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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Color Abuse

Lovely morning. Complete weather disagreement. My browser tells me it is 40 degF here in Greater Metropolitan Arab. My new KDE widget tells me it is 40 degF and my aft porch wireless thermometer proclaims 46 degF. I decided to assay a walk in the park and it was bitter, mostly due to a fine, blowing rain that didn’t quite wet but did conduct. I am still waiting for sensation to creep in under my beard.

The podcast this morning was an episode of “The Pen Addict”, [Link] which primarily has two positive attributes: it is usually long enough to cover my week out sessions – Freya, Saturn, and Sol days; and it makes some other egregiously obnoxious podcasts endurable, primarily Linux podcasts that are sort of Yankee redneck geeky in a computer fashion. TPA is a mixture of British and Gawjah cracker geeky in a paper and pen fashion. Both are flavored with egregiously horrible grammar. Except the Brit. Most of the time. In both cases the useful information is not usually in the main stream but in the side bands. With the Linux podcasts it’s usually some bit of code or a client app that is mentioned in conversation; with TPA it’s usually some notebook, occasionally pen, mentioned in conversation or only present in the notes. But both have the sovereign value of diverting attention, often violently in disgust and/or disagreement, from the unjoy of exercise.

But what struck me as I huddled upon myself along the walking trail at park this morning was color abuse. It is a terrible thing. We humans, especially bogs, tend to try to give names to colors that aren’t. Or, we call things colors that aren’t. Being a good nerd and mediocre physicist (I rather suspect even the best aren’t much better than good?) the only colors are ROYGBIV. In particular, White and Black are NOT colors, the first being a collection of all colors and the second the absence of color. It is particularly tempting to inflict unpleasantness on bogs who misuse these two terms and I have been known to reduce stately but hideously inaccurate, matrons to lachrymation via counseling.

Orange is problematic in that it may also be the name of a fruit. Directionality need be noted here. It is what makes this proper in that the fruit is named for the color, which is indeed a color, of its rind. It is also a rather sad happening since the fruit is not properly exalted due to the absence of useful words that rhyme. But other instances such as Teal (a duck,) Ebony (mineral,) and Khaki (dust) are examples of the mental nastiness of humans misusing language. Sadly such people cannot be identified prior to puberty and “fixed” prior to reproduction, mostly because of inadequate social fiber and testing efforts but mostly because it would eliminate homo sapiens in two generations. It is unclear that his would not be beneficial but since the effort is irreversible, general insecurity and boggishness prevails.

The micturant in the pudding is grey, spelled here in the Yankee republic too often as “gray”. It is clearly not a color and its dictionary definition , an admixture of white and black, is gibberish of the most odious form. It is however, hideously useful. Almost everything ends up grey eventually. It is a somewhat apt description of both my hair and eyes. The term brown is similar. So the slope is not only gradual but lubricated. Even one as whacked as I am is forced by necessity to admit that the purity of real color is polluted by humanity as well as nature – d*** those acomputate biologists! – and more vocabulary than that is needful.

But I can still be obnoxious about it. We humans must suffer for our liberties. Just be happy it’s not a raptor gnawing on your liver.

Which brings us to the subject of liver gravy. But that’s for another blot.

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Dollar Short

The weather beavers are foretelling nastiness tonight. And it is already encroaching. I assayed forth to the park this morning for constitutional – both my browser and my wireless thermometer advising me the air was 46 degF – and encountered a rather bitter wind and spitting drops of liquid – maybe – dihydrogen oxide. I returned to Castellum SCP shivering so my keying is a bit ragged at the moment.

I ran across this cartoon: [Link]

Actually, I don’t. Yes, I know where I was when the news was announced over the schule public address system. For once it was actually clear, somehow aware of what it was carrying. The principal made the announcement and that was sufficient to stun everyone. I don’t know why. I was a sophomore in high schule but we were way too far from adult to understand the consequences. For most of us, Kennedy was the first President that we had given attention to.

I did not comment on this yesterday, the anniversary, because I didn’t want to get lost in a sea of angst and emotion. Kennedy was not liked in much of the old Confederacy. Many viewed him as a threat to our way of life on many azimuths. He was tolerated here in Nawth Alibam because of the cash flow. The Yankee army and NASA were keeping the Huntsville area quite green and Kennedy had been visiting a couple of time, keeping company with the Paperclip bunch.

Nonetheless, there was an undercurrent of panic, of leaderlessness. That panic manifested in an acceptance of Johnson. Yes, he was a crazy texican – redundant that – but thankfully almost a Southron. In fact he would prove a greater threat to our way of life than Kennedy. Not that it was all bad, but the Sowth in those days was very fascist; that’s why they relocated the Paperclip folk here. Impedance matching if you will.

I shall not dwell on any comparison of Kennedy with later presidents, including the current incumbent. It serves no purpose other than to highlight our national degeneration. I doubt any lesson will be learnt nor any improvement realized. The rot of societies and nations is not so easily excised.

In retrospect however, my assessment of the events of that day are mixed. What actually happened has not been revealed, nor will it be. No, I do not declaim a conspiracy, only that some things cannot be discovered and only fools seek to do so. That is the characterization of the people outside the center. Fools. The national emotion trip was as far from rational as could be. A wallowing of emotion and self pity. Individualism aborted and miscarried. A shame to the nation. And the perfidy of the media and government as accessory to this rot is damnable. The whole thing puts the lie to how rational and sane we think we are. And how we deny being animals. It besmirched whatever greatness the man had and I think that considerable. And I am saddened and ashamed at how shabbily we treated his accomplishments.

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Simple Stuff?

An exciting morning thus far. Off to the park for morning constitutional followed by an expedition into the heart of Greater Metropolitan Arab to retrieve mail from the Yankee government’s postal facility. And now returned to assay a foray against the few tabs remaining in this immediately post-silly season period. In keeping with that sentiment I start by noting an article [Link] in Linux Journal about Window Maker that compares it, functionally at least, to Unity.

Although the comparison is made in the context of “old guys”, implying the founders or even just ORFs, the association is pretty clear that Unity is a desktop GUI that seems to work for those who do simple, sequential, independent things – like old flatulences and newbies and MegaHard converts? Seems accurate to me.

I also ran across this cartoon [Link]

yesterday and was instantly enamored with it. The punch line “Physics is a big ol’ rip-off.” is delightful. It’s a bit sad that this isn’t about physics, per se, but chemistry. But then, half of chemistry – the logical, enumerate part – is physics. So the two share?

Anyway, several thoughts sprang up from this. First, that someone needs to explain the difference between extensive and intensive properties/phenomena to the kids. Not however, the sort of thing that bog parents can do easily, or well, so they don’t even try, in most cases because they have no idea of what these are. Second, that kids are natural scientists, or at least science geeks, at least as cartoonists, who are often quite perceptive, see it. And third, that there are mathematical operations that are idempotent – repeated exercises of their operator have no effect – so only one box of that operator is necessary.

My last though was to wonder whether a swimming pool’s water could be jelled? Is it too chlorinated? Waiting is.

Holy day tomorrow. Much misery likely.

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Not Science?

A lovely two day thus far. A bit warm, but the gym was blissfully sparse of educationalists and had only one, exceptionally noisy, weight bouncer. The podcast today was a selection of science podcasts from various sources and aside from a particularly unengaging interview about pesticide suicide – evidently an African activity – and the realization that public radio science podcasts (radio broadcasts) are particularly vapid, there was not much noteworthy.

I have been considering an article [Link] in Scientific American that asks the question of whether psychology is a science. This is a topic – in general – that intrigues me. Part of it is important, of distinguishing deliberate falsehood for unfair gain from actual seeking of understanding. But part of it is looking for a balance. Physics, and physicists, tends to look down on the other sciences as “stamp collecting”. As one who has collected stamps since childhood I don’t so much consider that insulting as disparaging of stamp collecting.

I should comment that I have colleagues who are psychologists and they are not at all like the psychologists one sees on the electromagnetic audio-visual receiver. They do not observe someone for thirty seconds and immediately offer some pithy insight. In fact, they don’t seem to have many insights to offer. They do experiments that are at once appalling and embarrassing. These are all observational experiments, and they are very poorly controlled, mostly because they deal with animals (including humans) that they don’t harm other than observing them and perhaps forcing them to participate in the experiments. From my standpoint they are treating whole animals as if they were elementary particles which strikes me as egregiously simplistic. And I can’t even think about identicality without pain medications. It’s rather like mixing Fermions and Bosons and then measuring the statistics.

The embarrassing part is that they really don’t have a choice. Given the restrictions on dealing with humans, and other animals, they really can’t have control, so rigorous experimentation and testability are basically irrelevant to these efforts. So the question is does this make it not a science?

I have to admit to being conflicted. One the positive side these folks are trying to understand an aspect of reality. On the other hand are they using effective methods? In the latter, are they like alchemists rather than chemists? I’m not sure, but I do know it isn’t stamp collecting – stamps don’t make poo and get ornery.

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Hybrid, Amateur Success

I am just returned from my morning constitutional. It is raining, one of those lightly blowing mild rains that wets one without awareness, but only mildly. The podcast was an episode of the BBC’s “The Infinite Monkey Cage” which is billed as a comedic science podcast. It is rather exemplary if one can appreciate a British sense of humor. Happily my waling is always at least a bit strange so the discussion about science and society was fulfilling, even if disappointing as the program goes into hibernation.

Also, I ran across an article [Link] this week that was an extract from another blog where the blogger talks about a “Gutenberg” moment in on-line science publishing. Earlier I ran across an article [Link] that advanced that science writing for the public (which I shall simply call public science or PS, for simplicity and ease on my sub-vocalizations) should be more like Tony Stark than Sheldon Cooper. I fear I found both articles sadly lacking. After I found out that Tony Stark is a comic book character (now also movies) and reviewed the characterization, I have to advance the assessment that both are inadequate. Yes, the Stark character is wittier than the Cooper character, but neither really talks about science; they do talk sciency and to my experience falsely so. Alright, the Stark character doezs talk like a lot of BIG defense contractors I have known, all basically purveyors of serpent petroleum. Given the comic book origin this is not disappointing; Cooper’s failure to verbalize as a scientist is.

But along the same vein, the numerous sources cited by the blogger are also disappointing. Three are classical sources in the sense of well established periodicals like Scientific American, (which I have bashed previously,) and Popular Science, (which actually makes SA look good.) Of the new sources he cites (and links) some are behind paywalls that I decline to pass on general principles. This is supposed to be an age where we get content for the servitude of ignoring advertisements. I refuse to pay for information not attached to matter. Of those not requiring coin, a couple are moderate intriguing enough to sample further but the rest are somewhere between unsalted, unbuttered grits to stomped cow patty. Especially the one he lauds as the epitome. It is so off-putting and apparently devoid of meaningful content, on science, at least, I will concede it is full of bog fuzzy wuzzy blue serge emotionalism, that I have to despair for what the blogger thinks science is.

This is the root of the difficulty. Based on my own samplings I have determined that PS is almost always mediocre, at best. This seems to follow naturally. Scientists, with few exceptions, cannot simplify science and write a good story. The exceptional can do one but not both. Alternately, when the scientist explains the science to a journalist the probability of a good story increases but the errors in explanation that sabotage the story increase. I am currently reading a history of liberty written by A. C. Grayling, who is not a scientist and writes fairly well but his science descriptions are nauseating.

I do have to admit that a scientist is not a good person to kritik these works. But I do have to worry that this may be why the bogs are so indifferent to PS, either because they resent the down-talking or they sense the hideous quality and accuracy. It is hard to engage people if you tell them up front, overtly or covertly, that they are inadequate to comprehend. If you do it often enough you destroy intelligence and no little of sentience, as demonstrated by organized religion.

But if I think back to my childhood when I was not a scientist, I find that there were a few, a very few, who wrote good science books. Most PS books in the ’50′s and ’60′s were horrible, especially the institutional ones. Trust the large corporations and the government to churn poo, for they did. But there are a few notable exceptions, the one I still have a book written by a Popular Science hack, a fellow with some science education but not a practicing scientist and earning his living as a writer of science stories. IOW, neither a scientist nor a journalist. That seems to be what we need now, what Phillip Jose Farmer called a JOAT – a jack-of-all-trades, or at least of two in this instance.

One more bit of evidence that over-specialization leads to mediocrity.

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