Social Medium

Yesterday I had to motor to Nawth Alibam’s Shining City of the Hill – second of the week – for the annual inspection of my visual sensors by my Opto-physician and his staff. Aside from the usual grrr brrr of less than enjoyable tests, I was a bit betaken by their forms of address to me. The staff always address the hamsters (a bit more than lab rats but not much more) as Mr. or Mrs. or Ms. but the arzt himself addressed me by “Doctor.” 

As I said I am betaken by this. Most communities in the Yankee Republic are such that the majority of “Doctors” in the community are physicians and dentists; secondarily thumpers of holy writ. Huntsville – the reason why it is a Shining City – is one of the exceptions. Most of the “Doctors” in Huntsville are actual nerds of the technical perversion and not medicalists or justicers or divines.

Usually the exceptions are college towns and while Huntsville has more than its share of real (as opposed to for-profit diploma mills masquerading as real) colleges and universities. But those “Doctors” are a minority. The majority are the folks who work for the Yankee Army or NASAl or one of their contractors. So the social order is different from most places.

Those “most places”, the ones where the Doctoral population is dominated by the medicalists, is rather exclusionary and elitist. Under no circumstances are the other doctorate holders – except maybe the divines – ever called “Doctor.” The reason (excuse?) for this is always Unity of Command, to appropriate the Army term. And the society of these towns is rather exclusionary. The medicalists only associate with themselves except for business and superstition. It’s rather formal and stuffy.

It’s similar at college towns except the formal stuffy ones are the faculty.

But in Huntsville its rather uncomfortable for the medicalists and academics and divines because the Techno-nerds are the doctorate majority. And they are generally more open and unstuffy. (I’m not sure what the opposite of stuffy is here.) And it makes for a much more open community.

But it does confuse the devil out of the staffs. So they end up getting stuffy to protect themselves from the heresy or lese majeste (not sure which.) And are thus a bit entertaining.

And we often get some intriguing cross-discipline fertilization.

But then I came back to Arab and was once more a minority.

Which Reality?

One day, and back to gym. Rather dragging podcast, an episode of the CBC’s “Best of Ideas” interviewing some muslim journalist who alternated between being boring and strident but did trigger some association with something my colleague Magnetic Inductance Force said

“people who believe that society is reality”

and prompted some cognition.

Following on the heels of yesterday’s blot on thinking, I take as a given that different people tend to think in different ways. In effect, that they have different realities. For physicists, reality is physical; for mathematicians, math is reality; for biologists, biology is reality. And for justicers, law is reality and for physicians, medicine is reality.

But for most people, the ones who are not educated (but likely, if young, have a college diploma,) and EXTRO bogs, reality is society. Only occasionally does something other than friends, family, neighbors, and community intrude and briefly, usually denied, have an aspect of reality. It has been offered that this is why people told they are going to die turn to superstition.

The sad thing is that while none of these things is right (accurate?) none is wrong either. All are different pieces of reality. But for some reason, most of us seem unable to consider meaningfully any totality of reality. Part of that inability is ignorance; we are long past the time when any person can learn and know everything. So some of it is just plain not knowing.

The social reality people are the saddest. They have the shortest, thinnest view of reality, the part that is purely “made up” by humans, having almost nothing to do with Nature at all. In fact, usually in staunch denial of Nature. A reality of emotion and superstition and hormones.

Equally sad is that it is almost impossible to alleviate this sadness. Most of these people are incapable of dealing with any other reality, and the ones who are capable are almost all uninterested. One has to wonder just how inaccurate the “Sapiens” naming is?

Under many circumstances this can be abided. These people can be avoided and ignored. But when they decide to try to eliminate the other realities, which they deem trivial or heretical because they cannot understand them, they move the species closer to extinction.

Which may not be all that bad.

In Search of Thought

Seven Day. Moderate. Actually emerged from Castellum SCP to perambulate in a light jacket. If this be winter, summer will be death. 

I have been thinking lately about thinking. And yes, that does seem somewhat recursive. This emerged (?) from thinking about outreach and why some people (LOTS of people) refuse to learn. (And no, I will not go down the trail of mumbling about how universal college makes the entire population stupid and vapid and boggish. Even if it does.)

Anyway, the question arose from my personal distaste for most outreach efforts. I deplore the need to dilute and wrangle science to present it to disinterested, unlearning bogs. But I had to confront that perhaps the obstruction is that different people think different ways?

So I did a bit of a literature search – as much as I can do absent any library but my own – RSIC is too far away and slowly discorporation and the Greater Metropolitan Arab library is largely inferior to my own. (Actually, I suspect it is entirely inferior except for its rather quaint War of Southron Independence collection.)

I started with the dictionary – the on-line one built into Linux, of course – and borrowed a couple of (fairly) contemporary definitions:

profession n 2: an occupation requiring special education (especially in the liberal arts or sciences)

discipline n 1: a branch of knowledge; “in what discipline is his doctorate?”; “teachers should be well trained in their subject”; “anthropology is the study of human beings

Both of these are taken from something named “WordNet” and dated 2006.

Profession is rather a misused word these days. It seems to have been appropriated by everyone who has a job and wishes to establish that they have some merit thereby or therein. Any argument or discussion of this outlook is clearly on a kneeless slope. What constitutes special education and how much. Is on-the-job training adequate? (In past days of this so-called republic, physicians and justicers obtained that education on-the-job.)

Similarly for discipline. Is what a bog has learned just by existing (I hesitate to evoke the “living” discussion.) a “branch of knowledge”? And does someone who obtains a degree in some academic discipline but never uses that knowledge have a discipline?

Are craftspeople and manual laborers professionals? Clearly plumbers and carpenters are paid for their specialized knowledge. But is knowledge education?

None of this maundering gets at our basic question. I know from experience that I think differently than the majority of humanity. But do I have a discipline; am I a professional? 

Since I do think differently from almost everyone else there seems little chance that I can persuade them to my point of view. So I must be satisfied with whatever I think and try to avoid their wrath for my being different. In that context, I can associate profession with education in one or more disciplines. And having obtained that education it seems congruent that the difference in thinking is implicit. 

That rather sounds like “Bippity Boppity Boo”, doesn’t it? Perhaps it is. Or perhaps it is actuality. Perhaps the actual test of education is whether one thinks differently from the mode? If one thinks thusly then one is educated; otherwise one is not educated.

This still does not quite address what is a professional. This seems equally subjective. Perhaps it is a matter of education? If one has an education, is one paid for using that education? And if so, is one then a professional. And what of those who have a diploma but neither special education not apply it to their work? 


None Smaller

Five Day. Survived all sorts of grrr brrrr. Trip to Nawth Alibam’s Shining City on the Hill. Sickly FD SCP. Crazy motorists. Suicidal motorists. Media Arrogances.

Below the liquid -> solid phase change temperature (at atmospheric pressure) of Dihydrogen Oxide this morning. Bitter. And biter. Listened to more of the latest Linux LUG podcast. Failure. Useful information not dense enough. Off to the digital compost pile. And the search resumes for decent podcasts.

This leads me to a bit of mumblage. A week or so ago I ran across an article [Link] entitled “Is Atomic Theory the Most Important Idea in Human History?” by Carlo Rivelli. Rivelli is a physics essayist of some note.

The problem with these types of outreach is that they tend to be rather declaratory rather than discussive. I have to admit to finishing the article rather unconvinced that the idea of atoms is the most important humans have ever had. I also have to admit that I don’t have a different candidate, just that I found Rivelli’s presentation unconvincing. But it did prompt me to spend some time the last week considering atomic theory.

Incidentally, this absence of convincing is common to outreach articles. I am not sure why. I suspect it’s a mixture of academic arrogance that collegiate scientists think their word should be taken as epiphinal and inability to actually present the science in a form that bogs will comprehend (much less want to read,) and the author thinks is degenerate enough. 

Is degenerate a threatening word? Should I have said diluted and mangled instead? This is fundamental to outreach. If the bogs were nerds and could learn science then there would be no need of Dick and Jane for Adults.

The atomic theory is simply that matter is made up of atoms. (We don’t know what dark matter is or whether it exists but if it does it likely will either not me atomic or will seriously bash our ideas of atoms.) This should be inherent to anyone who got through high schule. Awake and aware, that is. Which probably excludes the jocks and to-be greeks.

What isn’t said very often about the idea of atoms is that it gives us a weird sort of closure. What atomic theory imposes is that if we take a piece of matter and successively cut it in half and throw away one half, at some point we can’t do this cutting any more. In nerd terms, there is an irreducible minimum amount of matter that cannot be subdivided. 

This means that there is some lower bound on small. Below this limit we may not go. Or know. AT least based on the presumption of atomic theory. 

Is this important? Yes, it is. Is it important to bogs who live in a social reality? Not at all.

And are these bogs human? Ah, now that’s a good question. Because it’s not as easy to answer as the one about atomic theory.

Ex Oram Astrophysicist

Two day. Higher temperature. Rain foretold and perhaps thunderbumpers. No mist or haze, much less fog. 

The podcasts this morning were a mixed bag. The NPR science and technology feeds have gone dry for some reason unexplained on their web site. A Money issue? Not inconceivable. So I have to readjust my listening.

The Guardian weekly science podcast is still on-coming despite Brexit and all that grr brr. I have to admit to quite a stash since they have been sending out two a week more often. So I listened to an episode from December that was an interview of Chicken Man aka Neil DeGrasse Tyson.[Link] It definitely cemented their current status as the best science podcast around.

I am of mixed mind on Chicken Man.[Link] He is a great popularizer/outreach person. Much of what he says is good stuff but about as much is offputting stercus. The most obvious greatness is his voice. He wears the cloak of heritage from Sagan but in my estimation Sagan was a poor predecessor to Chicken Man. Sagan’s voice was the problem. I tried many times to listen to his television program and never lasted more than five minutes. I had to turn the program off lest I apply great force to the electromagnetic audio-visual receiver. His voice grated worse than fingernail on a chalk board or a spoon across the base of a pot. Horribly painful. 

Chicken Man has a good voice. It is mellow and soothing, engaging, uplifting. The polar opposite of Sagan’s. And that is the basis of his greatness. What you say will be of no effect if people cannot abide your voice. Chicken Man’s is a good Darth Vader voice.

And much of what he has to say is good stuff. Some of it is crap but he is definitely FAR from Sturgeon’s Rule. And much of that is the cancer of outreach. To simplify (?) things down to bog-talk, accuracy has to be sacrificed. These are folks who are arational, athoughtful, and acalculate, after all. About like my relatives. Most bogs turn off their listening and attention is you challenge them to think, especially about things that are new or opposite to what they believe. Bogs are BIG on belief; LOW on thought, questioning, and skepticism. So reaching the few accessible ones requires some compromise. I have problems doing that. Most science nerds do, but a few can devolve themselves and since what they do is survival enhancing, much like altruism, for example, it is worthwhile.

And Chicken Man evidently does that quite well based on what I read about him. I have to admit that I haven’t read much of his output since too much is in alien channels. But what I have seen is pretty good.

The only real problem I had with what he had to say in this podcast was a comment about people prior to civilization not having technology. Since I studied under a very good archaeologist I know otherwise but in the minds of bogs what those people had would not qualify as technology. So I let it go. Small changes from small opportunities- about all you can expect.

The other podcast was a new one for me, a BBC podcast called “The Science Hour.” It wasn’t. Well maybe on wireless with commercials? And passable. One data point. Film at Eleven.

Rain foretold. Nice.

Into the Breach

Once more into the mumblage arena? It has been too long, too much distraction of infirmity and nonsense. 

The weather portends to deteriorate mediocrely. Not quite to pipe shattering temperature-durations but decidedly unpleasant merging to hemorrhoidal. The only amusement is the behavior of the weather beavers who seem oblivious to the nature of the liquid -> solid phase change mechanics of dihydrogen oxide. But then, these are the same people who display a map entitled “FOG” and there is no fog anywhere. 

Have been going to gym this week and it has been uphill, more than usual. Not helped by the general colding temperatures in the gym. Almost seems they do this so people will get pneumonia and have to be admitted to hospital (which the gym is a part of.) 

One of the other annoyances of these last two weeks have been podcasts. For some reason several have not resumed after the season concluded. And others have gone away. Today I listened to an episode of the “UBUNTU UK” podcast – quite good with only minimal mumblage about Ubuntu, and the replacement for “Linux Luddites”, the first episode of “Late Night Linux”, at least its start. I will finish tomorrow. Great expectations.

Nothing meaningful to mumble about this morning. Terror and boredom to come.