Literature and Stupidity

Mundane day and so far not so. Managed to whelm the indisposition enough this morning to motor to Scant City to gym for a truncated session. Mixed bag. Different set of aches and pains. Didn’t try to contend with the weight bouncers. The podcast, an episode of the CBC’s “Best of Ideas” about coping with aging via literature was both boring and alienating. Simply put, it was boring because it lacked any substance, being at best superficial and unrevealing.

The alienating part was more personal. All of the literature mentioned is uninteresting to me. My tastes in literature are fairly constant, if not stationary. Have been since I was an undergraduate. Naturally I read a lot of nerd books, that is, books on nerdish topics rather than books written by nerds (or journalists) about nerdery. The former are usually called technical, the latter I call stercus. More on that later. 

When I was traveling a lot for the Yankee army of occupation I read a lot of what I call ‘airplane trash”, mostly bad science fiction (which is usually too short on the former and too long on the latter.) As the quality of SF deteriorated I added selected mystery novels, notably those by English and ethnic authors. About half of my reading still falls into these genres.

Since retirement my attention span has been freed up from worrying about the bureaucracy of preserving the nation so I have added a great deal of non-fiction to my reading, mostly history and analysis. Also a wider range of periodicals. More “news” magazines. 

But nothing of the sort of thing described in the podcast. No popular literature. No self-help polemics. Poorly written, worse cited, and reeking of untrustworthiness. So far from the general trend of the diminishing population of readers.

Which brings me to a discussion on the FaceScroll yesterday by one of my colleagues Magnetic Inductance Force. The question, a very good one, was why do the bogs not want to know about science? The general thesis was that they are unable to handle the transiency, the aspect of continual change in the search of understanding. Never mind that denying the change is discarding any hope of understanding; that seems irrelevant to the bogs. Rather it seems they are unable to handle anything more than facts, even when those facts are imaginary, illusory, or transitory. 

In a sense, this is the very essence of being biologic. All animals “pin” themselves in the now. We root ourselves in the moment. But we humans are supposed to have the capacity to recall the past and imagine the future. Doesn’t that require an embodiment of change? Is there something about the majority of humans, perhaps an increasing fraction, that cannot do so? Are we evolving away from intelligence? In the now there seems a reasonable case supporting that conjecture.

I hope that this is an artifact of contemporaneity, that we are not really becoming asentient and aintelligent. But if so, I am glad I am senior and won’t see it destroy us.

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. 

Unthrown

Saturn’s day. Roman, I suppose? Dihydrogen oxide falls and so I am house bound. The disposition is a bit achy today and I fear that seeps into my mood.

GD SVP turned on the electromagnetic audio-visual receiver to a Huntsville news program. I was briefly watching a pair of TV News Barbies talk about a bicycle race and prattle about how they can;t control a bicycle at slow speed. All I could do not to cast something at the screen. Or regurgitate.

If this is how well they don’t do basic freshman physics can they be trusted to do better on anything else? No wonder the world is crashing; intelligence and knowledge are dead.

Sorta Back

The indisposition seems to be abating a bit. At least to the point where the low level ache compromises most rationality. And since this is rather a plague of seniorness, it gave me occasion to consider the nature of the contemporary the-best-things-in-life-can’t-be-bought.

That seems a strange paen in this golden age of capitalism but the weakness of mass production is that what isn’t manufactured isn’t available. 

Case in point: I have a Pacific Coronetta mug

that I greatly enjoy. I use it every day that I am not traveling or attending a coffee conference. It’s a stainless steel double walled Dewar mug that lets me misplace my cuppa and it not equilibrate thermally too rapidly.Sadly it is getting a bit old and worn and sadly the company doesn’t make this model any more. So when it dies it will become refuse.

That’s the epitome of the modern production paradigm. Lots of stuff produced but if it doesn’t sell well enough most of it is transitory. Some gets discontinued just to offer new items. 

Sometimes this seems the opposite of civilization.