The Japanese Rail system or NASA’s EmDrive? Which will take us farther?

If you’ve ever used a public rail system to travel, you probably have felt the consequences of the dehumanizing routine. Scan your ticket, take the stairs down, all the noise, it’s too dark, everything is filthy, people who need a shower in close quarters – all of those things and more can make a convenient trip into a hassle. Well, they are trying a few things differently in Japan.

Have you ever heard of “Nudge Theory”? Allan Richarz writes to it a little in his citylab article above. Essentially it is the fine art of subtly controlling groups of people. There are discreet social cues all over the Japanese rail system that help make it more efficient and friendly. They are playing short seven second jingles when the train arrives and they have blue LED lights mounted into the ceilings, which actually help lift people’s moods.

But none of that is lifting folks to the stars. A few years ago, some scientist/engineers at NASA discovered that if you build a cone shape out of metal and jam a bunch of microwave generators into the base of the thing it moves without a comprehensible source of propulsion. Ever since then scientists have been trying to figure out why it moves. Unfortunately for Sci-Fi enthusiasts the world around, it turns out that this miracle propulsion device is probably just interacting with the Earth’s magnetic field.

Take a look at Nadia Drake’s excellent article discussing this idea.

So for right now, it looks like the Japanese rail system is going to take us farther than the EmDrive. Will that always be the case?

Probably not.

~Michael 5/23/2018

From Boston To the Stars

So I live in the city of Boston and I have to say, Boston, you are a mixed bag. Driving in Boston is difficult. morning and afternoon rush hour each last about 3 hours, which is pretty standard from what I’ve seen from actually driving in a variety of different cities across the US, but the situation in Boston is more complicated by the street layout.

Boston is a giant maze. The roads here seem to be the vestigial carriage and footpaths from the 17th century with a layer of concrete and eminent domain covering them. Few roads are straight in this town. On top of lengthy traffic jams and bad road design, the drivers here are dominantly aggressive. Drivers will weave in and out of gaps that didn’t exist before they started the lane change.

One thing I really appreciate about Boston is the relatively usefulness of the public transportation network. You can move with surprising ease around the city using the T, or buses to get to your favorite restaurant or bar. Of course, you probably want to get to the bar early since it will most likely be closed by 10 or 11.

Ahh, but enough complaining about Boston. Would I live here by choice? Probably not.

Let’s take a moment and look up the the stars above a more intriguing subject. Astronomers have recently been able to discern a great deal about how planets form in star systems other than our own through direct observation.

Joshua Sokol contributed a story to quanta yesterday that has some really sweet captured images of stellar disks with gaps in the disks that are likely created by the accretion of planets within the vaporous disks.

One of the things that I like about this article is that you don’t have to have a degree in astrophysics to get it. Kudos to Joshua for making science interesting and accessible. But do I really understand what’s going on with these protoplanetary systems? Probably not.

Thanks for reading and feel free to comment below!

Michael Kelsch 5/22/2018

Inaugural Post

Hi there, and welcome to Probably Not. In this blog, we’ll explore some thoughts about things that I encounter in life, both digital and analog. I’ll share sources and references so you can see what’s up for yourself.

Today I’d like to discuss a few things that have been on my mind lately. First – Polyamory, what it is and why I’m interested in it. Second Yanni vs Laurel. And we’ll close with what I’m listening to for music today.

POLYAMORY… ayyy! So, what is polyamory? It’s the not-so-radical notion that people are naturally attracted to more than one person at a time. It can take may different forms and there isn’t a simple Webster’s definition that’s really adequate.

If you’re new to the subject of Polyamory, check out a book called The Ethical Slut, by Janet Hardy and Dossie Easton.


It’s a clear-minded, non-judgmental exploration of human sexuality and what it looks like to be honest about juggling multiple relationships at the same time. If you’ve ever fallen in love with more than one person at the same time, you might want to check this out. It has plenty of real-world examples of how to navigate relationships that are more complex than what we are generally prepared for based on the standard model of relationships in society.

I’ve recently started dating outside my marriage after ten years and can tell you it’s a crazy and exhilarating experience after a decade of repressing my natural tendencies for the sake of my relationship. It was a strange day when my wife came to me with the idea of us dating outside our marriage. Our communication has been greatly improved now that we’re talking about the thing that we were always afraid to talk about!

Does everyone fit into the mono-a-mono standard-style relationship? Probably not.

Yanny vs Laurel. I think this is the twitter post that started the whole thing.

Is this even interesting? It keeps coming up in the randomest and weirdest places. I was meeting up with a potential romantic interest at a convenient spot and a random kid rolls up to us and asks, “Yanni or Laurel?” and I was like, Hmm. Need to check this out finally.

It’s pretty clear it’s just Laurel, right? Probably not.

New Music time. I’ve been listening to the new A Perfect Circle album lately. It’s pretty good. A little self-righteous and dramatic, but still a beautiful piece of musical literature. I give it a recommendation of, “listen to it”.

That’s all I have for today, 5/20/18. What are your thoughts? Would love to hear from you in the comments section.