Geek Doillies

Mundane day again. Mediocre time at gym. Moderately sparse, weight bouncers few and restrained (absent?) and educationalists sparse enough to keep the noise level down. Podcast poor, an episode of the CBC’s “Best of Ideas” dealing with some minor immigration incident a century ago in Canadia. 

This did lead me to the current practice of issuing apologies for incidents (?) of the past. I am not sure these do any good except to possibly open the path to communication. If they do that, they are worthwhile. However, given that they are issued by politicians their veracity has to be highly unlikely.

This seems a corollary to the rule that all advertisement contain at least one deliberate inaccuracy. Which leads to the observation, only recently obtained, that once the density of advertisement in a segment of television programming reaches some critical amount – which may vary with the individual observer – the observer ceases to watch the programming and either goes elsewhere or does something else. Hence, More is Failure.

On which note, I ran across an article [Link] entitled “Girls prefer computer science without the geek chic”. This article is about a social science (sic) experiment that is claimed to indicate that girls – pre-maturity women – are more comfortable in computer science classrooms that are decorated for girls and not for geeks. Presumably this partitions between girls and geeks so there are no girl geeks in this sample?

Some of this is unsurprising. I always found myself more comfortable in old classrooms with squeaky board floors and pipe visibly above than in more modern classrooms with linoleum (preferable to indoor/outdoor carpeting) and sound absorbing tile pseudo-ceilings. I also never cared for work-spaces with motivational posters. Such were the opposite of motivating and always made me consider whether management was whacked to think these had some effect or that the bogs were so whacked they were motivated by such. I later found out – as a manager – that they are cheaper than artwork and saving money is more important than employee satisfaction or effort.

The question is then how important is the disciplinary decoration of a classroom. Thinking back to my college days I recall that all chemistry classrooms had a periodic table which came in handy maybe once per term. All physics classrooms have blackboards on all walls except the back wall which is usually the entry/exit wall. Maths classrooms are similar. But I do know – from a solitary FORTRAN course and a couple of applied maths courses – that engineers set great store in having “inspirational” or “camaraderie” artwork in classrooms. And despite its name computer science isn’t a science and is more like an engineering discipline. 

So why don’t girls want to be part of the group? That is a question that isn’t answered by the survey. Is this one of those things where people want to know something to make money but not to be part of the group of the something. If so, why is such behavior desirable, or abided? This seems the relevant question. If the group malfunctioning and malfunctioning because of its social nature, then it should be altered. Otherwise we should question the motives of those who do not wish to be part of the group but profit by it. That sounds like theft.

Neither do they….

Tuesday I was listening to a podcast where an educationalist was being interviewed. This eductionalist announced during the interview that “computers generate information.”

I have to admit to almost falling off my exercise machine and saying several words, happily not in what passes for English in Alibam, that are best unused in public places. Let us make do with one of the educationalist’s parents being a woman of pleasure suffering from the tertiary stage of a venereal disease and the other parent unknown. One of the hallmarks of this disease is that any fetus carried to term under these conditions is mentally compromised.

Simply put, computers do not generate (or make, for those who are short on definitions) information. Computers process information. Sadly this delusion is common among those who think themselves knowledgeable but are not. All this episode did was confirm too many educationalists are members of that set.

A common argument offered by these people is that of a computer comparing two data sets and identifying correlations (or other linkages,) as “generation”. Sorry, ferds, that associative information already existed; all the computer did was find it for you. That makes it a labor saving device, not an intelligent one. Nor creative. 

Next they’ll be having ritual sacrifices of virgins in the schules to the great god digital?

Genetically Evil?

Two day. Another later in the summer degree of heat day, or so the weather beavers foretell and their predictions haven’t been half bad lately, probably because they are far from phase changes?

The gym was typical for the DOW and summer. I saw only one educationalist and he is a staff type so comes to gym even when schule is desessioned but lacking his entourage was less bullying than usual. The podcasts were a mixed bag although the longest, the Guardian science podcast, [Link] was a bit thought provoking when the interviewee, a theoretical physicist who evidently writes popularizations, made the assertion that there is no fundamental enmity between religion and science.

I am not certain of this and am cognitive pursuing the idea now so perhaps Film at Eleven.  

Instead, I dredge up an article [Link] from last week about some work done at U Portsmouth that claims that EXTROs are “too busy” to be green. Evidently EXTROs are too wrapped up in themselves to be concerned about their environment and the species.

I fear I don’t find this surprising although I am a bit abashed at the basic evilness implied by the findings. They imply that EXTROs are fundamentally damaging to the species. 

That’s also going to require some cogitation since they are the majority and hence rather difficult to control. 

It’s also a bit bemusing to consider the religionist aspects of this as well.

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.

Sorry Physics

Ice Cream day. Still indisposed. Slow retirement of the indisposition and I fear I have about run the course of the exponential decay part of the curve and am now in the linear part, which is slower.

I have been amused observing the same maths behavior in the healing of humal hurts and the relaxation of molecular excitations. Especially since I did some of the work on the latter. Back in my graduate schule days, when I had adult supervision over the physics. Now I just have adult supervision over the not-physics.

Speaking of physics, I noted an article [Link] reporting the submission of an article (to Phys Rev Letters) with 5K authors. And yes, it is an elementary particles/standard model paper. I think the most authors on any paper I was part of was four, maybe five. I am too lazy to go look. 

We have to recognize here that this is a matter of who did the research work and not who wrote the paper. So strictly, this isn’t about authorship although we use that name. 

I have to admit that it is hard to write a paper with someone else. Very hard. And the paper is never as good as if I wrote the whole thing. And never as good as it would have been if I had rewritten it a year or five later. 

So excellence is a bit of a moot point.

I suppose I rather sorrow for those five thousand. How can they have any sense of accomplishment? I know that sounds like ego talking but there is also a bit of expression of work satisfaction. 

I am not proud of much of the work I did in my career. Most of it was bureaucratic Yankee Army work. Necessary to placate some policy or law or regulation. A cost of survival, as it were. But there are bits that rose above this that were worthwhile. And none of them done with five thousand other people. 

I suppose it’s like murder (with apologies to Agatha Christie.) If enough people murder someone, no one gets blamed/punished. If enough people get their name on a paper, no one gets credit, just mention. 

I’m glad that there are people who can work under these conditions otherwise some branches of physics would dry up and blow away. But I still sorrow for them. 

Epicurean Physics

Two day. Spring seems to be ebbing rapidly into summer. Reminds me of Fort Leavenworth: Spring and Fall were the nicest two weeks of the year. Modal day at gym. Sparse population, no bullying weight bouncers, but the podcast episodes were not very sticky. Best that came through was a discussion of the risk of gene modification (of humans) proving to be detrimental several generations removed. Not sure I understand why if it’s due to a gene modification that the modification can’t be reversed. Or is this some hidden association with the collapse of civilization due to our mounting stupidity? Anyway the interviewee then poo-pooed the idea. 

This gave me occasion to think about other things. Part was my on-going effort to learn stochastic differential equations. Lots of math, little obvious physics yet. And consider an article [Link] I saw the other day about how students learn physics better if they get to feel it. The example given was the old gyroscopic motion demonstration using a swivel stool and a bicycle wheel. Seems this improves grades (statistically) by 0.07! 

Which is a whole lot smaller that the standard deviation among teachers of physics. 

In my day any student who wanted to touch could usually do so. The only people who didn’t sit on the stool and get dizzy were the uninterested, the Greeks, and those who suffered from motion sickness. Even the women participated. There were some things we had to just watch, mostly because of safety concerns which were a lot less in those days before litigation looniness. 

This makes me wonder how depraved college instruction must have become. We went to class – my biggest was a bit over a hundred students and that was introductory graduate quantum mechanics, my freshman physics class was about two-thirds of that – and lab and watched and felt simple experiments and demonstrations and took notes and went home and read the text and worked problems. So how much of that has changed? Evidently quite a bit. 

There is a bit of a conundrum in college physics lectures. The larger the class, the fewer the questions; the better the lecturer, the fewer the questions. So make the class big enough and you can’t tell how good the lecturer is. 

One of the problem is that if you don’t get something in lecture or get it wrong, and it isn’t rectified THEN, you are damned because you never can unlearn what you first learn. That’s why old STEMs are hopelessly out-of-date. 

What is it about the education process that the more we try to make it better the worse it gets?

Slime Mold Students

Once more to the edge of week out. Ice Cream Day. The air temperature is up a bit from yesterday and the constitutional in the park was a bit stultified. But at least no muggers or terrorist or wild/feral animals. That I observed.

In and around listening to the podcast I had occasion to contemplate an article [Link] I ran across some time ago about some work at Ohio State U that looked at student effectiveness. Basically the question of why some kids are good students and some not. And no, this wasn’t a bash the teachers thing.

What the study indicates is that student effectiveness is a matter of genetics and experience. That is, if your parents are dunces, you’re likely to be one as well. And not everybody likes schule. I know there were times I disliked schule. Mostly the bullying – jocks and hoods but also coaches – and the information dearth. If I was self-actuated enough to study what I wanted to, I can easily see failure might have occurred.

The study stopped short of looking at the idea that schule is inherently de-motivating, which it is. At least pre-college. I suspect college is de-motivating for those who shouldn’t be there.

But I also kept thinking about wasting education resources on gammas and deltas?

Another reason I am glad to be senior.

And they let the teachers off the hook entirely too easily. Baksheesh?