Friday, April 21, 2017

Science: steps forward... through a minefield

Girding yourself for Saturday's Science March? This article - Donald Trump Should Not Appoint a Science Advisor - will steam you, offering much more detail on the White House Science Adviser office -- which Donald Trump has refused to fill -- first officially established by President Eisenhower. A partial list of responsibilities:

"Manage NASA strategy and budget. Work with the Office of Management and Budget on federal research and development investments. Deal with climate change, both in terms of mitigating it and diffusing the controversy. Testify before Congress. Oversee the National Science Foundation. Execute whatever the classified work on national security and homeland security might be. Forge science and technology cooperation agreements with nations like Brazil, China, India, Russia, and Korea. Support the State Department on other science-related initiatives. Put the president in contact with top outside experts when necessary. All in all, (Obama Science Adviser John) Holdren worked in approximately 70 different science fields at any given time." - writes Brian Palmer on Slate.


Even when the office was demoted, under George W. Bush, the WHSA - Jack Marburger - was a prestigious scientist who remained in a science-unfriendly administration because of crucial roles in the National Security Council -- roles that are now, under science-hating Donald Trump, deliberately left unfilled.

Now look again at my recent posting about the fellow who was Trump's top candidate for the Science Adviser role - David Gelernter - and see how this whole thing just gets weirder and weirder.


Seriously. Marching and chanting are among the least effective things we can do. But they are at least a bit effective and they take the least effort and can get our blood up for this fight to save civilization. Be out there on Saturday. If you can't make it to the DC March, there are over 500 marches, worldwide. Even if just alone on a streetcorner with a sign: SUPPORT A SCIENTIFIC NATION.

== The Singularity looms? ==

Ray Kurzweil, one of the principal thinkers regarding the Singularity, encourages lively debate about how to make the coming transformation a friendly one.

His popular website has published one of my essays - Preparing for Our Post-human Future - about this very matter: how we can teach "ethics" to the looming Artificial Intelligences... and whether ethics is even the right tactic to try.  While reviewing several recent books on AI, I ask whether more might be achieved using a different set of tools. 

What will happen as...Our computers learn to code themselves?

For more on how we will incorporate robots and AI into our lives, see Novum's latest podcast exploring Robots, Asimov, and... avoiding the Robot Uprising.

We need to rethink the mechanics of how we think. For a century, the neuron was thought to be the active element, turning on and off like a switch. Then the many synapses that flash between neurons seemed to resemble circuit elements in our computers.

Now we realize that dendrites make up more than 90 percent of neural tissue. Dendrites are the pickups that receive input from synapses, and they vastly outnumber the axons that deliver that input. Now it appears that dendrites engage in substantial internal information processing, far more than is done in the soma, or main body of the neuron.

“What we found indicates that such decisions are made in the dendrites far more often than in the cell body, and that such computations are not just digital, but also analog,” one researcher said.

This is an example of what some of us long expected… “intracellular computing” or multiplying manifold the processing power of each neuron. (Note, some speculate that computational or processing elements may exist within the body of the soma, too.)

This suggests that the brain has more than 100 times higher computational capacity than was previously thought! Not great news for those who expect Moore’s Law to imitate human mentation “any day now” by emulating the number of processing elements inside our skulls. (See Kurzweil's How to Create a Mind: The Secrets of Human Thought Revealed.)

On the other hand, it makes the Human Leap Forward all the more amazing.

== Altering Our Children ==

Speaking of which... are we ready for human gene editing?An influential science advisory group formed by the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Medicine on Tuesday lent its support to a once-unthinkable proposition: clinical efforts to engineer humans with inheritable genetic traits.” 

This has long been a red line that worried ethicists. 

“Just over a year ago, an international group of scientists declared that it would be “irresponsible to proceed” with making heritable changes to the human genome until the risks could be better assessed and until there was “broad societal consensus about the appropriateness” of any proposed change.”

Indeed, it’s why Robert Heinlein may be best remembered, a century from now, for the clever solution he recommends in his novel Beyond This Horizon, how to deal with the moral quandaries of genetic engineering — what’s now called the “Heinlein Solution” — allowing couples to select which naturally produced sperm and ova they want to combine into a child, but forbidding them to actually alter the natural human genome.

Consider the elegance of this proposed compromise. Thus, the resulting child, while “best” in many ways (free of any disease genes, etc), will still be one that the couple might have had naturally. Gradual human improvement, without any of the outrageously hubristic meddling that wise people rightfully fear. (No fashionable feathers or lizard tails, just kids who are the healthiest and smartest and strongest the parents might have had, anyway. Though I would make an exception for the flow-through lungs of birds. I want those!) 

It is a notion so insightful that biologists 40 years later have only recently started to discuss what may turn out to be Heinlein’s principal source of fame, centuries from now.

A more pragmatic concern driving the committee was the likelihood that the technology would be adopted elsewhere, in countries like China, where some pioneering research on editing human embryos — without the intent to gestate them — has already taken place.

“If we have an absolute prohibition in the United States with this technology advancing, it’s not like it won’t happen,” said R. Alta Charo, a bioethicist at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and the committee’s other leader. Many European countries that have signed a treaty to refrain from human germ line editing.

== Delusion: our greatest gift and curse ==

A UCSD anthropologist has recently asserted that our ability to persist in a belief despite evidence may be the reason humanity launched to high levels of intelligence – because only denial would let us endure the obvious futility of life and the looming inevitability of death. Denial: Self-Deception, False Beliefs and the Origins of the Human Mind, by Ajit Varki and Danny Brower. I do not believe this theory by the way; I have my own explanations for the human launch to sapience, as I discuss in Human Neoteny and Two-way Sexual Selection.

Oh, I avow that delusion is the greatest human talent. Even here and now, in the most scientific and fact-centered civilization of all time, we are awash in subjectivity and made-up narratives. Even scientists - trained to utter the sacred phrase: "I might be wrong" and to seek their own mistakes - only catch some of them.  For the rest, we rely on the greatest of all human inventions: reciprocal accountability through criticism. In which others, who don't share your particular delusions, can point them out for you... and boy will you eagerly return the favor!

When it works, reciprocal criticism leads to the only successful human civilization that ever happened. Ah, but there are those conniving right now, to ensure that it stops working. (A perennial theme of mine, because I believe if we solve this, and restore our delusion-penetrating processes - then all our other problems will resolve.)

Meanwhile, another exploration for the evolution of human intelligence and creativity is offered in: The Creative Spark: How Imagination Made Humans Exceptional by anthropologist Agustín Fuentes, drawing upon archeological and genetic evidence to pinpoint the roots of the spark that ignited the human mind.

In both Earth and Existence I speculated about resurrecting extinct species, like mammoths and Neanderthals. Now the Mammoth project is looking closer at-hand. And I am involved in an endeavor to grow Neanderthal brain organelles and fly them… in space.

== Tech advances ==

Google’s parent company, Alphabet, announces that its subsidiary Jigsaw (Google Ideas) is developing a machine learning technology - Perspective - that will promote more civil discourse on the internet and make comment sections on sites a little less awful, by helping web publishers to identify toxic comments that can undermine a civil exchange of ideas.

Ultra-thin temporary electronic tattoos can now turn body blemishes into touch-sensitive buttons, letting you control your smartphone with a stroke or a touch. 

A biofoam, laid across dirty or salty water, can use sunlight to separate out clear water.

As Earth Day approaches, you might be interested in a passionate essayist’s short piece on ideology, science, politics and sustainability.

Okay, get out there and do something to defend the only real chance at civilization against barbarians from without... and within.

67 comments:

Lorraine said...

I share your grief at the (de facto?) loss of the office of White House science advisor. I must say though that I'm put off at the degree to which things like defense and "homeland security" are part of the mission of that office. You say this post was created by the Eisenhower administration. Upon hearing this I recall that the official name of the Interstate highway system was originally something like "the Interstate National Defense Highway System." "If I were president" type things are wholly inappropriate for people like me, as my political views are "out of touch" or "out of tune" with the 90% of Americans who don't live in college towns or similar neighborhoods, but if I were President, I'd like to think I'd instead be civilianizing the office of White House science advisor.

Dwight Williams said...

For myself, I plan to be at the satellite-march here in Ottawa-Gatineau tomorrow, starting at Parliament Hill. We went through...stuff...like this during Stephen Harper's terms in office up here in Canada, as you'll recall. It was quieter, more incrementalist, creepier, until Harper got his first majority in the House of Commons. Then he went big, and I'd like to think that was part of what got enough of us off our butts in 2015 to end that nonsense and start healing the damage to whatever degree possible.

I don't know yet what more Canadians can and should do about this part of our survival problem, but maybe getting a few hundred bright minds on Parliament Hill can kick-start something helpful.

Dwight Williams said...

On the matter of net neutrality, which may be of interest to you all:

https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2017/04/as-us-prepares-to-gut-net-neutrality-rules-canada-strengthens-them/

Hopefully, we'll be able to stay free enough as a country to continue such measures.

Anonymous said...

Re: 'Beyond This Horizon'. The children were extensively bioengineered, but the raw material for the zygote was the genomes of the parents*. Thus the children were 'what the parents could have had', and - according to then current assumptions about what 'best' means - the 'best possible' children those parents could have had.

[I assume that even with the ability to extensively bioengineer. and an extremely sophisticated understanding of how genes interact, that large sections of the genome of any 'really well-designed zygote' would be largely unmodified from the parent because there doesn't seem to be any important reason to do so.]

* There may have also been a list of genes that were 'approved for everyone' that the parents could use if they wanted to. (I haven't reread the book in a long time.)

David Brin said...

Lorraine you could not be more wrong and your kind of reflex distaste for the military could ruin our best chance to end this madness. The military officer corps is the 3rd best educated clade in American life. Yes, they have some conservative traits by personality. But they are deeply fact-centered and despise delusion. And most of the ones I've met are deeply worried by the hysteria and madness on today's right.

The mad right knows this and they have begun campaigning to discredit the officer corps with terms like "deep state." If we are welcoming, then these protectors will drift - they are already - toward moderate-centrist liberalism. The senior guys want to put racism and sexism behind them as idiotic wastes of talent.

Above all, retired officers will make the best people to hurl into every "safe" GOP district. You would deny us that weapon? Seriously?

Matt Colborn said...

“What we found indicates that such decisions are made in the dendrites far more often than in the cell body, and that such computations are not just digital, but also analog"

I often find the phraseology of these papers fascinating; how allegedly mechanical processes seem to do active conscious things like 'make decisions.' There's also little word here about the possibility of top down causation -- or the idea of strong emergent properties that allow the whole system to perform actions impossible for the parts. I don't think we're going to understand consciousness properly until we think in terms of a whole person (with a body) performing actions as opposing to investing body parts (brains, or brain parts) with intentional actions. This is what Bennett and Hacker term the 'mereological fallacy.' or the fallacy of assigning a property to part of the body that really belongs to the whole. And there's a strong case to be made that the brain doesn't literally 'process information,' that this is at best a metaphor that is not literally true. Many singularity arguments, it seems to me, turn on confusing this metaphor with literal truth.

Laurence said...

"And I am involved in an endeavor to grow Neanderthal brain organelles and fly them… in space." What? How does that work? I find the idea of cloning Neanderthals pretty repelent, a Neanderthal would need to be raised by homo sapiens, sapiens who would have no idea how Neanderthal emotional devlopment works, what happens during Neanderthal adolesence etc, etc. Then of course you've got the massive media attention given to 'the caveman boy/girl' and the fact that this Neanderthal will be growing up knowing he or she is the last of their kind, and the people all around them are the ones who wiped out their people. It would be a pretty horrific life, alomst certainly doomed to end in tragedy.

Paul SB said...

Matt Colborn,

You are basically right about emergent properties and seeing humans as a whole system, but I have 2 caveats here. One is that it is necessary to break something down to its component parts and examine each component individually in order to understand the entire system. You could not understand how to make an internal combustion engine work if you did not understand what spark plugs do, or how the combination of cylinders and drive shaft convert chemical energy into mechanical energy. And this analogy brings up caveat number 2. Human language (and human thought) is metaphorical by nature, so it is kind of inevitable that people who examine components of a system will use phrases that are really only appropriate for the whole system.

I'm not sure I would bother with this except that it brings up some things that have much, much deeper implications for how people conceive of themselves and each other, and the Universe, for that matter. Before there was a science of psychology (we could discuss how scientific psychology has been) people understood themselves, each other and behavior more generally in terms of a sort of volitional analogy. That is, they saw everything in the Universe as having intentionality. The scientific community, and at least some of the general pollution, know better now. If a rock rolls down the side of a mountain and dents your car, most people today know that this was just a random event, though you might be amazed how many people today still believe that everything that happens is either punishment by some god or other or the action of more demonic entities. Scientists understand how tornadoes and hurricanes form, what causes earthquakes, etc., dispelling all the old myths about angry turtles or tired elephants under ground.

Where it comes to human behavior, there are still huge problems getting people to understand that there are impersonal, mechanical processes that happen inside people that manifest in behavior that is, for all intents and purposes, not their intention and therefore not their fault. I had a friend who died under ambiguous circumstances, and a mutual Catholic friend was utterly distraught by the possibility that it might have been suicide, because according to some Bronze Age code of thought, suicide is a mortal sin that results in eternal damnation. Scientists today understand that there are mechanical processes that influence human behavior that are beyond the control of those people. If a person has a thyroid condition it can cause clinical depression that can result in suicide, for instance, that is purely a function of the chemical imbalances caused by a malfunctioning gland. Likewise, suicide rates are usually highest in places that get little sunshine because of the mechanics of serotonin production and release.

Paul SB said...

Matt Colborn, con.t

Think about how this kind of vestigial thinking - that all actions are the result of deliberate intentions - can play out not just in silly superstitions, but in how people who have a disease are treated by their peers and society generally. If a person has a low base level of serotonin, or a thyroid condition that lowers their base level, they experience suicidality, the thought processes that lead them to talking about and often attempting suicide. But if society sees this as a horrible sin, it becomes something shameful that must be hidden and denied, not treated as a symptom of an illness in need of treatment. There are many other human behaviors that humans have stigmatized for centuries that challenge the idea of universal intentionality. Suicidal and homicidal behaviors are among the most commented upon, along with sexual behaviors because of ancient (and often very counter-productive) taboos.

It is this concept of universal intentionality that makes it hard for scientists to find better words to describe the processes of components in any other way - the notion is so rooted in language and culture. But this primitive notion is one of the big reasons that science is such a departure from tradition, and why it is so important - as human beings with basic human decency - to both understand the deeper implications of science and to communicate those meanings to the public in general. Being ruled by people who think "facts" are nothing but tools to be used in their business transactions is deeply dehumanizing, and leads back to the days when people are punished for being sick instead of treated for their illnesses. The stakes can get pretty high.

locumranch said...


The backwards-looking desire to 'Make America Great Again', the removal of the forward-looking White House Science advisor, an increased self-protective emphasis on Homeland Security, the glorification of the Military Officer Corp, the Scientist & other Elites, the 'all-or-none' approach to our information technology, and the argument that "reciprocal criticism leads to the only successful human civilization that ever happened" (in the past tense): These are all tells of an Apex Fallacy Culture that claims to be "the BEST culture that has ever been & will ever be" as it descends into moral bankruptcy, corruption, standardisation, stagnation & death fetishism.

Historically speaking, we have seen this same Apex Fallacy over & over again, occurring almost like clockwork when aging human civilisations obsess over their so-called 'legacy' & seek to remake themselves as 'eternal, immortal, undying' in order to prove that 'We did GREAT things, dammit!' before the Sands of Time cover our mouldering corpses, as in the case of every other ancient builder of pyramids, libraries, temples, tombs, monuments & mausoleums.

For indeed, the sun will NEVER set on the 'Pax Americana' of Modern West, much in the same way it will never set on the Grand Old Flag, the EU, the USSR, the British Empire, the Third Reich, the Eternal Cities of Rome & Xian, the Olmec Triumph and the Hanging Gardens of Babylon (but only if you just deny reality hard enough):

"And on the pedestal, these words appear:
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away."


Best
____

This fallacious confusion of current circumstance with causal predestination is what Matt_C refers to as 'mereological fallacy' & Paul_SB refers to as assumed 'universal intentionality'. It is analogous to the Apex Fallacy, leading those who reside in our aging society to conclude that 'We are the best because we were MEANT to be the best, for now & for always', even though these assumptions of intent (divine or otherwise) are all absurdities.

Jumper said...

Laurence makes me think of deaf culture and how some deaf resent cochlear implants as destroyers of that culture. How did the prospect of cloned Neanderthal babies make me think of this? Because I don't know if an actual Neanderthal kid would have a life more difficult than an average deaf person. Should a "womb donor" be rushed to an abortion to stop, at the last minute, the birth of our posited Neanderthal baby? Can people disagree? (They will!) Should a mother-to-be abort because her kid will be deaf? Same thing. Would a Neanderthal person be guaranteed a sad life? Not guaranteed. Not by a long shot. Should this be done? No. But for other reasons.

Jumper said...

locum's love affair with the straw man continues. Go watch the original Wicker Man again, especially the end.

locumranch said...



Pinker & Kurzweil (among others) also indulge in Apex Fallacy for, instead of striving for societal improvement to better accommodate a rather awkward human condition, they advocate in favour of the construction of a better human, post-human or artificial intelligence (aka 'human analog') to fit cog-in-wheel within whatever apical Perfect Society they currently endorse.

Called either 'progress' by some or 'pogrom' by others (in accordance with local lexicon), this interventionalist approach has been endorsed by history's most genocidal purists and has been known to result in the subjective elimination of the very same mental, aesthetic, behavioural or physical imperfections that many believe responsible for human creativity, advancement, variability & uniqueness.

Monstrous, I call it, this desire to eliminate the conservative impulse from humanity.

My desire is to allow humans to remain human.

Best
______

Even though our host talks a good game about "reciprocal accountability through criticism (in) which others, who don't share your particular delusions, can point them out for you", we conservatives can be sure that he will neither 'reciprocate' nor self-correct in response to those our Pro-Conservative criticisms that he judges 'illegitimate'. He'll just run us over with the Progressive Train if we try to lay across (and/or block) the metaphorical tracks to his desires. Toot-Toot.

LarryHart said...

locumranch:

Monstrous, I call it, this desire to eliminate the conservative impulse from humanity.


As opposed to the desire to eliminate the liberal impulse from humanity, which you are all for.

Hypocrite!


My desire is to allow humans to remain human.


How exactly does despoiling the environment we humans have to live in lead to that goal?

Jumper said...

The opposite of liberal is not conservative. Free speech, for example, is something we have had a while; a conservative wants no sudden changes. A radical does. I have a political philosophy called "liberal" by cranks all the time, but tea party radicals have nothing to do with "conservatism."

But all this straw man hyperbole is getting really old. It's just mindless.

David Brin said...


Laurence, basically some nerve cell lines have been grown that have a few genes altered to be more like Neanderthal. And we want to fly them in a space experiment to see if the Earthly response differences grow or decrease in weightless. This is hardly the “Basque Chimera” who I described in Existence. Even when replication is attempted it will likely be as when we create a “Mammoth” that’s actually an Indian Elephant with a dozen mammoth-like genes for hair and such. Creepy in its own ways, I know.

“These are all tells of an Apex Fallacy Culture’ — OKAY Now you are actually making a real argument, not a shriek about strawmen. A major flaw in human nature is “my way, my folk, my habits of thought are best!” And no one we know illustrates this reflex more than Locumranch. But that’s just me saying “same back atcha!”

In fact, sure, on the first order I am displaying that reflex, independent of the blatant truth that 99% of our ancestors would choose to live in contemporary America over their own, benighted hellholes, in a shot.

And you know it. And “you know it,” while not formal, is totally valid.

But undying? Fixed? Those are YOUR hangups, fellah, because we all know that unless this current apex is replaced by new, much better ones, rapidly, then we’re doomed. Those who would freeze further change and progress are the Apex Fallacy guys.

Moreover, the diversity of viewpoints and perspectives that we seek will demand only a few loose common strictures of mutual respect and flat-fair competitive reciprocal accountability in order to function. The details, in such a world of open, joyful argument, we leave to next generations: (Hey, travel forward and find the ONLY areas that are required to be uncovered are those we currently must cover? O-o-o-o-oh-tay?)

You are the one wanting things locked in stone. But at least you raised a legitimate topic, this time. And my reasons for my position MIGHT be rationalizations! And your poking at them is part of a critical process that I extoll above all others who extoll it! And that would seem - at least - to make me wise.

David Brin said...

“fallacious confusion of current circumstance with causal predestination “ Likewise, this would be another interesting topic. Save the fact that yours is the cult raving teleological screeches of “cyclical history”!

In fairness, the far-left also gets all mystical-teleological. While reactionaries are teleological CYCLES, far lefties are teleological about inevitable pre-ordained improvement.

Both are jibbering crazy. But at least the lefties want to move in a direction. Reactionaries are futility bastards.

“Even though our host talks a good game about "reciprocal accountability through criticism (in) which others, who don't share your particular delusions, can point them out for you", we conservatives can be sure that he will neither 'reciprocate' nor self-correct in response to those our Pro-Conservative criticisms that he judges 'illegitimate’.”

Utter bullshit. There are conservative assertions that I am willing to posit as worth arguing. Indeed, you’ll see no one on the planet speaking more about the benefits of human competition… if cheating can be prevented and if kep flat-open-fair.

If today’s conservatism lacks respect from me, it is well-and-truly earned.

===


But locumranch! You were at your best today!!! Some strawmanning and lots of just-plain-wrong. But you posed assertions that merited actual examination. Now back any of them with a scintilla of actual evidence, and we may have something to discuss.

LarryHart said...

Jumper:

But all this straw man hyperbole is getting really old. It's just mindless.


He seems to be following the playbook of Ann Coulter or Milo Hippopotamus. There's no coherent philosophy, just assertions of whatever will upset liberals.

It must be over 10 years now, but a local right-wing talk radio station used to have billboard ads which contained just one three-word message (in all caps), "LIBERALS HATE US". That was a selling point. Back when Air America was a thing, the progressive talk station which had Air America shows put up counter-ads for their station which said: "LIBERALS LOVE US!"

To me, that said a lot about the asymmetrical nature of the two sides. For all the complaints one can make about lefty Political Correctness and such, the aim of liberals is not to wave a red flag in front of the faces of conservatives and rile them up. We might wish they would vanish, but we're not actively trying to rouse them to anger. They are actively trying to rouse us to anger. The whole point of them seems to be "We're so powerful we can piss you off and you can't stop us!" And on the occasions when their antics actually do cause us to react in anger, then that's "Not fair!"

Locumranch wants humans to stay human. Great, so do I. So do all liberals. But who is he to demand that all those sheeple who don't want to be human have to conform to his wishes? What about their freedom to be cyborgs or slaves? His own philosophy is that what he wants other people to do is immaterial. Or should be, except that his own philosophy is that nothing "should" be anything.



Paul SB said...

Jumper,
You have pointed out one of those ironies I was talking about back in the days when I was surrounded by nothing but "conservatives" for whom "liberals" were boogiemen hiding under their beds and around every corner. /Conservative/ is supposed to mean keeping things the way they are, but the way they are includes a diversity of people - including those boogiemen - who want different specifics than those people who call themselves "conservative." Maybe the most obvious thing are different ethnic groups, like African Americans and Latin Americans in the US who tend to be pretty socially conservative, but what they want is often very different from what most conservative Caucasians want.

That all goes back to naturalization, which I've brought up before. Every culture assumes that their way of doing things is "natural" and anyone who does things differently is unnatural, wrong and probably evil to boot. Thus locum's comment on wanting humans to be human is nothing more than a statement of garden-variety ethnocentrism. He wants humans to be just like him. In his view, only humans who are just like him are true humans - everyone else is some kind of perversion. He doesn't get that humans are highly adaptable beasts that are capable of being a lot of things - including those "liberal" boogiemen he so fears.

Paul SB said...

Dr. Brin,

Exactly what is the point of flying modified cells up into zero G conditions, if not to see if they can be manufactured better under those conditions? After all, no branch of humanity evolved under zero G conditions, so it is hardly a test of how these cells would operate under natural conditions.

And why Neanderthal and not Denisovan? Although Neanderthal gets a whole lot of press, Denisovan would probably be the more interesting scientific question, given that we only know them from genetic evidence. Since there are no known Denisovan fossils, only vestigial DNA, we would probably learn more useful information about the nature of modern humans from analyzing these Denisovan complexes of genes. of course, as with Neanderthal, what we would be seeing are former adaptations that are no longer operating in our species - evolution's blind alleys, as it were. But when you are exploring new scientific questions, you never know what will turn up. That's the cool thing about science.

BTW, how was the March for Science? The Pasadena march seemed rather tame, but then, science types are not usually the kind of people who burn parked cars and loot nearby businesses.

LarryHart said...

Paul SB:

Every culture assumes that their way of doing things is "natural" and anyone who does things differently is unnatural, wrong and probably evil to boot. Thus locum's comment on wanting humans to be human is nothing more than a statement of garden-variety ethnocentrism. He wants humans to be just like him. In his view, only humans who are just like him are true humans - everyone else is some kind of perversion. He doesn't get that humans are highly adaptable beasts that are capable of being a lot of things - including those "liberal" boogiemen he so fears.


Good point. Likewise, Treebeard's assertion that homosexuality is (objectively) disgusting, and so should be prohibited by the force of government (which is a paraphrase, but that's what he's getting at). Well, I find spinach disgusting, but it doesn't occur to me to ask or demand that the authorities protect me from ever having to taste it, smell it, or be grossed out at the sight of someone else putting it in his mouth. I guess the big tough he-men are more snowflakes than us feminized liberals. But then we already know that.

locumranch said...


The Cyclic History Model does not necessarily imply the assumption of "teleological" purpose any more than the Riddle of the Sphinx implies predestination. Both model "pattern recognition" in reference to the human lifecycle, nothing more. The Riddle of the Sphinx describes infancy as 'walking on 4 legs', adulthood as 'walking on 2 legs' & old age 'as cane-assisted walking', whereas the Cyclic History Model notes that human civilisations appear to go through phases that roughly mirror (are analogous to) the average 70 year human lifecycle:

Stage I: Birth to Adolescence (Mimicry & Play)
Stage 2: Adolescence to Adulthood (Self-Discovery & Enterprise)
Stage 3: Mature Adulthood (Commitment & Responsibility)
Stage 4: Senescence (Wisdom, Retirement & Renunciation)

Personally, I can't care less if any of you accept the above pattern or not. I do and, as I approach the end of my Stage 3 responsibilities, I knowingly look forward to following Tacitus toward Retirement & Renunciation, leaving the rest of you Stage 3 & lessers to your own idiosyncratic devices, because you & your respective climate change Chicken Littlisms don't affect me a wit.

Try not to screw things up any further because you're on your own.

As for the rest of you, buy a Non-Orwellian dictionary. Larry_H proves he needs one desperately (as he argues that liberalism implies the "freedom to be ,,, slaves"); Jumper needs one least (as he understands the difference between liberal, conservative & progressive); and Paul_SB is perhaps beyond hope (as 'ze' seems to think that conservatism means ethnocentrism/racism).

And, one quick word to the unwise: Shaming Tactics don't work well on Stage 3 or above.


Best
_____
Like 'Pussy-Hats on Parade', the 'monkey see, monkey do' March for Science was the sole purview of those arrested at Stage 2 or below (Mimicry & Self-Discovery) as all those subject to Stage 3 (Responsibility) were too busy keeping the lights on, the stores stocked & the bills paid, while those subject to Stage 4 (Wisdom & Renunciation) merely shook their heads knowing that reality doesn't give a crap about youthful enthusiasm, sign-waving, sympathetic magic or wishful thinking.

Those Stage 2 or less protestors (who take to the streets & demand that others institute corrective actions on their behalf) are little more than mewling infants with a childish dependency on Stage 3 Government. "Celebrate Diversity, Fund Science, Ban Badness and Change our Nappies", they exclaim because they are incapable of doing anything for themselves, and they are long overdue for the stern whipping that only reality can provide.

LarryHart said...

locumranch:

I knowingly look forward to following Tacitus toward Retirement & Renunciation, leaving the rest of you Stage 3 & lessers to your own idiosyncratic devices, because you & your respective climate change Chicken Littlisms don't affect me a wit.

Try not to screw things up any further because you're on your own.


We couldn't ask for more. Don't let the airlock hit you on the ass on your way out.

As for the rest of you, buy a Non-Orwellian dictionary. Larry_H proves he needs one desperately (as he argues that liberalism implies the "freedom to be ,,, slaves");


Your reading comprehension is at its usual level. I said that your own philosophy would tell you that if people want to be slaves, you've got no moral authority forbidding it. Who are you to insist that humans be humans, just because that's your preference? I didn't say your preference was wrong. I said you are a hypocrite for deriding our host forcing his preferences upon humankind when you do the same thing.

LarryHart said...

locumranch:

Paul_SB is perhaps beyond hope (as 'ze' seems to think that conservatism means ethnocentrism/racism).


He might get that idea from conservative talk radio, conservative congressmen, and conservatives who voted for President Snow. If the shoe fits, wear it.

...they are incapable of doing anything for themselves, and they are long overdue for the stern whipping that only reality can provide.


Heh. The liberals marching for science are "fer" reality, not "again'" it. The ones ignoring reality are the #SoCalledConservatives in government who say "There's not enough evidence" while mandating by law that evidence cannot be gathered.

What I think you mean by "reality" is "You liberals don't realize that whatever problems you attempt to solve, right-wing politicians will stand in your way unless you pay enough tribute to them or otherwise do their bidding. The sooner you learn this fact of life, the sooner you graduate to adulthood." Which might be good advice (from a certain point of view), but is a different thing from an admonition to face reality; in fact, the opposite thing.

pappenheimer said...

Mauna Loa reported 410 ppm of CO2 on April 18th. Why is this not a headline anywhere?

David Brin said...

locum said something true! : “the Cyclic History Model notes that human civilisations appear to go through phases…”

Yes! Exactly. Civilizations “appear” to go through such cycles. They appear to… to idiots. To ignoramus-loons who leap to shout “aha!” at pattern-seeking that reinforces their depressive personalities, without feeling any obligation to prove a thing.

THAT is the salient fact under discussion, here. The fact that so many depressive phase conservatives feel to drawn to a version of teleology that forecasts utter doom to the Enlightenment, to our Revolution, to all our recent successes and to any glimmer of a chance that humans might become fully sapient pilots of our destiny.

Almost (not quite) as loony is the opposite teleology… lefties proclaiming that endless human improvement is fore-ordained by processes like Marxism, or singularity stuff. It’s almost as stupid, though at least far less sickly addicted to wallows in futility.

Dig it fellah. We are still in your Phase 2. Every single thing about American (not Confederate) society is adolescent. The bad (flightiness) and the good (eagerness for discovery and expansiveness, inclusion, and self-improvement) is adolescent… and has been so for many generations. There is no reason to believe that will change.

And THAT is what has grumpy old men out on their porches screaming “get off my lawn, you kids!”

locumranch said...


"We are still in your Phase 2. Every single thing about American (not Confederate) society is adolescent. The bad (flightiness) and the good (eagerness for discovery and expansiveness, inclusion, and self-improvement) is adolescent… and has been so for many generations. There is no reason to believe that will change" [DB]


It appears, then, that we are in complete agreement. The West (in general) & the USA (in particular) suffers from an excess of mania, over-populated as it is by eternal children, Stage 2 narcissists, irresponsible parasites & entitled demanders who imagine that 50 is the new 15, groceries appear as if by magic, and protests can replace tiresome labour & effort, which is why said populace insists on more & more Stage 3 government paternalism in order to escape those 'icky' traditionally adult responsibilities.

After a lifetime of thankless labour & crushing responsibility I seem to identify with the Time Machine's Morlocks more & more, especially when the Eloi (in final synopsis) are little more than useless self-indulgent aristocratic parasites.

So, 'you damned kids', you can play on my lawn if you won't listen to reason, but it don't expect me to either 'child-proof it' or rescue you when fall into my open septic tank.

You've been warned.


Best
______
The Real Life Consequences of your Juvenile Irresponsibilities can punish you more than your Conservative Boogeymen ever could.

Jumper said...

"Open septic tank" is about right.

LarryHart said...

locumranch:

After a lifetime of thankless labour & crushing responsibility I seem to identify with the Time Machine's Morlocks more & more, especially when the Eloi (in final synopsis) are little more than useless self-indulgent aristocratic parasites.


I really do feel your pain on that one. I might have been you with a few different choices. But now, you're sounding like Scrooge, or maybe J Jonah Jameson from Spider-Man lore or the Zygoteans from Dreadstar. You've wasted or disfigured your own life so badly that all you can do now is make sure no one remains untainted enough to remind you of what you've lost. #Sad.


So, 'you damned kids', you can play on my lawn if you won't listen to reason,


Whatever makes you think it's your lawn we're interested in?


but it don't expect me to either 'child-proof it' or rescue you when fall into my open septic tank.

You've been warned.


Thanks for proving my point. The more optimistic among this group think you're the conservative neighbor who would be fighting alongside us against Nazis and such. I called you more as Roarshach from "Watchmen", to wit:


Rorschach's Journal. October 12th, 1985. Dog carcass in alley this morning. Tire tread on burst stomach. This city's afraid of me. I've seen its true face. The streets are extended gutters, and the gutters are full of blood, and when the drains finally scab over all the vermin will drown. The accumulated filth of all their sex and murder will foam up about their waists and all the whores and politicians will look up and shout save us! And I'll whisper no.

David Brin said...

Except, the side of adolescence represented by the confederacy is the dark side... flightiness, growling cynicism, hatred of expertise and schoolyard bullying. And yes, sitting on the couch, seeking distraction.

The side of adolescence that he fears, that he doesn't understand, is flexibility, eagerness to learn, a HUNGER for expertise, optimism, expansiveness, inclusion, and self-improvement.

You see, in your countrymen, all the foul aspects of all fours "stages"... because these are the festering sores you see in the mirror, relished by your side. But in fact -- the kids are all right.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

locum said something true!


He's like a stopped clock that way.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Dwight Williams wrote: " Harper got his first majority in the House of Commons. Then he went big, and I'd like to think that was part of what got enough of us off our butts in 2015 to end that nonsense and start healing the damage to whatever degree possible."

I used to joke (and explain Harper to Americans) that Harper was Dick Cheney as designed by Canadians.

Catfish N. Cod said...

What locum does not seem to understand:

* A culture and its individuals can be in different stages. We may be a Stage Two culture but that does not prohibit Stage Three individuals in it... indeed not, or else locum could not exist!

* There is no 'clockwork' mandating a culture's stage. It develops when conditions are right and the society *chooses* to move to a new level. Please note that stage three would be identified with Spengler's "civilization" rather than "culture"... a steady-state scenario in which the patterns persist, but the evolution of culture is dead.

Does that sound *anything* like the United States, a culture now obsessed by the implications of a communications medium that did not exist thirty years ago and accessed using technology that did not exist ten years ago? Where 'future shock' has become the new normal?

I honor locum's evident efforts to maintain responsibility as he sees it and uphold civilization as he has known it. But to regard matters as he knows them as sufficient unto the evils of the day would be to give in to the notion of an "apex culture", or that we have passed apex and must revert in order to "Make America Great Again". Whereas our only escape from the trap of limited resources (as delineated in Diamond's work on collapses) is forward -- towards the more sustainable infrastructure already under active development by such as Musk.

Your "phase two adolescents" are taking on responsibilities that their elders refuse to admit even exist, while all the time being berated for neglecting proper decorum & failing to respect traditions regardless of appropriateness or utility. We do not do things as they were done "in your day" because we can't.... because we can't afford to.

"For indeed, the sun will NEVER set on the 'Pax Americana' of Modern West..."

Our successor in the Pax, the culture that will extend our efforts as we extended Britain's, is not yet evident. I support efforts to cultivate likely possibilities for that eventuality. Myself, I'm betting India will be the next hegemon. It is far too large and has all the tools to be successful, and is the tortoise to China's hare. It is not precisely Western, but in the same sense that Japan is not; all the tools and paradigms that make it strong are inherited from the Western experience. The land that replicated MIT with a dozen copies is not a land that is failing to prepare for the future, or ignoring reality. I hope one day to see, or for my grandchildren to see, a Pax Commonwealthia with India as the core and America as the elder partner/advisor... I would be unlikely to fear such an outcome.

LarryHart said...

Catfish N. Cod quoting locumranch:

"For indeed, the sun will NEVER set on the 'Pax Americana' of Modern West..."


Heh. I'm reminded of an old internet list of excerpts from (supposedly) actual history papers compiled by a history professor:


The sun never sets on the British Empire because the British Empire is in the east and the sun sets in the west.


Apropos nothing, other favorites:

Sir Francis Drake circumcised the Earth with a fifty foot clipper.

Homer was not written by Homer, but by someone else of that name.


Michael Lee said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Ann Lily said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Jumper said...

"It wasn't Shakespeare who wrote those plays - it was another guy with the same name" is the way I heard it.

LarryHart said...

Jumper,

There were many versions of those history excerpts going around the (pre-browser) internet in the 80s. The ones I quoted above are as verbatim as I can get from 30-year-old memory, and were some of my favorites. There were longer ones about the Russian revolution and WWII that I can no longer recall enough to attempt.

Tacitus2 said...

Locumranch said:

"I knowingly look forward to following Tacitus toward Retirement & Renunciation.."

I notice you did not credit me with the third part of the triad, Wisdom!

If by Retirement and Renunciation you mean professionally, I can say sure. I have seen far too many physicians go adrift when they stop practicing medicine. Not an issue for me and I hope when your time comes that you also traverse serene waters under your own power and to destinations of your own choosing. Don't let an excessive amount of your self image be tied up in the magical letters M.D.

But as to my active participation in Contrary Brin its another matter.

I've been rather busy. And the discourse is usually gnawing upon old marrowless bones. When an interesting topic or tangent does come up it usually comes and goes quickly and I miss the bus.

In my retirement I am involved with robotics education programs at middle school and high school levels. I am off on my annual archeology adventure shortly. I have taught myself enough Italian to entirely confuse people. I have learned Solidworks and a bit of machining skills. My grandson's eyes light up when I walk in the room.

All this is far more interesting than rehashed politics. So, Locum, what will you do when you stand down from your last shift?

Tacitus

Paul SB said...

Regarding "stages" of culture, I actually delivered a speech on that subject many years ago - the only time I did such a thing, when I was still in Grad school and hoping to have an academic career. A private, ivy league school in Pennsylvania was having a conference on the subject of "decline" hosted by the art history department. My experience with art historians is that as archaeologists they are so subjective they do more harm than good. I kind of went into it as a bit of a disruptive element, challenging the very notion of decline. It turned out that I wasn't the only one - a few of the other speeches challenged the notion of decline. I remember one in particular who used the art of Gustav Klimt, who was considered a sign of the decline of civilization by such great artists as Adolf Hitler (a nod to Mr. Godwin), and yet Western Civilization did not collapse and die because artistic tastes changed.

The whole idea that a civilization is analogous to an individual organism passing through stages of life before it dies is nothing more than a folk analogy that has no scientific validity whatsoever. It’s a bit like a slippery slope argument – civilizations do “die” as it were, but to maintain the ‘organic analogy’ every intervening step between the “birth” and “death” of a civilization has to be proven, not merely assumed. People have been doing just that since at least the time of James Frazer, Arthur Evans, Carl Jung, and no one yet has been able to objectively show that this ‘organic analogy’ actually applies to anything. It’s really just a romantic subjectivity in which one generation ridicules the next for being different – the prerogative of old curmudgeons. I approached the idea by teaching them about the emic/etic distinction from linguistics. My speech got pretty wild applause from the audience, but the old art history professors were not pleased with me at all. After all the speeches were given, it was mine they chose to discuss in the closing address. They claimed to be capable of creating an “emetic” interpretation. I had to stop myself from guffawing at that one. They presumably thought they made that word up and had no idea of its medical definition, which was ironically appropriate, given their insistence on their own god-like powers of observation.
The whole “cycles of history” idea is just a metaphorical extension of the organic analogy – a metaphor of a metaphor, twice removed from reality. It has an ancient pedigree in both the Old and New Worlds, a fact that only shows how easy an analogy it is to make. And how convenient, as it allows the established powers of the older generations to fight the younger generations resistance to their hegemony.

Locum said: “…and Paul_SB is perhaps beyond hope (as 'ze' seems to think that conservatism means ethnocentrism/racism).”

- Now what higher compliment could I possibly be paid? It’s like being labeled an Enemy of the People by Joe Stalin or Mao Zedong. But more seriously, at least half of today’s conservatives are explicitly not racist and get very angry when you point out their racist heritage. This is a huge improvement over my larval days when the racism was much more explicit and accepted. It also shows that conservatives are not really living up to their claims, as times have changed and they are beginning to abandon at least that one aspect of the mythical “good old days.” Of course, treating an idea as if it has to be true simply because it is old is fallacious reasoning (Ad antiquitatem, specifically).

raito said...

I don't think I like that Futurism article on computers coding themselves. Yes, there's a bunch of research on it -- just look at the recent DARPA Cyber Grand Challenge (computers patching themselves autonomously). But there's problems with that article (I haven't read the research). The usual problem with these sorts of systems, which have been around for a fairly long time, is how long is the program's specification compared to the program? We're a long way from the data dictionary programs I used in college, but those took more input than they supplied for output. The article says nothing about how the non-code specifies what they want. And it's a bit confusing to say they're using a neural network to predict program properties, as code analysis is a pretty well-known sub-discipline of computer science (the company I work for makes it's money on it). Code generation is also well-know, especially for certain specifications.

It's also a little inaccurate to say that programmers work by copying lines of code. It's not lines of code we copy, it's semantic units. And often, the copied code gets modified. Finally, where do the copied lines come from? To me, that's far more interesting.

As far as neurons go, sure initially they were thought of as switches. But the current state of thinking has them as extremely complex quasi-state machines whose input and outputs are continuous and numerous. It's more like a neuron is a little analog computer. Which isn't to say that dendrites aren't doing what the quote says. Whichever researcher who talked about digital vs. analog was either wrong, or addressing a model that's been pretty thoroughly discredited. I'm a bit confused there.

Yes, we are capable of extreme delusion. Sometimes it's a positive thing. Used properly, it can allow someone to continue to success even though every sign says otherwise.

Deuxglass said...

Dr. Brin,

A while ago you asked me about the elections here in France. For the first round I predicted that Le Pen and Macron would win and they have. Toward the end there was a bit of narrowing but in the end it didn’t matter. The Socialist candidate, Benoit Hamon, totally collapsed when people saw how really stupid he is. I did mention that he had nothing upstairs and it showed. Jean-Luc Mélenchon did better than I expected by picking up those disgusted by Hamon. In all, there was no real surprises.

In the second round we will see the other parties and voters ganging together to defeat LePen and they had done to her father before. Macron will be the next president and he is for the status quo. His problem is that he doesn’t officially have a party behind him but he should very easily patch together a coalition of the center and the moderate Left. Politically he is really a part of the Bourgeois Left and thereby fits in with all leaders of the Socialist Party ever since Mitterrand. I have no idea whether he will be a good one or not. Time will tell.

There are many other things happening on the political side but I will have to wait for a bit later to talk about it.

LarryHart said...

raito:

Yes, we are capable of extreme delusion. Sometimes it's a positive thing. Used properly, it can allow someone to continue to success even though every sign says otherwise.


It worked for Trump. But I'm not sure I'd go with "used properly" in that context.

Somewhere in there, though, is a running theme in the graphic novel "From Hell". "I made it all up, and it came true anyway."


LarryHart said...

@Deuxglass,

So hopefully we won't be seeing the nightmare WWIII scenario someone posted here a few months back, with the US, Britain, France, and Russia lining up to impose fascism on the world and Germany and Japan having to defend freedom?

David Brin said...

Tacitus this is why we miss you around here. You get post of the day for:

"In my retirement I am involved with robotics education programs at middle school and high school levels. I am off on my annual archeology adventure shortly. I have taught myself enough Italian to entirely confuse people. I have learned Solidworks and a bit of machining skills. My grandson's eyes light up when I walk in the room."

A capsule re-modernization of Rudyard Kipling's poem "If," with more generosity and a bit less stiff-upper-lip.
You are a man, sir.

David Brin said...

Deuxglass, merci pour la mise à jour très instructive et de votre optimisme.

LarryHart I shall use that bit: "with the US, Britain, France, and Russia lining up to impose fascism on the world and Germany and Japan having to defend freedom..."

occam's comic said...

In terms of biological intelligence there is good reasons to think that fundamental unit of information is the molecule rather than the neuron or synapse.

Here is a quote from Richard Jones
" The fundamental unit of biological information processing is the molecule, rather than any higher level structure like a neuron or a synapse; molecular level information processing evolved very early in the history of life. Living organisms sense their environment, they react to what they are sensing by changing the way they behave, and if they are able to, by changing the environment too. This kind of information processing, unsurprisingly, remains central to all organisms, humans included, and this means that a true simulation of the brain would need to be carried out at the molecular scale, rather than the cellular scale. The scale of the necessary simulation is out of reach of any currently foreseeable advance in computing power. Finally I will conclude with some much more speculative thoughts about the central role of randomness in biological information processing. I’ll ask where this randomness comes from, finding an ultimate origin in quantum mechanical fluctuations, and speculate about what in-principle implications that might have on the simulation of consciousness."

He also makes this very good point
"Unlike artificial computers, there is no clean digital abstraction layer in the brain; given the biological history of nervous systems as evolved, rather than designed, systems, there’s no reason to expect one."

Here is a link to Dr Jones's short article
Your mind will not be uploaded
http://www.softmachines.org/wordpress/?p=1558

and a link to his (free online book)
http://www.softmachines.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/Against_Transhumanism_1.0_small.pdf

If anyone wants good technical reasons to back up why a lot of transhumanism is BS these articles are a good start.

matthew said...

Slate with another hit piece on the March for Science. http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/science/2017/04/the_march_for_science_was_eerily_religious.html

Someone at the Washington Post (owners of Slate) doesn't much like scientists having an opinion. Or something.

Marino said...

@Tacitus: happy you managed to learn my language. They used to say iirc in Renaissance time "Englishman Italianate devil incarnate", but I suppose it doesn't apply to Americans :-)

@Deuxglass: I've followed closely the French vote. While I'm from a radical Left background, I'll find Melenchon's non-endorsement of Macron for the runoff a scandal.
It's the moral equivalence he fueled between a moderate leftist/liberal and a true quill, dyed in the wool Fascist like Le Pen, that makes me cringe. Another populist like his comrade Corbyn. Useful idiots of the worst Right ever.

Deuxglass said...

Marino,

Melenchon and his party have their roots in French communism and attract the same sort of followers. He sees Macron as a lacky of the banks and big business (a justified claim in a sense)and that an endorsement of Macron would be a betrayal. Although their are similarities with Le Pen when it comes to economic policy Melechon has made it quite clear that he favors immigration and promotes a future "Great Franco-Arab Culture". This is antipode to Le Pen's view. He is confident that few of his followers would vote for Le Pen in any case. Therefore endorsing Macron would be meaningless and a nonsense.

Catfish N. Cod said...

* French elections: relieving, though still a bit disturbing that 20% of French voters are willing to support a candidate literally bought and paid for by the Russian Foreign Ministry. (At the last report I saw, Le Pen's loans from Russian banks totalled 14 million euros.) Still, your system should be able to allow the center-right to turn on her.

Melenchon's declaration that Le Pen and Macron were essentially the same was scary, though: it smacked of the American movement (never very strong) called "Bernie or Bust", that was willing to see Drumpf over holding their nose for a merely centrist candidate.

* I remain unconvinced that there are overarching rhythms in civilizations (beyond generational ones) at all; there might be spotty evidence of there being a series of finite-state machines describing attributes, with nodes labeled things like "feudal", "tribal", "totalitarian", "anarchy", "reactionary", "evolutionary", "static", "dynamic", etc.

That is as opposed to dynasties, in which there is some evidence for a cycle of conquest-dynamism-mediocrity-decadence-incompetence, with returns to stages 1 through 3 depending on the fortunes of other family branches or a conquest by a new dynasty. If you are foolish enough to think that the coming and going of rulers is the equivalent of culture, one could mistake this for the rise and fall of civilizations. It is in fact merely the rise and fall of noble fortunes.

I will close by pointing out how very many cultures described themselves as "the Real People" and everyone else as false people, or non-people. Trying to use behavior to define away sapience or kinship (for we are all thirtieth cousins at most) is very, very, very old.

At least, by the standards of individual organisms...

Deuxglass said...

Catfish and Cod,

Remember Melenchon's communist roots. To him Macron and Le Pen are just different branches of the capitalistic system. They are both equally evil in his eyes. It has nothing to do with Bernie. It is strictly the product of French politics.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

LarryHart I shall use that bit: "with the US, Britain, France, and Russia lining up to impose fascism on the world and Germany and Japan having to defend freedom..."


I can't actually take credit, but someone here on this blog posted it around either the election or the inauguration. I was paraphrasing, but that was the gist of it.

LarryHart said...

Marino:

I've followed closely the French vote. While I'm from a radical Left background, I'll find Melenchon's non-endorsement of Macron for the runoff a scandal.
It's the moral equivalence he fueled between a moderate leftist/liberal and a true quill, dyed in the wool Fascist like Le Pen, that makes me cringe.


The equivalent over here in the US is the left/liberals who think this is the time to punish the Democratic Party by withholding votes from them until they move to the left. I keep wanting to scream at the radio: "How about trying withholding votes from Republicans until they move to the left??? Instead of that other thing that seems to not be working out so well."

LarryHart said...

Deuxglass:

He is confident that few of his followers would vote for Le Pen in any case. Therefore endorsing Macron would be meaningless and a nonsense.


Before this year, maybe. In the year that the unprecedented and unexpected has become the norm, that's taking an awful chance.

This sentence would have made just as much sense back in November:

Bernie Sanders is confident that few of his followers would vote for Trump in any case. Therefore endorsing Hillary would be meaningless and a nonsense.

locumranch said...


Melenchon's declaration that Le Pen and Macron were essentially 'the same' is typical of many progressives & left-leaning extremists: They move inexorably to the extremist left, redefine their far left position as the new centrist norm, and then declare that those who stand to their political right must therefore be the most despicable of right-wing extremists.

Ergo, Le Pen & Macron are both Nazis, as far as Melenchon the Moderate is concerned, much in the same way that all climate science skeptics have been redefined as despicably ignorant anti-science 'deniers', so much so that the old school centrist has become the new extremist in our Brave New World.

Best

David Brin said...

Sigh. locum starts with a valid statement... that many leftists are morons who lump everyone who's not in their splitter camp as vile enemies. And yes, this has always been the case for far-lefties, as Orwell learned in Catalonia.

Alas, locum is also raving bananas and unable to get the irony of his own attack, which manifests the fact that nearly ALL rightists now do exactly the same thing. the FAR left CONTAINS some fanatic morons. Today's (almost) ENTIRE right now CONSISTS of such.

" all climate science skeptics have been redefined as despicably ignorant anti-science 'deniers'"

Bullshit. Richard Muller was a climate Skeptic, demanding better evidence in specific areas that he deemed weakly supported. He did not move goal posts and explicitly stated what kinds of evidence it would take... and that evidence arrived in due course. Partly BECAUSE of his skeptical criticism. And he declared: "Aha. Now I am satisfied. It's happening and we are doing it."

That is called sapience. It is called science. He irritated some but performed a useful function.

You denialist cultists are not sapient. You despise and do not remotely understand science. You move the goal posts anywhere your cult svengalis tell you to.

You help sabotage the science that would force you to either admit what's happening or move the goal posts again.

You aren't "skeptics." You are raving loony cultists and enemies of our children.

locumranch said...


Again, the extremist hyperbole that eliminates the possibility of compromise, declares that one is EITHER a sanely (with us) pro-scientist OR a "raving loony" (against us) anti-scientist, and portrays all non-allied moderates as "enemies of our children".

In this apparent perspective war, the Neutral, the Undecided & the Centrist has become the enemy, as in the case of Hillary Clinton whose political pivot toward the center allowed the left to portray her as a Corporate Oligarchy apologist & the right to portray her as a Pathological Socialist, the irony being that such mutually contradictory condemnations are considered equally valid in the current political climate.

Keep it up !! For those you call your enemy will become your enemy.


Best

Tony Fisk said...

Hi Tacitus. Before I bore you with dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones, I draw your attention to some light viewing: Jane McGonigal's latest TED talk "The Future is Dark"

" all climate science skeptics have been redefined as despicably ignorant anti-science 'deniers'"

That's just scientists, reclaiming their professional title back.

If you want a skeptical question about climate change, try this one: why is carbon dioxide the scapegoat? Why aren't the much more abundant atmospheric components (nitrogen, oxygen, argon) considered to be greenhouse gases?*

*I may have posed this one before. The answer is interesting, and not that easily come by.

occam's comic said...

Tony
That is easy. It is just a subset of the more general question of how electromagnetic energy interacts with matter.

First thing to know is that the energy of a photon is determined by the wavelength of the photon. The shorter the wavelength the greater the energy contained in that photon. So you can have photons with a lot of energy per photon (like gamma radiation) all the way down to very low energy photons like radio waves and everything in between.

If an atom or a molecule has an energy transition that matches the energy of that photon it will absorb the energy and move to a higher energy state. If it does not have an energy transition that is equal to the energy of the photon it will not absorb the energy.

For IR radiation the photons are relatively low in energy. In molecules, the energy of an IR photon is often in the same range as vibrational and rotational energy modes of molecules. For example water has O-H bonds has vibrational modes that match much of the IR spectrum. Hence it will absorb over much of the IR spectrum. Chemist will often use IR spectroscopy (%absorption vs wavelength) to (help)identify a particular chemical.


Double bonded oxygen and triple bonded nitrogen do not strongly absorb in the IR but the C=0 bond in carbon dioxide does. The C-H bonds in methane absorb more of the IR spectrum.

Jumper said...

Classically, the degrees of freedom to rotate have something to do with it. Two-atom-gases can normally not store energy as spin so much as molecules with an "arm" sticking out on the side can. At least that's the way I read about it. That works with H2O and methane, ethane, etc. as well.

..................

Here's an article on the rare asteroids who reside inside the earth's orbit, living around the neighborhood of us, Venus, Mercury, and the sun. I wonder if all of them arrived later, or whether any of them at all remain from the early formation of the system?
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apohele_asteroid

Jumper said...

Slate is still owned by the Grahams, who sold the Washington Post to Bezos. Slate no longer with the WaPo.

David Brin said...

"Again, the extremist hyperbole that eliminates the possibility of compromise, declares that one is EITHER a sanely (with us) pro-scientist OR a "raving loony" (against us) anti-scientist, and portrays all non-allied moderates as "enemies of our children".
In this apparent perspective war, the Neutral, the Undecided & the Centrist has become the enemy..."

Imbecile. That is your side. You are looking in a mirror. Your raving cult brought us to this point of "sides." Now you are whining because you see what you have wrought. A middle that is roused and knows its very survival is at stake, because there will be no mollifying your raging, jibbering fanatics.

occam's comic said...

Jumper
Two atom gases can store energy in rotation, it is monoatomic gases like helium that cant store energy in rotation (or vibration) That is why the highest preforming gas guns use helium as the gas. All the energy goes into translational movement none into vibrational or rotational energy.

Heterogeneous gases like water will have a dipole moment between the different atoms and that increases the ways energy can be stored compared to homogeneous gasses like Nitrogen.

David Brin said...

onward

onward

Dwight Williams said...

Apologies to our host for returning here, but Zepp raised a question that has me thinking: "Harper was Dick Cheney designed by Canadians."

Not Karl Rove?

Admittedly, the personality-mapping is inexact...

Lorraine said...

If Germany and Japan are on the side of civilization this time around, then Radio Free America is The World Channel (most likely a simulcast channel to your local PBS member station), which treats us to news broadcasts from DW and NHK.