Friday, May 08, 2009

The old and new versions of "culture war"

375369This month, we note the 50th Anniversary of C.P. Snow's famous Rede Lecture, "The Two Cultures," which described the wide and seemingly unbridgeable gulf of language, assumptions and mindset, between people working in the sciences and intellectuals in the literary arts and humanities.  In a a followup essay, "The Two Cultures: A Second Look," Snow optimistically suggested that a new culture, a "third culture," might emerge and close the communications gap. In Snow's third culture, the literary intellectuals would be on speaking terms with the scientists.

According to sci-tech book agent John Brockman ”This never happened. Although I borrowed Snow's phrase in my 1991 essay "The Third Culture", it does not describe the third culture he predicted.”   Indeed, Brockman portrays recent progress as more one-sided than any act of collaboration, with the bridging largely undertaken from the scientific side and most literary mavens playing the unhelpful role of cantankerous curmudgeons. 

”The third culture consists of those scientists and other thinkers in the empirical world who, through their work and expository writing, are taking the place of the traditional intellectual in rendering visible the deeper meanings of our lives, redefining who and what we are. Increasingly, The Third Culture has moved into the mainstream and the questions it is asking are those that inform us about ourselves and the world around us.”

Speaking as someone who has moved across both of these worlds without impediment, all my life, I can say that Brockman is mostly right about this.  High-end scientists do tend to be vastly more agile and forward-looking thinkers, than their counterparts in almost any other field of endeavor.  Instead of narrowly-specialized “boffins,” those at the top of their fields seem to be smarter, more-broadminded and deeply curious than anyone else alive. The reason for this is so astonishingly simple that it seems to have escaped notice.  It has nothing to do with any intrinsic superiority of scientific minds.  Rather, suppose that a person is truly broadminded and eclectic, wanting to excel in a wide span of fields. He or she must thereupon choose the scientific field of interest to work hardest in, at the professional level, simply because science is exceptionally demanding.  That person's other interests, in contrast, can be pursued part-time.   Indeed, nearly all of the top scientists I’ve met (and I know many) also nurtured impressive artistic hobbies and passionate avocations, at near-professional levels.  They bridge the gap not as invaders from science but as brilliant people who never accepted the existence of any gap, in the first place!

Meanwhile, the intellectual curse of vapid, simpleminded postmodernism has been slow to dissipate from hundreds of university English, Literature and social studies departments.  One symptom of this obdurate troglodytism has been the refusal of all but a dozen U.S. universities to pay more than nodding attention to science fiction, the most exploratory and truly American of all genres.  Another diagnosable illness is the slavish devotion that so many have pledged to the rigid storytelling tropes that Joseph Campbell called “fundamental” to myth.  These rigid prescriptions may have been nearly ubiquitous for 4,000 years, but nobody seems willing to also point out the downside -- that those bardic straightjackets were also fundamentally debasing of the human imagination, helping to limit and crush our shared cultural experience... until we finally broke free of our chains.

And yet, having agreed with much of Brockman’s point, I do have to take some exception.  Because the literary types that he and Snow call the “first culture” are not really relevant to the intellectual problems of our age. Self-marginalized and generally silly, the literature profs are no more pertinent for their anti-science thetoric than they ever were a threat to young minds, by promoting “leftist memes.”  These were strawman foes, hardly even worth the time spent shrugging them off.

Then why talk about this cultural gap at all?  C.P. Snow had an excuse.  Especially in his day, the British education system was in large part designed to cauterize scientific or technical “boffins,” keeping them physically and intellectually isolated while ensuring that real power -- cabinet posts , corporate directorships and such -- would be preserved for those steeped in the classics. (Whereupon, completely subjective grading ensured that the sons of aristocracy would slip gracefully into the high positions set aside for them.)  Hence a nearly complete lack of “breadth requirements” in most British (indeed, European) baccalaureate programs.

Meanwhile, U.S. students take an extra fourth year longer for their bachelor’s degree, getting exposure across lateral horizons of interest.  This important feature of American academic life is seldom mentioned, even though it is an inherent expression of a very different intellectual worldview.

Hence, while American lit departments are only slowly awakening from their prickly, faux-European inferiority complex, others on campus have no problem embracing a new culture of change. At the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), for example, several arts departments have joined with scientific colleagues to forge Sixth College, and the Center for the Study of Computing in the Arts, dedicated to the mission of bridging every perceived gap, with tech-savvy artists and art-loving techies.

No, in America the dangerous gap is not between CP Snow’s old archetype intellectual cultures.  Rather, what we are challenged by is a very different “culture war,” in which every kind of anti-intellectualism is fanned by those who most directly benefit from this put-up distraction.  One of the tools that help to maintain this debilitating chasm?  The metaphor of an obsolete and profoundly misleading, so-called “left-right political axis” -- a curse from 18th Century France that has been a lobotomizing political discourse for generations, focusing attention on a silly, almost meaningless “gap,” when the real chasm is much simpler -- between non-thieves and thieves.

=========

Want to attend Worldcon? The World Science Fiction Convention is always a marvelous show and this year's event Anticipation -- in Montreal, city of fine food and hospitality -- should prove no exception with great panels, previews, the Hugo Awards and a special min-conference on teaching science fiction in the classroom that I labored to help create, along with the fine folks at www.AboutSF and Reading for the Future. 

=  OTHER STUFF =

 So cool In case you haven't already seen it -- the launch of a 1/10-scale model of a Saturn V rocket, built by hobbyists. I'd have been impressed if it used liquid hydrogen and multi stages.

 Inside These Lenses, a Digital Dimension -- now appearing... my “TruVu Specs”...  (Please do let me know when anybody spots more on this trend.  I have particular interest.)

 ELECTROMAGNETIC pulse weapons capable of frying the electronics in civil airliners can be built using information and components available on the net, warn counter-terrorism analysts. Yael Shahar, director of the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism in Herzliya, Israel, and her colleagues have analysed electromagnetic weapons in development or used by military forces worldwide, and have discovered that there is low-cost equipment available online that can act in similar ways. "These will become more of a threat as the electromagnetic weapons technology matures," she says.  Douglas Beason, a director at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, says it may be straightforward to build a do-it-yourself EMP weapon, but more difficult to make one that can be stowed in an aircraft. 

 BTW - Beason is a Brin-pal. See my own suggested measure we should take, in order to solve this threat.

VisionCare Ophthalmic Technologies has developed a miniature telephoto lens that can be implanted into the eye and could soon help people with vision loss from end-stage macular degeneration. (VisionCare) Because only the central parts of the retina are damaged in the disease, magnifying the image on the eye allows the retinal cells. 

 Chris Phoenix of the Center for Responsible Nanotechnology: ”I learned about research that is nearing completion to develop a strain of E. coli which cannot be infected by bacteriophages.  Phages are a major mechanism - likely *the* major mechanism - that keeps bacteria from growing out of control. A phage-proof bacterium might behave very similarly to "red tide" algae blooms, which apparently happen when an algae strain is transported away from its specialized parasites. But E. coli is capable of living in a wide range of environments, including soil, fresh water, and anaerobic conditions.  A virus-proof version, with perhaps 50% lower mortality, and (over time) less metabolic load from shedding virus defenses that are no longer needed, might thrive in many conditions where it currently only survives. The researchers doing this acknowledge the theoretical risk that some bacteria might become invasive, but they don't seem to be taking anywhere near the appropriate level of precaution. They are one gene deletion away from creating the strain.”  Church's recent article describing the possible future benefits of his work, and possible future safety precautions."

Oh, think it’s time for bold amateur sci fi television?

Cool stuff on Stranger Things TV.

66 comments:

TwinBeam said...

In the immortal words of a well known social commentator, explaining the source of the cultural gap:

"Math is hard!"

Stefan Jones said...

I think science and geeks have won; the literary establishment has no hold on our politics or imaginations. Being upset about their snobbery is like being upset about the snide comments of the cranky old lady who runs the newsstand down the street.

The real "war" is now between science and the fundamentalist thuggery . . . political as well as religious fundamentalism. The once strong link between conservatism and classical education has frayed as the latter assumes intellectual integrity and the assumption that history is something that can be learned from as opposed to something only useful for sound bites and poster images.

Neat passage RE the English school system by Freeman Dyson:

"So it happened that I belonged to a small minority of boys who were lacking in physical strength and athletic prowess, interested in other things besides football, and squeezed between the twin oppressions of whip and sandpaper. We hated the headmaster with his Latin grammar and we hated even more the boys with their empty football heads. So what could the poor helpless minority of intellectuals, later and in another country to be known as nerds, do to defend ourselves? We found our refuge in a territory that was equally inaccessible to our Latin-obsessed headmaster and our football-obsessed schoolmates. We found our refuge in science. With no help from the school authorities, we founded a science society. As a persecuted minority, we kept a low profile. We held our meetings quietly and inconspicuously. We could do no real experiments. All we could do was share books and explain to each other what we didn't understand. But we learned a lot. Above all, we learned those lessons that can never be taught by formal courses of instruction; that science is a conspiracy of brains against ignorance, that science is a revenge of victims against oppressors, that science is a territory of freedom and friendship in the midst of tyranny and hatred."

-- "To Teach or Not to Teach," 1990

Duncan Cairncross said...

"Math is hard!"

I believe that math is normally not well taught,
Most people finish school and do not know
"what maths is for"

As a result very few put the effort into learning

Of all of the things we learn as kids reading
(which 99% of people can be taught)
seems to me to be a more difficult concept than the simple algebra and manipulation that covers 90% of
"Maths as used in the real world"

Maths is taught by maths teachers who are overcome by the beauty of their subject,

It needs to be taught as part of the toolkit for life

If it was I believe that most people would learn
and then

Math would not be hard!

David Brin said...

Stefan is (as usual) wise. Alas, the residual power of the postmodernist, crypto-marxist, slughead professors is still great enough to do harm. First through their relentless vendetta against the literary genre of possibilities. And second, by serving as willing, idiot-posterboys for the neoconsto hold up and say "See? THIS is what liberalism is!"

Oh, look, the latter isn't their fault, it's the neocons' fault. And the fault of any Americans who actually believe - against all evidence - that liberalism is controlled by its dogmatic fringe loonies.... the way conservatism is. In fairness, the loonies of the left have a perfect right to be the way they are and it is up to the pragmatic moderate liberals to prove the distinction. (Obama does it every day.)

But I do blame the lefty loons for their intolerant Red Guard style hounding of conservative professors, back in the 1980s, a counter-productive screechfest that drove those conservatives out of the collegiality of universities - with traditions of listening and courteous debate - and into faux-'campuses' like the Heritage Foundation, where they nursed grudges, swore vengeance, and sucked up to rich oligarchic "sponsors. " Where men like Perle, Nitze, Wolfowitz etc were suborned, turned whore and became the rationalizer-priests of the neocon movement that drained our nation''s vitality and tore 30 years out of the life of Pax Americana.

On a level of basic cause/effect, that was all rooted in the doing of those supposedly powerless campus leftie flakes, And I admit bias when I say that other thing has done even worse harm. Betraying the deeply American spirit of pragmatism, adventure and curiosity, by venting relentless hostility toward the one literary form that most vibrantly expresses all three.

David McCabe said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
David McCabe said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
David McCabe said...

I suspect that the essence of the calculus, especially differential calculus, can be taught without the algebraic and analytic approach we use today. Grade-school arithmetic is not introduced through a washed-out version of number theory. So also we can teach an intuition about rates of change and of mass distribution without the drudgery of two years of "algebra" preceding it.

Alan Kay and co. have tried to accomplish this with their Etoys educational software. This software takes an unusual approach, in that it isn't about drilling, nor about being entertaining, but about providing an environment for mathematical modeling that is accessible to children. Students can learn to make conjectures, program models into the computer, and see whether their models' behavior matches experiment.

It's a start.

I disagree with Cairncross on a few points:

> Maths is taught by maths teachers who are overcome by the beauty of their subject. Math is taught by football coaches.

> It needs to be taught as part of the toolkit for life. Unfortunately, most of the math that's useful in everyday life is unrelentingly boring. The ability to take sums and products, or formulate and solve a linear equation in your head, is handy, so handy that no one should be without it. The process of learning these skills, however, amounts to drill, like typing or penmanship. And that's fine. The problem is when this approach is applied exclusively, apparently because those in charge of education know no other way.

Thus we have algebra by drill, as if memorizing the quadratic formula is either practical or conducive to understanding. It is neither: No real-life or practical situation uses functions more complex than linear, without also requiring regression analysis or other concepts completely missing from the curriculum and best practiced with computers anyway. Engineers and scientists never use the weak and unwieldy tools taught in high-school algebra. (Finding the extrema of a polynomial? Just use calculus.) And the throng of math-haters graduating every year is proof that this approach is no good for supra-practical purposes. Finally, even those going into technical fields have to be taught it all again in their first year of college.

(On algebra: "The smooth narrative thread that leads from ancient Mesopotamian tablet problems to the high art of the Renaissance algebraists is discarded in favor of a disturbingly fractured, post-modern retelling with no characters, plot, or theme.")

An axiomatic treatment of group, ring & field theory would better teach the concepts of algebra and symbolic logic than the unexplained magic of high-school algebra.

A numerical, computer-based approach to differential equations would allow students to understand the essence of calculus and the practical mathematical modeling done by scientists. (Of course, it isn't really a "calculus" without the symbolic aspect, says the pedant.) There's no need to leave out algebra-based calculus entirely: but the basic ideas should be introduced to children much younger than are ready for that. The calculus familiar to us will then make perfect sense when it is introduced, later, after the necessary algebra.

I'd love to hear this group's thoughts on math education.

David McCabe said...

Also, Blogger is a crock of bugs.

Duncan Cairncross said...

I like David McCabe's idea about getting feedback about math teaching,
I learnt most from teachers that gave me "WHY" as part of the learning.
Which is why I am in favour of teaching the tools.

Saying that as an engineer of many years standing most problems can be attacked by fairly simple manipulation.

This ability to manipulate variables is what I think of as algebra and is the thing that so many people appear frightened of

Almost everybody can learn to manipulate numbers but so few do

idiotgrrl said...

Personal experience - I'm a words and reading geek and I read science fiction and popular science, not "literature". At least not modern lit. But I noticed a split between popular and high art in music, painting, and just about every fine art imaginable around 1900 give or take 20 years. I wouldn't be surprised if that happened in literature as well. As to why - quien sabe?

Anders Brink said...

To say that science and the geeks have won depends on what you mean by "winning". It is true that these literary types have no hold on politics, which is what matters. But these literary types still have tremendous power in the publishing industry.

Here in Singapore, it is rare that SF gets published at all. Hell, even good literature is hard to find. Those who publish write poetry with a social conscience. I have nothing against that, except that it ignores the elephant in the room - the rise and science technological advancement. Within the space of a decade, we went from "a phone in every home" to "a phone in every hand", and the only kinds of stories that get written is "my daughter uses her phone ALL THE TIME".

Of course the university literature professor here has nothing but good things to say about SF. But he doesn't read it. And he doesn't realize that there is a huge group of students who read and write the stuff, but have no outlet.

Meanwhile, plays and performances go on and on, with no mention of science or technology. When SF gets mentioned, it is in movies, TV, and computer games. Who carries the torch for SF in Singapore? Hollywood.

Sociotard said...

It annoys me when people talk about "what math is for". Y'know what? Most days, you'll need barely anything. I work in a sciency field, and I certainly don't need to have the quadratic equation memorized. (rarely, anyway)

That isn't the point. We don't do situps in PE because some job will require us to do situps. We do situps in PE to change our bodies and make us stronger, and maybe to start a few kids on the road to healthy living.

Same with math. Math changes the way a person thinks. It builds the ability to think about things abstractly and to apply logic. Even if you never ever have to use the Law of Cosines in your profession, the ways of thinking you learned when you thought you were studying the Law of Cosines.

It's like Pilgrimage. It isn't about reaching the place. It's about the way the road there changes you.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Sociotard,

That is exactly why people hate maths!!

Just do it it will be good for you!!

Keep on doing the sit-ups when you are old enough I will tell you why!!

Maths is not memorising quadratic equations.

Simple Maths is knowing how to manipulate numbers and not being frightened of doing it

That will cover most of every-bodies needs
When it is not enough hit the textbooks

Anders Brink said...

Duncan,

I don't think you are getting it. The reason for learning math is to learn how to think better. Better as in more abstractly, more generally, clearly and more precisely. Since this affects one's thought processes, it will improve your clarity in other fields as well.

All except to the literary types, who revel in blurry ambiguity.

David Brin said...

Heinlein's strangest novel (atypically, it is stupid in the beginning and brilliant in the end) is BEYOND THIS HORIZON.

Amid his fantastic insights: that math is tragically backward. The worst, most horribly boring part of math -- arithmetic -- is a pre-requisite for all the cool/interesting parts. Children are brutalized with memorization before they ever see the beauty.

===

Side appeal: See BETTER OFF TED on ABC. It is hilarious and terrifically written and needs some buzz in order to survive.

David Brin said...

Full Video:
Obama's White House Correspondents Dinner Speech

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/05/09/full-video-obamas-white-h_n_201264.html

Duncan Cairncross said...

Anders,

You have the same issue

Maths is good! please learn all this and eat your greens!

Reading is at least as difficult
BUT

(1) Everybody they come in contact with can read
(2) The advantages are obvious

Maths

(1) Most people are frightened of it

(2) Nobody explains the "Why"

Result very few kids take it on

I don't need the advantages explained to me - I'm a bloody engineer!

We do a piss poor job of explaining to kids WHY they need this.

David
I agree with half of Heinlein's premise

Algebra should be taught earlier,

In the USA I worked with high school kids of 14 who had not yet "done" algebra

In New Zealand my son was being taught algebra at 10 or 11

I believe that this can and should be taught very early - 6 or 7 ???

Not sure about the other half arithmetic may be boring but even then I think we have already moved from all of the memorising I used to do.

On an entirely separate subject
David
As you are in the business can you ask your fellows when they write trilogies to stop at significant events.
Some recent series I have read appeared to be enormous stories split arbitrarily into three.
As a reader I hate it when the books just stops and I have to wait until the next book comes out.
Peter F Hamilton appears to be the champion at this.

Dan said...

I can't agree with your assessment of postmodernism and the literary establishment. Sure, we could find examples of dull, uncreative, or simply formulaic postmodernism--but science fiction can harbor the same vices. But to accuse postmodernism of being captive to a traditional story line or set of storytelling tropes seems almost ... postmodern. It's true, postmodern writers are quite aware of those traditional forms. But they tend to disassemble them or reassemble them in almost playful and certainly experimental ways. The postmodernists are as responsible as anybody for efforts to free us from traditional narrative.

David McCabe said...

Apparently spending on MRAP and other non-war-fighting military equipment will increase, but at least some are wise to the problem.

David McCabe said...

Shriek: An Afterward is an alternate universe horror novel with a bizarre narrative structure. Well worth reading.

Gilmoure said...

I'm one of those who didn't get math up through my first years of college (took first year college three times before passing). All I ever got to was College Algebra 1. And I failed that twice. Wasn't until I was a mechanic in the Air Force and got into hot rodding that I finally found a use for algebra and finally got it (power/weight/accerlation stuff)!

Cool thing is that my daughter (8 years old) is learning basic algebra (solve for X, learn how to reshape equations, how equations can be grouped in families). What I'm doing with her, when we work on math homework is show her tricks and puzzles with math. Am trying to get that spark of fun into her. It's sorta' there. Have caught her staying up late doing number puzzles on her own.

Mortise Tortoise said...

The creative/builders are the new class. Rendering new from that which was old and used.

Same survival/revival gadgets, slavaged resources.

matthew said...

I will second Mortise Tortoise.

I belive that the "maker" movement is the most significant change in American life in forty years.

The ability to simply build what has been dreamed - economically, simply, and with a dash of human wildness in the basic plans - this will radically alter *everything*.

We will never go back, just forward.

Nyctotherion said...

I could never get through algebra because I'm of a type that really cannot learn through drill, simply because it's too boring. I'd be assigned twenty problems, and by the third start working on a Champions game or something (ironically, an very math-heavy RPG system).

So, after being told calculus was required for a B.A. in anything, figured I'd never get through college. I think I had a bad advisor.

It's only years later that math seems interesting in the abstract, but still requires a degree of focus I've been able to achieve only through the use of illegal and dangerous substances.

Mortise Tortoise said...

Matthew I'm with you, except I believe we are moving more circularlly (sp) rather than linearlly (sp), kinda like a ring on a tree which alway drops seeds.


I build funriture and other structures with salvaged wood up in the hills here in Asheville, North Carolina

Thomas said...

Perhaps David Brin can comment on Progress.

We are perhaps all admirerers of Yoda and Buddhism.

Is there any such thing as progress as opposed to forward/rotational motion?

matthew said...

MT, just your saying "salvaged materials," rather than "wood" makes all the difference in the (literal) world.

I stand by my statements regarding the maker movement, and, no progress is not a wheel, it is a rocket taking flight.

matthew said...

Damn, make that "salvaged wood." I hate it when I overstate my case.... :0

William_Shatner said...

Brin said...
And second, by serving as willing, idiot-posterboys for the neoconsto hold up and say "See? THIS is what liberalism is!"
I think part of the history of that is due to Rush Limbaugh's horrible experiences in school. He had learning disabilities and had a very rough go.

When his dad gave him his only lasting and final job at a radio station he owned. Limbaugh found his true calling (but not the sports caster he really wanted to be). His ego got a boost from other people who responded to his self-congratulatory ideas that "I, as an ignorant American, am the best of all possible people" -- he is like a character from Voltaire.

>> As far as straw men to inspire the Right, the Right will never be satisfied. I'm sure that even the Sharia Law taliban, has people that they think are not "taliban enough." Sometimes a man lets the hood on his wife show too much eyebrow. The outrage that had to be satisfied over Bill Clinton was about a sexual indiscretion. It could have been a traffic ticket -- they have the same level of outrage, regardless of merit and it must be satisfied.

Obama is SPENDING MONEY! Let's not think too hard that it isn't much more than the off-balance sheet emergency spending that went towards the war. Absolutists with arbitrary notions. The only variable is which team made the foul.

I'm sure this doesn't come as a surprising observation.

On the West Coast, there might be more of these radical lefties around. But they don't hold the purse strings, just clutch to their fiefdoms in academia. Which is just its own Universe. I never thought of the Academia as Liberal, they just were a private club of communists -- you and I aren't invited to the party.

I think that likely, there is going to be some bleeding from Universities in the future, just as the Newspapers have been hemorrhaging. It will all be about money and the cost effectiveness of distance learning. I'm downloading podcasts from lectures at Standford, MIT, and Berkley. Not bytes reserved for "culture."

Unless there are drastic changes -- I don't see how I will be able to afford to send my kids to college in 10 years. So only the 5% who can afford it, will be ever able to relate to the anti-Boffin message.

William_Shatner said...

At the higher levels, I'm sure there are some real renaissance people -- but maybe C.P. Snow is talking about the mediocre levels. People who work hard at math and science not because they wish to discover the majesty of creation -- but because they are socially awkward, and have something to prove. These folks tend to be elitist (not elites -- I'm talking about exceptionalism).

At college I bounced between the theater groups, some evangelicals, some drug using anarchists who are probably now working at AIG -- you never know.

When I've visited San Francisco -- it's a little like being on this Blog site; you can strike up almost any topic and have an interesting discussion. A unique idea doesn't elicit defensiveness of one's world view. I wonder sometimes, if I'd grown up in a place that wasn't the belt buckle of the bible belt. When I was talking about viruses starting as a genetic messaging system in higher organisms that went awry, or about perhaps a lot of the mystical ESP world having to do with the immune system, the BEST response I could hope for was; "Can you share some of what you are smoking?" Usually, people here just give a tight little grin, say "that's nice" and go talk to someone else who is upset over the moral laxness of Paris Hilton.

When Al Gore wrote "The Assault on Reason" -- it really struck a chord with me. He grew up in Tennessee I believe, so he might relate to the alienation I felt in the South East. It is night and day different from the culture that I knew in Scarsdale, New York. Tapping into the right social networks, the right educators, and having an environment that encourages ideas makes a huge difference.

There is nothing overtly EVIL or anti-intellectual in the South. The difference I've seen that in the North, you give someone a challenge on an idea when you respect them, down here, challenging an idea is the equivalent of farting in public.

>> I think the "cross discipline" training you talk about is important. I also think that Science Fiction (more than fantasy and fiction), is vitally important to get people to think "what if."

"The Two Cultures," is not a real danger in Literary or Scientific fields at the top. And I agree, that Literature and the "arts" is so anemic and ignored in this country as to be laughable as a source to turn kids into socialists. There are Economics 101 and Accountancy programs, that do much more to turn the world into an irreducible pie, and to justify the mindset that markets always do what is right when left alone, and that somewhere the world functions as a meritocracy. Maybe for the elite scientists -- but NOT for anyone in the middle. Conscience and creativity are not rewarded in most cases.

No, the two cultures that I see are Conservatives and everyone else. It's like watching "invasion of the Body Snatchers" and as soon as they notice you aren't a "Good Christian" who believes that all social programs are coddling and tax breaks make Jesus happy, they let out a wail to alert everybody else to ignore you until you are replaced with a pod. I dabbled with the religion for a little while, and being the healthy, good looking blue eyed blonde guy coming out of a church, to see the warm smiles and the accepting nod; "we have a good one" -- I don't think anything else gives me more of the creeps. I made the mistake once that church was about something spiritual -- no, it's where ideas go to die in a country club for conformity. I was not much for sinning as they defined it, but I curse now and again to make sure that I keep from being too pure.

It is the Aggregate of society -- the experience of "most" that I think matters. You Dr. Brin, have been lucky enough to work and play with the facile minds that say "what if" and get paid for it. I have worked most my life where your output is measured and "what if" is a social disease.

There are even those two cultures in Science; the people that explore and do research, and the people who dust off the tomes of knowledge, and make sure they know what can and can't be done--they gravitate towards rules. Now, you really do need both, because the dogmatists in engineering, make sure that a two meter support is exactly two meters -- but absolutism should stop outside of carrying out a specific task. Our society is rife with it, because so many of our politicians and media have exploited these differences to sell candidates and underarm deodorant. You really cannot talk to a real conservative in the wild about things they don't agree with. I see some fault lines appearing in some people -- but only after they lose their jobs.

If the economic downturn does any good, it will be too inform people that we need to look out for each other, and that it's not about winners and losers. People only lose when others give up on them and they give up on themselves. We don't need to carry people, but I won't accept a society that doesn't help lift people up.

William_Shatner said...

Sorry to post again so soon. I have no idea if people find my comments as wise as TwinBeams, or as Voluminous as Shatners --no wait,...

... anyway, I read Brin's suggestions And this would be a very good thing for Obama to use to work against the culture war.

After 9/11, when Bush was urging us all to shop more, I was wondering; "Why don't we urge citizens to take martial arts?" People empowered to act, would have made a few box cutters fail on the airplanes. Likely, everyone was waiting for some authority figure to help "deal with this sort of thing."

The downside, is when someone makes a situation worse -- because people trained to "deal with these sorts of things" really can get better outcomes -- when they show up and aren't involved in mock drills, of course.

The tax to harden electronics is a very good idea -- but that's how I see taxes anyway. They should be making BAD AND LAZY IDEAS more expensive, and funding solutions. If you don't tax or punish shortcuts -- you get more of them.

The biggest cultural weapon from the NeoCons right now is the "self-made man." There isn't any discussion that goes by on the topic of poverty or taxes, or what have you, that doesn't throw a bone to "personal responsibility."

If you want some real Judo -- hire on Chuck Norris as one of ten people on a panel to "Make Americans a Hard Target." Hire some of the companies making the commercials for the military recruitment as well. You recruit your cultural opponents like Chuck, because at heart, he is just an insecure man who needs some attention.

The other thing is, you get an emphasis on the macho, and on health, and you pay for it with Homeland Security funds.

Our schools are missing classes that used to teach kids civics, and how to pay bills and avoid costly financial mistakes. We need to "Make America a Hard Target for Fraud." The FBI could certainly agree -- give a few of their people face time making the public service announcement.

>> Does anyone here realize how diabolical I am?

There isn't one group I wouldn't co-op. All the huge government programs in the military, and all the handouts to corporations that failed to protect America from the real threat; economic dependancy on our rivals, needs to be addressed in our culture. We are a soft target from head to toe.

All the programs we need to make the Commons function again, can be drawn from their respective (and in my opinion, mostly useless) agencies that serve the authoritarians. Our military budget needs to go to harden former vets -- and how better to do that than with health care?

The Pentagon budget, could go towards hardening communications networks -- maybe buying a few video cameras so they don't all fail at inconvenient times, right?

The NSA and their huge snooping budget, aught to help people listen more for what the enemy is up to? They should be subsidizing foreign language training.

>>When the Chinese were outlawed weapons, they were very clever in creating martial arts and tools that were useful for their farming, but could be turned into a weapon at a moments notice. Now we need to find weapons, that can be useful, while they aren't blowing people up.

We don't need to forge swords into plowshares -- but we can make swords that can attach to a tiller.

If PETA would follow my lead, I'd have them making commercials where they punch out a bull, and eat his grass. Could culture bullies really feel bad about Vegetarians steeling an animal's lunch money?

Ilithi Dragon said...

Well, I enjoy your posts, WS. They usually make me think, at any rate, which is always a good thing. (If you want someone to surpass your post size, though, just ask me about the new Trek flick... >.> )

I also think you have a good point about the environment we grow up in. I didn't grow up in the bible belt, but I did grow up in a very rural community in Pennsylvania, and while I got positive reinforcement for being a bright child, there wasn't much reinforcement for a healthy tendency to challenge the status quo, especially within my immediate family. I found that online, and looking back, I can definitely see the difference that influence had on me, especially the influence from friends I gained who gave positive reinforcement for my ideas, while simultaneously challenging them and my perceptions. Without that, I'd probably be a different person than I am today.

CSM said...

I had algebra in first grade: 1 + [] = 2. Replace the box with a letter and you have algebra. But they didn't teach algebra until high school.

The curriculum is very screwed up. I had matrices in high school without a single real world example as to what they were for. WTF?! Ditto for imaginary numbers.

Were I put in charge of the math curriculum, the basic concepts of algebra would come WAY earlier. I would teach math as a language. (Yes, you can punctuate equations. = is a verb.)

Vector geomoetry would be the lead in to matrices. I'd skip determinants entirely and go straight to Gaussian elimination. Numerical solution of differential equations would come before rigorous limit theorems. As soon as F=ma is introduced, plug in some interesting F functions.

Vector geometry would be part of a course in statics -- advanced shop if you will.

And natural philosophy definitely belongs in the liberal arts curriculum. It's not so much about learning particular scientific facts as it is learning about causality, continuous functions, functions of multiple variables and other very useful mental tools.

William_Shatner said...

>> Hey, thanks Dragon.

I was both bad and good at calculus.

When I first hit college, I had no pre-calc or any background. I had to withdraw halfway through.

After getting some background, I made a B the next time I took it, and that was with coasting through doing 15 minutes of work just before class. I remember the "aha moment clearly" -- so "f(x)" can be thought of as a variable "Y" -- but instead of the variable, you can substitute another function.Also, I think I hit puberty after the age of 25. I was distracted.

The difference between grasping something and feeling like an idiot is about two weeks for most things IMHO. OK, I've given up on humility as unrealistic, and not appreciative of God's great benevolence in sending me here. ;-)

I'm sure we've been over this before, but I think that "genius" is such a relative thing. I can really get relativity, and when I read and view discussions of current Quantum theory I am truly convinced that most of it doesn't add up. The cryptic language of physics, which is mostly math, seems to obscure so much of the theories. Modern Physics, as I heard it described; is the world that we are not informed by through our instincts. A monkey calculates ballistics when jumping to a tree. We have an innate sense of Newtonian physics. But relativistic theories of light and gravity or muons and quantum tunneling, are not informed by our instincts.

Well, maybe I'm an idiot or maybe I'm the one in a million that DOES seem to have an instinct. Too bad I'm never going to be helping the world in these matters, but I do throw food at the TV when Guy Kawasaki talks about Heisenberg's uncertainty theorem. "NO!" I yell. "The reason we see Quantums at all is that the fields are exchanging energy on their peaks and only when a threshold charge is reached." They say 11 dimensions and I say 12. They've got diplomas and I've got a banana peel stuck to my Mitsubishi 32" screen that has the power switch broken off because someone built it to fail in 32.3 months. Who are YOU going to believe?

A current technique to cloak at least small objects, uses nano-holes or spikes on a material. The small surface distortions, cause light to bend over the object. Current physics theories use all sorts of particles and forces and branes and such to describe how all their particles can act like fields. Every new unexplained thing from current theory yields a new force, particle, or matter. Dark matter is all the rage right now.

[EDITORS NOTE: removed the explanation for Gravity, existence, time and particle charges because it was off topic. Please see our guidelines about letting the world figure things out on their own.]When the object moves due to equal and opposite forces, the object that doesn't move, ceases to exist because it does not balance forces to zero.

>> But when it comes to traffic, or getting my stupid blender to not leak while making a smoothy -- well, that's kryptonite for me. I swore I'd go hunting appliance manufacturers if I had to repurchase another thing. Just. One. More. Thing.

Does our accounting office reduce the value of things when factoring inflation for useless devices with planned obsolescence?

My parents washing machine never broke -- they just got rid of the clunky thing for something with better gadgets on the front. I've been through three in the past 10 years and replaced a stupid rubber washer for $150 3 times now. If all washers were direct-drive and used a motor that was twice as powerful, they'd never break.

Supposedly, we don't pay for quality. When I see the $1,200 sticker on a new WhirlPool, apparently I'm paying for plastic and magic fairy dust because I just have to have that instead of a better motor, which would be too extravagant for $40 extra. No ala carte choice.

>> The point I'm making, without going too far down on the rant about Idiocracy, is that most everyone has some genius on some things (did I really do that--or am I just wedging a rand in here?). The cookie-cutter approach to education and society, doesn't help us ALL get ahead. I understand the need for basic education -- the three R's. But when you get a job or start a business, beyond a few fundamentals -- you have to be REALLY GOOD AT SOMETHING.

You don't get any specialty training in this country, outside of a few creative schools, until you go into a Masters program. To my mind, if I REALLY understood Geology, then the scientific process I learned for how those scientists can read the land and determine what happened -- that process can be applied to other scientific things.

How do you figure out solutions to problems with no defined answer?

Instead of bombarding kids with a smattering of everything, in huge books that get filled with highlighter ink (it's a conspiracy that they don't just highlight the important bits anyway when they print these books), kids should be learning the basics half the day, and the other half, learn to do something really well.

Tradesmen and mentors can do so much more for applied skills.

Tony Fisk said...

Hmm! If, as Stefan suggests, the geeks have won, do they get to write the history books?

My father hated school, and Maths in particular. The fact that the headmaster was also the Maths master had a lot to do with this. As an army apprentice, he was detained by an instructor who asked why he couldn't divide properly. Instructor then proceeded to teach him the wonders of decimal arithmetic in about half an hour.

A good teacher makes a world of difference, but an attitudinal adjustment is just as important.

Conversely, I never had much trouble with math. My problem was English.

It wasn't that I couldn't spell, or parse a sentence. I read avidly. I just couldn't write an essay to save my life, especially one discussing the structure and 'message' of this or that novel (btw, we did have some sf on the Victorian HSC curriculum, if 'Nineteen Eighty Four' qualifies)

Part of the problem arose from a personality clash, (the teacher was definitely on the 'sociological' end of the spectrum, while I was... well, give me 'Profiles of the Future' over 'The Go-Between' any day!)

Another part related to relevance. Why study books to this level of detail? If half the class disagrees with the other half over 'what the author trying to say', is (s)he saying anything at all?
English was the only compulsory subject on the curriculum, and I just didn't see it, with predictable results on my enthusiasm (teenage grouchiness).

Indeed, it wasn't until just prior to the final exams that it was revealed that the purpose of English was... communication: the art of transferring an idea from one noodle to another.

..OK, in retrospect, it shouldn't have been difficult to figure that out. The problem (apart from my attitude) was that a subject called 'English Expression' was being taught as a watered down version of 'English Literature'.

I sometimes wonder whether there might have been few more sf books on the shelves by now, had this little gem of wisdom been bestowed on us earlier in the year (but then, I suspect that the wisdom of having gems bestowed is linked to counting beasts and apple cores)

(Interesting aside: it always puzzled me that some folks at school who were brilliant at Maths found Physics a struggle.)

returci: (what *is* the capcha daemon trying to say?)

Sociotard said...

Star Trek was fun. I say this only because I know a few Trekkies are here.

A large number of " _______ doesn't work like that" moments, like Spocks solution to stop a supernova. Also, I think Starfleet is run by morons. Even so, a fun movie.

Tony Fisk said...

The word I've heard is that, if you turn your critical filters down and don't expect too much, then you won't be disappointed.

I think Starfleet is run by morons.You've only just noticed?

Rocky Persaud said...

T-shirt for time-travellers, or in case you have to rebuild civilization.

Ilithi Dragon said...

Star Trek was fun. I say this only because I know a few Trekkies are here.The movie was a fun action flick, but that's about it, unfortunately. But don't say that on any major Trek hang-out, though; the fans of the movie will crucify you for daring to criticize the second coming of Christ that is the new Trek movie. Ironically, they accuse those of us Trek fans who are critical of the movie of being self-centered, egotistical, elitist, whiny, stupid, ignorant, hypocritical, middle-aged basement-dwelling fanboys crying on the internet because their mother is out getting groceries, when most of us have only been criticizing the movie, and it is the fans of the new movie who have run rampant with self-superior criticism and vitriolic attacks on those of us who are critical of the movie. Yeah, I'm kinda peeved by that... <_<



A large number of " _______ doesn't work like that" moments, like Spocks solution to stop a supernova. Like the Hobus star, and it's magical, planet-eating, galaxy-destroying, faster-than-light supernova of DOOM!!!!?


Also, I think Starfleet is run by morons. Even so, a fun movie.In the new movie, or in general? I agree with you on the movie, though I could give you a lively debate on Starfleet in general (though I am admittedly biased against the movie, and in favor of the rest of Trek).


WS: I'd love to hear more of your theories on physics, though this may not the best venue for that (or maybe it would be... A discussion of physics and hard sciences would be a refreshing change from the politics we so often discuss of late). Definitely sounds interesting, at least, whether you are correct or not.

Rocky: That is an awesome shirt! I am so getting one!

atomicsmith said...

A somewhat relevant article in The Atlantic: The Fanboys of Summer Wolverine has far more to say about its chosen subject, the scientific manipulation of the human body, than, for example, the romantic comedy Ghosts of Girlfriends Past has to say about relationships between men and women.

...

audiences could walk out of theaters with far less illuminating things than stars, robots, and science, in their eyes.

William_Shatner said...

The Star Trek movie rank 1-10:
(watch out for plot spoilers).
Visuals & FX 9 (though why is a mining ship all spiky much less the cable to atmosphere?)
Plot is a 2 (the average is 3 for Star Trek movies)
Characters 7
Fun 8
Science Quality 2

>> At least I enjoyed the characters.
The time travel always annoys me. And they've done this so many times in Star Trek -- even in the prequel series with Archer, that they just might as well just yell "do over" and go back and save any and all civilizations, stars, planets and red-shirted cadets who have been harmed in any way.

Why am I seeing a mining platform that stretches down to the planet in the first place? Is it to avoid unnecessarily heating the atmosphere? The cable only looks about a mile long -- with SPIKES!

Basically, I enjoyed it, but the more and more I remember it, I get a bad aftertaste like Dragon has.

Star Trek is still forgetting the original point of Gene Roddenberry's show; intrigue the mind with "what if" and represent what humanity would look like if we were the "good guys." We were just hollywood good guys. Somebody enlightened should at least have offered the bad guy a Do-over, I'm sure spoke has found 5 ways to time travel by now.

Are we abusing Brin's site with these bits of flotsam?

Ilithi Dragon said...

WS, I'd like to add another category to that: the musical score, which I personally rate a 9 (the only thing I think it lacks is a definitive tune to identify with this particular incarnation of Trek).

I agree with you on the plot and time travel - Trek has definitely over-used it as a plot device, especially for the movies (and in the Trek setting, it doesn't make a very good movie plot). As I feared, then went with hollywood sci-fi-ish action thrills, and not the 'big-idea science fiction' that Trek was once known for, that made Star Trek Star Trek. The resulting movie is fun and entertaining, but shallow and unfullfilling.

On the Narada and Nero: the Countdown Comics, a series of four comic books released prior to the movie, give further back-story to Nero, and why he's doing what he's doing, etc. Which just goes to show you how bad the plot and storytelling of the movie are: They had to resort to a series of cheap comic books to tell the actual back-story and motivation of their villain, and how he became the villain in the first place. In this comic book series, we are introduced to the idea of Red Matter, a product of the Vulcan Science Academy and the all-powerful mysteries of Vulcan science (which is distinct from Federation science, for some reason), which generates some strange reaction to generate massive gravitational singularities. And the Narada, which is a typical mining ship that is outfitted with super-secret-super-advanced adapted Borg technology from a super-ultra-secret Romulan research base, to enact revenge on the Federation (for getting stuck in traffic on the way to the Hobus star, I guess). But, the mother of all introductions is that of the Hobus star, which is threatening to go supernova in such a special way, that it eats planets and threatens to destroy the galaxy, and supernovas at FTL speeds, while still remaining a normal-sized star... At least they got the appropriate response by having Spock laughed out of the Romulan Senate...

Cliff said...

Personally, I loved the new Star Trek movie. Yeah, it was chock full of horrible science (the supernova, the black hole, the time travel through the black hole, the FTL insertion into a planetary atmosphere), and there were a LOT of convenient plot twists.

But it was fun as hell, and I thought it recreated a lot of the "gee whiz" spirit of the series. I left the theater making spaceship noises with my mouth.

On English:
I always hated grammar (I don't care about participles and why they shouldn't dangle), and I really hated trying to figure out the symbols used in stories.

For example:
In middle school we read a story about a guy getting swept out to sea, and how he had to eat raw fish to stay alive.
The teacher told us that the sea symbolized life, and then asked us what the fish symbolized. I think several students answered "people," which wasn't the correct answer.
The answer? The fish symbolized death, in some fashion that still makes no sense to me.

The fact that English teachers could apparently make things up and then pass it along as fact always made me grind my teeth.

As for math, I loved the fact that I had to take three years of calculus in college, only to find out in my fourth year that numeral integration is the only way to tackle a lot of complex engineering problems, because we don't have a better way of handling all the different variables.

Gilmoure said...

William Shatner said... The time travel always annoys me... they just might as well just yell "do over" and go back and save any and all civilizations, stars, planets and red-shirted cadets who have been harmed in any way."Man down, man down! It's Jenkins, sir. He's tripped and bruised his knee."

"Fire up the retcon gun. We're going back in time! And someone hold Jenkins' hand this time."

Cliff said... The fact that English teachers could apparently make things up and then pass it along as fact always made me grind my teeth.You should take a fine arts course. Talk about preparation as a professional bullshit artist. I ended up dropping out of art school due to this. Kept hearing that bit from History of the World (Bea Arthur/Dole Office Clerk to Mel Brooks/Comicus as he tries to get unemployment pay in ancient Rome):

Dole Office Clerk: Occupation?
Comicus: Stand-up philosopher.
Dole Office Clerk: What?
Comicus: Stand-up philosopher. I coalesce the vapors of human experience into a viable and meaningful comprehension.
Dole Office Clerk: Oh, a *bullshit* artist!
Comicus: *Grumble*...
Dole Office Clerk: Did you bullshit last week?
Comicus: No.
Dole Office Clerk: Did you *try* to bullshit last week?
Comicus: Yes!

William_Shatner said...

Cliff said....
But it was fun as hell, and I thought it recreated a lot of the "gee whiz" spirit of the series. I left the theater making spaceship noises with my mouth.
You are right on that. My definitive grading system left out these bits of data;
Music 9
Sense of Wonder 8

>> That sense of wonder thing, as you are looking up at Star Fleet Academy was really cool, as I watched my 7-year-old son get excited.

The reason Star Trek is not yet a complete waste of time -- is that it gets the "Wonder back" into Sci-Fi. At least they did that right.

The GNDN label on pipes was back. It stands for; "Goes Nowhere, Does Nothing" -- a bit of Star Trek lore I just learned from the folks at TWIT.com -- there was an overall sense however, of the items in the movie actually having a thought as to function. It's more than the "lived in grit" of Star Wars.

I enjoy a lot of Sci-Fi, but I really, really think our culture needs a return to the original Star Trek way of looking at things. It is almost a public service. Movies like Star Wars are just fantasy. Ships look cool and blast things, and magical Jedi use forces that depend upon some birth right of chance and technology is just a backdrop that does cool things and blows people up in various ways.

Kids need to get a sense of wonder, and a desire to enter Star Fleet, and do the studying so that one day they can work on anti-matter containment in the port Nay-cells (don't know how to spell that).

It's cool and all to be gritty, but I want more people believing that we can end greed, hunger and injustice in our society -- because we never will if kids don't first believe it is in their power. Foolish optimism is the only way to make any progress in this world.

How foolish were Ghandi and MLK? How foolish were the Wright Brothers? Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs? Everybody who did anything great when they had very little chance at success.

You are only here on earth because of a 1 in a more than a billion chance. That little sperm cell was optimistic and beat the odds.

I've heard too much about what America can't do. There are more than enough "gritty movies" with anti-heros. We have enough fantasy with angels and Jedi -- what we need to do is inspire people.

And sure, those spelling bee movies and sports stories do that. But technology is the only hope for a planet that is closing in on 10 Billion. But I suppose on this blog, I'm preaching to the choir.

William_Shatner said...

SPOILER:
Oh yeah.

And I was kind of hoping that in the ending, they would actually persuade Nero to end his revenge quest. Kirk and Spock merely engaged in the revenge for a planet Nero destroyed, after he lost his home but merely THOUGHT it was Spock's fault.

Even though we all might personally want revenge -- a MORE evolved mankind would always try and avoid conflict.

A lot of Star Trek shows were about stopping the battles, and were successful for not destroying the bad guy, but converting them.

It's a challenge to do that and not look Cheesey.

David Brin said...

See my brief essay on the can-do spirit of Star Trek, in The NY Daily News site.

http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/movies/2009/05/13/2009-05 13_acclaimed_scifi_author_david_brin_says_star_trek_shows_we_can_live_long_and_pros.html

David McCabe said...

Corrected link: Acclaimed sci-fi author David Brin says 'Star Trek' shows we can live long and prosper.

Cliff said...

Ships look cool and blast things, and magical Jedi use forces that depend upon some birth right of chance and technology is just a backdrop that does cool things and blows people up in various ways..
.
Now you're just sucking up to DB. :P

Another point in favor of Star Trek over Star Wars - it has more than one female per episode, and it acknowledges that sex exists.

Also: nacelle.

Gilmoure - I don't doubt that it's bad, but my experience with college humanities professors has been pretty good so far. Of course, it was at an engineering school so they didn't take themselves too seriously - they were just trying to get engineers to think about something besides math for once.

William_Shatner said...

Cliff said,...Also: nacelle.

--- thanks dude!


>> I'm not trying to say that Star Treks is "better" than star wars. My point is that we culturally NEED Trek more than we need Star Wars. What can kids learn from Star Wars?

However, I think that Star Wars II should be required viewing for college students and Poly-Sci majors. Could that movie NOT have slapped us in the face about false flags and how power-mad Sith like to work both ends against the middle.

Now That was a public service movie.


>> I am no longer surprised that Dr. Brin is seeing the same issues with Star Trek and Star Wars as I am. He has been attempting to be me for 4 years now. Imagine, trying to assume the persona of someone else to win their attention... If you forced me to do a bit more research on my rants, cut down on the caffeine and stimulants, why, our points would be identical.

Except of course, I tell more jokes -- it helps me ease the pain of being a modern day Cassandra.

When is the real_William_Shatner ever going to return my calls?
;-)


>> I thought since there was a mutual interest in dealing with the "other half" of the culture war, folks here would appreciate my annoyance at being told that Reagan was really great on the economics from the country club of class warfare pimps, none other than the Cato Institute. This is what they say.And here is the rest of reality refuting this assertion;
Dems vs. Republicans on economicsOur surplus becomes a deficit.and of course, Paul Krugman.

Tony Fisk said...

Could that movie NOT have slapped us in the face about false flags and how power-mad Sith like to work both ends against the middle.Ditto 'the Two Towers' (who was gaming Saruman?) How *did* Tolkien call it, fifty years ago? ;-)

BSG was a complete retell of 2001-8 in American politics (including the final meltdown)

B5 was ten years ago now. Still, if JMS is working on Lensman... (although, come to think of it, B5 *was* Lensman)

Hank Roberts said...

Yeek!

http://us.macmillan.com/Content.aspx?publisher=torforge&id=12827

William_Shatner said...

The Cheney War Crimes Apology Tour is going over like a lead balloon.

He keeps reminding the planet, of the two states of the spiritual vacuum he represents; suck and blow.

Wanda Sykes is my new hero,..
I liked the comment about Rush supporting the same causes as Bin Laden. It's kind of fair turn-about since that was the charge he leveled at critics of the war.

I did a google search on the correspondents dinner for a transcript, and there are more links for Fox News and Dennis Miller,... a little heavy handed with the damage control boys. Don't want to be too obvious. I mean, there are infomercials that challenge more assumptions....MILLER: You know, they're men of honor. I wanted to be able to say I went to Gitmo, because I believe they do an honorable thing there. And all these stories that Ramzi al-Kaboom says about the Koran in the toilet. I don't buy it. I just don't buy it. I believe our boys. I don't believe those guys. I remember a time...OK. Dick Cheney and Bybee just morphed into "our boys."

I was listening to Neal Boortz for a couple minutes, and he was calling into question "what did Nancy Pelosi know and when did she know it" in regards to Democrats getting some secret briefings on the program. The low hanging fruit of integrity that you blame someone for letting you get away with what you were trying to get away with.

After we arrest us some of them war criminals, I'll give Nancy a spanking. Personally. Fast, and then slow, and then fast again. Um, where was I?

Note how these guys aren't going on a tour of "we had nothing to do with bank de-regulation." Because that might pre-empt the Credit Card crisis and all the shows we have next week on how we forced them to charge us 23% compounded daily.

Cassandra is telling you, that THIS issue is the soft white underbelly of the NeoCon cabal and it is about to be exposed.

Nancy Pelosi was not impeaching Bush, because they cleaned their hands on her starched, white blouse.

When Republicans in the past, were talking up the need to kick troops out of the military for being Gay, they called it a security risk because an enemy could extort a covert homosexual with this information.

Isn't torture in the closet as well?

If some foreign enemy, had evidence on our torture -- then NOT investigating it, leaves us with potential security risks.

I also think the Mossad was extorting Bush over what they got wind to during 9/11. But hey, let's not get all tin-foil-hat. I didn't recycle enough on earth day as it is.

>> More evidence that our media and government must promptly ignore keeps bubbling up.

I would have let this issue go, if I hadn't heard about a dozen major media mavens sit in front of me and justify the need for torture. How can our culture survive, if, instead of debating Abortion and Gun Control -- High School debate teams have torture as a topic, and occasionally win with the "less Liberal" pro-torture stance?

It can't possibly be wrong, if nobody goes to jail for it. We send people to jail for 5 years who smoke pot.

My son is in the car, and he hears on the radio "torture" about 12 times, with some vivid descriptions. On the TV, before I can flip the channel, the meme pops up about 4 times and once even in a commercial. I'll trade 52 bare breasts and an occasional dog cleaning himself for this assault.

I can't do any better than to quote Wanda Sykes;"Cheney wants the reports open that show we were able to drown useful information out of terrorists by waterboarding them! That would be like getting caught robbing a bank and going before the judge saying 'Yeah I robbed the bank but look at all the bills I paid!'

William_Shatner said...

Sorry that my last post was so long.
I just don't know how to shorten some of these issues when they interrelate so much....

Tony Fisk said...
BSG was a complete retell of 2001-8 in American politics (including the final meltdown)


B5 was ten years ago now. Still, if JMS is working on Lensman... (although, come to think of it, B5 *was* Lensman)
OK, I really need to get a play by play on how BattleStar Galactica tracked the past 7 years in our history. Loved the series except for the copout with the angels and going nowhere with Baltar's religion. It was very annoying that the G-D was interfering so much that he recreated ships and people and then let's pot luck misfires over wrong assumptions send everybody back to fighting and becoming Luddites.

Babylon 5 -- OK, again, I'm not familiar with the Lensman (I know I should be), what did it take from that story? Chaos vs. Order might be a very recurring theme, but the points B5 made about the scary and positive aspects of both were pure genius. Just using a well known meme is not a rip off,... so please, tell me a bit more detail on that before you break my heart. And Checkoff as the evil Psi-Ops captain was the most brilliant casting call until Tarantino made Pulp Fiction.

Citizen James said...

Long time reader, occasional commenter. I'll admit I feel a little intimidated given the level of discussion and commentary, but I'm willing to toss my few cents in now and then.

I am, by training, a math teacher. In practice I am just a sub because I had the misfortune to graduate into hard economic times, but I have opinions anyway.

For quite some time we have been subject to what has come to be called the math wars. The difference goes beyond teaching methods into differing ideas - on one extreme the elite idea of treating math as some sort of magical formula (so to speak) in which most can only memorize and recite, and only a few of the truly gifted can enter into the club of the knowledgeable and enlightened, while others go on to other pursuits. On the other extreme - everyone can learn, and possesses a natural inclination to do so given the chance to explore.

As is probably clear by my phrasing, I lean more toward the second group, though kids often need a nudge or two to get started.

I think it is important for students to 'get' math as actually represents something rather than simply as some abstraction to be memorized. The 'aha' moments students have when they realize the various formulas and methods they have been using for years actually mean something and make sense are priceless.

I agree with sociotard's comment that math does influence the way we think. Algebra is a gateway subject in which there is a shift from the concrete to the abstract. Although I am glad to see algebra awareness taught in the elementary grades, most kids to not possess the cognitive development (the formal operations stage in Piaget terms) to until middle school age to comprehend most of the concepts. Filling in the missing number they can do young, understanding that x and y represent all the points on a line they may not get. (and sadly is often glossed over even when they are ready in favor of more rote which is easier to test and gets faster short term results.

I consider math to be just a little subversive (in a good way ;0) ) in that a good comprehension of logic can be a tool to help guard against deception.

Re the new Star Trek Movie: I enjoyed it - but in the back of my head, past all the gee whiz and isn't that cool impressions I wonder if part of it's core message doesn't go against the principles of the franchise - the idea of act before thinking and go with your gut instinct seems a lot more akin to the star wars universe than star trek.

Tony Fisk said...

By meltdown, I was referring to the way the GOP went and the way the show went.

Babylon 5 -- OK, again, I'm not familiar with the Lensman (I know I should be), what did it take from that story? Chaos vs. Order might be a very recurring theme, but the points B5 made about the scary and positive aspects of both were pure genius.Doc Smith's Lensman series was a glorious romp of a fifties space opera. It depicted two ancient races, the Platonic Arisians, and the interloping alien, power hungry Eddorians. The Arisians foresaw the coming of the Eddorians, and hid themselves, preferring, instead, to nurture younger races to be able to withstand Eddorian rapaciousness.

Along with Tolkien references, you can see where B5 drew a lot of its source material.

However, it was space opera, the heroes were *real* heroes, the goodies were beyond wise and benevolent, and the villians really were boo-hiss nasties.

JMS was very canny in showing that the Vorlons weren't all good, and that the Shadows weren't all bad. Just very, very, manipulative. It allowed him to give them a realistic background to their quarrel: a question of custodianship.

The prime moment was Sheridan standing up to massed battle fleets of the elder races and saying 'We've outgrown you. We don't need your meddling. Now, GET THE HELL OUT OF OUR GALAXY!' (Imagine young Skywalker saying that to Yoda *and* Darth Sidious?)

(In the aftermath: Ivanova to Marcus 'Did I miss something, or did we just win?')

So, it's going to be interesting to see what JMS come up with for 'Lensman'

ecklgru: an Eddorian breakfast cereal

Tony Fisk said...

Oi! Predictions registry!
Check out what Joe Romm is saying about predicting that US CO2 emissions peaked in 2007!?

undeda: a rastiferian zombie

William_Shatner said...

I'm very hesitant to post this. But I feel like I've got to overcome a silly fear of social ostracism. I'm only bringing forth an issue that is exploding right now (everywhere but the main stream press):

FBI Whistleblower Testimony: Gonzales Imposed Brutal Interrogation TacticsGitmo Detainee’s ‘Private Parts Were Sliced With A Scalpel,’ Waterboarding ‘Far Down The List Of Things They Did’Senate Panel's Report Links Detainees' Murders To Bush's Torture Policy
“I have more than two hours of video footage showing Sheikh Issa’s involvement in the torture of more than 25 people.” Texas-based lawyer, Anthony Buzbee, wrote to UAE authorities on Friday, according to an AFP report.
Kids sodomized at Abu Ghraib, Pentagon has the videos - Hersh ..... They were raping the children in front of their parents
More testimony, talk of recordings of pleading kids. Mothers sneaking out notes asking their husbands to kill them for what they witnessed. It's all coming out....
O’Reilly uses Nazi propaganda to defend torture, attack Obama"
On an unrelated -- but actually related note, if we look at how many turned a blind eye to bank fraud, torture, lies leading to wars --


I'm not posting this because I'm addicted to outrage, or gratuitously. If our military is here for duty, honor, country -- I can't understand where any of those apply in our current invasions of countries for oil resources, with leaders pushing practices that really help gun sales more than security.


I happened to listen to Rachel Maddow's show and she had Elliot Spitzer as a guest again. Apparently the only guy visiting prostitutes... you know, and in his spare time, also the only guy who was going after AIG and bank fraud. I remember mentioning back then -- that it was strange that the only person I'd heard about in 10 years doing oversight on the banks was in trouble. But at least they got Martha Stewart for a bad stock tip! Think about this when you read the headlines Fed loses $9 Trillion. What do I keep saying about "only the people not playing by club rules get justice applied to them." Most of our leaders are complicit or compromised and this is a direct conspiracy to control leaders around the globe.
Eliot_Spitzer_prostitution_scandal
How many people in oversight would let things pass and keep their mouth's shut for a Billion dollars? With $9 Trillion, you could OWN at least 9,000 people. Media, engineers, politicians, judges. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas sold out for a Winnebago -- far short of the big money.

That's enough money to send everybody who wants to, to college in the USA, pay for health coverage for everyone, and end hunger in the world. The entire output for the USA in a year is $15 Billion.

Just a little "oops" from people who decry coddling welfare recipients.

How can Bush get away with all that he did and make sure Obama does nothing to bring him to justice?

Are we being bankrupted on purpose? Is this for a private army? Is it just a plain old bank heist? Are we paying off aliens so they won't use their disintegrator ray on the Astrodome? Is anyone actually staying up late, to investigate?

Wars are the best time to steal things. Never waste an emergency.

Lame excuses worked for the Bush Crime Family. Apparently, the past 8 years has been a series of one-up-manship in some bizarre contest. So far, everyone is amazed that they can keep getting away with things.

Cheney is on ten programs a day calmly talking about important "techniques." Mentioning classified documents that could clear him if someone would just let the CIA release it. Making sure that everyone knows that now that we don't torture -- we could all be attacked by the al Qaeda. He is taunting us -- is he trying to make the CIA nervous or preparing the talking points for something yet to come, that will distract everyone from torture tapes or missing trillions.

He may just be trying to plant the meme that torture is necessary. He could be trying to inspire the CIA into starting their vaunted CYA mode. He is making me nervous, and I admit I'm a little turned off now by his imitation of a soft-spoken and reasonable human being. It's like the tone deaf when they sing -- they just fake it.

Matt DeBlass said...

I've never had a knack for math, and was in the "math is hard" crowd for most of my life. In fact I struggled with it quite a bit in High School (not surprisingly, the two years I had one particular teacher were terrible, other years with other teachers I had no problem).
However, I've usually done fairly well with applied math, such as in chemistry or the really, really basic-physics-for-English-majors classes, which suggests to me that "math is hard" really means that "teaching math properly is hard."

So when are we going to see a David Brin story adapted for StrangerThings.tv? They're doing some good stuff over there.

occam's comic said...

David,
Just to come back the torture situation, the Bush administration used torture for the same reason that Soviets and the Chinese used torture --- to get false confessions that are politically useful.

They tortured people in order to establish a bogus link between Al Qaeda and Iraq, in order to justify going to war. A war the Chaney (and maybe Bush) made huge amounts of money from and a war that has caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people. These people should be prosecuted and if found guilty put to death.

Cliff said...

Another note on the Lensman books - the main conflict was often described as being between Civilization and Barbarism. In many of the books the forces of Civilization engage in torture, slaughter, and genocide.
I never felt like Doc Smith did a good job explaining the difference between the two sides.

But they were still smashing good reads.

Sociotard said...

Evidently some in government are actually concerned about Brin's "10,000 McVeighs" scenario. Reaction to this concern has been negative by our veterans.

http://abclocal.go.com/wtvd/story?section=news/local&id=6764928

Sociotard said...

I liked how somebody in another forum put it:
Everybody said how Obama wouldn't piss on the constitution the way Bush did. They forget that pretty much every president does. It needs to be renamed "The Presidential Latrine"

I suppose it is possible that this is necessary. Maybe theres no way to hold a real trial with any hope of keeping some of the genuine nasties locked up. Maybe. I still feel I rather have a just nation than a safe nation.

kelly said...

for me it sounds like a commercial for a computer game. and computer games are not interlectual
*???*

Anonymous said...

"Rather, suppose that a person is truly broadminded and eclectic, wanting to excel in a wide span of fields. He or she must thereupon choose the scientific field of interest to work hardest in, at the professional level, simply because science is exceptionally demanding. That person's other interests, in contrast, can be pursued part-time."

So what you're saying is that Sanjay Subrahmanyam could have written Textures of Time in his spare time while working by day as a scientist? That seems a pretty extraordinary assertion, if only for the fact that I can't think of any practicising scientists who have made contributions outside their fields at that level (perhaps DD Kosambi, but I don't think he was a practicising scientist at that point.)

If you're only talking about playing an instrument on the weekend or learning a language, that is true of many educated people regardless of what they studied.

As for the literary establishment having no hold on our politics -- sure, but isn't that "What's the Matter with Kansas," i.e. populism has been redefined as disdain for humanistic learning rather than redistribution.

David Brin said...

Then anon you are proving your ignorance. I have known countless scientists and ALL of the best ones had professional or semiprofessional artistic hobbies. Every last one of them.

Pls contiunue at the latest post. I seldom visit these old ones.