What is Them?

OK. Almost to week out. Gym week is over and I sallied forth this morning to the park for constitutional. First time in a while with no discomfort other than the usual stiffness. Quite muggy and calm there. I found my forearms and brow sheened with a thin dihydrogen oxide (plus impurities) layer, the kind that you never want to drive on since it is just the right thickness to totally fraculate friction. 

The podcast was dull but at least diverting enough to let me transcend the ache of stiffness. Walking is different from machine exercise. And I got to think about some other bits.

Since OPM is so fraculated, why don’t they put Eric Shinseki in charge? Its not like he has much to do and if he can get them up to the level of incompetence of the VA that would be at least a 100 dB improvement. 

I did run across a neat article [Link] yesterday. It’s about a study at a New Yawk U about why the vast majority of Amerikans dislike “atheists” more than terrorists, pedophiles, and rapists. Turns out it’s insecurity although the academics don’t phrase it that way. 

I should comment on why the quotes around atheist. That’s because a lot of christianists consider anyone who doesn’t subscribe to their specific belief structure and organization to be an atheist. I have had evangelical protestant politicians tell me that Roman Catholics are atheists. So some care needs be taken to determine whether the “atheist” referred to is someone who does not believe in deity or is just someone not of their sect/denomination/cult. 

Getting back to the insecurity, evidently the problem with atheists is ideological; that is, it is related to the idea of someone who knows they are going to die and accepts that. Evidently christianists do not like to be reminded they are going to die because they have slyly evaded thinking about such by immersing themselves in religious doctrine/dogma/…

Of course they can’t stand up and protest that atheists make them admit that they doubt their own tenets and beliefs, so they sidestep by claiming that atheists are immoral and evil and should thus be beheaded or some such. Never be accurate when inaccuracy is easier. It’s more a bog thing than a religionist thing. Maybe. 

This does, of course, lead us to ask whether religionists can be trusted to be accurate on any subject and if so, how one can observe the difference. Rather destroys the trustworthiness of their religion-ness, doesn’t it? 

Now the question is whether this offers any insight into the insanity of society. We have a modern idea that people who are mentally unsound, unable to cope with reality, are sick and have to be treated. Except when that lack of reality is religion. Based on the standard definitions of psychology and medicine, something like 0.75 of Amerikans are mentally whacked.

And I’m one of them so it may be something we humans drag along with us naturally? The World seems to NOT Wonder.

Broken STEM fruit?

Two day. Science podcast day at gym. The only bit that stuck was one about a Dutch study of cannibanol (marijuana) use by college students. 

Evidently only certain nationalities may purchase marijuana in Holland so student from other countries can’t. Legally. So they studied the differences in the two populations. And discovered something we sorta knew back in the ’60’s. STEM and Mary Jane don’t mix. 

Although not academically affirmed, we still operate on the tenet that STEM and ethanol do mix.

Another study [Link] found that students who doubt their “innate talent” don’t do well at STEM. The article was started with the quote “It’s OK – not everyone can do difficult math.” 

I have some problems with this. Mostly because it’s a confused mess. Last year I saw a couple of studies that showed maths “talent” is not common. That is, less than 0.5 of humans “get” higher maths. Most bogs think roots and algebra are higher maths. I consider things beyond the calculus to be higher maths. 

And I know from experience that believing you can’t do maths is crippling. It’s shameful to have college seniors who can’t pass freshman algebra and may not graduate. Of course, perhaps they shouldn’t. You can’t graduate college if you can’t read so why pass someone who can’t do basic maths, one step up from phalanges enumeration? Of course that runs afoul of the “reward everyone for attendance and ignore performance” correctness crowd.

Who can’t do maths either. 

Let’s remember that STEM is hard. It’s hard for a reason. And if someone can’t do the bits, they can’t do the whole. So quit deluding them that they can. 

I don’t want to give the students – and their parents – a free bail just because they think they’re inept, but once it is demonstrated there is no reason to spare them any wastage. So if we can dispel their delusion then do it but if not, give them a shovel.

Hand of Deity

End of week in. Off this morning to park for constitutional. Still a bit abridged and (definitely!) slowed by the indisposition. But the path was fairly clean and I was able to listen to podcast during two laps. Not too closely, of course, since I had to be mindful of stepping on branches or pine cones. 

On which azimuth, my only (own, that is) regular television program viewing is on Thor’s day evening (unless rescheduled) for the “Big Bang Theory” which is rather a misnomer but then so are most titles. The episode last evening, which I gather is a repeat from some time flow anomalies but I had not seen before was about Sheldon Cooper trying to enhance his creativity by stress. 

(Since this is about Sheldon – a strange name for a Texas lad in my experience – I should mention that last evening’s episode was certainly taken with the idea that we humans are neotenous.) 

I have to say that during the period of my indisposition – and the stress of impending but repeatedly delayed surgery – my stress level went up as did my work motivation (escapism? distraction?) thereby my creativity but I am unsure that my perception of ‘rightness’ wasn’t diminished. It is very easy when “the goddess moves one” to work feverishly and brilliantly but often also wrongly. Lots of times the fever has subsided and I discovered that my work was riddled with rot.

Perhaps in addition to being neotenous we also can be either creative or careful but not both?

Coding is Power

Two day. Gym nicely vacant. Podcast episodes middling and unmemorable. Typical except for degree.

Jack Kerouac. “On the Road”. “Knowledge is Power”. Francis Bacon may have said it first but Kerouac was the one who taught it to public Amerika. Back in the ’50’s when the cool were beatniks. “The Wild Ones”. Stage setting for the hippies of the ’60’s.

Yesterday I ran across an article [Link] entitled “When the Heck Did Learning to Code Become Cool?”. The article is a bit thin. Vapid even. Everything prior to the ’90’s is irrelevant and nonexistent. But I can sorta answer the question.

When I went off to college in ’66, coding – called programming in those days – was cool. Post-Fonzie type cool. Astronaut cool. 

A bit of clarification: COBOL was NOT cool; FORTRAN was cool. And my nerd buddies and I could not wait to go learn FORTRAN. So we broke rules legally. We asked permission. And obtained it. And learned FORTRAN. And aced the course. And wrote great programs. Too many to list. All nerd programs. None of this GUI stercus. These were cool progams on either 5081 punch cards or reel-to-reel magnetic tape. We carried our programs under our arms, not in effeminate knapsacks. And we carried slide rules. No calculators then that weighed less than a hundred pounds.

And we were COOL. Because we could program. Even the Greeks knew we were cool. Not that we cared about them so they could still ignore us except when they had to step out of the way of a nerd carrying a tape reel. Or a briefcase full of notes.

Now I am not saying that was when coding started being cool. But it was already cool then.

Not in 1990.

1966.

Schmuck. 

Not there if Unseen

OK, Mundane day and back to gym. Schule has to desessioned since the place was void of educationalists. I have toyed with the idea of asking one such why the behavior but so far have conjectured they won’t understand the question and will thereby get nasty. That’s what educationalists do in my experience. If you ask a question that isn’t 0.9 in the flow of the current course insecurity turns to panic turns to violence. College is less so but asking cross-disciplinary questions is a risk to life and health.

I noted this weekend [Link] that the Australians have done an experiment that indicates that reality only comes into existence when we look at it. Observer effect. What Quantum mechanics has been saying for a long time but we are too afraid to actual internalize it.

Especially with politicians around. They observe a very nasty reality.

The question again rises of what does the world look like when the first observer emerges? Is sentience necessary? Was there some sort of condensation? 

There are times I wish that there was some way to reverse the effect. To unobserve reality and have it go away. But as much as I try to unobserve politicians they keep messing up reality. 

So the question of the day is: why is the collapse irreversible?

Shannon Sags

Into week out. Got to venture into the park this morning but the indisposition limited my constitutional in magnitude. And the summerishness continues to intensify. Sometimes I am glad to be senior so I can get away from these annoyances sooner.

Speaking of annoyances, I ran across an article [Link] complaining about the inadequacies of Shannon’s information theory. The most intriguing thing about this is that someone thought it news. I can recall reading papers at conferences on how broken Ma Bell’s information theory was fifteen or twenty years ago. Apparently this is one of those cases of non-academics aren’t relevant or being too far ahead of the academic herd. I am going to continue to entertain both conjectures absent any stronger evidence than academic ‘bitchin’. 

The problem is that Shannon entropy counts encoded information only and that by counting characters only. The more letters in your alphabet, the more accessible states and hence the more entropy. And the statements “dogs eat” and “Spot ate” have the same entropy but oh, so different!, information content. 

If your dog is named Spot, of course. Otherwise it’s the same. 

So information is contextual and depends on how it relates to knowledge.

And Shannon information theory doesn’t do that. 

But it does explain a lot about why journalism is so bad.

Ideal Motorcar Law

I survived the expedition to Nawth Alibam’s Shining City on the Hill with only a few close encounters of the stupid driver kind. This led me to muse upon the following:

Car_Cost * Car_Volume = fudge_factor * Driver_Schmuckness,

where the variables are self-explanatory except fudge_factor which is maths for constant-to-be-determined-by-technicians. The resemblance to the Ideal Gas Law motivates the name.

Worse today. Have to assay US431, Alibam’s answer to the Dixie Dieway.