Awards Are Political

Errol Leslie Thomson Flynn (20 June 1909 – 14 October 1959)


Awards Are Political

“As a measure of just how absurd the Academy Awards are (even at its primary function of being a slick marketing gimmick for the reissue of films that most people have already seen) consider the fact that the two greatest directors ever to work in Hollywood, Howard Hawks and Alfred Hitchcock–both of whom were workhorses who made popular films that were also cinematic masterpieces, all of which made money for the studios (Bringing Up, Baby and Vertigo, excepted)–never won an Oscar for directing.”
— Jeffrey St. Clair

Who indeed are “the greatest,” in any field? And how do we know?

Cary Grant never won an Oscar despite being a consistently popular leading man (over 30 years, 1930s-1960s), and big money-maker for the studios and theater chains. He retired in 1966, was given an Honorary Oscar (you know, an ‘Ooppsie’) in 1970, and died in 1986.

All awards (Oscars, Nobels, etc.) are political. Albert Einstein won the Nobel Prize in physics in 1921 (100 years ago), for his discovery in 1905 of the law of photoelectric effect (which is an aspect of CCD devices today, like solar cells and digital cameras). But pointedly NOT for his revolutionary theories of relativity (the special theory related to light, speed and time; and the general theory that includes the effects of mass and gravity, and the law of mass-energy equivalence that is the basis of nuclear fission and nuclear fusion). Einstein’s papers on relativity were all published before 1917, the first in 1905. Einstein’s 1921 Nobel was an Ooppsie.

The giving of awards is more often about the “needs” of those awarding, than the merits (often ignored even when exceptionally worthy) of those being awarded. When you explore any field you find that there are many workers in it of admirable character and exceptional skill, and who have accomplished wonderful things deserving recognition, but who are more conveniently ignored by “the management” that doles out rewards, and by “the audience” that is mainly fascinated by the tinsel of fame, notoriety and popularity (basically: money wealth) they wish dearly to camp onto even if even just virtually.

Great artists, poets, singers, musicians, actors, thinkers, writers, scientists, engineers, naturalists, and gifted goofballs (our societal court jesters) are all around us all the time, but you will not see most of them if you rely solely on “the management” (‘the capitalist management,’ as a good Marxist would justly correct me) to ‘award’ them for you to notice and fan-cult onto them (“branding”).

We are always happy when by coincidence one such worthy has the official award spotlight placed on them for merited wide acclaim, but don’t expect such justice to be routine to the operations of the politics of awarding. In general, politics is the defense of mediocrity.

So enjoy your movies, insights from engaging and even philosophical writers, music from poetic architects of soundscapes, and humor from our societal court jesters with deep understanding of human emotions. “The greatest” are those who move you to knowing more and being better than you were before becoming aware of them; and you discover more of these authentic luminaries as you expand your own appreciative awareness. Don’t take my word for it: try it.


A Simple Explanation of Black Holes


A Simple Explanation of Black Holes

Louis N. Proyect:

I was trying to follow a one-hour lecture on Black Holes [podcast] but gave up after fifteen minutes and switched to Jay Leno’s garage to hear what he had to say about the 1955 Packard Caribbean.

Manuel García, Jr.:

Hawking’s “A Brief History of Time” is a pretty good book about it, for the general public.

Theoretically, Black Holes are a consequence of Einstein’s General Relativity (the effect of gravity on space-time): with enough concentrated mass, and insufficient thermal-nuclear energy generation (a star uses up its “fuel”) to keep that mass puffed out, its mutual gravity draws it into a spherical center, and since mass-gravity “curves” space-time (an effect that diminishes with radial distance from the center) and since space-time curvature is expressed/observed as the bending of light rays; at a particular radial distance (the Schwarzschild Radius) light rays are curved completely by 360 degrees – into circles.

Light emitted and/or passing by a Black Hole outside the SR is bent (by quite a bit but less than 360 degrees close to the SR, and less so with increasing distance from the SR). Light emitted at distances less than the SR are infinitely bent (curly cues), and never travel beyond the SR – they are trapped. Hence “Black Holes” because no light is emitted from them.

Black Holes can be detected by measuring how light rays from a known distance source are bent on passing (outside the SR) near a Black Hole. When Quantum Mechanics is added to the theoretical description of Black Holes, then more odd possibilities arise having to do with matter popping into and out of existence in the vicinity of the SR, but somehow entangled with mirror quantum interactions inside the Black Hole, and from that Hawking proposed ways for gaining information from inside a Black Hole despite the barrier to (non quantum)) information flow, by the SR.

Hawking also presented a theory that such “quantum flickering” (my term, here) could lead to Black Holes steadily ‘evaporating’ into non-existence; analogous to a soap bubble popping. Hawking’s way of describing it for the public is, naturally, very good; but the math behind it all is massively complicated and above my pay grade.

Louis N. Proyect:

I can’t wrap my head around space-time. When I go to the CVS across the street, it takes about 3 minutes. How can a Manhattan avenue and the time it takes to cross it occupy the same continuum?

Manuel García, Jr.:

Think of it this way, first in 2 space dimensions: imagine a checkerboard of grid lines for length and width, and their intersections “define” points in space, or locations. Maritime navigation uses this idea, where the 2D surface happens to be the surface of a sphere (latitude, longitude).

Now, at any single location (say, your desert island) time proceeds forward from a past to a future (you are always in a “now” that is the experienced part of this ‘perpetual’ stream). So now we imagine our checkerboard having vertical “time lines” piercing the horizontal spatial (2D) plane at each “location.”

Hence, the complete description of the 3D space-time of every location is defined by its x and y coordinates (spatial coordinates, like latitude and longitude) PLUS a time coordinate, t, noting the ‘time” point of whatever event is being denoted for location x-y (e.g., your 70th birthday on your desert island).

George Pal’s 1960 movie of H.G.Wells’ “The Time Machine” presented a beautiful description and use of this concept: the Time Machine could go into the past or the future but always fixed to one spot on Earth.

Now, given our actual (or perceived) 3D spatial world, we then exist in a 4D space-time. It is just impossible to draw a visual image of a 4D grid in the 3D space we experience, or on our 2D papers and art pads. But mathematics can describe 4D with exactitude (as multi-dimensional geometry, and with tensor mathematics).

Now for curvature. If you use a checkerboard quilt as a bedspread (to lay out an x-y grid of straight lines (called a Euclidian Space or Euclidian Geometry) and then place a bowling ball in the middle of it, the quilt will be deformed by the weight of the ball (gravity) and the grid lines near the ball will appear curved — because the originally flat surface they were defined in has been warped out of its original “2D-ness.”

That warping of the originally flat surface has a funnel shape: no warping (which is “down”) far away, and increasing warping as one gets closer to the bowling ball. If you now imagine a 2D (spatial) Black Hole, the funneling becomes increasingly vertical (“plunging”) on approach to the SR until it becomes perfectly vertical at the SR.

So, as light rays are in fact the grid lines forced to remain on the spatial surface, however it is warped, then the grid line at the infinite bottom of the funnel (which occurs at the SR) is a perfect circle, and can never “climb out.”

So now, for 3D space it is impossible to draw gravity-induced warping of space-time (which is 4D: 3 space dimensions, 1 time dimension), but the idea is exactly as described above.

To add more fun to it all, by Einstein’s General Relativity, the curving of light rays is equivalent to a slowing of them (analogous to taking your sports into a curve after racing down the Mulsanne Straight). So, with infinite curvature (the situation at the SR) time becomes infinite: or “stops.” Light rays at or below the SR are in “suspended animation” or “eternity,” they are stuck forever.

Lots of science fiction is based on the idea of the “light cones” centered on the “time axis” piercing our spatial here-and-now, coming to our specific (x,y,z,t) out of the past (“history”), narrowing down from the totality of events of the distant past to the single moment-spot of our specific here-now (x,y,z,t); and projecting into the future with an expanding range of possibilities as one projects into the more distant future.

It is easy enough to find images (sketch representations, cartoons, videos) on the internet of this light-cone limitation of the possible causes of this here-now, and its range of possible future effects.

BTW, the “grid lines” in “surfaces” (forming the coordinate system that maps them out) are called geodesics.

Have fun.

Thanks to Louis N. Proyect for asking good questions, and being patient enough to let the explanation unroll.



Light Cones

Remembering R. P. Kroon

Rein Kroon and another Westinghouse engineer testing strain on celluloid model of mount for Hale Telescope. (Hagley)


Reinout Pieter Kroon (4 August 1907 – 4 August 1992) was my professor for turbomachinery during my Mechanical Engineering undergraduate years (1968-1972) at the Towne School of Engineering at the University of Pennsylvania (which is in Philadelphia). He was a kind, intelligent, witty and perceptive man, with great insights into what engineers — as public-minded, socially conscious citizens — could and should be. This web-page is my appreciative memorial for him.

“Reinout P. Kroon (1907 – 1992) was a Dutch mechanical engineer who immigrated to the United States in 1931 after earning his M.S. degree from the Federal Technical Institute in Zurich, Switzerland. Joining Westinghouse Corporation that year, he soon became a development engineer in the Steam Division.

“In late 1935, Westinghouse sent Kroon to Pasadena to work on the details of the mounting of the 200-inch telescope. During his six-month assignment, Kroon solved three major design issues. First, he designed the hydrostatic pressure system with which the telescope turns in right ascension on a thin film of oil. Second, he designed the horseshoe and ball bearings for the north and south ends of the yoke. Finally, he designed the spoked declination bearings that allow the telescope to travel north and south.

“Later, Kroon became head of engineering research at Westinghouse where he managed a team that in 1945 developed the first commercially viable American jet engine. In 1960, he joined the engineering faculty at the University of Pennsylvania where he rose to the position of chairman of the graduate division of mechanical engineering.” (

Reinout Kroon was the Team Leader at Westinghouse in the making of the first American jet engine. The story of that effort during the World War II years is described by Kroon in his lecture-pamphlet “What’s Past Is Prologue” (shown below), and the unsuccessful effort to commercialize the initial technical triumph of making that turbojet, during the years 1950-1960, is given in detail by Paul D. Lagasse in his 1997 Master’s thesis in American History (

Professor Kroon was a tall, elegant and personable man; he was a fabulous instructor and an inspiring example of an engineer’s engineer. From him I learned more about fluid mechanics and thermodynamics, specifically about turbomachinery, and — most elegantly — dimensional analysis; he was very adept mathematically. A field trip to the Westinghouse plant where huge turbines (for steam turbine electric generators) were built, was memorable. The stamping machines for fashioning the turbine blades were awesome, and loud!

Reinout had one brother, Berend Jan Gerhard (Bert) Kroon; and he was married to Dora Kroon (born Kaestli, on 25 May 1910, in Bern, Switzerland) with whom he had children, one son being Berend Walter Kroon. Reinout Kroon lived in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania. Professor Kroon died tragically in 1992, on his 85th birthday, as a result of injuries sustained some days earlier in an automobile accident.

What’s Past Is Prologue

Kroon, Dimensional Analysis

PDF files of the two pamphlets displayed below are available from the web-links above.


Einstein-Hawking-Pi Day #1

March 14 is given the name “Pi Day” by many mathematics enthusiasts because the numerical calendar label “3/14,” for the month (March) then day (the 14th), coincides with the first three digits of the irrational number Pi, 3.14159…

I have called today, the 14th of March, 2018, “Einstein-Hawking-Pi Day #1” because it is the first instance of the triple ‘resonance’ of: an anniversary of Albert Einstein’s birthday, the actual date of Stephen Hawking’s death, and a Pi Day.

I commemorated the day by taking photographs of living eternity, that is to say eternal (so far as we are concerned) principles expressing themselves in radiant instants of life-giving beauty.

I added 10 of these photos (at maximum resolution) to my Flickr site, for display. They are the first ten scenics “from top down” at the following webpage. You can view them, and get technical details there.

MG,Jr. Photostream



Four Human Pinnacles

I think:
the pinnacle of human wisdom was achieved by Heraclitus,
the pinnacle of human understanding by Buddha,
the pinnacle of human insight by Darwin,
and the pinnacle of human knowledge by Einstein.

all is change; character is fate.

liberation to a fulfilling life is gained by moderation in all things.

species of life that evolve in response to changes of environment, survive.

matter-energy and space-time are unified by a mutual relativity.