Sunday, April 09, 2017

Those seven planets... what a universe

At a time when public confidence is (ironically) plummeting, we see example after example of our society's competence and reasons for confidence.

But first: does anyone know of some public event or resort along the path of the August Solar Eclipse that might need an astrophysicist-speaker-Sci Fi author and former solar astronomer (!) to liven up the festivities? Entertaining sci-blather R-Us! (See more, below, about the Big Event.)


== Goldilocks and the Seven Medium-Sized Meatballs ==

The NASA announcement of seven Earth-sized planets orbiting a nearby red star, five of them at least arguably within that star's Continuously Habitable Zone (CHZ) or Goldilocks (just right) Zone  is wondrously thought provoking in several ways:


1) Just the awe and wonder of it. And how amazing it is that the transit method has found so many systems, when it can only catch 5% of what's out there.

2) Note the scale of this system. The star puts out 0.05% as much light and heat as our sun. All of the planets orbit within the same distance range as Jupiter's outer moons orbit our system's giant planet.  In fact, this star is only a little more than a giant planet.  

3) Ponder what science fiction foretold. This is essentially the mini solar system that Arthur C. Clarke envisioned surrounding an ignited Jupiter, in his novel 2010.  (This is Arthur's Centennial year.)

4) With that in mind, ponder Goldfinger's Rule.  One planet in a Goldilocks Zone is happenstance. Two might be coincidence.  Three....?  Five...?  I'm not "sayin'"... just hinting. Remember the 'Verse' from Firefly?

5) Before you get excited, remember these planets are likely to be tidal locked, with one face permanently starward.  And tiny red stars tend to be Flare Stars, intermittently burping radiation. So any life would face challenges.

6) This system would seem an excellent target for some kinds of exoplanet direct viewing missions. Advantages:  Well-understood orbits and a very dim star, allowing better contrast. Disadvantages: planets are very close to their star and hard to separate... only the system is close to us, so that's partly offset.

7) Their sun is a dwarf star. We're looking for family members in a "goldilocks Zone." What else could we call these seven worlds but Sleepy, Happy, Grumpy, Sneezy... and...

8) Should we aim SETI scopes to look in that direction?  Yep! Should we send "messages"? Nope.

== Earth based science ==

The new, geostationary weather satellite GOES16 offers gorgeous views of Earth.

(I must point out that the Bushes - both of them - sabotaged Earth science, especially by NASA and NOAA... but nothing like the slashing we are seeing from the Trump Administration, which has cancelled four weather-and-resource satellites and ordered NASA to stop all mention of studying Earth as a planet. 


(Why would anyone -- even fanatics servile to coal barons -- do such shortsighted and blatantly corrupt things?)

Back to progress... they can't stop it entirely. NASA has contracted for a new type of spacecraft that will refuel satellites in Low Earth Orbit and also provide boost to new trajectories. Downstream: the possibility of servicing higher orbits and even swapping out old, worn-out or obsolete parts.

The NASA astronauts who fly aboard Boeing's new spaceship will wear sleek, blue suits that are lighter, simpler and more comfortable than the bulky orange gear of the space shuttle era.

A concept that was formerly only in science fiction: Japan's space agency JAXA launched an electrodynamic tether to catch, grab, decelerate and dispose of orbiting debris. This method, pioneered by the father of space tetherdynamics, Joseph Carroll, was illustrated in the first chapter of my novel, Existence. And way back in the 1980s, in my short story “Tank Farm Dynamo.” (Alas, late news. This attempted tether deployment failed.  When will they learn? If you want tethers to go, ask Joe.)

Kewl images of telescopes... taken at long range by telescopes in space.

==The Promises - and Perils - of Asteroids ==

Two upcoming asteroid missions: A newly announced NASA mission will send a spacecraft to Psyche - an asteroid in the belt between Mars and Jupiter. “With a diameter of 210km, Psyche 16 is among the 10 largest objects in the asteroid belt, and it's especially interesting because it is metallic, composed largely of iron and nickel. Scientists think the intriguing object may be the exposed core of a planet that was once roughly the size of Mars but lost its outer, rocky layers due to a series of violent collisions.”

Another NASA mission will visit the heretofore unexplored swarms of "Trojan" asteroids that have accumulated at the L4 and L5 points of Jupiter's orbit around the Sun.

It’s already clear that the Trump Administration will cancel NASA’s Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) – sending robots to grab asteroid chunks and take them to lunar orbit for human analysis. They will replace it with the longtime Republican obsession, to re-do Apollo landings on the Moon, along with Russia, China, India, Europe and other wannabe copycats, eager for footprints on an orb with absolutely no near-term useful traits. This article tries to make it seem that ARM was similarly pointless. It wasn’t. It had dozens of excellent scientific and commercial goals, some of which might make our children spectacularly rich. Ironically, that is anathema to Republicans. Expect more propaganda like this. 

Late news: They just cancelled the mission to explore asteroids for resources that could threaten Earth-based resource extractor-parasites.  Just sayin'.

To be clear, it’s not just the spectacular riches that should take us to asteroids, but their potential threat.  Watch these videos about possible impact effects. Look into contributing to the B612 Foundation, which aims to protect us from giant rocks!  (I am on the Board of Advisors.) 

The lesson?  Elect dinosaurs and risk becoming like dinosaurs.

And yet, am I hostile to endeavors like Moon Express, which aim to win the Google Lunar XPrize, by landing a privately funded, mobile lab on the lunar surface by December 31? Of course not! Good luck to them and to the other contestants! May they prove me wrong about the dearth of near-term value to be found there. Moreover, we’d be fools not to keep sending scientific bots down to our nearest neighbor. At NIAC we have founded many prospective mission technologies, including robots that might rappel down into lava tube caves. Others would use mirrors to redirect sunlight to the bottom of polar craters and power rovers into that dark, possibly icy realm.

None of that is the same thing as redirecting NASA’s core efforts into a gigantic, multi-billion dollar manned moon landing boondoggle. Again, let Russia, China, India, Europe and other wannabe copycats chase second-place pride with footprints. I’ve lifted my gaze to Mars. And to get there, we’ll need to get rich and experienced with the real stepping stones.

== Eclipses and other wonders ==

The August 21, 2017 total solar eclipse will be the first visible only in the US since the American Revolution, and the first total solar eclipse to sweep coast-to-coast in 99 years. A total eclipse will be seen from a path over 62 miles (100 km) wide, and will last for two minutes or more. Happily, a partial eclipse will be visible from all of North America.  Totality will span a band 100km wide from Oregon to Missouri to South Carolina.

A cool Gizmodo article forecasts some of the scientific wonders we can expect, in 2017.  Including more gravity waves from LIGO, two new satellites that should appraise thousands of new planets, a first close look at the Milky Way’s super black hole, amazing bio possibilities with CRISPR tech, and yes, climate news. Watch the cultists bray for several years that “there’s no warming!” because 2016 streaked to such a record high (after five other record highs) that there will be some reversion to mean… which they will interpret as “global cooling!”

While I am generally deeply skeptical of UFO stuff, for many reasons, especially logical ones, I do keep a mind-section open to new inputs. And this one is kinda creepy. 

Axiom, the new Journal of Interstellar Studies, contains the following papers: Kelvin F. Long, Is the Concept of (Stapledon) Universal Mentality Credible? Tong B. Tang, Origin of Life, Inflation and Quantum Entanglement. 

Oh and -- David Brin, How Might Artificial Intelligence Come About: Different Approaches and their Implications for Life in the Universe.

84 comments:

Paul451 said...

(From the last thread: I think Loco's problem... I think one of Loco's many problems is that he thinks unity and diversity are antonyms; ie, that unity and purity are synonyms.)

Patricia Mathews said...

Re: "kinda creepy UFO stuff...." ....OK. Whose military is testing what kind of craft on the down-low?

Tony Fisk said...

8) Should we aim SETI scopes to look in that direction? Yep! Should we send "messages"? Nope.

I know the Nope argument. Still, to repeat my idea for a cartoon showing numerous worlds quietly listening to the Cosmos. One scientist exclaims, in best B-grade manner: "Great Scott! Look there... tinnitus!?"
(caption: The Earie Silence)

btw, did you hear about the Darwin mechanic who found a four world system via crowdsourcing? He will be cited as a discoverer in the official paper.

LarryHart said...

Paul451:

(From the last thread: I think Loco's problem... I think one of Loco's many problems is that he thinks unity and diversity are antonyms; ie, that unity and purity are synonyms.)


Or that truth and politeness are antonyms.

Because sometimes the truth can be uttered for no other reason than to make someone feel bad, that therefore all truth is insulting and all politeness is lying.

TheMadLibrarian said...

Looking forward very much to the upcoming solar eclipse in August. We are making it the focal point of our summer vacation; several of our friends and acquaintances (including our tame solar astrophysicist) are arranging their schedules around getting to optimal viewing locations. Maybe this time we won't get skunked, as weather has done the last 3 times we tried to see a solar eclipse!

Tim H. said...

If memory serves, back in the Bush administration there was an initiative to have weather.gov go dark, to increase viewership of for-profit services, wonder if that's still on the big money to do list?

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin in the main post:

Does anyone know of some public event or resort along the path of the August Solar Eclipse that might need an astrophysicist-speaker-Sci Fi author and former solar astronomer (!) to liven up the festivities? Entertaining sci-blather R-Us!


You might want to see if anything is being planned at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale.

Paul SB said...

A suggestion, if anyone is planning to view the eclipse from Oregon, chances are the coast will be clouded over, but you can drive east over a beautiful mountain range which usually blocks the clouds, into the open prairie land. Just cover up any bumper stickers and try to look as anonymous as possible. Eastern Oregon is not known for their warm and friendly demeanor.

A question for Dr. Brin,
Assuming we managed to invent a science fiction technology - artificial gravity - would it be possible to create truly enormous space telescopes just outside the Solar System that use gravitational lensing to focus instead of mirrors & lenses? Just a sci-fi plausibility musing.

Paul SB said...

Larry & Paul 451,

"Or that truth and politeness are antonyms.

Because sometimes the truth can be uttered for no other reason than to make someone feel bad, that therefore all truth is insulting and all politeness is lying."
- Or that all statements are absolutely rigid, free of any exceptions or situational nuances. Al statements uttered by the Almighty Locum are absolutes that Thou Shalt Not Disbelieve. Another potential OCD behavior.

A couple days ago locum wrote,
"And, while they both crow about how "progressive" mass education is, they remain enamoured with a mass educational system that results (has resulted) in unprecedented levels of mental disability, ignorance, entitlement & cultural narcissism.”

The following day Paul SB responded with,
"Now this is a truly outlandish fabrication. I have been railing against the American education system for as long as I have been on this blog, yet he insists that I am enamored with it. “

Paul SB said...

Con.t


Our compulsive liar then responded with,
"Orwell's 'newspeak' has become so commonplace that even our meekest schoolteachers, who earn their bread as educational system propagandists, collaborators & enablers, claim to have "been railing against the American education system for as long as (they) have been on this blog”.”

Funny stuff. Don’t everyone shout “ad nauseam” at once. Telling the same lies over and over again until they seep into the unconscious assumption-set of the a population has worked for poets, priests and politicians down the ages, it’s true, but do I need to say again that no one (else) here is incapable of critical thinking? His pathology becomes more obvious by the day.
Now he just might respond by claiming that what he meant was not the American public school system specifically, but the idea of educating the unwashed masses generally. That’s a different thing, though not the opposite thing. Apart from being reprehensible, it would be consistent with his Conan the Barbarian vision of human nature and politics, his wet desire to throw humanity back into the dark ages in which he dreams he will be able to use his übermensch talents to become king of all harems and lord almighty of propaganda. A lot of people have silly, romantic visions of the past, but only a radical few are willing to massacre most of their own race to make their vision real (which can’t happen, as human beings simply don’t work like Hollywood Viking clichés, but reality never stopped romantics from trying).

So let’s make this a little more clear. Before there was an effort to create universal public education, the economy kept the vast majority of the species in abject poverty, while a tiny few at the top benefitted. Much to their surprise, those on top of the hierarchy found that educating the hoi polloi actually enriched the top as well as the rest, but that discovery became pretty clear in the 1920s.Few of today’s millionaires are smart enough to have learned this important lesson, which is why they work to ensure that public education is education in name only. So yes, I support public education, but I deride it in its current form.
As to our current system, I agree that it causes untold psychological damage to huge numbers of young people, but because we have used this system since before psychology existed (when people were guided by religious convictions that make all human behavior a question of individual choice), most people’s eyes are blinded to it by their enculturation, and could hardly conceive of doing education differently. Most of the problem comes from simply turning schools into concentration camps for the most immature people in society while being unwilling to pay for enough adult supervisors to help mitigate the damaging effects of such concentration. Instead we rationalize it as “that’s just how kids act” - except that they don’t in pre-literate societies around the world (the few that remain). Maybe that's just how kids act when they are trapped in a prison-like setting with no hope of escape.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin in the main post:

Ponder what science fiction foretold. This is essentially the mini solar system that Arthur C. Clarke envisioned surrounding an ignited Jupiter, in his novel 2010. (This is Arthur's Centennial year.


I saw both 2001 and 2010 as movies long before I read the associated novels, so my memories of the books are clouded by expectations from the films. But am I recalling correctly that, to the extent that the book and film of 2001 differed, the novel 2010 was more like a sequel to the film 2001 than a sequel to the novel? Most notably, that the novel 2001 had Discovery heading for Saturn, but the novel 2010 had the ship parked in orbit around Jupiter, as it had been in the earlier film.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin in the main post:

Before you get excited, remember these planets are likely to be tidal locked, with one face permanently starward. And tiny red stars tend to be Flare Stars, intermittently burping radiation. So any life would face challenges.


They'd all acquire super powers?

:)

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin in the main post:

(I must point out that the Bushes - both of them - sabotaged Earth science, especially by NASA and NOAA... but nothing like the slashing we are seeing from the Trump Administration, which has cancelled four weather-and-resource satellites and ordered NASA to stop all mention of studying Earth as a planet.

(Why would anyone -- even fanatics servile to coal barons -- do such shortsighted and blatantly corrupt things?)


Because of an observation that Bill Maher nailed on his show last Friday: The governing rule behind Republican policy these days is "What Would A Dick Do?" If it causes irreparable harm, and/or upsets liberals, they're all for it. Except for the Freedom Caucus, who might oppose some such policies as not being cruel enough.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin in the main post:

This article tries to make it seem that ARM was similarly pointless. It wasn’t. It had dozens of excellent scientific and commercial goals, some of which might make our children spectacularly rich. Ironically, that is anathema to Republicans.


Subtle distinction. Republicans are only for goals which make their children spectacularly rich.


To be clear, it’s not just the spectacular riches that should take us to asteroids, but their potential threat. Watch these videos about possible impact effects. Look into contributing to the B612 Foundation, which aims to protect us from giant rocks! (I am on the Board of Advisors.)

The lesson? Elect dinosaurs and risk becoming like dinosaurs.


Well, yeah, dinosaurs are bad-ass cool! No one messes with them. And they worked with Jesus!

Whatever happened to them anyway?

Tim H. said...

LarryHart, 2010 reflected the changes Kubrick made after the novel 2001 was finished, you might enjoy reading "Lost Worlds of 2001". Interestingly, the novel 2001 implied a NERVA drive in the Discovery, updated in 2010 to a fusion drive.

alkamo said...

But first: does anyone know of some public event or resort along the path of the August Solar Eclipse that might need an astrophysicist-speaker-Sci Fi author and former solar astronomer (!) to liven up the festivities?

There are a bunch of resorts along the shores of Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley, which are very close to the area of "greatest eclipse". I have no idea if they would have any interest in importing you, but it may be worth exploring.

locumranch said...


As humanity learns to 'see' better & farther, exoplanets & their suns tantalise us from above but remain out-of-reach like Aesop's grapes, leaving us with only one of two options:

(1) Either humanity seizes the initiative, acts with conspicuous boldness, utilises current technologies and launches itself upon the one way trip toward any & all of these tantalising objectives,

(2) Or, humanity will invariably turn in upon itself, rationalise those exoplanets & their suns as unreachably irrelevant and conclude that those metaphorical grapes are sour, much in the same way that the Western Zeitgeist has already done by favouring Terrible Trivium social niceties over daring heroic enterprise.


Best
____

As its precedent is 'unity is, equals & results in strength', my objection to the 'diversity is, equals & results in strength' postulate is literal rather than racial, leading one to the Orwellian conclusion that 'Unity is Diversity' despite the fact that unity (defined as the 'state of being one') & diversity (defined as the 'state of being many') are the antonymic opposite thing instead of the same thing.

And, speaking of 'opposite things', consider (1) the climate change cheerleader whose selfish jet-setting spews tonnes & tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere and (2) the professional judas educator who willingly teaches propaganda but claims his 30 pieces of silver anyway, all while protesting their faithfulness & innocence.

LarryHart said...

locumranch:

As its precedent is 'unity is, equals & results in strength', my objection to the 'diversity is, equals & results in strength' postulate is literal rather than racial, leading one to the Orwellian conclusion that 'Unity is Diversity'


The "equals" doesn't belong in either statement, so that's as may be.

If it's the semantics of the wording "Unity is strength" and "Diversity is strength" that you dispute, then why did you use the expressions in the first place? I mean, nobody else did. If it hurts when you do this, then don't do this.


despite the fact that unity (defined as the 'state of being one') & diversity (defined as the 'state of being many') are the antonymic opposite thing instead of the same thing.


There may be a mathematical term "unity" which means something like "like or of the number one". In any sociological sense, the term is used more like "coming together as one" with the implication that some purpose is served by subsuming diverse things into a single unit. Far from being opposites, diversity is a necessary precondition for unity.

Jumper said...

locumranch tries to see how many logical errors and common rhetorical diversions he can make in the smallest possible space. Or lies. Whatever.

Alfred Differ said...

@LarryHart, (From last thread)

Ok, but I am thinking as part of the nation, not as a party member.

I know you are, but I’m not the person(s) you have to convince. (I already have my blue kepi.) Some of our active duty people are GOP or independent. They are sworn to protect the Constitution and the vast majority of them who re-enlist at some point take that oath seriously. Convince them and you win.

Packing the Court is still a bad idea no matter who might do it. If you want to pack anything, alter the rules for representation in the House so we can choose more. Gerrymandering doesn’t work so well if we double or triple the number of people in the House. In California, we dealt with gerrymandering by stripping the state legislature of the power to redraw districts, but we could have chosen instead to vastly increase the number of people doing it. Tiny districts leads to more representatives which complicates coalitions. Most importantly, though, more districts means more money spent during elections and there is a limit somewhere beyond which even the oligarchs can’t afford to buy elections.

Regarding extremes like ‘slavery laws’, I’ll just smile and attribute that to the stress you are under right now. Understandable. I’m an old-school liberal, though, and think slavery is a very slippery thing to define and discuss. We know it when we see it, but there is a border between what is allowed and disallowed where there is no firm consensus. Whips and humans as capital are bad. Paying labor a low wage the market would tolerate absent regulation isn’t so clear. Old school liberals can tolerate many things progressives find offensive, but much of our tolerance comes from a belief that action on an issue carries with it consequences that could be worse. For example, early advocates of minimum wage regulations were racists/classists. Their idea was to keep the riff-raff out. I’d be deeply skeptical of their proposal had I been around back then because I’d be looking for the unspoken consequences of their act. Voting laws are like that too. Poll taxes and jelly-bean counting were obvious ploys for vote suppression. Rules regarding where students can vote aren’t… unless the place is already heavily gerry-mandered. Look deeper at potential consequences and you’ll understand my politics a bit better.

Regarding cheating and the long term harm it does, I actually think it CAN do long term harm. The problem I face is that absent direct cheating, we are trying to predict possible cheats and punishing people for what they might do. I’m a liberal in the Scottish tradition and that means I have a PROFOUND skepticism for social designs and people who think they are smart enough to anticipate consequences for untried actions. I have no doubt some cheats can do some harm, but I might as well be a religious zealot in my belief that social designers do us a lot of harm. If I had a time machine, I wouldn’t use it to go back and eliminate Hitler. I’d eliminate the philosopher/economist/intellectual who espoused the ideas he adopted. It’s not that the ideas are toxic, though. The problem is that some of them call us back toward the old social attractor with a song so sweet we need to tie many people to the mast.

sociotard said...

Very much looking forward to the Totality, but it will be "interesting times" here in Idaho Falls. Already, all hotels are booked for the event, for several times the normal rate. My Dad and I are trying to plan out how we'll photograph it. We only get one shot at this.

A Kentucky coal museum is putting solar panels on its roof. Too strange for fiction indeed.

Alfred Differ said...

@Paul SB, (also from last thread)

There are way too many of us to fit into concentration camps.
There are way too many of us who are armed to make it possible to pack off even a small fraction of us to concentration camps. Seriously. 100 guys with long guns and a desire to coordinate their actions are quite lethal without having to resort to Hollywood’s mythical hero skills.

Not yet, but they have shown intent to undo the Bill of Rights with all their proposals to make peaceful assembly a crime against The Grope.

Yah. I have to smile at them when they pitch stuff like this. I can imagine how it will sound to our protector clade. If they keep this up, we win.

Winner-take-all and leave-no-quarter capitalism has ensured that a majority of people have no power to fight back, because they are sinking into grinding poverty.

Hmm… Capitalism doesn’t actually work that way if you look at real statistics and real behaviors. It has been a struggle to get historians and economists to do this, but the cumulative effort of the last 30 years is beginning to show in the texts. I’m only into chapter two in Piketty’s book and I can see it there too. There are some really rosy ideas that have to be tossed in the trash (supply side nonsense), but there are some dire ones that don’t work either. In this case, leave-no-quarter capitalism isn’t as common as many think. Most of us aren’t willing to do that. Also, the numbers tell a story that says grinding poverty is vanishing in terms of percentages and absolutes. Kinda the opposite. 8)

I’ll read your longer piece that tries to vanish next. 8)

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

Some of our active duty people are GOP or independent. They are sworn to protect the Constitution and the vast majority of them who re-enlist at some point take that oath seriously. Convince them and you win.


With all due respect, where are they now? If they're not convinced yet, I'm afraid they're like Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell, uncomfortable with their guy, but convinced that Democrats are worse.


Regarding extremes like ‘slavery laws’, I’ll just smile and attribute that to the stress you are under right now. Understandable.


Just an example of where it's hard to just sit back and let that other state do what it wants. Sure, I don't live there, but that other state is still part of the United States, and that's supposed to mean something. Plus, they can influence the federal government in ways that does affect me personally.


We know it [slavery] when we see it, but there is a border between what is allowed and disallowed where there is no firm consensus. Whips and humans as capital are bad. Paying labor a low wage the market would tolerate absent regulation isn’t so clear.


I'll start with ascribing a legal status to human beings that doesn't recognize them as human beings. Whips and lynchings are a consequence of that original sin, not the root cause.

I'll grant you that subsistence wages paid to free individuals is a different thing (though not the opposite thing) from slavery. My position there is not necessarily that private employers are responsible for paying a living wage, but that somehow, society itself is, and if our current economic system doesn't do that, then we need to change it.


Regarding cheating and the long term harm it does, I actually think it CAN do long term harm. The problem I face is that absent direct cheating, we are trying to predict possible cheats and punishing people for what they might do.


I don't see why you perceive "an ounce of prevention" as punishment. Perceiving that your house might one day catch fire and buying a fire extinguisher and insurance does not constitute "punishing the fire before it happens." It's not even "punishing a potential arsonist before he does anything." It's simply a good application of human intelligence.

How about "trying to predict possible failure modes and work to mitigate the harm they could do"?

This isn't entirely directed at you, but I'm disheartened at the unstated consensus position that anything society does via government is punishment. Your grocery store isn't punishing you by making you pay for stuff. The bar with a cover charge for a live band isn't punishing you for liking music.


I’m a liberal in the Scottish tradition and that means I have a PROFOUND skepticism for social designs and people who think they are smart enough to anticipate consequences for untried actions


I take your point. I'd say much cost/benefit analysis has to go into any such attempts. Not clear if your position is to agree with my cautious nature, or to say "Analysis is not the solution to your problem; analysis is the problem." So I'll just caution you back that inaction is not an escape from consequences. I have a skepticism for social designs and people who think they are smart enough to anticipate consequences for maintaining the old order.

Alfred Differ said...

@locumranch: To blame politeness strongly suggests you don’t know how capitalism actually works. You’ve probably bought into the tough guy/silent cowboy illusion. Lots of people have. Where they actually DO see politeness, they often think people are sucking up and flattering like waiters fishing for tips, but they have it backwards. It is the feudal court followers who had to lie and cheat and flatter the most because the actual coin being traded was social status. Once real coins are traded, status doesn’t mean as much and we stop working so hard at lying. The smile offered to you by the barista has a better chance of being real when their status is secure and they are engaging in a market trade. Your smile in response to theirs is more likely to be real too for the same reason.

Capitalism as it is practiced by most of us is often marked by polite behaviors. Put aside the illusion and you’ll see all the virtues being used, though some are better at it than others. The people who don’t aren’t defining capitalism, though, any more than a few nuts define a political position.

Many progressives don’t understand this aspect of capitalism, so I encourage you to pause a moment and think it through. Barbarism is an immaturity. There is more money to be made than that as we mature.

David Brin said...

The notion that feudalism and oligarchy are friendly to science and exploration is stunningly, spectacularly stooopid. They had their chance across 6000 years and always suppressed. The only civilization that sent men to the moon and probes to all the planets and is experimenting with all the exploratory skills is the very same one locum (silly person) derides, while demanding that feudalism return. Confederatism is insipid.

Tony Fisk said...

It was Mad King George who championed John Harris' claim to the Longitude Prize in the end, but that was the man, not the Monarch.

Larry's quip about life around flare stars acquiring super powers is a droll argument for the 'Nope' case. I'm not an habitual comics reader, but I wonder if Marvel/DC ever covered the lot of the common man in a Multiverse of people alleviating their hormonal surges by 'spanding their exes* and taking out a few city blocks. (beyond the 'Incredibles' take)

Speaking of planets, I was pointed to a comparison between a typical blue super giant and our Solar System, and concluded that a star the size of Jupiter's orbital diameter incorporates a substantial chunk of Universe. It got me wondering how such a thing formed in the first place and it occurred to me that such a massive infall would require the initial gas cloud to have virtually no angular momentum whatsoever. In contrast, a red dwarf has almost too much to form, but sheds it, leaving lotsa planetary material. In the taxonomy of theory, this is firmly in the 'wild speculation' zone.

* before spandex, they wore Godzilla suits!

Alfred Differ said...

@LarryHart,

With all due respect, where are they now? If they're not convinced yet, I'm afraid they're like Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell, uncomfortable with their guy, but convinced that Democrats are worse.

Then you are making opponents of them unnecessarily. By making this assumption, you are defining them as such when it is quite possible they are simply trying to be apolitical like many active duty people do… and should. With this approach, you WILL lose.

Where were the advocates of the Union in the early days of the Civil War? Some were on the field of battle, but many others were sitting off to the side thinking the war would be short and not require as much effort as it later proved to need.

It can be difficult to sit on the side and let one’s opponent fracture. I’m sure there is a section in the Art of War on this, though I’ve never read it. I’m more familiar with the chess strategy of letting one’s opponent over-extend their pawn structure when they think they can own more of the board than they can defend. The advancing pawns look scary while they do it because an experienced player knows the pain of playing from a confined position. With lots of experience, though, comes the realization that the space behind their pawns can be made available to your pieces and their pawns made to work for you IF you play well.

___________________
I’m with you regarding society’s duty to prepare everyone for a living wage. I’m not sure how to do it, but I’m willing to experiment. Just remember my profound distrust of social planners. They aren’t as smart as they think/say they are. I attribute millions of deaths in the 20th century to them. Analysis is absolutely necessary, but so is humility. Certainty is a deadly thing.
___________________

The way prevention can become punishment is when we can reasonably disagree on the best prevention and whether it is worth the effort, yet lose the vote and have to pay for it anyway. If I build a fireproof house, can I not make a reasonable case that I shouldn’t have to pay for certain emergency services? I know such houses do not exist, so just treat that as an extreme. There are less extreme examples that prove the point. Just look at the variety of legal structures that exist with our states, counties, and cities for how we organize civic infrastructure. The city I’m in right now provides trash services. The last one I lived in contracted that out. Variety exists and be tolerated more widely now in an internet world.

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

Then you are making opponents of them unnecessarily. By making this assumption, you are defining them as such when it is quite possible they are simply trying to be apolitical like many active duty people do… and should. With this approach, you WILL lose.


Well, I'm not actually...whatayacall...doing anything to alienate them (unless they're reading this blog, in which case, "Hope I wasn't outta line with that crack about McConnell.") I actually find your view of the state of things as an optimistic one that I hope to God is true. I just have a hard time trusting in the process during the interregnum.


It can be difficult to sit on the side and let one’s opponent fracture. I’m sure there is a section in the Art of War on this, though I’ve never read it. I’m more familiar with the chess strategy of letting one’s opponent over-extend their pawn structure when they think they can own more of the board than they can defend.


Here's why I have a hard time just expecting that it all turns out fine in the end. I've been hearing since the George W Bush years that the Republican Party is about to self-implode. Those predictions ramped up to 11 during the Obama years. Supposedly, it was mathematically impossible for a Republican ever to b president again, and only a matter of a few more years before demographics and the next census would make them a "regional power" only in the old Confederacy.

During that time, that same Republican party went from a party whose only weapon was the 41-Senator filibuster to the majority in the House, then the majority in the Senate, and now with the presidency and the Supreme Court holds all the reins of federal power. Also, most state legislatures--just short of enough to re-write the Constitution in their own image.

It's quite unnerving to "Just wait, they'll implode any day now," while the opposite is occurring before one's eyes.


Analysis is absolutely necessary, but so is humility. Certainty is a deadly thing.


Agreed on all points. Which is why I'm a liberal. And why Republicans are the enemy. The whole "There is no plan B, because that would be admitting that plan A might not work" thing is anathema.

Tim H. said...

LarryHart, not expecting a GOP implosion, but there's a growing difference between most voters and party donors. Even GOP rank and file are not taking "Siddown, shuddup" as quietly as they used to, but their choice seems okay with being sockpuppeted by McConnel and Ryan so far, the longer the deep pockets maintain control, the more violent the lurch will be when their grip fails. Interesting times seem to be ahead.

Alfred Differ said...

@LarryHart,

Well, I'm not actually...whatayacall...doing anything to alienate them…

Well… there is the problem right there. 8)

The ideas behind the GOP won’t implode without help even if the GOP does… which it isn’t… sorta. The GOP that won last year isn’t the GOP of 2012 or 2008. The revolution that the GOP establishment lost last year is one they almost lost in 2012 to Ron Paul. It is a mistake to think of the current incarnation of the GOP as the one that had to resort to filibusters in 2009. I suspect much of what bothers you about the current GOP would not have happened under the GWB establishment.

Believing anything from the 2008 election, though, suggests you drank the Obama koolaide. Many did but Obama isn’t the blame. His supporters concocted the stuff. They thought he could walk on water. Turns out he couldn’t. Big surprise, huh? Big let down too?

The world is rapidly changing with our newly created ability to publish even our half-baked twitter ideas at essentially no cost. We can do some neat things, but we are still learning how. We can do some dumb things too, but I suspect we’ve only just begun to learn the depth of the stupidity into which we can descend. All predictions beyond ‘everything will change’ should be suspect for now, but there are a few broad ones that I think make some sense. Kevin Kelly described some in his most recent book.

Ya gotta do something, though. For all I know you are, but think about all the FB yappers who think that stuff matters. It does in a way, but not the way they think. Some of us are learning to filter the fire hose pointing at our faces without creating fantasy homes for anaerobic memes. They are teaching us to cope. Learning to do so is good, but teaching it is doing something.

My optimism might be like the mood of the guy falling off a sky scraper who hasn’t landed yet. Everything is going fine so far. I might even learn to fly and slow down in time, right? I doubt it, though. I’m not the only guy in the air. Billions of us are. Sometime in the 18th century there were 700 million humans. Now there are over 7,000 million and many are getting fat and living much longer. Many more are getting rich compared to their subsistence ancestors. Is the social trauma I see today the end of our world… or the end of the world as it used to be? Are we falling down… or up? Do I need to learn to slow down… or live among the clouds, planets, and stars?

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

The ideas behind the GOP won’t implode without help even if the GOP does… which it isn’t… sorta.


Trying to figure out what you advocate for is confusing. I trust you take that as a compliment. :)

I was unhappy when Republicans took the House in 2010 and the Senate in 2014, but I recognized the procedural integrity of their victories. I didn't talk about #SoCalledSpeaker Bohner or insist that Harry Reid was the @realMajorityLeader of the Senate. The 2016 election and the stolen Supreme Court seat are different matters. I don't accept the legitimacy of either. Learning from 1984, I refuse to love Big Brother.

So what I don't understand is...do you think that sort of attitude is turning the protector caste against my cause? Or is it the kind of thing that is necessary to help the Republican Party implode. I can't tell what you're rooting for.


The GOP that won last year isn’t the GOP of 2012 or 2008. The revolution that the GOP establishment lost last year is one they almost lost in 2012 to Ron Paul. It is a mistake to think of the current incarnation of the GOP as the one that had to resort to filibusters in 2009. I suspect much of what bothers you about the current GOP would not have happened under the GWB establishment.


Maybe. Again, I'm not sure. The Republican Party since Reagan has been the party of the oligarchs. Their core values are low taxes, no regulation, and courts which side with corporations over humans. All else, including social conservatism, flag-waving, and Nazism are tactical means by which they get actual human beings to vote for them. Hating the gays worked well for them in 2004 and no longer worked well in 2016, but the oligarchical putch endures. It just relied more on the Nazism than family values this time around.


Believing anything from the 2008 election, though, suggests you drank the Obama koolaide. Many did but Obama isn’t the blame. His supporters concocted the stuff. They thought he could walk on water. Turns out he couldn’t. Big surprise, huh? Big let down too?


What are you accusing me of here? I had high hopes for Obama, but never thought he walked on water, and I continued to vote Democratic in all of the intervening elections. I realize that Democrats stayed home in droves, but I wasn't one of those.

What I believed, from the 2006 and 2008 elections had more to do with congress than with the presidency--I thought that voters had finally seen through the Republican incompetence and would never elect one as dogcatcher again, as was true (at the time) in Illinois. That didn't last, in either case. Luckily for Illinois, while we lost the governorship, the rest of state government stayed Blue, unlike most of our formerly-Blue neighbors.

LarryHart said...

If I ever had any unrealistic messianic expectations of a government institution it was the Supreme Court. That's been fading since "Bush v Gore", and now the bloom is completely off the rose.

foundonweb said...

While those seven planets should all be tidally locked to their sun, I wonder if some plante-planet orbital resonance might be making the situation a little less simple and a little more favorable.

Luis Salgueiro said...

DrBrin: Why talk about the seven planets now? I've seen this news on prime time television over a month ago. It's such an amazing discovery that every news report talked about it.
What are the odds of 7 planets roughly earth sized orbiting de goldilocks zone of the same star by accident? And I agree completely with the don't shout into the dark position, who knows what´s out there.

On the feudalism vs discovery and science though I can't agree with your position since it oversimplifies a very complex issue.
Portugal, Spain and England (though neither a strict feudal society according to medieval scholars) fomented scientific research and discovery and founded universities to preserve and disseminate knowledge as early as the 12th century.
In the Portuguese case it was only in 1500 AC that with the rise to power to a monarch that became dominated by religious fanatics and the decree that expelled the Jews and every other non catholic that the research and discovery started to dwindle and the country lost it's impetus. Even though earlier monarchs were very religious (see D. João II) to the point that they were all grand-masters of religious orders (The portuguese princes were from birth members of the "Ordem de Cristo" https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Order_of_Christ_(Portugal) heirs to the Templars) however they respected the liberties of other faiths (for a price) and worked closely with them to create new inventions. At the same time most rural lords kept their serfs in ignorance, being themselves ignorant and unable to read or write.
In China at roughly the same time important scientific and oceanic research was being done when a sudden change of emperor brought about a change of politics the shipyards were closed the scholars killed and China closed it's doors to the outside world, frozen (technologically and socially) in time until the 19th century. Japan underwent the same process in the 17th century. The most extreme case of this policy is seen in the Andaman Islands specifically the sentinelese (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sentinelese) they refuse so fiercely contact with the outside world that they don't eve know how to make fire!

So my theses is that, it is not feudalism or even top down rigid command and control societies that restrict science and discovery but rather to times of attitudes that can more easily reach power to control a society in feudal type organizations: fanaticism and isolationism. The problem with any BigMan(TM) ruled group is the tendency to an iron hand type of rule, and most people don't rebel against that because if the rule is even mildly benign (that is if the BigMan does things quietly and starts oppressing minorities) most people just do nothing because it's more comfortable that way. Why bother if it's not me or my family?

Paul SB: I agree fully with your considerations on education. What would an alternative be? Everyone should have an education how can that be achieved on a budget and avoid the social problems that the current system creates?

David Brin said...

Luis S. Alas, are you aware that your stories make my point and not yours? When science is a matter of lordly whim, then it is fragile and easily suppressed.

Luis Salgueiro said...

Yes Dr. Brin. That is precisely the point, you put it much better and elegantly than I ever could. What I disagree is the oversimplification of the statement. When you state simply that feudalism is enemy of science and technology you are allowing the romantics (for lack of a better term) to brush aside the assertion pointing out anecdotes that superficially negate the statement.
On the other hand I also wanted to point out that other forms of government are not immune to attacks on science and on the scientific method, and if fanaticism and isolationism prevail than science is strongly at risk, because facts are the one thing fanatics hate the most.

Regarding climate change I just saw an US documentary on campaign funding yesterday and something I already suspected became quite clear when a billionaire donor for the GOP stated clearly (and I parafrase): Climate change doesn't exist and if it did IT WOULD BE A GOOD THING!!!
C'mon who do these guys think they are? Scrooge MacDuck? I was furious (Still am)

LarryHart said...

foundonweb:

While those seven planets should all be tidally locked to their sun, I wonder if some plante-planet orbital resonance might be making the situation a little less simple and a little more favorable.


I don't want to do a spoiler here, but this plot point was revealed fairly early in the book. In the novel Nemesis, Isaac Asimov came up with a perfectly reasonable way by which a habitable planet might be found around a low-energy star. He had a massive, Jupiter-like planet in close orbit (tidal-locked), and a small earth-like moon orbiting the planet.

LarryHart said...

Luis Salgueiro:

Regarding climate change I just saw an US documentary on campaign funding yesterday and something I already suspected became quite clear when a billionaire donor for the GOP stated clearly (and I parafrase): Climate change doesn't exist and if it did IT WOULD BE A GOOD THING!!!
C'mon who do these guys think they are? Scrooge MacDuck? I was furious (Still am)


As Bill Maher said last Friday, they're following the dictum, "What Would A Dick Do?" Note this bit from today's www.electoral-vote.com . No doubt, there's already an executive order in the works making it easier for airlines to use deadly force and torture to remove passengers from overbooked flights.


Most of the laws Trump has signed undo actions that Barack Obama did in the final months of his term. Under a 1996 law, Congress can hit the undo button on recent regulations and that is what these laws do. They affect regulations at the FCC, Social Security Administration, as well as the Labor, Education, and Education departments.

Among other things, it is now easier for hunters to shoot hibernating bears, for mentally ill people to buy guns, for coal companies to dump waste into rivers, and for Internet providers to sell data about customers' browsing habits.

The executive orders weaken fuel efficiency standards, allow banks and brokers to put their interests ahead of their customers', ban people from six majority-Muslim countries from entering the U.S., and direct all federal agencies to repeal two regulations for each new one enacted.

Paul SB said...

Dr. Brin,
I just had a thought on our 7 dwarves. If one is an accident, two are coincidence, three are enemy action, does that suggest that we have enemies that can build planets? Or are stellar systems doing the Competitive Emulation thing? I that case, they aren't our enemies, it's a prestige war between the stars themselves! "Look how many pretty planets I have!" "Meh! I have twice as many, and with more moons around them." Planets are probably a lot more expensive than mansions and luxury cars.

Okay, that was weird...

Paul SB said...

Luis con.t,


All this will cost a lot of money, but in the long run it will save money in many ways: with fewer people growing up hateful there would be less violent crime, with classes so small they can operate more like seminars and less like mass indoctrination, the kinds of mental health issues, with huge costs not just in treatment but in wasted human lives, would mostly disappear, and if the teachers are carefully trained lies they are in some Scandinavian countries, children would learn more critical thinking skills rather than rote memorization, which would likely result in people who are not so stupid they would gladly vote in corrupt leaders who steal from the taxpayers till and rationalize it as "supply-side economics" or whatever big, fancy words they impress the under-educated peasants with.

I know Alfred doesn't like people who think they can experiment with human society and assume they can account for unintended consequences, but when you know the system that organically grew from false assumptions about human nature and is causing so much damage to so many people (so much and for so many generations that most people think it is just inevitable and unchangeable), you have to do something. Do it on a small scale - maybe just one city for a period of 26 years to get long-term data and avoid cohort effects. Give students psychological exams at the end of each year to measure not just how much they can memorize, but how much more mentally healthy they are than children growing up in our economy-class school systems. If I worked in a department of education anywhere, this is what I would propose, though I welcome others to suggest whatever improvements they might have. This is about human lives on the grandest of scales. Shedding ridiculous, ancient rationalizations and making an effort to stop throwing human lives away like broken toys is long overdue.

Luis Salgueiro said...

Paul SB: That's the problem isn't it? you can't improve the system without money, and without the wealth education provides the money is always short. It comes down to priorities in policy: a large army or a strong education system? High quality healthcare or better roads.

I do know that the irish investe heavilly in education in the last decades and I know the nordic countries have been experimenting with childrens education but I don't know the results.

Also in my country, Portugal, since the 1974 revolution the education system changed a lot and the income has gone up and crime down but every government changes the rules of education and it's very hard to draw any conclusions.

Right now I'm involved in a project to improve patients education level regarding their health habits and usage of healthcare resources - health literacy. It is very difficult to find strategies to get the knowledge across to those that most need it. It easy to create panic and induce overconsumption of health resources but very difficult for lay people to have a clear realisation of the most correct attitudes towards several comon diseases

locumranch said...


By arguing that the "notion that feudalism and oligarchy are friendly to science and exploration is stunningly, spectacularly stooopid" and that scientific progress only occurs as the result of liberal-progressive social polices, David confuses effect for cause when social liberal-progressive social policies are actually an EFFECT of scientific development and scientific development is the actual CAUSE that allows such wasteful liberal-progress social policies to develop.

Luis_S refutes this false assumption of Science as 'effect' quite succinctly (even though he neglects to mention that most 20th Century scientific advances mediated by NASA & the Old Soviet occurred under a Military Feudal command structure), but this does not stop our host from feigning deafness, sticking his fingers in his ears and going 'ting a-ling a-ling'.

The inherent contradictions of the liberal-progressive mindset never cease to amaze me: How they (1) INSIST that a totalitarian feudal 'One World' government is the only 'scientific' solution to real world problems like the climate change, but (2) DENY that a totalitarian feudal government (of any type) can provide a 'scientific' solution to any other problem like technological advancement or space exploration.

Above, Larry_H provides another such inherent contradiction as he dismisses the 'Unity is Strength' postulate but argues that Diversity (aka 'the state of acting as many') results in strength "by subsuming diverse things into a single unit" (aka 'unification, the 'state of acting as one' and/or the 'Unity is Strength' postulate) in the Borg-like sense that diversity only provides 'strength' by our destructive addition of "your biological and technological distinctiveness to our own".

These liberal-progressives do make a valid point, however.

As in the case of the extremely successful Meiji Restoration, forced Scientific Advancement under the auspices of Feudal Totalitarian government is not much fun for the human population subjected to said forced scientific progress and I (for one) would much much prefer to sit around in my undergarments, watch Telly & gorge myself on fattening snacks until such time that scientific progress is FORCED upon me by either malevolent circumstance or feudal totalitarianism, making the occurrence of any effective human interstellar space program very very unlikely in any PC liberal-progressive future.

It all comes down to this rather difficult choice:

(1) Do you wish a life of comfortable, mind-numbing, inactive obesity for your children? OR
(2) Do you wish a life of personal growth, challenge, adversity & adventure for your children?

The choice is ours to make and, judging by the 'path of ease' that most liberal-progressives endorse, we have apparently condemned our children to a life of ill-health, stoopidity, WALL-E style indolence & inertia.


Best

Luis Salgueiro said...

Locum: the relationship is not one sided. It is an iterative process. Even though science first emerged from the dark ages of feudalism and absolutism, it was in the relatively more democratic, open and competitive markets of the hague, England and the New World that science flourished took shelter and allowed those nations with a more progressive mindset, a greater willingness to open their nations to new ideas to harvest the fruits of science.

How many times in the thousands of years before our time have the principles of rational thinking been discovered only to be supressed by religious fanaticism and the need of the few to control the many.

Feudalism those not preclude science but like our host said " When science is a matter of lordly whim, then it is fragile and easily suppressed." and that is the main lesson here.

donzelion said...

LarryHart: (from yesterday) - re collusion

I suppose I am being a bit literal, but it is a serious concern for the prospects of transparency. I've focused my critique on 'tribalism' - a problem I do not think is resolved by this tool, but even that perhaps is a manifestation of a deeper problem - the 'code-within-a-code' system, where the same objective fact, even when perceived, is made to have entirely different meanings to different groups.

Bill O'Reilly chuckles about the United plane yanking episode. Is that an accident, or intentional? The man is many things, but ever a skilled performer, an actor-for-hire rather than a powerbroker...so United loses a billion dollars after the episode: which banks and backers got mauled? Which ones gained? Will United add to - or subtract from Fox ads?

Your point about Senator Roark strikes me as a description of how power works in a 'pre-Transparency' era: a powerful person has an army that will lie on his behalf (solution: a camera overrides the liars). But in a post-Transparency world, power would mean reshaping even that which was obviously right in front of our faces. Or as Trump said it, "I could shoot a guy on the street..." (plagiarizing Frank Miller?).

donzelion said...

Interested Observer (also continuing thread from yesterday) -
"some of the worst human beings I've ever worked with were from Academics"

I don't think that Dr. Brin's argument is that academics are the font of hope - only that they are a self-regulating lot. Consider: every profession draws certain people to its ranks, based on what that profession offers - and there are some who love being an academic for the feeling of power and bullying of others they derive from it. But someone with such a goal would probably be more attracted to business - where they get all the opportunity to beat down others, get a lot more money, for a lot less work - and worse, no businessman gets to call another one's work 'flawed' by holding the work itself to account - they must prove out in a more complex market, where not all are created equal.

"in my field PhDs are famous for trying to get themselves, or worse, some dumb kid killed."
What is your field? Just curious. ;-)

"Scientists of all stripes and professions are not a separate species, by which I mean they are no more or less noble than the societies and cultures they come from."
No, they're neither better or worse - BUT a certain type of person is attracted to a certain type of work for a certain sort of reward. And within a field, certain types of practices are rewarded (e.g., rigorous analysis), while others are penalized (fudging the facts). That makes knowledge professions several steps 'better' than fields that remove constraints upon the exercise of power.

LarryHart said...

locumranch continues to play the fool:

Above, Larry_H provides another such inherent contradiction as he dismisses the 'Unity is Strength' postulate but argues that Diversity (aka 'the state of acting as many') results in strength "by subsuming diverse things into a single unit"


Not at all. I dismissed the fallacy that Unity equals strength. And pointed out that without diversity to begin with, "unification" was not really a thing. Unity can provide strength in some circumstances. Same with diversity. Both also introduce weaknesses when used improperly. You're the only one claiming that there's a binary choice to be made as to which one (unity or diversity) is better, full stop.

And you don't even admit that "better" is a thing, so there's that as well.

These liberal-progressives do make a valid point, however.


Yes, exactly, (and Help me, Jesus!)


It all comes down to this rather difficult choice:

(1) Do you wish a life of comfortable, mind-numbing, inactive obesity for your children? OR
(2) Do you wish a life of personal growth, challenge, adversity & adventure for your children?


Spoken like someone without actual children. I'm flashing back to my years on the "Cerebus" forum and the two guys who, like Dave Sim himself, absolutely abhorred the idea of marriage and reproduction. Those same guys used to argue against the "death tax" by insisting that they wanted all of their money to go to their children and not to the government. I liked to remind them that if they wanted their money to go to their children, then the first step was to have some.

LarryHart said...

donzelion:

Bill O'Reilly chuckles about the United plane yanking episode. Is that an accident, or intentional? The man is many things, but ever a skilled performer, an actor-for-hire rather than a powerbroker...so United loses a billion dollars after the episode: which banks and backers got mauled? Which ones gained? Will United add to - or subtract from Fox ads?


I heard something interesting about United stock today. That when the video first surfaced, United stock actually went up. Investors were more impressed by United's commitment to maximizing profit than they were scared of potential loss of customers. However, that changed when the video went viral in China. First of all, the doctor who was roughed up was ethnic Chinese, which didn't play well over there. But more to the point, unlike Americans, Chinese travelers don't feel they should have to put up with that kind of crap.


Your point about Senator Roark strikes me as a description of how power works in a 'pre-Transparency' era: a powerful person has an army that will lie on his behalf (solution: a camera overrides the liars). But in a post-Transparency world, power would mean reshaping even that which was obviously right in front of our faces.


And that's exactly what Trump, Sean Spicer, Kellyanne Conway, and company are doing. How many high-rollers in the Trump administration can "forget" meeting with Russian power brokers? The Senate can overcome a filibuster by voting on whether 52 is actually 3/5 of 100. Self-proclaimed "originalist" judges can find that words mean what they don't mean (maybe President Snow should appoint locumranch to the Supreme Court--that would only be a little funnier than what he already does).

I think you've hit upon the strategy that #SoCalledPresident and the Republican Party have actually been putting into place for months if not years now.


Or as Trump said it, "I could shoot a guy on the street..." (plagiarizing Frank Miller?).


First of all, no, he was plaigarizing (or homaging) "The West Wing". There was an episode where the leader of a fictitious Arab nation had been discovered to be behind a terrorist attack on US soil, though this could not be proven. This was during Bartlet's re-election campaign, and at one point, the Arab leader in question mentions to Leo (chief of staff) that he understands how difficult it is for the president to seem hostile to an Arab leader during a campaign. Leo responds that, on the contrary, "All President Bartlet would have to do to insure his re-election would be to shoot you in the middle of Time Square and then cross the street to Nathan's and eat a hot dog!"

Second, that's not exactly the same thing as you described above. Trump wouldn't shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and then pretend he didn't do so. He'd shoot someone because doing so would play to his base.

But despite my having fun with the nit-picks, I think you're on to something.

donzelion said...

Alfred: "I’m a liberal in the Scottish tradition and that means I have a PROFOUND skepticism for social designs and people who think they are smart enough to anticipate consequences for untried actions"

Correct me if I'm wrong, but the Scottish tradition of 'liberalism' includes the invention of modern insurance, based on the notion that widows should not be reduced to destitution or prostitution, and orphans should not be sold to sweep chimneys? And seeing as how insurance, once invented, needed extreme precision for calculations - giving a need for expensive computation machinery, (aka, 'computers').

Scots are profoundly skeptical of pretty much everything (e.g., Hume v. Descartes) - but skepticism, not cynicism. I know of no cynical tradition within any Celtic group.

LarryHart said...

donzelion (again) :

Your point about Senator Roark strikes me as a description of how power works in a 'pre-Transparency' era: a powerful person has an army that will lie on his behalf (solution: a camera overrides the liars). But in a post-Transparency world, power would mean reshaping even that which was obviously right in front of our faces


Thinking on this a bit more, I'd say that the "conspiracy" simply widens. Instead of just witnesses knowing their marching orders and lying (whether explicitly told to do so or not), it would now fall to the judges, prosecutor, and even jurors to know what is expected of them. Once the court functionaries know their job is to exonerate the powerful, the actual evidence becomes a mere prop in the play.

locumranch said...


Even though science is & has always been "fragile and easily suppressed", whether or not being subject to "lordly whim", this has never stopped the promulgation of science by lordly whim as in the case of (1) Charles Montagu's aristocratic patronage of Isaac Newton, (2) the Japanese Emperor's desire to modernise Feudal Japan (Meiji Restoration), (3) a democratically-elected John F. Kennedy's vow to put Men on the Moon, or (4) Kim-Jong Whatever's promise to turn North Korea into a nuclear power, proving that David's attempt to correlate feudalism with anti-science is NOT causative.

Larry_H also doubles-down on his 'bass ackwards' illogic by dismissing what he calls "the fallacy that Unity equals strength", stating as he does that 'without diversity to begin with, "unification" was not really a thing' when the very opposite is true because the 'state of being as one' (aka Unity) is the ONE thing that can exist without the diversity of the many, as diversity is naught but multiples of one.

Likewise, the liberal-progressive idea of parenting is HORRID, insomuch as children who are carried on the paternalistic backs of Big Nanny government will neither learn to stand (let alone walk) on their own two legs, nor grasp the value of individual merit or effort, explaining how the once-enlightened West has degenerated (by & large) into a mob of flabby, incompetent, entitled & easily offended whingers.

The Piper must be paid if we are to earn the Stars that we desire. By mortgage and/or 'death pledge'. Always. No exceptions.


Best

LarryHart said...

locumranch:

the 'state of being as one' (aka Unity) is the ONE thing that can exist without the diversity of the many, as diversity is naught but multiples of one.


But if there are no minorities, then what's the point of being a white supremacist?

See how that works?



Likewise, the liberal-progressive idea of parenting is HORRID, insomuch as children who are carried on the paternalistic backs of Big Nanny government will neither learn to stand (let alone walk) on their own two legs, nor grasp the value of individual merit or effort, explaining how the once-enlightened West has degenerated (by & large) into a mob of flabby, incompetent, entitled & easily offended whingers.


That's why no one in the real world actually does raise children that way.

You get your ideas of liberal-progressive parents from celebrities and fiction.

David Brin said...

Luis S one seldom mentioned effect of Pax Americana is that while the US spent a typical amount on defense across the last 2000 years… abut 1/3 of the budget — a majority of nations under the US defense umbrella were able to cut that to 2 or 3%. That had an immense effect upon growth of public spending.

Larryhart yeah. Remember my dissection of Ayn Rand. I believe I was the first critic to point out how stunningly hypocritical was her “life oriented” cult wherein not one of her characters ever reproduces.

“David confuses effect for cause when social liberal-progressive social policies are actually an EFFECT of scientific development and scientific development is the actual CAUSE that allows such wasteful liberal-progress social policies to develop.” == another moronic example of zero sum thinking. Of course in fact it was a synergy. But he will never understand the 3D concept.

“ they (1) INSIST that a totalitarian feudal 'One World' government is the only 'scientific' solution to real world problems like the climate change, but (2) DENY that a totalitarian feudal government (of any type) can provide a 'scientific' solution to any other problem like technological advancement or space exploration.”
== Okay now a liar AND an imbecile.

Though then he raises the Meiji transformation, which is a fair point! But like the fleets of Cheng He, that was the product of an spectacularly driven individual leader.

Alas the rest is utter bullshit. He knows that there has never been an era in which more humans were more busy pursuing activity, hobbies, avocations, amateur expertise or switching from one profession to another. Exercise, fitness, travel, adventure vastly more than their peon ancestors could ever dream… oops… these traits are all far more typical of Blue Americans, who … I will admit… are way behind in obesity and venereal disease.

bruce scott said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Hans said...

How can that solar system be non-chaotic? Is it because the central mass is so much bigger than the orbiting Earth sized planets?

Thx, bye.

Alfred Differ said...

@LarryHart,

That sort of attitude is turning some in the protector caste against your cause. Our submariner said as much. Your feelings on the legitimacy of the election are not widely shared, thus YOU are the perceived threat to the Constitution. I understand where you are coming from, but even I disagree with your position. Trump did win. He didn’t break rules to do it. He broke traditions.

It turns out that many of our fellow citizens are dipsqueaks and voted for him. Ultimately, that his win is legitimate isn’t what bothers me. What does is that my neighbors thought it was a good idea that he be elected. It’s hard to fathom their collective insanity, but I don’t brush it aside. It happened and Trump won. My neighbors are nuts.

What I root for is sanity. The best possible outcome of all this, as far as I’m concerned, is Trump serves out his term becoming more and more detested as the months pass. In this possible future, both the establishment GOP and the folks who want to burn things down are so tarnished by the embarrassment, that the rank-n-file tear apart the GOP or simply leave it. The ideas they espouse won’t vanish any more than they did when the Dixiecrats left the Democrats. They will simply show up somewhere else and all the political parties will shuffle the chairs under their umbrellas.

Their core values are low taxes, no regulation, and courts which side with corporations over humans.

Maybe. I’ve learned not to accept what someone says is a personal or group core value and look instead at how they behave. When I do, I see 50 different GOP parties. Often more. There are distinctions between factions and states. Unity is an illusion. On top of that, I never felt that Reagan or his people (most anyway) were big fans of the oligarchs. What they appeared to be were opponents of Progressive Statism. They had their own path toward statism as the libertarians like to point out, but Reagan’s win was largely about abandoning a ‘socialist’ path the progressives seemed to like. To do that, they crafted a bunch of nonsense of their own, but love-of-oligarchs wasn’t really their value to own. My suspicion is they got accused of it and the accusation stuck. The accusation seemed to me to come from their unwillingness to despise the rich and punish them through taxation. If one assumes the rich are cheaters, that would certainly sound like love-of-oligarchs. 8)

Okay. Maybe you didn’t drink the koolaide back in 2008. I don’t understand why people thought the GOP wouldn’t recover, though. That reminds me of people who thought the collapse of the Soviets would bring an end to Russia as an historical force. VERY wishful thinking. Very nutty thinking. People are resilient critters and since our identities are wrapped up in the institutions to which we belong, we will defend and rebuild them on the tiniest belief that others will help us do it. If you know a Cubs fan, this shouldn’t be news. 8)

Alfred Differ said...

@Paul SB | …but when you know the system that organically grew from false assumptions about human nature and is causing so much damage to so many people (so much and for so many generations that most people think it is just inevitable and unchangeable), you have to do something.

Heh. I’m not sure what is organically grown and what isn’t, but you have a valid point regarding harmful traditions that we should change. I’m quite willing to do so. For example, once I could see the collapsing consensus here in California regarding the prohibition on same-sex marriage, I advocated for dumping the tradition and seriously irritating a large fraction of my more socially conservative neighbors. I WASN’T inclined to force it across the entire nation, though. I argued that California should get out of the business of enforcing the moral opinions of a shrinking majority. When things started to get ugly around Prop 8, I pointed out the hypocrisy of blocking expressions of love while supposedly venerating the institution of marriage. I admit to enjoying some of the explosive moments of the 2008 election around here.

We DO have to be careful with traditions, though. They don’t magically appear for no good reason. Very often, we don’t know why they exist even when there are popular explanations for them. All too often, we have several good, but conflicting explanations. For example, why block same-sex marriage? If you can’t think of half a dozen good reasons, you aren’t trying. If a few of them can’t cause the tradition to be adopted without the realization of those adopting it, you aren’t trying. Natural selection can produce affects quite unknown to the people implementing them. You know this, though. Sometimes we have to find an outsider to understand ourselves.

The best argument I know for defending tradition is that they encode successful behaviors evolved from unknown selection forces. Treating them as sacred takes things too far, but respecting them as evidence for possibly unknown dangers isn’t. We change them at our peril, but it would be inhuman to demand they not change. I suspect we couldn’t do that even if we tried. Teaching techniques are inherently imperfect at copying knowledge, so evolution WILL occur. Incremental social experimentation WILL occur. Keeping them small and local, though, gives us time to discover the unknown selection forces without risking or sacrificing everyone.

My skepticism of social design is largely about the disrespect this shows for our ancestors who found solutions to problems through trial and error. Our relatives weren’t stupid, but we CAN be if we dismiss their hard won knowledge too easily. We can ALSO be stupid if we stick to close to what they learned. The key difference among liberals is how far we bias our actions in one direction or the other.

Alfred Differ said...

@donzelion | I’m not sure what you count as ‘modern’ insurance. Once the Dutch had limited liability corporations and insurance for the commercial fleet, I count that as pretty modern. If you are focused upon the elimination of social ‘evils’ for that measure, then one probably does have to step up in time to the early industrial era. I’m not sure, though. Once people adopt the bourgeois version of the virtues (started with the Dutch), though, I suspect some social engineering via elaborate plans got under way. The 19th century could simply be when it was happening often enough for the evidence to be obvious.

I’m not sure what you are arguing for, though. I’m not a cynic. Far from it. Neither was Hume. Scottish skepticism making itself felt as a social force in the 18th century makes perfect sense for those who know their history, but I agree that it wasn’t a flavor of cynicism. Way too many Scotsmen managed to prosper somehow even if they had to leave to do it. Cynics would not have done what they did during their own diaspora.

My father’s family originates from Scotland. My grandfather came over in 1928. Coal miner. I don’t know what his politics was like, but my father was a life-long Democrat who thought like a libertarian. I am too, so I suspect I’m just carrying on a mental tradition. Scottish Liberalism.

Alfred Differ said...

The feudalists don’t destroy science directly. They shackle it and give it a designed purpose. Their design. It’s not just the Princes who do this. The Priests did too. Before roughly the 16th century, science served them both if it did much of anything.

Modern Science is a very bourgeois thing. It already has a purpose, but it isn’t a designed one. It is a mirror for our desire to comprehend when we can and eliminated false knowledge when we can’t.

For Feudalism to return, they MUST repurpose Science. As with all bourgeois traditions, they will have to co-opt them.

Brother Doug said...

Regarding Dr Brins comment on Meiji transformation a lot of that success was because they instituted liberal enlightenment policies like universal education and healthcare and a strong central government. All of which had been opposed by the feudal overlords

Paul SB said...

Luis,

It looks like the first part of my post mysteriously vanished yesterday (thus the “Luis con.t”) so I will have to try to remember what I wrote yesterday. But before I do that, I should try to get to your answer to hold of my comments. I can never be too sure how long my brain will hold out.

You are right that uncorrupted data can be hard to come by, especially since education is one of those services people tend to feel very strongly about, which means that politicians try to manipulate to their own advantage. And even when you can get clear data, from what I have seen of education researchers, they seem to be working from the same assumption bases as most people. They look to psychology to provide them all the answers, ignoring the fact that schools are fundamentally social (as are humans - in spite of locum’s witless tirades). Thus attempts to prove the obvious correlation between class size and school failure has focused on class-size reductions to around n=20. Sure, that’s an improvement over n=37, but it is almost 3 times the scalar stress number

Can I ask how your patient education program is conducted? Is this more like a classroom setting or more like tutoring? Unfortunately I don’t have access to my pedagogy library right now, but if you were willing to pass me your email, I could send you a pdf of strategies I use. It would take too much to explain here.

Okay, now let’s see if I can remember what I wrote yesterday. I probably repeated some stuff about human nature that I have written about many times here - probably much to the dismay of the readership. There are many, many flaws to our education traditions, but the key one that has to remedied before any of the others can do more than just nibble at the edge of darkness is class size. If you have read some of the things I have brought up about oxytocin, you’ll know what I am talking about. Well-intentioned people have been working for decades to fix pedagogy and curriculum, but none of those fixes amount to much if the class size problem isn’t solved.

My idea would be to get rid of all these high schools that have 4000 students and go to a dispersed model. Have many small buildings - could be old, renovated houses - with only enough room for 2 or 3 classes, with classes no more than 8 students (and possibly 2 teachers). Individual buildings would be no more than a block or 2 apart, so one building could have facilities to teach (and not merely lecture, which barely qualifies as teaching at all) math, science and social science, while the next building over has facilities to teach history (which is not social science, in spite of being relabelled that way back in the Bush Admin.) language arts and foreign languages. More specialized facilities like athletic fields, swimming pools, shop facilities and specialized vocational programs would be shared among several groups of school buildings. A shuttle service might be necessary to facilitate transportation between buildings. Currently school busses run in the morning, have a long, wasted break, then again in the afternoon. This would be more efficient in that sense, at least.

Students would move between 2 class buildings & the specialized facilities each semester but would change schedules each semester. This would help build more of a sense of community and teamwork, rather than the ‘us vs. them’ mentality that dominates the relationship between students and teachers. But with semester rotation, and more class choice on the part of the students, it could also provide more flexibility in terms of what students can learn. You might play with the frequency of rotation (quarterly, trimesterly, etc) and experiment with course options and the efficient distribution of teachers and learning facilities, though with internet access and some subscription databases, there is a whole lot that can be done with just computers in the classroom.

Paul SB said...

I'll try to get back to others in the morning.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Paul SB
Re - Education in the USA

One simple change that would (IMHO) massively improve the US education system

BAN "professional" level sports from High Schools and Universities
Disband all sports teams and demolish all sports stadiums

After a generation you could re-establish school sports and teams at a more sensible level but you current system is massively out of hand and is distorting your whole system

Paul SB said...

Duncan,

I couldn't agree with you more, except that we are also battling an obesity epidemic of epic proportions. I would not do away with PE entirely, but the high school meathead to pro sports pipeline is really bad, especially in an increasingly narcissistic culture that replaced official government religion with the worship of the Almighty Dollar. This is especially problematic for ethnic minorities. It is almost a universal that state-level societies create minorities to have handy scapegoats for times when they can't figure out how to fix their real problems. When they aren't actively persecuting their minorities, they are most definitely restricting minority roles in society, sometime by laws but mainly by stereotypes. And there are two features that turn up very consistently - music and sports. I once read an article about stereotyping in the Aztec Triple Alliance, and it was the same thing back then. Boys absorb the BS and plan their entire lives around forlorn hopes of becoming the next Kobe - along with about 30 million other boys, and it becomes the excuse for never, ever doing homework and screwing around in class.

Keep PE, but you're right, keep the stadium sports out of high school. I would go further and not allow the PE classes to even teach football, futbol, basketball, baseball or hockey. The slope is too slippery and the temptation to get more money by corrupt administrators to profit off school children is too great.

I would keep music programs - the neurological benefits of learning to play instruments & sing well are too great to give up, but there is still a slippery slope here - just nowhere near as bad as with sports.

Another thing I would insist on is adding self-care skills to the curriculum. You don't build mental resilience in children by throwing them to the wolves, as our throwback trogs believe. You build resilience by teaching skills - emotional self-defense. B between dramatically reducing the stress of being surrounded by too many immature peers and teaching stress-reduction techniques, that depression/bipolar/anxiety disorder epidemic can be staunched. It won't be fixed by continued emphasis on cutthroat competition. As old Uncle Albert said, insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result.

Paul SB said...

Alfred,

That last comment I made to Duncan brings me to your comments on tradition. Pretty much everything you said I have known for a long time. Even as a teenager I was never really a radical tradition resistor - I just resisted traditions that I thought were dumb.

No, traditions are not to be dumped out of hand. Traditions grow for reasons that were (sometimes) adaptive in certain times and places. I say sometimes because many traditions are really maladaptive, but it may take many generations for them to do enough damage to society to leave it tottering on the edge of extinction, facing a choice between stubbornly clinging to the traditions that are now destroying them or trying to innovate their way out of extinction. Thus the Einstein paraphrase. And yes, this happens. I have frequently commented on how the conditions that create civilizations also lead to their downfall. Need I bring up conspicuous consumption/competitive emulation again? How about the collapse of the Maya, with their competitive temple-building tradition that led to overpopulation and runaway soil erosion. Their response? Build bigger temples! In one century they went from around 30 million to around 10 thousand people in a calamity of epic proportions.

And what does America do? Build more sky scrappers, more office buildings, more business schools. Today we have the scientific skills to see what is happening. That system you speak of that began in 17th C. Netherlands and migrated to the rest of Europe and America was adaptive in that it broke the power monopoly of the aristocracy, but now it has created its own aristocracy, and they are sucking the world dry no less than the old nobility. And even though we have good science to point out this failure mode, most people plug their ears and go "Dah dah dah dah dah" whenever they point out facts that don't match the propaganda they have been enculturated to believe. Traditions can be adaptive at one time, in one place, but become deadly maladaptive in other times and other places - either when they speed from the places where the originated or when something about the physical or cultural environment changes sufficiently. Population growth is the most typical change, as increases in population increasingly tax natural resources down to critical levels from which the environment needs millennia to recover (the Yucatan being a clear example, once again, but you could look at the Roman Empire or any number of extinct civilizations), or when their culture starts to cause serious health issues for the human beings that comprise the civilization (the rat-like behavior of humans that comes out under conditions of overcrowding like violent street gangs, indifference to the fates of fellow hominids, or our current mental health calamity). Usually they go hand-in-hand.

Any approach to accepting or rejecting traditions cannot be the usual blanket approach - accept all traditions or reject all traditions - but this is sadly what most people end up doing. Pay careful attention to the circumstances under which a tradition developed, rather than just shrugging your shoulders and refusing to make any changes, the fatalistic cry of "need more data!" We have to work with what we have, while always accepting that any conclusions we reach could turn out to be wrong when we get the more data.

Paul SB said...

Alfred con.t,

What do American economist always tell us? That if the economy stops growing it dies. Do we die when we stop growing? The only things that never stop growing are obesity and cancer. Natural systems normally reach equilibrium, a sort of plateau of stability, but the US has convinced itself and the world that only endless growth is stable.

Paul SB said...

My brain!

I was going to add that there is a kind of cancer that is contagious - HPV. If we go with a health analogy, what does that say about the US and the rest of the world? What would Wallerstein say? What does it say that the highest office in the US is occupied by a rapist?

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

That sort of attitude is turning some in the protector caste against your cause. Our submariner said as much. Your feelings on the legitimacy of the election are not widely shared, thus YOU are the perceived threat to the Constitution.


Maybe sort of. What he said was that a movement to recognize someone else (Hillary) as the actual commander in chief puts the military in an untenable position.


I understand where you are coming from, but even I disagree with your position. Trump did win. He didn’t break rules to do it. He broke traditions.


Trump himself didn't break rules, but the Republican Party did. That is, if one perceives voter suppression to be a breaking of rules. Also, the FBI may not technically have violated election rules, but they violated their own rules when they released details of an ongoing investigation of Hillary but sat on the worse details of an ongoing investigation of Trump and Russia.

It turns out that many of our fellow citizens are dipsqueaks and voted for him. Ultimately, that his win is legitimate isn’t what bothers me. What does is that my neighbors thought it was a good idea that he be elected. It’s hard to fathom their collective insanity, but I don’t brush it aside. It happened and Trump won. My neighbors are nuts.


Ok, on this I'll agree (without the emphasis on the win being legitimate), and I've said so here. I was stunned on November 9 by the number of my fellow Americans who (in my assessment) hate America.


"Their core values are low taxes, no regulation, and courts which side with corporations over humans."

Maybe. I’ve learned not to accept what someone says is a personal or group core value and look instead at how they behave. When I do, I see 50 different GOP parties. Often more. There are distinctions between factions and states. Unity is an illusion. On top of that, I never felt that Reagan or his people (most anyway) were big fans of the oligarchs.


Agreed. Reagan forged an alliance of pro-America jingoism, social/religious conservatism, and believers in laissez-faire capitalism. One might think of those as three separate parties who formed a coalition and agreed not to step on each other's issues in exchange for solidarity among voters.

I do think that hindsight shows a corporatist "man behind the curtain" pulling many strings to insure a rise to power of a Republican Party friendly to their interests without calling too much public attention to themselves.


Okay. Maybe you didn’t drink the koolaide back in 2008. I don’t understand why people thought the GOP wouldn’t recover, though.


I didn't think they'd recover so quickly, is all.

A caller to Norman Goldman's radio show stated the obvious last night--that Republican voters, at least a large subset of them, vote Republican out of habit and identity. They're suspicious of Democrats at the very least, and often perceive them as enemies of America. So Democratic strategy is useless when it tries to appeal to Republican voters, even by playing to those Republicans' own values. Democrats need to convince their own voters not to be apathetic or hostile to their own candidates. Hillary wasn't going to get Trump supporters to switch sides no matter what, but she would have won if she had convinced Jill Stein voters not to cede a victory to someone they hated worse than herself.

I'm not saying that to blame the voters. The Democratic Party has lessons to learn about the electoral process. Unfortunately, they tend to learn the wrong lesson--that they have to swing to the right to attract Republican votes rather than that they have to give anti-Republicans something to root for.

Luis Salgueiro said...

Paul SB: Thanks for the answer. How can I send you my email?

The health literacy project started only a couple of months ago, and is turning into a governmental flag (for a population of 10 million we had 100 million medical consultations last year, even though we have a relatively low per capita health budget with very good results compared to other OCDE countries it's stressing our national budget and we are coming to the conclusion that the portuguese are chronically hipocondriacs)

We have tried in other projects to create classrooms for patients. The results are bad. Attendance is low and even though there are improvements in health indicators they are temporary, the messages fade with time the only programas that work require repeted classes over time. That may work for small selected pathologies, not on a global scale.
We are aiming to create a number of teaching materials to disseminate to schools, healthcare centers and mass media. We'll see how that goes.

Regarding your proposition for small classes we do have some experience with that. Starting in the 60s a massive public education progam took place in Portugal, with the end of the dictartoship in 74 the program accelerated so by 1980 every small village (as little as 500 peolple) had at least a basic school, with quicly declining births from 1985 onwards many of those schools ended up with less than 10 students. There is very little reliable research into this but an analysis of the scores of children from those small schools compared to larger ones is not favorable to the small schools. Some districts (with 500 000 to 1 million inhabitants) with very scattered populations failled to have children have high enougth scores to enter some of the most prestigious universities. In some instances excepcional teachers managed very good results but most teachers that end up in those small schools are the ones that failed to be hired in other places, and that, not the small size of the classes can explain the bad results. However I'm convinced that teacher preparation and teaching curricula and techniques might have a greater impact than smaller classes.
Regarding mega schools with more than 3000 students there is some that that suggests amplification of social problems in those settings. However those schools tend to be located in ghetos with foreign populations with integration problems.

Regarding the economic dillema the situation is very complex, the current model collapses without incressed expanditure and increassed debt and credit because insuficient currency is introduced in the system to compensate for increced production. In fact only through credit is new currency introduced in the system. If the credit is at 0 interest rates than reduced consumption can be achieved if not the system enters a deflationary cycle that destroys the banking establishments. I've yet failed to glimpse an alternative model that dosn't sends us back to the stone age.
Portuguese ecological fingerprint was reduced by half during the current crisis due to reduced comsumption and increased use of locally produced food.
However I don't understand some of the oposition to recycling. It is an immensely lucrative business. Some of the richest people I know made their wealth from creating recycling plants, some of those in Africa. The profits are imense, they get paid to take away the "trash" and after processing it the resulting materials are sold at a premium. The rentability is higher than that of a gold mine.

Luis Salgueiro said...

DrBrin: PaxAmericana and millitary spending: That is absolutly true. Portuguese defense spending is currently around 1% of the budget and the vast majority of the population is pushing to decrease even that. During the colonial war though, the military industrial complex hired hundreds of thousands of people, due to the embargo, and all weapons, vehicules and uniforms were produced in factories owned by the fascist regime or their pet oligarcs (kept on a very short leash). When the war ended, the economy took a very bad hit, causing portugal to go bankrupt in the eighties even though we had the worlds fifth largest gold reserve (which was shiped to the US in 75, by insistance of the CIA, so it wouldn't fall to communist hands, and rests securely at the bottom of the Fed Reserve in NY tyll this day)

Paul SB said...

Luis,

It would be dangerous to simply type your email address on the blog here, as there are malicious programs that could intercept it and flood your computer with spam, viruses, ransomeware ... But a few of us here have passed along their email addresses by sort of "mouthing it out" as it were (one guy called it "decloaking" but I don't remember who). Mine would be my first initial followed by my last name (shenbrown) at the service provided by Google. I can't guarantee I can help you a whole lot, though. I'm just a teacher. I am considering a run for Doctor of Ed., which might give me the kind of information you would need, but I have health issues I have to deal with before I could possibly start such a program. If you send an email to me, though, I would be happy to share what I have. As Siddhartha Gautama once said, "Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle, and the life of that candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared." Looks like the Buddha understood positive sum thinking 2500 years ago.

I'm afraid economics isn't a specialty of mine, so I can't help you there. I agree on the recycling, though there are some recycling processes that produce very serious pollution. Here in the LA area we have been having some serious issues with battery recyclers dumping hexavalent chromium, which is quite nasty. Unfortunately simple-minded people here something bad about one type of something (in this case recycling) then overgeneralize to everything, pitching millions of babies with a few gallons of bathwater. The efficiency of recycling many materials not only saves money by the metric ton, it also usually does much less damage to our life-support system (a.k.a. the environment).

Mega schools in ghettoes are hardly going to help those citizens integrate, are they? I don't want to dismiss your example, but with something as complex as a nation-wide education system has a whole lot of confounds - teacher quality being just one of them, to say nothing of cultural differences in educational expectations between different segments of a population (rural, agricultural people often see little value in education because they don't see it helping their livelihood, just like segregated minorities in ghettos). The jury is still out, and likely will be for much of this century.

Luis Salgueiro said...

Paul SB: my mail is my last name without the "o" at either google or hotmail.

My wife is a kindergarden teacher (with master degree in special education) and any information about experiences in other countries will help her work

I agree that there are too many confounders however the value of education is now percieved very positively in rural areas, it wasn't so 30 years ago but now specially after the crisis and the return to agricultare things are starting to look diferent. It is in the suburbs that things are worse.

Which reminds me, Dr. Brin: regarding the tendency to feudalism, I´ve noticed that during the worst of the economical crisis many poor people without resources turned to farming for subsistance, those that could returned to abandoned ancestral farms. But many unemploid suburbanites had no such option instead they ofered their services to landowners in exchange to keeping a portion of their production, thus assuming a vassal position instead of starving.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Much as I loved the old "Firefly" series, it used to annoy me that there would be so many different habitable planets seemingly within a few weeks or even days travel of one another. It defied everything we knew about the nature of solar systems.
But it turned out Clarke was right: it wasn't that it couldn't exist; it was that I couldn't imagine it might exist.

Robert said...

I will admit I was one of those fools who believed the Republican Party would fall apart and become a regional party.

The problem is... I have too much faith in my fellow humans.

I could not conceive that people would willingly and blindly continue to follow people who do not have their best interests for them and who repeatedly and continually betray everything they claim to hold dear. I see the Party of Family Values caught with their pants down over and over and over again until this is no longer the Party of Family Values and the Republican Party no longer even tries to claim that title.

Yet people didn't turn away.

I see people being betrayed, losing their jobs due to Republican policies and views, see people losing their way of life... and they continue to blindly support the Republican Party.

I believed that education and the fact they continue to have the same thing happen over and over again would keep people from following in this insanity.

But that is what it is.

Insanity.

A good-sized portion of the United States... are insane.

And they will gleefully dance while this country burns just to say "fuck you" to "liberals" and minorities and anyone who isn't them. They won't give a flying fuck that they are killing themselves and their children and their grandchildren, just so long as they get to watch everyone else suffer.

My suspicion is they believe when they die, they will go to a better world and be able to lord it over everyone else because they were "good Christians" even though they long ago abandoned anything Christ held dear.

Nor do I have any idea how we will stop these bastards... outside of getting the sane and more mature people (and the minorities, oh so very much the minorities!) to vote... consistently. To drown out that voice, to never again let down one's guard.

Trump has revealed to the American People that this insanity exists and that it is widespread. And while I still believe he will end up resigning or having impeachment proceedings start within his first 100 days (200 at most)... people are no longer sleeping.

I just hope they don't lose faith and give up entirely.

Rob H.

LarryHart said...

Robert:

The problem is... I have too much faith in my fellow humans.


And yet, you knew the election would be an upset back when I thought for sure that Hillary would get over 400 electoral votes.

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ (revisited) :

That sort of attitude is turning some in the protector caste against your cause. Our submariner said as much. Your feelings on the legitimacy of the election are not widely shared, thus YOU are the perceived threat to the Constitution. I understand where you are coming from, but even I disagree with your position. Trump did win. He didn’t break rules to do it. He broke traditions.


Then with all due respect, I will wait patiently for you and the protector caste to realize that I was right and you were wrong. I say this as someone who prefaces most assertions with "I might be wrong about this..." and I accept the possibility that I might be wrong about this one too. But I'm as confident as I was when I knew that the few congressional votes against Iraq War II (Bernie Sanders) would turn out to be political assets, as opposed to the overwhelming majority (Hillary Clinton) who felt that even if they'd rather not rush to war, a no vote would be political suicide.

LarryHart said...

Robert:

And they will gleefully dance while this country burns just to say "fuck you" to "liberals" and minorities and anyone who isn't them. They won't give a flying fuck that they are killing themselves and their children and their grandchildren, just so long as they get to watch everyone else suffer.
...
Nor do I have any idea how we will stop these bastards... outside of getting the sane and more mature people (and the minorities, oh so very much the minorities!) to vote... consistently. To drown out that voice, to never again let down one's guard.


You and I can't stop the voters who enable those bastards because of the reason you stated. The mere fact that we are upset, saddened, frightened, or angered is exactly what motivates them. They will have to suffer enough pain themselves before they realize "If it hurts when I do this, stop doing this!"

donzelion said...

Alfred: "I’m not sure what you count as ‘modern’ insurance. Once the Dutch had limited liability corporations and insurance for the commercial fleet, I count that as pretty modern."
Both important steps, but not quite the same game changer as the Scottish widows and orphans fund, which itself adopted actuarial-driven processes and accounting for the first time. Spreading risks among a vast pool through that required intense computation...a problem that ultimately justified a large part of the investment into logic systems that resulted in computers, or so I was led to believe. Indeed, the driving logic behind the "Scottish widows and orphans" fund - and national health insurance - the ultimate expression of the enlightenment and valuation of the bourgeoisie (and their dependents).

"Once people adopt the bourgeois version of the virtues (started with the Dutch), though, I suspect some social engineering via elaborate plans got under way."
My read of the intellectual history operates in parallel to yours on this - the concepts were there, but how to do it properly? Hence, new tools to measure, refine the measures, and compute...

"I’m not sure what you are arguing for, though. I’m not a cynic."
LOL, that wasn't an argument, more of a hat tip. I certainly wasn't accusing YOU of being cynical, at least, not intentional. And that is the difference between the Scots, and many other groups that actually did fall into fairly entrenched cynicism (esp. when their feudal lords reestablished themselves - e.g., 19th century France, among several others).

Catfish N. Cod said...

@Robert: you're missing a good portion of *why* they are willing to vote against their own self-interest. And it's very simple.

To them, liberals, big-city denizens, non-Christians (or at best non-Judeo-Christians), and quite often non-white people -- or at least, any non-white people that don't try to pretend as hard as possible to *be* white people -- aren't Americans.

Every cycle (yes, I'm going back to a modification of the Strauss-Howe model for a second) America redefines who "Americans" are. In the last (third) cycle, we dropped opposition to Irish, Italians, Greeks, Jews, eastern Europeans, Catholics in general, and pretty much any other "swarthy European types", who were formerly excluded from the WASP consensus. In 1960, JFK's election was seen as much of a breakthrough as Obama's was in 2008 -- after all these years, a Catholic was sufficiently accepted to be elected President!

To the conservative-reactionary mind, that's still the definition of "Real Americans".... Europeans who underwent assimilation. They count. Others -- blacks, Hispanics -- don't fit the Ellis-Island-Assimilation legend. They're out. Liberals, via the New-Left "crypto-commie" movements of the 60's and 70's, are considered to have effectively renounced citizenship for themselves and their physical and intellectual descendants. They're out. And "real Americans" adhere to some sort of Judeo-Christian religion and practice it wholeheartedly. Freethinkers, atheists, members of other religions -- not sufficient trustworthy. Possibly can be seduced by foreign powers. They're out. (This hurts my brain at a time when Putin's agents are playing on traditionalist Christian appeals to recruit, but there you have it.) There are gray areas -- Asians might or might not be all right, especially if they are eager and skillful capitalists and/or Christians. No one really knows what to do with Indians or non-Muslim Middle Easterners (as several friends of mine can attest)... an edge case that demonstrates the fundamental silliness of the American concept of "white": people from the actual Caucasus can be rejected as non-Caucasian.

The Legend of Third America, though, is no longer a good description of America. There is now a Fourth American Legend, one that describes also the immigration wave starting with the liberalization of immigration laws in 1965. The people who dropped everything to come to America. Who wanted our economic freedom, our political freedom, our religious freedom, our tolerance, our self-constructed polity, our faith in humanity. It is the genius of "Hamilton" that ties this Fourth American Legend to the First American Legend, the one that our ancestors constructed in order to have a nation at all. And eventually, it will become America's self-concept.

But not as long as we have so many people clinging to the old Third American Legend. And it's that desperate need to keep the Third American Legend -- and all the perceived privileges and rights and self-identity and self-worth and self-concept that go with it -- that make people want desperately to vote against their own self-interest. Third America is Real America to them, and to vote against it would be to vote for something not American.... something foreign, something that cares nothing for them, something that would cast them aside. Or so they think.

Obama tried to link Third and Fourth America, but failed. The victory of the Union will come with someone can link Fourth America to Third, and build a policy that convinces all that the Fourth American Paradigm is not only here to stay, but will serve all Americans regardless.... and despite all the neo-Confederate forces trying to build a New Confederacy out of the old Third America.

Paul SB said...

Catfish,
What you wrote here should be published in some much wider forum, somewhere that millions of people will see it. That model of 1st - 4th Americas looks pretty convincing, especially the bit about connecting 4th with 1st, an idea that will have appeal to many conservative people, the kind of Caucasians who go to church with minorities and don't have a problem with that.

Larry,

"They will have to suffer enough pain themselves before they realize "If it hurts when I do this, stop doing this!"
- That might completely backfire. People who are that reactionary are victims of the Dunning-Kreuger Effect. As long as the weasels of Washington have their claws deep into Hollywood, commercial radio and the Internet, they will continue to spew propaganda that blames all their pain on the very people who are trying (though not always very intelligently) to solve the problems that created their pain. So the worse it gets, the more stubbornly they vote for kleptocrats, and insist that anyone who claims to be helping them is really a Stalinist in liberal clothing. This is a democracy's version of the kind of feedback loops that kill civilizations. The Dems are going to have to try a whole lot harder to win back the hearts and minds of these people. I can't think of anything else that might help besides investigating the corruption of these weasels and exposing it publicly. Remember when someone recorded a secret conversation between Mittens Romney and a cadre of rich donors and released it on the net? We need more sleuth work like this - things that make it painfully obvious even to D-K types that they are nothing but a gang of thieves.

Donzel,
I just decloaked yesterday...

locumranch said...


It's quite sad how members of an insane society tend to accuse the sane of 'insanity', yet this is exactly what Robert does when he simultaneously demands & bemoans the collectivism of people acting against their own individual interests for the betterment of others, even though this is the classic progressive demand:

That the individual should, ought & is supposed to put the collective 'greatest good' interests of humanity before their own.

Luis_S terms this type of illogic 'iterative', whereas I would term term it 'recursive' as it is circular & self-sustaining in the manner that David violates conditional logic by arguing that the 'q' of social policy must necessarily lead back to the 'p' of science -- assuming 'If P, then Q' -- even though 'If Q, then not necessarily P'.

It should come as NO surprise to anyone, including Robert & his insane clown posse of self-referential WEIRD-os, that the Other may define the 'best interests of the collective' in a different and 'otherly' manner.


Best

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locumranch said...


Let's talk about a little more about this WEIRD-o insanity type.

Even more than the EU standard, Portugal has dedicated itself to family planning, public health, social welfare & global otherness wherein (1) the term 'family planning' refers to a radical depopulation agenda which results in a Portuguese below-replacement birth rate of 1.28, (2) the term 'public health' signifies the relatively selfish & sterile extension of individual life expectancy at the expense of social fecundity with the Portuguese median female age being a peri-menopausal 44 years, (3) the term 'social welfare' represents a society that encourages the individual to act selfishly & take more from society than they give, and (4) the term 'global otherness' (globalism) which leads to population replacement by immigrant, the associated devaluation of native Portuguese labour & an inevitable economic collapse due to a non-sustainable dependency ratio.

That's not to say that I disapprove of all-of-the-above actions in principle because I do not. Being a WEIRD-o myself, I most certainly approve of family planning, public health, social welfare & global otherness on the condition of moderation. It is unfortunate, however, how the EU (in genera)l, Portugal (in specific) & the typical US progressive obsessive tend to take such views to an insane extreme, much in the same way that the moderate health benefits of weight loss by the obese can become 'death by starvation' when taken to the insane extreme of the mentally-ill anorexic.

And, to what purpose does Luis_S dedicate his life? He pushes the WEIRD-o agenda to its current extreme in the beneficent name of family planning, public health, social welfare & globalism; and, by doing so, he ensures the destruction of his social order, nation & all of the best that western WEIRD-ness has given unto humanity.

Such Insanity springs from imbalance, whereas Sanity is synonymous with equilibrium & moderation.


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David Brin said...

I agree with PaulSB’s glass-half-empty critiques of US public education, which is only (and shamefully) half as effective as it would have been if teaching was treated with respect.And yet of course ironies abound.
1) that the glass is way half-full compared to all of human history, in the spectacular levels of knowledge and skill now possessed by the portions of society that would have been peons in any other society.
And sure, a certain fraction are devoid of curiosity and hence “peons” by personality and not born social class. We’ve just seen the eruption of hostility by these confederates against the smarty pants castes who made them stay in school. Still and despite all that, the US always scores in the top 3 in adult science literacy. half full indeed.

2) If our schools are so awful, how come we have 80 of the 100 best universities on ht planet, and nations all over send expeditions to investigate how our young people get so creative? And why do the Education Ministries in Beijing, Tokyo, Delhi and so on send out hundreds of minions, each year, begging teachers to teach their classes in a more “American manner”?

3) The locum silliness of raging against an education system that has only “failed” according to the rising standards of an enlightenment society that knows it ought to do better-still.

===

ANOTHER MATTER: Guys. I thought I had eliminated the stupid online thing that replaces the word “c l o u d” with “b u t t” … only the damned thing is back. Remind me how to get rid of this noxious thing?

Give advice in the NEXT comments section!

Onward

onward

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