Dark Signal

I just read that Adam West has discorporated.[Link]

I am saddened. For me, Adam West has always been the TV Batman. 

His TV program started in the year that I graduated high schule and entered college. I only got to see his program occasionally but I enjoyed what I saw. Its humor fit rather well with that of Laugh-In and the original Star Trek. 

I didn’t get to see the Batman movie serials until years later, but I had read Batman comic books as a bairn, at least until I discovered Adam Strange and then I rather alternated between the two. Both were epitomes of superheroes, at least the comic book genre heroes, who prevailed by thought and intelligence rather than physical over-endowment. 

It seems wrong to call these fellows, most of them, heroes. They were all cast in the mold of some unhero who could make changes without harming someone or something. Rather at odds with the Classical Greek Idea of a Hero. Batman was the closest comic book character to a hero, displaying the angst and suffering of what he was compelled to do, much like Heracles after he had to destroy something wonderful to please a petty tyrant. 

That was what made Adam West and that first TV Batman so wonderful. West made a parody of the comic book superhero. And acted in a totally disrespectful fashion by aping absolute toadying respect. 

A sterling role model. 

I would wish him well decomposing but I fear they embalmed his so he will lay for years as a plastic nebish. 

But life was better because of him. 

Bogs in Space

After reminiscing about the good old days when outreach books were actually written by scientists and actually had some science in them, I ran across an article [Link] entitled “Here’s Everyone NASA Felt Was Better Than You” and this took be back again.

I grew up in Huntspatch, Alibam, catchily catch-phrased as the “Space Capital of the Universe,” which indicates the arrogance of elected officials, if nothing else. You would think that a child growing up in Huntspatch in the days of Mercury, and Gemini, and Apollo space programs would want to become as astronaut when he/she aged. 

I never wanted to be an astronaut. And I didn’t know anyone who did until started graduate school in another state (much less city.) And that person was a woman studying engineering who wanted to be the first astronaut.

I suspect the “first” was more important the “astronaut”. She was a nice enough person but suffered a drive and determination that would have left her with no social life even if she had sought such. I don’t mind her ambition but then, it wasn’t mine. 

I never really wanted to be anything but a scientist. I toyed with some other things along the way but quickly found I wasn’t good at them and I was rational enough to know not to go any farther. Happily I could – poorly – do science and that was enough.

I mention this because NASA talks about doing science. They do, but it’s either secondary or tertiary. If they had to get their science money from the agency that funds science in Amerika they would be right after Slippery Rock Teachers College on the priority list. 

What they do is mostly rockets. Back when they were NACA they did airplanes. Becoming NASA was a bit of a rescue from being irrelevant. 

And what astronauts do is basically technician work. Their flights are planned and controlled from the ground. The “experiments” they do are planned by real scientists and real engineers set up the instruments in a one-button box. And the data gets automatically recorded or transmitted back. 

They used to be test pilots (look at the original seven) but those folks like to actually do things and so you won’t find many test pilots being astronauts any more.

What you do find is people like public school teachers, which tells you something about their work conditions. 

There used to be a lot of geeks in NASA but only a few nerds. Now it’s mostly bogs and the geeks all stay on the ground.

Puzzle Piece

I was reading one of the news eLetters I subscribe to this morning, one devoted to academic research but written by publicists. It gave me a teaser title “Tyrannosaurus Rex Has Scaly Skin And Wasn’t Covered in Feathers, Says Study” and I realized that one of the problems of contemporary science, namely that the bogs are bored and uninterested, is due to this practice.

In the old days, outreach stuff was written almost exclusively by real researchers or people who had at least studied science extensively in college, (admittedly, this was a long time ago when SCP was a bairn,) and now it is written by journalists for pay. And the pay comes from people who are more interested in cash income than in accuracy and reality.

What I realized is that journalists like to make statements – or, at most, titillating questions. (Have you quit abusing your wife?) Scientists make statements too but how they compose them is entirely different. For example, a scientist would probably have composed the above as “A recent study casts doubt on the feathered dinosaur theory and supports the scaly skin theory.”

And that’s what’s wrong with science. Or perhaps, how science is harmed. Because the boggerate has been mindwashed by the journalists into being handicapped along the cognitive direction. 

They can’t think for themselves. Except maybe in a social dimension. But not about reality. 

And that’s another way that outreach is doomed. It doesn’t matter how much you write if none of the audience can read. Well, they can read, but they can’t (don’t) understand what they read and they don’t think about it. But in most cases, they just flat don’t read. 

The good news is that we are on the road to new greatness: at the current rate, the literacy fraction of the nation who can read and comprehend what they read will be about 0.1 in a few years, which is the same fraction as when the nation was established.

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.

It’s the Pronunciation

I have been watching the COVFEFE grrrr brrrrr with some amusement and can no longer leave the boggerate in ignorance. For someone with lengthy federal government experience this is a clear indication that the current administration has succumbed to inside-the-beltway culture.

COVFEFE is obviously an Acronym! Acronyms are of great importance. They become mental shortcuts for programs and projects that would otherwise not be remembered by political appointees, flag officers, and elected officials. As such they keep these in the consciousness of these people. A good Acronym is easy to remember, catchy, and absolutely important to the funding of the program or project. A bad Acronym is like a dead horse; it must be quickly buried as it smells.

which brings us to this Acronym. What does it mean? I canot say for certain but a third of a century of experience leads me to opine that it is something like:

COVFEFE – Colossal Odious Verbalization From Egregiously Fallacious Evidence.

How is this pronounced? That is difficult to say. If our guess is accurate then the weak first “F” would indicate it is to be pronounced with a break between the “V” and the “F”. We might also opine that the pronunciation is probably strongly European influenced, something similar to pronouncing “Tallifero” as “Tolliver”.

How good is the Acronym? Hard to say but clearly for a first attempt, quite acceptable. 

Weighty Thoughts While evading suicidal motorists

Three day. Off to Nawth Alibam’s Shining City on the Hill for staff call and provisioning. Survived but not without wonder and a touch of amazement. 

Along the way, I had two particular thoughts about all the recent grrr brrr over monuments commemorating (or reminding?) The Recent Unpleasantness:

Why is the Alibam Council of Thieves Legislature so fearful of Alibam cities that they have to pass legislation forbidding the removal of such monuments? This seems to be part of a trend and one has to question what irrational insecurity this reflects?

And if we are in such a rush, as a nation, to remove these monuments, why have we retained Memorial (Decoration) Day? After all, it is the ultimate memorial to the Old Confederacy. Or is it untouched because most of the electorate has no idea of its origin nor meaning? After all, they seem incapable, in the mode, of distinguishing Memorial Day from Veteran’s Day.

I am tempted to play a Bobby Horton CD while I consume my morning coffee distillation and reflect on the nature of policy.

Dilution to Dissolution

Two Day, and back to gym. As mentioned, the gym was closed yesterday as part of its on-going program of denial of service. So yesterday was a hard day.

The exercise was welcomed this morning, as was the scant population. But the podcast, an episode of The Guardian’s Science podcast, was dismal. The podcast was an interview with three “award winning” writers of science books. 

If these are the best of who is writing these days I can well understand the dismality of contemporary science books.

To clarify, I want to distinguish between books about science and books of science. The latter are textbook and collections of papers from conferences and such intended for nerds or the science education of the young in a classroom environment. The former fall primarily into two categories: outreach books written by academics or academia employed journalists; and books written for profit by journalists.

I am probably doing a bit of disservice to some of these authors but inasmuch as the composition and style of most of them is indistinguishable from that of contemporary journalists the aggregation seems accurate.

I should also comment that I do not read a lot of books about science. By that I mean that I start reading a lot of such books but seldom get beyond the first, or occasionally, second chapter. And yes, the books are that bad. Revolting in fact. As in almost nauseating.

The reason for this is the, at best, poor, most often, blatantly inaccurate descriptions of science matters. Descriptions that are so bad that they revolt me even in the fields where I am not a practitioner and am only peripherally and superficially informed.

Sadly, the outreach books are almost as bad, which leads me to conjecture an overall process by which a scientist explains something to an author, diluting and distorting, who in turn writes their own explanation, further diluting and distorting. What is said and what is bear less connection than a doughnut and a coffee cup mathematically.

In addition, the outreach books seem to be written with the same heavy hand of grammar and an absence of story telling rather like a turn crank journal article.

I should be tempted to say that books about science were better in my youth but since I was less knowledgeable and more adaptable then I am sufficiently uncertain to do so. But my emotional response is exactly that.

For these reasons, I will attempt in future to redirect my efforts to blog more about the successes and failure of contemporary science books. But don’t expect much. After all, I am ORF.