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.

Climate and Weather – Nawth Alibam

Alibam is reeling in a winter onslaught. The Repulsians are ranting about the falsity of climate change – global warming – as they sit before their fires stoking the Carbon Dioxide glut.

Bogs. Denialist Bogs, at that.

One of the characteristics of weather is that over a long period of time it is approximately Gaussian distributed. What is often called a “Normal” curve except that’s a misuse of both the word “normal”, which properly means either orthogonal or of finite area and is most often used in place of the term “modal” which is evidently beyond the comprehension of the people who misuse “normal.” 

Or they are too lazy?

Anyway, if the weather has a Gaussian distribution, then the likely occurring temperatures are largely described by the standard deviation. And the standard deviation is largely determined by climate. Further, that standard deviation is directly proportional to the average temperature.

So if the average temperature goes up, the standard deviation goes up, which in turn means more occurrences of higher temperature.

But ALSO, more instances of lower temperature. So as the planet heats up there are more instances of high temperature – “hot” days.

AND, more instances of low temperature – “cold” days.

So feel no sympathy for all those Alibam legislators down in Muntgum who are snowed in (because Muntgum doesn’t need snow plows.) They’re the ones who refuse to do anything about climate change because it would deplete their pork and graft funds.

Meanwhile, I’m going to complain about both the weather and the climate. 

And the schmucks.

Mind of Nerd

I might have entitled this Mind of STEM Nerd or even Physics Nerd. But yesterday I had to take FD SCP to Nawth Alibam’s Shining City on the Hill for some circulatory system ameliorations and by chance of vertical copulation the day actually turned out to not be crushingly painful.

Not for FD SCP. But she got the anesthesia and so was out and cared for most of the time.

Normally this is done in a facility that incorporates the world’s largest, nastiest, most nauseating waiting area ruled by medicalist Gestapo. This waiting room is so unpleasant it makes a Soviet-era Russian bus depot seem comfortable, sanitary, salubrious, and palatial. All courtesy of the Shining City’s largest hospital and their mistreatment of responsible adults.

The last time I had to occupy that waiting room, several months ago, it was for eleven hours and I came very close to having to be admitted to hospital for physical and nervous collapse. It often reminds me of the old Chicago stockyards supporting the slaughter houses. 

But while FD SCP was directed to this facility, that was erroneous – surprise! surprise! – and we actually went to a quite pleasant – relatively – day surgery facility that actually doesn’t abuse the demanded responsible adults. And we only had to stay six hours!

But in the process I got to thinking about how Nerds and Introverts look at the world and society. We think differently. In fact, it may be argued that Intros are smarter because of the way Extros try to kill us by denying there are such folks. It’s not as brazen as harvesting us for body parts like elephants or rhinos but it’s blatant and painful. So to survive, we have to out-think the Extros?

I reflected on an article [Link] I had seen in Physics Today, which is itself an EXTRO gush journal for the American Physical Society. It used to have useful articles but evidently it is now run by public affairs types and is rather a pseudo-nerdy physics equivalent of something like Time magazine.

Anyway, the title of the article is “The image of scientists in The Big Bang Theory” and it strains the trust of any physicist who actually watches the program. The article is very positive and up-beat on the whole thing, quoting,

“The Big Bang Theory is the finest and best fictional portrayal of scientists in any current media—and a series that is carving out a place for itself in the annals of television comedy.”

but it actually has some serious veracity problems.

The biggest problem is that none of the STEM principals talk like real STEMs. Yes there is a bit of techno-babble that has some roots in actual STEM, but the characters do not act like STEM Nerds. Rather, they act like Geeks who are pretending to be STEMs which is pretty close to what the situation is. Actors are often Geeks and in this case it’s painfully apparent to any actual STEM. 

The most glaring thing is that the humor is false. The number of instances of actual STEM Nerd humor is less than 0.01 of the total. The jokes told are usually of the Geek variety akin to “X walks into a bar….”. This is a blatant necessity that the producers of the program ignore out of necessity. Real NERD Stem humor would be unintelligible to 0.98 of the population. And hence unfunny. And thereby, no success as a TV program.

Ditto the discussions among the principals. They are Geek discussions, not Nerd discussions. They’re about collecting rather than doing. Yes, they have STEM stuff injected but it’s injected as Geeks would. 

Not that the program isn’t worthwhile and beneficial, but it isn’t really about STEM and STEMs. But one of its benefits is showing us how NERD STEMs don’t think.

Transcending DST

Seven Day. Slightly less colding than yesterday. And hopefully not too unpleasant. Especially after the rigors of today being Daylight Savings Time fall transition day. 

Did I mention I HATE DST? OK. Consider it ranted upon. And politicians who continue it properly cursed. Preferably in terms of their fertility.

One of my colleagues, Magnetic Inductance Force, sent me a link [Link] to a blot by Chad Orzel on the Forbes website about how much math you need for physics. I read Chad occasionally. He is a young physicist who writes well but is rather too wordy for my attention span. This is probably because he is very good at explaining things to Bogs. I usually read his blots on Uncertain Principles but lately he has been blogging on Forbes and I avoid Forbes as a tool of the Capitalist Oligarchs. He gets, I am sure, a larger audience there which gets him more mana points from his college’s administrators which improves his job security and future, so I don’t blame him for being serfish but I don’t have to actively support the tyranny.

Anyway, his discussion is that different types of physicists need different amounts and types of maths. He illustrates this by talking about how he never studies the proof of Noether’s Theorem. This intrigued my colleague and, by transfer, myself, so I reflected on this. I realized that the grrr brrr with Noether’s Theorem is a relatively recent “social justice” thing. When I went through university, the physics books mainly talked about Hamilton’s Principle and Euler’s Theorem and Lagrange’s Equations. 

This reminded me that physicists tend to have rather different naming conventions than mathematicians. But also that perhaps Chad wasn’t exposed to Noether’s Theorem in university? To estimate this, I proceeded to review Noether’s Theorem. I went through several textbooks on mechanics. Only one of the latest in my collection – a copy of Goldstein I purchased when I taught out of it in the Eighties, talked about Noether’s Theorem and that was in terms of the use of the Lagrangian Density in Quantum Mechanics. This was buried in the back of the book where no one goes since they primarily use only the first five chapters or so to teach classical mechanics.

Hence the conjecture that this is more about broadcasting the role of minorities in Physics than gaps in education. I have expressed my opinions on the role of theorems and proofs in physics before and will not repeat. 

What is important about Noether’s Theorem and Hamilton’s Principle and Lagrange’s Equations is that they made the transition from looking at mechanical systems in terms of forces to looking at them in terms of energy. That’s the physics, the math is just the bridge, not the cargo. 

But reading Goldstein’s development of Noether’s Theorem, which was in a relativistic framework where all four coordinates are variable, I was reminded of the different types of time. 

  • Mental Time – this is the time in our heads. It’s subjective, if not relative;
  • Metabolic Time – which is variable somehow but also regular. Why do we defecate on a schedule most of the time?;
  • Mechanical Time – which is the time of pendulums and clocks and toothbrushes. The latter reminds me every time I use it that mental time is subjective; and
  • Relativistic Time – which is dependent on the environment be are embedded in.

Maybe I’ll compromise my standards a bit to spend more time reading Chad and getting good thoughts perking?