The Wages of Special

This article [Link] rather clearly details the results of a survey conducted by Indiana U on high shul students. Some of the results:

  • 73 percent said, “I didn’t like the school.”
  • 61 percent said, “I didn’t like the teachers.”
  • 60 percent said, “I didn’t see the value in the work I was being asked to do.”
  • About 25 percent said, “No adults in the school cared about me.”

Sadly the article and presumably the report, take the tone that the shul administration/faculty are the miscreants.



The primary guilt lies with the education mafia that has told the students that they are special for so long that now the shul is only there for their enjoyment and entertainment and any failure on that part must be corrected.

We’ve lost sight of something. If you go to shul and don’t learn, you are special. You’re ignorant and are not going to do very good in life.

Discussions on whether shul curricula should be relevant are reserved for adults who have been successful in life. IOW, those who have learned something. Any choices that you get in what you study in shul are part of shul, intended to teach you how to make good choices and improve your learning skills and scope.

Whether you like shul and its environment is far down the list of priorities. The number one priority is that you learn. If you do not learn you will not like your adult life. Learning is not sufficient for liking your life but it is almost assuredly necessary.

The adults in the shul are supposed to be there to teach you stuff to learn. They are not there to entertain or pamper you, nor are they there to abuse or torture you. But if you do not learn they cannot teach and not caring about you is all they have left. If you want the teachers to care about you and be interesting then you have to learn. That is not a sufficient condition for them caring but it is necessary.

There are teachers who are such in name only, but it is your responsibility as students to learn in spite of them.

Shul is an extension of the propagation of the species. As adults we have a responsibility to help you become productive, responsible adults. If you do not learn, we have failed, the species has failed, and you have failed. We cannot learn for you.

Bad Illiberal?

My distinguished and respected colleague, Total Angular Momentum Coupling, aka Eye of the Tyger, has posted a list of 18 rules for liberals.[Link] As my (few) regular readers know, such are an attractive nuisance for me and I herein reproduce list and my comments thereon:


1. You have to be against capital punishment, but support abortion on demand.
Actually I agree with John Stuart Mill that capital punishment is a less cruel, more humane punishment than lengthy incarceration; also, I support the right if humans to be free individuals constrained only by precluding damage to others. In the latter regard, women have the right to make their own decisions vis a vis reproduction.

2. You have to believe that businesses create oppression, and governments create prosperity.
Both businesses and governments are human organizations, which inherently, from the perspective of humans, are capable of good and ill. We persist however in trying to force organizations to have the same behaviors and traits, including altruism (e.g.,) as humans.

3. You have to believe that guns in the hands of law-abiding
citizens are more of a threat than U.S. nuclear weapons technology in
the hands of Iran, Chinese, or North Korean communists.
It is not clear that the weapons question has a stable solution except at the extremes: either everyone is armed or no one is armed. The latter is unworkable because the weak will be preyed upon by the strong and dishonest; the former is unworkable because the slow will be preyed upon by the fast and dishonest. Hence the only general solution is the elimination of humans.

4. You have to believe that there was no art before federal funding.
A more valid question is whether there has been art since the founding of the federal republic, and what it is? I have my opinions and the rest of American humanity has their’s, admitting that a null opinion is still an opinion. How then are we to agree on what is art? One suspects that if art subsidy was provided on the basis of democratic vote, then it would go to people who already command atypically large incomes as entertainment celebrities. One may ask how valid the process of determination is, although a more interesting question would be the comparison of liberal subsidies to the leisure poor and the unappreciated intelligentsia to conservative subsidies to the corporate.

5. You have to believe that global temperatures are less affected by
cyclical changes in the earth’s climate and more affected by soccer
moms driving SUV’s.
If one takes a pendulum clock and steadily strikes the pendulum every x seconds such that 2*Pi/x is greater than the natural frequency of the pendulum, then the pendulum will still describe simple harmonic motion but at the frequency of striking. The clock will behave proportionately through its gear train.

6. You have to believe that gender roles are artificial, but being homosexual is natural.
To the extent that gender is different from sex, that is, reproduction and continuation of the species, then gender roles are largely determined by society. Homosexuality is observed in other species than homo sapiens, but a more interesting question is what is Nature? Presumably natural derives from Nature?

7. You have to believe that the AIDS virus is spread by a lack of federal funding.
The last I checked, HIV/AIDS was spread by a contact vector.

8. You have to believe that the same teacher who can’t teach
4th-graders how to read is somehow qualified to teach those same kids about sex.
Actually, as much as I think it would be beneficial for children to be educated about sex, what they are taught in these courses is largely reproductive physiology and biology. Interestingly, and depending on how one defines Nature, reproduction education may be more natural than teaching reading, which is clearly artificial. Barring some sort of accidental event, most teachers have some qualification in reproductive physiology and biology. But in that vein, it would also be beneficial if students were taught some survival skills like gun safety, change making, and thinking rationally.

9. You have to believe that hunters don’t care about nature, but PETA activists do.
Whatever else we are, humans are still animals.

10. You have to believe that self-esteem is more important than actually doing something to earn it.
Actually, the two are complementary but it is unclear under what conditions they are and are not mutually deterministic. Until we understand the mechanics of the two, any engineering of them is a form of Russian Roulette.

11. You have to believe the NRA is bad because it supports certain parts of the Constitution.
See above on the nature of organizations.

12. You have to believe the ACLU is good because it supports certain parts of the Constitution.
See above on the nature of organizations.

13. You have to believe that taxes are too low, but ATM fees are too high.
Ah, but they are both the same. Taxes are a fee imposed by an organization for existing in the organization’s environment. ATM fees are….. So long as the organizations exist the fees are neither too low or too high.

14. You have to believe that Margaret Sanger and Gloria Steinem are
more important to American history than Thomas Jefferson, Gen. Robert
E. Lee, and Thomas Edison.
One of the interesting behaviors of humans is that we tend to worship other individuals of our species. In doing so “the evil is oft interred with the bones, the good lives on” to misquote the Bard. If the adulation leads us to adopt behavior that is beneficial both individually and to the species, then it is constructive.

15. You have to believe that standardized tests are racist, but racial quotas and set-asides are not.
What is a race? Another example of invalidly defined terms that cripple our lives and improvement. But don’t let me get off on truth.

16. You have to believe that the only reason socialism hasn’t worked
anywhere it’s been tried is because the right people haven’t been in
Actually, socialism worked for untold thousand of years. It quit working for the majority of humanity somewhere around 12 KYA when the cold phase ended and we wholesale adopted sedentaryism and civilization. When we were hunter-gatherers in autarkic bands of 25-100 people, socialism worked and worked well. Once the conditions of those bands changed, especially increased numbers and amount of property, socialism failed. The real question is whether there are any other conditions under which it will work as an organization mechanism?

17. You have to believe that homosexual parades displaying drag
queens and transvestites should be constitutionally protected, and
manger scenes at Christmas should be illegal.
The issue would seem to be what one can do as an individual that will harm another individual and hence needs to be constrained or forbidden. If the sight of a homosexual or a manger will injure another, then they should be constrained.

18. You have to believe that this message is a part of a vast, right-wing conspiracy.
This is the fundamental problem – belief. Is there any data or evidence. If not, then the matter is irrational and as such probably uninfluencable by rhetoric.

Cosmology and Theology

I was rather amused this morning with two articles. In the first, [Link] a researcher at Yale U has predicted a bump in the inflation rate of the early universe at a time (from the initiation) of ~ 1E-30 second. Supposedly this time represents a change in how the the universe expands.

In another article, [Link] a tomb supposedly that of Joshua ben Joseph and his family has been discovered. The discovery has apparently been decried by both archaeologists and Christian theologians. The interesting twist is that the discoverers are, in effect, making a probabilistic argument for authenticity.

Senior Mumblings

It seems that pills, at least vitamin supplements, are less effective than food.[Link] The latest report on this is oriented towards antioxidants but my memory is that this is not original – reports of the lesser efficacy of pills date back several years. While this is good news in the sense that it tends to decrease the number of pills I have to take every day – the physicians write chits for that aplenty enough, thank you – it worries me enough because I already spend a considerable portion of each day in food preparation. With regard to the latter I do have to admit to being remiss in that I have not taken the time and effort to pose food preparation, with all of the medical constraints, as a linear programming problem. Of course, to make that work, I would have to give up even the small amount of restaurant eating I do because of most restaurant’s silence on the subject of nutrition.

Somewhat more interesting, researchers at Bonn U [Link] have determined that neurotransmitters are secreted over a broader area than had been previous thought. As a physicist this has always bothered me, in fact, since I took human anatomy and physiology in high shul. The question is always how does the neuron get the neurotransmitter to the dendrites, and only to the dendrites, of the adjacent target neuron?  There are no channels, like for blood and lymph, so one is largely left with a diffusive mechanism, which tends to be highly isotropic in the absence of external forces.  And unfortunately, physiologists and even academic physicians tend to be poorly educated in physics so that even posing such a question is difficult.

On a happier note, researchers at Columbia U have determined that the addition of a small quantity of balsamic vinegar enhances the taste of beer.[Link] Sadly the reportage is not very quantitative nor does it expound on whether other forms of vinegar are effective. The active ingredient in any vinegar is acetic acid but as with many taste things, its the impurities that are critical, as any imbiber of whisky will relate and affirm. Sadly the article was more concerned with the details of blind testing – which are admittedly important – to the point of effectively losing sight of one of the fundamental benefits of sedentaryism, the consumption of beer.

Which leads us to the hypothesis that winter is the better time of year for beer consumption because shivering raises caloric demands. Hence beer can be enjoyed in winter with less concern for waste calories.

Finally, I have noted in previous blots that there is a disparity in perception of what seniors are like. The so-called baby boomers are different from our predecessors, and apparently also different from how our narcissistic children will be. An excellent article recognizing this is in the CBC feed this morning.[Link] Now if someone who works on senior programs will pay some attention?

Finally, a neat web site where brain maps of humans and other animal species are displayed.[Link] Nt as neat as Hubble Site but definitely closer to home.

If you tell them

One of the lessons we sorta learned after World War 2 was that if you tell people something long enough and often enough, they’ll believe it. I say “sorta” because we didn’t learn it or at least our education mafia managed to get us to ignore it.

When my daughter was growing up, I was repeatedly discouraged when attending shul functions recognizing performance that the scope of the recognition fell into the category of everyone got an award. My objection to this is that if everyone gets an award, there is no distinction of excellence and hence no motivation. The counterargument is that not getting an award generates frustration and this is as likely to motivate negatively as positively. My response that this had not been the general case for a large number of previous generations was ignored and after a while I lapsed into silence to keep from being nekulturny.

Now, I see that we have sewn a whirlwind.[Link] By continually telling children that they are special in this empty, meaningless way, we have raised up a generation that is broadly, almost ubiquitously narcissistic. Sadly, this is accentuated by our continued glorification of celebrities who have no constructive talents but only look good and can perhaps pretend to be someone they are not in highly controlled entertainments or can sing or dance in highly controlled, often enhanced environments.

It is thus no great wonder that so many are dissatisfied with their jobs. To a true narcissist, no job can ever be satisfying because it detracts from their self importance. It is thus no great wonder that the divorce rate is so high and that marriage is declining. Sharing the  environment with other people, and having to compromise for coexistence is anti-narcissistic.

Perhaps it is time we rediscovered the value of being honest with each other, including our children?

Cell Phone Science

I have blogged previously on the question of whether computer science is science. Much of it is engineering but a bit is science in the sense that computers are part of the universe and thus the study of them can be science. I am reminded of what Ernest First Baron Rutherford of Nelson said

    “In science there is only physics; all the rest is stamp collecting.”[Link]

while, of course, recognizing that the good baron also though nuclear power was moonshine.

This stamp collecting science also applies rather extensively to some of the social sciences as well. A nice example of this surfaced today in the PHYSORG feed.[Link] Seems a professor at Virginia Tech has been researching how students use cell phones. While the results are interesting it is unclear if this can be serious considered to be anything more than stamp collecting science. Of course, that may be deficient reportage. Also, at the risk of a rather bad pun on a Tuesday, one might be tempted to label it as hokey science but since I have known some scientists on the faculty at Virginia Tech, I known this not to be the case.

Meanwhile, the folks at U New Mexico have been studying the impact of cell phone on political campaigns.[Link] Evidently this is currently centered on ring tones although the reportage does not make clear what the mechanism of interaction is, presumably because it cannot be adequately communicated although an inability of the media to comprehend explanation is possible. It is thus not clear this is even stamp collecting science.

Happily, the institute does offer some interesting ring tones that offer the educated and environmentally conscious a means of countering those with trite pop tones. Regardless, more noise pollution and the FCC has still not approved cell phone blockers.

Happily, researchers at several places [Link] have nominated a mechanism by which the gravitational singularity at the center of our galaxy [Link] produce teraelectronvolt gammas. These gammas have the beneficial effect of disrupting cell phone usage and perhaps life on Tellus. It will help us abide until research is done to determine any linkage between adult lactase secretion and incessant and aconstructive use of cell phones.

Mature Lactase Secretion

Researchers at U College London have determined that the mutation that allows some adult humans to digest milk occurred about 7 KYA.[Link] As such things go this is considered to be an extremely rapid genetic change in response to environment. Not quite as fast as Lysenko proclaimed but he was clearly distraught by the need for the first three references in every paper to be to the works of Lenin.

Most humans are born producing the enzyme lactase, which permits digestion of lactose which is the key sugar in milk. Its part of being mammals. Most humans also cease to produce the enzyme during adolescence. The exception, courtesy of this mutation, are Europeans (and those of European stock.) The mutation that keeps the lactase production gene active into adulthood was an environmental adaptation under conditions where drinking cow’s milk is more survival enhancing than drinking polluted water.

It therefore becomes interesting to consider that people who can produce lactase as adults may be neotenous? It would certainly help explain the behavior of people I have observed consuming milk.

One such behavior, albeit small, that is particularly grating is having people ask me if I am lactose intolerant when I tell them I don’t want milk. The answer is that I am not lactose intolerant, I am normal and those who can digest milk as adults are mutants. Technically, lactose intolerance is limited to children who cannot secrete lactase and hence cannot digest milk. Adults who cannot secrete lactase are normal while those who can are mutants. Adults are not lactose intolerant by definition.

But thinking and saying that normals are is part of the neotenous behavior I mentioned.