Reverse Prevarication

The grrr brrrr over the National Park eruption seems to be an epitome of the current political – Democrud and Repulsian alike – attitude and usage of science: say the opposite of what the scientists do and claim you got it from them.

I think they got the idea from the Creationists and Intelligent Designers.

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Private Killing

Another wonderful day in Greater Metropolitan Arab where we have ample demonstration that pickup trucks are a vanity since the correlation between owning one and having poor driving skills is VERY high, almost deterministic. The season “Spring” is nearing and the city guvmint is busily out scraping roads with inappropriate equipment to frighten homeowners that they may be stranded while the city repaves a few streets, all unannounced as to schedule. In the interim driving is akin to walking on a gravel path.

At gym this morning I listened to the SCIENCE podcast which is becoming shorter and shorter and will soon become useless as a diversion from perspiration and pain. It did however give a good counterargument to the noxious idea of corporate aristocrats privatizing science. Seems that the Gooey web site for tracking influenza, which started out mediocre, has become steadily worse. The best indication of influenza infestation is still the center for disease control which is a Yankee government apparat.

The reason the Gooey influenza site is failing is simply that Gooey is a for-profit corporation. Capitalism in action, as it were, and that action is contrary to good scientific practice. In fact, the whole thing seems to be a cornucopia of bad science and bad capitalism, not that the latter may not be redundant.

First of all, what Gooey is doing is closed off because, naturally, it’s corporate secret. Which means it ain’t science since there is no review or test. Second, there appear to be bad assumptions about the nature of things which can only be inferred since, as stated, all the real mechanics is hidden away. And thirdly, it seems that Gooey keeps changing the rules for how it builds it data set that the influenza site searches WITHOUT telling the influenza site people how it changes the rules!

The inference, if not conclusion, is that closed science isn’t really science and private ownership of science becomes not-science. So part of the road to Amerika becoming a capitalist aristocracy is the abandonment of science.

Ecce COSMOS

Nice day so far. The temperature was definitely warm enough to assay a constitutional at the park and that was followed by a lusty defecation. So I am not well placed to do a blot.

It seems de rigeur these days that I shall have to do a review of the first episode of Tyson’s revisitation of Sagan’s COSMOS. I have to admit to a bit of prompting and even spoiling by reading Chad Orzel’s “Uncertain Principles” blot-review, [Link] particularly the animated vignette on Giardano Bruno.

The vignettes are in keeping with the original series although they have swapped live for cartoon, presumably for money reasons, possibly to appeal to a younger audience. The treatment of Bruno is new and signals visually that Tyson is going to follow in Sagan’s footsteps but with improvements. Nonetheless, the initial cartoon on Bruno was a bit startling.

I rather quickly rationalized this by recalling E. A. Burtt’s  “The Metaphysical Foundations of Modern Science”, Dover 2003. He states, in the Preface, that

“The prevailing world-view of the period was marked by a deep and persistent assurance that man, with his hopes and ideals, was the all-important, even controlling fact in the universe.”

In other words, man was unique because of being the creation of the diety, and the planet of man was unique and central in the cosmos. And religious organizations, such as the church of Rome, were the self-appointed arbiters of that uniqueness.

And since Bruno came along and said Tellus was one planet among many, and Sol one sun/star among many, and thence that man was one intelligent species among many, the entire philosophical basis of society, and the validity of the church of Rome, was threatened. And so when he would not shut up or recant, they killed him. In the most horrendous fashion possible, by burning.

If ever there was a means of execution that justifies humane concerns it is burning. If ever there was an illustration that Greek society was superior to Italian, it is the difference in execution means between hemlock sipping and either burning (or crucifixion.) This inhumanity was deliberate and illustrates that organizations have neither morals nor ethics nor sentiment and must constantly be disciplined and restrained to their purpose of serving humans rather than the other way about.

More importantly perhaps, the vignette of Bruno demonstrates that in a society where thought and speech are not free and open, then there can be neither humanity nor science. Despite the new “freedom” of protestant religion in addition to the church of Rome, the society of Europe (and much of Tellus) was one where thought and speech were controlled by religionist organizations. Several organizations for a change, but tyrannical and totalitarian none the less. And they all executed people who thought and spoke for themselves.

Beyond that, the episode is a mixed bag. On the good side, Tyson is much less pedantic and directive than Sagan. When COSMOS first came out I gave up on watching it, so repellant was Sagan’s speech and tone. I managscience, television, entertainment, scientisted to watch a lot of it last weekend with only minor nausea and desire to rebel. But I didn’t get to view the new version until yesterday. And it was much more thought provoking and lighter handed than the original. I find it amazing that Sagan, a scientist, came across as an autarch and tyrant while Tyson, a scientist-pitchman, comes across as mentor and philosopher. The student seems to have surpassed the teacher even though the establishment of lineage is clumsy and sob sisterly.

On the bad side, too much of the program time is wasted on credits and commercials. I suppose the former is an indication of how much more insecure our society is today but the latter are just annoying. They made me glad I was watching a recording and could fast forward through the organizational stercus tauri, the modern burning at the stake of the mind. I also found the music to be entirely too star warsish but I suspect that is my nature. I always thought folk was the music genre of science, not the symphony. I suppose that is also one of the perversions of our age.

But the high point of the episode was Tyson saying,

Test ideas by experiment and observation,build on those ideas that pass the test, reject the ones that fail. Follow the evidence wherever it leads and question everything.”

Proper Disrespect for False Authority

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.

Frustration of Experiment

Fair to middling night. I didn’t have to get up to inspect faucets. That part was blissful. But the bed aches also returned. I am now entertaining the conjecture that when you are ORF if one thing doesn’t get you, something else will.

On which azimuth, I ran across this cartoon: [Link]

one in a trajectory or sequence on the matter of science fair projects (and bogs.) Still, even with the boggish flavor of waiting until the last moment and doing something utterly wrongly and poorly conceived, it does illustrate a couple of the problems with research.

I should comment, before proceeding, that half of all the compromised projects are compromised by poor statistical conception. I don’t expect children to understand the niceties of statistics but the fact seems to be that their parents are even worse than they are. Apparently this is a by-blow of the denial of algebra.

Having gotten that over, part of the problem is that the test subjects, whether animal or particulate, are perverse and uncooperative. I know from experience that physicists tend to anthropomorphize whatever particle or phenomena they are working with, probably because of that perversity. Theorists have it rather worse since the perversion is within themselves. And when the frustration creeps out, it can be embarrass. FD SCP is often amused at my conversations with simple machines – jar lids, for example – and commonplace objects. She claims that the only object I don’t converse at is the electric toothbrush, and that only for reasons of droolage.

I have long held that there is nothing wrong with these monologues, that, if anything, they are the simplest form of intelligent conversation. Although I do find I agree with myself somewhat less often than my colleagues agree with me. This is hardly surprising. After all, unlike extro bogs, those head conversations are frequent and often on ambiguous matters. But for all the irritation and annoyance, it is still better than their emotional depravity.

Lack of Stuff

Ran across this cartoon: [Link]

and was reminded instantly of Boyle’s work with the air pump and the seeming perpetual boggish arguments over the existence of the vacuum. Sometimes these got quite violent and involved superstitious violence. All because some people are incapable of not thinking in absolutes. One more thing that distinguishes bogs from real people.

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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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Beyond the Clyde

Once more to last day of week out. So far mild. But I have great trust in the perversities of nature. I bestirred myself early for my constitutional this morning, trying to find some condition with wither more wind or less wearable humidity. I was only partly successful. I have found however that listening to an out of season episode of Garrison Keeler’s “News from Lake Woebegone” helps. So I listened to him talking about snow falling and social organizations of silliness.

On which note, I saw [Link] that Scotland is planning on eventual – read SOON! – independence fro England and on that occasion will start its own navy to patrol the Clyde. It is unclear what the threat is. At least it isn’t covered by the journalist.

I rather suspect that most bogs have a view of Scotland shaped by Amerikan movies staring Australian actors with lots of woad smearing and throat cutting. A far cry from “Scots wha hae with Wallace bled” in all senses. As one who has a bit of Scots heritage and rather enjoys the thought of evicting English tyrants at point of bayonet, I heartily approve of independence for Scotland. I also feel that independence granted is not independence realized, nor earned.

But I am not sure that is the situation with Scotland. History records repeated efforts to secure independence from the cancerous English, and their tenacious parasitism to exercise dominion over the whole island. That latter may make sense in terms of grand strategy but it grates on the minds of the independent. So I fully expect any border between Scotland and the southron tyranny to bristle with spear points. I also expect an immediate military expansion in Scotland with the aim of its own dominion. And I suspect the first target will be some country with excellent dental instrumentality given the Scot weakness for sweets. On which count England way rest easy.
[Link]
On the azimuth of that slumbering despotry, I see [Link] courtesy of the Register, that Chromebooks are now the fastest growing computer sales sector. I have to view this a bit yellowly. It is encouraging to hope that the touch screen delusion may finally be contained but I have to wonder at a computer that only works if there is an internet connection. One more bit of indication that the world is now dominated by the workers of the ant hills and that the hinterland is irrelevant except for feeding them?

Next, I note [Link] an Op-Ed piece about the practice or coroporations fabricating false science articles to further their ends. Much as I should like to punish this by subjecting corporate officers to the Mongolian death of a thousand cuts, I suppose surrendering them to the gentle mercies of Scot special forces would be adequate. Regardless, this sort of thing should not be tolerated in any actual democracy. Which, according to our worst president in living memory. we no longer are.

Maybe second worst?

Anyway, at some point we either need to recover our country from the partisan politicians and the corporate oligarchs or succumb to a regime of eating haggis and cream puffs.

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Worm Hole

Woden’s day and I have to admit it was a bit nasty. The gym had rather too many, or at least, too obnoxious, weight bouncers, and the podcast, an episode of the CBC’s “Quirks and Quarks” was a Q&A program and hence mostly flat. And full of grating simplifications.

Which puts me in mind of how does one “dumb down” the right amount to talk to bogs and children, recognizing that the two are at least partly distinct. After all, some of the children will become nerds and geeks, but they still have an abysmal lack of experience – uncorrected for bogs – and thus lack reference points for many things. I also have to admit to an emotionalist, in-the-moment effect of having to respond rapidly without the time to do a proper job. But then, why are so many written popularizations so frigging bad?

In such a frame of mind, I was happily greeted by an article [Link] in Smithsonian’s RSS feed about the recovery of twelfth century Plantagenet poo from the ruins of the castle Saranda Kolones on the island of Cyprus.

Cyprus is the opposite of a swimming pool. It is still an attractive nuisance, that’s why everyone wants to control it and why the poo is there, but instead of being a body of water in a back yard, it’s a backyard in a body of water. As such it has enormous value in control of the Mediterranean. That’s why Richard Plantagenet built a castle there in 1191 CE as part of his holy quest to secure Jerusalem from the evil, heathen Mohammedans. And having done that, promptly sold the island – how’s that for ROI? – to the new King of Jerusalem.

But in that brief interim, Richard, and his noble minions, too time to place their nether regions upon the castle’s latrine and leave something of value for science.

The first thing one notices is that the facility is based on an intriguing model of human anatomy. Nonetheless, what was found in the poo was indeed a pony of value to various disciplines. They particularly indicated the presence of intestinal worms in at lest some of the folks who contributed to the sample. So we can add intestinal and rectal disease to the list of things that the crusaders had to enjoy in addition to the crusade itself and heavy armor in the desert.

One can also contemplate that this may be the most important thing done by this particular Plantagenet?

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