Black grapes aren’t really black, and white grapes aren’t really white. Black people aren’t really black, and white people aren’t really white. Therefore, grapes are people, and people are grapes.

[image from https://www.bbr.com/grape-kr-kerner]

“What’s Your Favorite Color?”

I’ve been asked this question at least a hundred times. The answer is that my favorite color is black. 

black block

Black has been my favorite color for decades. As a college freshman, I even kept a black posterboard up on the wall, in my room at the dorm. Also, I don’t think I have ever been afraid of the dark. I actually find darkness comforting.

I usually get a protest, as a response, when I give my simple answer to this question: “Black’s not a color!”

At that point, nearly every time, I can end debate with a single question to my inquisitor: “What color is your t-shirt?” Sometimes they even look down at their shirt when I say this, and here’s what they typically see:

black t-shirt

I have no explanation for why the people who ask me to identify my favorite color are usually wearing black, but at least it quickly ends the conversation.

“What’s Your Favorite Color?”

It’s a mystery to me why this happens, but the parallels between different conversations which start with this question are simply amazing. First, I don’t get asked this question unless talking to a teenager . . . and then, nearly every time this happens, the rest of the conversation follows the same pattern.

First, I answer the question honestly, with a single word, by simply naming my favorite color.


After telling this one-word, five-letter truth, I then get a response which has become utterly predictable: “Black’s not a color!”

Even stranger: such inquisitions only seem to come from teenagers who are dressed in such a way as to let the following response work: “What color is your t-shirt?”

Sometimes they even look down at that point, presumably to check, which lets them see the answer to my question for themselves:


After that one question from me, for some reason, they tend not to say much more. 

Ebony Against Onyx, with Low Albedo, but High Ilumination

Dodeca icosa low albedo

This is the compound of the icosahedron and its dual, the dodecahedron. I made this rotating image using Stella 4d , which is available here.

The Tragedy of Modern American History

usa outline map

The tragedy of modern American history: we fought our bloodiest war to date, and ended slavery, in the 1860s. Race, a difficult issue in the USA, to say the least, could have started to become less of an issue — at that point.

But . . . this didn’t happen. Instead, the “Jim Crow” era began, and, as a nation, we foolishly let it run for roughly another century before fixing that, and even then, we’ve left large parts of this problem unfixed, to this day — such as the problems that underlie high-profile police-brutality cases, which usually involve Black men being clobbered, to, or near, the point of death — by alleged “public servants,” who do a great disservice to the actual men and women of honor (yes, they do exist) who wear police uniforms. It is the fault of these “criminal cops” that police officers are not widely trusted, nor liked, in many African American communities.

All this, and Americans actually wonder why such things as an academic achievement gap still exist? Hint: DNA has absolutely nothing to do with it. The cause of this “gap” is easy to see: entrenched, pervasive racism, and the perfectly-understandable reaction to it, from a population with every reason to be utterly sick of being treated as less than fully human.

It’s 2015: well into the 21st Century. This situation is both absurd, and shameful.

An Image, from Outside All of the Numerous Event Horizons Inside the Universe, During the Early Black Hole Era

late universe

This image shows exactly what most of the universe will look like — on a 1:1 scale, or many other scales — as soon as the long Black Hole Era has begun, so this is the view, sometime after 1040 years have passed since the Big Bang. This is such a long time that it means essentially the same thing as “1040 years from now,” the mere ~1010 years between the beginning of time, and now, fading into insignificance by comparison, not even close to a visible slice of a city-wide pie chart.

This isn’t just after the last star has stopped burning, but also after the last stellar remnant (such as white dwarfs and neutron stars), other than black holes, is gone, which takes many orders of magnitude more time. What is left, in the dark, by this point? A few photons (mostly radio waves), as well as some electrons and positrons — and lots — lots — of neutrinos and antineutrinos. There are also absurd numbers of black holes; their mass dominates the mass of the universe during this time, but slowly diminishes via Hawking radiation, with this decay happening glacially for large black holes, and rapidly for small ones, culminating in a micro-black-hole’s final explosion. Will there be any baryonic matter at all? The unanswered question of the long-term stability of the proton creates uncertainty here, but there will, at minimum, be at least be some protons and neutrons generated, each time a micro-black-hole explodes itself away.

Things stay like this until the last black hole in the cosmos finally evaporates away, perhaps a googol years from now. That isn’t the end of time, but it does make things less interesting, subtracting black holes, and their Hawking radiation, from the mix. It’s still dark, but now even the last of the flashes from a tiny, evaporating black hole has stopped interrupting the darkness, so then, after that . . . nothing does. The universe continues to expand, forever, but the bigger it becomes, the less likely anything complex, and therefore interesting, could possibly have survived the eons intact.

For more on the late stages of the universe, please visit this Wikipedea article, upon which some of the above draws, and the sources cited there.

Thirteen Images, Each, of Jynx, the Black Kitten, on Two Hendecagonal Prisms

11- Prism

The above hendecagonal prism shows what Jynx is like when he’s in “kyperkitten” mode. (If you have a kitten, you know what that means.) It’s also rotating rapidly in an effort to make those who fear black cats, and/or the number thirteen, feel even more jumpy, in the hope that Jynx and I can, by working together, startle them into rationality.

On the other hand, Jynx does sometimes like to just lounge around, and watch the world go by — so I’ll show him in “tiredcat” mode as well.

11- Prism

Software credit:  I used Stella 4d: Polyhedron Navigator to make these images, a program which is available at this website.

How Richard Feynman Saved Eastern Tennessee from Getting Nuked


I’m reading the book shown above for the second time, and am noticing many things that escaped my attention the first time through. The most shocking of these items, so far, is finding out that history’s first nuclear explosion almost occurred by accident, in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, during World War II. One person prevented this disaster, and that person was Richard Feynman, my favorite scientist in any field. If you’d like to read Feynman’s account of this, in his own words, it’s in the chapter “Los Alamos from Below,” which starts on page 107.

Feynman, a physicist, was one of many civilians involved in the Manhattan Project, doing most of his work in New Mexico. At one point, though, he obtained permission to visit Oak Ridge, in order to try to solve problems which existed there. These problems were caused by the American military’s obsession with secrecy, which was caused, in turn, by the fact that it was known, correctly, that at least one spy for the Nazis was among the people working on the Manhattan Project. The military’s “solution” to this problem was to try to keep each group of civilians working for them in the dark about what the other groups of civilians were doing. Most of them had no idea that they were working to develop a bomb, let alone an atomic bomb. In Tennessee, they thought they were simply working on developing a way to separate uranium isotopes, but did not know the underlying purpose for this research.

The military men in charge knew (because the physicists in New Mexico figured it out, and told them) a little bit about the concept of critical mass. In short, “critical mass” means that if you get too much uranium-235 in one place, a runaway chain-reaction occurs, and causes a nuclear explosion. The military “brass” had relayed this information to the civilian teams working in Tennessee, by simply telling them to keep the amount of U-235 in one place below a certain, specific amount. However, they lacked enough knowledge of physics to include all the necessary details, and they deliberately withheld the purpose for their directive. Feynman, by contrast, did not share this dangerous ignorance, nor was he a fan of secrecy — and, as is well known, the concept of respecting “authority” was utterly meaningless to him.

While in Tennessee, Feynman saw a large amount of “green water,” which was actually an aqueous solution of uranium nitrate. What he knew, but those in Tennessee did not, is that water slows down neutrons, and slow neutrons are the key to setting off a chain reaction. For this reason, the critical mass for uranium-235 in water is much less than the critical mass of dry U-235, and the “green water” Feynman saw contained enough U-235 to put it dangerously close to this lower threshhold. In response to this, Feynman told anyone who would listen that they were risking blowing up everything around them.

It wasn’t easy for Feynman to get people to believe this warning, but he persisted, until he found someone in authority — a military officer, of course — who, although he didn’t understand the physics involved, was smart enough to realize that Feynman did understand the physics. He was also smart enough to carefully listen to Feynman, and decided to heed his warning. The safety protocols were modified, as were procedures regarding sharing of information. With more openness, not only was a disaster in Tennessee avoided, but progress toward developing an atomic bomb was accelerated. It turns out that people are better at solving problems . . . when they know the purpose of those problems.

Had this not happened, not only would Eastern Tennessee likely have suffered the world’s first nuclear explosion, but overall progress on the Manhattan Project would have remained slow — and the Nazis, therefore, might have developed a controlled nuclear bomb before the Americans, making it more likely that the Axis Powers would have won the war. Richard Feynman, therefore, dramatically affected the course of history — by deliberately putting his disdain for authority to good use. 

save lives

Names for Black Cats and Kittens

Once our new kitten came home today, I asked my Facebook-friends for suggestions for a name. That particular, very simple status message (“Name suggestions for a black kitten, please?”) now has well over fifty comments. In alphabetical order, here are most of the names which have been mentioned, so far, in that lengthy conversation. The kitten, by the way, is male.

  • Akiko
  • Aleister
  • Bear
  • Bluebird
  • Box
  • Cantabell
  • Chunk
  • Cinder
  • Coco
  • Darwin
  • Dark Chocolate Thunder
  • Demon
  • Dingus
  • Doom Kitty
  • Eisenhower
  • Eris
  • Feline X
  • Felix
  • Flip
  • Friday
  • Graphite
  • Grimm
  • Helga
  • Helicopter
  • Illidan Stormrage the Betrayer
  • Inkspot
  • Jesus (I’m unclear on which pronunciation of that name was being suggested)
  • Jinks
  • Jitter
  • Jynx
  • Licorice
  • Lint
  • Loudmouth
  • Lucky
  • Madalyn
  • Maleficent
  • Marley
  • Maurice
  • Michael
  • Midnight
  • Mischief
  • Moonbeam
  • Mudflap
  • Noir
  • Obama (to which I replied that, if I ever named a cat after a president, I’d go with “Thomas Jefferson”)
  • Obsidian
  • Ol’ Scratch
  • Olive
  • Oliver
  • Onyx
  • Peter
  • Puss
  • Pusschief
  • Satan
  • Shade
  • Shadow
  • Smudge
  • Snowflake
  • Spectre
  • Squirt
  • Sratch (Scratch?)
  • Sthylvether
  • Sumi
  • Thumb
  • Tyson
  • Waldo

We went with “Jynx,” with “Jynxy” as a nickname. Considering what happened, just a little later (see the post right before this one), that name turned out to be quite appropriate.