God and Nader

Running behind this morning. Adopt-A-Physicist is almost over and there are always a few students who don’y get their courage screwed up till near ending. I am still trying to get comfortable. Brrrrrrrrrr this morning and the weather beavers are foretelling solid phase dihydrogen oxide by Ice Cream day and I didn’t get waarmed up until motoring back from errands and got overhot.

On which thermodynamic nonsense, I note that the Bishop of Rome has announced to his religionists that physics is real, Big Band and Evolution are “true”, and the deity is not a magician.[Link] Not as neat as Albert but exceptional for a Bishop of Rome. May put him up with the guy who stared down Atilla?

I am not sure on the true part. I have always viewed truth as being a religionist thing, something beyond the capabilities and capacities of humans. Which sorta supports the idea but I still get uncomfortable when science is downgraded to true instead of accurate.

On an even happier note, Ralph Nader has announced that

“Well, Hillary is a corporatist and a militarist So she’s a menace to the United States of America.”

Nice that he either finally figured that out or screwed up his courage.

I am not a big fan of Mr. Nader. Mixed feelings. Comes from having three Corvairs and thoroughly enjoying all of then. Best cars I ever had. Even better than my TR-6 with seven forward gears. Yes, they were dangerous but all motorcars are. Not as dangerous as the drivers but put them together and they are weapons of mediocre destruction. But he has done good sense. And now this. First rate.


Superstition and Slide Rules

Sparse. That’s the best thing about gym, when it occurs. Not many people. For some reason the bullies seem to go away and the good folk remain. Even the weight bouncers about today were good folk. And the cable feed went sowth about halfway through my session so the absence of distraction of the vapid sort was appreciated.

The Guardian science podcast was a set of interviews/discussions with psychologists who specialize in humans who suffer from delusions of alien abductions, vampires, ghosts, and such. There were even a few slights about religionist superstition. Well placed. Sadly there was no real discussion of how to rid society of these nut cases.

But the high point was a National Public Radio podcast about the slide rule.[Link] Sadly, the pony to poo ratio was very LOW. There was some museum curator from the wonk schule on the Charles who was prattling about the slide rule angst among engineer students taking exams. And the whole attitude was rather poor and frivolous.

I have discussed slide rule previously but it is worth visiting again. I got my first slide rule about seven or eight, as I recall. I make this point because by the time I got to college my slide rule, which I could not use openly without derision from the cool kids – the jocks and cheerleaders, was a comfort, not a source of stress. Rather the opposite. It was a familiar tool that I could trust without cognition.

I suppose if I had been handed one as a freshman, never having seen before, and told to learn immediately to crunch numbers there might be some stress. I do not take direction easily. It is evil. But none of the people I knew were uneasy about slide rules. Many of us had brown up with them. In fact, they didn’t bother to teach slide rule in high schule because so many already knew and the ones who didn’t were destined for bogdom anyway.

And I rather take exception to the implication that the slide rule disappeared overnight once the nerd calculator was introduced. Technocratic prevarication! Electronic calculators had been around for years but weighed and bulked their own table. The first portable calculators were strictly add/subtract/multiply/divide so they could not replace the slide rule. The first nerd calculator, the HP-35, introduced in 1972, was a replacement but was so expensive that no student, nor professor, could afford without a gifting. Only corporate nerds could afford them. I was working for the Yankee army before I got a nerd calculator issued me, and HP-55, and it was late in my graduate schule attendance before I could afford a personal machine, a TI that felt like a cheap occupied Japan imitation of an HP. My first personal HP was an HP-25 and it was a marvel and a delight. But I still had a slide rule in my center desk drawer when I retired. For some things it was faster than a calculator. Even an RPN. 

So as usual, NPR vertically copulated.

In the Storm

Kudos to the Greater Metropolitan Arab Electron Uncooperative for doing what they traditionally do when it rains – bug out. At least twice last night.

But since the electrons were unflowing I had opportunity to do some cogitation and I have thunk on a few things:

This year’s Nobel Prizes – perhaps we should call this the year of the “Glowy Gadget” since both the physics and chemistry prizes were awarded to people who built gadgets that involved glowing. I know they gave Bardeen and company a Nobel for the transistor but I am less sure of these;

People in Motorcars Aren’t – it occurred while driving back from gym this morning in the rain that one of the reasons people drive so abominably towards each other is because they don’t consider people in motorcars to be people. Instead these are motorcars with people in them. So what they are interacting with is a box on wheels, and not a people. This will require more thinkum.

Since the potential failures played merry ned with the computers, that’s it for now.

Cartoon Failure

Definitely reduced heat in atmosphere. The local Arab weather station, part of NWS amateur network, sez 46.5 degF. Big difference. I bundled up to go to park. Even gloves, as ridiculous as that may seem, but this is a Southron boy (all right that’s absurdist) and handled the constitutional without – quite – crossing the boundary into shivering.

And the weather beavers foretell even less heat tomorrow morning. 

Nice fall. I fear I missed it, but it must have been nice to not have been noticeable. Or else so short it wasn’t measurable?

On which note, I came across a cartoon; [Link]

that rather upset me with the first line.

They say that water cannot be created nor destroyed.”

Which has a pony to poo ratio of ZERO! Absolutely STERCUS! Sturgeon’s rule raised to a high, perhaps infinite, power.

If I could have commented on the website I probably would have but then I would have probably been deleted for nastiness. What cartoonist wants to be told he fails at suspension of disbelief? Utter failure. 

Let’s start with the chemistry:

2 H2 + O2 <-> 2 H2O

Note the two headed arrow. That means I can combine oxygen and hydrogen and make water. It can be created. It is, every time we ‘burn’ hydrogen. As in a hydrogen fueled vehicle.

And if we put it in a sealed container and heat the container up to 2 kilodegC, then it comes apart. 

Now we don’t get temperatures of 2 kilodegC on Tellus and we don’t have many naturally occurring sealed containers so dissociated water is rare on Tellus, except…

In a solution of itself. Water is weakly ionic. So it dissociates in solution. 

So the premise is whacked.

It’s still a quite good cartoon series, just that this one is unbelievable. And shakes our confidence in the cartoonist. 

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.