Vacuum Stupidity

Dragging. Too much yesterday. And I didn’t get much done. Which leads me to reflect on the events.

My first graduate student, a master’s student, closed the loop after more than thirty years. Not from – I hope – any alienation, just no overlap of spatio-temporal coordinates. And it was a good reunion and he told me all he was doing and had done. And I tried to stay pretty quiet but I knew from the beginning that this wasn’t about me. But he was a good student – hard working and hard thinking – and one cannot ask for more and seldom gets half so much. But I could tell that he was struggling with some insecurities; insecurities that what he was doing now was worth while and befitting. And as such things often are, his concerns were ,isplaced and overamplified.

But that interaction went way further into the evening than I am want to go and so I was too tense and burdened with my own lateness when I got home. And discovered an email from a colleague who was clearly disjoint over the failure of his current management to do something simple like pay the cellular telephone bill for the organization. Which either indicates a failure to communicate or that the Yankee government really is morally bankrupt. So I suspect a mixed state. With a large dose of inside clerk not getting around to a task that is obvious but of different priority to inside and outside folks.

In any organization, there are several differentiating taxonomic states. A common one is inside/outide folks. The in/out refers to contact beyond the organizations. Insice folks mostly only talk to folks inside the organization, and visa versa. But what is important is both think they are important and !!!!! the others aren’t.

Most of us think garbage collectors are unimportant. And they think garbage makers are nuisances. But our lives would be enormously more complicated without garbage collectors and they wouldn’t have jobs without us. Not that they couldn’t find other jobs, of course.

This sounds like we are are all irrational and unobjective. And we are. But that is part of human nature. And basic conservation of capabilities. We can’t be rational about everything or objective about everything and still be human. Mutually exclusive. And that’s where managers come in.

One of my colleagues, used to be senior to me, had a saying “Never attribute to malice what can be adequately explained by stupidity” written on his chalk board. He claimed it was to remind him. What he didn’t say was that he had to be reminded becuase he really didn’t want to believe it despite ample empirical experience of a supportive nature.

That’s why we call ouyrsleves homo sapiens. We aren’t. Wise that is. But we are conceited and insecure and those make for bursts of what passes for abysmal stupidity. But it isn’t real stupidity because it isn’t persisting. It’s rather like Dirac particles being “created’ from the quantum vacuum foam. (How’s that for a mind bender phrase?) We might call it Dirac stupidity except it would be a horrible insult to a rather arrogant but otherwise smart fellow. So let’s call it vacuum stupidity. Because idisrupts everything else, and then goes away leaving an eery silence.

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Two Stuff

Mixed bag this morning. Spent yesterday running about in house sopping up water blown through the door gaps by the house painter while pressure washing Castellum SCP. Highly educational. I cannot wait to inflict this, in the form of a problem, on students and boggish colleagues. Well, perhaps we will settle for an interminable parable for the latter.

But the gym was blissfully sparse, only one obnoxious weight bouncer, the one who breathes stentoriously and spends much of his time walking in circles, oblivious to whose feet he steps upon, and mumbles to himself. Some sort of christianist mystic? And the podcast episodes, especially the one from the Guardian on contemporary longitude prizes, was quite good if depressing. Especially about antibiotics.

So in response to the Yankee gestapo’s raids on people takers:

Discorporation to Slavekeepers!

Preferably by organ harvesting.

And finally, this cartoon [Link]

that captures what has been said about advertisements. They are all FALSE! Prevarications! Heed them not.

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Physicist Failure

Horrible day yesterday. FD SCP had me out cleaning the aft proch and my sinuses are agonizing. The walk in the park was an actual relief this morning. And the weather beavers have mentioned precipitation in the afternoon, or so I may hope.

But I did have opportunity to continue cogitation on the matter of lectures and learning, so I suppose I shall have to take up a recent grrr brrr about lectures. [Link]The contention is that learning is not effective in the lecture format and things have to be made more interactive. My immediate, and enduring, response to this is that it is an extro conspiracy promulgated on the idea that students have to be placated for professors to get paid. Rather like the teach to the test thing in the public schules.

First of all, only the extros participate in these “voting” things. Intros do not. They come to class, they listen, maybe take notes, they go home, read the book, work the problems, and think. But the thinking takes time. There are some things that I got told in freshman physics class I still think about today. And occasionally they give me insights. So the idea that learning occurs only in class is an olla sterci – a crock of feces. Yes, some learning occurs in class, but most of it, including almost all of the insight, occurs later, often much later, out of class.

I have mentioned previously a math methods class on Green functions that took me over thirty years to “fully” realize.

Extros don’t do this way. They don’t go home and read the book nor do problems. They think doing problems is for intros and geeks and nerds. Which they are afraid of becoming. And they don’t think about stuff once the course is over. And they don’t want anything but a good grade so they can get a diploma and have a wonderful career. Working for a nerd.

At least in the mode. There are exceptions. But most of these people are not going to become STEMs. They don’t think enough. And socialization is too important to them to spend time understanding.

I have mentioned Chad Orzel’s taxonomy before. It applies here, in resounding fanfare! The purpose of the lecture, in STEM at least, is to tell the student what is important so they can read the text, do the problems, and think. And learn. Notice that distinction? The learning is out-of-class. And afterwards. So yes, the lecture is ineffective if the metric is in-the-class learning.

But the metric is orthogonal to the reality.

Do the physics. Drop the ball!

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Feces and FORTRAN

Two days now without precipitation. A statement like that wouldn’t normally be joyous, except around Noah time, perhaps, but it is. And the walk in the park this morning was passable. Even the podcast episode had relatively few grammar obnoxities. So I can do a bit of wandering about this morning.

Given the general tenor it seems appropriate to note that Drum Castle in Scotland is the seat of an investigation into fourteenth century micturation and defecation. [Link] Nothing says real archaeology like mucking about in cess pits and the like. Not an activity we can easily picture the hatted one performing.

On a similar azimuth, a U Virginia study [Link] indicates that the kids who are “cool” in high schule are more likely to have social and emotional problems – like being criminals – than the uncool kids. Nerds score again! Bogs get sucked down!

Further, the founding ancestor of Linux has defecated upon the idea that everyone should learn how to code.[Link]  The quote is worth presenting

“I actually don’t believe that everybody should necessarily try to learn to code,” Torvalds said. “I think it’s reasonably specialized, and nobody really expects most people to have to do it. It’s not like knowing how to read and write and do basic math.”

since the majority of folks can’t do basic maths. The article also contrasted to the English government coding mandate

‘the idea that “getting to know code is really important” and that “not just rocket scientists” should learn programming.’

The problem is that coding isn’t rocket science. One of the advantages of being a rocket scientist is that one has a fairly good idea of what rocket science is and basically coding, in and of itself, isn’t. It’s a tool, like a Craftsman adjustable spanner, or an integral table, but that’s about it. You do need coding to get to Mars but coding, in and of itself, won’t get you there.

In fact, scientists don’t do the kind of coding that is associated with the program. We do problem solving, number crunching coding, not people caring coding. Perhaps the best illustration of this difference is that we code in FORTRAN (and maybe a couple of other languages but FORTRAN is the intense one.) It’s not the same thing.

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Commercial Implications

Mixed bag this morning. The density of weight bouncers and educationalists – the bullying ones at least – was down but the podcasts were abysmal. Too much on city science. Now podcast coverage of city stuff is amusing, maybe even educational, in small doses. In larger doses it is annoying and banal, but in these kind of quantities it is distressing, painful, and boring.

The problem is that what works maybe in a high population, high commerce density environment does NOT work in the hinterland. The conscript parents of Greater Metropolitan Arab do not understand this since the basis of their comparison is Nawth Alibam’s Shining City of the Hill, which is a pimple to New Yawk City’s cancer. But they  persist in trying to lure new chain restaurants to Arab when what we need is a friendlier atmosphere for Mom and Pop places. And a minimum wage laid on big businesses, like MalWart.

But this annoyance and antithesis gave me occasion to cogitate. Are the voters of Alibam really as stupid as commercials lead us to conjecture that politicians think we are? I should like the answer to be NO but I fear it is yes. And the basis of this fear is commercial advertising.

I saw a commercial on the electromagnetic audio-visual receiver – several times – about denture maintenance chemicals. This commercial proclaimed that “dentures are ten times softer than real teeth.” Are dentures not real? Are they imaginary?

The packaging for my dental floss proclaims that takes “30% less effort to use.” How do we measure softness? How do we measure easier? I would contend that we do NOT. What we measure is hardness and difficulty, respectively. And what 10 times softer and 30% easier mean is rather unclear. Are “real” teeth ten times as hard as dentures? Is the coefficient of friction for this floss 70% of that for its next higher competitor? How do they get the softer and easier?

And is easier a better thing? I should think that removal of rust off teeth would be enhanced by greater friction between the floss and rust. And why are dentures not harder? The World Wonders.

But based on people gullibly accepting this type of stercus,I can confidently conjecture that the people of Alibam, in the mode, are as stupid as the politicians imply.