Mirrors and Smoke

Back when I was in college, Quantum Chromodynamics was a relatively new thing and I did not get the opportunity to study it under guidance. Of course, it is not something that undergraduates get the opportunity to study and my graduate shul attendances did not present any courses that I could take, and my research advisors were not interested in. Of course, when I got out and was doing practice for pay, there was little use for it. Bottom line: I had to learn QC on my own.

Also, in those days most of my interest was on matter as the basic proton, electron, neutron composition. Chemistry does not really care very often about what the constituency of a nucleus, and nuclear physics was still rather a matter of relative primitiveness. So primitive in fact that it is astounding that we ever got to nuclear engineering at all.

The standard model came along years after my campus days and as such never got much beyond the intellectual level of cogitation. Certainly I raised no beers in discussion of it, or had Friday afternoon kibbitz sessions about it, given that the job was mostly about weaponry.

Nonetheless the announcement of a simulation effort to demonstrate the composition of protons and electrons came as a welcome stranger amidst generally dismal news. [Link] It gladdens the heart to have this computational confirmation that most of the mass of these particles is indeed the result of small particles flitting about inside the larger, so to speak. The analogy that presents is the kid who puts flies in a jar on the idea that if enough are put in the jar will fly. Of course, it does not, but all that motion is part of the reason why.

Now if we can just get real experimental confirmation instead of the fictional simulated kind.


I have commented previously on the withering of the traditional media, at least its print aspect. I noticed this week an article in the Daily Illini, the student newspaper of the campus of the Boneyard, and now a blot of the demise of PC magazine. [Link] (I regret not having a link-citation for the DI article; at the time it did not seem worth noting.)

In the old days when desktop computers were new and as yet not shackled to the coffle that is the network, I subscribed to PC World. Originally I subscribed to several magazines: BYTE, Dr. Dobb’s Journal, PC, and PC World. These seem to now be listed in order of some metric of worth. BYTE was the most useful, best spanning the chasm between technicality and technology, between utility and popularity. DDJ was geekish at best, nerdish at its epitome. PC was worth the price, PC World was not.

In a sense, PC was the TIME of the information milieu. Much of what it spouted was either dead wrong or absolutely pi radians out of phase, but just being said demanded attention to protect oneself from those bogs who occasionally adopt geekishness for fashion’s sake. This rather brings us to the question of whether the magazine failed because that component of humanity, small but none the less sizable, ceased to need technology or simply quit worrying about it? Given my recent observations of the (what is the information equivalent of illiteracy or innumeracy?) of people today, I rather suspect the latter.

I believe it was Arthur Clarke who posed that “any technology sufficiently advanced is indistinguishable from magic.” In the case of modern consumer technology, I suspect it is that such technology is now indistinguishable from religious mysticism for much of consumer humanity. So my mourning for the demise of PC is as much about the demise of a useful and fruitful medium as it is about the degeneration of the species. And given the nature of social evolution, I suspect both are equally irreversible.

Flies with Sledgehammers

The Yankee army has apparently been infected with an electronic annelid, Agent-BTZ to be specific. [Link] And lest this be thought some big secret being kept from the electorate or that crazy Texican in the Oval Office or that megalomaniac who is on the path to take over the Oval Office next year, I also saw it, a bit later, in a Yankee feed. [Link]

The somewhat illogical response to this is that the Yankee army has now banned all forms of transportable media. I say illogical in that while this may indeed be the disease vector – kill the mosquito eggs to eradicate Yellow Fever, hurrah! for the Yankee army and Dr. Gorgas – it also has some of the same aspects as preventing venereal disease – a military problem as old as war – by plugging up the urethra with epoxy.

The aspect I was thinking of was how one voids urine under such conditions?

While I find most conspiracy theories to be specious if entertaining, I cannot help sensing a bit of Yankee army subterfuge here. For many years, ever since the founding of the republic, the Yankee army has been plagued with information leaks to the media. These have been particularly pronounced in recent years with the media’s dissatisfaction with the paternalistic censorship of “embedding” and their own paranoia over irrelevant extinction. The Yankee army well knows that most of these leaks originate from political appointees and that most of these political appointees are inside the Military District of Washington, in civilian terms, inside the beltway (approximately.)

The problem is that since these people do musical chairs (open ensemble) with each administration change, there is no lever of threatened punishment to dissuade such behavior. In effect, these political appointees are as invulnerable of legal restraint as members of Parliament are of debt punishment. So rather than learn how to live with the problem – an adult response that is admittedly beyond the capability of most organizations, but almost impossible of government organization in general – the Yankee army punishes everyone in the organization and itself.

Whenever I encounter situation such as this I am reminded of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express where the premise is that if enough people commit some criminal act, no one is punished. The difference here is that is the act is bothersome enough and the perpetrator is above the rules, then everyone must be punished.

Curling, Nawth Alibam Style

I was rather taken the other day by a cartoon that had been slightly modified from its orginal form:

As I noted yesterday, the heat energy was quite low here in Greater Metropolitan Arab and I was not quite comfortable. Some of that comes from taking all manner of blood thinners, which do all sorts of undesirable things in lowering the heat capacity of my body, but desirable things, so I am told by physicians, for other aspects of my body.

The Arab Curling Club, of which I hold the exalted office of brevet auxiliary fifth rear sweep, is another reflection of the tenor of the community whose primary socio-political organization is the Arab Liars’ Club. I should comment that I am ineligible for membership in that organization because of being a scientist. As one of its most distinguished members, Current Density Energy has noted, you cannot tell when scientists are lying because nothing they say is ever understandable.

I did have occasion to break fast with much of the Liars’ Club one morning at the L’Rancho Cafe and Poke Salat Festival Headquarters and was called upon to explain quantum mechanics to those assembled at the large table. I foolishly assayed this task and upon completion was solemnly informed that I was either the greatest liar they had ever heard or seriously in need of not only having been raised better by my parents but also closer supervision by FD SCP. One of the company who was also a member of the bar and is now a robed justicer allowed as how he would want to investigate that fellow Schrodinger for animal cruelty.

The Greater Metropolitan Arab Curling Club is somewhat less selective in that it has an absence of interest in what constitutes truth. That matter, by charter, is left to Sunday morning services, preferrably less than an hour in total length, and unsullied by anything even distantly related to reality. I should comment as a matter of clarification that the Arab Curling CLub has not only never had a match, it has never had a practice session. Our fair metropolis lacks an ice rink – the nearest on is in Huntsville, Nawth Alibam’s Shining City on the Hill, and any trip to Huntsville is seen by the club conscript fathers as anathema – and so the club is still waiting for a hard enough freeze that a local pond designated for the purpose of practice will harden adequately to support the weight of stones and players.

In the interim the club trains rigorously by advancing the antifreeze capacity of the members bodies and developing elaborate and comprehensive consensus plans of game strategy.

Ball Game

Tuesday is ¨Quirks and Quarks¨ (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) day at gym. Well, actually, the podcast is usually ~52 minutes so I end up augmenting with a session or two of ¨Future Tense¨, which was the case this morning. The latter was about something to do with robocalls and how they are maybe banned by the Yankee government unless they are made by political organizations. This, of course, raises the question of which is the more odious, politicians or profiteers? Or is that even an adequate differentiation? How many characteristics do people who sell stuff or gear or services or whatever over the telephone (and that qualification may be unnecessary) and politicians have in common?

The answer is likely objective, depending on one´s attitudes to the two, but enough. The main thing here that stuck in my consciousness was a discussion of a fungus that spends part of it life cycle in the laimentary canal of horses or cows, but reproduces after being excreted as part of a ¨ḧorse apple¨ or a ¨cow flop¨. Now most fungi reproduce by budding or sporing, and this particular fungus is no exception. So the cow/horse dumps a load of stercus and the fungus is free to spore, and thus propagate itself.

The problem is that the new fungus – the one from the spores – has to get back into an equine or bovine alimentary canal, and since these animals are not noted to browsing around their own waste products, the spores have to be propelled some distance away. And hence, what garnered my attention.

It seems that the fungus ejects its spores with an acceleration of 1.8E+05 g´s, or about 1.8E+06 m/s². Wowsers! Thatś a lotta acceleration although it is for a very short duration so that the spores don´t get converted into bioslush. I don´t  recall that a range was mentioned, and that would let us estimate the duration, which also wasn’t mentioned, which in turn raises the question of whether this was just shoddy reportage or biologists not talking about what they don´t think isn´t important?

Anyway, by my estimate, if that acceleration had a duration of 6.2E-2 seconds, the fungus would have done itself in. Its spores would have ended up in orbit. BooYah!

Drip Night

Last night was a drip night. The weather beavers on the local video medium projected temperatures of 5-15 degrees Fahrenheit into the solid phase of dihydrogen oxide.

Given the state of Southron building construction that means a need to avoid pipes freezing. And with it comes all of the joys thereof. As always the economic is the most obvious. FD SCP always tenses whenever I bustle about getting the drips right to cover as much of the pipe network as possible, thinking of what the Greater Metropolitan Arab water works is going to exact as penalty. Of course, given that we are in the second year of a regional drought covering much of the old Confederacy, I think about what this is doing to the water reserves.

The most harrowing part of all this is having to rise throughout the night to make sure the drips have not shut themselves off with the deepening cold warping the pipes and increasing the turgidity of the water. So oneś slumber is even more puntutated than is the norm for my advanced years and insecure dream states.

Things were not this difficult in my youth. Not because the buildings were any better insulated; if anything, that has improved over the years. But in those days we had pipes made of honest copper or lead and the types of light freezes we experienced in Nawth ALibam seldom ruptured a pipe. Nor did I worry about such in college, even at the campus of the Boneyard where we had all manner of device to prevent such, including wrapping exposed pipes with electrical heat tape. No, there the difficulty of winter was warped battery plates and ice, the latter propmpting that there always be two in an automobile in case of a skid, one to pilot and the other to anchor.

Today we have plastic pipes. Copper is now so expensive that thieves will steal it out of ones home, even in weather like this. And plastic pipes rupture, usually in a spiral fracture that may indicate Nature is an abusive parent to them, and rupture heartily. It is not a matter of a minor leak, but of long lengths of pipe rendered coarse confetti by the slight freezes we have.

Which in turn makes me think of the Romans and their lead pipes and lead goblets, and brian poisoning. Selah.

Minor Note

By the way, I discovered that you can trick FLOCK into using FireFox add-ins. If you mouse the Add-Ins off the menu it takes you to the FLOCK Add-Ins site. But if you manually go to the Mozilla FireFox Add-Ins site, you can install those add-ins.

This is probably buried somewhere in the documentation but given my senile aversion to reading on screen, it seemed noteworthy.


Brrrrr. Cold last night. One of those strange days. Was 35 deg F when I left for the gym this morning at 0345, and 33 when I got back. Of course, there were members of the education Taliban who had to turn on fans! Do the shul systems feed everyone a high fat/high sodium diet so they run higher body temperature and higher blood pressure?

Anyway, have about recovered my box crash. Problem resolved to be that Ubuntu 8.10 dropped by graphics card from support and when it updated the GUI got trashed. After buying new graphics card, installing 8.10, finding out it did not support that card either, installing 8.04, wrangling it to sorta/maybe work with card, and then upgrading to 8.10 – still sorta working, I managed to get to some functionality. But still can only use monitor at ~0.8 of resolution.

Much wrong with 8.10. Biggest problem has been discontinuance of some command line things to make the Windows wannabes work. Evolution does not read old address book very well. Had to touch each and every contact. Every!

Shuttleworth says he wants to make U as friendly as W. Well, he has nearly succeeded in making it into VISTA.

Commentary once I get the beast beaten a bit more into submission.

Human Neoteny

The current spate of global warming seems to not be without its potentially bright side. It seems that researchers at U Edinburgh have come up with the idea that this is averting an ice age a few thousand years from now. [Link] And they are projecting that this ice age would be even worse than the last one. If so, then the benefits are not humorous. The last ice age was endured only because of our low technological dependence and population density. An ice age in our current high density and level of technological dependency could spell the end of humanity.

One of the thoughts that arises from this has to do with the nature of adolescence. If one watches teenagers, one is able to observe a process consisting of becoming aware of the external world, then of the internal world, and then a metamorphosis. This metamorphosis is a transition from the bipolar idea of good and bad that is used in childhood to a multipolar idea of equilibrium and balance among numerous variables. The ice age – global warming thing is one such. Neither is inherently good nor bad, but extremes are – either in extreme can lead to the demise of humans which we may take as an assumption to be bad.

For lack of a better terminology, we may say that this metamorphosis converts an adolescent into an adult. Not all teenagers undergo this metamorphosis and they become neotenous. In effect, they are unable to progress beyond that idea of bipolarity. The form of this is varied, it may take the form of superstition and mysticism, of consumerism of goods, or entertainment, or sports, or even of the debilitating effects of others’ consumerism, as evidenced by the popularity of weekday afternoon television.

Regardless of form, all of these people never manage to attain a rational, sentient, intelligent (even) adulthood. They are stuck in a tragic post-childhood of simplicity and an inability to visualise reality, much less interact with it other than in some parasitic mode.

But what this trade off between the ice and the neat indicates is that the time for humanity to continue abiding this neoteny is fast eroding. Either the species as a whole must find a means for being adult, or the end of humanity is assured.

Token Yankee

I have mentioned several times how one of the benefits of living in Greater Metropolitan Arab is its newspaper, the Arab Tribune. The name is somewhat traditional  in the Yankee republic even though it is a bit overblown or inadequately upheld.[1] Still, we have to recognize that there are limits on how much even the traditional media can do to protect the rights of the people. In fact, in this age, we should be happy that the traditional media does anything to protect the people given the track record of the national media to subvert and corrupt that protection. But enough blather about the shameless pandering of that estate to the holy democrat fuhrer.

The Tribune is a bi-weekly periodical, which is an ambiguous way of saying that it is issued twice a week – the term might equally well mean that it is issued once every two weeks, but such are the joys of our language. The contents of the journal run a bit heavily to mystical rants and prognostications of impending doom from the thieves politicians in Guntersville (the county seat)/Montgum/the District. Such are often absent for the inner circle that direct Greater Metropolitan Arab, although whether this is doe to fear of their oppressive vengeance or some realistic apprehension of the newspaper’s lack of influence with that band of fascists.

Such aside, I have to make note of an excellent article on the occasion of the ninetieth birthday anniversary of one of my colleagues, Total Angular Momentum Energy, who is also in some sense the Token Yankee of Greater Metropolitan Arab. This is a bit of a misnomer in that he was never the solitary Yankee in town, there being several black tag people for years, and of course, with the influx of the last BRAC, a horde from St. Louis if such may be called Yankees and not just Midwesterners misplaced doubly, first to that city and thence to Nowth Alibam where gun carrying is even more widespread but considerably reduced in daily usage. And, of course, with the next round of BRAC there is the high probability that the political demographic of Arab will shift from its current Good Ole Boy network of native sons and daughters to one at the behest of emigre barbarians.

The Athenian model is not imappropriate. Arab seems as prone as Athens to the rule of old family autarchs and demogogues. And no matter how long one resides, those who come from without are never truly accepted as citizens, however grudgingly they must be accorded the franchise, by the dictate of outside governance, and how appreciated their tax payments.

Nonetheless, my colleague, despite his continued status as a barbarian – although one of my other colleagues, Magnetic Induction Force, who resides as immediate neighbor to Total Angular Momentum Energy, and did a stint of graduate education in his home state, avers that his Yankee accent is not pronounced and definitely not incomprehensible “bah bah”‘s – was recognized for the excellent and righteous man that he is. Sadly, the article has not graced the newspaper’s web page [Link] and so is generally unavailable to those who reside outside the precincts of Greater Metropolitan Arab.

This is also one of the great merits of living in small towns, the vastly reduced population. Since the number of elected governance officers is relatively constant regardless of population, this means that the local autarchs are more readily accessible than they would be in a larger city such as Huntsville or New Yawk City. Indeed, this also assures that those who are not good people are less able to band together and those who are good people can exert their propensities more effectively, although reducing the impact of superstition and mysticism is still difficult to impossible, just due to the insentient perversity inherent to humans. Nonetheless, it may be said that this able individual, Total Angular Momentum Energy is both virtuous and educated and hence what makes humanity strong.

1. Tribune Trib”une, n. [L. tribunus, properly, the chief of a tribe, fr. tribus tribe: cf. F. tribun. See Tribe.] 1. (Rom. Antiq.) An officer or magistrate chosen by the people, to protect them from the ppression of the patricians, or nobles, and to defend their liberties against any attempts that might be ade upon them by the senate and consuls.