Monday, October 31, 2011


Despite my having enjoyed several of A.C. Grayling's thought-provoking books, his recent, The Good Book; A Humanist's Bible, isn't really my cup of tea. That said, I enjoyed reading parts of this interview (no, not the bits about his hair ;o)
"And besides, really," he adds with a withering little laugh, "how can you be a militant atheist? How can you be militant non-stamp collector? This is really what it comes down to. You just don't collect stamps. So how can you be a fundamentalist non-stamp collector? It's like sleeping furiously."
Exactly...and it helps to explain why I wouldn't be tempted to join an association of atheists. Denying a specific belief held by another man may illustrate the sorts of things that I'm likely to disbelieve, but it says next to nothing about what I actually believe. Despite my general aversion to belief in sky gods, I wouldn't be surprised to learn that I have more in common, overall, with a given Christian or Muslim, than I would a certain, self-proclaimed atheist. 
That if having people agree with my own philosophical stance really mattered. It doesn't. Of those whom I would give a kidney in a heart-beat, exactly none share my philosophical beliefs. The people that I most love in the world have distinctly different religious, philosophical and political beliefs than mine. Simply put, we don't love people because they agree with us. Furthermore, we sometimes betray those whom we claim to love by merely agreeing with them when we ought to do otherwise.
"They have stopped deceiving you, not loving you. And it seems to you that they have stopped loving you." Antonio Porchia
While engaged in friendly arguments in recent weeks, I twice noticed my disputants laboring to shift the terms of our disagreement in order to illustrate that our diametrically opposed stances were in fact the same. I suspect they were worried that our friendship might be in jeopardy if it turned out that we actually did disagree on the issue at-hand. 
I came away a bit depressed in both cases. Not because we argued, or because I lost an argument, but because I realized these people know so little about me, or think so poorly of me, as to fret that I might turn my back on them should their view point happen to prevail.
Epicurus taught that nothing is finer than sitting under a tree discussing philosophy with friends. With or without the tree, this mental tableaux is my idea of "the good life" as well. Bear in mind, philosophers rarely discuss their points of agreement. One might as well talk about the weather. A professor may discuss philosophy, but when two or more philosophers gather, they argue. Ideally, they argue as gentlemen or gentlewomen. Sophists argue for the sake of winning arguments. Philosophers argue as smartly as they know how, in order to jointly tug on a corner of the woolen rug that lies beneath the ordinary world; the world we already knew by the age of nine.
The person I argue most fiercely with is myself. I would think less of myself if it were otherwise. And yet someone who only argues honestly with him or herself lives in danger of intellectual inbreeding. Those who will only discuss their beliefs with like-minded people - perhaps, for fear of having an argument - commit intellectual incest.
To live in a world in which everyone were exactly alike would be to live alone in a world; all we could do is talk to ourself.  Martin Buber taught that the difference between a monologue and a conversation is the "otherness," or the moment of surprise. In order to have a conversation we must be prepared to hear surprising things; otherwise, we're only talking to ourself. 
It's a poor philosopher that can't spot three ways that his every assertion is incorrect. The trouble is that we argue our ideas as though our lives depended on them, when it's less about the static ideas themselves than it is the passion with which we pursue them.
"Man is ready to die for an idea, provided he doesn't quite understand it." Paul Eldridge
I wasn't born holding my present beliefs; I arrived at them through an arduous process. These beliefs comfort me. They help me to make my home in an otherwise inhospitable Universe. Comfortable as they are to have around, rather than wrap myself into a little ball around my present beliefs, my goal is to rid myself of them. That's right, my ongoing quest is to replace my present beliefs with better ones. I shall never be content on this accord. Philosophy is not something you have, it's something you do. To paraphrase Sir David Butler, a better philosopher is not one who is right, but one who is wrong for more insightful reasons.
Political argumentation is unnecessary (even unhealthy) in totalitarian states. Democracy, on the other hand, amounts to an ongoing argument about how best to govern ourselves.
And so I argue that argument is necessary for our well-being. An argument doesn't necessarily signal a break-down of etiquette or diplomacy. A signal of agreement is not a reflexive sign of friendship. Rather, you do me a favor by patiently explaining why I am mistaken. In a dialogue it is necessary to both speak and listen. And when we listen we ought to be prepared to hear new and strange ideas. A wise philosopher by the name of Frank Zappa once said  
"Without deviation from the norm, progress is impossible."

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Immortality and the Multiverse

Have you seen Roger, G3XBM's new blog, Miscellaneous Musings?

I especially liked his recent post on the simple pleasures. I'd say he's spot-on. 

I wanted to comment on his topic, "Death in a Multiverse," only, it overcame the space provided. I'll just post it here on my blog.

I enjoyed reading your comments, Roger.

Suppose it were factually true that a nearly identical replica of you will continue to live somewhere in the Multiverse following your death here. Would having a nearly identical replica of you carry on somewhere "out there" effectively extend your conscious life?

Fortunately, there is no need to wait for our death in order to test this idea. The test consists of one straight-forward question, namely; Have you lost consciousness at any time since you were born? This test can be administered at any time and the results stand for all time.

The very notion of immortality stands critically on the precept that our consciousness is independent of a functioning brain or body. Thus, the test for absent consciousness is valid regardless of the present state of our brain or body. Plainly speaking; we need not wait until we die in order to test for the continuation of our consciousness. Again, this is so because immortal consciousness is not contingent upon a functioning brain, or the lack thereof.        

I've taken the test and the results are unambiguous. In fact, I have lost consciousness several times in the course of my life. In each case my experience abruptly halted, only to restart at a later time. While my consciousness was "off-line" I had no dreams, nor could I reflect upon the fact that I was unconscious. Upon waking I noticed the world had apparently gone about its business while I was entirely absent from it. No "hot standby" rushed in to pick up my loss of consciousness. No secondary "light" was illuminated. Until my brain had "re-booted" there was for me only time-less nonexistence.

Indeed, those missing moments stand out no differently than the semi-eternity during which my consciousness was absent from the world prior to my birth. Of course, the fact that our consciousness suddenly arose with our physical birth should have been the first tip-off that our consciousness might not survive without our brain/body.

There is little that we can say about the world with metaphysically warranted certainty. However, it seems a fair bet that none of us will survive the death of our brain. Some of us won't survive until the death of our body (e.g. terminal coma, advanced Alzheimer's, etc.).

This isn't the last word on the subject. Granted, the person who presently peers at the world through my own eyes will eventually disappear. But new consciousness will continue to reappear (i.e., children will continue to be born). Of course they won't bear my personal identity, but they will be somebody.

Well, I wasn't born "me" either. I was born a "somebody" that eventually became a "someone;" the same as they will. They won't have my memories or share my person proclivities, but I wonder how much do those particulars actually matter? I admit it's a head-banging question, but if a child is born a nebulous "somebody," just as I once was, what is it that distinguishes one raw consciousness from another?

I believe the question has much to do with the notion of identity. I can imagine looking out through these same eyes even if my life had been radically different. If primal consciousness is fungible, then what stands between the individual consciousness within which each one of us awakened? If consciousness does not arise stamped with a "serial number," what could there be to distinguish one newly minted consciousness from another?

I don't see this as some backdoor path to personal immortality. Neither do I envision it as some type of reincarnation. Rather, I think that we ought to re-examine our concept of Self. And I think that we could do worse than to merge, or at least blur, our notion of individual self with that of our brethren; past, present and future. I suspect that I exist in this broader sense, and in some degree, in every conscious being.

If you have an interest in the subject of personal identity then you might be interested in Derek Parfit's masterpiece, Reasons and Persons. A sample of his arguments may be found here.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Sputniks 'Round the World

I briefly heard G3VTT calling last Friday with his Sputnik "clone" at 14:31 UTC. Here's a nice picture of his transmitter; built from mostly vintage components.

Colin's caption for the next photo: "Snappy change-over...only one switch and a croc-clip!" Notice also his high-voltage supply (80 or 120Vdc).

Here is a photo of Dan, WA6PZB's Sputnik and J-36 bug. Very nice indeed!

Nick/WA5BDU's very 50's Sputnik transmitter. More info on his blog.

Yuri/UA3UAD's Sputnik appears in the photo below.

This Sputnik belongs to Alex/RN3AUS.

Here's a close-up of Alex's Sputnik transmitter.

Oleg, RV3GM very kindly sent me a list of contacts made to-date by the ops at QRP-RU

Oct 4,
- RK1NA QSO with G3VTT/Sputnik 449/449
- UA1OKO works "Sputnikers" PA0PJ, DL3JIN, ON6WJ and ON5AG/QRP
- UA1CEG worked ON6WJ/Sputnik 589/599
- UA3UAD/Sputnik @ 1W, QSO's with G5RV, G3IOR, ON4ADR, ON5AG, S51NP
- UA0SBQ @ 1w worked HB9AFI and YT3AA

Oct 5,
- RN4AO/Sputnik @ 1 W, QSOs with G3IOR, DL3JIN, DL3NRV, ON4ADR, ON5AG

Oct 7
- RN3AUS/Sputnik @ 300mW QSO with DL4HG/qrp

I received a nice message from Victor/UA1CEX

"Working on 21060, power 1watt, I used Elecraft K-1 and G5RV antenna. I did the follow QSOs: ON6WJ, DP7TU, W1PID, G4PPK, PA0ATY, DL1NFF, ON4MB, S53AF, DL4VM, M0BAU, N1EA, DJ8UB, EW8A, LZ2RS, IW5ELA,PA0PJE, UN8PT, RN4AO, G3UAA, UU7JQ, ON3QA,OK1FAO, DJ0GD, DL3PB, DL9MDW, I2MDI, UA4AES, US5EVD, OK1DXK, W3PO, DL1JGV,OK1KL.

Among them, Sputnik stations are: ON6WJ, W1PID, RN4AO, PA0PJE, UU7JQ, DL3PB, US5EVD. It was a great pleasure, to work in Sputnik days."

Here are two photos of G3MFJ's lovely build. My thanks to George, G3RJV for both passing the "valves" to Graham and sharing Graham's photos with me.

My own Sputnik log of stations worked now includes

Date       Call          His    My    QTH        Notes
7  Oct.   ON6WJ     339   239   Belgium   Sputnik to Sputnik QSO!
7  Oct.   ON6WJ     559   559   Belgium   2nd Sputnik to Sputnik
11 Oct.   F6FAI       599   539   France     100w to 43m end-fed wire
11 Oct.   EI5JZ       559   339   Ireland
13 Oct.   ON6WJ    539    229  Belgium   our 3rd Sputnik 2X QSO!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

A Sputnik Duet

Results by Peter/DL3PB (rig shown in above photos)

Transmitter:  homemade ‘sputnik’ transmitter with 1SH24b/1P24b
                    400mW out at 90V supply ( 12 x 7.2V/900mAh, 
                    charged with a small solar panel )
                    tunable from 21.059 to 21.064 MHz
                    TX/RX relay switch/QSK
Receiver:      RX-section of a homemade VXO-QRP-transceiver, 
                    based on trusty ‘Sierra’-design.
Antenna:       temporary end-feed vertical dipole on balcony 2nd floor



4.10   14:50  DJ0GD/p      549 539   Peter/Moers  1W/vertical
4.10   17:37  WA4IUC       349 339   Paul/NC 5W/7el-yagi
5.10   16:49  US5EVD       539 449   Alex 1W/dipole
5.10   17:16  AA1TJ ???    339       Mike/VT Sputnik 400mW/LW*
5.10   18:44  CT4RL/1      429 319   David/Ericeira QRP
7.10   16:16 UA4FCO       559 569    Yuri/Penza 3W/4el-quad
7.10   18:55 CT4RL/1      439 549    David agn 5W
8.10   13:45 CT4RL/1      539 449 ...
9.10   14:52 EA7/G4WZG    559 319    Bern/Malaga 5W
13.10 17:48 K6JSS/4       559 599    Bob/N4BP FL 5W/yagi
14.10 12:44 OH6NPV      419 329    Rauno QRP
14.10 13:00 UA1CEX       239 339    Vic sputnik 1W/G5RV
14.10 14:40 AC4QI         329 439    Jack/Rockmart 80W/7el-yagi
15.10 15:47 W4MQC/1   559 559    NH QRP ARCI Nr. 3788
16.10 12:20 K6JSS/4      559 559    Bob agn QRP ARCI Nr.1
16.10 13:25 K1DPE        559 349    Louis/NH
18.10 15:48 EA4BPN      559 559    Rafa/Madrid 5W/0.5W(349)/GP
18.10 16:05 WV1N         129 219    Bill/CT 1W/80m-dipole
22.10 15:52 RA3DUO     559 579    Boris nr Moscow 150W/loop
22.10 16:34 NS0TA        339 539     contest-style SOTA W2/GC-107

*my report got lost in QRM/QSB, so not a valid QSO

Further my ‘beeps’ were copied by Jim/W1PID 
on oct.9th at 13:41z with RST 559 (email)

Hi Peter,

Thank you for the photos of the DL3PB Sputnik! I enjoy so much seeing these little "bare-bones" QRP wonders. And to think that I've heard the signal made from your little handful of parts across the vast Atlantic Ocean. If that doesn't capture the magic of radio I don't know what could.

On Friday you twice hit 539 here. For a short while I could hear both you and Josef/ON6WJ beeping in my headphones at the same time. Your Sputnik "duet" made such a lovely Delibes a run for his money ;o)

Gently floating on its charming risings,
On the river’s current
On the shining waves,

One hand reaches,
Reaches for the bank,
Where the spring sleeps,
And the bird, the bird sings.

Under the thick dome where the white jasmine
Ah! calling us


Doucement glissons de son flot charmant
Suivons le courant fuyant
Dans l’onde frémissante

D’une main nonchalante
Viens, gagnons le bord,
Où la source dort et
L’oiseau, l’oiseau chante.

Sous le dôme épais
Où le blanc jasmin,
Ah! descendons

Mike, AA1TJ

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Early Sputnik QSO Party Results

We're now two days into the Sputnik QSO Party and everything is coming up roses. Today for example, the first signal that I heard on 15m was ON6WJ's tidy Sputnik "clone"  beeping across a distance of 5550km with an output power of 700mW. Here's a photo of Josef's excellent handiwork.


Please visit ON6WJ's "Sputnik Made in Belgium" page by clicking here.

On the evening of the first day of operation I had this note from Colin, G3VTT.

"I used the Sputnik TX at powers of 400mW and 700mW with 80 volts and 110 volts respectively although keying was better at the lower voltage and oscillator start up more reliable. My circuit used link coupling tuned with a 60pf trimmer to the antenna and HT keying of the PA.

I worked UA1ASB, RK1NA, SM4EVC who gave a report and then sank into the noise, RA3AL, G3TYB up the road and W9RGB. This last QSO was a real one with 'intelligence' passed as Vic told me he had last heard the Sputnik signal whilst at college in '57.

I only have a 40m wire here and could have done better with a beam but I guess my wire was better than the four original whip antennas on Sputnik although it had a distinct height advantage!"

Jim, W1PID, posted on QRP-L a log of the stations that he worked on the first day out. Jim was running 1w to a Windom antenna.
Date     UTC    Freq    Call         MY  HIS     Exchange
4 Oct  1220  21.061 PA0PJE   459 449   Netherlands  1/2W  
4 Oct  1243  21.059 DL3JIN     539 559   Germany Peter   
4 Oct  1255  21.062 UA4FCO  559 559   Yuri 5W  
4 Oct  1258  21.061 ON4ADR  559 579   3W  
4 Oct  1324  21.060 G3UYM/p  579 579  Cambridge Harold 5W  
4 Oct  1449  21.060 ON6WJ    579 569  Josef Sputnik 700mw  
4 Oct  1541  21.060 DL4VM    539 559   Saar Tom 5W  
4 Oct  1548  21.061 CO2KK    559 569  Arnie   
4 Oct  1557  21.059 PA0PJE   579 579   1W  
4 Oct  2012  21.064 WA5BDU 339 539   AR Nick   
4 Oct  2019  21.060 N0UR       559 579   MN Jim 5W  
4 Oct  2031  21.061 DL4CW   439 559   Joe   
4 Oct  2204  21.060 CT4RL/1 559 559   David 5W 
5 Oct 1244  21.060  UA1CEX  559 559  Vic 1w G5RV
Heard but NOT worked:
4 Oct  1220  21.061 G3VTT    Not worked
4 Oct  1312  21.060 IT9NMJ   Not worked
4 Oct  2028  21.061 K0ZK      Not worked was 559
I had some trouble with my homemade regenerodyne receiver for most of the first day due to a steadily increasing internal noise level. It eventually reached a level that made it impossible to continue. Contrary to the popular metaphor, real frogs will jump out of a slowly heated kettle well before they come to harm. I, on the other hand, apparently will put up with a slowly increasing noise level long enough to miss most of the stations calling me! In fact it only required 20 minutes to locate and correct the problem once I decided to act. The trouble stemmed from a noisy transistor in the regenerative IF amplifier/detector stage. Swapping this transistor with a spare solved the problem completely. I apologize to those stations who called, but failed to raise me on account of this issue. For example,
Peter/DJ0GD wrote to say

"Hello Mike ,at 1500Z I hrd ur call and dashes 539 also same at 1545z. I wkd DL3PB Sputnik 400 mW 549 but only 10 Miles away. I hrd him clg you later. Wkd UA4FCO but he sad was clg U but not heard."

Once my receiver problem was corrected the contacts came pouring in. Here's my contact log as of the end of the third day.

 Date  UTC   Call     MY  HIS  QTH    HIS STATION
4 Oct 1220  ON4ADR   519 559 Belgium     3w
4 Oct 1409   NN6T    559 569   AZ       ~1w
4 Oct 2027   N0UR    449 579   MN       5w to 3ele Yagi
5 Oct 1430   KA3P    539 569   FL     
5 Oct 1447  WB5BRD   449 589   AR       75w to Invee
5 Oct 1500  WA5TCZ   599 599   LA       50w to Yagi
5 Oct 1546  DL6HG    539 559  Germany   Sierra @ 1.5w
5 Oct 1619  SP7BCA   559 569  Poland     5w
5 Oct 1635  DL4HG    539 559  Germany   Sierra @ 1.5w
5 Oct 1639  DL6MN    529 569  Germany   
5 Oct 1713  DL3PB*   339 539  Germany   400mW Sputnik
5 Oct 1736  CT4RL/1  419 329  Portugal   5w
6 Oct 1827  AB9LM    559 559   IL            5w
6 Oct 1847  WA4SQM 569 579  GA
6 Oct 1934  DL4HG    549 559  Germany   Sierra @ 1.5w
6 Oct 1954  DF2OK    419 589  Germany    5w

The contact with DL3PB shown above doesn't actually count as a QSO, 
given that we lost contact with each other roughly one second before
he would have copied my report to him. Otherwise, we copied both
call signs and I copied Peter's report of my signal. While not technically
a QSO, any information exchanged between two stations located nearly 
6000km apart, both of which are running 400mW to simple wire
antennas, is bound to be a thrill. What's more, a receiver made from 
three germanium transistors  - all of which pre-date the 1957 Sputnik-1 
launch - was used on one end!

N0UR very kindly sent me an audio file of my 250mW Sputnik signal as
received in Minnesota (1642km distant) on the first day. Please click here 
to listen. Notice the little burst of "doppler shift" at the beginning of 
my transmissions ;o)

DF2OK surprised me with a recording of my 400mW Sputnik on 
6 October at ~20:00 UTC. Please click here to listen. All the way to 
Northern Germany...Vielen Danke Michael!

Shown below are some photos of the Sputnik QSO Party set up here at
AA1TJ. My receiver appears in the first photo. A crystal-controlled (24MHz)
converter built around a 2N128 surface-barrier transistor precedes a 
regenerative IF amplifier/detector made from a second 2N128 transistor. 
The detector is followed by an audio amplifier using a single 
2N109 vintage germanium transistor. The same 1.2Vdc supply used to heat 
the Soviet "Rod Tube" filaments is used to power this receiver.
My transmitter is appears in the next photo. The RF output power is 250 
to 400mW; depending on whether I use 57V or 72Vdc on the PA screen/anode.
The circuit board appearing in the foreground bears the transmitter keying
and R/T switching circuitry. A pair of modern, high-voltage transistors are 
used to key both the oscillator and the PA stages. A simple time-delay circuit 
applies a steady +57Vdc to the oscillator screen/anode as soon as the key is 
depressed. The DPDT relay activates at the same instant in order to switch 
the antenna and mute the receiver. Both the oscillator supply and the DPDT 
relay switch off a second, or so, after the key is released at the and of a