STEM NERD Writing 2

Higher temperature. But somehow more clement in the park for constitutional. Nagged by wondering where the “Pen Addict” podcast is going now that it has dropped out of sight.

When I went through high school in the Sixties, there wasn’t much writing in ink. We, or, at least, I, used a ring notebook with punched paper. I wrote mostly with a mechanical pencil that used large leads, about 2 mm or so. I am sure there were some inked essays and such but my memory of them is fuzzy, probably due to a fundamental dislike of essays. I dislike to read them – in the mode – and hate to write them. Probably because no one ever got across to me what they were supposed to do.

So all complacent in this, I went off to college. In reptrospect the whole thing of paper and writing was a vacuum. My parents didn’t think of it, and I didn’t think of it. And somehow the pundits who intruded with off-to-college advice missed it. Or maybe they told my parents that it would wait for classes to start and they didn’t tell me. Or I was oblivious.

Anyway, I got to college a few days before classes started. Part of freshman “orientation”. I was put in the nerd dorm. To this day I am unsure of whether that was to protect us from the bogs and extros, or them from us. Not that all of us were intros. I discovered early on that there were nerd extros and even nerd jocks. But they were few.

My roommate was a modal intro nerd. He was one of those transparent people who majored in pre-something in those days. Sometimes it seemed like half the male student body was majoring in pre-medicine or pre-law or both. And almost none of them were much more than nebbishes worried more about grades than learning. I honestly do not know what happened to this guy. He was a passing blip – thankfully. If he made a physician, which I doubt, I feel sorry for the profession and patients.

But he did perform one mitzvah. He lectured me on note taking. I did not take many notes in high schule. Mostly just assignment notes: lists of problem numbers, dates, that sort of thing. My memory and the text book were more than adequate. So I came to college as a notes neub.

Anyway, this fellow rather lecturing to a neub told me to go to the college book store and purchase a notebook for each subject and a BIC pen. I was told to buy textbooks at a private bookstore but evidently the notebooks were better at the college bookstore. My education had already begun; I was learning how to be a discerning consumer.

The notebooks were quite nice. They were spiral bound, heavy cardboard covers, and real 8.5×11 inch^2 heavy paper with real “college” ruling – lines so close together I often skipped. And I went off to class so equipped.

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Why We don’t do outreach

End of gym week, and happily there. With the departure of the educationalists for the summer the annoyances of seniors becomes more apparent. And we have a new early person who is downright nasty. I shan’t mention any further characteristics but this person is enough to make me want to go elsewhere. Queue breaker. Self-server. Arrogant. Haughty. Nekulturny in the fullest meaning of the term.

On a happier note, I ran across a rather tawdry article [Link] n a tee shirt web site entitled “10 Questions Still Baffling Scientists”. The questions are:

  1. Why Do People Spontaneously Combust?
  2. Why Do We Yawn?
  3. Why Do Placebos Work?
  4. What Was Life’s Last Universal Common Ancestor?
  5. How Does Memory Work?
  6. Can Animals Really Predict Earthquakes?
  7. How Do Organs Know When to Stop Growing?
  8. Are There Human Pheromones?
  9. What’s the Deal With Gravity?
  10. How Many Species Are There?

which is a mixed bag. And as usual with lists, I can’t avoid some comments.

  1. Who cares? Except bogs and some sort of really bored geek? This isn’t common and the discussions I have seen in the nerd literature are good enough for working purposes given we can’t do experiments.
  2. This is a moderately good one. The best I have heard on this are (a) quick burst of oxygen, and (b) a prelude to sleep reflex akin to leg jerk. But again, primarily a bog thing.
  3. This one comes down to lack of maths and lack of experimentation, IMHO.
  4. This one is a step above what-color-are-the-deity’s-eyes? level of question. It is probably one of those questions that can’t be answered so why waste time?
  5. Another lack of experimentation one.
  6. Not worth dignifying.
  7. This is a DNA question. Give it time.
  8. Not sure this one is worthy of any list.
  9. Lack of experimentation again, this time due to the magnitude of the effort.
  10. This one is so silly it isn’t worth dignifying.

Obviously, this is a I-hate-summer day. Selah.

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Real Strength

Yesterday was quite harrowing. My first physical after aging into Yankee government oversight and much leaping through burning hoops and other pains. To be continued next week. Funeral not to follow, regardless. And the constitutional this morning was fair, a bit depressed even because I had to return to my usual “The Pen Addict” porcast as the diversion. My previous experimental samplings of “Probably Science” and “Professor Blastoff” were highly undiverting, unentertaining, and unscience, the former spending rather too much time on exterior defecation and Hitler’s dementia and the latter on primary sexual organ cancer self-screening. Not that the latter isn’t of importance but it isn’t my idea of a science podcast. I should mention that both of these were recommended by POPULAR SCIENCE magazine and were the only ones on their list I was unfamiliar with. Overall grade for PS: C-; mostly because they missed the best science podcasts for some strange reason that I have been unable to get an answer to. I should also mention that my subscription was quite discounted and when it expires will probably not be renewed. I have to put PS in with SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN for satisfying Sturgeon’s rule with an exponent between one and two.

I was rather relieved however, to note an article [Link] about research done by the Max Planck Institut for Darwinian Biology. The study claims that humans traded off muscle strength for mental strength (intelligence) as they evolved. The study is based on muscular comparisons with other primates.

Yes, reverend, animal comparisons. Since we humans are ANIMALS! Including cheerleaders. And debutantes.

I find this rather entertaining and amusing. It seems to explain a lot. First of all, the true measure of humanness is smarts not strongs. Our perverse engagement with spectator sports and macho and all such is nothing more than insecurity and primate envy. From this it is clear that nerds, and geeks, are the actual humans and the bogs are degenerate lees of the gene pool. And algebra rejection is a form of denial.

But I still have to think to figure out politicians since they seem to have neither type of strength. Perhaps our attitude in Alibam is accurate that electing politicians keeps them off the welfare rolls?

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Piled Up

Week out is begun. Just finished my constitutional at the park. The air was unmoving so my heat dragged. Or more properly, I dragged it with me. No convective heat transfer. And the podcast was especially terrible, some acalculate mysticism about 1E2. But I downloaded episodes of two new – to me – podcasts yesterday and they may offer some relief. Although the ‘cast does serve its intended purpose of making all the others I listen to better by comparison. And better grammar. Mostly.

I noted in passing yesterday [Link] that the Moundville facility will begin observing its seventy-fifth anniversary today.

That’s the Douglas Jones Museum at the left in the picture. You can’t see the David DeJarnette Laboratory off to the right.

I have to admit to good feelings/memories about those two and the park itself. As an undergraduate I took and Anthropology track – two courses – of diversification study and one of those courses was New World Archaeology taught by Mr. DeJarnette. He was one of the greats to me, a capable teacher and an open mentor. He had high standards and openly shared his views. And being unable to convince me to abandon a frivolous existence majoring in the physical sciences and maths, put me to work on the physics aspects of various archaeological problems. Like dating some limestone caves in the Yucatan.

Doug Jones was a geologist and dean of the fartsy, nerdy schule at the campus of the Black Warrior. When two of my colleagues and I wanted to wander over to the mechanics schule and take FORTRAN, instead of the moneychangers schule’s COBOL, he was the fellow who “shouted havoc” for us. So both of these chaps molded my education and future.

I mention that because I ran across an article [Link] that indicates that students are much more likely to be successful in their endeavors if they have professors who mentor them. So while the mentoring was peripheral, I do attribute some components of my success – if I can call it that – to these two professors.

It is not easy to mentor an introvert. I was reminded this morning that one definition of an introvert is ” a person who would rather pay for something than get it free if social contact  can be avoided thereby.” Social contact in anthropology is hard to avoid. In a sense, it’s all about social stuff. And the average anthropological theory is overwhelming extro. So anthropology is no home for an intro.

I first went to Moundville as part of DeJarnette’s course. One of his duties was to be poohbah of the facility and he sent us off to see it. And I can say that it had a deep impression on me, one so deep I tried to impart it to my daughter – and failed.

It was wonderful then, with the museum, not yet named for Doug Jones, musty and dark, and the fascinating mounds. And it’s better today, not because of the museum being renewed but by the enrichment of the Yankee government returning the Duck Bowl

to its home.

But no, I am not going to the festivities. They’re for extro bogs. I’ll wait and go when there aren’t crowds and I can enjoy what is there.

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Great Strides

One of the joys of becoming ORF, or, at least, O, is that physical ills that were minor nuisances in youth are life shaping nasties. Last week it was a sprained/strained finger. This would not normally be as much of a problem but it was left mouse button finger. And it is almost impossible with GUIs to avoid using that finger. Even on a slablet. I shan’t mention this week’s ails because they are a bit nastier, but no less inconvenient and behavior modifying.

Which leads me to contemplate a study [Link] out of Stanford U that finds that walking enhances creativity. I have to admit to being a bit tepid on this. Not that I disagree that walking doesn’t contribute to creativity, at least in people capable of it, but rather that I am unconvinced that creativity can be tested.

There is a long history of associating creativity with walking. Several of the classical Greek philosophers walked and thought. Darwin was famous for walking to think and create solutions or models. We don’t need academic validation to know this. But is how one answers questions on a standardized test creativity? To me it is the opposite since creativity is inherently new in some sense.

So I will keep walking and thinking, although both a rather harder – in some ways – for ORFs.

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Academic Smarts

Once more into week in. And off to a good start. The podcast, an episode of the CBC’s “Best of Ideas” on modern idolatry, one of my favorite rants, was passable, and I managed to endure the obnoxious density of weight bouncers. So it seems meet that I clean up a few aging articles this morning.

First, the wonks at fair Hahvahd claim that they have observed monkeys doing maths. [Link] No mention if the monkeys are students or staff. And the purpose of all this is somehow related to something called Weber’s Law which has to do with magnitude and difference of two stimuli. Evidently these wonks have never heard of Rayleigh’s criterion.

Another study, [Link] this one out of Purdue, looks at the relationship between trailer parks and tornadoes. Seems that tornados are most likely to touch down in the boundary regions between urban and rural areas, which is where trailer parks tend to be built. Perhaps this is a good indication that we need to start building traler parks in the middle of cities and housing developments? It would at least improve the quality of news reportage, depriving it of all those toothless, obese people who live in trailers. Except after flood and hurricanes, of course.

Next, a pair of articles. The first, from U Colorado, [Link] presents some pretty compelling argument that Neandertals were smarter than Sapiens. The second, from U Michigan, [Link] speculates that Neandertals had develop boil-in-bag cooking. This latter is rather more exciting than it seems since boiling is commonly pegged to the period after sedentaryness when basketry and pottery were developed. Taken together the two make an impressive argument for the mental superiority of Neandertals. So why did they die out? The obvious conjecture is that they were so disgusted with having us as neighbors they just gave up and died.

That’s a good start for Monday.

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Episode 2

A lovely day. I went for constitutional in the park and got drenched. Didn’t appreciate how much until I got into the motorcar. Ah well, it and I shall dry. And perhaps FD SCP will not eviscerate be too badly for sloshing her floors. But I did have to exchange my lower garments for dry. I also didn’t get to do much cogitation what with trying not to walk off the path or into the creek. So not much brilliance here.

Watched episode two of COSMOS yesterday – finally – and was quite impressed. IMHO Tyson did a smashing job of smashing the intelligent design/creationist mystics. And I learned a couple of things. I was particularly taken with the jump discontinuities bit on evolution.

I should comment that I know only little biology. I took the required year in high schule – under a coach, so that was a waste of time and attention span, a righteous indictment of what was wrong with the educational apparat then, if not now. But I also took a year in undergraduate schule and there I had a most engaging and intelligent microbiologist as lecturer and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. It was rather a bit of a skate given my other science courses as comparison but I am told not so by my classmates who were mostly education (sic) majors. Needless to say he – the lecturer – was not big on evolution, possibly a survival tactic in the old Confederacy still smarting from the Scopes trial, so I didn’t get much in that course. But I did read Sagan’s book on the subject – much easier than listening to him and several others in my anthropological interests.

Anyway, it rather struck me that evolution is rather amazing. Not only can it start from zippoid to develop life, but when that life structure gets whacked it can recover and rebuild in short order. I suspect logistics is key here but this definitely requires some brain perspiration and that is fun. So a very high positive for Tyson on round two.

In Praise of Outreach

Not as nice. Mixed bag. Slept well, relatovely. And the gym was quite sparse. But the temperature was uncomfortably low. above the phase change but still unpleasant. And the podcasts were generally mediocre. And somehow a TED episode crept in and it took me thirty seconds to delete it.

I ran across a cartoon: [Link]

that i found rather too close to reality to be humorous. It does however, summarize the spectrum of typical bog reactions to nerd stuff, either wandering off or just being passive aggressive pseudo-polite. And the dunk dynasty bit is all too dead on.

This is why I don’t even try to do “outreach”. It’s a waste of effort. And I run the risk of becoming violent and afoul of the justicers. Sadly, removing fools from the gene pool is considered illegal, mostly because the vast majority of the electorate, including politicians, are bogs. And they really can’t deal with the insecurity and admit they are what they are.

There is, I am told, a positive side to outreach. If you get enough of a reputation doing outreach, the bogs will run away from you and thus you don’t have to waste your time on them. I am not willing to try however. It seems like a risky gamble. And that lynching or stake burning is more likely.

Return to Good, Maybe, temporarily

Not badly. Another night of not having to arise to inspect drippage, although I find the practice has an inertia. And I suspect that nature will be perverse and I will have another night of inspection before I can quite restore cooperation between sleep and bladder. It was, in fact, sufficiently warm for me to assay to the park for a constitutional this morning, the first of the year. It was a mixed bag. I had a bit of discomfort shading to pain in my foot so the going was a bit rocky, and the recently recharged batteries in my head lamp weren’t, and it was foggy, and I was more  bundled than I like to admit even if comfortable most of the time. And the podcast, an episode of Prairie Home Companion from several years ago – yes, I am that far behind due to scheduling changes – was only two laps long. But otherwise it was great and wonderful and quite restful.

Speaking of which, I ran across an article [Link] in a rather disreputable British news(?) rag about how academics from Tel Aviv U have discovered a heart 300 KY old. Seems that neandertals like to come home to a cozt (?) home after a long day of human stuff. Anyway, its a neat thing in that its rather old and indicates that humans have had fire a lot longer than the Promethean myth.

Also ringing in on the subject is a work [Link] from fair Hahvahd indicating that most people have 0.01 to 0.03 nenadertal DNA – unless you are of fairly pure African descent. This is only sorta new but I always marvel at the irony of this result, which evidently the liberals can’t talk about and the religio-conservatives won’t, that the folks from Africa that used to be held in chattel slavery in this country, partly justified by their lesserness, presumably genetic, are actually more purely Homo Sapiens than the folks who “owned” them. And the only obvious way to maintain their attitudes is to adopt diversity so they can argue mongrels are more robust, which they seem to be, at least in dogs, but that also opens the tent to the camel, at least metaphorically. In either case, the gig is up and both sets of prigs are undone and embarrassingly so.

And lastly, rebounding on a previous topic, I noticed that the Tuscaloosa News, the news rag of the town adjacent the Campus of the Black Warrior, has printed a descriptive indictment of the meteorology instrumentality in middle Alibam.[Link] Is it any coincidence that the Alibam Dermatologist aka Guvnuh has residence in the town? Probably. But it is nice to see some of the blame going to inept weather ferds instead of just politicians. Both deserve some guilt and shame. And a bit of fear.

Brain Bashed

Half-way through the winter solstice holiday period and well sunk into doldrums despite some actual progress. The weather is a bit better today but still not enough improved for me to assay out to the park for constitutional. The air temperature – 40 degF according to my browser and 41 according to my aft porch thermometer – is acceptable to my prescribing cardiologist but not to my heat capacity depleted body. So I had to make do with stationary bicycle. It seems a condemnation of civilization that our greatest accomplishment of sedentaryness is the chair; we even sit down to perspire.

On which note, I ran across two articles in the last few days. The first [Link] is work from Emory U that indicates that the connectivity of the brain is altered, at least for a period of time yet undetermined, by reading. Another [Link] from Northwestern U indicates that the motions we make while using a computer – mouse, keyboard, eyes(?) – also changes the way our brains represent our movement. So the brain is indeed plastic, an unsurprise given that we can indeed learn, at least the non-bogs, that is.

But what is potentially more damning is that this also indicates that reading on a computer has fundamentally different effect on the brain than reading a pBook. It appears, based on my ignorance of cognitive biology and the journalism presented in the two articles, that reading from a book has a different impact on the brain than reading on a computer screen. If so, this clearly needs to be explored in greater detail. At the least it may explain some of the enormous variances between GEN X and GEN Y, and it may explain the general ferdness of computer using societies.

Meanwhile, I am going to continue reading pBooks except when I have long waiting periods away from home. And then I shall use my eReader and not a computer per se.

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