The PEW folks have released results of a survey of religious affiliation and education level. [Link] The results are mixed.

  • Evangelical Protestant: declines by ~ 0.4
  • Mainline Protestant: increases by ~ 0.2
  • Catholic: declines by ~ 0.12
  • Mormon: steady
  • Jewish : increases by ~ 3.0
  • Muslim: steady
  • Unaffiliated: increases by ~ 0.15

The range is from high shul dropout to postgraduate, so something like sophomore in HS to post masters college. And the decreases/increases are fractional

So the immediately riveting one is being Jewish. Is there something about being educated that makes one want minor surgery?

Unreal Scientists?

There has been a lot of grrr brrrr in the traditional media lately about the demise of the traditional media. One theory for this that is entertaining even if it has the appearance of speciousness is that the demise of traditional journalism began when television news broadcasts were instituted. One has only to listen to early morning news programs, which I get exposed to when I go to gym, which in turn is one of the primary reasons I listen to podcasts on myMP3 player, to conclude that television news readers are selected primarily for their faces and voices and not for their mental abilities. A pretty/handsome face with good diction is vastly more important than any other characteristic. The ad hoc commentary that blathers from these folks’ mouths is ample evidence supporting this conclusion.

The traditional print media is usually a bit better although also dominated by its quest for advertising cash flow over accuracy or range of coverage. It was thus somewhat of a shock to me to find an article entitled “We Need More Novels about Real Scientists” [Link] in the Scientific American eletter. Say what?

It turns out the author seems to have a rather warped vision of what constitutes a novel. If it isn’t a best seller, past or present, or one of those horrible boring tomes that one had to read in a literature class in shul, it doesn’t qualify as a novel. Now I admit that this is a small sample, but the only piece of science fiction mentioned is Wells’ Dr. Moreau; the rest are as far from science fiction as one can get. The indication is that the sampling algorithm/methodology used by this individual was anything but scientific, which has in the last quarter century what we have come to expect from what was once the premiere popular science periodical in the Yankee republic.

Now I have to admit that Wells tended to write rather often about some scientist bent on what would seem to us terrorist behavior, but an examination of each reveals a scientist who was himself the victim of organizational terrorism and exacting justice in the only way left. Notably, not all of Wells’ protagonists were of this bent, one may recall immediately those of The Time Machine and First Men in the Moon, although those in From the Earth to the Moon are marginal.

We are not however, limited to Wells. As Americans, we recognize the tales of Tom Swift and Tom Swift Junior that my generation and previous mentally grazed upon. Somehow there was much more substance to these stories than those of mystery solvers like Nancy Drew or the Hardy brothers.

If we turn to traditional science fiction, the scientist as hero is predominant; only occasionally does the cinematic mad scientist appear and then only as inept villain. It is astounding that anyone can consider the scientists depicted by people like Isaac Asimov, or Poul Anderson or H. Beam Piper or E. E. Smith or George O. Smith or Robert Heinlein or Jerry or Pournelle or… or….. as evil or unreal.

So if this is what the traditional media may deliver to us, may their rest come soon. We real humans need the relief.

Media Wisdom

I was rather taken by an article in the Huntsville Times feed this morning entitled “Time to stock up on Forever stamps”. [Link] The article is a reminder of the so-called forever stamps.

The idea is that if folks buy forever stamps today then they save the $0.01 that stamps will cost tomorrow.

Of course, once you use the forever stamps then you have to buy more – at the then current rate.

I can only hope this is space filler on a slack day and not seriously intended as advice.

Trash Talk

It is rather difficult to avoid the spewings of the retired Reverend Mr. Wright these days. [Link] I noticed this because of an altercation yesterday morning in the gym when one of Mr. Wright’s monologues was broadcast and one of the gentlemen (he was goy I am almost certain) wanted to change the channel rather than listen to the diatribe and the mistress of channel control disallowed the change.

Now I have to admit that the spectacle of the clash of wills between a mid-twenties slip of a trainer and a near-septuagenarian twice her size was much more entertaining than Mr. Wright but it did serve as a basis of consideration for what he was saying.

One cannot grow up in the Sowth without being exposed to deprecatory talk. The subject of the deprecation is usually people of more recent African heritage,[1] but occasionally Jews – on both economic and religious azimuths – as well as women (feminists), hippies, rednecks, trailer trash, and a list whose enumeration would exceed the limits of the server this blot is resident upon. Sadly, so regular are such that I really did not recognize them to be exceptional until I wandered off to college and found out that rational people pretended not to engage in such.

Yes, pretended. I quickly found out as I wandered about the Yankee republic to various shuls that such pronouncements were not limited to the former Confederacy and hence by induction I could comfortably conclude that they likely were a characteristic of the human species, or, at least, our particular human species, and not limited to any particular geographic region, skin tint, eye or nose shape. The matter did not even limit itself by education as I saw that such merely altered the form but not the type of behavior.

What I have not concluded yet is whether getting such nastiness out into the open is beneficial. I noted long ago that those confronted by their filth tried to distance themselves from it; it was a source of embarrassment to them and thus they said things in “private” that they never did in “public”. The times when people did the same in public as they said in private seemed to be when they felt comfortable enough to practice evil directly.

So the question is whether bringing this out in the open this way, for Mr. Wright seems to express little embarrassment here, is opening the flood gates of evil?

1. The matter of confronting any Southron with the idea that all of us came from Africa will get you a negative response, regardless of skin coloration. Those of pink hue will launch into some misremembered and misreproduced religious diatribe about evolution. Those of dark brown hue will accuse you of undermining their heritage. And those of a slightly saffron hue will just eye you as the rude and crude barbarian that they know you to be.

The Hand of Franklin

You would expect someone who grew up in the ’50’s and ’60’s to enjoy the music of folks like Elvis and the Beatles. Not me. I find the music of Elvis tolerable on a good day but that of the Beatles and the like is more irritation than entertainment. Instead, I find myself drawn to classical music, except opera which has lyrics that would put pond scum to sleep, and the big band music of the first half of the twentieth century. But what I really enjoy the most is folk music.

I am not at all sure why this is. I was exposed to very little of it before college, and by the time I became an undergraduate the only real access to folk music was records; live folk music had basically disappear from the Southron landscape except in the occasional hippie/artsy heritage site and given the fervor concerning the Vietnam Conflict in the Sowth, such were generally to be avoided by anyone not firmly committed to being anti establishment.

Of course that was a goodly piece of what folk music is about, which tends to explain its limited appeal both then and now. In those days most folks didn’t want music to think about, they wanted music to feel about and while there was feelie folk music, there was enough thinking folk music to disperse the vast majority who weren’t interested in thinking. And, of course, today thinking is still far behind consuming in popularity and folk musicians might be irresponsible and rebellious but they did wear underwear – or at least seldom advertised the absence of same – and hence don’t enjoy much celebrityhood in the modern society of celebrity deification.

But while folk music being supposed to be more than feeling music, it really isn’t supposed to weird folks out too much. That would be counterproductive. But that is what has been happening lately, at least with one song.

The artist is Pete Seeger, who is still about and still doing well, and the song is “Northwest Passage”. And the weirding part is that the Northwest Passage may open up this summer. Yep, the ice at the Nawth Pole may go away this summer. [Link]

Don’t anyone tell the politicians. The news might upset their war on/apathy of science and the way they have been studiously avoiding doing anything substantive or constructive about global climate change.

Doom and Gloom

It rained most of yesterday and through the night. The weather beavers on the local television stations have offered up the promise of bright, insolant skies later today, but the dismalness of mist and cloudy darkness that enlivened my Monday morning return to the gym seems to be mirrored in the RSS feeds this morning.

First I get to read in the Wall Street Journal [Link] prattling about the “hidden” costs of carbon dioxide reduction and how it not only isn’t going to happen, it shouldn’t because its not fair. Whether they are talking fair to consumers or just corporate oligarchs is unclear. What is clear is that they are continuing to egg the human lemmings on to extinction.

The sad fact seems to be that it is not a matter of cutting the growth of our greenhouse gas emission, or even of reducing it unless we reduce it to as close to zero as we can get it. And even if we do it looks as if we are looking at something on the order of a millennium before we can get things back down to where they should be.

And since we are unlikely to ever do this, what with corporate oligarchs actively lying to everyone about how they are making things right while continuing to accelerate the approach of the cliff to leap from, and Joe Consumer in denial mode and thus willing, prayerful even because religion is part of modern consumerism, to accept all this prevarication, it effectively makes no great difference what anyone does. Although I still find the former vice president to be an accute rectal pain.

At the same time, there are broad hints again [Link] that the internet is rapidly approaching saturation and will then melt down. So we shall not even be able to rush to our dooms under the distraction of You Tube video. Apparently we have reached the point where the instrumentality of the internet is another piece of national infrastructure, like the interstate highway system and the railway system, that no one wants to spend money on maintenance.

And I find at least some positivity in Mark Shuttleworth’s comments [Link] about how ill advised it seems for MegaHard, a content company, to purchase Yahoo, another content company. The problem, at least with the internet, is all about content. Something in excess of 0.9 of what information flows on the internet these days is entertainment, not business, not science and engineering, just entertainment.

Sounds like a good thing for the last surviving human to scratch on the species’ headstone.

How High is Up?

Yesterday I came across a blot on “What elevators can teach us about superstition” [Link] that rather grabbed my attention. This was one of those first thought sort of things that can be highly diversionary if one gives in to them.

The thought that I had was that for any given level of technology of elevators (as opposed to building materials) there should be a definite point of diminishing returns. The height of an edifice is limited by the strength of the materials used to build it; basically at some point the weight of the building exceeds the strength of the materials at the bottom and KA FLOOP!

The elevator thing is a bit different. The idea is that every floor added to a building gives more room for people but you have to have elevators to get people in and out of the building. If one requires that all the people be in/out of the building in a set time (T) then a trade off should result.

Let n_p be the number of people in the building, n_f be the number of floors in the building, X be the length of the side of a floor (presumed square), p the number of people that will fit in an elevator of area e, and a be the area required for a single occupant. Let the elevator have spped to visit j floors in time t. Then the relationship among the variables is


Now if we build a rather direct spreadsheet simulation (enumeration) of this equation (model), and select some parametric value judiciously, we can generate numbers and a plot of the number of people a building will accommodate as a function of number of floors. This is:

I should perhaps comment that we are packing the people in rather tightly here, which is why the people numbers are so large. Nonetheless, the point remains that there is a rather definite maximum number of people a building will accommodate and adding floors after that actually reduces the number of people.

Now what does this have to do with superstition? As Valentine Michael Smith would say, Waiting is.”