Brain Things

On the cusp once more. Off this morning to the park for constitutional. Slack wind, but I was able to eschew a hoodie or jacket so long as I was generating waste heat. Some of that heat came from mentation. I noticed yesterday – but failed to load the article – that someone has put an enormous amount of RAM on a memory stick. This led me to consider the nature of the ‘information revolution’.

Back when I was recently out of grad schule I did a bit of a blunder. There was a problem I was interested in and before I went to work on it I did a literature search. In those days literature searches involved consulting abstracting services and getting librarians to run computer searches for you. And looking through the compilations of likely journals. So I did all that and went ahead and worked the problem, which took three years from start to getting the author copies of the journal article in my hand, and then a couple of months later I got a letter pointing me to an obscure – to me – journal where the problem had ostensibly been solved. It hadn’t, not really, analytically, but it shook me. 

This was how things were done then. We had a shortage of information and had to work hard to get it. Paper was the norm. Computers were rare and closeted. Searches had to be performed by trained people. And storage was minuscule. The first mainframe I programmed on had 16 Kb of RAM. All hand built with a soldering iron. 

Today, it is easy to do searches, and we don’t do them. Just go ahead and do the work. That’s easier than trying to figure out what has been done before? And we can store all of this information. And Sturgeon’s rule applies to the Nth power because most of it is crap. Are there any cat photographs with captions that aren’t crap. Fundamentally? An we take photographs so we don’t have to remember the occasion. But we have dutifully recorded and saved it, probably never to look at or even recognize again. Information hoarding has become a form of denial?

Which angst brings me to a reprise of some work I commented earlier. I ran across a new article [Link] that put a bit of a different spin on things. I quote:

A new study found ‘no significant difference’ in the number or quality of moral and immoral deeds made by religious and non-religious participants. 

The researchers found only one difference – Religious people responded with more pride and gratitude for their moral deeds, and more guilt, embarrassment and disgust for their immoral deeds.

That first part is repetitive. It is and was telling that religion has no impact on immorality. So the claims that religionists are moral and atheists and secularists are immoral is so much propagandist stercus tauri. But the second is new and equally damning. It goes very far to explain the reason for religionists: guilt.

Guilt is a common thing. It is in the kitbag of almost every mother and not a few fathers. It is widely used by incompetent managers, and the parents are probably as well. And it works but not because it  is used, it’s effective because it brings a chemical rush when the deed that generated the guilt is forgiven. Guilt, simply put, is an opiate, at least metaphorically. But it is chemical. Not moral, not spiritual, but purely physical. Religion, at least this aspect, is all about the effect of chemicals in the brain.

Which explains the commonality of religion. It’s programmed into humans. 

So are humans an appliance of religion? More cogitation is required.

No Area under the Integral

Back to regularity? This week has been the pits, mostly because I had to go to Huntsville on two day for a gum cleaning. Happily that went well with no new unhappiness. So I did the food acquisition while I was there and cancelled the usual Woden’s day gallop. Which I sorely missed, both in terms of networking and activity. So yesterday was a real DRAG. Higher order, maybe velocity magnitude to the third power or so. But this morning was back to usual.

I won’t say normal because I don’t like the way too many misuse the word. My dictionary tells me that the definition of normal is:

   1. According to an established norm, rule, or principle; conformed to a type, standard, or regular form; performing the proper functions; not abnormal; regular; natural; analogical.

But my problem is that no one seems to know what that established norm/rule/principle is. Nor can they show me in wirting. So the viable hypothesis, while admitting we can’t prove a negative, is that the norm/rule/principle doesn’t exist and this usage of normal is one of those social delusions.

To me normal either means the normal, that is perpendicular, to a surface or curve, or a function that is normalizable, that is, has finite area. There: simple testable rule/principle. And norm only makes sense in those terms. 

On which azimuth, I ran across an article [Link] on the “Convergence” of the Linux desktop. I read this article because my outlook on the Linux “Desktop” is rather normal to convergent, in the orthogonal sense, that is. If I compare Gnome 3, Unity, KDE, XFCE, and LXDE, among others, I don’t see what I consider to be convergence. Turns out the use of the term is worse than that, rather misusing the term desktop, to include slabs as well as boxes. 

Stercus Tauri. And not very respectfully. I am not given to abiding ferds nicely. And this is very ferdish

First of all, I don’t like the association of desktop with computer device. What is on my screen is not a desktop. For one thing, it isn’t big enough (even with a 24 in screen) nor, and most importantly, it isn’t horizontal. My desktop is the top of my desk, it is horizontal and it is about five ft by three ft. And I put physical objects on it. None of that applies to my deskbox. Which is why I call it a deskbox. And because it is a bunch of boxes: CPU/RAM/HD box; screen box; key box; mouse box;….. Similar for a lapbox. And I have a ‘smart’ cellular telephone that is smart in the sense of unpleasant neural sensation. And I have recently purchase a tablet, which is not in the sense of oral medication, but is commonly used in the sense of a bit of rock with symbols incised. Which is another horrible metaphor but that’s what happens when we let bogs name things.

Not that geeks – especially – or nerds are really any better, just different. And we nerds at least declare – strongly – when we are going to name things ridiculously. 

But this “Convergence” thing is evidently the idea that we are going to use the same OS and GUI on all of I visual information presentation devices. That is, boxes and slabs. And maybe the electromagnetic audio-visual receiver? And that idea is rot. As I have been saying for quite a while. So reading an article that says this is important to Linux is essentially impossible because the thesis is so flawed as to be unsuspendable. So the article is bad fiction. 

I do not make phone calls on my boxes. I do spreadsheets on my boxes. I do calculator on my phone slab. I do word processing on my boxes. I don’t on my phone slab. Simply put I don;t do the same things on slabs as I do on boxes. And visa versa. About the only thing I do on all of them is check email and maybe use a browser. Bog things.

But I use different email clients on the boxes and slabs. Because I can’t use Thunderbird on my slabs. And since I have bought a tablet I have found that the email client I use on my phone won’t work on my tablet. That doesn’t mean it won’t execute; that means it won’t work. It’s a thermodynamic thing. Like a free expansion. The code/app/client runs but no work gets done. But I have found that an email app that didn’t work on the phone does work on the tablet. 

Another bit of data that indicates – consistently – that the different visual presentations are not the same and that “Convergence” is a bunch of corporate propaganda. And the corporate bull has been fed too much stool softner. 


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.

Paper mache truncheon

I wrote a blot yesterday that somehow got lost, and I had thrown most of the references away but I retained one, so here is a repeat.

An article [Link] in SCIENCE, the premiere Amerikan science periodical relates a study by academics, St. Peter’s U, among others, that indicates that

“Religious and nonreligious people are equally prone to immoral acts.”

This is a big deal. It means that religion has no effect on morality. Maybe. Actually, it could be that religion increases morality but if that is so then the study tells us that religious people are more immoral than nonreligious people and only equal out because of the benefits of religion. That’s rather nonsensical so the simplest conclusion we can draw is that religion does not change morality.

Which in turn means that the religionists just lost their club in beating up the nonreligious about morality. The superstitious are often regaling atheists as being immoral. But, statistically at least, this argument, like so many of the religionists, is bunk and rot. 

ORF ism

One of the things I have learned since retirement is that Sturgeon’s rule applies to what people say. That is, 0.9 of what people say is stupid. So if we equate stupid to crap, which seems reasonable, then the contention is demonstrated.

I have also noted that there is a large variance among people. Some people say 0.99 stupid; a few are 0.99 not-stupid in speech. 

And if we subtract out the social noise, the fraction of stupid is manifestly decreased. Sadly, since 0.9 of people are bogs who can speak little else, the only way we can implement a reduction of social noise is to muzzle the bogs. Which is a good idea but fundamentally unimplementable. Besides, if we did implement it, they would just whine pitifully and gratingly.

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. 

Will the Hobbit?

The heat in the atmosphere has observably been reduced. And the wind is faster so conductive cooling is increased. Hence I took with me a hoodie to the park for my morning constitutional. It remained around my waist, mostly for comfort but partly for concern of safety. The garment has been associated with too many fascist incidents lately.

Speaking of which, the annual Greater Metropolitan Arab gawky fair is today and some setup had occurred at the park. Mostly tents and tables. This is more of a jumble sale sort of thing than a real fair but then what does one expect in Greater Metropolitan Arab in Alibam. So as I maundered about the walking trail and tried to be diverted by an exceptionally abysmal podcast – my usual fare came in a damaged file, another bit of their declaration of independence from corporate tyranny – and maneuver around the disaster remains that pass for fair furniture in this fair dot on the map. In the process I ran across this tent

snapshot1To provide a bit of context, the top of the sign is knee height, so the top of the tent is maybe a bit over a meter high. The sign is clearly readable as being that of a candidate for office here in Marshall’s county. The fellow’s campaign is notable for two things: a rather banal platform  and so much advertising signage that one wonders how much baksheesh this fellow will have to collect, if elected, of course, to pay for the signage?

But having seen this tent one has to wonder if the fellow is actually a hobbit? His commercials are quite careful to never display his feet. But it seems unlikely since hobbits are rather peaceful fellows and this fellow enjoys being photographed with ineffective firearms. Likely the tent height is more a matter of inept (or short?) staff than any telling insights of the candidate.

Besides one sees all sorts of weird things in Greater Metropolitan Arab. For example, the tent is next one that purveys “homemade fudge” so the staffer who erected the tent likely was in a great hurry for a sugar overload?

I told you it was an abysmal podcast.