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.

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.