Sunday, 30 June 2013

just for the taste of it

One of the things I enjoy in life is drinking wine. Paradoxically it seems one of the things I don't like in life is getting drunk. There is of course "non-alcoholic" wine in the supermarkets, but that not only is way too sweet for my tastes, it hardly tastes like wine. Perhaps its good enough for tea totalling aunties who've never drunk or enjoyed wine (or even been drunk), but its not to my tastes.

Initially I tried a few bottles of the commercial de-alcoholised wines, and while they weren't bad there was a few problems with the issue:
  1. the range is very limited
  2. the prices are higher than regular wines
  3. they don't really taste that good
  4. I don't need zero alcohol in the wine

Aside from getting drunk, one of the other negative aspects of drinking wine frequently is that alcohol has more energy per mass than sugar (yes, it makes you fat). Dry red wines have less residual sugars anyway, so by reducing the alcohol in the wine I can drink a natural tasty product that is low in calories. Its a win win situation.

Taking the alcohol out of wine

Strangely there is little or next to nothing written about this topic on the internet (strangely everyone is on about making alcoholic drinks cheaper ... whacko). So I thought I'd do my little bit (or a couple of Kb) to redress that situation.

Pareto Principle - Getting 80% of the benefits for 20% of the effort

Initially I was thinking that I'd go for vacuum distillation, but I thought : "why not give it a go on the stove first". As you probably know alcohol boils at ~78°C (172°F for those of you mired in that strange anachronism by Daniel that I'm sure even he is well and truly over), but as the air pressure goes down it boils at lower temperature (as does water and most other liquids).

Well anyway, back to the stove method, it is not just a matter of raising the temperature to 78°C, because there are a few issues in the chemistry:
  1. adding anything into the alcohol changes its boiling point a little (raising it)
  2. getting all the alcohol out is even harder than it would seem(lets not make this a chemistry lesson)
But some people (me included) worry about what effect higher temperatures may have on the wine (and we're all probably familiar with mulled wine which I wasn't after either). So to protect the wine from "harsh high temperatures" the companies which de-alcoholise the wine use vacuum distillation (well partial vacuum). But as that's not what I am intending to do I thought that I would:
  • use the thermometer to determine the temperature accuratel
  • raise the temperature to the boiling point then move carefully until I saw it gassing off the alcohol
  • cool the wine as rapidly as possible to thus minimise the time at the high temperature.
We all know that "cooking" is not just temperatre, its temperature at time (as anyone who has cooked a soup will know), so minimizing the time was something that I thought was important here.

So with a plan in mind off I went to the shop to buy the cheapest bottle of red plonk I could find, came home and pulled out my trusty thermometer and had a go.

The results surprised me so much that I'm almost given up on the idea of vacuum distillation now.

So for those who are keen to try it at home themselves I'll share my methods.
What you'll need:
  • a thermometer that's accurate
  • a shallow dish big enough to hold a bottle of wine
  • a stove to heat it with
  • another pot to tip it into (which for better effect could be whacked in the freezer for a while first)
  • a funnel
The plan is to take the wine as quickly as possible up to the boiling point of alcohol in the wine, boil off as much as I can then chill it back to "room temperature". Below is a quick video (time lapse) of my process, which takes 10 minutes.




So to explain a few things seen in that video:
  • shallow dish maximiszes the heat transfer and thus minimises the time its needed to be at a higher temperature
  • the other pot is cooler thus takes an amount of heat off straight away
  • I used an ice-cream maker which was frozen to -20°C to then even more rapidly take it down in temperature
  •  reduce the heat as soon as it starts steaming off the alcohol and hold it there for a few minutes (I took mine up to 82°C but it started gassing off the alcohol at about 79°C).
  • An audible "pre boiling hiss" could be head from the pan just like when boiling water in a kettle.
After the process the volume of the wine in the bottle (after distillation) has dropped by about 80ml. This suggests to me that (assuming most of what was lost was the alcohol) the alcoholic content has dropped to something like 4%. Given that it started at ~12% alcohol by volume that's not bad.

Drinking the result has shown me that it is much lower in alcohol (about equal to beer) as I can drink half a bottle and hardly feel any alcohol effects (less than were I to drink the same amount of beer). Moreover as I drink the wine more slowly (in a wine glass as if it was wine, not in a big glass as I do beer) I end up drinking my half bottle over a period of some hours.

So now I can have a glass of wine when I get home, have a top up while preparing dinner and a glass with dinner, and perhaps a glass in the evening during a movie and have had less alcohol than a beer.

Even better ... cheap wines actually taste better done this way than they did straight out of the bottle, the process must drive off some other things (sulphates, preservatives ...) that seems to make it less harsh.

win win if you ask me


Tuesday, 25 June 2013

atheism does not mean there is no creator

I'm not into extreme views, and my views on such things as theology are no different. To me extreme atheism is a group of people who deny there is any God or Creator and deride those who hold such views as mentally inferior (at worst) or (at best) having no evidence to support their views. To this point I have yet to see any atheist bring forward evidence to support their case either. My own view is that I remain unsure but that I hold belief that there is a creator of some sorts and that there is in all likelihood something after death. But this is a belief with only conjecture to support it (no hard evidence).

I think that the term atheist has been twisted beyond its original intention, perhaps as a result of the fight with fundamentalism in other religious (to my mind mainly Christian and Muslim sects) arguments and infringements into humanity. I like the summary that exists on Wikipedia:
Atheism is, in a broad sense, the rejection of belief in the existence of deities. In a narrower sense, atheism is specifically the position that there are no deities
I think that it is entirely possible that there is a creator and that the (human) view of deities is quite wrong. In such a way I see that my view are not in conflict with those of moderate atheists or in contradiction of those who believe that there is a Creator.

A friend of mine (who I think was an atheist but know was a keen astronomer) used to often ponder life and said "there must be more to life than death". In this post I would like to take Kieths ideas examine an alternative view which would perhaps sit between the two worlds of atheism and theism.  This idea is complex and requires a lot of groundwork, so please bear with me on this.

I was raised a Catholic and questioned much. I never got good (read satisfactory) answers. I wonder about the soul (far more than I used to since my wifes passing) and wonder about the nature of things which are conceivable but not demonstrable. I wonder if the spirit is not somehow generated as part of the processes which go on in the complex neural system. Similar to the 'creation' of a "new thing" in the training of a neural net. That cognition forms and develops thoughout life is an intriguing idea to me.

Our knowledge of the universe is sparse and incomplete, but from what I know it seems likely that our spirit is akin to some sort of highly complex computational process. We (the societal human knowledge 'we') are uncertain right now if there is a dependency between thought and brain or if there is simply a connection. Just like when a person pilots a remote drone, the drone is not thinking, but is a projection of the thinking happening elsewhere. The physics allows the transfer of that from one place to another.

It seems likely that such process is existing in living things. So perhaps just as when the drone is destroyed the pilot is unharmed, when our bodies stop our spirit continues ... somewhere.

If you've ever played First Person Shooter games you may experience how 'caught up' in the game one becomes. Were there no other distractions to this immersion it can sometimes feel for moments like that is the reality. When playing "massively multi-player" versions of these games we interact with hundreds even thousands (60,000 happens frequenty) of other players the artificial world is quite rich.

Imagine being born into such a game? Your first graspings with this life and years of experience are only with life as you see and feel it through your senses. However rough the analogy is, much like the way people were born into "The Matrix" but yet there it still came down to people in bodies. I mean that the organic bodies and the physical world we feel are the illusion.

Is this the nature of "reality"? A hypercomplex immersive simulation? If it is, where would the computing power be to "run" this?

Let me propose something ...

First let me say: that my simple mind can actually conceive of it, it makes me believe that the notion is at least flawed and probably wrong. For humans simply can't comprehend such things as infinity properly.

Anyway, back to questioning, we already know that the soul does not reside in the heart, as there are people who have lived on artifical hearts and have had heart transplants. The assumption that because the brain is destroyed the mind is too, may be based on the same logic that an ancient person pulling out the CPU and destroying the radio on a drone has "killed it".

Without knowledge we tend to rely on what we can understand to grasp the new things which we are confronted with.

Below is an animate image of the results of a simple mathematical rule set commonly called Conways Life.  It is a simple rule set based on a grid (checker board) which determines if a cell becomes populated (black) or remains in populated. The physics of that universe are simply:

1. Any live cell with fewer than two live neighbours dies, as if caused by under-population.
2. Any live cell with two or three live neighbours lives on to the next generation.
3. Any live cell with more than three live neighbours dies, as if by overcrowding.
4. Any dead cell with exactly three live neighbours becomes a live cell, as if by reproduction.


Once the initial state is set you run the simulation/game and see what happens. Subsequent to its creation many simulations over time have had people discover and identify all manner of patterns.

Most patterns vanished quickly but others persist, such as the glider.



This appears to simply walk along the screen. Soon after this with the advancements in computing people discovered other patterns that could exist in this "universe" which continue indefinitely further to create things infinitely.



This is of course a simple universe with a simple rule set and has only two physical dimensions.

Since its discovery people have taken this exploration further (with the aid of computers).The above images are quite simplistic but in the video below this guy has done a stunning job of compiling some interesting steady state automaton and some interesting growth scenarios. The following video takes you through a few possibilities of how complex things can be there.



I particularly am attracted to the section of the simulation that begins from a few pixels and then rapidly escribes a constantly expanding framework of life activity. Something like a mathematical description of how a big bang could occur. Were something like this to be initiated at a level that follows the rules of Quantum physics perhaps this could explain how a universe could come from nothing
I would encourage you to view that video (albeit long) where a well known physicist and cosmologist attempts to explain how our universe could indeed come from nothing. I do not see how it contradicts anything I'm saying here, save perhaps what I am writing is more reliant on assumptions than theirs is. None the less they find themselves with a creation paradox which can not be easily explained.

The cosmos is made of simpler stuff than our world, in space there are mainly only simple elements and the basic laws of physics, in our world it is complex and faster paced, being made of chemicals (molecules not simple elements), and interactions between chemicals (of course governed by physics). It seems difficult to comprehend that these complex chemistries (like that of our bodies) could have come from such as the fusion in stars (that formed the elements).

However over time we have learned that the building blocks of real biological life interestingly can be formed from natural processes with the basics of organic chemistry actually formable by natural processes.

In time we have also learned that all our chemistry and physics is actually underpinned by a more basic view of the universe, which is quantum physics. Quantum physics essentially breaks things down into descriptions which fit within mathematics. So we seem to have the basics to grasp that the world can be described mathematically.

This is interesting, lets return again to the life simulation and examine this video where a simulation scenario takes that to the next step, and shows that the simulation of "life" can actually support the mechanisms of running life within itself.



This at the very least shows that complexity and computation can come from something which is itself based on a very simple rule set. Just as our biology and our biochemistry supports the consciousness of our minds.

Quantum entanglement shows us that there is a way for such semi-tangible things as photons to interact physically even when separated by physical distances.

Which brings me back to the "remote control drone" example. Are we only here? Could we not also be "there" at the same time. There is of course no way to know.

So with all this groundwork I'll now pose my question:
What if that which is our thoughts and our emotions can by its formation and existence be in some way joined to (or entangled with) something else, perhaps in a universe which we can not comprehend? Would that end when we did? Could that not be the place we consider as 'the after life'?

Try explaining remote control drones and quantum entanglement to a sheep herder from the time of the birth of Christ .... before you start explaining my hypothesis about the mathematical world. I'm willing to bet you're going to start using metaphors and examples they can comprehend. Next thing you know, it will probably start sounding like the bible.

Exploration of the universe by cosmologists is not ruling out that the universe and all the galaxies and solar systems was created. It is seeming logical that such would lead to our creation and so perhaps our minds go on after the death of our bodies and continue to grow and make what is that some call "the kingdom of heaven".

Is there a God? Perhaps there is. But I'm willing to bet that this God is completely different from the visions of human dogmatic religious views. Many of the faiths teach that god is beyond our comprehension. Seems to sit with what I've just said above doesn't it? It also makes anyone telling you that they know what God wills or what God even wishes to seem rather more dubious. Personally all I care about is that I get to be with Anita again.

I wonder if Domingo was right and that: "we are god because only we can create the idea of his existence in our holy brains"

Well one thing is for sure ... the beat goes on...