Thursday, October 10, 2019

Is this world a simulation?

As a believing and practicing Muslim who also loves science fiction, I find the recent musings of some key figures (such as Elon Musk and Neil deGrasse Tyson) that "this world is a simulation" very fascinating. These quasi-philosophers (and I like to play one on the internet) say that we are all avatars, or characters, in some big simulation and nothing is "real".

We know from our religion that our souls (programs?) are created separate from our bodies (avatars) that exist only in this world. We know that the sun and the moon are precisely programmed (Quran, 55:5). In this world, everything we do is recorded by the angels in a scroll (our activity log).

We know that God created the universe in 6 days. In Islam, we have long accepted that these "days" are not like our 24 hour days, unlike Christianity. And part of the reason is that we know this universe took millions of years to take shape. And God says His day is not like our days. But consider that on His day 1 He ran Day1.exe. On His day 2, He ran day2.exe. I am just speaking in terms a computer layman can understand, but you get the point. The time inside a simulation does not mean the same time outside the simulation. We know this from our own simulations, such as SimCity or The Sims. And you don't even need time dilation to explain this.

Since Allah is the creator of everything (39:62, 13:16 etc), He is also the Creator of Time and Space.. He is not bound by constraints of Time and Space. That exists for us inside our reality (our simulation?).

Just to throw a spanner in the works: If it were proven that we live in a simulation, that would prove a creator, but not a perfect creator. Since our Creator is perfect, one would expect that the simulation would be perfect. If a simulation is only detected by its flaws, we would probably never know.

Then, Allah says in the Quran: "And what is the life of this world except the enjoyment of delusion." (Quran, 3:185).

The final answer: We probably wouldn't know. And after death (game over), we probably wouldn't care, except our final score!

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

East Coast: Peggy's Cove (Day 9)

Continued from Day 8 ...

Peggy's Cove is an iconic East Coast destination. And to think - we nearly skipped it!

If I had to do the trip completely my way, I would have put a whole day here. Simply because I would love to photograph this famous lighthouse in the morning at sunrise, then in the middle of the day when it's busy, and then again at sunset with the famous golden sky behind it, and then at night when the lighthouse actually lights up.

As it was, we only spent a couple of hours there, enough to explore the site and take lots of pictures. I don't have a lot to share here as most of the pictures have people in them, and it's the same lighthouse but at different angles, but still I will try to recount the journey.

Clearly lighthouses are Nova Scotia's most
popular souvenir as well

Nova Scotia is home to over 160 historic lighthouses, some of them world famous (such as Peggy's Cove). Peggy's Point Lighthouse is one of Nova Scotia’s most well-known lighthouses and may be the most photographed in Canada. It was built in 1915.

Cheticamp is still on the Cabot Trail, so when we left the morning after our Cabot Trail trip, we still continued on the trail for some time.

There were still some nice coastal vistas to occasionally stop the car and take in the scenery. We were enroute to Halifax, which was some 4 hours away, and Peggy's Cove was another 45 minutes further from Halifax.

The East Coast is the true definition of a Road Trip. It's not just the destination, but the journey. There were so many things to see on the way. Just little road side stops. Small attractions. Memories. You really have to take your time and explore this part of Canada. Soon though, we left the coast and started to move inwards into the province of Nova Scotia. Interestingly, nowhere in Nova Scotia is more than 67 km (42 mi) from the ocean.

Nova Scotia, another interesting point of note, is the second most densely populated province in Canada (first being PEI). It is also the second smallest of Canada's ten provinces (again, PEI is the smallest).

Almost five hours after leaving Cheticamp, we entered the Peggy's Cove area. We passed a small memorial on the way to the lighthouse. This memorial is dedicated to the victims of Swissair 111. This memorial is about 1 km from the lighthouse.

To be honest, our initial itinerary had us travel back to Fredericton from Cheticamp, and then onwards and back towards Toronto. Suddenly we discovered we had one extra day, and Halifax wasn't too far of a drive from Cheticamp, hence we made the decision to visit Halifax. And of course, if you visit Halifax, you HAVE to go to Peggy's Cove. And boy we were glad we did!

How can you not visit Peggy's Cove! Every east coast trip from anyone I know includes a picture by this iconic Canadian lighthouse. This lighthouse, by the way, is an active lighthouse, unlike some of the other ones we saw on the trip - which were once active but now are only tourist attractions. This lighthouse is operated by the Canadian Coast Guard.

The area surrounding the lighthouse is also pretty in its own right. It was typical Atlantic Canada. Small, rustic, pristine, clean, natural, beautiful, picturesque and simple.

This cove was the scene of a youth novel by Bryan Doyle called You Can Pick Me up at Peggy's Cove (1976), which was made into a film directed by Don McBrearty and into a video released by Beacon Films, Inc., in 1982.

Peggy’s Cove is famed for its picturesque and typically East-Coast profile, with houses perched along a narrow inlet and on wave-washed boulders facing the Atlantic. Although this unique environment has been designated a preservation area, it is still an active fishing community.

The lighthouse was built around 1914 and stands almost 15 metres (49 ft) high.

The village of Peggy's Cove is likely named after Saint Margaret's Bay (Peggy being the nickname for Margaret). Another popular legend claims that the name came from the sole survivor of a shipwreck at Halibut Rock near the cove. Some claim she was a little girl too young to remember her name and the family who adopted her called her Peggy.

If you are there for an extended period of time, you can spend the day watching the waves and exploring around the rocks. There are many signs reminding visitors to exercise caution at all times, as the ocean water around Peggy’s cove is dangerous. Rogue waves (unpredictable, rough waves) commonly splash up over the rocks, even on calm, sunny days. We saw many during our time there.

Today, Peggy's Cove is a major tourist attraction, although its inhabitants still fish for lobster, and the community maintains a rustic undeveloped appearance. The regional municipality and the provincial government have strict land-use regulations in the vicinity of Peggy's Cove, with most property development being prohibited. Similarly there are restrictions on who can live in the community to prevent inflation of property values for year-round residents.

Once you are done visiting the lighthouse, you can take a stroll in the nearby village and surrounding area. There's lots of artists there, and many have shops nearby. The area around the Swissair memorial is also excellent for capturing pictures of the Milky Way on a clear, moonless night. Be cautious driving though, as the road is not illuminated at night.

It was with a bit of sadness that we bid adieu to Peggy's Cove as we headed back to Halifax. We knew this was our last stop on the East Coast trip, after which it was going to be a couple of days of driving back home. One last glance back at the historic lighthouse, and we were on our way.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

East Coast: The Cabot Trail (Day 8)

Continued from Day 7 ...

The Cabot Trail is one of the world's most famous drives. Every travel list in North America has the Cabot Trail as one of its must drive highways.

Rising from the sea and clinging to mountains, the 298-kilometer-long Cabot Trail is a winding mix of roadway, paths, stairs, and stunning beauty that takes you from unreal ocean vistas to quaint fishing villages.

Since the Cabot Trail is a circular trail, every one debates whether to go around the Cabot Trail clockwise or anti-clockwise. We decided to do it anti-clockwise, starting from Baddeck, so this meant we were on the outside lane with the water. I would recommend the anti-clockwise route, as this means you can immediately stop on the side if you see something interesting, and the elevation keeps going higher and higher as you drive.

As a sidenote: fill up on the gas before you head out.

It was a cloudy start to the day. It had been raining in Baddeck the night before, and the forecast called for more rain. We were hoping the forecast was wrong, and thankfully, soon it brightened up.

 A small inlet of water, beautifully reflecting the sky,
somewhere just north of Baddeck

I had assumed this would be a challenging drive - somewhat like Highway 99 from Whistler to Vancouver. On the contrary, it was pleasurable drive. There were some ascents and descents, but nothing crazy.

The first stop was the Wreck Cove General Store. Now why did we stop here? Simply because almost every guide book and Tripadvisor post said to stop here. I wouldn't say there was anything much. Their lobster sandwiches are apparently "world famous" (you beginning to see a theme here?) but at $16 wasn't worth it.

You also get curious souveniers such as this. Now I am hoping this is really chocolate. I don't know though. In any case, we were soon out from the store after getting some magnets and what have you. And once again, it was starting to be a clear sky (even though it was slightly overcast) and bright sun breaking out from the clouds.

Soon we stopped at a spot that I can probably describe as an inverse Lake Louise. It was really beautiful - the mountains, the grass, the trees and then the wide expanse of the ocean. Just like anything natural - photos (particularly phone photos) do not do it justice.

Phone pictures seem to flatten out the colours, but in reality it was vibrant and the contrast was vivid. No wonder lots of cars just pulled over to take pictures!

As we started out again, it was surprising that without much elevation change being apparent, suddenly we were back at ground level with the water. I really don't know how the mapping of the road was; but sometimes we were quite high up and sometimes we were quite low on the ground.

We stopped again some time before Ingonish Beach. I don't know what the name of this Cove was, but it was not hard to imagine that at times of yore, this would have been the perfect place for smugglers to bring their wares onto shore, where known people would be waiting, perhaps in the middle of the night with lamps, to ship those goods into Canada.

It was now bright and sunny - no sign of those clouds or rain. And soon we entered Cape Breton Highlands National Park. This park occupies a huge terrain north of the island, and the Cabot Trail touches the park in many places, and you need a park pass to drive through it.

The beautiful Ingonish beach

The ocean, the rocky beach and the 
winding road hugging the coast 
line, with breeze blowing through your 
hair as you drive into the sunset

The beautiful Cabot Trail, with the
sun now beating down quite mercilessly

Waves crashing into the rocky beach,
with no one around for miles

Lakies Head is a beautiful place to stop and soak in the scenery, just north of Ingonish on the Cabot Trail. There are plaques describing the seasonal migrations of animals into the area.

It's an easy stop along the highway with great views of the ocean and sea birds. There's some warnings about the dangers of rogue waves so just be mindful.

It was now getting to be way past noon, and thus time for lunch. And for that, we stopped at one of the restaurants that almost every guidebook and tourist post seemed to praise. The Rusty Anchor.

I don't have to describe the sea food. Fried haddock. Pan crusted cod and haddock. Mussels. Clam. Corn. More haddock. And it was all so good, and disappeared from the plate so fast also!

An interesting take on the fish burger

You can never go wrong with the
standard order of a fish and
chips - just make sure there's
no beer batter if you don't
drink alcohol

They had some interesting signage
demarcating the mens' and womens'

A great restaurant - the hype is definitely
worth it - and I highly recommend
The Rusty Anchor if you are
visiting The Cabot Trail

Views of the road and the ocean
from behind The Rusty Anchor

The ocean - so blue!

The Skyline Trail: Most people who visit the Cabot Trail also hike the famous (or shall we say "world famous") Skyline Trail.

At the end of this level trail, a dramatic headland cliff overlooks the rugged coast. You can enjoy an eagle's view of the Cabot Trail as it winds its way down the mountain and vehicles look like toys. And you can watch for whales in the Gulf of St. Lawrence from the viewing decks. Moose, bald eagles, bears and numerous boreal birds live in this habitat.

This was the start of the Skyline Trail. Now since our group included kids and seniors - we simply were not going to do the 7 km trail. It just wasn't going to happen. Instead, we did the next best thing. The lady at the Park Canada told us a secret.

The very next stop on the route AFTER the Skyline Trail was a stop that was at the end of the trail. So you essentially get the same view as if you have just hiked the trail. Minus the boardwalk, of course.


And once again I have to say pictures, as usual, do not do the scene justice. You JUST cannot take proper pictures that show the beauty of such a place. We would return to this spot after checking into our hotel at Cheticamp, the small village we were staying overnight, nearly at the end of the Cabot Trail (and close to Baddeck since this was a loop).

Our cottage (or chalet, as they called 
it) at Cheticamp

Cheticamp is a very small village. So small - there is one grocery superstore that closes by 5 - after which you only have a small convenient store to shop from. It's a beautiful French town though, and you can explore the fishing boats and the little houses. We decided to drive back to the trail to catch the sunset.

There's something to be said about sunset into the ocean. It is so pretty.

Dinner time - and why not pizza. Plus ... wait for it ... they have a world famous pizza store (but of course).

Overall, the Cabot Trail was one of the highlights of the trip. It was definitely worth the hype, especially the northern portions where you are so high up and you get some excellent views. You need a brilliant sunny day though - which is what we had - and not rain if you were to explore the Cabot Trail's beauty.