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.

Not a bad morning so far. The gym was only moderately crowded and the weight bouncers were only moderately harassing and intimidating and the educationalists were actually rather restrained. The only negative, per se, other than the non-absence of the previous two categories, was the podcast, an episode of the CBC’s “Best of Ideas” about Moses Znaimer’s ‘Ideacity’. [Link]

‘Ideacity’ is a technology (???) conference that bills itself as TED for Canadia. It live up to that if TED stands for ‘Technological Entertainment for Dummies’, which is what the American TED conferences are, a bunch of bogs and not-quite-geeks trying to be nerds. And failing. 

This episode definitely obeys Sturgeon’s rule squared: 0.99 crap. In the duration of podcast I heard exactly one accurate thing – the issue of big data, corporation, and individual privacy – and a lot of blatant inaccuracy. And that’s across three presentations. The one with the robot loaded with a human was egregiously a failure. Makes me hope that I just die and turn to goop. Easily the most horrible representation of Singularity I have experienced.

And I had to listen to some other bog prattling about how wonderful GEN Ys are because they are digital. If they’re so digital why can’t they do anything? Why do I, a GEN X nerd, have to continually be doing IT support for GEN Ys who can’t even understand how to interface with a wifi access point? Or format a hard drive. Or add memory to a computer. Yes, they’re good at using digital appliances like FaceScroll and Twatter but where is their technical competency? So far as I can tell they’re just as bad, in the same proportions, as GEN X. Bogs are bogs whether they are analog or digital. And almost all aren’t helpful.

Another sad thing? This episode is the first of four. I will sample one more. And if it’s the same pile of pony poo, with a pony so small that the like hasn’t been seen in millions of years, then the ERASE button on the MP3 player comes into play. Happily. Ridding my attention span of digital rubbish. Rotting digital rubbish. That will never turn to peat. 

In other news – HA! – the aerosols are back. When I got to gym the wind was quite refreshing but it evidently slacked while I was perspiring, and being bored/alienated/harassed/…, and when I emerged, there was a stiff haze. Might have been a light fog but I don’t think so. Luna was quite visible, which shouldn’t be if there were fog, with an aerosol scattering halo that (approximately) doubled its radius. Very attractive. Almost pure pony. So I thought about Debye potentials and Diran Dermendjian all the way back to castellum SCP.

I was also put in mind of a cartoon: [Link]

that I ran across earlier. Fun, I fear, for nerds at least, needs to be brief, punctuated. Otherwise it cloys and ceases to be fun. Like that podcast. 

Color Stupidity

Back to week in. A few educationalists around gym but not really obnoxious. And the weight bouncers were actually civil this morning. The failing was the podcast, an episode of the CBC’s “Best of Ideas” about color and it was not. Rather it was a rather boggish thing, alternating between frustrating boring and wrong headed to downright painful and wrong headed.

It was very non-Newtonian and I am the opposite. Human vision has seven colors: Red; Orange; Yellow; Green; Blue; Indigo; and Violet. All the strange named colors like teal or puce or khaki are shades of one of the seven, or an admixture. Neither white nor black are colors, for opposite reasons, White is the combination of the seven and black is the absence of the seven.

And it rather grates on me when some ferd fails to adhere to this. But I contained myself this morning. I did not utter profanity over the podcast, nor hurl the MP3 player against the wall. I waited for the podcast to end and then I took great joy in erasing it.

I do not purchase paint; FD SCP has that responsibility. And so long as she does not tell me the (improper) name of what she has purchased I can abide it. I prefer to shop for clothing on-line since the stores are full of salespeople who utter this stercus.

I can abide motorcar salespeople when they use strange names for shades and allege that gray is a color because the whole process is so painful that the rule of greatest pain dampens all others makes their color pain mute. Also I do find gray soothing. My favorite weather is fog. I have always found it quite inspirational. And uplifting. I rather dislike high insolation days because the light level is irritating, if not painful.

And I noted as I deleted the podcast that next week I shall have to listen to another episode on the same subject. I fear I am now hoping for a long week.

STEM NERD Writing 3

One of the pleasant things I have been doing this week out is returning to listening to the “Pen Addict” podcast. [Link] I received an email this week that claims new episodes are forthcoming from a different casting service so I can unignore my small stash and listen again. I have to admit to being a bit amused that I have to actually admit to enjoying the ‘cast, horrible grammar and all. It is definitely quite different from the other podcasts that I listen to. Neither science nor computers.

And while the podcast I listened to this week out was a disjoint oleo, triggered by my thoughts on the Greeks of the campus of the Black Warrior, I had occasion to reflect further on my own writing efforts in my undergraduate years. I have already mentioned how I took up notetaking as a freshman. That it was new to me and something I had to learn hard and fast. This seems important, or, at least, significant, since it seems to explain much of the difference in my outlook than those expressed on the porcast.

I am, of course, aged more than the podcasters. This may be significant. Back when I was an undergraduate we did not have the resources afforded students today. No syllabus, or Powerpoint slides, on keyed notes. All we had was the textbook(s) and labs – in the nerd courses – and the lectures. That was it. So our notes were very important. They recorded what the lecturer thought was important. And his/her explanations and examples and illustrations. The mappings of the textbook material into our minds, at least in a pseudo-maths sense. So notetaking was a critical and crucial aspect of survival and success. One either mastered the process of converting what was seen and heard into ink on the page or one left for Vietnam. It was that simple, at least for men. I am unsure of what the women did. Or the Greeks. Other than put fungus cream on their feet.

Anyway, I have noted in the podcast that much discussion is emitted about writing angles, and pen colors, and line widths and such like. I finally realized that this was all symptomatic of the current craze with mindfulness. Given the depth of entertainment immersion these days such is not bad but it tends to make matters of mindlessness – unawareness – either nekulturny or anathema. But that is what makes the difference here.

If one is going to do notetaking well (or compositional writing,) then one cannot be mindful of the writing or its instruments. Pen/pencil and paper must be extensions of the hand. There must be no phase shift, no impedence in information flowing from eye and ear to brain to hand to paper. Pen and ink and writing must not be noticable – mindful. They must be part of the body, unnoticed until end of class when the hand cramp and inky fingers – if any – are resolved on the way to next class.

That mindlessness carries over. When I had an essay or term paper – few – of lab report or research paper of thesis or journal article – many – to write, that notetaking mindlessness was continued. The flow from brain to paper was direct and unimpeded by the non-physiological instrumentality. I typed poorly and could not compose and type at the same time. I would compose and write failry well. So all my career, i have composed/written first and then transcribed the writing to essay or article via typewriter or computer. I still do this almost always.

And as a result all this stufff about writing angle and line width and such is submereged into whether the pen is unminded or not. If not, the system is broken. If so, then it works. The rest is peripheral.

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