Saturday, October 01, 2016

Our phenomenal (recent) accomplishments in space

I am trying... hard ... to keep politics down to half of my postings (or so) and not on weekends!  And hence... something to remind you what a great civilization you are proud of!  Do not let the gloom merchants poison your mood.

After a successful launch, the OSIRIS-REx mission sets off to explore and bring back samples from asteroid Bennu, whose size, orbit and possible carbonaceous makeup suggest real potential for riches... and if that dream comes true, then we can stop digging into Mother Earth. Fly well, Osiris-Rex!

Layered buttes on Mars / NASA Curiosity 
Wonderful latest images from our hardworking, loyal robot on Mars. The Curiosity rover recently sent back stunning detailed photos of jagged finely layered buttes in the Mount Sharp region. And they are beauts! (pictured to right).

A very cool (get it?) summary of mysteries revealed about Pluto-Charon by the New Horizons probe.   

A rare double eclipse: Kewl! NASA’S Solar Dynamics Observatory caught BOTH the Earth and the moon crossing the sun

The U.S. government has approved Florida-based Moon Express for a planned 2017 robotic lunar landing, hoping eventually to exploit its resources. And  I am rooting for em!  Though I am deeply skeptical – I see no evidence for anything usefully available from the bottom of the Lunar gravity well, in the immediate time horizon. (I much prefer what NASA and planetary scientists, industrial investors and this administration see as an obviously better prospect: asteroids.) But go ahead guys!  Prove me wrong.

NASA's Solar Probe Plus mission is moving ahead with its daring 2018 launch to study the sun's super-heated atmosphere. Now of course I have mixed feelings. First, I’m certainly glad to see this daring voyage-endeavor which, it turns out, will require seven Venus flyby maneuvers in order to get into a near solar trajectory. (Do not imagine heading toward the inner solar system, to be ‘easy because it’s downhill.’ It is excruciatingly difficult, dynamically. Much harder than - say - going to Mars.)

Still, one of the competing groups had enlisted me on its board of advisers - as both a planetary scientist who used to do solar astronomy and later a member of NIAC.  But also, I suppose, because they had planned to name their mission Project Sundiver, letting me serve as mascot.  Ah well.  I suppose the JHUAPL guys had a better mission plan. Good luck sundivers!

For up to two billion years, some investigators believe, Venus may have been a hospitable place for life. “Venus receives 40% more heat and light than Earth does. At first, that wasn’t a problem since the sun was 30% dimmer in the early days of the solar system, but its brightness—and heat—increased over time… if Venus ever had plate tectonics, the process would have begun grinding to a halt, due at least in part to the lack of water to keep the upper mantle viscous. Without tectonics, carbon in the atmosphere can’t be recirculated underground, worsening greenhouse conditions.” 

Channels on Titan/ NASA Cassini
NASA's Cassini spacecraft has probed the surface of Titan with microwaves, providing evidence of liquid hydrocarbon-filled channels and rivers on Titan.  Stunning!  This is where I'd go.

Some astronomers think that the oddly-extended and somewhat retrograde orbits of a small class of trans Neptunian objects amount to a ‘treasure’ map that will let them pinpoint and spot “Planet Nine.” It used to be Planet X, when “X” could also stand for Ten.  There have been a lot of wild goose chases in the search for new planets.

Read how sun watchers stopped World War III in 1967. Yep!  Solar astronomers save the world! BTW... I was the first to spot the Great Flare of 1972! That one, too, could have caused a war, but for solar astronomers. Learn about flares & such in… SUNDIVER!

A new study shows another unique connection between Jupiter and its innermost large moon Io: In addition to its raging sulfur volcanoes and sputtering ionic radiation storms, Io's atmosphere collapses every time it passes into Jupiter's shadow, and scientists just watched it happen for the first time. The newly arrived JUNO mission should be spectacular - its goal to analyze Jupiter's atmosphere and map the giant planet's magnetic and gravitational fields.  

Oh, did I mention that you are a member of a civilization that does stuff like this?  Shame on you for buying into the gloom! Statistics refute almost every negative thing that politicians and media are saying about this society and era. Do not let gloom merchants get (or stay) in power! And change channels.

On the other hand... we do need to be prepared...

== Space Tech ==

Orbital targets for hackers? Satellites are at significant risk of cyber-attacks, by individuals or state-sponsored terrorists. These vulnerabilities could interrupt communications, defense, weather monitoring and navigation. 

China confirms that its Space Station Tiangong-1 will fall to Earth sometime in 2017. Heads up.


A 'space train' concept that can get to Mars in two days? There are too many awful-dumb things about this article to even begin commenting on… and I hope it is the reporter’s fault.  Because the underlying concept – having a space station that transit loops from Earth to Mars and back again – is actually a pretty good one.  Trajectory options are very very very limited but possible and alluring, allowing passengers to torch their rendezvous with this space liner in teensy capsules. Only there’s no going into “orbit” at either planet. That… defeats… the… whole… notion.

Lockheed SkyFire Cubesat
In 2018 the much maligned NASA Space Launch System will finally take off, delivering a test (unmanned) Orion capsule to lunar orbit and back, paving the way (one hopes) for an efficient dawn of the asteroid exploration (then mining) era.   Along the way, the Orion adaptor ring will deliver to lunar orbit 13 cube-sat  mini-satellites, opening a bold new era for miniaturized exploration, available to a far wider scientific and technical community.  Lockheed Martin announced a few details of its 6U CubeSat,called SkyFire. Lockheed's payload will capture high-quality images of the Moon. And in exchange for the ride into deep space, NASA will receive data from the mission. 

To be clear, I oppose the US taxpayers funding any near-term return to the (probably) sterile-useless lunar surface - for the time being.  But lunar orbit is extremely valuable! A space station there could do our asteroid mining experiments safely.  And that station could provide services to the European, Russian, Chinese, and billionaire-private efforts at landing on the moon. Charge the fools... I mean copycats... I mean brave explorers a nice fee.

Ever since the Obama Administration opened up launch services to competition, the United Launch Alliance’s monopoly on U.S. military and intelligence cargoes has been under threat, with Elon Musk’s SpaceX offering bids up to 75% discounted from ULA’s normal price. Oh but let's get those problems solved. Interesting times.

Aquila is Facebook’s solar-powered airplane designed to stay aloft weeks at a time and beam internet to remote parts of the world.

== Comets, Asteroids and more ==
  
Terrific! Hubble before and after images of Comet 332P breaking apart.

E-Glider concept, JPL
This promising concept from JPL: an E-Glider, or electrostatic glider that could maneuver around asteroids without expending fuel, in the electrically charged environment around an asteroid. Further research has been funded by NASA NIAC, where I'm on the advisory council.

NASA’s Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM)  will demonstrate advanced, high-power, high-throughput solar electric propulsion; advanced autonomous high-speed proximity operations at a low-gravity planetary body.  Exactly what we should be trying to do. 

Rosetta’s mission to Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko finally spotted the lost Philae lander. Pretty amazing photos reveal the lander tumbled on its side in a shadowed crevice, a fate long suspected suspected since it ran out of solar power soon after touch-down… or bounce-down. Ah well.  A lot of science got done anyway, verifying much of my doctoral thesis. (And some bits from Heart of the Comet!)  Thanks Europe!  Now onward into space!

And Rosetta's mission recently came to an end. After twelve years in space, and two years flying around Comet 67P, the orbiter crash took a final dive onto the surface of the comet on September 30.  Adieu, Rosetta! Mission Accomplished.

Like most sun-grazing comets, this comet was torn apart and vaporized by the intense forces near the sun.

Images from the Dawn mission provided evidence for a “fairly recent” salty water/mud volcano on Ceres. 

== Outside the Solar System ==

Interesting item. My comrade Stephen Baxter’s 2013 novel PROXIMA seems to have predicted almost every aspect of the newly discovered earthlike planet “Proxima b” orbiting our neighboring star, Proxima Centauri!  Lee Billings' writeup in Scientific American offers you a generous excerpt!  The James Webb space telescope, scheduled for launch in 2018, may provide more information. 

The mysterious dimming of “Tabby’s Star” – both periodic and secular, perhaps across the last 100 years – has both amateur and professional astronomers peering at old photographic plates and new Kepler data to seek possible explanations.  And yes, “alien constructions” are still on the table!  Though you have to make some assumptions…

Biggest galactic map may throw light on the nature of 'dark energy,' -- and fascinating echoes of the formation of our universe of galaxies with hints at the behavior of both dark matter and dark energy. All from the biggest and most detailed galactic mapping, ever.

The Future First series of brief online tech-shows is a credit to Popular Science, well edited, informative and on target. This one — “Where are all the aliens?” — starts with my description of the Fermi Paradox or SETI Question, then segues to Jason Crusan, director of NASA’s Advanced Exploration Systems. Such cogency, charisma and… science!

Directed Energy Comms and SETI/METI: UC Santa Barbara physics professor Philip Lubin — "The Search for Directed Intelligence" appears in the journal REACH - Lubin is a scientific advisor on Milner's Breakthrough Starshot, which is using his NASA research as a roadmap as it seeks to send tiny spacecraft to nearby star systems.

Of course mysteries remain... as explained in The Unknown Universe: A New Exploration of Time, Space and Modern Cosmology, by Stuart Clark. A look at how the latest discoveries are shedding light on the formation and evolution of the universe.

Send a fingernail sized digital archive containing human knowledge. Profs. Lubin and Bradshears, in this (unsuccessful) Kickstarter campaign, aim to create the world's first "Space Time Capsule" - a Humanity Chip, a custom semiconductor memory device that can be attached to the small, wafer-scale spacecraft that are part of DEEP-IN and other directed-energy concepts. This chip will contain volumes of data, including tweets, media files, and even the digital DNA records of all those who want to take part in the mission.

There, that was a lotta space stuff!  It oughta hold you across the weekend. And maybe convince you to tell every single grouch out there... and they are rife in the FAR left and the ENTIRE right... to get bent!  There is zero justification for gloom!  Every bad thing you hear is either exaggeration or else reason to step up in confident problem solving mode.

Because we are mighty beings, citizens of a spectacular civilization that can do a lot!  And the gloom merchants can go to hell.

91 comments:

cyborgage.com said...

So many incredible things going on in the pursuit of space exploration and learning! What a great article. Can't wait to find out more about Io and looking forward to the upcoming Mars race. I also am not a fan of the negative 'Nancy's'. I feel hopeful about the future but believe it will take a majority of humans to feel that way to keep moving forward. So what is that, a little over 4 billion of us? I love space, astronomy, and exploration. I also love medical technology and research. Ever want to chat, you can visit my blog http://cyborgagecom.ipage.com/. Thanks again for such a hopeful, comprehensive article.

cyborgage.com

Rob said...

I would this this Japanese company's plan for a real world spae elevator would have garnered at least a mention... https://www.cnet.com/news/japanese-company-plans-space-elevator-by-2050/

http://www.space.com/14656-japanese-space-elevator-2050-proposal.html

Jumper said...

The Space Train idea is silly as written, because to catch it is to duplicate its orbit, so there's no fuel advantage. There is an advantage in hiding in its radiation shadow. Won't using the chaotic orbits make scheduling a real art?

Robert said...

New Scientist (I think, might have been Science, but I am fairly certain it was NS) had an article that speculates interstellar comets or an interstellar cloud is responsible for the dimming at Tabby's star. Basically there just happens to be something between us and the star that is dimming it. I think there was something else about another star in the same path or the like but I honestly couldn't figure out what the article was going on about and had a bunch more of articles to abstract so the short abstract I wrote only focuses on the interstellar cloud aspect. (The article was under half a page, thus the abstract necessitates being smaller as a result. Saves us time and effort.)

Rob H.

Jeff B. said...

Not trying to steer things awry deliberately, but Dr. Brin's "Onward" cry caught me in mid-post. Reposting from the last:

Paul SB,

The Hitler Youth flag next to the Trump banner does not seem the least bit inconsistent with my own experience of that region

NW PA is not much different than the center demographically, but I can attest as a former Yinzer (Pittsburgher) who moved to the "country" 25 years ago, the picture is a lot more... complicated. There's definitely a racist element, but actual outright, public examples. Most have moved on with the times- and while Trump signs do outnumber Clinton about 4/1, there are a lot of decent people around, too. Most of the people protesting the Nazi regalia would have been locals, policing their own.

My beef with the area applies I think to most of Western PA in particular- the region is technically considered part of Appalachia by the census for ethnological/sociological reasons, and one of the characteristics is closing ranks (even unconciously) vs. outsiders. Even with increased settlement of outsiders, in many towns the "born and raised" clique forms a tight wall for all but the most gregarious.

And one other thing- I wish I could find it, but a while back there was a very interesting examination of the deep reasons for Trump's support in the hinterlands. It's all too easy to dismiss it as blatant racism, or to look down on people as poorly educated, ignorant bumpkins. I've seen it here at times, and caught myself slipping into that mindset at times, too.

It's more about hope and dreams- the world's changed, and these people feel like they're being left behind. The jobs aren't there like they used to be, and well, if it's not affecting them directly, they can see the impact on their neighbors and communities. Life can feel... perilous, on edge, for even the mostly secure, because who knows what tomorrow will bring, and what will be their for the next generation?

So then along comes a charlatan (with a host of charlatans trailing in his wake), promising that "this time things are gonna be different." He appears to be a successful businessman, he doesn't appear to be talking down to them, he doesn't care if he offends people. And his hangers-on have been perfecting the same act for years. They point at the "other" as the sources of all the problems: from the obvious, the immigrants, to the pointy-headed professor-types talking down to them. And they play on fears of the other, too, the threat of urban violence and foreign hostility and terrorism.

All this plays into what such people want to hear. It's not our fault, it's those other people; we can fix it, we can go back to the way it was. It's almost sad, because people want to believe so badly that contradicting the dream results in outright rage at times.

Treebeard said...

Your weekly sermon from the priest of Progress...

But are we really such mighty beings? I see a cosmos that utterly dwarfs us and will soon kill us, our civilization and everything we care about, stars that are far out of reach, a doomed universe, and no indication that these things can be changed. But belief is a powerful thing, no doubt, so believe whatever you like. But like the Force or God there is a dark side to this religion also, staring at us like a giant "black hole" or "dark energy" or "big rip" or whatever terminology the priesthood is using these days.

LarryHart said...

Treebeard:

But are we really such mighty beings?


What do you mean "we", white man?

Paul SB said...

Hi Jeff,

That feeling of insecurity you describe is something I could feel in conversations I had when I was last there, just about 20 years ago. My friend had been in a traffic accident, was burnt dover 90% of his body. I was the only one of his friends who thought it was worth the time and money to fly out and see him, but because I am not as right-wing as our other friends, he keeps in touch with them much more regularly. No, I'm not at all bitter here (I better be careful or I'll start painting a picture of myself in this forum that isn't quite right). I know my experience is not up to date, so I try to remain flexible. Insecurity is one of those easy traps to fall into, like depression, on the one hand, or arrogance on the other. It is easy to sympathize with those who fall into depression or fear, much harder to tolerate arrogance.

As much sympathy as we may have, though, on a practical level we as a species simply cannot continue to tolerate levels of delusion that can lead to large-scale disaster. It's like what I was saying earlier to Alfred about big business. With the technology, the population and the interconnections in human society of today, the stakes are too high. As a former anthropologist I have always aimed to understand first, and if I am not swayed, sway later. As a teacher I try to instill some sense of self doubt and distrust of common knowledge in my students to help make them aware of the level of self delusion that permeates our lives. It is also why teaching about brains is my favorite thing of all, since I can directly address the extent to which our thoughts are not really our own, and how we can wade through the endless BS.

What with Negativity Bias, the Merchants of Doubt and Despair have an easy job. Those of us who want happiness have to work very hard to convince people that we can all have it, and no one has to take it from anyone else.

Flypusher said...

All the space news is so exciting and wonderful (I'm especially geeked on Juno!), but it's also sad that so many people are not paying attention. How much of a factor is it that the missions are unmanned?

Paul SB said...

Treebeard,

Only a true trumpet thinks we are mighty beings. Certainly if nothing else the A-bomb drove that illusion screaming from most of human culture. Compared to 13.7 billion light years of mostly void, we are specks.

But we are specks that can strive, specks that dream, and specks that can make their speckled lives more and more rewarding. Gods, certainly not! But if we can cast aside such delusions and concentrate on making our speck existence good all around, most people will be satisfied.

Just not the arrogant ones who are convinced they deserve to be something more epic. Anger among First World peoples mostly comes from not getting what was not really possible in the first place.

Paul SB said...

Ah, the autocorrect again! Only a true trumper. not a true trumpet! Whatever people are responsible for autocorrect know computers far better than English.

Ilithi Dragon said...

Hey! I have something that's actually worth contributing! I grew up in rural PA, smack in the middle of the state, near State College. The heart of Penn State territory.

I can say that I personally never saw any active KKK types, though I know a couple existed (iirc, I think my mother interviewed one when she was working as a reporter when I was little, but I could be remembering incorrectly). The whole region, outside of the area immediately surrounding State College, tended to be fairly conservative, and mostly for your standard rural vs city reasons. I didn't see much in the way of blatant racism, but there is an undercurrent of prejudice that still exists. And most of that, I will say, comes primarily from a lack of exposure. The area I grew up in, and most of rural PA, is extremely white. Growing up, I almost never saw any minorities outside of TV. There would be one or two "token black kids" at school, who themselves would joke about being "the token black kid," and that was about it.

So that prejudice persists because the rural PA communities do tend to be somewhat insular (a little less today, thanks to the internet), and because there just isn't any real exposure to minorities outside of State College, Philly, Pittsburgh, and a handful of other major population centers (all of which tend to lean more left/liberal/Democrat than the rural areas).

Another part of the problem is that much of PA is suffering from a long-lasting economic recession. There are many rural areas that used to be booming, that aren't anymore. The area I grew up in was a major coal and iron boom town once, but those days are decades gone. The area has been so economically depressed for so long, that any kids with any hopes or dreams or ambitions leave, go off to college and try for some big career somewhere else. The ones who are left are the ones who are too stupid and/or lazy to leave, plus a handful of people too stubborn to leave. The result is something like an evaporative cooling effect, where all the best and brightest run away to the city, or some other state where they have better career prospects, and the ones who are left are stupid, stubborn, or lazy. There's a certain sense of rural decay in a lot of those places, with old buildings fallen apart and abandoned in little places that used to kind of be something, but now are just a handful of houses scattered along the road, or small towns with old, run-down houses that are falling apart because they've been abandoned, or because the people living in them don't have the money, or are too old to maintain them.

Better policies could easily turn a lot of that around, but I don't expect purple, gerrymandered PA to elect a moderate, progressive state congress and governor any time soon, and even then, the damage is so extensive, and the local levels of education so low, that when new jobs start to come in (like they did for the gas and shale oil boom), locals won't get the big, high-paying jobs, because they don't have the education, or the work ethic to hold them.

Or because they can't pass a drug test. Drugs are a massive problem across rural PA, and not just pot.

Paul SB said...

Ilithi Dragon,

Your Evaporative Cooling analogy is kind of funny, and perhaps less offensive than another analogy I have heard - distillation. That one would imply that the less flexible types who stay behind (and I am sure many feel like they have little choice financially, in their home town at least they have a roof over their heads, moving to Philly or Pittsburg they might not have even that), are the "truest" product of the region. Your analogy is better, as it doesn't have so much of the emotional baggage.

Dr. Brin,

How about a future post that goes lets loose the sunshine to counteract all the doom-sayers. You have done a bit of that before, especially re: Pinker, but a whole thread that takes on what is wrong with the "Make America Great Again" meme with statistics that show that America has been getting better in many important ways, even though the media don't show it.

I love the space stuff and always have, but a lot of people are cynical about space programs and don't get inspired buy them. Now would be a good time to instill in people, not the Hope of the old Obama campaign, but optimism, to counter both the Trumpers with their Good Ole Days rhetoric and their "America was never great" nihilist detractors.

When I point out to my students that just 50 years ago the average life expectancy was only 60, and 50 years before that it was a decade less, and how back in the Middle Ages few people made it much past 30, they get pretty shocked. Another major change that gets them thinking is the fact that up until the invention of ethyl ether, 50% of women died in childbirth. I suspect that fact alone help to account for (not really justify, of course) one of the reasons for low status. As a mental calculus, a man in the past was not likely to place too much faith in having wife be his companion into old age when he was seeing so many women dying in their 20s and 30s with child. People could really use a historical reality check when they start waxing nostalgic about past glories.

David Brin said...

Childbirth was how women won honor as men did on the battlefield.


I call Treebeard by name because he said a cogent and almost-poetic thing. A cliche, yes, and unhelpful — since the only way we accomplish any of the cool things… and we have… is with my attitude, not his. But I want to offer positive feedback.

Here is my repudiation of my generation’s insipid theme: “I’m as mad as hell…” My TEDxUCSD talk on the addictive plague of sanctimony and how to break the habit. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i275AvgVvow http://tinyurl.com/wrathaddicts

Jeff B. said...

Paul SB

As much sympathy as we may have, though, on a practical level we as a species simply cannot continue to tolerate levels of delusion that can lead to large-scale disaster.

I wholeheartedly agree. Looking at my post now I see that I should proof my work before posting... my point wasn't just that we should have some sympathy for these people. I was trying to get to that we will never persuade them by alienating them more, or by talking down to them, or by assuming that they are an "enemy". They already feel that this is how the "libtards" are supposed to treat the "real Americans", so doing so only confirms what they think and have been told.

And by all means, when the irrationality and delusion reach the level of serious threat to our cherished democratic, mostly egalitarian system- perhaps by electing someone like the Charlatan- then we pull out all the stops to halt them. Fight like hell.

But we'll never rebuild trust and break down the delusion by the same us/them thinking Fox news, Breitbart, Limaugh, and the Blaze spoonfeed their audiences. The cognitive dissonance can reach breathtaking heights and be very hard to not react in kind to. While others can view this as an intellectual exercise, I live here, and these people are my neighbors and coworkers. So I'm the token liberal, trying to show by example that we're not evil, that there are very rational reasons to oppose Trump or to support Democratic causes.

Illithi,

Most of PA has long since recovered from the recession, but it was I think a major factor in the subsequent rise of the Tea Party and Trumpism here. The sense of instability and insecurity which grew for years before the recession never went away. People are working, yes, but the good career jobs in the shops and factories have gone and not been replaced. People are scared even if they won't admit it.

But you're completely correct about the flight away to college and beyond. This area has the good fortune to have within a 75 minute drive six quality state universities and at least a dozen private schools from small liberal arts colleges to world leaders like Carnegie-Mellon, Gannon, and Pitt. Every year the graduates drain away, and move on elsewhere after college. The ones that come back and the few who go into health care, or want to own small businesses.

How I ended up here I don't quite understand, but...

Jeff B. said...

Re: Tabby's Star: how exactly would interstellar comets and clouds work? Given the relative motions of Sol and Tabby's Star through the galaxy, wouldn't any intervening material be too brief to register? And how would that account for the increased occlusion detected over the years? And wouldn't such a screen have to be absolutely immense, and extraordinarily dense, to partly occlude one particular star so much?

I confess I've a hard time sometimes keeping up w. the hard science and tech news. I'm fascinated by it, but while I considered biology in college I couldn't stomach microbiology and genetics (my proclivities were animal behavior, ecology and conservation, which wasn't well supported), so went another direction. Most of the time I'm just learning what most others here seem to take for granted.

Paul SB said...

Dr. Brin,

Don't read too much vitriol into my comments to Treebeard. Notice that in this case I also used his customary pseudonym. As I have said before, I don't like to give up on people, though with some it can be hard to have patience.

Aztec women who died in childbirth got to go to the same watery heaven of Tlaloc the Rain God as warriors who died in battle, true enough. But imagine being told that the person you marry is to be your companion for the rest of your life, the one confidante who will be there in your old age, yet you see half the women around you die young in childbirth. Think of Voltaire's affair with Emilie du Chatelet, an accomplished scientist in her own right and who he described as: “That lady whom I look upon as a great man… She understands Newton, she despises superstition and in short she makes me happy.” Cut down at the age of 40 in childbirth, leaving him a much more bitter person for it. An old friend of mine was a huge fan of Admiral Nelson, and I remember one time popping by her place while she was watching an episode of "Horatio Hornblower" catching a scene where he comes back from at sea only to find his young wife nowhere to be found and a wet nurse with a baby, explaining what had happened. The world was much, much sadder place before science gave us effective anesthetics. History is something people need to feel viscerally, not just academically (I would still rather be one of those "pointy-headed professors" - but I like to think I would be a different sort.)

Thanks for putting up the TED Talk, and putting it on Youtube. I was horrified to discover recently that the TED website has taken off the download button. We used to be able to download their videos, with subtitles in dozens of languages. Are they going stingy on us?

LarryHart said...

PaulSB:

I love the space stuff and always have, but a lot of people are cynical about space programs and don't get inspired buy them...


You mentioned having "Existence" on your reading list. Now would be a good time.

Flypusher said...

Jeff B. Said "And by all means, when the irrationality and delusion reach the level of serious threat to our cherished democratic, mostly egalitarian system- perhaps by electing someone like the Charlatan- then we pull out all the stops to halt them. Fight like hell.

But we'll never rebuild trust and break down the delusion by the same us/them thinking Fox news, Breitbart, Limaugh, and the Blaze spoonfeed their audiences. The cognitive dissonance can reach breathtaking heights and be very hard to not react in kind to. While others can view this as an intellectual exercise, I live here, and these people are my neighbors and coworkers. So I'm the token liberal, trying to show by example that we're not evil, that there are very rational reasons to oppose Trump or to support Democratic causes."

That's a very difficult needle to thread. I keep seeing the saying "It's impossible to reason someone out of a position that they didn't reason themselves into." That's not true for every Trump supporter, but a lot of them are backing him simply because he looks like a tough alpha male to them; from the gut, not the brain. How can you tap dance around the behavior of the deplorable ones? Racism is racism, xenophobia is xenophobia, and misogyny is misogyny, and some of them think being loud and proud about it is now socially acceptable. They refuse to accept that the 1950s (socially, economically) aren't coming back and shouldn't come back. Anybody who heals this breach deserves a Nobel Peace Prize.

I am lucky in that I am surrounded by rational people at work, and of course I can pick who I socialize with. Mostly liberals/ moderates, but not all. I'll have a beer with you if you're a rightly, as long as you are rational. But family is another matter. My brother, SIL, and I are the "liberals" of the clan, and by liberals I mean centrists. The rest are various degrees of right. The tensions started back in 2000, when I told my father that I saw nothing that I liked about George W. Bush. That shocked him into silence, but when he regained his voice he was asking me "don't you want a strong national defense?". Sure, but I didn't think W was the right one to do it, despite the R next to his name. Thankgiving was me against 8, defending my positions. Mentally exhausting. For the sake of family harmony I have refrained from rubbing their noses in the failures of BushCo, and adopted don't ask-don't tell concerning politics with them. I am getting the vibe that my parents are not pleased with Trump, but they are so anti-Dem they could vote for him any way. They and my sisters are very religious, and have accused Obame of not being a Christian. If they tell me they voted for Trump, I will need every atom of diplomacy I can muster, because that would be some major hypocrisy. These online forums are great political therapy.

Paul SB said...

Jeff,

You are right that shouting angrily and insulting people who see things differently is counter productive to the point of being self destructive. It's also too easy a temptation to give into, one we are probably all guilty of. It seems like quid pro quo is almost built in, it's such a common reaction. I've found that it sometimes help to not think of myself as a token anything. I pretty much eschew all categories and consider myself an individual. That way I can argue both sides, find common ground and get people talking to each other instead of screaming at each other. Sometimes it works.

As far as expertise goes, this is a diverse bunch, some of whom are strikingly well informed about astronomical matters (the other Paul who shows up here often is very knowledgeable, just to name one), but everyone has their own "thing." We get a lot from the conversation. I learn a lot from this community, and I hope they get something from my pixelated babbling. Reciprocity is as much an important part of our nature as our desire to be sociable and converse. If you learn stuff while getting your oxytocin release, so much the better. And if you miss it, many are happy to slow down and explain. The engineers and economists have left me behind many times, but their good will is sustaining.

LarryHart said...

PaulSB:

When I point out to my students that just 50 years ago the average life expectancy was only 60, and 50 years before that it was a decade less, and how back in the Middle Ages few people made it much past 30, they get pretty shocked.


Steer them toward "Hamilton", if they're not already fans:


See, I never thought I’d live past twenty
Where I come from some get half as many
Ask anybody why we livin’ fast and we laugh, reach for a flask
We have to make this moment last, that’s plenty

Paul SB said...

Flypusher,
Your family story sounds like me and my friends for a very long time! I have very little family to interact with, but in my home town right wing religious was so much the norm when I was growing up that liberals seemed more like something parents warned small children about to keep them from going out at night. Liberals were only to be found drooling under the bed or hiding in the Anxiety Closet. Even my best friends were like that, and I only had friends at all because I stayed away from talking politics and spent most of my social time playing games. Trying to find common ground with such people can be like pushing eggs uphill with your nose! Hopefully some of your family will come around and at least accept your differences, if not understand them.

Paul SB said...

Larry,

I have read Existence before. In fact, I got it when it was new, and our good host autographed it for me. He was doing a talk in Pasadena, not too far from where I live, and I was first in the autograph line when it was over. Unfortunately, my daughter had band practice that night (still in high school at the time - it's been that long?) so she couldn't come. She still really wants to meet him! Anyway, I'm waiting for a CD copy to review, but my entertainment budget is not what it once was. Alas!

Paul SB said...

Larry (again),

See, I never thought I’d live past twenty
Where I come from some get half as many
Ask anybody why we livin’ fast and we laugh, reach for a flask
We have to make this moment last, that’s plenty

Ah, now that puts William Foote White in a whole other light! I don't know why I didn't think of it before. The different "temporal orientations" he noticed that exist between social classes must have a lot to do with different life expectancies as much as financial opportunities. You just gave me a Thomas Huxley moment!

Gotta get back to work, though...

LarryHart said...

PaulSB:

The engineers and economists have left me behind many times, but their good will is sustaining.


I still can't get over the guy (sadly, I forget who) who looked at a tens-of-thousands-row spreadsheet of his genome, noticed something bad on one line and knew how to correct it.

My teenage daughter's friend once complimented my wife and myself for being able to help with their math homework, saying "My parents would just smile and nod politely." I'm not sure I could have even faked that with the DNA thing.

I'm currently re-reading Dr Brin's "Existence", and it does such a good job of not only depicting a major scientific breakthrough, but also a world culture that is just so not condusive to handling a major scientific breakthrough. For anyone thinking of reading the novel, this election season is a good time to do so.

Paul SB said...

That was Jerry Emanuelson, who actually lives in the home town I escaped from (I'm not so bitter that I would never go back there, but I sure as Hell am never going to live there again).

Existence was awesome! But I don't have a great desire to see a sequel, unlike that other Brin novel I rave about here.

Now I really have to get going!

donzelion said...

A strange thing...my instinct is to judge, challenge, attack, critique, and lash out. So I stop for a second and re-read out hosts optimistic post, and pause to wonder and speculate, and let thoughts of trivial bickering slip away for a spell.

That said -

Dr. Brin: "I oppose the US taxpayers funding any near-term return to the (probably) sterile-useless lunar surface - for the time being."

Do you mean a 'manned' station on the moon? I would think robots and nanobots might be able to do something useful there, without draining the overall space budget. Perhaps lunar botany alone would prove worthy...esp. if Mars colonization is ever to happen.

Jumper said...

"in the Middle Ages few people made it much past 30"
Isn't that supposed to be a myth? I ask any more knowledgeable than me. I thought a 25-year old man had a good chance at 60, and a woman fared worse if having children.

donzelion said...

As for the "space train" - two thoughts:
(1) Who says it needs to stay in the solar system? At 1% of the speed of light, that's about 400 years to Alpha Centauri. Maybe all this talk of 'trains' is actually a smokescreen...

(2) What if the "space train" never picked up passengers or cargo through any sort of docking system, but rather, 'scooped' up tiny objects while going through it's orbit? Say nanobots blasted into space like a bullet (one magnetic gun shoots a smaller magnetic gun which shoots nanobot 'bullets'...) - then 'captured' briefly through a tether, and then 'released'? Still have a deceleration problem...assuming nanobots become a big thing at some point, couldn't that become a viable means of delivering them to solar destinations?

Jumper said...

https://www.simonsfoundation.org/
Poking around at 3-manifolds again, I found this site and am exploring it now.
Had never seen it.
David, is this something you know of? I see they support autism research as well as a wide range of math, etc.

Paul SB said...

Jumper,

Historical data, meaning written records, would make it look like people were commonly living into their 60's, but they didn't keep very complete records for anyone but the nobility. The nobles had the advantage of being able to tax the peasantry to provide themselves with the best diet, though the nobility often died by violence. King lists will give you a very different impression than cemetery data. Hundreds of Medieval cemeteries contain zero individuals over the age of 45. Most historians of the period consider 35 to be the median age of death. Not a myth, but more data is always desirable.

of course if you Google this you will get a variety of opinions.

Paul SB said...

Donzelion,

Your comment, "A strange thing...my instinct is to judge, challenge, attack, critique, and lash out. So I stop for a second and re-read out hosts optimistic post, and pause to wonder and speculate, and let thoughts of trivial bickering slip away for a spell." made me think of a verse from a K.D. Lang song:

I spend a lifetime carving out my fate
Things I like, things I hate
My very nature is to criticize
And then cut myself down to size

Would I be annoying if I said this helps make my point about instincts? You (and she, and me, too) have a natural capacity to criticize, lash out and be judgmental. These things come easily to hominids. We also have a capacity to pause, think it over,and make some effort to change our ways, to see things from other perspectives. I know I haven't always been saintly in that respect, but it's a capacity that I judge to be more worthy of pursuit than what you usually see from alpha male (or alpha female) contenders.

Are we still on for Halloween, or would you prefer a less busy time?

LarryHart said...

Jumper:

"in the Middle Ages few people made it much past 30"
Isn't that supposed to be a myth? I ask any more knowledgeable than me. I thought a 25-year old man had a good chance at 60, and a woman fared worse if having children.


My limited understanding is that the averages reflect those (males) who died in war and those (females) who died in childbirth. Neither reflects on the health of those who made it past those milestones.

It makes sense that medieval people lived less than our lifetimes, but different times makes it hard to compare apples to apples.

LarryHart said...

Paul SB:

The nobles had the advantage of being able to tax the peasantry to provide themselves with the best diet, though the nobility often died by violence. King lists will give you a very different impression than cemetery data


While researching something else, I was utterly amazed to find out that Louis XIV reigned for something like 75 years. Not just lived to 75, but was king for that long. And I believe the next king, Louis XV was not his son, but his grandson, or maybe even great-grandson.

This in a time where, as you say, kings didn't usually die of natural causes at a ripe old age.

Jumper said...

You can save YouTube videos with VLC.
You get the YouTube URL, open it in VLC's: Media > Open Network Stream, then look in Tools > Media Information, at bottom you'll see in a box for Location a L-o-n-g URL. Copy that, open a new browser window with that URL, begin the video, (you probably want to pause it, the first duplicate in VLC, and the original YouTube or you'll now have 3 same vids playing at once...) and right click it, whereupon a "save video" dialog opens. At least it does in Firefox.

David Brin said...

Folks I am heading off to Oregon for a few days. Later on New York, then Vegas...

... so while I'll be posting blogs, you may not see me much down here till Halloween. (Order your blue kepis now!)

But keep up the banter. Best community online.

Tacitus2 said...

Its good to see Science back on the play list. Politics is tedious under normal conditions and does not seem at all edifying in this election cycle.

I have had a nagging sensation that in an answer to Robert two weeks back I spoke too quickly and short changed him a bit.

The issue was how human performance - damnation it is hard to write this without sounding like a Viagra ad! - might reasonably be extended. I took the approach that existing systems could be grafted onto human genes much more easily than creating new systems de novo.

So we could realistically have the cold tolerance of a penguin, the night vision of a fox, perhaps the short term sprinting speed of a cheetah, that sort of thing. But I got the impression Robert was tinkering with a story idea...and scenes started to suggest themselves.

Suddenly able to see into infra red spectra it becomes difficult to drive a car...too much radiant glow from the hood when the engine gets warm. Able to hear an ant walk across a floor you go mad from sensory overload when the kid two blocks over starts a garage band. Able to diffuse oxygen through your skin like an amphibian and live underwater you develop an unfortunate slime issue that makes you Match.com profile comically difficult.

We humans are generalists. We do many things well and few things optimally. What in fact would happen if we messed with this to develop isolated Super Powers? I am btw keeping any cheater tech like nanobot on/off switches out of my musings.

Enjoying a fall day with many perceptions in the orange/red end of my limited visual reception range....

Tacitus

David Brin said...

Tacitus there was a grating-sad film called "X, The man with X-Ray eyes."

Note though I had two non-political postings in a row.

I hope you'll be tested by getting super-powers!

Only note... Politics is *important*. I have found numerous smart and ethical republican - like my pal and co-author Gregory Benford - saying "I've checked out of politics" this year... rather than face the plain fact that we are in an existential crises between sanity and insanity and we badly need to end the poison that Murdoch-Fox has poured into the American bloodstream

Paul SB said...

Oregon, my elf blood surges! Enjoy the clear skies and arboreal atmosphere!

Tacitus the Second,

Agreed that poly ticks are tedious, but also important. But let's go with your sci-fi speculations for now.

I can see genetic manipulation - once we get good enough at it to go beyond its obvious medical uses - going two ways. One would be full-on Veblen conspicuous consumption/competitive emulation. Some genetic engineer comes up with some fancy new transgenic code and everyone stands in line overnight in front of them their shop instead of the Apple Store. Forget GATTACA, genetics is going to be a matter for Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue. Eventually grafting fluorescent protein genes to primary or secondary sexual characteristics or anime hair color genes will become passé, but by the time the fad wears off, who knows what the species will look like.

The other way will be to adapt ourselves to more-or-less inhabitable extrasolar planets, where the atmosphere might have trace elements that would send an unmodified human into convulsions, but otherwise would make for perfectly good real estate. That situation would result in branches of humanity diversifying into separate lines (planetary biogeography as a future analogue of island biogeography) that could potentially speciate into actual human races. Out host went into this a bit in Glory Season, but I suspect that the crazy conspicuous consumption stage will alter the species a lot more than anyone is envisioning long before we successfully colonize interstellar space.

LarryHart said...

Tacitus2:

Politics is tedious under normal conditions and does not seem at all edifying in this election cycle.


Paul SB:

Agreed that poly ticks are tedious,


Really? I completely disagree. Especially with the possibility of President Trump.

"Politics is tedious" seems to be one of those memes that is accepted by everyone as being self-evident, like "Hillary is as bad a candidate as Trump" or "The media are liberal". None of them are true.

As the election approaches, I don't find any conversations that are not political to hold my attention. Unless they're about "Hamilton", of course.

LarryHart said...

Paul SB:

Oregon, my elf blood surges! Enjoy the clear skies and arboreal atmosphere!


On the west coast, I've never been north of Marin County California, but I feel as if I'd have a sense of direction in Eugene and Corvallis after reading "The Postman".

Paul SB said...

Larry,

"Politics is tedious" seems to be one of those memes that is accepted by everyone as being self-evident, like "Hillary is as bad a candidate as Trump" or "The media are liberal". None of them are true.

Some media are liberal. Before the Reagan Admin a lot of media were liberal, but today most are pretty flaming right-wing demagogues.

Hillary is as bad a candidate as Trump, well, in terms of swaying votes she could be doing a whole lot better, but I think you know I wouldn't buy Clinton as no better a president than Trump. I'm not expecting miracles, but at the very least she wouldn't turn the country into a slush fund to bail out his bad business deals.

Politics is tedious - well to each his own, right? Saying something is tedious does not make it optional. Brushing your teeth is tedious, but I'm not going to stop doing that any time soon just because it is not especially exciting.

However, I have been a fan of science fiction since at least fifth grade, and speculating on such things, or talking about books I love gets me a lot more excited. Sorry. I did say it is important, and I will most certainly go to the polls when the time comes. I have also posted some of the articles people have referenced here on Facebook, a place I don't visit too often normally. But I'm not obsessive about it.

Now I'm picturing Cereus dressed as a Minuteman.

Jumper said...

If for example cops started taking massive doses of steroids, who could predict the results?

donzelion said...

Tacitus: "We humans are generalists. We do many things well and few things optimally. What in fact would happen if we messed with this to develop isolated Super Powers?"

From the perspective of evolution, are we not already practicing the most logical type of 'super power' grafting - cosmetic surgery? Seems to me that all 'super powers' would arise only to meet existing human needs, or not at all, and only those needs that can't more easily be met through a non-grafted tool - e.g., night vision may not help us if we can more easily produce artificial light with a tool, and 'super-strength' makes little sense if even the strongest human is less efficient than a forklift.

That said, judging by the extreme prevalence of certain enhancement chemicals I witnessed in law school (amphetamines to limit the need to sleep, ritalin/adderall and other drugs to expand memory and attention, and others I was told about), I would imagine that competitive fields would result in chemical alteration to the extent it supports competition. I can see parents figuring out how to mount a camera and a calculator into a kid's brain to give them an edge in specific contexts that those kids already confront. I would also expect most 'super-powers' will carry the same ambivalence as cosmetic enhancement does today...

Paul SB said...

And once again, I forgot the link...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lDX1CLmc1xE

donzelion said...

Dr. Brin: if you're off to Corvallis or Eugene, be sure to make a foray out to the Coast for the views. Haven't been up there since Christmas, but I love that stretch of the 101 from Newport to Florence during the summer months. And what Oregon did to make sure those beaches would never be developed and taken away from the public is remarkable.

Bon voyage!

donzelion said...

Paul SB/Tacitus: "Politics is tedious - well to each his own, right? Saying something is tedious does not make it optional."

An old friend of mine just posted the Trump endorsement of a pastor at a San Diego church I attended while growing up. And now I understand better why I felt so alienated there. My pastor, growing up, was John C. Maxwell, whose '50 spiritual laws of success' and other works made him a best-seller and a quite respected leader in religious circles. Yet I read the work of his successor at that church, which poured $27 million to build themselves a huge new building in Rancho San Diego, and I think...how sad. And no wonder I had such profound alienation...

LarryHart said...

Paul SB:

Some media are liberal. Before the Reagan Admin a lot of media were liberal, but today most are pretty flaming right-wing demagogues.


I'd say they're more corporate than right-wing, but sometimes it amounts to the same thing. What they are not is "in the bag" for workers or minorities or the little guy or whatever would be meant by "liberal".

I have no trouble acknowledging that the news media swung liberal in the 1960s and 1970s, just as I have no trouble acknowledging that the Democrats used to be the ones who pulled election fraud or who backed the KKK. I only maintain that all of those characterizations are woefully out of date.


Hillary is as bad a candidate as Trump, well, in terms of swaying votes she could be doing a whole lot better,


Point taken, but when news media present them as equally flawed candidates, that's not what they are trying to imply. They mean that both candidates have no business running for president. And that's only really true of one of them.


Politics is tedious - well to each his own, right? Saying something is tedious does not make it optional. Brushing your teeth is tedious, but I'm not going to stop doing that any time soon just because it is not especially exciting.


Again, I can't tell you or Tacitus what to be interested in, but I'm saying that the "Oh no, they're discussing politics again" is a feature, not a bug to some of us.

Funny enough, there's a section of the musical "Hamilton" which veers into a whole section on Hamilton's personal life and extra-marital affair. After that's done with, and it gets to the election of 1800, the lyric has Jefferson and Madison going:


Can we get back to politics?

Please!


Paul SB said...

Donzelion,

I have felt alienated by pretty much every church I have ever attended, though with my wife's church the reason is mostly that most of the congregation are Mandarin speakers, and they see the place as an enclave where they don't have to speak English. I don't blame them, if I lived there I would want places where I could speak my native language with people who share my culture and reference systems, too.

Ammo for the anti-Trump gloom & doom memes - here's an article on the shrinkage of global poverty.

http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/10/02/496099777/global-poverty-declines-even-amid-economic-slowdown-world-bank-says

The real kicker from the article is that all the things that are reducing poverty in the poor countries of the world are exactly the policies that Red America is opposed to.

• Early childhood development and nutrition
• Universal health coverage
• Universal access to quality education
• Making cash transfers to poor families
• Rural infrastructure — especially roads and electrification
• Progressive taxation

Of course you could argue that what works for the poorest nations of the world might not be the best model for the richest, given that they have somewhat different issues. For instance, the impact of rural infrastructure would be greater in nations that are still largely rural. However, infrastructure in general is usually good investment to spur the economy.

And if you have 20 minutes to blow, watch that TED Talk I linked to earlier (I’m assuming most people who read this comments section regularly have seen Dr. Brin’s TED Talk by now, but if you haven’t that’s worth your time, too).

Paul SB said...

Larry,

- Agreed

- Agreed

- Agreed

I think we both know that we are mostly in the same wheelbarrow on most issues. I suppose my impatience with all things political comes from my upbringing, where political discussions got me in trouble and lost me friends. Maybe if I were less blunt in pointing out hypocrisy in my neighbors.

Can we get back to politics, please? I could as easily say: Can we get back to science, please? But the funny thing is, so much of the science I enjoy has serious political implications. That TED Talk I posted is about the altruistic, pro-social side of human nature. There is one side in our political game that has always claimed that this does not exist, that we are all evil by nature. Through most of history this was the argument for submitting to religious authorities. We are evil and will burn in Hell forever, so we need some god or other to save our souls, which always seems to involve obedience and tithing. American capitalism has turned this equation around, making our supposedly evil natures into economic virtues.

But the economists are very, very wrong. Anthropologists have seen this for a long time, at least since Marshall Sahlins' "Stone Age Economics," which ripped economists' rational actor models to bits. But Sahlins wasn't working in a vacuum. Like Newton, he was standing on the shoulders of giants (though giants hardly anyone has heard of).

So how about talking science and politics? Most scientists would wash their hands of any such thing, but when politicians (and voters) are saying things that are patently false and making decisions based on misunderstandings, science would seem to be very relevant. Maybe talking about space exploration is a bit of a stretch, though Dr. Brin ties that in beautifully in his own TED Talk.

donzelion said...

Paul SB: It's been a long time since I've regularly attended services. In Pasadena, I sort of like All Saints, where they're proud of having a pastor who laid down on the train tracks to block the Japanese internment, and hosted Martin Luther King Jr. before he was a 'big deal.' But that's a long ways away, and I've never found 'community' in church that made me feel at ease.

"There is one side in our political game that has always claimed that this does not exist, that we are all evil by nature."
It's not always the worst starting place: Hobbes offered a lot to political theory, and Hamilton (or was it Madison) made much of acknowledging how improbable it would be for men to act as or elect 'angels.'

"So how about talking science and politics?"
Today, for me, was "continuing legal education" day, for a criminal matter I'm assisting a friend with (I've never practiced criminal law - if it ever came up at all, so this is exploratory).

The focus was on 'voodoo science' used to obtain convictions:
'hair follicle analysis' - regularly overturned by DNA analysis
'shoe tread analysis' - now a laughingstock field regarded as astrology
'firearm/ballistics' - wrong in 1 out of 47 cases (which is ALWAYS a reasonable doubt if that's the only evidence - people who are 99% certain and vote to convict are BREAKING THEIR SWORN DUTY)

And on and on. Which has bearing to this discussion, since one of the key duties of a political order is to handle crime using the best available means, including the best scientific tools available. It's not that these fields are useless, it's that juries are conditioned to believe claims raised by 'honest, independent forensics experts' - even juries that reject science in other contexts (e.g., global warming).

That last is the most fascinating element of all: why would a religious person (the ideal juror to many prosecutors) who rejects evolution buy into DNA? The logical inconsistency suggests a psychological consistency instead: a need to trust SOME authority somewhere, a need to stand against evil wherever it arises, and anxiety about whether one is oneself falling short and thus susceptible to judgment.

As for this observation by LarryHart re the media: "I'd say they're more corporate than right-wing, but sometimes it amounts to the same thing." - to read someone else saying that for a change, instead of me arguing it and tearing my hair out that nobody gets the point - makes me think that I've found at least a few of 'my people.'

raito said...

I rather wonder if some of the PA rural insularity is due to geography. My first professional job was working for a company that produced database applications for fire departments. At the time, PA had by far (2X-3X) more volunteer fire departments, and fire departments as a whole than any other state. I inquired about this with some PA representatives at the yearly users group meeting. I was told that parts of PA are just so hilly that every valley has its own fire department.

As for the moon, as I've said, I do think we should go back. But I could be persuaded otherwise by good numbers. In my mind, it's a decent space station and large, too.

The universe may be trying to kill us, or it may not be. But I literally have nothing better to do than to keep it from doing so. Superpowers or no.

Only one comment from the last article (thnaks for the indulgence).

I don't want to take away anyone's freedom to think stupid and wrong thoughts (I'm enough of an elitist to believe that there are such things). What I want is for people to stop thinking them. I want people who have the freedom and are smart enough to not require it.

Larry Hart,

I, too help with my children's homework. And with math, I try to keep them ahead of the game. My daughter complained at learning multiplication early until she realized that it would be something she knew that others didn't. But she did get frustrated trying to teach it to others who weren't ready for it. But she was out there trying to spread the knowledge around. And I've given her a ready-made comeback if anyone ever insinuates that 'girls are bad at math'. And that's, 'my mother can do differential equations'. And that's something I don't see coming from the teachers, but from other children.

donzelion said...

Raito: "I do think we should go back. But I could be persuaded otherwise by good numbers. In my mind, it's a decent space station and large, too."

I'll rephrase my lingering question, originally posed to Dr. Brin - by "we should/shouldn't go back" - are you saying you want to see humans in suits on the Moon? Playing golf and discovering our future robot overlords or super monoliths? ;-)

Seems to me that rather than scientific research, a moonbase populated entirely by robots could be an EXTREMELY useful engineering project, teaching and developing mechanisms for maintaining systems that would be useful for entirely different applications. And I sort of like the idea of such a base becoming a participatory laboratory: folks on Earth - the general public - concoct projects, write programs, feed them to the moon - watch them be implemented...I could see minor, lesser tasks getting funded by $10,000 grants to write a program and plant a vegetable, a very different way of doing modest but potentially important research. (Mendel, after all, wasn't exactly solving the theory of gravity, but offered us so much from his close observations.)

LarryHart said...

donzelion:

"There is one side in our political game that has always claimed that this does not exist, that we are all evil by nature."
It's not always the worst starting place: Hobbes offered a lot to political theory, and Hamilton (or was it Madison) made much of acknowledging how improbable it would be for men to act as or elect 'angels.'


In the dispute between whether man is basically good or basically evil, I find that the better angels of our nature are more ascendant in people who are not hungry, cold, or desperate. Liberal policies which provide a safety net are not just motivated out of charity. They prevent you from being surrounded by desperate people who need to take desperate measures.

Then you've what the ones Dr Brin calls "insatiable"--the ones who act as if they are desperate for a bigger piece of the pie even when they've already got the biggest piece to begin with. Strangely enough, these are usually the same people who insist that they themselves need to be in charge, because those other people are "basically evil".

LarryHart said...

raito:

As for this observation by LarryHart re the media: "I'd say they're more corporate than right-wing, but sometimes it amounts to the same thing." - to read someone else saying that for a change, instead of me arguing it and tearing my hair out that nobody gets the point - makes me think that I've found at least a few of 'my people.'


I hear the term "corporatist media" in common use now--certainly radio hosts Norman Goldman and Thom Hartmann use it--but many years ago, I was sure that I had made the term up myself. I don't see much news media as the equivalent of Limbaugh or FOX or Drudge, which are right wing. But most of the major news outlets are owned by big corporations and are therefore more beholden to their bottom lines and the preferences of their advertisers than they are to professional journalism.

The era where "liberal media" was an accurate label was when most tv and radio news divisions were separate entities who were judged on their reportage. Since the 1980s, these news divisions fell under their respective entertainment divisions, and are judged like any other tv show on ratings.

donzelion said...

LarryHart: "...I find that the better angels of our nature are more ascendant in people who are not hungry, cold, or desperate. Liberal policies which provide a safety net are not just motivated out of charity."

In that, you side with Aristotle in two ways: first, by advocating for efforts to pull people toward the middle, you support a system more amenable to stability. Dr. Brin disdains the Greeks, as most scientists probably should, but the ultimate notion that it is the middle class (the medium between avaricious oligarchs and starving/angry peasants) that is the source of enduring virtue in any polity has ancient pedigree and, once those key concepts were rediscovered (in the early Renaissance), the path toward enlightenment grew somewhat clearer.

Second, by advocating liberality (the virtue between vices of wanton extravagance and miserly hoarding), you advocate what he deemed to be the second greatest virtue. How Nicomachean of you. ;-)

More good thinking grows from assuming men are evil than assuming they are good (because if men are evil, then theory can be brought to bear to rein in that evil - but if men are good, there is no need to theorize in the first place). Yet much better theory flows from eliminating as many assumptions as possible, and trying just to figure out what we are.

donzelion said...

LarryHart/Raito: re 'corporatist media'

The notion that media would ever have a political agenda that departs significantly from the companies who finance it is only plausible IF one assumes that the companies that create the media are utterly inept. But if one accepts that assumption, why would anyone trust such inept leaders of those companies with a position of power? Ah, logic...

But it does make psychological sense, or rather, a populist sort of sense (that's probable the third time today I've raised that distinction): "the liberal media" wants to control you, and subject you to the corporations - the corporations are against you and cannot be trusted - all the world is against you, and thus, you must join with what few friends you can find and make a stand against evil. In such a world, politics becomes fixated upon "friend/foe" distinctions.

That, to me, signals a drift away from the banality of the Leo Strauss strain of conservative reasoning, and into the brutality of the Carl Schmitt (the leading Nazi jurist/philosopher). And under a Schmitt approach, Fox News is less 'media' (in the sense of a forum for broad communication) than 'propaganda.'

Ah, if only the 'old-style' conservatives had the guts to stand against such nonsense (wait: San Diego Union-Tribune just endorsed Hillary over Trump, the first time it's backed a Democrat in 150 or so years...). We'll see (not holding my breath: WSJ will never bite the hand that feeds them, and with Murdoch at the helm...they'll close ranks begrudgingly.)

"The era where "liberal media" was an accurate label was when most tv and radio news divisions were separate entities who were judged on their reportage."
I'd go back even further, to the Founding Era, when Ben Franklin could pop a printing press together and hang up a newspaper overnight. At that point, the advertisers had less control than the audience.

Paul SB said...

Raito,

The Universe isn't trying to kill anyone. The Universe is simply a set of conditions which are inimical to life as we know it with the exception of one very tiny locality (that we know of). A lot of thinking starts to go awry when you start personifying things that aren't people.

Your "My mother can do differential equations" is fantastic. Most people think largely in stereotypes, but those stereotypes can be slowly broken down by offering counter examples. The more counter examples you offer, the people break through those lazy habits of mind.

Paul SB said...

Donzelion & Larry (in alpha order),

"In that, you side with Aristotle ..."
- In science, where an idea comes from is irrelevant, it only matters how well the idea is supported by the data. In general I find that people are complex, and smart people often have dumb ideas, and dumb people can often have good ideas (in fact, I don't really think of 'smart' and 'dumb' as useful labels for people, they are more temporary, situational labels, though there are some who test this attitude regularly).

"Yet much better theory flows from eliminating as many assumptions as possible, and trying just to figure out what we are."
- This is precisely what all of the social sciences try to do. In my experience, the data do not support any of our social, political, ethnic, gendered or other agendas, they show a world that iOS messy and complicated. The old Hobbes vs. Rousseau debate is kind of useless, because both sides are equally right and equally wrong. Humans have the capacity to be either good or evil (however we choose to define these - there are no true universals here). Larry's comment about people tending to be more good when they are not starving - essentially Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs - is to the point. And thus all those points made by that article, which show that one side is more often wrong than the other. A diamond-shaped society makes fewer people in desperate straits who are more likely to turn to evil acts just to keep themselves alive. It also means we have fewer "insatiables" √° la Veblen who will commit evil acts to aggrandize themselves over others.

On right-wing vs. corporatist - the right wing in America is really an unholy alliance between two very different ideals. The corporatist mentality, that greedy, successful people should be allowed to do anything they want and no matter how many people they kill of maim is good because it's business is one side. The other side are the socially conservative, everyone has to be forced to be exactly like it was in my home town when I was growing up, or at least my Andy Griffith Show idealization of what those glorious days must have been like side. In many ways these two notions are incompatible. The corporatists mentality does not value Christian charity in the least, for one, and the corporate mentality promotes any licentiousness that makes money, much to the chagrin of social conservatives (who immediately blame liberals for all the world's licentiousness, ignoring the cognitive dissonance of their unholy alliance). This is why a lot of people can't tell the difference between Libertarians and conservatives, because most Libertarians are socially liberal but corporatist where it comes to financial matters, and why so many people see the Libertarian Party as the natural home for many conservatives.

Paul SB said...

The internet makes for an interesting place. We can find a community of "our people" that is not limited by geography, only by access to the internet. The one unfortunate thing about it is that it doesn't quite mesh with our essential nature. I have heard geologists say that what the Spirit and Opportunity did on Mars in 5 years a trained geologist could do in two weeks. In the same way, sitting down for lunch together we could do more in an hour than we can in weeks of clacking away at our keyboards. No facial expression, body language, proxemics, tone of voice, but more important, too much time between responses in which we are engaged in other things. I'm not a touchy-feely kind of person, but I would much rather go to Mars and have lunch together. But still, being able to chat with people as far away as New Zealand is some recompense!

Compare that to the more visceral experience of a church, where you are crowded into rows and made to sit through lectures, sing some songs, then off you go. Most of the real community building happens at the omelette house up the street where half the congregation goes for brunch, and the gossip starts to fly in earnest. And the staff cringe - no one wants to work Sunday because the church crowd are both the all-time stingiest tippers and the rudest, most picky and demanding customers - what happens when you think you are God's chosen people, you get a real sense of entitlement to lord over anyone who isn't in your church. I remember those days well.

There has to be something in between.

LarryHart said...

donzelion:

"The era where "liberal media" was an accurate label was when most tv and radio news divisions were separate entities who were judged on their reportage."
I'd go back even further, to the Founding Era, when Ben Franklin could pop a printing press together and hang up a newspaper overnight. At that point, the advertisers had less control than the audience.


Well, yeah, because you're talking about a press with a mission, and the mission is the driving force. Advertising or other revenue would be in service to the mission.

Since the Reagan era deregulation, that has been flipped, where the point of the content is "to make money". To portray news media of that model as "liberal media" is (to quote M*A*S*H's Charles Emerson Winchester) ab-ZURD.

Tim H. said...

On science, did you notice on Elon Musk's Mars presentation the picture of the carbon fiber oxidizer tank? If memory serves, the construction of such tankage was where Lockheed-Martin's Venture Star hit a wall. Would that the Clinton administration and NASA had chosen the Delta Clipper instead, and while I'm complaining, not killed the Integral Fast Reactor project...

Tacitus2 said...

Traditional media is a classic example of a Dying Empire. Such entities are prone to desparate and therefore poor decision making. They alternately smite, emulate or pay Danegeld to the barbarians pressing in on the frontiers.

Sometimes the senescent decline goes on for a very long time and preserves at least a shadow of say, Byzantium. Other times it is full on Ozymandius....

Tacitus

Anonymous said...

Go to hell? Thanks for asking, car sitter. One of your so-called Freeways is but a stone's throw away, an eye and ear and lung-sore; planes scream through your Carbon-stained skies, and add to that the torture of your night lights. Or do you imagine hell plus ultra, one with louder and longer sky-screamers--perhaps even a fabled flying car to Vulcan butt-meld with?--or bigger and faster stroads, ever more and brighter night-lights? Oh! And leaf-blowers. Lots and lots of leaf-blowers. With such as passes for progress, what need is there for abstract invocations, hmm?

raito said...

donzelion,

That was LarryHart, not me. I'm more likely to say that the media as a whole is corporatist, and doesn't much subscribe to any particular wing. That doesn't mean that some particular outlet has no bent in one way or another. I can often tell the biases of the local public station, for example, by which guests they invite, what topics to discuss, and in which order both are presented.

One of the things I dislike a lot about the current media is the false dichotomy that political issues are either left or right in the US.

(I used to say that between reading Playboy, Reader's Digest, and the local alternative weekly, I'd get a fair triangulation on the truth. But it took at least 3 media sources to do it.)

Paul SB,

That was a response to Treebeard. And what it says is that it doesn't matter which way the universe trends. I'm here to do what I can. My current primary project for that effort is raising my children.

And I quite agree that the best antidote to stereotypes are counter examples. I keep a stash of them around, especially when the peer pressure gets thick around my children.

And your point about the internet is well-taken. A very large portion of the arguments I see could be hammered out much more quickly in person. Still, since it's unlikely given the geography, we'll still muddle along here. The best tactic seems to not assume any particular motivation on anyone's part. Otherwise known as taking the high road.

Tacitus2,

Yes, an example. Yet we're told that a good reason to have such empires is that they can react more quickly due to grater resources. Few with a stake also want to admit that the interest in holding on to the past/present causes troubles. No one wants to be the first over the cliff, even if someone will end up flying instead of crashing.

And I'll leave this here in reference to the war on science:

http://thefederalist.com/2016/09/29/feminist-phd-candidate-science-sexist-not-subjective/

David Brin said...

donzel I don’t disdain all the Greeks. Primarily the Spartan-slavemaster section and the smarmy-elisitst Platonist section. And even there I don’t mind Aristotle too much. Pericles I admire hugely and so long as he lived, the Athenians managed a temperate and reasonable democracy. Then things went outta hand. But they were still leagues ahead.

WE the consumers vote with our viewing habits what memes to reinforce. Putting aside the Fox poison spews that cater to hate memes, the memes that get rewarded are liberal ones - suspicion of authority, tolerance, diversity, eccentricity.

Oy, this latest anon is worse than an ent. Puh-lease. There are plenty of places you can go with a few dollars and live like a feudal lord or caveman or whatever you dream-of. You’ll be cheating of course, by bringing your dollars that you draw off THIS civilization that has pampered you. But cheating aside, go. To where there are no freeways and leaf blowers. Just go!

--
I'm off to where citizens stopped the holnists,

Jumper said...

On "corporatist media" I think the main thing is reluctance to name names, question the big businesses, and that goes double for local issues and local businesses' treatment by local media. For example around here Duke Power took a lot of heat from the media over a coal ash spill into the river, but the media won't point out the fine points of how a monopoly's shareholders are granted guaranteed profits and the ratepayers have to fund the cleanups of the ash spills.

LarryHart said...

Jumper:

the media won't point out the fine points of how a monopoly's shareholders are granted guaranteed profits and the ratepayers have to fund the cleanups of the ash spills.


It makes a certain amount of sense for a regulated monopoly to be guaranteed a level of profit. But it's a bit absurd for it to be structured such that tort liability doesn't come out of that profit. The incentive structure is all wrong.

Laurent Weppe said...

* "While researching something else, I was utterly amazed to find out that Louis XIV reigned for something like 75 years. Not just lived to 75, but was king for that long. And I believe the next king, Louis XV was not his son, but his grandson, or maybe even great-grandson."

Then again he was crowned king at five.
Same thing with number XV.
Louis XVI was actually the first king of France to have been crowned an adult since Henry the fourth, nearly two centuries prior in 1589 (XVI was crowned king at age 20 in 1774).
Think about it: between Henry IV's assassination in 1610 and Louis XVI's coronation in 1774, France had a total of three heads of state over a period of 164 years. (and one of them was a megalomaniacal control-freak who centralized power so much that he unwittingly sowed the collapse of his dynasty)

Also, XIV would probably have lived longer had he had a less rich diet... or a doctor who knew how to extract insulin from pigs' pancreases.

***

* ""Politics is tedious" seems to be one of those memes that is accepted by everyone as being self-evident,"

"Politics is tedious" is a coded way to say things like "I don't like to argue about the tax code", "I don't want to pick a fight with bigoted bullies or arrogant posers who pretend to epitomize self-made-manliness despite everyone knowing they got their first job through their aunt's former high-school boyfriend", "I don't want to shout at the christmas dinner table all the disgust and contempt that my half-senile racist uncle inspire me", "Imbecile insulting me for having opinions that diverge from their simplistic black & white worldviews makes me want to clobber their gonads with the chair-leg of truth until they crawl at my feet and beg for the leg's forgiveness".

But the thing is... People who say that politics is tedious are right. Political arguments are tedious, if for no other reason that they get marred in bad faith more often than not, turning many if not most "debates" into contests of wit where at least one of the participant doesn't even believe his own speech yet goes on because he's pandering to an audience of voters he most probably despise deep down.

That's neither fun nor inspiring nor even simply interesting. It's hard to remain involved when you know that tomorrow will bring another drone from the Whitey-McDouche family spewing demonstrably false bullshit for the cause of preserving the hegemony and unearned materials comforts of the WMDs.

But the problem is the very real power that lies behind the tedious circus lies, meaning that ignoring it means becoming the prey, which forces us to soldier on.

Laurent Weppe said...

* "I would also expect most 'super-powers' will carry the same ambivalence as cosmetic enhancement does today..."

I would expect most non-purely-cosmetic artificially produced 'super-powers' will carry the same stigma as doping does today: "you cheated, you deserve none of the accolades, prizes and degrees granted to you"

***

* "In the dispute between whether man is basically good or basically evil, I find that the better angels of our nature are more ascendant in people who are not hungry, cold, or desperate."

That's a beginning but you forgot another thing: fear. fear of becoming hungry, cold, or desperate in the foreseeable future, and fear of ending on the receiving end of the revanchist fury of those who already are hungry, cold, or desperate.

Our host and many commenters often praise the middle class as the Best Thing Ever to happen to civilization, but this rather rosy view of the petite bourgeoisie forgets that the Hitler, Le Pen, Trump, or Victor Orban rose to fame and in some cases to power because large swath of the oh-so-awesome middle-class willingly supporter authoritarian bullies who peddled the notion that their middle-class voters could be guarantee warmth, food and hope at the expense of everybody else.

Jumper said...

My state legislated universal election audits, choosing a random number in each district to hand-count. Great, I said at the time. My problem is I can't get anyone in government to explain the random number generation, nor whether it's going to be transparent, witnessed publicly.
This is tedious. I pick a single issue, yet get nowhere.

donzelion said...

Dr. Brin: "I don’t disdain all the Greeks. Primarily the Spartan-slavemaster section"
Pity how Zack Snyder's blood splatter ballet converted them into heroes...

"and the smarmy-elitist Platonist section."
Many have abused a caricature of Plato (Socrates), just as many abused a parody of Adam Smith. But there's a lot of good stuff there...but you did paint him as the villain of Western civilization once, and that's unfortunate.

"WE the consumers vote with our viewing habits what memes to reinforce."
But we vote for options produced by corporations (except for subscriber-supported media). Plato offered a fair number of powerful arguments as to why "popularity is not the same as truth."

"the memes that get rewarded are liberal ones - suspicion of authority, tolerance, diversity, eccentricity."
Media plays it both ways: rewarding 'suspicion of authority' (by producing new authority to challenge preexisting authority), rewarding 'tolerance' (so long as it fits with sufficiently popular standards), 'diversity' (so long as it is a white male lead rescuing those non-whites), 'eccentricity' (so long as it's within bounds). In that, they reflect the internal contradictions of language and society itself: the memes that get rewarded are both liberal AND illiberal, and ultimately favor 'change' (in any one of a number of directions) simply because 'change' is 'interesting.'

donzelion said...

Laurent: Ah, so rare that I find myself disagreeing with you!

"large swathes of the oh-so-awesome middle-class willingly support authoritarian bullies who peddled the notion that their middle-class voters could be guaranteed warmth, food and hope at the expense of everybody else."

The better observation is that HUMANITY often 'supports' authoritarian bullies - they are fascinating and distinctive! But while the petite bourgeoisie attenuates that support by having to get up the next day and earn its keep, the oligarchs and the poor subside on the support of others: the simple need to get back to work may not apply to them. Absent that need, bullies offer these two groups enticing 'solutions' to their problems or opportunities; to the middle class, they offer 'entertainment.' Unfortunately, some of the more entertaining performers on the one stage are the worst leaders in another.

donzelion said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
donzelion said...

Last missive to the sousveillance crowd: I'd missed the Michael Picard story, headlined as "Cops accidentally record themselves fabricating charges against protester, lawsuit says."

Intriguing stuff for discussion. I have my qualms about Picard's conduct, but the police must be properly controlled. Were they really 'fabricating' charges (in the sense of making them up out of nowhere - a fraud), or were they just doing 'police work' (which includes trying to decide whether to charge someone with a crime or misdemeanor - 'fabricating' in the sense of making something out of something else).

Robert said...

Reposting a political post that I recently put up on Facebook - the third post in response to supporters of Hillary Clinton who are desperately trying to peel voters away from third parties. After lambasting them for scaremongering both Green Party and Libertarian voters, this was my response:

---------

There is still some debate over "encouraging third-party voters" to vote for Hillary compared to my suggestion of getting out the vote. So I'm going to move on to an economic perspective.

When the economy started improving, companies started poaching each other's workers despite high unemployment. The general consensus was that it was better to steal someone else's worker than risk hiring someone who had been unemployed for a length of time.

The longer you were unemployed, the more undesirable you were. Your job skills were considered atrophied (despite the fact even the best new employee poached from a top-notch company still needs training in that company's ways and methodologies).

The end result was that there were job openings that were not being filled because companies did not want to take a chance with a voter - er, I mean potential employee who had not been working for a length of time.

You had high unemployment... and high demand for employees. Select employees had their value increased as a result... but while companies spent more for those employees, there was no real improvement to the economy. Only once companies started hiring people who were unemployed for a period of time did the economy slowly start to recover.

--------

Democracy in the United States is suffering from a recession. It has been for decades now. The solution is not to poach voters from third parties. It is to get the people who don't vote or who have not voted before to actually vote for a change. If you get enough people to vote? Trump won't stand a chance. And Republican gerrymandering efforts will likewise fall apart because gerrymandering targets likely voters. Not potential ones.

Stop trying to poach voters. You will not bring lasting change to the U.S. political system EVEN if you get Hillary Clinton elected. Get out the vote. Register new people. Help older people get to the ballots. Drive people to ballots. Carpool. Hire buses. Double-check that those people are SUPPOSED to vote in those districts - do the homework to ensure they aren't wasting their time!

It is a lot of hard work and effort! But you will bring about an end of the political recession that has been inflicted on this nation for decades. And you will bring lasting change to this country.

Paul SB said...

Hi Raito,

I know you were speaking to Treebeard at that time, so I should have realized you were essentially speaking in "his language." I suppose I'm just uptight enough about metaphorical language to have missed that. Most people don't even realize that things they hold as sacred truths are nothing more than analogies and metaphors. I'm still happy to muddle along with you and the others, but trying not to ASS U ME is a tall order. Assumptions happen automatically in our synapses. The best thing, I think, is to try not to get too attached to our assumptions. If someone calls us on it, accept that the assumption might have been wrong.

Paul SB said...

Donzelion,

While Plato has both good and bad sides, there is one idea of his that in many ways retarded the progress of Western Civilization for more than a millennium. Plato’s “ideals” – his notion that somewhere up in the heavens there resides a “perfect” man, that all living men are but poor reflections of, and a “perfect” woman, a “perfect” frog, “perfect” day, “perfect” bowel movement – whatever. It was only with the growth and spread of statistics, Mendelian Genetics and Evolutionary Theory that we have been slowly creeping our way out of a pit of superstition and prejudice. The idea that the categories we create in our minds – mere abstractions – are more real than the actual individuals from which these categories are made is not only silly, it has done the gods only know how much harm to real people everywhere. These archetypes begin with the assumption that none of us are really good enough, which is already a foul beginning that saps compassion, understanding and forgiveness from people, because no real person can ever live up to unreal ideals.

This is one of the things I dislike about a majority of religious people. I’ll use Christianity as an example, since it is by far the dominant faith community everywhere I have been for more than a couple months, but I see the same sort of thing in all religions. One of the things that really narks me off about Christians is how much time and energy they spend on praising the Lord and praising Jesus, and how very little time they devote to helping real, living people all around them. Jesus has been dead for 2000 years, and though for the most part he seems like he might have been a nice guy, he’s dead. We are surrounded by people (to say nothing of animals and plants) that desperately need our love and attention, be it a simple pat on the back, a meal, a companion or a job. But the fish people would much rather go on about Christ’s love while raining down hellfire and damnation on everyone around them.

Paul SB said...

Having ranted about this tendency to judge people against unattainable ideals, now in fairness I have to say that this sort of thinking is an unsurprising result of the architecture of our brains. We have this dual system with an inner brain that works like any other animal’s brain, on top of which grows our big cerebral cortex, which is made to learn by putting new information into categories. Some of our more despicable habits, like racism and sexism, are natural outgrowths of this kind of oversimplification. Once our minds have made a box, we tend to shove things in it based on the most superficial of similarities. This architecture has more implications than just prejudice. We do this to ourselves and our feelings as well.

I once read an article by a transgender biologist named Joan Roughgarden, who commented that bisexual behavior is extremely common in the Animal Kingdom, but exclusively homosexual behavior is nowhere to be seen except I humans. Why would this be? Imagine a young boy who decides he likes dressing dolls, then as he ages finds himself fascinated by the world of fashion (no, this is not an autobiographical example). He might conclude that because fashion is a “girl thing” that he must really be a girl, just born in a boy’s body or some such silliness. So he decides he must be gay, because one trait seems feminine to him. Now both he and his culture have canalized his life in one direction that may not really suit him, or even lead him to a violent end. In reality we are all a mix of traits, very few of which are really exclusive to one sex or the other, but because we think in categories, and assume these categories are more real than the individual people we have shoved into them. What if you were an Italian who could not stand pasta, or a Latino who found soccer tedious? What do you call a Republican who is pro-choice or thinks that gay marriage is no one’s business but those getting married? Most Republicans call them RINOs – Republican In Name Only – even if every other idea they have is consistent with the Party platform.

Paul SB said...

Donzelion,

Dr.Brin did a review of the first film in the 300 series, and IIRC he did the second one as well, here. Needless to say, he roasted them to tiny cinders. I didn't bother to see either, but they sound like a real waste of time. Major disappointment! I read Herodotus when I was 12 and would have loved to see a good movie based on any of a number of good stories in there.

Paul SB said...

Laurent,

Usually you are a fun read, as was much of this latest, but I have to throw my hat in with Donzel in this case. People are people, and middle class people are neither more nor less likely to fall for the chicanery of BS masters than either of the other classes. If you want to do the most good for the greatest number of people, building a big middle class is the way to go. The alternative is either go back to the rigid hierarchy of aristocracy, which did the least good for the most people, or below ourselves back into the Stone Age, which some fools might idealize as the best of times, but actual hunter/gatherers will cheerfully point out that periodic starvation sucks. The trick is to immunize people - middle class or otherwise, against those BS artists with an education that emphasizes critical thinking instead of blind obedience. That might be a pipe dream, though, since powers of all sorts prefer blind obedience.

donzelion said...

Paul SB: "I read Herodotus when I was 12 and would have loved to see a good movie based on any of a number of good stories in there."
Personally, I'd prefer to see a Thucydides-based film, esp. one that paralleled the 'logic' of the Iraq invasion before finishing off the main enemy in Afghanistan.

One can condense Western reasoning as playing out the debate between Plato and Aristotle, both of whom offered strong arguments that merit respect. From Plato, the 'theoretical' approach is essential: geometry, logic, causality, temporality - the bases for mathematics. From Aristotle, the 'empirical' approach is essential: we must see evidence, and if it does not fit our theories, reject those theories. The 'scientific method' emerged as a ritualized approach that assumed both theory and observation are important steps in a broader process: both Platonic and Aristotlian approaches are important steps, but neither is a complete approach.

"This is one of the things I dislike about a majority of religious people...the fish people would much rather go on about Christ’s love while raining down hellfire and damnation on everyone around them."
Concur. There are many admirable and enduring ideas within 'Christianity' (and all monotheistic faiths), but few of those ideas seem to have penetrated into modern exponents of the faith.

LarryHart said...

Laurent Weppe:

Then again he [Louis XIV] was crowned king at five.
...
Also, XIV would probably have lived longer had he had a less rich diet... or a doctor who knew how to extract insulin from pigs' pancreases.


Even more amazing!


"Politics is tedious" is a coded way to say things like "I don't like to argue about the tax code", "I don't want to pick a fight with bigoted bullies or arrogant posers who pretend to epitomize self-made-manliness despite everyone knowing they got their first job through their aunt's former high-school boyfriend", "I don't want to shout at the christmas dinner table all the disgust and contempt that my half-senile racist uncle inspire me",


Heh. Ok, granted that "our side does it too." When I hear the phrase "politics is tedious," or something to that effect, it's usually "Now that I've regaled you with my opinion, which is too self-evident to debate, I don't feel like discussing this any further."


"Imbecile insulting me for having opinions that diverge from their simplistic black & white worldviews makes me want to clobber their gonads with the chair-leg of truth until they crawl at my feet and beg for the leg's forgiveness".


:) See, now that doesn't sound tedious.


But the thing is... People who say that politics is tedious are right. Political arguments are tedious, if for no other reason that they get marred in bad faith more often than not, turning many if not most "debates" into contests of wit where at least one of the participant doesn't even believe his own speech yet goes on because he's pandering to an audience of voters he most probably despise deep down.


"Politics is tedious" to the same extent that "Working for a living is tedious." Millions of people indeed have jobs they trudge through each day just to earn a paycheck. The fact that that is the case does not negate that to some people, their jobs are engaging and interesting and even meaningful.

I'm just saying the same is true for political discussions.


But the problem is the very real power that lies behind the tedious circus lies, meaning that ignoring it means becoming the prey, which forces us to soldier on.


Exactly. Political discussions are not about convincing your opponent. They're about convincing listeners that your argument makes more sense or is more plausible than your opponent's. And if you abstain from the fray, the impression is that he is so spot-on that you can't refute him.

So as with Hamilton (again):

Burr, I'd rather be divisive than indecisive.
Drop the niceties!

Paul SB said...

Well, Larry, the Devil is in the details, so as Laurent said, we soldier on.

Donzelion,
I once took an Intro to Film & Video class, during which I talked about the possibility of making a film based on Thukydides,but that was early 90's, when such a thing might have been prescient instead of finger wagging. (Which makes me think of "Wag the Dog" and how it became a big part of the debate in the Kosovo war.) College was a very fertile time for the imagination! I wish I could go back...

Plato vs. Aristotle is essentially inductive vs. deductive reasoning, both of which are necessary components of scientific reasoning, but don't expect to get grant money from illustrious sources like the NSF if you dare to say the word "inductive" in your proposal, a combination of naive scientism and physics envy.

I'll say more about religion when I get home from work.

LarryHart said...

Laurent Weppe:

Our host and many commenters often praise the middle class as the Best Thing Ever to happen to civilization, but this rather rosy view of the petite bourgeoisie forgets that the Hitler, Le Pen, Trump, or Victor Orban rose to fame and in some cases to power because large swath of the oh-so-awesome middle-class willingly supporter authoritarian bullies


Dr Brin seems well aware of that, as he points out Hitler as an example of the political center going insane.


who peddled the notion that their middle-class voters could be guarantee warmth, food and hope at the expense of everybody else.


A few years back, I read "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich", and saw that as the Nazi army expanded its reach eastward, their directive was that all productive capacity of the land was to be used to support Germans back home. The people who happened to live in those places were to be essentially left to starve and freeze.

While no one in American mainstream politics (not even Trump) currently advocates such a cruel strategy, it does seem to me that the difference between liberals and right-wingers is increasingly that one side wants a rising tide to lift all boats, and the other claims the tide as their private property and goes "How dare those boats rise on my tide?!!"

LarryHart said...

Robert:

When the economy started improving, companies started poaching each other's workers despite high unemployment. The general consensus was that it was better to steal someone else's worker than risk hiring someone who had been unemployed for a length of time.

The longer you were unemployed, the more undesirable you were. Your job skills were considered atrophied (despite the fact even the best new employee poached from a top-notch company still needs training in that company's ways and methodologies).

The end result was that there were job openings that were not being filled because companies did not want to take a chance with a voter - er, I mean potential employee who had not been working for a length of time.

You had high unemployment... and high demand for employees. Select employees had their value increased as a result... but while companies spent more for those employees, there was no real improvement to the economy. Only once companies started hiring people who were unemployed for a period of time did the economy slowly start to recover.


First of all, I love how you tied the two issues together, and as far as unemployment being a disqualifying factor in finding a new job, you're singing my song. Imagine if a requirement for being admitted to a grocery store or restaurant was that you must not be hungry.


Democracy in the United States is suffering from a recession. It has been for decades now. The solution is not to poach voters from third parties. It is to get the people who don't vote or who have not voted before to actually vote for a change...


In fairness, I don't think Democrats are going after committed Libertarians so much as they are trying to convince Democrats who are voting Third Party as a protest against Hillary to stay with the Democratic Party. Yes, they are also trying to poach Republicans who can't stomach Trump, but that's icing on the cake, not their electoral strategy in whole. They're not chasing disgruntled Republicans at the expense of other voters.

That said, you are correct that a candidate who can bring out the vote from those who don't usually bother should do well. We saw some of that with Obama in 2008. The US government is designed to respond to the will of the voters, meaning the people who actually vote, not those who complain but don't vote.

Great post!

LarryHart said...

Paul SB:

Dr.Brin did a review of the first film in the 300 series, and IIRC he did the second one as well, here. Needless to say, he roasted them to tiny cinders. I didn't bother to see either, but they sound like a real waste of time. Major disappointment!


When the movie came out--2006 IIRC--it was presented as an allegory for the war in Iraq. The white, European Greeks were avatars for modern western civilization, making the stand they have to against the Persians (i.e., Iranians), the avatars of Muslim terrorists. The movie was an implicit endorsement of W's involvement in the war, which is why I had to turn the film off about a third of the way through when I tried to watch it on video.

The thing is, I enjoyed the graphic novel that the film was based on when it came out in 1999 or 2000 (before 9/11). And the movie was almost shot-for-shot identical to the comic. Yet, just knowing the point the movie was attempting to drive home made all the difference. As Dave Sim (Cerebus writer/artist) would say, "Once a thing is seen, it can't be un-seen."

LarryHart said...

Paul SB:

I'll say more about religion when I get home from work.


Aaron Burr from "Hamilton", totally out of context:

This should be fun.

A.F. Rey said...

I once read an article by a transgender biologist named Joan Roughgarden, who commented that bisexual behavior is extremely common in the Animal Kingdom, but exclusively homosexual behavior is nowhere to be seen except I humans.

Just in case you didn't realize, Joan is wrong, from what I've read. Exclusive homosexual behavior is seen in the animal kingdom.

For instance: http://www.bidstrup.com/sodomy.htm

Just as in humans, animals often form long-term same-sex relationships. In species in which this normally occurs in heterosexual couples, that shouldn't come as a great surprise, but it does come as a surprise in species where heterosexual pair-bonds don't normally form for long if at all. This is true of bottlenose dolphins, which are not known to form heterosexual pair bonds, but which do in fact form homosexual pair bonds, including sex, and often lasting for life.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi A.F
I read that article and while the author says that there are true homosexual bonds his examples don't seem to agree
In fact his examples seem to support Joan's premise

Gunner Jacky said...

Everyone has got a different angle of thinking and explaining things. For some it may be a patriotic thing but for some this could be mere publicity stunt and this is the human nature that all of them never agree on the same decisions. They always discuss and contradict each other on one issue or other.
Regards:
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