Friday’s Photo: Fog on the Waterfront

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Foreground: A signalman watching over the cargo hold of a freighter ship communicates with an onshore crane operator through a series of hand gestures.

Background: On another vessel moored in the adjacent slip, longshoremen marry two ship’s cranes together by rigging the same beam to each of their hoisting blocks. This procedure is necessary whenever the cargo’s weight exceeds the lifting capacity of a single crane. In this instance, the cargo was a 105 metric tonne machine piece.

 

 

 

 

 

Haiku: Heat Death of the Universe

Pile of books on THERMODYNAMICS. 3D rendering

Besides being the title of this haiku, several songs, and at least one short story, The Heat Death of Universe is an actual cosmological model that has fallen in and out of fashion among astrophysicists over the years. This model predicts a state of thermodynamic equilibrium that permeates the cosmos at some incomprehensibly distant time in the future.

If the outward expansion of the universe continues, eventually all matter will be scattered so far apart that it would take an infinite amount of energy just to propel one’s self into proximity of, say, a single neutrino drifting through the void. Needless to say, you could never get enough “stuff” close enough together to form anything of any use.

And the universe would continue to cool, finally settling at a nearly uniform temperature across its entire expanse. At this point, it would be theoretically impossible for mechanical or computational work to occur. After all, Thermodynamics tells us there has to be at least some temperature differential in order to accomplish work.

In this scenario, the universe would be cold and dead – a sea of emptiness. For some reason, I always found this model both fascinating terrifying. I’m not gonna be around to see how accurate this prediction turns out to be, so I’ll do the next best thing. I’ll write a haiku about it.

 

 

photons extinguished  –

cold oblivion ripples

through infinity

 

Haiku Archives: Chopin

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The deep freeze has given way to dreary rain – the kind of weather that invariably puts me in the mood to listen to Chopin.

Chopin was prone to episodes of depression that were said to have been brought on by the rainy winters in Paris. He also suffered from violent and bloody coughing fits, likely caused by Tuberculosis or Cystic Fibrosis.

Even as his health was failing him, he continued to dream up some of the most brilliant and haunting music the world has ever known. Here’s a little tribute I wrote to him in the form of a haiku.

 

raindrops on sidewalks –

a waltz composed by Chopin

on blood-spattered keys

 

 

 

Haiku Archives: Chess

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Mikhail Tal (November 9, 1936 – June 28, 1992) is often regarded as the most fearless chess player of all time.  He rarely adhered to conventional chess theory, opting instead for flourishing attacks and wild sacrifices based largely on intuition.  Among the world’s top chess players, his tactics were viewed as unsound – even reckless.  Be that as it may, Tal’s boldness was enough to earn him the title of World Champion in 1960 – 1961.

In the last thirty years, computer software has emerged as a vital element in chess instruction.  Powerful algorithms have given us a deeper understanding of the game.  As a result, modern chess has evolved into a contest of surgical precision, and it seems like the bold tactics of Tal have no place among elite players anymore.

But recently, something interesting has happened in the world of chess – something that might resurrect the spirit of Mikhail Tal.  Google’s self-learning AI program named, Alpha Zero, taught itself how to play chess in about four hours.  Alpha Zero was then pitted against what was considered to be the most powerful chess engine on the planet – a program known as Stockfish.

Not only did Alpha Zero crush Stockfish, it did so with such brazen tactics that people in the chess community couldn’t help but liken its play to the late Grandmaster, Mikhail Tal.  The rise of Alpha Zero marks a sea change, not just in chess, but the world in general.

Some people are a bit rattled by the implications of such a powerful, self-learning program.  This kind of technology could be applied to any number things outside of chess.  What if the CIA got a hold of it and tweaked the parameters for military purposes?  What if doctors could use it to pioneer a cure for cancer?  Certainly, there’s a lot to think about as computers continue to take more prominent roles in our everyday lives.

I wonder what Tal would have to say about this new kind of program if he was around today.  I like to think it would make him happy to see such a beautiful synthesis of gallantry and astronomical number crunching power.   At any rate, here’s a haiku written in honor of Mikhail Tal, my favorite chess player of all time.

 

a queen sacrifice –

the pieces had some chutzpah

when Tal played the game

Haiku Archives: Note in a Bottle

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I’ve dabbled in science fiction themed haiku before, but here’s one based on science fact.  Since I was a kid, I’ve been fascinated by NASA’s Voyager Project.  To me, it always seemed like a romantic gesture, like putting a note in a bottle and casting it into the sea.  It’s the gesture more than the result that is important.

-Hawk

 

interstellar space –

Voyager 1 rushes on,

a lonely whisper