Lightning Strikes!

Submitted by eagle on Mon, 04/27/2015 - 15:40

Last night I camped out on the Mississippi River again.
This morning, I awoke to a thunderstorm with lightning. Bright flashes filled the sky. A bolt of lightning cracked the air.
The rain started to pour down heavily, and a strong wind forced water everywhere.
Already a bit surprised, I started to think of what to do.
Lightning struck, shocking me.
"Ow! Fuck!" escaped my mouth.
The smell of burning emanated, and I thought I could see smoke rising amidst the maelstrom.

Q & A: Relativity

Submitted by eagle on Sat, 04/25/2015 - 19:20

Here are some answers to reader questions. Please send any more to

Q. Why can't matter go to the velocity of light?

A. Matter cannot go the speed of light, according to modern understanding, because matter is basically light that is also busy doing other work, which costs some of its speed.

As light (electromagnetic energy) travels through the universe, it flows freely. However, light that interacts with other particles in intricate ways takes on the property of matter. This work takes energy, and it also takes energy to move. So, the light that we perceive as matter moves more slowly than the light that we perceive as color.

By the way, Einstein discovered this limit in 1905 with the "special theory of relativity," the first part of his revolutionary theory of relativity. After making various technically motivated changes to connect space with time, his mathematical description revealed that matter must travel slower than the speed of light. Observations have thoroughly confirmed the superiority of this theory over classical mechanics.

The speed of light in a vacuum is 299,792,458 meters per second. And you thought Olympic sprinters ran fast! If you're wondering about going really far from Earth, traveling faster than the speed of light doesn't seem like a plausible scenario. A few people have speculated about alternatives like creating wormholes, to move matter across huge distances without traveling faster than the speed of light. However, for now those dreams remain more in the realm of the imagination than engineering.

More info:

Q. Can you explain to me the concept of time deformation?

A. Time runs slower when measuring an object moving by you than when measuring an object moving with you. This comes about because of how light moves in relativity theory, which connects with space instead of going against an abstract background. With matter moving so much more slowly than light, we hardly notice the effect in our everyday lives. It affects astronauts moving very fast on spaceships, although only enough to measure it.

This also comes from Einstein's special theory of relativity, and has lots of evidence in its support. There are time dilation effects in general relativity as well. Because time and space are connected in relativity, these time changes also apply in space, so mass and velocity also experience deformation.

Also, psychologically we experience time at different rates, as our mental gears shift according to our conditions. Certain drugs can help with this process.

More info:

Q. What is holding all those atoms?

A. Matter, in the form of atoms and other particles, moves about in a sea of space and time. However, the joint spacetime isn't so much a "container" holding the atoms. It's more like a complete system, like a chess board: do the white squares hold the black squares, or do the black squares hold the white squares?

This came from the other part of Einstein's relativity theory, the "general theory of relativity" in 1915. Einstein extended his thinking to pretty much everything in the world, and realized that the "background" of matter actually interacts with all the "contents". Again, plenty of observations verify that this theory reflects physical reality better than an independent background container.

Space, that great enormous expanse where we live, "holds" all the people and atoms and light. Although we can describe how space acts, it still holds plenty of deep mystery. All that matter and energy moving through all that space and time evolves to produce the designs that we find in our lives. The world includes the atoms, the empty places, and the spatial relationships among them, in this ever-changing system. And we can at least make a little sense of it.

More info:

A general principle arising from these three questions is that the world operates mechanically very differently than humans intuitively believe, and we can find more accurate descriptions by a careful effort at thinking and checking. Also, we continue to have ignorance and learn new things, so bear in mind that these are provisional answers that work extremely well yet continue to develop.

Again, please send any questions to

Thank you!

Baton Rouge!

Submitted by eagle on Thu, 04/23/2015 - 15:30

Made it to Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Barely!
Bike's in ever rougher shape. Now riding without brakes or gears or pretty much anything but a couple of tires!
On the way here, my rear tire and tube got shredded, right in Vacherie, on the Mississippi. Great timing, I got to camp out on the river. The next day, with the shops open, I went to the car parts store, where they very helpfully had a tire and tube of the right size! (On the way over, a "quick" walk to the next traffic light felt like walking to the next town, these streets are hugely long.)
Then, yesterday, I made some cans of beans and corn on a fire, watching the boats go by. Wonderful!
Rode along the river for a while, eating almost constantly. At one point, I came across a few gas stations, and had some fried chicken, rice dressing, and a boudin ball. Also, before I got to Vacherie I had some fried chicken at Popeye's, they had beautiful music and friendly people and "red stick" chicken, which comes from the stick the Tabasco people use to measure their peppers' readiness. I wonder if that has anything to do with the name of Baton Rouge?!?
Crossed a bridge at that gas station juncture. Half the bridge was under construction. The other half had hairy traffic. After a little while, a construction truck came by and helped me lift my bike over to the closed side, as long as I avoided the machinery. Much better riding! It was amazing to cross over the mighty Mississippi river.
The construction equipment put out some interesting smells, some of which I'd never sensed before. Coming down the bridge with non-functional brakes was a scary exercise, and I was thrilled to make it.
Then, I struggled a bunch to figure out which way to go. Found my way to some roads along the other side of the river. At one point, after getting off the river road, I came upon a house with a few residents on the porch.
"How can I get to Baton Rouge from here?"
"Go that way," back where I'd come from, "then turn onto the interstate."
After some explaining, I figured it would be best to follow the river instead.
"He don't wanna use the interstate."
They told me that the levee is the long way, although it gets there.
I rode along the levee, which rises up next to the river, for quite a while. It was spectacular, to cruise alongside the Mississippi. So tranquil, and lovely. One of my favorite rides ever.
After a lengthy ride of peace and quiet, I got to a point where they started to have lots of oil and other industrial plants. Lots of people don't like it, although it does have its own kind of appeal. A little further on, after stopping for a snack, I had a flat front tire.
Uh oh.
Didn't have any spare tubes.
Well, thankfully the wonderful slime product deployed. Saved!
I kept on riding, now with a glorious sunset.
After a while longer, I crossed paths with a pickup truck. I asked the driver how much longer until Baton Rouge.
"25, 30 miles," he answered.
That's a long ways.
He offered me a ride, which I accepted. (Someone else had spontaneously offered me a ride to Baton Rouge before I got to Vacherie, although I was enjoying the ride too much then.) We drove there quickly, while we exchanged stories. He has a big farm right up on the Mississippi, they're just now harvesting wheat and planting soy. Everywhere you go, great people!!!
Got into town, met my host here. When I first thought of going through the South, like two years ago, he'd offered to host. After my lengthy detour through Mexico and other adventures, that got delayed a while. It's really amazing now to make this happen anyway, like two years later!
Now writing up the draft of Astrotripping.
Rock & Roll!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Houma, Louisiana!

Submitted by eagle on Tue, 04/21/2015 - 17:00

Continuing on through the bayou, I'm now in Houma. Lots of mosquitoes in the swamp. I'm continuing my slow crawl towards New Orleans. When in the swamp, do as the crawfish do!
Went right by Avery Island, where they make Tabasco hot sauce. Here you see little hot sauce places popping up everywhere.
It's very wet here. Thinking back to the desert, I still wonder what all these piles of water are doing just sitting around everywhere!
Bike is in, um, "smooth running" condition, loosely interpreting. It rides all right!
I'll have a bunch more photos and stuff to post when I take a bit longer break, now it's back to the road!!!
Rock & Roll!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

New Iberia!

Submitted by eagle on Sat, 04/18/2015 - 19:26

After a fun ride to New Iberia, I continue to get wet in the swamp!
Actually riding with one gear is proving kind of fun. It's a simpler mechanical setup, and perhaps more importantly, simpler to ride. Good thing Louisiana's so flat!
This area is beautiful, with amazing huge trees that grow out of the water, and animals like I've never seen before. I keep seeing new insects, birds, mammals, and more. I've seen armadillos and snakes. Just now I saw a caterpillar with beautiful markings that look like other animals. It had geometric rows of penguins, and buffalo and sharks. And the colors are brilliant and beautiful.
And the people here are interesting, too. I learned that the city was formed by a mix of French, Spanish, English, Caribbean, native, and other influences.
Now on a quiet Saturday, gonna write more Astrotripping.
Rock & Roll!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Getting wet in Lafayette!

Submitted by eagle on Fri, 04/17/2015 - 03:59

More rain today. What's a little water?
Bike's still having issues. Currently dealing with derailleur issues. Not the most interesting topic. Should be fixable soon.
Old computer's dead. Writing this from a new computer, courtesy of my awesome host!
Now I'm using English software, instead of Spanish software. We'll see how that affects my languages!
And the Earth keeps on turning...
Rock & Roll!!!

More adventures!

Submitted by eagle on Mon, 04/13/2015 - 15:30

Continuing to travel and write!
Getting really wet, resulting in damage to electronics and mechanics, e.g. computer and bicycle.
Also, the wet weather can be physiologically and psychologically difficult to deal with.
Luckily, challenges can spur improvements!
Added a Q&A with the newly functional CodeWOW forms:
When should I buy a new computer?
You should buy a new computer when you need one.
Now, time to write more ASTROTRIPPING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!