Fallen Branch

Three Day. Off to Nawth Alibam’s Shining City on the Hill. Much dashing about. So late for morning informational ablutions. So while plumbing the depths of FaceScroll, I came across this [Link]

I found this tree rather amusing, mostly for the choices of branches. As with most such amateur attempts at graphical taxonomy, the entertainment is in what is left out rather than what is put in. Among these is the branch of NERD STEMs.

First of all NERD STEMs tend to use Linux because of its capabilities and freedoms. Depending on their depth of interest in computational “science” (used here figuratively since anything that has to tell you it’s a science, isn’t,) they may use either Debian or Arch branch. Only the ones who operate in tight control environments use institutional Linux. I shall not dignify this matter with further comment.

As a rule, NERD STEMs want a non-hassling Linux distro. Geeks may want to wonk about with bit bashing but Nerds generally see the distro as a tool and want it to be tool-like: well behaved and trustworthy. And not in need of repair. But sometimes in need of modification.

NERD STEMs may be theoreticians, experimentalists, or intermediates. Some disciplines, such as biology tend to be almost exclusively experimentalists. 

Theoreticians tend to be primarily concerned with maths. That means that they will generally have several computational algebra clients on their box. No point in wasting time bashing maths for analytical solution when the box can do it. They also like graphs so they will have a couple of instant graphification clients. 

Experimentalists tend to be concerned with numbers. That means they will have some high tension (as in electricity) statistical clients and and maybe some electronics design clients and CAD/CAM/CAE clients. They also have statistics and graphing clients to crunch the experimental numbers.

Intermediates are the intersection/union of the two previous.

Nerds write code. Mostly they write in FORTRAN and NERD PYTHON. They don’t care about GUI stercus once they get to graduate schule. All that matters is numbers. And pictures of numbers. Not pretty box art. 

Enough. The branch for STEM NERDs is probably orthogonal to the sheet of the picture above.

And maybe that’s a good thing.




Seven Day, but not as conclusive as it should be. With the Two Day being holy, this week portends to be rather miserable all about. On the happy (?????????????) side however, today is the anniversary of the signing of the declaration of independence. Yes, I know it will be celebrated on Two Day but that will be the anniversary of the reveal of the declaration. Seems it took the Founding Fathers two days to “screw up their courage” to show their chutzpah to the mob as it was then called. 

This brings us to a bit of reflection on the nature of democracy. In effect, it is self-destructive. Simply put, the rational mandate that everyone need be included in a democracy results in the destruction of the rationality of the democracy since all the bogs are irrational. 

While we’re on reflection, I noted an article [Link] entitled “Even Just Seeing Your Phone Nearby Can Mess With Your Brain Power.” This work was done by Texicans but they missed the basic idea. It’s called the Observer Effect and it’s related to the collapse of the wave function. The basic idea is if you become aware of something, then a part of your brain capacity gets diverted to that something. So, in some sense, the brain of the observer is coupled with the wave function. Ta Da!

This coupling manifests in numerous ways. If you become aware of a pebble in the path then the likelihood of you stumbling over it increases. If you become aware the physician’s technician is fixing to insert a hypodermic needle, the pain is intensified and predicted.

All Observer Effect. 

And your phone is a seething mass of wave functions. All those potentialities. All those collapses and their interactions with you.

Second, I read [Link] that the Brits have built a new aeroplane carrier (naval vessel) and it’s computer system is Winders XP. This seems rather amazing to me. Did they adapt ATM software to run their shiny new Dreadmore? How is it that the Brits are so much better at Linux than everyone else – at least they have the best podcasts – and they can’t write command and control software in Linux for their shiny new barge? Perhaps they should have named it “Boaty McWindersFace?”

And lastly, a couple of my colleagues, at least they are physicists although I am unacquainted with them, have advanced a theory [Link] that dark stuff and several other unexplained bits can be by incorporating tachyons. I have to admit that I haven’t read their work, and I probably won’t because these things tend to be written by chaps who are maths wonks masquerading as physics wonks, but it makes a weird, quantum mechanics sort of sense. Rather like contemporary politics, at least here in Amerika, let’s postulate things that we can’t measure as causing other things that we can’t measure. 

And on that note, I shall go and break my fast.


The Blood of Science

OK, another bit of bile. Just the thing for a rainy day that raises the gorge.

This time it’s about nerd manuscript publishing. This morning I ran across an article [Link] entitled “Is the staggeringly profitable business of scientific publishing bad for science?”

The answer, from this blogger, incidentally, is TARTARUS, VERO! with apologies for the Anglicized punctuation.

Back when I first entered graduate schule, I was immersed in the refereed journal publication environment as a part of seeking a graduate academic degree. But I have to admit that the part I was shielded from until after matriculation was the financial side. I found out about that when I wrote my first, independent, manuscript.

At that time I was employed by the Yankee Army (sometimes called the Yankee Army of Occupation, but not very loudly in Nawth Alibam’s Shining City on the Hill because that occupation was providing most of the economic influx for Nawth Alibam. And still is. But all the attention gets diverted to the Space Cadet Agency which puts in less than 0.1 of what the YA does.) When I was told how much it would cost to publish my jest accepted manuscript in a professional society journal, about a month’s take-home pay at that time, I went into AW, STERCUS! mode. Then I was pointed, by one of the guardian librarians of YA employed nerds to the proper Army Regulation (more binding in Nawth Alibam than real Yankee Government LAW.) 

So I went to my boss and laid the bill on him, respectfully, mind you, and for that I learned three new words of a profane nature. The problem was not that he didn’t have the money for the publication, just that it wasn’t budgeted. So thereafter I made sure to budget a dollop of money each year to pay for publication costs.

Several years later when I got to be a high elected officer of a professional society I did a study on the relative costs of paper and electronic publication. I found out several things. The costs of publication were very unbalanced. Basically, the author bore all the burden of providing a print ready, edited manuscript to the journal. This was in part due to the practice of making other authors edit the subscription. This is sometimes known as peer review. All the journal itself does is pay for mailing manuscripts about and the actual printing and mailing of journals. Their expenses fall into three bins: mail; paper and ink; and printing labor. 

If we change to electronic publication, we replace (USPS) mail with email and we replace paper, ink, and printing labor with a server and a part time IT guy. Cost is about 0.1-0.2 of the paper route.

When I reported this, I found out that the organization wasn’t going to change. They were going to stick with paper. Why? Because they were charging about three times what they needed and were siphoning the two extra times into paying staff to do other society things. And buy luxury treatment for the society officers.

That’s one of the reasons I pretty well left the society when my term was up. 

But I later found out that the for-profit journals, which have much lower standards for publication, like basically the cashing of the cheque, were making 5-10 times what their costs were. 

So basically, the nerd publishing instrumentality is a giant parasite on the planet’s science efforts.

And parasites are seldom beneficial.

And why I basically only publish on-line. 

Toy Car Luggage

Five Day. It has been a difficult week. Much discomfort in the joints. And today portends to be a nasty one for weather. And then into the abyss that is week out. So my morale and mood have not been good.

Hence it was with a somewhat negative view that I noted an article [Link] this week. It is about some research (?????????) done by French “scientists” on “rolling luggage”. The thing with “rolling luggage” is that everyone’s time is golden so long as it is one’s own (?) time and not someone else’s which is stercus.  So no one wants to wait for checked luggage and insists on traveling with a miniature suitcase with a long handle and a pair of wheels either mounted on an axle or incorporated into the structure of the suitcase. And they drag, not roll, these suitcases through the aeroports and onto airliners where half of the suitcases end up checked baggage anyway because the room in the bins is quickly exhausted. 

From a physics standpoint what is important here is that the wheels are of fixed orientation and the suitcase is under continual force. If the wheels are on an axle, they are fixed but the axle can rotate. As these are pulled through the aeroport the suitcase tends to wobble, sometimes violently, and even tip over like a ship in high seas. Sadly, the suitcases that do tip do not sink, they just cause several other travelers to trip over them and cause a traffic jam and much ill will all about.

That latter is not physics, thankfully.

Back when I was a bairn, I had a couple of toy cars. These cars were made in Japan of hammered and painted tin and they had four rubber or plastic tires, in pairs mounted on metal axles. (Plastic was expensive in those days.) And when you would push these cars as hard as you could, they would run straight for a while (if they didn’t flip immediately) then veer off and even flip over. By the time my younger brother came along and played with toy cars, the body was now plastic but the behavior was the same.

This is why when I saw the article I was immediately cynical and thought this was nothing but self-promotion. After all, the French, as a people, are known for their arrogance. Most places you go, if you sincerely try to speak the language, you are warmly welcomed. In France, if you try to speak French, the French will try to kill you. 

Basically, the suitcase is an extended version of the toy car. Since the wheels are fixed in orientation, and, if mounted on an axle, constrained to rotate together. and under continual force, every little variation in the rolling surface – floor, for the bogs – causes a perturbation. In addition, and this is the real biggie, the direction of the force (pull) and the direction of the wheel’s rotation is not the same. So while the wheel is turning, it is also being dragged a bit to the side. If the wheels are mounted on an axle, this dragging causes one side of the suitcase to dig in and stall, at least momentarily. And if you pull the suitcase fast enough, the bumps and drags interfere constructively and you get a Tacoma Narrows bridge event. (Although that’s not really why the bridge collapsed, of course.)

Now why is this article self-promoting? Because every physicist who has traveled since the introduction of “rolling luggage”, has experienced this either directly or by observation and figured out what was going on. And most of us then returned to checked baggage. So this stuff isn’t new. It’s not as bad as going out to the Eiffel Tower and repeating Galileo’s Tower of Pisa experiment – and bragging about as new – but it’s close.

Incidentally, this physics is also close to the reason why Alibam Pickup Truck aimers aren’t competent drivers: the trucks themselves are impossible to steer like a motorcar and the state in its warped politics is unwilling to force pickup drivers to take training in the interest of the safety of the citizenry. Which is why Alibam is a third world state, a toy car state. Absent of understanding of basic physics and absent of any regard for the citizenry.

Much like the contemporary bog traveler. 

Marginal Notes

Two Day. Back to gym. We have a stand-in clerk this week while the modal clerk is off in the Floridas turning herself into “Long Pig”. The clerk came in this morning mumbling about having to park her “new” motorcar in the back pasture because of fear of people dinging her doors.

This set me to thinking about an article [Link] entitled “Academic Journal: Newtonian Physics Is ‘Oppressive’ to Marginalized People.” I have been musing over this article for a week now because I have had an enormous difficulty understanding it. The composition is not intended to illumine, at least to me,

“In a paper for The Minnesota Review, culture and gender-studies researcher Whitney Stark argues that Newton’s understanding of physics is oppressive because it has “separated beings” based on their “binary and absolute differences” — a structure that she calls “hierarchical and exploitative” — and the same kind of system is “embedded in many structures of classification,” making it “part of the apparatus that enables oppression.” Stark explains:

This structural thinking of individualized separatism with binary and absolute differences as the basis for how the universe works seeped into/poured over/ is embedded in many structures of classification, which understand similarity and difference in the world, imposed in many hierarchical and exploitative organizational structures, whether through gender, life/nonlife, national borders, and so on.

According to Stark, the tendency to categorize in this way particularly hurts marginalized people because it can cause the activist efforts of minority groups to be “overshadowed” by the efforts of dominant groups.”

I have read the “Principia” in both Latin (the original) and English and I have to admit that I can’t find what is being talked about here in “binary and absolute differences” unless what is being railed against is the maths and what is implicit to them. Now I will admit that my Latin was never very good and has deteriorated since but I have some understanding of classical mechanics and I am totally at a loss. 

I do have to say that the concepts of classical mechanics are not easy. They are not as difficult, in many ways, as those of quantum mechanics and relativity, but they still do not fit naturally with the evolved brains of two megayears of humans who spent almost all that time as hunter-gatherers. And that may be part of the problem.

The difficulty, as perhaps measured by how long, if ever, it takes to “grok” classical mechanics, is different for every one. I started studying classical mechanics at age eleven or so and thus had the advantage of youthful plasticity and a lot of years to be bored in public schule. 

I can also state based on personal observation, which is thus statistically unsound and highly biased by small sample volume, that the minority students in my physics classes, all twelve years thereof, were almost always smarter than the majority of majority students. Now this can partly be explained by economic filtering – “if you ain’t super smart, we ain’t gonna waste money on sending you to college” – but not all. 

Now all physics is a bit intimidating. So is English Literature and Team Athletics. You gotta work to learn enough to have confidence in what you can do with what you know. And if you don’t learn it, you ain’t gonna know. 

This may be part of what is being talked about in the article. If you can’t learn the material than you don’t know and can’t do. But how is that marginalizing? Is there supposed to be a “Royal Road” for learning? Isn’t that why we have teachers?

But then I reflected on the stand-in clerk and her doors. Specifically, when did we change out outlook on life from humility to arrogance? In years past, If someone couldn’t learn something because of just not getting it, they were humble enough to admit it and move on. Life isn’t about admiration, it’s about accomplishment. 

I don’t know if this is what the article is trying to say but that’s at least the conjecture that I am evolving, that people today are too arrogant to confront their own inabilities. And therefore the “system” is to blame for not making things easier. 

Well, that’s not how Nature works, and nothing is more natural than physics. It demonstrates repeatedly that we have to comply with Nature and not expect Nature to comply with us. And if you don’t get Nature on Nature’s terms, you may not survive. 

But if your “reality” is Society and you think you will get what you want and you have to get it by other people either aiding you or getting out of the way, then Nature seems very inimical. And if you can’t get it, then you have been wronged and are a pitiful victim who must be coddled. Or in the case of learning something, that thing has to be wrong and righted to your desires. Or denied. Which may be the same thing. 

Which isn’t to say that there aren’t bad teachers. I’ve commented on this and espoused that whether a teacher is good or not is determined by individual students, not necessarily metrics. But some things can’t be taught, they can only be learned. Like riding a bicycle. You can get hep but ultimately, you have to learn for yourself. 

Now this may not be what the article is about but absent any clearer communication – or an epiphany of learning on my part, this is what I’ve got. 

And yes, physics marginalized me because I took longer than my fellows to get some things. It marginalizes everyone, at least that I have known. And that was a good and necessary thing because it taught discipline and self-determination.

Surviving Weather Men 3

A bit of nasty weather here at Castellum SCP yesterday afternoon. With all sorts of horns resounding from the weather wireless and dire pronouncements by the weather beavers on local television.

And a news reader bemoaning the discorporation of someone sitting in their motorcar when a tree fell atop it during the storms. Met with all sorts of trite condolences and told-ya-so from the Weather Beavers.

So how dire are all these weather warnings? Let’s make a bit of comparison.

In 2014 – the latest year I could get “blessed” statistics, 36K people were discorporated in traffic incidents as compared to 0.38K people discorporated by weather incidents. that’s a ratio of 94.74 Why is this ratio important? I will show you.

Off the top, we can say the motorcars (and lorries) are about 100 times (20 dB or two orders of magnitude) more lethal than weather. 

But that’s not quite a valid comparison. We drive our motorcars most days but dire weather is much sparser. We only get it occasionally. So how occasionally? Let’s say one day in ten on the average. That reduces motorcar incidents to being ten times more lethal than average. 

Now how many bad weather days one has depends on where one lives but since this is a national average what we’ve done above is fairly good. So even if weather is more lethal, it isn’t as lethal as motorcars.

That doesn’t mean that we should ignore weather. But when the weather wireless comes on to tell you of a tornado in a town 20 miles east of you and going north-east, you can safely ignore that as a potential danger. 

Surviving Weather Men 2

Let us speak of ships and sealing wax. Or more properly weather and probability. Everyone hears the probabilities from the weather beavers but they never bother to tell you what they mean by it, so it’s almost a useless thing.

What is amazing is how dumbfounding it is for nerds who know – at least intellectually – about probability and find out what weather beavers mean.

There are basically two definitions of probability: temporal and spatial.(Time and Space) 

If you stand in one spot and observe from second to second (or minute to minute….) whether that spot is sunny or shadowed and write that down, at the end of an hour or a day the fraction of time that the spot is shaded (ratio of time shaded to total time spent observing) is the probability of being shaded. That’s temporal probability.

If you run about from spot to spot and observe whether that spot is shaded or sunny, and write it down, then after you have run to many spots, the ratio of shaded spots to the total number of spots is the probability of being shaded. That’s spatial probability.

Now what about weather? Well, it’s a combination of spatial and temporal. If a weather beaver says there is (e.g.,) a 60% probability of rain then what that means is that over a day’s time and the total area of the forecast (which is usually the “viewing area” for television weather forecasts,) there are six chances out of ten of rain falling somewhere and somewhen. 

What it doesn’t mean is that there’s a 60% chance you will get rain. It doesn’t work that way. Nor does it mean that 60% of the people in the “viewing area” are going to get rain. It just means that there is a 60% chance that somewhere in the viewing area will get rain. 

It’s maths, folks, and the weather beavers figure you are incapable of understanding maths and if they try to explain it to you in a meaningful manner you will get bored and do the channel flip thing. And then they lose money. 

Incidentally, the bored thing doesn’t depend on whether you get maths or not. Because talking about maths simply bores those who don’t get maths because it’s blah blah and bores those who do get maths because what is being said is too simple.