Mechanic Needed

At the boundary now and starting to try to close tabs. And I have been weak and added new sources. One of the podcasts I listen to is what used to be “Future Tense but changed a good while ago to “Marketplace Tech Report”.[Link] The tenor and timbre is different and while not as good with content as before the presentation is much improved which probably indicates the change from type 1 to type 2 management.

Anyway, they have a 4 minute podcast every day during the ‘work week’ that I use as spanners between when the primary podcast episode runs out and I can finish my cool down walk and depart the gym premises.  Usually I listen on Mondays (CBC’s “Best of Ideas”) and Wednesdays (CBC’s “Quirks and Quarks”) while I try to walk the gym biggest violation of trust and integrity, the indoor track. The track is mandated by their cardiac rehabilitation charter to be rigorously conserved but it is continually clogged with people ignoring direction convention, equipment piled in the middle of the way, and weight bouncers doing prone machinations.

Lately they have been having commercials, which are rather banal, and pushing their daily email eletter, which pushing is banal in its own way. But I  succumbed and actually came across a couple of good things this week. First, it appears that the superluminal neutrinos over in Europe may be a bad measurement. [Link] The things being investigated are a bad oscillator in a timing device and, this is my favorite, a coax cable with a flaw, which results in a time delay of the signal passing. This reminded me that when we were playing with spooled optical fiber for the Yankee army that we found out that the speed of light was less when the fiber was spooled compared to played out. As one of my colleagues, Magnetic Inductance Force, commented on hearing this, “the electrical engineers masticate derriere once again.”

Much as I hate to say it, this is an appealing development; it satisfies both KISS and William of Occam’s shaving tenet. Of course, as my colleague keeps asking, ‘why wouldn’t the speed of a neutrino in dirt be greater than the speed of a photon? A photon has transient dipolar charge; a neutrino only has a quadrupole.’

And while we’re on faulty hardware, I also noted, from the same source, that [Link] that the current (political) administration has proposed a ‘Privacy Bill of Rights’. The idea is not a bad one, but the described implementation is utterly specious, the White House wants the search engine organizations, and their advertisers, to agree not to collect personal information. The obvious glitch here is that even if they publically agree to this, we cannot trust them for even one Planck length (time?) This is how they maximize their revenue from those of us who frequent the internet. It is contrary to their deepest religious beliefs – contemporary capitalism – to act so. Enlightened self-interest only appertains if there are actual punishments.

Since the data collectors, and now, apparently, even the Yankee government, cannot be trusted, getting a ‘Privacy Bill of Rights’ is relatively easy. All the government has to do is (a) guarantee that any effort, short of actual physical violence, taken by a user to assure privacy is legitimate and cannot be discriminated against, or foiled under penalty of eternal incarceration at Guantanamo as a terrorist, and (b) actually educate the general citizenry, including the boggery and the SMUGs in Congress, on anonymous browsing, personal DNS, and the like.

But this, it is a Potempkin village. With bad singing. The Moscow opera was much better than this. Perhaps the current resident of the White House is scared of the Repulsian fire drill?


Speed Matters

OK, no blot yesterday. FD SCP had me engaged in tasks that could not be denied. So I have a bit of tomato condiment today since we have crept into full blown week out.

First, the big news seems to be articles about the possible observation at CERN of neutrinos traveling in excess of the speed-of-light. [Link] This is rather a hot topic since  it would immediately make NASA’s day. There are all sorts of articles, of the journalistic persuasion, arguing all sorts of interpretations [Link][Link] so I may as well put my one-fiftieth of a Yankee dollar into the discussion.

First, let us recall that the constancy of the speed of light is a postulate that Albert Einstein made to get the maths to coagulate for special relativity. There are several measurements that support the postulate but we have to remember that it is after all a postulate. Second, since we are dealing with basic (I resist the urge to use the word ‘fundamental’ lest I be proven wrong decades hence, so much for confidence in the stability of the standard model) particles here, we are dealing at the boundary of quantum mechanics and general relativity for which, despite the mumblings and chest beatings of string and quantum loop gravity theorists, we do not yet have a combined theory of reasonably demonstrated validity.

So at least two things need to occur before we can move forward looking for a way to get to Alpha Centaurus in a day. First, the data from the CERN experiment needs to be scrubbed  for any errors or inaccuracies. And then the experiment needs to be repeated somewhere else. Independent replication is necessary no matter what the Madison Avenue wonks claim. And that is going to take time. So Waiting Is.

Meanwhile, the discussion on the nature of Linux seems to be getting much more dense. Article n the subject this week have varied between brutal and strange, and not in the quark sense. First, a article on the desktop [Link] that rather puts one in mind of a journalistic drunkard’s walk. Parts of it I heartily agree with, not that the author cares or it actually matters, in particular that Linux is going to vanquish either Winders or AppleOS. I have to rather suspect that matter had become the analog of the level of interest in small town Amerika of cricket scores.

The fact is that the keyboarded computer is an endangered animal. It will not go extinct I expect, but it will once more become a tool of work and cease to be an appliance of entertainment, replaced in that arena by cellular telephones and tablets. But as both the author and Torvalds have noted a division of the way needs to occur. The future of the desktop cannot remain wedded to the shackles of a GUI designed for those entertainment appliances. It’s rather like making a machinist work with gauntlets on all the time.

But the hope of those tools has to be Linux. We cannot expect MegaHard nor Apple to continue to build desktop OS when the entertainment revenue is elsewhere. So the only way we are going to have a viable OS for those who still toil is via Linux.

Not that the future is assured. It seems that MegaHard is trying to do a shutout of Linux. [Link] Seems that for W8 MegaHard is abandoning BIOS and going to UEFI which will only work with signed software. The plan is actually quite crafty. MegaHard will get the computer manufacturers to do the dirty so they can claim themselves innocent, a trick practiced by almost all genocides throughout history. I fear however, that I have confidence that the Linux community will find a workaround the megalomania of the planet’s leading paranoiacs.

And lastly, an essay [Link] from our old acquaintance Matt Asay that Linux is secular. Well said but not for the religionist bog.

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Sterci et Fungi

OK, the weekend has returned in vengeance. Actually, I suppose it sorta started yesterday as we gradually edge our way to a four day work week, but today for sure.

That means articles to clean out and perhaps even find some theme for. The starting one, the basis of the name for the blot, is based on an article [Link] from National Geographic about research at Royal Holloway U. The rebound mini-cold phase usually referred to as the Younger Dryas is sometimes blamed on an impact by a wandering body – astronomical, that is, and contrary to language, not a planet but a meteorite or some such. Now there is evidence refuting this and it is based on analysis that indicates that what was previously thought of as bits of remnant of a CHON meteorite are actually bits of fungus spores and insect stercus.

This is Victorian era science at its finest carried forth into our present day of corporate pseudo-science. Even Holmes himself might have been expected to have written a monograph on the subject. Hurrah for the study of bits!

Next, we have news [Link] that the lads (and lassies) at the Large Hadron Collider have simulated the sound they expect of a Higgs boson. This may seem a bit strange; it did to me until I thought of the sounds of the particles I have known. The most common are the sounds of electrons – they make a crack sound. And I have heard a sizzle when I have seen Cerenkov radiation. I can only hope this is not an instance of imagining a noise of what turns out to be an imaginary particle.

Next, boffins at U College London have determined a GUB (greatest upper bound) on the mass of neutrinos based on observational astronomy. [Link] They say the mass is no-greater-than 0.28 eV, which is of order of 1E-09 of the mass of a hydrogen atom, which, incidentally, is made up of two particles.

I have to admit this is all rather exciting to physicists and to an ORF physicist [1] in particular. All of my career the particle wonks kept telling us that neutrinos didn’t seem to have any mass. Now they do and we go around, a bit like monks, chanting that neutrinos have mass. Rather reminds one of clerical bureaucrats after the bishop of Rome changes policy.

And not to be outdone, the folks at U Arizona tell us that those reusable pseudo-cloth grocery bags we are all supposed to be toting instead of consuming Tellus with MalWart plastic bags (how about just not shopping at MalWart?) also have unsuspected mass. [Link] Seems that the bags harbor all sorts of microbes including E. coli.

And yes, I do have to admit that I bought some of the bags although my concern had more to do with getting groceries home in my motor car than in combating the environmental depredations of corporate Amerika and its consumerist minions. Not that I am opposed to doing things to preserve the biosphere but it is discouraging when something like 0.6 of the households in Greater Metropolitan Arab do not recycle, (and are not hauled from their beds and shot in the neck to tumble into an unmarked mass grave,) and the recyclage is limited to what the contractor can make profit on, not what can be recycled. Besides, I have a second use for those bags to package my recyclage. As such they are useful all year round whereas newspapers have second use only in watermelon and mush melon (cantalope?) season. Should I get a parakeet to strengthen the newspaper industry?

And lastly, I note an article on writing/running FORTH programs on FCs. [Link] [2] This recalls the days when I bought my first PC back in the days when one bought one from an IBM dealer with floppy disk drives and maybe 65 kB of RAM. I bought mine to learn how to program on PCs and one of the languages I played with was FORTH.

Programming, at least back in the days of DOS 2.0 and integrated editor-compilers was a matter of write code, save code, compile code, run code; repeat. For FORTH programming one generally had to add the step after run code of ‘reboot computer’. Programming in FORTH was a bit like playing Russian Roulette with an machine pistol. There were no safeguards and so if one did something that whacked the OS one went off into computer la-la land. Nowadays, of course, we just lock the program up in its own virtual box and kill the box when we vertically copulate. But in those days reboot was one of our more common activities.

FORTH was one of the reasons I looked for something else, and why I embraced Turbo Pascal. It did many thing right that were wrong with early PC programming: the integrated editor-compiler-debugger environment and a very robust language. Them MegaHard came along with Windows, which they stole from XEROX, like everyone else, and made programming nothing more than etch-a-sketch. Nowadays, I have the joy of Linux and terminal so I can really program when I need to. But I don’t think it will be in FORTH.

[1]  No, ORF physicists do not have pointy ears. Many of us have hairy ears but that has to do with age.
[2]  For those who have forgotten, an FC is a ‘Free Computer’, which is a PC that has been freed from MegaHard slavery by having Linux installed as an OS.