 Red comes back for more.

"Hi Grandpa"; Red sang as she plopped down next to me on the back porch swing. "What-cha doin'?"

"Hi yourself!" I laughed; "Just sitting - and watching the birds - and thinking about things."

"Sounds like fun."; she said skeptically.  "So what-cha thinkin' about?"

"Oh, you know, the usual things - time, space, the meaning of life. Nothing special."

"Hey, you know, me too."; she said seriously.

I was suddenly intrigued. "Oh really?" I asked; "I'm glad to hear that. So what've you come up with?"

" I was thinking about what we were talking about last time, you know, our little experiment with the shed."

"I remember."; I said. But then I admitted; "You know I was just messing with you about that, don't you?"

"Well, duh!"; she laughed.  "Ya think?"

We both laughed but then she got a serious look and she added; "But - what if it's true? What if that's the way things really work?"

I stopped laughing. "What?"

"Well, you know, what if things really do get smaller when they are farther away?"

"Red, I said I was just pulling your leg about that."

"I know that, Grandpa."; Red insisted; "But what if it's really true?"

"Okay."; I said slowly.  Really I had been hoping she would think about this some more. Even if I was pulling her leg, I was only half serious in doing so. I have been thinking about this too; not because we - either Red or me - will come up with any revolutionary new ideas, but because it gives me a great opportunity to think outside the box a little bit. I've always found it fun to do this and I am thrilled to hear that my grand-daughter finds it fun as well. And it gives us something in common to talk about; which is difficult sometimes with a teenager.

I wanted to hear more. "What are you thinking?"

"Well?" she continued cautiously; "See, it's like this: We know that things look smaller when they are farther away from us. Right?"


"We also know that they appear to be normal size when we are next to them. Right?"


"And, your little experiment the other day didn't really prove any different because when I stayed by the shed and you walked away, you told me that I looked smaller - along with the shed. And I knew that I hadn't changed size and that the shed hadn't changed size either."

"Right, again."

"And when I looked at you, you looked smaller to me too. But you said that you hadn't changed size either." She continued; "And, therefore, since you and I are both like objects existing in the same universe we can both trust that we share the same reality and in this reality neither of us - nor the shed - can change size. Right?"

"Okay. So?"

"So, both you and I say that the other looks smaller as we separate but both of us know that we really stay the same size."

"That's true." I agreed.

"So, this is a paradox that can only be rationalized by calling it an optical illusion."

She's a pretty smart kid. And she's obviously been giving this a lot of thought. So I pressed on; "But didn't you just say that things really do get smaller. But, I thought my little experiment proved otherwise."

"I said that your experiment didn't prove anything because it really didn't test the hypothesis."

Where did she get this vocabulary? I'm becoming more and more impressed with our school system if they've already been talking about this in Jr. High.

She continued; "Remember when you said that everybody used to think the earth was flat and that it was the center of the universe?"

"I remember."

"Well, when they had that belief they also must have based all their other beliefs on that basic truth, don't you think?  And, I would imagine that if people wondered about some phenomenon and if they thought about experiments to test something about this phenomenon, they would base their tests on what they already believed to be reality."

"Yes, I can imagine they did. How else can you do it? "

"Right." She agreed; "That's the only way that makes sense. But once it was proven that the earth was not, in fact, flat and that it was also not the center of the universe, all those other phenomenon that had been tested against the old truths had to be re-evaluated."

 "Wow, you really have been thinking about this."; I marveled. "But, how does that effect my little experiment?"

"I said that your experiment failed because we believe that we are like objects in the same universe and therefore cannot really change size. But what if we don't share exactly the same universe? Why couldn't there be differences between your universe and mine?"

"What do you mean. Of course we share the same universe. Just look around. Everything you see I see. Everything you feel, I feel. It's all in the same place. It all behaves the same way for you as it does for me. Everything looks exactly the same to you as it does to me!"

"Ah hah!"; She interrupted. "But it doesn't look exactly the same. We just proved that, remember!"

"Hmmm, you're right - I guess - if you put it that way."

"I do put it that way"; She insisted. "When you are standing over there and I'm standing over here, the shed looks different to you than it does to me.  I even look different to you than I do to me. And everything around me looks just a little bit different to me than it does to you."  "Maybe we need to trust our own eyes a little bit more than we do - than we have been trained to do."

"Well, yes - I guess that makes sense. But didn't Einstein deal with this in his theory of relativity? Didn't he say that the universe looks different depending on your frame of reference. He came up with the elevator example."

"The elevator?"

"Yeah, it's like when you're inside an closed elevator car your perception of motion, gravity,  and many other things changes. He said that the universe is the same to all of us but it just seems to be different based on our speed we are traveling compared to other things and also based on our mass and energy."

"But did he think about why that shed looks smaller?"

"I really don't know." I admitted. "I think his point was that the same basic physical laws apply to all of us but the variables change (except for the speed of light). So I guess he maybe didn't talk about the shed looking smaller."

"Well let's just say - for the sake of argument - that he didn't." She persisted. "Let's just imagine that we all exist in our own copy of the universe. Maybe 99.9 percent of all of these universes is the same, but there is just that little bit that is different and makes each one unique.

"But," I protested; "a universe is a pretty big thing. If everything has its' own copy, how would everything fit?"

"Fit what? Fit where?"; She asked, slyly.

"Hey wait"; I laughed; "Now who's messing with whom?"

"You're right, Grandpa. You see, two can play at this game so don't start something you can't finish."

"Touche'" I said; "And don't think I'm giving up or quitting the game. But I need a little time-out to catch up."

"I don't know how any of this would work." She admitted. "Or how any of it would be possible, but it's fun to think about. And hey; you're the one with all the experiments. Why don't you come up with an experiment to solve this problem? Huh?"

"Well I just might do that. But before you do an experiment, you need a hypothesis. Experiments TEST hypotheses. You just can't do an experiment for the sake of doing an experiment. Like, should we drop an apple and a feather from the same height and call it an experiment to test your duplicate universe idea?"

"Maybe." She said coyly. "But, you're right, I can't imagine how that would help us with this."

"No," I said, "I don't have any hypothesis right now so let's think about this and maybe we can come up with some ideas." 

"How about a quick game of chess?"; I offered.

"Hah! Grandpa, you never play a quick game of chess. You take forever to move."

I thought about this for a minute. And then I thought about it for another minute.

Finally she said "Grandpa, are you alright?"

"Oh, ah yes. I was just thinking about chess."

"See!" she said triumphantly. "You're even slow when you think about playing chess."

"Hey, be nice." I protested. "But you're probably right - now that I think about it."

"Now that you think about it? But that's the whole problem. "

"Yes, I realize that. But it's not a bad thing to take your time and think things through."

"Well, it's boring and I really gotta go. You keep thinking things through - get back to watching the birds."

"Hmmm." I said as she ran down the steps and around the side of the house and was gone.

I did have a lot to think about.

[ Continue to Part III ]