Epicanthic Skynet

Saturn’s day. Once more into the park for constitutional and I did manage to push myself to my wanted number of laps. Took me 0.25 longer but I met the first recovery from indisposition metric. Now I can work on further restrengthening and even a bit more rapidity. 

Not a fun place here in Nawth Alibam. Everyone walking about waiting for the rods-from-god to fall from the sky in the aftermath of the Yankee government vertically copulating and let6ting the heathen chinee loot the data treasury. Although I do have to admit that it is a major victory for them. In one swoop fell they have totally compromised the whole Yankee government.
How, you may ask? By totally destroying the self-confidence of everyone who works for the Yankee government. (Which is why there are going to be some folks who conspire that this was actually done by the tea party or the libertarians.) In one swoop fell all confidence in financial stability of the government’s instrumentailty has been compromised and their morale is even lower than it has been – the latter the result of a disfunctional legislature and abusive presiedential candidates. Guys, it’s all right – sorta – to abuse the slaves when they are cheap and are gonna die in the mines quickly anyway but not when you have to rely on their loyalty and perseverence for thirty years. And not slitting the throats of incompetent political appointees who are the traditional chief kickers. Never ceased to amaze me the humans could actually not have any iota of gratitude in their systems.
Despite what the corporate oligarchs and their politician myrmidons say, the country can’t exist without a government, and right now it is in twilight zone. 
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Observation

I have tried to read economics books. The usual result is somewhere in the first third of the book I throw it to the floor, stomp on it, and take it to the used book store for credit. The problem is always maths.

Consider the following. Drag force ~ – (coefficient) * velocity^exponent where exponent is usually on [1,2]. In classical, Newtonian mechanics, the one-dimensional problem can be solved analytically but the two- and three-dimensional problems cannot.

Economics practice is equivalent to using the one-dimensional solution in the three-dimensional world just “because it’s soluble.”

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Delivery of Disaster

The weather beavers are making low temperature noises again. I suppose that goes with winter. But I do not particularly have to like it. I like it better than summer. Heat cannot be avoided. Absence of heat is relatively easily filled. Except around unshielded dihydrogen oxide pipes. Preventing phase change requires work. And I do dislike imposed work.

It is the end of week out and halfway through the winter solstice holiday season. And I am about exhausted and beaten down by it all. At least this second week is less stiffing than the first. At least I hope for such given previous experience. There are too many “at least”s this time of year.

FD SCP got a UPS delivery on Freya’s day and I have been contemplating further the grrr brrr over late packages. Not what I commented on previously, but something that derives. It now looks quite likely the internet will be shackled by the localized greed of politicians and their capitalist masters. Tax will be broadly collected; small businesses will become less viable and many will disappear. And the continuation of internet commerce will depend in large part on no-apparent-cost delivery. I rather doubt that Joe and Jane Bog will purchase on-line in quantity if they have to pay both taxes and delivery even if the total is less than in overpriced brick and mortar like MalWart and such.

I see this phenomena here in Greater Metropolitan Arab every day. The merchants natter about the loss of customers, ignoring their high prices and the lower prices of the internet. The local politicians bemoan the loss of taxes – how can one lose taxes on unspent money? – and raise the rate to fill their insatiety for a period. And the local consumers do more business in Huntsville or, more commonly, on line. I see more UPS vans than police cruisers here in Greater Metropolitan Arab.

I am bemused, nay, bewildered, by the absence of understanding and what I can only curse as stupidity. Scant wonder that the Yankee republic is fast falling into third world state given its absence of sense and intelligence. And no change portends in the new year except an intensification.

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Sundae with Cherries

Now is the time of our discontent, as the ongoing slug slide of parametric time abuts the boundary between week out and week in and of needs I have to clear tabs and do other bits of information and computer-keeping. To start with, I noted last week an attracting article [Link] entitled “U.S. Government Issues New Classified Information Protection Policy”. This is not normal for the Yankee government. Usually changes in security policy are not broadcast to the electorate. In this case it may be justified since the root cause of the changes has already done all the embarrassment it can and there may be some benefit to be gained by this rather tardy response.

Sadly, the trump blast announcing is almost all of the content of the article. No details of how they are going to close off loopholes and alleviate poor morale that permit these disclosures by disenchanted insiders. Not that I think they can since they won;t do what they need to do, which is to solve their people problems by making the folks undisgruntled. But big organization can’t do that very well. Good at punishment, clueless at leadership.

Next, the Globe and Mail gives us a lovely exposition on how hard it is to do science when you can’t d experiments, and how easy it is to cause damage when you get arrogant. [Link] It speaks, of course, of economists. It should be a case of ’nuff said but I cannot resist noting that the physics of a group of particles whose individual behaviors and constituencies are well known cannot be done exactly. So what makes economists think they can do better with particles that aren’t understood?

And speaking of particles. just as we were beginning to get into the delicious challenge of the faster-than-photon neutrinos a reasonable arguments seems to have arisen that the measurement of the distance between the collider and the detector was inaccurate. [Link] Seems that GPS was used to make the measurement and the canned algorithms used to do this were flawed. If this be the case, one more reason why we should be leery of using canned software for critical things. Especially proprietary software. If we can’t see the code how do we know the interstices are doing what they are supposed to. Of course slaves and serfs aren’t supposed to think about such things. Upsets the master class, no end. Until they can kill off a few serfs and slaves.

The wonks at Aix-Marseille U have discovered what they calm is the largest virus found to date. [Link]

What attracts about this is that the size is stated as 1.12 Kilo-Genes or 1.26 Mega-base pairs. I would have expected a physical dimension since largest usually refers to length, volume, or even mass. But if all base pairs are about the same in volume and/or mass, then this may be an equivalent? But the question that arises is are genes of similar constancy?

And lastly, the folks at McGill U have given us some neat observations of pulsars in the Crab Nebula. [Link] This one falls into the category of tooth aching impressive and aside from the neatness of the physics, I am moved to include the picture

which is way cooler than anything the computer graphics guys can do. It also makes my bones hurt as wel because it reminds me of those long nights in observatories that were so cold and miserable you couldn’t appreciate the beauty.

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Publication Potholes

We are officially into week out now and so I can once again begin to taper off on the nonsense. Let me start by a bit of a mitch and boan. I normally use ScribeFire as a blogging editor. It is better in several dimensions than the other alternative which is Blogilo the ‘official’ Ubuntu blog editor. The problem is that the ‘new’ ScribeFire for FireFox/IceCat and the standard ScribeFire for Chrome/Chromium don’t work with the spell checker worth a five cent coin that has been struck dead center by a round of ball ammo. Now since I am a typical nerd in that my maths and code spellings are catholicly accurate my literate spellings are not and I need the assistance of the spell checker to not write nekulturny things. The ScribeFire instrumentality supposedly has a channel for reporting this sort of thing but it seems whacked as well so I am resorting to send-a-meme to get the message through.

Now on to the boredom.

I ran across an article [Link] in Guardian about the nastiness of scientific journal publishing. Since this is a subject I myself have commented upon more than once (but I can’t recall the exact number) it seemed necessary in some nyaa-nyaa-i-told-you-so manner to mention this.

The article makes all the usual noises, augmented by a tale of pirate raiding to foil the economic system. This economic system is the root of all the current grrr brrr because the folks who want to read journal articles are no longer just folks who write journal articles and this is wrecking havoc with the journal business.

Traditionally, the economics of journals was well founded. The folks who wrote journal articles had to get them published to prove that they had actually done the work and get brownie points from their organization that translated into health, wealth, and welfare. There was no way of telling who would ever want to read any given article so the journal publishers charged authors a nominal sum for publication and sold subscriptions to the journals. But then they got greedy and wanted anyone who read an article to pony up money.

On the surface this doesn’t sound too bad. After all, this is how most of the publishing business works – if you want to read a book you pay for a copy. But the problem is that the publishers got greedy in the view of the readers. The charge for reading an article was as much as a whole issue of the journal – or a real book at a bookstore. Sticker shock emerged and there was great dissatisfaction in the land.

Then the Yankee government got in the act and mandated that any research paid for – in the least – by Yankee government funding had to be freely available to the citizenry, absent anything that had to do with the defense and preservation of the government, of course. And in their wisdom, the Yankee government forgot to impose any penalties, so half of everyone who publishes ignores the mandte because it adds cost. So there is more unrest in the land.

If we ignore for the moment that the average citizen-bog can’t understand/comprehend the title of the average journal article, much less its content, then everything should be fine, but we can’t. Because Joe Bog-Citizen can’t comprehend an article means conspiracy and coverup. And because they can’t read taxpayer (that’s them – maybe?) funded articles, there is a conspiracy or coverup. Right? So there is great unrest in the land.

So the spanking, such as it is, goes to the researchers who are evil and published in closed access journals. In many cases these journals are the only channel of publication, but that is irrelevant, as is the profit apparently obtained by the publishers.

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Pulpit Economics

Sundae again and I find myself once more cleaning out tabs. This task is somewhat reduced since the release of FireFox 5 render it unusable on my desk box. The beast will not even boot! So while I ponder my alternatives, I have a reduced work load, the loss of some intriguing articles, and a great load of frustration.

On the brighter side, I read in Nature [Link] that open access journals are growing at 0.2 per annum while conventional closed journals are only growing at 0.35 per annum. Sadly the discussion is all about economics and not merit which is discouraging as well as confounding. The cost of a web based journal is less than half of a conventional paper journal, mostly because of the cost of labor and materials. But for-profit publishers have to make that profit and this raises the question of can we continue to associate an activity such as science with the rejection mechanisms of the marketplace? The basic idea of open access is that the material published is supposed to be accessible by anyone and if this is associated with profit-making what happens to access when the profit gets too low. This uncertainty cannot, should not, be tolerated. Abolish for-profit journals!

Next, I see [Link] that the Tanzanian government has either bowed to international pressure or come to its senses and has canceled efforts to build a road through the Serengeti. Occasionally, it seems, people can actually do smart things, and when governments do them it is doubly noteworthy. The problem with this road is that it would have disrupted migration of several rare/endangered species and hence made them rarer/more endangered. And the only reason to put in the road was economic.

Much as I admire the economic marketplace model for what it has done – once you strip away the self-service propaganda – as we rush on towards extinction we are going to have to give some thought to how we are going to operate in a society where survival is once more paramount?

Not Value but Worth

Now safely across the boundary between down week and up week, and a good session in gym experienced, largely the result of the MWF behavior of educationalists, we may turn a bit of attention to recent news articles. This follows from the podcast episodes today, science ones, being almost all of such low level of interest as to barely tatter our attention. Only a monologue about the extensiveness of viruses held any real memorableness.

Our starting point is a PEW poll on the ‘value’ of college attendance. [Link] I hesitate to use the term ‘college education’ since it is not clear that the majority of my age cohort obtaining college degrees obtained an ‘education’, and the fraction has clearly deteriorated so that today it seems to too many that college degree and college education are antonyms rather than synonyms. I know that I shudder every time one of those diploma mill commercials comes on and some illiterate bog talks about getting his/her education, as if education came in a box and was ingested like breakfast cereal – and equally sugared.

The poll indicates that 0.57 of the sample population believe colleges provides poor value for money and that 0.75 think college attendance is too expensive. But 0.86 of graduates hold that attendance was of value to them personally. This is not surprising inasmuch as this is consistent with history. College education is fundamentally an individual experience; it cannot be shared, but it is also almost always a situation of consumer not being customer; that is, college is historically paid for by the parents of students and not by students themselves. Notably, among students who pay their own way and graduate, over 0.95 claim throughout life that the effort and sacrifice was worthwhile and repeatable. (My numbers, not PEW’s on the latter.)

For a parent paying for a student to attend college, any amount is probably too much as soon as it exceeds the cost of the child staying home. And the degree of expense is intensified by the apparently relaxed atmosphere and the irrelevance of the course material. What good is studying literature or art or psychology?

What is not historical, as I have discussed previously, is the attitude that every student should attend college. That is a recent development and likely the reason that college education has disappeared. What is clear is that we need physicians and attorneys (unfortunately?) and business folk and they have to be educated. We can also make an argument that we need scientists and historians and such but that argument is more strained and less immediate. What we are not doing seems to be having a discussion of who needs a college education and who needs technical training, and in this case, I use Capella’s distinction. Physicians, attorneys, business people, engineers, and scientists obtain technical training that is an education of sorts but not the ‘liberal’ education of a classical secularist college. But the vast majority of those who attend college and obtain degrees obtain neither and are thus wasteful of time and energy and resources.

Once more humanity acts like lemmings.

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