Buzzword Books - unusual, intriguing, intelligent, perceptive

Here, you'll find musings from our authors and staff. We don't promise daily updates. Just posts worth your time.

Tuesday, 10 November 2020

YOUR INTRODUCTION TO THE INEXPLICABLE

 Author Clinton Smith reviews why we know nothing at all.

 WHAT DO WE KNOW?

Little. Because our minds are too limited to understand what there is — or what, where and why we are.
You disagree?
Then, ask yourself, why is there anything at all? It's a question posed down the centuries by scientists and philosophers alike. Why, for instance, is there not simply nothing? Surely that would make more sense?
But I see and feel that I exist.
Can I trust that?
My perception is far less acute than many other animals possess. For example, I cannot see the infra-red range like some insects. My eyesight is not as sharp as an eagle's. My sense of smell is hopelessly inferior to a dog's. Despite these limitations, I appear to be here, standing on this planet and have the impression that I, and everything around me, is physically real.
Still, where did this everything originate?
And why?
Religious minds believe the world was created by an omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent god. If so, where did he/she/it come from? Does she have a daddy? And where then did he come from? It is a conundrum as unlikely and unanswerable as the ancient assumption that the world is supported on the back of an elephant standing on a great turtle. And what supports the turtle? Easy. There are turtles all the way down.
Einstein tells us that mass is equivalent to energy and warps space. And that light and gravity are quantum states. And that, if we travel fast enough, we will be shorter and time will slow down. All this is exceedingly strange but demonstrable. We can fathom its implications, intellectually at least.
Then we are assured that we live in an expanding universe that started with a bang.
Started with a bang?
How?
Either something came from nothing. Or something was eternally there. Because both are impossible, this is clearly beyond our capacity to process.
The current thought experiment represents the universe as a dotted balloon. The dots represent galaxies. As the balloon expands, the dots widen and become further apart. This model, by the way postulates that the universe is all there is. In other words, outside the balloon there is nothing. The balloon is all — and therefore all of space is expanding. So before the balloon arrived, there was nothing. No time. No space.
But the universe is not merely expanding. Its galaxies are flying apart with greater and greater velocity. Why? Surely, after the bang, they should be slowing down?
No. The further they are from an observer on earth, the faster they recede. Eventually they will travel so fast that their light will no longer reach us.
So what makes them accelerate? Possibly dark energy. Dark energy of roughly the expected magnitude was detected in astronomical observations in the late 1990s. Apparently 96% of the universe is missing and contains dark matter we cannot see at all.
So as the galaxies fly apart forever into endless space, where are they expanding to? Infinity?
Surely space must end somewhere? But, if it does, what is beyond or enclosing it? Infinity is as illogical as a finite universe. Our minds cannot grasp either alternative.
Similarly, time must have a stop. And if it does, what happens then?
Another theory says that if we could fly fast enough away from our galaxy in a straight line, we would arrive back where we started. This model of the universe loops back on itself like a donut. Then what is outside the donut? Impossible again.
Back to the expanding balloon.
It was a singularity, we are told. An instant explosion from nothing.
But how can something come from nothing?
Enter the 'multiverse'. This is pictured as a series of soap bubbles. Bubbles forming from bubbles. And our universe is just one of these bubbles. Where, then, did the other bubbles come from? This explanation simply moves the process back one step. In other words, it is as sophisticated as 'turtles all the way down'.
An alternative is the 'many worlds' theory which considers the branching possibilities of all actions. It's where every possible outcome of a quantum event exists in its own universe. You may therefore exist in many duplicate worlds all superimposed in the same physical space but evolving independently. In some you will be successful and rich. In others, destitute and ailing.
By the way, parallel universes are not a theory but predictions of other theories. For some theorists, then, they are inevitable — the only conclusion that makes sense.
So?
The universe is impossible. We live in a miracle and think it normal.
Then there is the riddle of life. Where did it come from and how is it supported?
Let's tackle the second question first. The Strong Anthropomorphic argument says that we live in a Goldilocks zone fine-tuned for life. It raises a question. Why is our universe so well suited to us? Because if any of the fundamental constants of it changed slightly, we wouldn't be here. Which brings us to 'supersymmetry', which proposes that every particle in the Standard Model has a massive 'shadow' partner with properties vastly different from the particles we have found. And that these particles are possibly the source of dark matter. Supersymmetry suggests that universes with a low degree of supersymmetry contain atoms, molecules and complex life. So, many universes might be habitable. And that absolves us from being so special. Of course, in the scale of time that comprises the lifetime of the sun, the entire duration of life on earth is an event as brief as a passing bird. On the smaller scale of our planet, we are invisible, immaterial nonentities with lifetimes a hundred times shorter than a spark.
But how did life appear? How did something living erupt from barren rocks, sands and chemicals? Biologists have puzzled over this for centuries. As cells are too complex to have formed all at once, it must have begun with just one component. So researchers have spent decades trying to get RNA to assemble or copy itself in the lab. It is like assembling a load of bricks and expecting them to morph into a house.
Did life emerge, then, fully formed? This seems even more unlikely but some are now reluctantly admitting that this explanation is increasingly more credible. It suggests that life didn't begin on earth at all but was delivered by meteorite from elsewhere in the universe. This still doesn’t explain its genesis — how it first appeared.
And what are we in all this mystery?
A person standing vertically on the earth?
Hold that thought for a moment. What is this 'person' composed of? We are a miniature universe, inhabited by ten times more bacteria than we have cells. And our billions of cells comprise trillions of molecules and a staggering number of atoms. An atom itself is primarily empty space because between its particles are huge distances. So, on the quantum level, we do not even exist. Then there are quarks, leptons, hadrons and a zoo of other unlikely entities with existences so brief that our instruments can barely measure them.
On the quantum scale, matter does not subsist in a deterministic form but rather as a collection of uncertainties. The Copenhagen Interpretation asserts that quantum systems exist in a probabilistic limbo until observed. And only when observed do they attain a definite state. This is termed 'superposition'.
Superposition is now challenged by 'quantum entanglement' or particles related at a distance. If you have one entangled photon or electron on earth and its equivalent on the moon, their spin factors switch instantaneously. In other words, faster than light speed — which, incidentally, is 186,000 miles per second. But as nothing travels faster than light, this is clearly impossible.
How could two such particles, separated by 250,000 miles instantly communicate? But they do. It's called the EPR Paradox, and will become the basis of quantum cryptography.
This demonstrates the non-locality of the physical world. It means that the universe is interconnected, interdependent and inseparable. Take this illogical statement just a little further and you have 'moment eternity'. Everything that ever was, and will be, exists and is connected in this present moment.
A parallel here in scripture: 'Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be.'
Then there is String Theory which calculates that the universe has ten dimensions of space and one of time and allows for a number of possible universes, each with different physical laws. Why time? Because space and time, according to the Special Theory Of Relativity, dissolve into one entity. One physicist equates mass to the fifth dimension. This makes the big bang an illusion. But string theory is the neatest mathematical paradigm for uniting general relativity with quantum mechanics. It is an attempt at a 'theory of everything' and suggests that all possible universes actually exist.
And will they exist for ever. Or will a big crunch collapse them back into the void?
Curiouser and curiouser!
The summary?
We are less than nothing and know nothing. And live in a gigantic miracle that is incomprehensible, inexplicable, unfathomable.
The strangest thing of all?
Most of us don't even think about it.
A last word on the subject from Hui-neng: 'From the first, not a thing is.'

Monday, 21 September 2020

A CHAT WITH RUPERT

Thriller author Clinton Smith recalls an early encounter with Rupert Murdoch:

After almost sixty years, memory becomes uncertain. It was a different world then. By today's lack of standards, gauche and almost innocent. 

Rupert Murdoch was then a young man whom circumstances had made the proprietor of a tabloid called The Mirror ─ his sole claim to notoriety, or so I recall.

Smith was the downtrodden presentation writer at a nascent government monopoly TV station called ABN2. 

We were attending a media seminar at Armadale University ─ Rupert as a guest speaker and Smith as a member of the audience.

After Rupert's presentation which was direct and unpretentious, we chanced to meet on the terrace, both cradling cups of coffee.

I told him where I worked, and that Channel 2, like all ABC cadres, was a quagmire of bad art, nepotism and bureaucracy. Which, by the way, hasn't changed. It's an outfit that has never flown. You can't fly with just one (left) wing. 

I also mentioned that I was on the books as Temporary Auxiliary and that promotion was mythical unless one was elevated to the permanent staff.

Around this time, the staff of the ABC put on a review. A vain attempt, like all of them, to get noticed and curry favour. The set piece was a ditty sung by we underlings. The words are seared in my mind till this day.


When you're working
For the ABC
You must live on humble pie
And wash it down with tea.
You won't get promotion
No matter how you try
Till you savour all the flavour
In the taste of.
Hu… hu hu hu…
Hu hu hu…
Hu hu hu hu hu hu hu..
Hu hu-mble pie.


So the sentiment wasn’t mine alone. Although I didn't mention all that, I said enough to make the point. I can't recall Rupert's response. I think he just listened. 

Next day I was back at work and thought no more about it.

The Wednesday after the encounter, the Mirror had a story on the plight of ABC staff underlings and how the auxiliary staffers were exploited and locked out of the promotional process.

This surprised and delighted me. But mostly, it revealed the man.

Rupert listened to me. He didn't say much. Just listened.

A sharp mind there.

And now, when we are both ready to fall into our graves, I want that recorded.

Redundant, you will say? Surely now everyone knows that Rupert is sharp and the consummate newspaper man.

Perhaps. But not at first hand. 

Rupert listened.

And good for him.

You can find Clint's books on Buzzword. 

Saturday, 22 August 2020

The power and puzzle of attention

 John Alexandra, author of The Wisdom of Being, talks about attention:

 Can you pay attention? It is a payment. Make no mistake. Intentional attention, that is. But first, we need to define it.

There are three kinds of attention. Directed. Attracted. And Dispersed.  

Dispersed attention: is when our wits are wool-gathering. The mind daydreams or is in neutral, with every stray thought running through it. The earworm of a popular tune. The remembered conversation. A recalled scene. In this state, you walk into a room and can't remember what you intended to do there.

Attracted attention: is the type that occupies most of our lives. It could be quite useful and productive. You work at your computer but completely vanish into the job, concerned with the next click. Hours pass. You say you are concentrating. In fact, you are subsumed into the activity ─ a function of it. Not there at all.

Or you watch TV and completely vanish into the program. The moving wallpaper on the screen occupies you entirely. If it is particularly soporific, your attention changes to dispersed and soon you are dozing or asleep.

But generally, your mind is occupied constantly with uncontrollable fixations on people, situations and events. What she said to me. Why they're not giving me a raise? My receding hairline. How X can afford a better car than mine? Heartburn or angina? How to fool my wife into thinking I'm at a meeting when I'm shacked up with my secretary? A million concerns ─ leading to resentments, expectations, fears, regrets, affronts, anxieties, forebodings, envy, anger… 

This we dignify as thinking. In fact it is reaction ─ the attention attracted by a hundred useless things. In this state, we are not individuals. Just mechanisms. Machines. But, of course, we never admit it. Because to see this clearly would lacerate our precious ego.

Directed or Intentional attention: is rarer than hen's teeth. It is when the mind is silent and aware. This state is never automatic and requires long and careful training, then constant, voluntary vigilance. In other words, an effort of will. To be intentional, I need to be behind my manifestations and not affected by anything external. I can no longer just exist. I need to be here. And this level of alertness demands psychological death. 

Perhaps, in a moment of despair or self-loathing, you’ve attempted to stop your thoughts and noticed that they never stop. Because the next moment you are thinking of stopping your thoughts or plagued with the thought behind the thought. Sometimes it is possible to stay for a moment in the space between two thoughts, but the mechanism never flags. You can't stop thought by taking thought because thought is the problem ─ the net. 

So what in you, in me, can possibly put a stick in the spokes enough to stop them?
Nothing less than death in the moment. The death of everything I value as myself.
If I can climb down in myself to the point where I am content to be just nothing, possibilities begin. The energy wasted by thinking begins to accumulate elsewhere in the body. I begin to fill up. And that process is so interesting that for a moment I exist on the knife-edge of pure observation. Sensation/intuition/insight become physically present and for a few breaths I am nothing ─ but I AM. Yet even that is imprecise. 

There is no 'I' there. 

Just AM.

And, next moment, I think again and am dispersed. 

But if I can experience that insight once, I will have an impression that is irrefutable.  Something I cannot deny. An objective experience that is true.

And perhaps, if I really wish for something, I can come to it again.

All true things begin as flashes. But to make them consistent takes intentional effort over years. Perhaps over lifetimes, some say.

You can find John's book on Buzzword

Tuesday, 28 April 2020

ALTZHEIMERS? OR TOO MUCH VITAMIN D?

Red alert! Red alert! Is your old mum tearful? Repeating things? Can't find her keys or purse? Disoriented? Confused? Bewildered? And also being treated for osteo-perosis? Warning! Warning! Don’t put her into aged care. Read this incredible cautionary tale now from our resident medical-savvy author, Martin Jensen.

The love of my life is now 76. Twelve years ago, she went to a specialist for the treatment of osteoporosis. This physician - a woman as it happens - recommended a regimen that included 4,000 international units of vitamin D a day. So, she started taking two 1,000 mg capsules morning and night. 4,000 mgs bd – the maximum allowable dose.


Eventually, she noticed a change. She couldn't focus her mind properly. She misplaced things, became confused, seemed to be operating in a fog. Naturally, this distressed her. She tried to conceal it, dreading it. It seemed like the onset of old-timer's disease.


People around it noticed it, too. The neighbour. The handyman. Friends. And I, who see her frequently, noticed it most of all. At first, it was a slight concern. This strapping woman losing her marbles. Because, in all other respects she was fit. (Unlike yours truly, who has survived a stroke and is on rat poison to thin the blood.)


Slowly, her bewilderment got worse. She constantly forgot things I had just told her. She announced, as if it had just occurred to her, something she had told me four times before the same day. She became tearful, afraid she was losing her mind. For instance, she could no longer remember where the NRMA office was in the village though I reminded her several times and had to drive her there myself to prove it existed. In short, she had all the symptoms of advancing Alzheimer's. It made me sad and apprehensive. I was losing the woman I loved.


Then, a month ago, she happened to visit a website called everydayhealth.com. she continued on, as it happens, to /drugs/vitamin D.
It gave the following listing:


Tell your doctor if you experience any of the following side effects:
•    Kidney stones
•    Confusion or disorientation
•    Muscle weakness
•    Bone pain
•    Weight loss or poor appetite
•    Extreme thirst
•    Frequent urination
•    Nausea, vomiting or constipation
•    Fatigue


Bombshell! She had several of these symptoms. Principally fatigue. But the one that staggered her was 'confusion'.


She couldn't believe it! Vitamins were harmless enough, surely. Apart from Vitamin A and too much Selenium. 


CONFUSION?


She immediately stopped taking the capsules.


For a week, there was no change. Then, slowly, her fog lifted. The process took several weeks. Now, a month later, she is back to normal, knows precisely what she is doing, feels competent again, has regained her commendable objectivity, something I have not seen for years, and in all respects, has her marbles.


Comment: If you or a loved one are experiencing any of the above symptoms, check it out with your GP. Don't assume it's just part of the aging process. 


Comment 2: Consider all the thousands of women over 70 on osteoporosis medication. They are precisely in the age group most vulnerable to Alzheimer's. But how many actually have it? Could it be simply an excess of Vitamin D?


Now, consider your old mum. Have you checked her Vitamin D intake lately? Before you consign her to a home for the bewildered, DO IT NOW!
 

 

Read Martin's book. Link here.

 

Saturday, 15 February 2020

CERAMIC GLAZED WUNDERLICH ROOF TILES: $1 EACH

THEY'RE BARELY USED AND BEAUTIFUL. AND IF YOU LIVE IN SYDNEY, THEY COULD BE YOURS.

We have never posted an ad on this site. This is a flagrant exception. 

One of our authors lives in Chatswood West and owns a house with a granny flat extension that was wrongly constructed with a roof slope so shallow that the tiles didn't shed water enough. This sufficed for some years due to heavy tar sarking underneath. But when that degraded, he bit the bullet, removed the tiles and replaced them with a corrugated metal roof.

Since then the tiles, neatly stacked, have been sitting for years at the back of his property. they are probably worth $2,50 each but he is willing to let them go cheap.

Particularly after the recent storms which have brought down trees on houses.

So if you need a few, or many, just ring him.

He has a wheelbarrow but the terms are strictly cash and you will need to transport them yourself.

Ring him on 9419 7966.

Wednesday, 8 January 2020

SIDESWIPED? HOW TO GET THE OTHER GUY'S PAINT OFF YOUR CAR.

Martin Jensen, author of How to Get What You Want, provides the practical solution.

 

You are innocently parked in the carpark and discover that another car has brushed against yours. 

Or you scraped another car - or a column in the carpark itself. 

The result Streaks of paint of duco on your car. 

Your car is not too damaged but the foreign paint or duco seems to be there for good. How do you get it off without affecting your duco underneath?

Duco thinners?  

No. that will take off your duco as well.

The solution is simple and very effective. 

Metho!

Pour a generous amount of metholated spirits on a piece of cloth and start rubbing.

Lo! The offending duco comes off easily and your duco is not damaged at all. Soon you are back to your gleaming original duco and, as they say, "A galloping horse wouldn't notice."

I have used this method many times on my own and other cars. It's infallible.

Go and do thou likewise.


Lean more about How to Get What You Want here.

Monday, 7 October 2019

NEW OUTLANDISH TALES FROM SMITH

Award-winning story writer Clinton Smith already has three collections on Buzzword but most of them were written and published years ago. Now, he's returned to the genre with a vengeance.


Grim Fairy Tales for Adults is a blast. Stories extraordinary and bizarre written to  amuse and intrigue... Cautionary tales for the modern predicament? Some are timeless. But all are fun. And Smith's riant, mordant take on life will keep you entertained and intrigued.

In Tattoo, a young girl tattooed by Picasso becomes an art-collector's obsession.

In Smart Move, a Duke whose neighbours are a famous rock band, discovers the perfect way to silence them.

In Hannigan, a young man who falls in love with an elderly woman never suspects why they're so compatible.

In Deep Water, the inhabitants of a residential cruise ship become the only life left on the planet.

In Elephant, a magician that can make anything instantly disappear requires his new assistant to murder someone to ensure she doesn't give away his methods.

In Genie, a 10,000 year old sprite, weary of arranging sexual trysts and murders, tries to retire from the world. But is landed with one last assignment.

In Metal Fatigue, when metal everywhere begins to degrade, a con escapes from prison. Only to find himself stymied when he tries to recover his stash...

And so it goes... Twelve absorbing shock and awe tales. (32,000 words) Price just $1.99.


Click HERE for more info.