Saturday, January 29, 2011


I don't typically watch sports particularly regularly or with particular interest, but there is one sport that I will always watch, including (at least trying) to get up at 3am to watch the finals happening live in Australia.

That's tennis.  I think it's just happy memories, because my mom watched it when I was very young and she wasn't working so she could take care of me, and I was interested in whatever she was interested in, so those "happy childhood memories" are still warm and fuzzy today.  That may be why others are so interested in other sports.

Heaven knows it's not like I'm good at it myself or anything.  Playing well involves several different learned skills that don't tend to be what you'd just do on your own--the way a beginner hits, with no knowledge, is never going to turn into skill because the right way is not intuitive.

I also like that it is a sport that features the individual rather than the team--the stories are to me more interesting that way.  Also, as long as the William's sisters aren't playing, the women's game is just as interesting, and tends to be nearly just as highly regarded and watched, as the men's game.  Not just the female segment but the entire tennis world seems almost as interested, which is really quite spectacular considering how widely un-interested the rest of the world is in the rest of the world's women's sports.  Tennis is even the only sport I know of that includes an event in which men and women play with and against each other (mixed doubles.)  Also tennis is one of those sports that does not have a set time limit, rather, you play until you reach the end based on the point system.  If that takes eight hours, well, then it takes eight hours.  To win you have to really want it and be willing to fight long and hard for it.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Mathematical Universe

When I'm feeling down, I just think on how amazing it is that a system of counting and logic that bloomed into an entirely self-consistent body of rules and ideas that, no matter how abstract and born of imagining strange shapes floating in space and derived from suppositions that are outside of reality it seems, has actually been used to describe, form understanding, and even predict things that actually happen in the physical world that would have been absolutely outside the ability of humans to experience without it.

There is much that is experimental and observational about physics:  things fall, electricity "zaps" you, iPhones work and gasoline engines fire.

Yet so much of our entirely incomplete and yet surprisingly deep knowledge of how the universe actually does seem to work came from some human beings somewhere thinking really hard about things, and using the logical tools of math to organize and catalog those thoughts.  In some case the observation came before the thinking it through, like planetary motion and the photoelectric effect.  The weirdness of the experiment helped form what questions to think about.  In some cases, the thinking it through is what lead to later experimental observations, like the existence of black holes and the fact that time slows down for an object the closer it gets to traveling at the speed of light.  The logical extension of the theory helped design what experiment to run, often some strange thing which we'd never have thought, "hey, let's do this and see what happens!"

It's trial and error, of course.  Some observations have led to thinking that has of yet yielded only more questions than answers, like what the heck is dark matter anyway? And some thinking no matter how mathematically sound has lead to no supporting experimental result, like all the many and ever expanding flavors of string theory.   The greatest discoveries in physics in the 20th century also lead to the greatest puzzle of physics to date:  why do two theories whose rules are fundamentally incompatible with one another: sometimes following the dictates of one means contradicting the dictate of another, both nonetheless show countless and ever-increasing experimental verification?  Special and general relativity describe physical rules about objects that are very large or else moving very fast in ways that have been observed in nature and cannot be explained any other way, while quantum mechanics describes what very small things do with equal experimental confirmation, although with the latter field our understanding of "why" is much more open to--often very, very bizarre--interpretation.

 "Why" is the question that we have asked over and over again, the answers to which we have answered an astounding number of times after using our brains.  It took quite a lot of time, and quite a lot of brains in collaboration, and quite a lot of brains being wrong.

But damn, the fact that collective contemplative analyses has yielded as many results as it has is nothing short of incredible for a universe in which the majority of space seems to be composed of nothing at all but a few scattered neutrinos and mysteriously low-energy photons.

Mathematics is not just balancing your check book.  Mathematics is the language which describes the real, tangible universe.

Monday, January 24, 2011

you can/can't go home again

So says the title of the novel by Thomas Wolfe, which I read a few chapters of before turning away in despair because the whole thing was perhaps great literature but also a mighty heap of Depressing, as much great literature seems to be.

Wolfe was talking about his own life, in reference to his home, the exact town where I now live.  In fitting detail, this weekend I left this very town that I do call home in many ways, to re-visit once again the one and only place that will ever completely be home to me.

I hadn't visited for a years, because for I while I thought I couldn't go home again, and for a while, the people who had made it home were gone mostly gone too.  Going home again reminded me constantly of how much I still wanted home back and couldn't have it and I often made myself miserable by trying to live in the past, yet at the same time reminded me of how much I had changed since leaving and so didn't feel completely compatible with the very place I loved so much.  I thought I'd changed in a way that made going home again impossible.

And hell, I don't want to live there now, because even though it is home, all of the conditions that made that one house, that one street, that one community of people, so special to me have changed as significantly as I have.  The people are also away living their own lives, the house isn't available even if I would want it, the woods have been cleared to make way for more houses.

I'm mostly happy with how much I have changed into my life since leaving, because even though I hated to be torn away from home and have no reason to think I would not also have loved the person I would have been if I could have stayed--I've had some great experiences because I had to leave, and I don't suppose I would give those up--as if I have a choice anyway.

I really am unwilling to forget how much an important part of me home has been--and although sometimes it seems to approach it, I don't really think that is living unhealthily in the past.  Even though leaving was once terrible and the intensity to which I held on to home after I left wasn't as healthy as if I had left myself happily open to new experiences right away upon leaving, I clung to home because I knew how to recognize a beautiful, wonderful, happy, healthy thing when I had it.  Now I can recognize many other great things that have happened since and because of leaving, yet if I still sometimes hold up my current life to the yardstick of that blissfully happy childhood, that's because I know how whole a person my childhood community made me feel, and I understand how strongly my identity has been formed by daring to love the places and people I grew up with.  I love them still, and in many ways, that love has always defined me, and I think helps me define positively who I am today.  I know what satisfies me on a deepest level:  and that place and people in it. Community. I suppose it is frustrating right now when I don't know how to use what's in front of me to achieve a present that fulfills those needs and maybe that's "living in the past" in disguise--but I know what it looks like when they are met, and I have to believe that I've got plenty of ability to recognize opportunity and create what will work, because hey, I had it before.

Plus, friends with whom you've laughed until you've cried, you've stormed imaginary and maybe real castles, you've weathered traumas and shared joys, they are an absolutely essential part of life, and I still have them. The ones from home, I mean, as well as all the ones I made since leaving home.  I achieved that for many years after I left and let it fall away for a while very recently--but I hope now to keep having them in my life as they are today, and this weekend I renewed that commitment.  I recognized the value of friendship at age thirteen (and was subsequently and I think justifiably angry when my parents tried to make me think people were simply replaceable) and it is still one of my greatest joys today.  For better or for worse that is the introvert's strength and weakness, or at least it is mine:  keeping alive the bonds between the people I've bonded with, even if that's less people than the endless stream of friends available to the social butterfly.  

When you go home, everything that has happened in between to put so much mental distance between your present and that idealized time in the past falls completely away. 

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

"Drive-By Energy Audits"

This is what my job has enabled me to do, in more ways than just looking at how much snow is left on rooftops as a determinant of how poorly insulated the house is.

I recall an advanced solar workshop I took around this time last year, in which the instructor told us we were "solar teenagers."  We know just enough to be dangerous to ourselves and others, without the refinement of years of experience.

I guess I'm like a green building teenager: bursting with new knowledge, that my opportunity to practice it to refinement has not yet caught up with.  I know enough to know, for example, that the fact that my house has no housewrap is kind of a very bad idea, but am not in possession of enough wisdom to know if it's really worth taking all the siding off to put it up. Ostensibly doable and actually very low-cost if DIY--yet really, is it worth jumping into a huge and consequential project I've never done before?

(As an aside: how else do you go from not knowing how to do things to knowing how to do them, whether you're a solar teenager, a building teenager, or a hands-on-skill teenager of any other kind?   Like the whole "if you don't know how to fix a car; you're not stupid, you just haven't learned how to do it yet" quote that I love so much.  Sometimes you really do have to take the opportunity to do things, on your own terms and in your own way, to get the experience to not be a "teenager" anymore.  This path is fraught with the peril of mistakes, and it would be best if one could learn from the mistakes others have already made first, but sometimes it seems the choice is between potentially making a mistake or sitting on the couch and thinking "gee, I wish I knew how to accomplish something!")

Anyway.  From the linked post:

This blog isn't at all meant to suggest that we should skip a "real" energy audit as we think about how to improve the energy performance of our houses. A thorough energy audit by a weatherization contractor will include a blower-door test and, often, thermographic analysis (in which a special infrared camera is used to identify areas of excessive heat loss). But the drive-by energy audit after a snowstorm is a great way to get a quick sense of the need for a real energy audit.

Maybe the experience of an energy teenager can point something out here.  Both of those tools, the blower door test and a thermal camera, are things the physicist in me salivates over--they provide awesome information about the performance of the house, and they might even be best done after you make improvements so you can see how well the improvements worked.

But they are expensive.  Not in the thousands, as energy retrofits might be, but if you're going to spend thousands it is a hard sell to spend a few extra hundred on something that only tells you how effective your thousands might be.  When we do audits, we don't do these tests, and we don't do them after retroftis either, because our audits and retrofits would cost a lot more than most folks are willing to pay if we did.  And the energy-not-so-teenager knowledge we can provide is enough to bring people savings, if not the abosolute most savings that could be wrung out of the house considering available technology, then likely savings on the same order of magnitude in cases with extremely "low hanging fruit," which probably any house older than 20 years old that hasn't had any energy efficiency attention is going to have plenty of.

I can't tell you how much I'd love to "nerd out" to the level of thermal cameras and blower door tests on every house I see, but alas nerding out is pretty expensive.  That was one of my biggest disappointments on entering the business world from the academic one:  cost matters.

So the wisdom of the "drive-by audit" is that in many cases this stuff isn't quantum astrophysics.  If there's not much snow on the top of your roof, it's because all the heat you're paying to pour into your house is going there.

Here are some more low-hanging fruit drive-bys, courtesy this green building teenager/former quantum astrophysicist (research technician for one, anyway):

1) If your heating and cooling ducts are not in conditioned space (the are in an attic or a crawlspace or garage), you are wasting a lot of energy.  There is also nothing you can do to completely fix this, seeing as you can't move them now, but you can still get some benefit from sealing and insulating the ducts.  Because the amount of energy this setup wastes is very large--like a fuel line in a car that leaks out 20% of the gasoline before it gets to your engine--this is a Do This First For Instant Payback fix.  

2) If there are gaping holes in your walls, floors, and ceilings themselves, fix them before you put any money anywhere else. It doesn't take a thermal camera to show you they matter a lot, but if you had a thermal camera, you'd notice the holes would be a completely different color (indicating a vastly different temperature, and usually the opposite extreme from what you'd like your house to be) than anywhere else.

3.) If you are keeping an 10+ year old extra fridge in your un-conditioned garage for the cooling of your alcoholic beverage supply...consider whether it's really worth $600 a year to you to keep your supply of beer cold.

4.) If you live east of the Mississippi River and are shopping for a home to buy or even rent, and you like the idea of the house maintaining structural integrity past the first year or so after it's built (forget energy, structural integrity comes first) don't let anybody tell you that gutters and/or overhangs are not necessary.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Social Concerns

I knew that the post-school world would be difficult for me as a strong introvert, from a "finding friends" standpoint, as I watched a lot of graduates from my school continue to hang out around school because that's the only paradigm we've ever known for like-aged social interaction.

Already, I fear following the example my parents set for me of the adult social life.  Today, for the first time in my memory my father is actually having other adults over to his house for a social event.  This is not an "oh look how uncool my parents are" exaggeration:  my parents are so extremely introverted that throughout my entire life I have never known my father to have any friends outside of my mother, and my mom only a few whom she saw only once every few years.  Their self-imposed social isolation, combined with the fact that I am an only child, has left me with a keen feeling of strong loneliness that still doesn't go away when I'm not actively involved in a social community, and contributed strongly to my own strong independence, introversion and general feelings of social ineptitude.

I'm happy for my dad.  He's finally learned a lesson that it seems I've been trying to teach him my whole life:  people need a wider community to be happy.  Sure, some people need more or less than others, but we're still fundamentally wired toward social groups.

Now that I'm not in college, I don't know what my community is--but I can already tell that I desperately miss having one. Significant Other alone is NOT enough--and that one college girlfriend who meets me for coffee only after I've called her five times isn't really, either, though it is a good start.

(It is tempting to look at that girlfriend and all her other friends she does spend time with ostensibly without them having to persist in drawing it out of her, to look at all the other people who graduated with me and lament that they don't seem to be having this problem, that of course it's just me and my bad social skills or general undesirableness as "friend."  That is unhealthy, not conducive to healthy friendships generally, and, I hopefully believe, only a representation of overcomable dark thoughts, not actual truth. The paradigm switch from "college" to "real world" is hard for many of us.  Hard things sometimes make us face our dark thoughts, and it used to be a theme of mine in blogging to lay some of mine bare before my readers, so they might take comfort if they've had some of the same ones.)

My new community could become work, but at this point work doesn't feel like the right fit.  Not long ago I put much effort into trying to secure any work at all with the imagination that it WOULD provide that community that I needed and no thought of what I would do if it didn't, and although I like my boss and his wife who also works there, the nature of my job is such that I mostly sit in my office all day all by myself.  If I interact with customers or co-workers it is usually through email; rarely, it's over the phone.  Even without the vast friend network of school, friendly interaction with real people during the day provides on it's own more than I would have thought.  And Office Silos are a sharp change from the collaborative camaraderie I came to love so much about being a physics major with other physics majors, being a student with other students in general.

It is possible that this will improve.  Right now I feel like I have no concept of office culture at all:  I understand what professionalism is, but how do you make small talk, much less friends, when everything we do entails sitting in our isolated little rooms all day?  Work is the priority, not friendship. I tend to make friends through feelings of camaraderie, and my inner playful-banter smart-ass has wanted to rear it's head when I do actually see the people I work with, but as a 20 something interacting with mostly 30 somethings and up, as a new person working with people who have been there forever, I have no sense of what is appropriate so I just stay inside myself.

So maybe work will one day be the community I need, but right now eight straight hours of Office Silo sometimes make me feel a little crazy.  I do quite like the work itself, I just need people, and I either need our professional interactions to be not so stiff or I need our interactions to not always be just professional--or I need to find for myself a vibrant community outside of work to be a part of.  I've had almost 20 years of socialization in the "school" paradigm, I think I'll go crazy if it takes 20 to get to a comfort level with this one, but there's no reason I should expect it to come after just three months.

How much of my office culture un-surity is generational differences between myself and not-like-aged co-workers (which is all of them)?  One of the curses of being an only child is that I've always felt I had to be more grown up than my age:   there's nobody around to be loud and kid-like with but there are these two adults who like quiet pursuits around, so I'm pressured to be a little grown up with quiet pursuits myself.  Other only children have described their experience in similar terms.  And now I am grown up:  I work at a place where grown ups work, I live with my significant other just like a grown up, I don't have the network of "school" to fall back on for making friends and am now faced with learning how to find them like grown ups do.  Only the two grown-ups I've watched most closely never figured out how to do that.

I've still got ammunition up my sleeve, even if my introversion disqualifies me for the next-best avenues in which youngish people build social networks:  Bar and Party Culture. The kind of people I want to be in my community are likely not going to be found in those locations anyway.  Maybe there are clubs to be joined, workshops or skills to be taken up, networks formed for other recent-graduates who are still around and also struggling with the same "now what? Everything I ever knew about socialization has just changed!" issues.

I've still, after all, got the option of going back to school.

Monday, January 10, 2011

T vs F

Every time I've ever taken the Myers-Briggs personality test, I've come up right smack in the middle of the Thinking/Feeling scale.*  Generally very, very slightly more on the Thinking side of things.  (If you aren't familiar with that test then this post won't make much sense.) Thinkers are supposed to make decisions based on what they think objectively, while Feelers are supposed to make decisions based on what they suspect will best contribute to social harmony, and correspondingly avoid what will lead to discord.** 

Being in the middle means I don't really have a strong preference for either one, because the Myers-Briggs doesn't measure one's aptitude in deciding things rationally verses deciding them based on social concerns, it only measures which and to what degree one prefers.   So I suppose I just don't care much either way, or I see the value in one or the other depending on the situation, etc.

One MBTI type-watching book that I read suggested that people who exert only the tiniest of preference one way, can sometimes find themselves in a state of confusion that makes them utterly incapable of using either preference effectively and act like the un-healthiest version of their opposite.

Whatever.  Clearly one should learn not to nerd out so much to popularized psychology tests.  Today I sure acted like an un-healthy Feeler, allowing a neighbor to convince me to put money into a communal service I didn't much think was necessary and consequently didn't much want to pay for. Yet I didn't want to be a free rider when many of the others on our street were volunteering to put money in to something I would benefit from even if I thought it wasn't required, and in the moment it seemed like the benefits of community solidarity and camaraderie were was worth a mere six bucks.  Hell, maybe it even was, because I've always hated living in my little box and never even knowing who the people who lived in such proximity even were.  Yet still, that the whole thing was not what I thought was necessary, I just did it anyway because that's someone who makes decision by Feeling does.  Consequently, our street is allegedly going to get plowed tomorrow, despite the fact that I'd already contributed to community solidarity plenty by shoveling two tracks into most of it.

Ah well, if it snows another half a foot tonight, then I'll have made the right choice after all.

**An MBTI certified (apparently, you can do that) friend of mine once told me that women who test as only slight Thinkers or Feelers should look at their results with scrutiny, because we are socialized hardcore toward Feeling even if that isn't what we prefer.  I couldn't say if men are equally pushed away from Feeling and toward Thinking, or if they just aren't actively pushed toward Feeling like women often are.  Over-the-top displays of masculinity strike me more as Feeling decision than Thinking ones...but it's all just a model, anyway.  Even if I have often found it useful in working with people whom I otherwise have a hard time understanding.

*For you type-watching nerds:  INTJ. INFJ?

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Quantum Psychology

This link seems pretty high on the "woo woo stuff claiming to be science" scale--but that's the predjudice we physicists have toward psychologists anyway.

(That was a joke, you can stop throwing tomatoes now.)

Actually, I say why not, if other psychologists find it up to snuff, I see no reason why it's not an interesting and plausible study that is worth more research.  To wit:

"One of the most respected, senior and widely published professors of psychology, Daryl Bem of Cornell, has just published an article that suggests that people — ordinary people — can be altered by experiences they haven't had yet. Time, he suggests, is leaking. The Future has slipped, unannounced, into the Present. And he thinks he can prove it."

Without claiming that this explains it, I will say that the framework of quantum mechanics would permit something like this to be within the realm of the possible, and our understanding of quantum mechanics is getting so good that I would not be terribly surprised if we did begin to see quantum effects appearing in realms of science even very removed from pure physics.  That being said, actually linking the effects credibly would be beyond the scope of either branch of science individually and pretty damn difficult all around.

When I was an undergrad I performed a lab experiment called the "quantum eraser," in which I took the extraordinarily simple case of a beam of light emitted by a laser (thus, all the little light particles were suitably similar to each other as is unique to how lasers, masers, and the like emit light), and made the photons act a certain way based on what I did after the experiment was over.  

It was called the "quantum eraser" because of what the laser light looked like on the wall, after I shone the laser beam through a screen with two slits.  Usually, the light pattern looks something like this, which is notably different from the single dot of light your cat likes to chase across the floor. This laser dot looks like a prison window grill instead because when it passed through two slits, it interfered with itself.  Bring up the usual analogy to dropping two rocks in a pond and watching how the ripple patterns change when they intersect each other:  some places get extra big ripples, in some places the ripple goes away, and that's the beauty of things that are waves.  Light is a wave, and it's also a particle--welcome to your very first step on the journey down the rabbit hole of quantum mechanics.

When I added in polarizers after each slit, so that light passing through one of the two slits could be distinguished from the light passing through the other one, I stopped seeing the prison-grill pattern and started seeing a normal dot of light again--I erased the pattern.  But why should simply distinguishing the light from each beam do that?  There is no reason that it should, except that quantum mechanics illogically says that in a situation such as each little light photon was supposed to have faced, whereby it arrives at Door #1 and Door #2 and has to pick one, but I, the observer, have no way of telling which one it actually picked, then it doesn't pick.  It just behaves as if it went through both.  Since it behaves that way, it can interfere with itself and make a light pattern that shows interference.

When I changed the experiment so that I could tell which slit the photons went through, then I observed what would happen if half had gone through one and half had gone through the other:  just a dot, no interference.  Furthermore the polarizers were located behind the slits:  the light had already passed through by the time it reached them, yet being there, giving me the ability to tell what had happened, was enough.  Even weirder, when I added in another polarizer downstream that erased the information the first polarizers had gathered--I'd see the stripes again, instead of the dot.   All done after the light had gone and passed through the slits.

This is called delayed choice.  One interpretation is that I can choose the outcome of the experiment based on what I want to observe, and it doesn't matter that I make that choice after the event I am observing actually happens.  It doesn't necessarily make sense with how we usually interact with the world but it does make sense with the statistically-driven rules of quantum mechanics, and certain situation can be manipulated to reveal that weirdness.*

Of course, delayed choice doesn't have to be interpreted to mean that the future affects something that happened in the past.  It could for instance mean that something you do in the present is only clarifying the past, or, as some of the people who first came up with the idea for delayed choice said, "the past has no existence except as is recorded in the present,"--which removes the time-travel-esque aspect.  You could interpret it just as an example of probability threading it's way into real life--which is indeed how many people choose to interpret all of quantum's weirdness.  Sometimes a roomful of physicists will not all agree on how to interpret how the heck subtle quantum mechanics things actually happens in reality, and physics is a field that is running into a wall on that whole "absolute objective reality" idea anyway--despite the fact that the math and general theories behind quantum mechanics are basically a settled science and research into how to use QM to make a better computer and help your GPS find itself, not to mention transmit information in space-age ways, are well underway.

So if a psychologist finds statistical significance to the idea that something we do in the present seems to inform something we've already done in the past--or however you want to interpret it--and if he has a carefully controlled and eventually repeated experiment, then hey, I'll call that an interesting stop in the scientific process.

*I have to put a disclaimer here that since photons are the only known and theoretically allowed things to move at the speed of light, interpreting as an actual example of delayed choice the experiment I did with just photons runs into some problems with special relativity. Ah well, the big problem in physics these days is that relativity and quantum mechanics don't mix.  The entire setup, minus the lab components, is equally valid for electrons except that it costs a great deal more than the lab practical budget for an undergraduate physics department, in which case you have to admit you're in spooky-land because electrons, as clear particles, are then nonetheless doing some suspect wave-like things.  And then it turns out that they've even passed fullerine molecules through double slits.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

The Experience Machine of the Future

Hey.  I've been shoveling snow and consorting with family and trying to help keep a company in business and perfecting graduate school materials.  So.

When Games Invade Real Life is my link for you today, envisioning a future in which everything we do works with the same incentive structure as a video game.  Points for doing things you should do, like taking care of yourself and going to work, etc, points for doing things the advertising companies want you to do, like watching advertisements and buying their products.  A whole world of points, and obviously, a whole world of some crazy computer system knowing everything you are doing all the time, down to the toothbrush in the morning that the toothpaste companies give you points for using.  The speaker of this talk says it much better than I could.

Gaping privacy concerns that we in the Internet age just might have to learn to let go of aside, I'm not a huge video gamer, so this world in no way appeals to me for that reason alone.  I like video games, but they bore me pretty quickly and I'd rather Go Live my Life.  (I do quite like physical world role playing games like Dungeons and Dragons, but I'm still going to reach a saturation point after a while.)  But what if the game was my life?  Or rather, my life really did work like a game? There is some powerful research out there into the power of intermittent reward, and don't some economists and social scientists and the like assert that most everything we do is based on reward and punishment, even if the reward is an intangible thing like "happiness" or "doing good things" as opposed to racking up money or points?  This talk caught my attention because, dude, this guy, (Jesse Schell, big shot game designer), presents a downright plausible view of the future world.  What if we really could re-structure our society that way, hi-jack our psychology into make us better people?

Yet I am reminded of an essay from ethics class, The Experience Machine.  Despite the fact that a machine capable of allowing every person to plug in and experience his or her idea of ultimate happiness without realizing that it's all an illusion would, all practical problems like maintaining it and dying of starvation, etc. aside, make everybody as happy as possible, something inside of us still insists that plugging into such a machine would be a very wrong thing to do.  Immoral, in some way we can't quite pin down.  Missing out on something very important about being alive, despite the fact that all of us who were plugged in should have better lives, because we would have only those experiences we want to have.

Even if a game-like reward society could encourage us to do more things that are good for us individually and good for society as a whole, there's something still...if not wrong about it, then certainly something that is lost. Perhaps the problem is that we could make society "better," but better by whose definition?  An "open-source" definition, edited by every entity that contributes to the game structure?  That seems most likely, and it is the most benevolent possibility--although it is not the only possibility, and that is where those heck-of privacy issues start rearing their heads again.

Yet I protest along the same lines as Nozick supposes we would protest an experience machine: what if my definition of "better" falls utterly outside the confines of simple act and reward?   What if I want to do things for reasons unrelated to racking up points, whatever real-world form the concept of "points" might take?  Am I already lying to myself by believing that I do?