Vacuum Wind

Again a nastiness. Had to go to physician’s office to queue for an influenza inoculation. Medicare mavins only. It was horrible. My ears hurt from listening to the banality. I even asked one of the nurses if they were bleeding.

Then after I had a bit of time to think about I realized that what I was hearing was basically the same sort of thing I have heard since high schule. Maybe before, but I don’t recall. It’s social noise totally void of information, except possibly counter-factual, uttered only for socialization purposes. Which it usually fails at. Like yesterday. 

But it did make me wonder why people do this. It’s got to be common although I have conjectured that it is primarily a bog thing. When nerds gather they either have actual, informational, conversations or they are silent. Nerds are more used to social discomfort and hence can handle the difficult silence. They just go off and go good stuff inside their skulls. Which apparently bogs can’t do or don’t like to do. Maybe both? 

What is perhaps more disturbing is that these people have nothing to say. Does that indicate they don’t know how to convey information? Or that they have no information to convey? The latter seems more likely. Or at least that they have inadequate confidence in what they know to utter it? Is this actually a situation of nerds having more confidence than bogs? Is this an instance of bog incompetence? 

More cogitation, and a discussion with my psychologist colleagues, is indicated.

Half Failures?

Not bad so far. The weight bouncers were only moderately nasty and bullying, and the educationalists wee scant on the ground. And being 2 day the podcast episodes were scienceish and despite a persisting error on almost all vectors to commit one of Burke’s sins and confuse technology with science there were some moments of moderate good. 

The most notable of these was the Guardian science podcast which was definitely NOT about science, being an interview with some Israeli academic about his recent book on the historical development of homo sapiens, but entertaining and informative nonetheless. 

This put me in a mood to consider an article [Link] one of my clipping services found yesterday. The article is quite localized, dealing with an urban community in Wisconsin where half of the high schule freshmen are flunking introductory algebra. 

I have to admit that I did not perceive Wisconsin to be part of the downward race of Amerikan states to third world status. So this was a bit of a surprise and not a pleasant one. It is not unexpected. We have teachers who have inadequate knowledge of the subject they are trying to teach. We have parents who have told their children that algebra is something one learns in high schule and then never has any use for. And who have no maths skills themselves other than fingers and a calculator – algebraic, of course. And we have the children who are the second generation who have been told that trying is as good as learning. An Amerikan recipe for failure and inferiority to African failed states.

I have to admit to some alienation. I taught myself algebra out of my father;s navy correspondence course textbooks when I was about ten or twelve. After that trigonometry. And was thoroughly bored with high schule maths until a brief consideration of derivatives in second semester senior year. But first semester calculus in college was a visitation of epiphany!

Sadly, these supposed bright kids will not know such. Because they are already failures. They are acalculate and likely will remain so. They are almost certainly doomed to be the illiterate of our society. And all because of the way that educationalists and parents are vertically copulated. 

But the lesson in failure may do them some good. Maybe. But I have scant expectation that those few, pathetically few, who learn from their failure can transcend the barriers of broken educationalism and incompetent parenting.

Podcasts and Sturgeon’s rule

Crap morning. Oh the weather is fine. Lower temperature and the weather beavers keep making a deal that this is first day of fall since that season commences at 2200 hours. So not a complete day of fall; that is tomorrow. Only two hours today. What a load of stercus!

And the gym was pleasantly sparse. Not may educationalists nor obnoxious weight bouncers. But the podcast was a disaster.

I started out with an episode of the CBC’s “Best of Ideas”. This one was the second component on Ideacity. And it was a real hair puller. I barely got through the first speaking, on quantum computing, and then the second, on telepresent robots, started raising all of yesterdays meals to the gorge, including the ones already defecated. The primary problem was the speaker who was one of those enthusiastic geeks who can curdle air with her evil. And this was the worst kind of evil. It was that evil that comes about when there is too much good. This speaker had no evil intent, only good, but it was so bubbly and exuberant and loud that it became evil and hurtful and something that could not be withstood. 

So I deleted the podcast episode off the MP3 player sine die and diverted myself by listening to the second half of last week’s “Linux Luddites” podcast episode. Nothing like snarking and cynicism to be balm to the festering wound of good rebounded. 

But the good that came of this was to once more consider the relationship of podcasts and Sturgeon’s rule. The latter holds that 0.9 of everything is crap. It doesn’t say how the crap is to distributed so too often the bogs, the few who know of the rule, think it means 0.9 of anything is crap. That is inaccurate. Podcasts are a case in point. 

Taken as a whole, that is the set of all podcasts, 0.9 are crap. But at the next level of inspection, individual podcasts, what we find is a spectrum. Some podcasts are 1.0 crap; some podcasts are 0.1 crap, or less. Although it is hard to get below 0.1 just on the general nature of human language usage.

The CBC’s “Best of Ideas” is a good podcast. Its crap level is about 0.3, mostly because it puts out a lot of stuff and excellence can’t be sustained that much even by the best. Today was one of those occasions when an abysmally crappy episode emerged. Most of the podcasts I listen to have low crap levels. They’ve been selected for that.

Not that I don’t listen to a lot of crap podcasts. We need to not lose sight that the purpose here is primarily to divert me from the unpleasantness of exercise. So another form of unpleasantness is acceptable and even welcome. 

But not when it is sickening and hurtful. And this one was. 

Life Physics

Another morning of inadequate wind speed. Comfortable so long as one moves but not stationary. Of course a constitutional in the park is ab initio and de facto kinetic. Rather enjoyable podcast this week out. The guest was not only knowledgeable and engaging but also not the usual pen/pencil/paper for the sage of pen/pencil/paper geek. Although the grammar was egregiously bad and hurt the mind sharply. Smartly, even, if I may assay a bit of a pun.

My colleague, Magnetic Inductance Force, sends me cartoons of what he – rightly, almost always, > 0.9 – perceives as mutual interest. Which usually mean physics and a few other nerdish practices. The first [Link]

is rather hurtful. Not, of course, for the tag line. We physicists admit we are rather immature. In fact, we brag of it in the gravest of insecurity since physics is really only done by the immature and to call a physicist mature is really a horrible insult.

No, what is hurtful is the “rubbing it in”. Prizes are largely irrelevant, negative even. They do no good for the recipient and they are embarrassing no end. How does one act? Falsely humble? We know what our strengths and weaknesses are and usually, what we have accomplished. And we don’t need some outsider to affirm that to everyone else. What do I care what you think? Thank you, RF!

But the Nobel is moderately acceptable. It lets you make a boring speech on physics to a bunch of bogs who have to sit through it nicely. So it is like a Scots’ confection. Very sweet. 

I noticed that the Scots have declined “independence”. Wonderful. Very satisfying. It is nice to know that among nations they are still one of the most rational, perhaps the most. This was an enormous display of rationality – not having to pick up all that boggish nonsense of getting along with others, and furriners at that, something better left to the English who are rather too stuffy to realize how unpleasant it really is – and charity, rescuing Great Britain from its own stupidity and incompetence. Absent the Scots the rest of the house of cards would soon collapse into children fighting in a sand pile over a plastic pail. Or the Bog equivalent thereof. 

And they, alone of all nations, know how to spell whisky. And make it. 

The other cartoon [Link]

is a bit more fun. It reminds me of a delightful seminar presentation I heard at an interdisciplinary conference on philosophy and the sciences. The seminar dealt with the idea of the vacuum. No, not a suck broom. Nothingness. This is a topic at the basis of science. We forget often that Boyle labored mightily on this matter at about the same time Newton was inventing fluxions and gravity and poking his eyeball. 

Of course that’s not what the cartoon is about. It’s about bogs and lectures and how their minds work. Or is it all children. The problem with schule, especially the oppressive public schules, is that what they present is what someone else has decided is important and MUST be impressed into the minds of the youth. And thereby it is in some degree rot and cancer and garbage.

For me, my years in schule were torture and pain until I got to college. Then I got to college and could, increasingly, ignore the unpleasant and useless and concentrate on what was pleasant and useful. I am told that is not the way any more, that even college is unpleasant and useless, and not just because it admits everyone. So one more reason to be glad to be old.

Joe Physicist

It falleth. Dihydrogen oxide that is. From the sky. Which is itself a concept of much depth and breadth. But the liquid was not too obnoxious save for its diffraction on the windscreen of my motorcar.

And the gym was mediocre, which is about as good as it gets given the management’s incompetence and the overall paucity of good sense that abides in the organization. The weight bouncers were more than a bit arrogant this morning and there were moments when I was glad the gym is next the hospital even though that establishment is not greatly better than the gym. In competence, that is. Same management, of course.

And being two day, it was science podcast day and a poor representation of such at that. First I had to listen to some fellow from the Large Hadron Collider, a name that dares any male to misspell it, arguing that the folks who work there are just ordinary men-in-the-street.

Hardly. Just being a physicist is offsetting given that the number of physicists in the Yankee repulbic is o(2.3E4) and the population is o(3.1E8) which gives us a fraction of ~ 7E-5. Now given that most people have about 250 friends and acquaintances the probability, simply estimated, that any random person “knows” a physicist is o(2E-5). This is, of course, warped since physicist condense, like bosons, and so one wither knows no physicists or several.

So based on frequency of occurrence, physicists are not common.

Could the argument be construed to be one of temperament and behavior? That doesn’t seem to hold dihydrogen oxide either. All physicists have to do maths which distances them from the algebra fearing herd. They have quite specialized knowledge and are generally considered to not behave as the herd does. Yes, they still drive motorcars – in the main, and they wear clothes and eat food. They are humans. But a great fraction of them are nerds and aspects of autism spectrum are more common among physicists than in the general population.

So I come back to my original head shake that the contention that the fellows working at the LHC are average joes is specious and farcical.

Note that this is not a statement of elitism. Haven’t argued here that physicists are better than other people. Just that they are outliers in the spectrum of humanity.

But it is a bit disturbing that a physicist would make such a ridiculous contention. Probably this fellow is an administrator whose physics neurons have been rotted by bureaucracy. At least we can hope.

This must be a Weird Saturn’s day. The rings are askew? or Askew? Yes, bad pun. Or punal pun?

Anyway, I was reviewing the morning web sites and ran across an article [Link] on io9 that presented me this picture

which gave me all sorts of thoughts about horrible movies and horrible art based on them. But I visited the cited web site and ran across this [Link]

The picture is of some wire frame “art” of Feynman diagrams made by Edward Tufte. Tufte is, of course, the righteous archenemy of powerpoint. And every nerd on Tellus knows what Feynman diagrams are, is not what they do. But I never associated them before with paper napkin holders. Which is what these look like. 

Feynman and paper napkins. I can see the association. He liked a good time and much good nerdery has first been written on a napkin – or table cloth. See George O. Smith’s “Venus Equilateral” on the intellectual property niceties of napkin inscriptions.

But somehow it struck my amusement neurons that Tufte, the master of vistual presentation, would be doing paper napkin holders. 

Alienation or Prevarication?

Which is worse: a journalist interviewing another journalist on a technical subject; or a journalist interviewing a STEM on that subject? Bear in mind that the STEM has to recast his knowledge in what he thinks is understandable by his visualization of Joe Public, and that the second journalist has taken what a STEM has told him/her and cast into journalist-speak.

This question arises because this morning when I listened to an episode of the CBC’s “Best of Ideas” that covered the health perils of sedentaryism, the moderator did this by interviewing another journalist. Not a physician, nor a physiologist, or any STEM. A journalist.

The response to his questions varied from a cacophony of cliche to astounding inaccuracies. The most egregious was the definition/description of what an accelerometer is. If I had not know the definition before, I would not know now. I was unsure for several minutes whether to weep or laugh. I finally selected the former.

This is not news. The vast preponderance of observational data replicates this abysmal situation. In the mode, journalists are STEM incompetents and are destructive in representing STEM to the public. 

The other side is not without peril. Most STEM try hard to communicate with the public and fail miserably. They either cannot simplify or simplify too much, in either case alienating their audience. 

But the question is, which is worse, alienation or error? 

This is a great unpleasantness. When I was a bairn I read several quite good STEM books written by journalists. No more, at least that I can find. Evidently competent journalists are an extinct species.