In Memorium: Life, Death and Leaves

“Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower”–Albert Camus

Lest the general levity of this blog give you a false impression of my worldview, let me state that sometimes life sucks.  For the most part, I use humor and satire as a defense and an escape, a diversion if you will.   This has been an incredibly bittersweet week; I have never experienced anything remotely like it.   My last post was Freshly Pressed–perhaps the ultimate honor for a WordPress blogger.  Yet while this was going on, three people I know died.  They were an 82-year-old uncle whose death had been anticipated, a 58-year-old work colleague whose demise was an unexpected shock, and most tragically, the 29-year-old son of one of my poker buddies whose death from illness had been feared for some time.

If you will permit me then, a tribute to these lost souls with the only piece of poetry I ever wrote which I would deem publishable.  It’s well over 35-years old–the sort of thing one could only write in one’s youth.

The Leaves

Words ©1976, 2012  Mark Sackler

Sit and look at the leaves,

Amber arms descending from October’s trees.

Covering delicate grasses,

sweeping the highway,

bedding the rain,

Solemn songs to life departed,

Sit and look at the leaves.


Equations of Everyday Life #2: Inane Celebrity Memes

“You’re not famous until my mother has heard of you”–Jay Leno 

(Jay Leno graduated from Emerson College the same year I did.  Aren’t you unimpressed?)

Lindsay Lohan…Paris Hilton…Charlie Sheen…you just gotta follow these people to be “with it” in this day and age.  What I can’t figure out is exactly what “it” is. The nonsense involving these silly (do I dare say ridiculous?) excuses for humanity, and the speed with which their inane meme virality propagates throughout the internet and general mediasphere is stultifying.

 How do we quantify this vacuous tripe?  Quite obviously with:

The Index of Inane Celebrity Meme Virality

Get out your calculators folks, though the math on this one may require something more like a Cray supercomputer.   This process requires not one step, but three.

  1. Rate the inanity
  2. Compute the Virality Index
  3. Classify the virality using the Virality Classification Scale

Rating Inanity

This part is for those of you who—like many politicians—prefer fuzzy math.  In order to compute the virality of an inane celebrity meme, you first need to give it an inanity rating.  This, however, does not compute.  You need to estimate it by a process that could be seen as similar to the way we old folks were taught to compute square roots in days before electronic calculators.  You sort of have to zero in on it—surround it, using  a combination of whatever logic or intuition works for you.

Using a scale of 0 to 1.0, we rate the inanity based on how unusual, how cable newsworthy and, of course, how inane it appears to be.  Using the Lindsay Lohan example, let’s rate some real and imagined events.

Lindsay Lohan gets up in the morning and brushes her teeth (or not).  Probable rating=0  (probable rating because, again, there is some subjectivity here).

Lindsay Lohan gets busted for another probation violation.  Approximate rating=0.5 (This is fairly commonplace but due to media culpability still maintains some newsworthiness.  Also, the specific story behind the arrest may result in some adjustment up or down; the next item demonstrates this.)

Charlie Sheen stubs his toe on the curb of 34th Street in NYC, stumbles into oncoming traffic causing Lindsay Lohan to swerve her speeding Porsche through a display window at Macy’s, decapitating several mannequins, skidding across the retail floor and then crashing through a sidewall into a back room where she runs over Paris Hilton who was in the act of giving her boyfriend a you-know-what.  Absolute rating of 1.0.  This theory does not permit a rating higher than 1.0, but we’ll give this one a 1.0 with a star, meaning it also generates spontaneous orgasms in Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert and every Fox News and CNN anchor past, present and future.  (Note that while coverage on Comedy Central will actually lampoon the coverage by the other networks, this will add even greater fuel to the viral fire than serious reporting).

Computing the Virality Index

Here comes the fun.

ξ = Φ(F+T)(µ-110)

Symbol key

ξ =Virality Index I chose that squiggly symbol because I think it looks like Kate Middleton mooning the paparazzi.

Φ =Inanity rating Aren’t those Greek thingies cool? This one is iota, as in “I don’t give one iota of a hoot about these nitwits”.

F= number of “friends” or “likes” on celebrity’s Facebook page

T= number of Twitter followers of the celebrity There is a reason they call it TWITter.

µ =the median IQ of the set whose members are F+T. For the uninitiated µ is the scientific symbol for micro.  How appropriate. (Can’t you just imagine those two sentences being uttered by Dr. Sheldon Cooper?)

To sum it up:

The virality index is the inanity rating multiplied by the combined number of Twitter and Facebook followers multiplied by what I call the vacuity index (median IQ of all followers minus 110).

Classify the Virality

For any chance at virality, the final Index number MUST be negative.  This works perfectly fine for most of the personalities discussed above.  If we are talking about Stephen Hawking, however, there is a better chance of finding virality in the singularity at the center of a black hole.

The classifications of virality are as follows

If ξ ≤  -100,000  minimally contagious

If ξ ≤  -500,000  highly contagious

If ξ ≤  -1 million  immutably viral

If ξ ≤  -10 million globally pandemic

If ξ ≤  -100 million worthy of hours of uninterrupted coverage on CNN and FOX News.

Still to be determined is the threshold at which Geraldo Rivera coverage kicks in.

So if we compute the Charlie Sheen meme virality index for the automobile accident scenario hypothesized above,  we multiply the inanity index of 1 times the combined number of his Twitter and Facebook followers (roughly 10.5 million, don’t worry about being exact, this is fuzzy math) times the vacuity index. We will estimate the latter for Sheehan as (100-110)= -10.  This may be generous but 100, after all, is the definition of median IQ.  This yields a score of -105 million.  If you compute and add to this the scores for Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan who were also involved in the scuffle,  the Index plunges much lower.  The New York Post would be sure to issue a special edition.

This leaves one unanswered question, however.  We now know how to compute the manner in which these viral memes are turned on.  But what determines how they are turned off?  As you would expect, I have the answer which I call the medialogical constant.  I will discuss this in the next Equations of Everyday Life post, which may or may not be published within your lifetime.

Images credit: Meme Center   All other material in this post ©2012 Mark Sackler



Quantum Weirdness 104: Heisenberg’s Uncertainty

“Doubt is unpleasant, but certainty is ridiculous.”–Voltaire

Heisenberg may be dead, but his uncertainty principal is alive and kicking.
(Image credit unknown)

It was the end of the Newtonian worldview.   Early in the 20th century relativity and quantum mechanics created a new scientific outlook on reality–counter-intuitive and downright….well…weird.  The final nail in the coffin of so-called Newtonian determinism was put forth by one Werner Heisenberg in 1927: the uncertainty principle.   Simply stated, you can’t exactly know both the momentum and location of a quantum object.  The more precisely you know one, the less precisely you know the other.   And while recent news headlines suggest to some that Heisenberg has been overturned, this is absolutely NOT the case.   It was thought that the very act of measuring a quantum particle added to the uncertainty, but that was never really part of Heisenberg’s equation–which in fact can also apply to macroscopic phenomena like sound and water waves.  So while a team from the University of Toronto was able to devise a means to measure a quanta (such as an electron or photon) with minimal increase in uncertainty, even they admitted “the quantum world is still full of uncertainty, but at least our attempts to look at it don’t have to add as much uncertainty as we used to think!”

Heisenberg’s principle plays a critical role in something that is rather significant in the foundations of modern philosophy, and as I see it, civilization itself.  That would be how we view the future.  This will be explained in the next conjecture.

Here is a simple video demonstration of the concept by Walter Lewin of MIT–a single-slit experiment.

If you’re brave enough to tackle the math, here is a link to another video from Mind Bites that explains it in terms so simple even I can understand it.  Er…maybe.


Cosmic Quote #8

“How is it possible to find meaning in a finite world, given my waist and shirt size?”–Woody Allen

(c) 2012 Matthias Giesen. Used by permission. Click image for link.

Physically, I am now back in Connecticut.  Mentally, I am still on vacation in Dubai.  My circadian rhythms?  MIA–but probably floating somewhere north of Saturn and west of Alpha Centauri.  The time difference is 8 hours and we partied way too late every night for old farts of our pre-digital generation.   (We didn’t chose Dubai to vacation, it chose us.  More on that some other time; now back to my day job.)


Vacation Rerun: Quantum Weirdness 102, Equal Time for the Cat

Where’s Waldo?

By the time this post goes winging outward to the vastness of cyberspace,  Cheryl and I will be winging our way home from distant parts unknown. The next new post will return to the subject matter below, so bone up and be ready for brain cramps.

“I don’t like it, and I’m sorry I ever had anything to do with it.”
Erwin Schrödinger  (referring to Quantum Mechanics).

What better follow up to The Equation of Canine Chaos, then the infamous tale of Schrodinger’s Cat?

In Quantum Weirdness 101, we saw that the double-slit experiment revealed the wave-particle duality of sub-atomic quanta, and the fact that these troublesome little bits behave as if they are everywhere they could possibly be at once until an observer looks for them.  While the experimental proof that this happens is rock-solid, the explanation for what causes it is anything but.  For decades after its original discovery in the 1920’s, the predominant interpretation—essentially, in fact, the only one—was the so-called Copenhagen Interpretation.  It essentially states that the universe is just fuzzy on the sub-atomic level, it doesn’t affect our everyday macro-world, and we mortals should not worry about it otherwise.  Critics have said it is really no interpretation, and some facetiously call it the “shut-up-and-calculate” interpretation.   In 1935, Erwin Schrodinger posed perhaps the most famous mind experiment in all of physics to show that theoretically the Copenhagen Interpretation makes no sense.  More recently, physicists have been able to succeed in creating this quantum superposition with larger and larger bits of matter, which tends to shoot empirical holes in Copenhagen.

Anyway, this witty video does a good job of explaining the concept behind Schrodinger’s Cat.  And I’m pretty sure that no cats were harmed in its making—much to the chagrin of my dogs.

(Video Credit: Open University, on You Tube)


Vacation Rerun. New Feature: Equations of Everyday Life

Just because I’m vacationing in an alternate Universe doesn’t mean I can’t turn the blog schedule on a dime or whatever the local currency is here.  With the announcement of the new iPhone  today, I just had to give this another whirl, if only to improve my Google page ranking.

“Mathematics consists in proving the most obvious thing in the least obvious way.” — George Polya


Due to the surprisingly strong reactions to the Equations of Kid and Canine Chaosin other words, at least three other people besides me, my wife and my dogs actually read them–I had an epiphany.

Mouse Trap. The game based on Rube Goldberg’s convoluted cartoon contraptions

Are you old enough to remember Rube Goldberg?  His cartoons satirized the politics and society of the mid-20th century with drawings of hypothetical, ridiculously complex machines designed to do very simple tasks.   They were the inspiration for the game Mouse Trap and for an annual Rube Goldberg Machine contest.

But in the digital world of electronics, these analog devices are no longer relevant.  In an age where advanced mathematics can be used to predict the existence of the Higgs Boson long before developing the technology to verify it, a new approach is needed.  And of course, I have it.  Equations of Everyday Life.  These are the mathematical Rube Goldbergs of our time.

Let us begin.

Do you text and drive?  Do you Google stuff in a dark movie theaters?  Do you take Instagrams of every third thing that happens in your humdrum life?  Like most of us in this over-connected era, the more connected we are to virtual reality, the more disconnected we get from actual reality.  Just how disconnected are we?  The phenomenon is quite mathematically reducible, I have discovered, and I call it:


Don’t be deceived.  It is far more complicated than it looks.   Where attention to the outside world in the absence of a smart phone (Aa)equals 1, then attention to the outside world in the presence of a smartphone (As) is approximately equal to the inverse of the number of cool apps on said smartphone (n) times the I-Phone or equivalent model number (m).    Yes, approximately equal to—because nothing is that precise in the quantum mechanical world of electronics, and anyway I like using that smart looking squiggly thingy over the equal sign.   Taking the example of my own I-Phone 4, I have 14 apps I would describe as being “cool.”  As 14 x 4 is 56, then when I am packing my phone, my attention level to the outside world is an astonishingly small 1/56th of normal.  This is dangerous.  As I’m reputed to be a major space shot to begin with,  I should probably be banned from breathing and texting at the same time.   But that calculation can wait for another day, as even the basics get much more complicated.


What happens when you jump to the I-Phone 4s and add the pernicious feature known as Siri?

It gets ugly in a hurry.  The equation now looks like this:

Yikes!  We now have to square the denominator and in the personal example stated above, my attention level would be 1/562of my normally spaced out self.  This computes to 1/3136.

I don’t know if the Planck length applies to this,  but a few more apps and new models and my attention level will certainly approach it.  Also note that the “s” on the right side of the equation stands for Siri and has no numerical value.  It just makes the equation appear more complex and disguises my general ignorance of advanced mathematics. Anyway ,this demonstrates why I don’t have Siri.  If I did, I would have proposed to her long ago and been off to Vegas for a quickie divorce from my wife by now.  Ah, for the days when the internet was still in black and white.

Coming soon: The Index of Inane Celebrity Meme Virality.


Vacation Rerun: The Sackler Laws (Part One)

While I vacation with my family in an opulent mystery location,  here is a rerun quite appropriate for the current political season; or, for that manner, any season.   Fans, you will have to endure at least one more rerun before I return, if I return, if I’m still breathing.   If the ratings drop because of repeat content, I’ll run a test pattern the next time I’m on vacation.

Now for something completely ridiculous

Okay. You were promised ridiculous as well as sublime, so here goes. But be forewarned: sublime posts are speculative; ridiculous ones are not.

The Millennium Conjectures are speculations, guesses, wild assumptions. The Sackler Laws are not. They are not conjectures. They are not theories, nor hypothesis, nor speculation, nor guesses.

They are absolutely immutable laws of the universe. So you have been warned, and with that I present Sackler Law #1:

The Law of Bumper Sticker Activism

A person with one political bumper sticker on their car is a person with a cause.


A person with two political bumper stickers on their car is an activist.


A person with three or more bumper stickers of any kind on their car is a complete nut case!

As previously stated, this law is absolute, immutable, and not open to debate. It matters not the persuasion: liberal, conservative, moderate, authoritarian, libertarian, religious, atheist, vegan, cannibalistic, tea party, green party, toga party. It’s all the same. I have spoken. End of discussion. Next question please! (For a complementary, but not competing view on the subject of bumper stickers, click here.) Text in this post ©2012 Mark Sackler


Vacation Rerun: With Friends Like This

Xanadu (as Orson Welles saw it in Citizen Kane)

If it’s good enough for the networks, it’s good enough for me.  So for the next week, MCN (Millennium Conjecture Network) will fill dead air with some awesome blasts from the past.  Those of you who joined the class late can catch up, those of you who were early adapters can review or take a nap.   The new season starts when we return from Xanadu.  Cheers!

“Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.”
– Groucho Marx

Let’s get this straight.  In case you were getting the impression that this blog is the ranting of an intellectual snob, I present contrary exhibit A.

Would a snob of any kind have a friend like this?

Here’s the story.  As I emerged from the Milford Indoor Tennis club after a regular Sunday morning game of doubles, I noticed that one of the guys in our group, Bob Dolan, had parked his minivan in an unusual manner.  It was facing down a slight incline, backed up to the curb, with a wooden block placed in front of the rear left wheel.

“What’s with the block,” I inquired..

“My parking brake doesn’t work.,”  Bob replied.

“What about your PARK gear?”

“That doesn’t work either!”

“Wow,” I said, “what did you have to do to park on that incline? Have two guys hold it in place while you put the block there?”

At which point, I took the following video, narration by Harvey Ellis.  Another of my buddies, Bruce Marien, observed that this won’t go viral, but it might go fungal!

(by the way, to add to the insanity, that thing tied via bungee cord under the front bumper on the driver’s side is the cars’ computer!)

Would someone please send this to Car Talk before they go off the air?


Timeout: Google This! (or, The Color of Stupidity)

“If there are no stupid questions, what questions do stupid people ask?”–Scott Adams

“We are all born ignorant, but one must work hard to remain stupid.”– Benjamin Franklin

Ben on stupidity

Good ol’ Ben knew stupidity when he saw it.

Nothing enables stupid, silly, naive, ridiculous or downright ignorant questions like internet search engines.  Judging by some of the search queries by which my blog has been found, I’m guessing that some of these people were either drunk in a bar, or reading too many ridiculous blogs.  Courtesy of’s excellent blog stats page, here are some of the best examples,  along with my appropriately astute responses.  (NOTE:  These are all verbatim from the aforementioned WordPress stats summary.  Somebody out there actually found my blog using these search queries.)

Where would we be if we traveled 777 billion light years?  I have no idea, but I’d hate to have to pick up the tab for the cab ride home.

Sixteen times four equals what?   Probably 42, if you are Douglas Adams

Let me explain infinity, it is a measure of a human power, which actually not compatible, .  for ex infinity is sir Albert Einstein…   I just report them; I don’t explain them.  But if you have any clue as to what planet the person who wrote this query is from, please inform us all.

Mark Sackler DVM  After 30 plus years of marriage to a veterinarian, I have apparently been awarded an honorary degree.  I certainly deserve some sort of award–or at least sympathy.

Barbayaki  Say what??!!  (According to the stats, this query has found my blog FOUR times.  As Casey Stengel said,  “you could look it up.”)

Why they add 1 millennium in 21st?  OK.  I give up.  Why?

Funny pro-conservative bumper stickers     See my post on non-existence. 

Millennium Twain NASA   You left out rutabaga.

Funny names for mark  What? “Mark” is not funny enough by itself?

Molenium conjectures  Hey, moles can have ideas, too.

Is there still a lawyer for Einstein?  I’m not sure, but I think there is a lawyer for everything–even non-existence.

Please feel free to share your responses to any of these nut-case inquiries,  and be sure to check back in a couple of months.  There are bound to be more where these came from… 😉

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