Institutional Ignorance

Seven day. Survived the monsoons of yesterday. Survived the nonsense of Star Wars (YEA SLAVERY!) and Cinco da Maya (Five Mayan Blood Sacrifices?) Then this morning while doing the weekly tomato-sauce (catch-up – BAD pun and not even Pun Day!) I ran across a cartoon [Link]

That struck me twice.

First, it captures how the public schule system is anti-learning. Any pupil who tries to deviate from the holy lesson plan is punished. I suppose we should be thankful that the little girl didn’t get roasted on a spit like Bruno.

The second is that breakthroughs do indeed need grunting, and lots of it. Every breakthrough I have ever made, and there are several, required much nasty noise-making and skull sweat.

The latter, incidentally, is what distinguished breakthroughs from copulation. 



Government of the Insecure

Yesterday was day four of month five. Nothing particularly different except to those people who continue to use an old, illogical dating taxonomy of M/D/Y in which instance, yesterday was “May Fourth”. Hence its adoption by some the the weaker minded Bogs and Geeks as “Star Wars Day.” 

I have been considering several aspects of this.

First of all, Star Wars is basically a space oater. Convoluted and lacking significant entertainment value, but nonetheless an oater. It distinguishes itself from other space oaters by two factors. One is its parody of human religion with an invisible, but-not-imaginary semi-potent deity and an class of inquisitive, death-dealing priests. Part of the parody is the apparent asentience of the deity.

The second factor is even worse. It’s the exaltation of slavery. I have mentioned this before but this time its intensified by the recent opening of the Lynching Memorial here in Alibam. The relationship is direct: when the Yankee government finally got its act together and (sorta) eliminated slavery in the Yankee republic, the insecurities of the Southron people manifested in abuse of former slaves. 

This is part of human nature, this Us-Them thing. What is shameful about this one is that nothing substantive has been done to alleviate the worst aspects of it. Once the Yankee Army of Occupation left the old Confederacy, the extinction of former slaves began in earnest. In many ways it continues to this day. And Alibam is one of the hotbeds.

It is instructive of the degree that humans can be insecure that this practice continues. I once read a novel entitles “Is the United States ready for Self-governance?” I have the same worry about Alibam. Even in the technical Nawth of Alibam, I see little evidence that the people of Alibam are ready for self-government. Certainly the on-going grrr brrr with the state’s primary bigot and pedophile illustrates, perhaps demonstrates, this. The continued political maunderings about governing based on organized religion and monster-under-the-bed fears is further indication. I was particularly struck by the extreme rejection of reality and rule-of-law espoused by one candidate for Lieutenant Guvnuh, one who has demonstrated in past an inability to pitch tents and an excessive interest in children. That interest seems to be a standard acne of Alibam politics, at least at times.

It is times like this that I entertain the idea that Alibam is the Coventry of Amerika. And the only reason that the citizens are allowed to vote is because they can only hurt themselves. Which they do. Repeatedly and brutally.

Somehow I have my doubts that lynching memorial will have any positive effect. Not in the methane bog of rationality and logic that is Alibam.

Epiphany and Cognition

Abortion, under rational circumstances, is one of the ultimate expressions of intelligence. As such, it is one of the things that set humans apart from the other animals.

Any effort to suppress this choice is an evil as deep and terrible as chattel slavery. 

Degree Delusion

Last evening I was watching the “news” with FD SCP and was exposed to the high schule student – woman – who wasn’t going to college but to trade schule to become a grease monkey.[Link] Ostensibly the reason for this was debt avoidance.

I sincerely hope this is an instance of “good” sense. But given the media attention, I have my doubts. Nonetheless, it did give me occasion to consider the matter of college.

First of all, a larger fraction of adolescents/YAs go to college than in my day. And my day was more populated than my parents’ day. And most of these students incur a stercus load of debt. Which cripples them for years if not forever.

So why college indeed?

Going back to my day, most of the people who attended college did so poorly and wastefully. You had women who were attending college to find a husband with “good prospects”. You had Greeks who were attending college prior to joining the family business. And you had rich kids attending college to avoid the draft.

And you had kids attending college to major in what they “loved”. 

And you had a few kids who majored in something useful. 

I realize that women don’t go to college to “mine” a husband any more so I’ll try to back off on offending the asentient and aintelligent who don’t recognize analysis from insult. But I won’t back off on people who go to college and end up not using what they studied. That includes those who can’t get a job in their discipline and those who find they can’t make a living with their discipline. Part of this is people paying attention to what their parents want or what they want but don’t recognize those as poor choices. My parents wanted me to go to business schule and become a physician, both of which would have been failure states for me. I may not be a very good physicist… but I am better than average. And I was moderately successful.

I know a few people who are in the same state, mostly STEM NERDs and business Geeks. What they have in common is they like/enjoy their discipline and they found someone who would pay them to do stuff they like. In my cosmos, that’s called success.

I know a lot of people who have done moderately to extremely well doing stuff that has nothing to do with what they studied in college. They had the good sense to find something they could do that paid and they did well by working hard in that thing. Some have returned to their disciplines in retirement, especially the ones who studied arts, and they are uplifted in retirement with that.

Just like I still do physics. 

But I come into contact with more people who had to do things that had nothing to do with their disciplines and they did poorly. Part of that was that they had no discipline and drive and part was the opposite of enjoyment in doing. I don’t have any friends like this because there seems to be some sort of forbidden-ness to these people socializing with people who had enjoyment of what they did. They do clump with other people who disliked their work. 

That seems to be covered by the social nature of humans. 

My point being that the latter folks would have benefited by not going to college. Or by competent counseling in high schule. In mu experience most of the adult unhappiness in Amerika is due to incompetent high schule counseling. And parent stupidity. Both of which are strong arguments for education standards and licensing. Especially for parents.

But bottom line. We need to take a stiffer stance on college. If someone wants to go to college to get i career ticket punch they need to have their nose rubbed in the likelihood of failure. If someone wants to go to college in some discipline that they can’t get employment or survival pay, we need to make it hard for them to get in.

I’m of mixed mind on the current system of telling people they will likely fail because of aptitude or grades. That argument would have kept Einstein out of college. The most successful people I know are the ones who overcame the academic instrumentality’s foretelling of damnation. 

And we need to offset the crap espoused by parents who want to live through their children or have a whacked view of reality. 

Which boils down to fewer people need to go to college.

Ex Oram Ignorance

Seven Day. The weather beavers foretell the beginning of several days of dihydrogen oxide falling. So long as the electron potential difference remains non-zero, I am not very concerned. 

I had to accompany FD SCP to the Craft Fair in Guntersville yesterday morning. Modally, she goes with one or more other women who have an interest in such but evidently that was an unocupiable state and I got pressed into service. Not objecting to such as it was no substantial burden. And, for once, she actually bought something. Usually she goes, observes, and notes things that she wants to make projects of and never does. I actually “enjoyed” the occasion as it gave me opportunity to observe as well. My experience in past is that craft fairs provide a formal venue for people to display “hobbies” that in previous ages – such as when I grew up – would have been kept hidden in dens and garages. Nowadays they go on public display – although the magnitude of the public was rather small when we were in attendance – and are available to purchase.

I am also of the opinion that these affairs would be better named “Kitsch Fairs” as that would be more accurate than craft but I readily admit that I have scant purchase to such a recommendation. 

I also had to contrast this affair with the other popular (?) activity, “Maker Fairs”. Such seem to me to be much more craftish in nature. Not that both aren’t crafting but the utility of the products, a key aspect of the tradition of crafting, seems more with the Makers. Such however, are rather too knowledge dense for the likes of rural Amerika where ignorance is more highly prized, at least among those who consider their peers to be common “men” . Knowledge is assumed among medicalists, some educationalists, and a few justicers. 

Which brings me to my morning of tab hawgin’. I start with an article [Link] that claims believability of a science presentation depends on the quality of the audio. I suspect this has nothing to do with content, which most Amerikans reject, but whether the speaker’s voice is soothing and comfortable or akin to Carl Sagan’s. Scratchiness is supposedly a key factor. 

In a way this makes eminent sense since I have known no scientists who actually care very much about the sound “quality” of their presentation, only its content. Which, as indicated, is irrelevant to the ignorance treasurers. 

This is further amplified by two other articles. First, [Link] entitled “Know-it-alls are more ignorant than they’ll admit.”  The first paragraph of the article 

“People who think their knowledge and beliefs are superior to others are especially prone to overestimating what they actually know, new research suggests.”

is summary. One way of stating this is that Know-it-alls are people who lack knowledge humility (and reality.) This seems almost a synonym for the ignorance treasurers of Amerika.

I have to admit to experience as such. When I was a senior in college I found myself often quite pleased that I knew more than many others, at least about what I was studying. That arrogance lasted about one day in graduate schule. Which indicates that those who are not fortunate to have such an environment can maintain such an erroneous self-appreciation for a long period of time with buffering increasing steadily over that period.

This seems confirmed by the second article [Link] entitled “America is plagued by experts without expertise.” The article starts by discussing the return (?) of the situational comedy (???) “Rosanne” with its redneck prattling of contra-wisdom. 

I have to admit that I have not observed the television program in its return. I observed it several times in its original form and observed that the comedy of the show was as much about the stupidity of ignorance wisdom as it was about actual situations. The latter’s areality were the reason I did not watch voluntarily rather than the nausea engendered by the former. But the idea that many Amerikans – the ignorance treasurers – may not recognize the former as humor but as “gospel” is frightening in the same way that Nazis at Nuremberg were frightening.

The article goes on to discuss other television programs, none of which I have ever observed. Quite frankly, I find television – except vintage Wiley Coyote cartoons – to be unengaging. Somewhen in the years I spent in graduate school, television became catatonic and hebephrenic. Which probably explains why Faux News is so popular despite its aggressive prevarication. At any rate, it is the epitome of the kingdom of the male “dumb blond” who is never dumb in the actual meaning of the word but is a fountainhead of ignorance. 

With scant apology to Ayn Rand. Who did a poorer job of expressing individualism than any of the science fiction writers of the “Golden Age.” They at least had some hope for Amerika. Now we just wait for the famines of climate change to end the species.

Enough. Time to break fast.

STEM Stupidity

Seven Day. Week Out. And frost once more upon the ground. Oh!, the joys of Climate Change and Global Warming. One of which is the ignorant shoutings of Repulsian stalwarts that such incidents definitively prove the absence of their effector. Never mind that these people are math blind and have no capacity to comprehend that the standard deviation of the temperature distribution is proportional to the mean temperature, they have to be right because they “feel” it to be right. Deity bless Amerika where Ignorance is king and knowledge is sinful.

On which note I feel the need to let loose some blot on a spate of STEM articles I have accumulated this week. First, an article [Link] entitled “Are Men Smarter at Science Than Women? Men Certainly Think So, Study Shows.” This article from the New Yawk Times proclaims that 

“Men were more than three times as likely as women to say they were smarter than the classmate with whom they worked most closely.”

The problem with the article, for once, isn’t the journalists. It’s the researchers.

Simply put, in the last twenty years I have read twenty studies that report the same results as here. Admittedly these results didn’t come out of a physiology department and that’s the damnation. They all came out of Management “Science” departments (or similar, including psychology) and they all informed us that men have bigger egos and more arrogance than women. That part was consistent, the primary variable was the nature of the workplace ranging from service jobs through executive suites.

So the problem here is one of lack of integrity and honesty on the part of the researchers. What isn’t clear is whether they failed to tell the journalists that their study was derivative and confirmatory or they failed to do an adequate literature search. Either way, they’re damned. 

Sadly, it’s also a symptom of our failure as a society. Because some components of society have decided they are underrepresented in an activity, the cure is to mandate leveling. The problem with this is it destroys creativity and internal self-respect. Yes, non-pink and non-male representation in many “professions” is different from the population as a whole. But no validated evidence has been presented to indicate that is detrimental. And organizational mandate to level has divided the workplace socially to the point of severe decrepitude. 

As a manager I recognize that diversity is good and increases the strength of the organization, but when I am making a personnel choice and I am told that I have to select X characteristics specifically, I am unable to acquire that strength. 

Are there managers who don’t do things honestly? Yes. Most of them. But they also cheat on the mandates as well. WHich makes the problem worse. 

This is a rotten tooth. The more it is prodded, the worse it gets.

Next, an article [Link] entitled “Lesson learned? Massive study finds lectures still dominate STEM ed.” This article claims that lectures are the dominant vector of STEM coursework and that they don’t engage students.

Again, not a new thing. I have read about as many papers on this in the last twenty years as I have the previous. And they all decry the ineffectiveness of lectures.

The question however, is what is the measure of effectiveness? Over the years I have spent some time in the classroom and I have discovered several things that aren’t talked about in these studies.

Most of the data is collected from “service courses”. Those are courses like the widely dis-loved “freshman physics” courses. They are taught in large auditoriums with hundreds and thousands of students and one lecturer/teacher and a few TAs. Maybe. These courses are a love-hate albatross for their departments. First of all, they are the primary source of existence and educational funding for the department because the (vast) majority of the students in the courses are there to satisfy a general degree requirements. Students who will major or minor in the discipline are a vanishing minority.

But these latter students are the ones who are really important to the department. For what should be obvious reasons. They are the students who, in the main, will be the STEMs of that discipline. 

The other students are transients. Many of them – more than in my day – are there only for ticket punch. They cannot be engaged. No matter what. 

We also have to consider the demographics of STEMs. STEMs are more likely to be INTRO than EXTRO. INTROs and EXTROs engage radically differently. So which way do we structure the course to engage? I won;t even belabor the other problems, like lecturers who are overworked and under-timed. The point remains that studies like these are almost always EXTRO Supremist, which is recognized by the actual practitioners as extinctionist. 

The lecture format isn’t perfect but it represents a compromise, perhaps the best one, between resources and student needs. 

Third, an article [Link] entitled “The Scientific Paper Is Obsolete.” The author argues that the scientific paper is obsolete because of computer software. And, no, this isn’t one of those let’s publish results on social media things. The argument is that the software is compromising the transmission of the information.

Not surprising.

In Galileo’s day, the same problem existed except that the maths of the day – infinitesimals – were contrary to the delusions of the religion organization. In Newton’s day the Royal Society attacked the problem by making people read their papers aloud to the meetings of the society. 

IOW, not a new problem. 

When I was a grad student, computers were not the desktop fixture of today. In those days we had to go to temples and present offerings to the computer-deity. And only the folks who knew coding AND computer maths could do so well. 

At one time I was writing code for most of the faculty in the physics department. And having to write the computer section of their papers. 

Research is supposed to be new. It isn’t scholarship. And yes, there were problems with repeatibility in those days. That’s why we published the code, so people could run two pieces of code in parallel and see how they crunched differently.

One of the problems is that of Babel. Too many languages. I write code in FORTRAN or BASIC, depending on the level of detail to the calculations. If I can do it in a spreadsheet, BASIC, housemother FORTRAN. Other folk write in other languages. And usually we can’t talk to each other.

What gets missed here is that as bad as NERD papers are, they do work. And no other method has.

When societies fail it is usually because “make it better” overwhelms “get it done.”

Peace and Happiness

Easter. The day when Christianists (and presumably, Christians,) celebrate the recorporation of their messiah. Don’t mention to them that the story isn’t original. As I recall it goes back to Gilgamesh times, and probably before that. Humans have had a mental and emotional rejection of discorporation for many thousands of years based on ancient burials that have been found. It’s probably a side effect of intelligence. After all, to the rest of the mammals, humans are not only crazy, they’re evil. 

The thing is, the whole idea of recorporation isn’t the marvel it used to be. Surgeons have been talking about actually doing head transplants for a couple of years now. Discussions of freezing brains or storing consciousness in a computer are older than that. These may not be the same as the miracle story but they’re close to the point of a human on-off switch that’s reversible.

This brings us to something we’ve blotted before: Schrodinger’s Cat. The fallacy in the experiment is that death is an accumulating state. The quantum mechanics mostly done doesn’t consider accumulating states. When we’re talking about which state an electron is in, that’s ok; when we’re talking about a feline being alive or dead, it isn’t.

The problem is that there’s a third state: perceived to be dead but not. And since no one living or trustworthy was there, we don’t know. So it reduces to a condition of irrational faith. 

This matter having to do with wearing “white” shoes seems quite similar. 

On which note, it seems [Link] that footprints have been found on the shores of Canadia that have been dated – via carbon nearby – to 13 KYA. Which gives us an even deeper date for how long humans have been mucking up the Americas. 

Which brings me to another article [Link] entitled “Making a leap from high-ability high school to college of lesser academic status can be a real downer.” The idea, based on some statistical survey work, indicates that kids who attend a high schule with high standards, real teachers, and a focus on learning and then move on to a lesser college experience depression in greater numbers than students who attend a more rigorous college.

I hate to say this, but this comes across as EXTRO Supremeism. When I, a three sigma INTRO, attended high schule, I quickly learned to keep my head down and my mouth shut. High schule is a cesspool of EXTROism. In fact, EXTROism is imposed: only EXTROs are encouraged and persecution of INTROs is exalted. 

This is one of the reasons that these schule shootings are accepted. The folks who do the shooting are the ones who were bullied and persecuted by the EXTROs and the JOCKs and the staff and the politicians. So until we fix the schule torture of INTROs, these are going to continue and eventually one of these folks is going to be smart enough to use something more deadly than firearms. Like nerve gas. If you think the wailing is bad when less than a percentum of the students are hurt/killed, wait until it’s more than fifty percentum. 

The problem is that high schule is a toxic environment and no one in authority is going to change that. 

On which note, I found college wonderful after high schule. For one thing, the JOCKs and popular kids are diluted and mostly elsewhere on campus than the INTROs. And the administration is worried about lots more important things than facilitating the bullying and harassment of INTROs. In fact, most of the faculty are INTROs. 

Of course, the not-smart INTROs flunked out quickly but for the intelligent INTROs, college was salvation in terms of freedom to learn and be INTRO. 

Intriguingly, most of the shooting incidents in colleges are perpetrated by frustrated EXTROs, not by INTROs. 

Or at least that’s how it used to be before colleges were turned into factories. Similar to high schules.