It Ain’t Lemonaide

According to Engadget, which I do not doubt given liability for such, a suit has been filed in the Hawaiian Yankee government district court seeking to impose a shutdown on the Large Hadron Collider pending a safety review, presumably by the litigants. [Link]

Now, the Yankee government is not even the sole government of Nawth America, much less of Tellus. So how do these good upstanding Americans – for such they must be since they are litigating! – expect the court to have any jurisdiction over a particle accelerator that is the sponsored property of other sovereign nation-states – at least they are sorta sovereign, but the matter of the European Union only clouds the absurdity here? If this were not so patently absurd, it might constitute a Casus Belli.

While we are on the subject of human physics however, does this constitute one more indication that the Yankee republic is rapidly becoming a “singularity of stupidity”?


The chief thief governor of Alibam has taken a hit, at least in the political equivalent of a Gary Gygax moment. [Link] Seems that the Yankee government’s appeals justicers have found some merit in the previous, (modern) democrat governor’s claims that his recent conviction for bribery was the result of political persecution.

It is highly unlikely, of vanishing probability, that the politician in question did not accept bribes; nor is there any reasonable probability that the current incumbent of the office, a (modern) republican, has not as well. This is a well established practice, tracing its roots at least back to the Recent Unpleasantness and not unlikely to before the chartering of the state itself. What is at issue here is the penalties imposed. The question is not resolved over whether the previous (modern) democrat occupant of the office, known throughout the state as a minion of the education mafia, was particularly egregious in his corruption or whether this is some local manifestation of the partisan warfare that is largely responsible for the sorry state of the nation.

The intriguing aspect is the rather trivial one of whether this indicates an actual substantive divergence in the two political parties in Alibam, a situation missing but camouflaged for over a century. The more disturbing one is the rather nasty question of what is the state of conditions when there are two competing offices of inquisition in the nation. If the two political parties who hold a duopolistic strangle hold on the administration of the nation are now manifest by using the legal instrumentality of the nation to wage guerrilla warfare on each other’s members and the increasing demographic of disgusted unaligned independents then we are indeed in a sorry situation where we can not long survive.

Regulation of Regulation

I note that the state of Washington has made it a felony to scan another person’s identity information without permission. [Link] The statute is prompted by the proliferation of RFID devices.

For some reason this set me to thinking. The thinking started with a reflection of how many laws the various legislatures and legal enaction bodies – national, state, and below – have enacted that are less than fully enforced. By this I mean that the enforcement bodies of these governmental organizations observe these laws over a range of “when Tartarus thaws out” to “when it is convenient”, which usually translates to either “never” or “when we want something else to charge you with”, to “only when you do something else wrong” to “when you send more money”. Meanwhile the number of laws is increasing slightly faster than linear and none seem to ever go away.

So we are confronted with a situation where the number of laws on the books far exceeds what even a graduate justicer can know, much less either Joe Consumer/Citizen or someone who is contributing to the future of the species, and there is no obvious relationship between the body of these laws and what Long John Fuzz is actually going to enforce. This bears all the earmarks of what is categorized mathematically as chaos.

There is a theory of history that holds that a society crashes and burns when it gets to the point that it has too many laws. This theory was more in vogue in the middle of the last century when there were all sorts of proposals that the number of laws on the books should be strictly regulated. For example, the Yankee republic would be restricted to having no more than one thousand laws, no state could have more than two hundred and fifty, nor any lesser government more than a hundred. And some proposals even went so far as to mandate that no law could consist of more than (e.g.,) a hundred words – in good, well written concise but clear English.

Perhaps it is time to revisit those theories? And to add to them that no law can be on the books that is not enforced, with concise, meaningful, and clear definitions of minimum level of enforcement (and maximum?) And a requirement that no law can stay on the books that the enforcement organ is not adequately resourced to meet that minimum level of enforcement.

Food for thought this election season.

The Eye of the Beholder

I am also intrigued by a recent study by Australian ophthalmologists who have established what appears to be a null correlation between myopia and introversion. [Link] This is interpreted as an indication that there is no connection between nerds/geeks/wonks and wearing glasses.

I would be interested in the reference that establishes the correlation between nerdishness/geekiness/wonkness and introversion. However, considering that the media source has a reputation of being one of the least accurate and lowest of integrity of science media organs, this leap may be nothing more than common journalistic practice. In other words, it may be obvious to everyone who is blond, popular, and extroverted.

But the crucial question is whether people who do not consider wearing glasses to be something that totally ruins them as humans can be classified as nerds/geeks/wonks (I shall refrain from any delineation of these) or just as introverts?

Body Energy

The boffins at Queen’s U of Belfast have come up with a goodness. Seems they have developed a thermometer that uses an ionic liquid rather than mercury as the sensing agent. [Link] This is rather exciting.

As a child, I early noticed that the commonplace home thermometer was a subject of love/hate for my mother. One the one side it gave a handy means of determining whether I or my brother were running a “fever” and hence ill that was more reliable than the classic hand to the brow method. That was the up side. The down side was that the glass tube contained mercury, which was widely viewed as a riskier home poisoning source than ant powder or any number of common household compounds. Evidently mothers lived in stark terror that their children would break the glass tube, whether oral or rectal, and the mercury would end up inside them, condemning them to almost sure death.

I was a graduate student before a biochemistry professor happen to explain that atomic or elemental mercury has such a low absorption as to be only marginally dangerous; it is the ionized or ionic forms of mercury that are readily absorbed and are truly dangerous.

But this new fluid is not poisonous at all although somehow I suspect mothers will now fixate over the effects of that broken glass on their children’s innards, as well they should. Of course, the fluid is “green” unlike mercury which does ionize once it escapes the relatively cloistered environment of the thermometer. Also, the fluid is claimed to have a faster response than mercury which I suspect means that it has a higher heat capacity and hence should reach equilibrium quicker.

No word in the reportage about the linearity of the thermal expansion of the ionic liquid which is probably not very important if all one is interested in is a range of about ten degrees Celsius, but for more general applications such are of greater interest and import.

Given the proliferation of magnetic resonance imaging in the medical industry, one has to wonder why they don’t just use these instruments to measure body temperature. It would be a simple matter of measuring the fraction of some excited state of a molecule and getting temperature directly from that. And much easier than having to shake the liquid down in those pesky tubes.

Homo Antecessor

Researchers from the Catalan Institute report discovery of a segment of human jawbone in Atapuerca, Spain. [Link] This segment is about 1.3 MY old and seems to be a homo antecessor.

The translation is cited in the reportage as “Pioneer Man”, which seems a bit disjoint or discordant. The man part is good but ante is usually translated as “before”, and cessor comes from cedo which is the verb “to go”. Hence antecessor would seem more directly as “one who goes before” and thus homo antecessor as “man who goes before”. So you can get to Pioneer Man but its quite a bit of a reach.

A rather pithier view would be to form cessor from cesso which may be the verb “to do nothing” in which case we might translate homo antecessor as “man who did nothing previously” or just “early idle man”. Or perhaps, “first bum”. We also stop short of hypothesizing that this species was responsible for originating the practice of the mid day nap or siesta, which can hardly be considered idleness is one still works a full day.

Interestingly it is hypothesized that homo antecessor is the common precursor to sapiens and neandertalensis.


I ran across an article yesterday [Link] about how Windows is being nibbled down on the edges. The thesis is that

I see two strong trends here. On the high end, people are buying Macs instead of Windows PC. On the low end, Linux is eating Windows alive.

My first concern over this is that I am not at all clear what is meant here by high and low end.

If you are perceptive, or even just subjecting my blogging to a time series averaging computation, you would have noticed I cut down on my blogging about a week ago. This was due to a rather critical distraction rather than a loss of interest. My venerable Dell Precision 620 workstation that I had been using for most of this decade with Windows 2K installed has been dying a slow and painful death of what might be likened to senile dementia brought on by cardiac arrest. Alternately, there were all manner of problems associated with processing and storage that seemed traceable to problems with power supply and its transmission. I have commented on this in previous blots.

About six months ago I became sufficiently interested in Ubuntu to purchase a spare hard drive for my Dell Inspiron 8600 laptop and dedicate it to Ubuntu. Well, after six months of stately progress – that’s management doublespeak for frequent mistakes and glitches but most of them corrected in reasonable time or at least an adequate work around found – I decided to take the plunge and “replace” my Precision 620 with another box and try to run Ubuntu on it. In effect, the experiment would be to make this my primary desktop box.

Mind you, this is not an absolute leap of irretrievable lemmingness. There is still the functional back-up HP XW5000 running XP sitting next to the Precision box. But this box has never been quite as useful as the Precision 620, mostly because XP is not as responsive an OS as 2K. Still it manages to do well enough for most of what I need to do.

I conducted a market survey for refurbished workstations. This is an eccentricity of mine; I have the conviction – belief with cognitive dissonance? – that a used tank is superior to a new SUV. It is unquestionably hardier and if it has survived the depredations of the troops it must be reckonable. The temporally local extremal opportunity was a rebuilt Precision 370 stripped back to bare drive. I obtained this beast for slightly less than a new “home” minimalist box with the benefits of a much better built motherboard, a goodly sized SCSI HD and a reasonable amount of RAM, and since it’s a desktop its condition as what Jerry Pournelle in the heyday of Byte called a “boat anchor” is not negative.

Anyway, while I was waiting on delivery of the box – 5 days from Texas – I downloaded an ISO of the latest Ubuntu release and burned a CD on the HP box. Upon arrival however, I found that the video card in the box had a connector other than standard VGA so I had to find a source for one and wait for it to get shipped to Greater Metropolitan Arab – another five days from New Yawk. The caveat here is that this is self imposed by my frugality. I could have had a new cable overnight if I had been willing to pay about a fourth of what I spent for the box instead of 0.04.

Anyway, once cable and box are in hand, it is a matter of moments to get old 620 out of its position next my desk and replaced with the 370. A few more moments to boot Ubuntu followed by perhaps twice that to install. Overall something like thirty minutes total.

At this point the first priority is to get the box connected to my wireless network. Now the grrr brrr is that Ubuntu’s greatest weakness is wireless, but I have had no problems with it on my Inspiron laptop other than having to transnumerate wireless key phrases into hexadecimal. My hope was to use the same adapter I had been using with my 620, a ZyXel USB adapter. Well, no LINUX driver on the CD or their web site, but I found one on an archive site. The install wouldn’t take.

So I tried installing the Windows driver in a wrapper. The box still would not recognize the adapter. So I next tried a Belkin thumb adapter. Ubuntu recognized it and I got on the network but after an hour or so it would wander off into Peter Pan Land. So I did a search on which adapters are Ubuntu compatible and then a market survey. Result, an adapter from Amazon and another five day wait. But the new adapter, a 3COM, worked like Sherman’s army in Sowth Carolina and I soon had a connection to the sea that hasn’t gone bad since. But this may be the lesson to be learned here.

Other than that, it has been a matter of stately progress. I now have all of my email accounts working either through Firefox or Evolution. Thunderbird has this annoying habit of bombing so I had to move on. That means I can’t add stuff to Google calendar directly from Evolution but that is supposed to change with the next update. So as Valentine Michael Smith would say, “Waiting is.” But I am catching my RSS feeds and I have ScribeFire to do blogging in – there is no “good” standalone Ubuntu/Linux blogging editor that I can find. And I can download podcasts – faster than on my Windows boxes – and get over to my MP3 player. And I can write code and do all sorts of stuff that is a rectal pain in Widows.

So I have to come back to the high and low end thing. I can somewhat see the Mac OS as high end in the same way that daughters are high end; that is, more expensive than they should be. But having had to use a Mac when I was working for the Yankee army, I can also say that it is definitely very low end when it comes to letting you do what needs to be done, even lower than Windows. And the Linux is low end in that it costs less directly but perhaps a bit more in indirect, especially skull sweat time.

But that is what makes it high end.

So I think we have a situation like charge. Why do we say an electron has a negative charge? No definite reason. We could have said a proton has a negative charge just as easily. So perhaps this whole high/low end thing with OS is a red herring? Maybe its more about what we want in the way of performance and the Mac and Linux OS meet different needs than does Windows?