Saturday, August 05, 2017

Marvels of Space and Time...

Let's take a break from the absurd reality show that is Earthly politics, and look instead skyward where -- it seems every week, sometimes daily -- we keep seeing fantastic evidence of what human civilization can do. Seriously, you readers who express fascination and pride, as you scan the wonders below... do you ever ask how you can be of the same species as our neighbors who spew hatred of science? Whose hearts have been hardened to such awe and beauty?

Even on the level of theology these things blare out what greatness we're beginning to achieve, and how blessed we are to be apprentices, understanding and learning  and now practicing the craft of Creation.

Proselytize. I mean it. Make your neighbors lift their heads. Help them to see.

== Magnificence ==

Simply stunning. An unprecedented video stitched together from Junocam pictures as our probe's ellipse takes it diving toward one pole of Jupiter to skate over the cloud tops and race by the other pole, almost touching the stormy vortex before plunging back out again.  The embellished addition... "Atmospheres" from 2001 a Space Odyssey... adds to the awe.

The Solar Probe Plus (SPP) mission will dive into the Sun’s atmosphere. Dive… into the sun. The first ever mission to get near the sun, is set to launch by summer 2018. The spacecraft will go into orbit within 4 million miles of the surface of the sun. Behind a carbon composite heat shield, the solar powered mission will pump heat to radiators… conceptually related to the technique that I wrote about in… Sundiver.

In October 2022, as a binary pair of asteroids makes an approach near Earth, NASA will launch a refrigerator-sized spacecraft to strike Didymos Bat 3.7 miles per second. Scientists will study the impact and the effect is has on Didymos B’s orbit around Didymos A, to determine whether this technique is a feasible method for saving the planet from asteroids that could otherwise have devastating impacts.  Doing this near Earth allows precise radar measurements. Still…

Born as twins? New evidence suggests that most star systems probably begin as binaries that then either draw together or drift apart.

A galaxy with two – count em – two supermassive black holes orbiting each other.  Long predicted, and now discovered. Wow. 

Astrophysicist and author Ethan Siegel offers up a brief essay on Forbes about our need, in less than a billion years, to start moving the Earth outward, to keep it habitable at the Sun continues to warm.  Ethan describes the energetics problem fairly well… but doesn’t offer even a smidgeon of an idea of how this mighty feat might be accomplished.  Fortunately… I do.

There may be 10,000 hypervelocity blue stars that escaped from the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) when their binary companions exploded.  That velocity, added to the speed of the LMC itself, could account for their blazing sprints, and why we spot them along a general line leading from the LMC to the constellations of Leo and Sextans.  Since blue stars only have short lives, this means there may be up to a million of their remnants — neutron stars or black holes — speeding along the same general path.

Ohy, but our dreams will face obstacles and challenges to overcome. It seems increasingly likely that the surface of Mars is rife with perchlorates, which, when heated or exposed to UV, are really harsh on living organisms.  “The Martian” would need a lot more water, just to clean his soil.

== METI, SETI and more ==

In Greetings ET: Please Don't Murder Us: Stephen Johnson offers an excellent and thoughtful review of the METI argument -- which appeared in the New York Times Magazine in June, 2017.  My one carp is that the author did not cover how humanity has already been learning how to deal with “unusual risks,” through mature methods like the Asilomar Process and NASA’s Planetary Protection Office, which have pioneered ways to reduce both real and moral hazards, while ultimately enhancing, rather than suppressing, humanity’s bold, exploratory spirit.

Thus, asking for Pre-Discussion -- before beaming messages to space -- is not a zero-sum thing. Such worldwide consultations would be lively, informative, entertaining and ethically just. They would also – very likely – lead to a better (perhaps compromise) decision than leaving all of human destiny up to a narrow cult of over-eager zealots. Seriously, don't leap to a blithe, simplistic opinion on METI!  Start with my paper laying out the pros and cons and the vexing stuff you'll read about nowhere else!

Okay so it pays to wear a variety of hats. In my role as a chief cataloger of hypotheses to explain the “Fermi Paradox” (the puzzling absence of any clear sign of extraterrestrial intelligent life, or ETI), I hadn’t registered on my list the “aestivation hypothesis” – that a sapient species might choose to shut down and hibernate for billions of years, until the cosmos has cooled sufficiently for optimized computational efficiency. 

This notion – offered up by three brainy dudes I know well: Anders SandbergStuart Armstrong and Milan M. Cirkovic – posits that most ETI would care about little else than optimizing computational ability, and hence would nearly all make this choice, rather than while away during the inferno heat of today’s epoch. That’s our current … um… 2.7 degrees Kelvin of the cosmic background radiation temperature, less than three degrees above absolute zero. See their explanation FAQ. And George Dvorsky’s excellent Gizmodo summary.

The value system this requires has been called “dataism” by – among others – Yuval Harari, who claims that humanity is about to make the same shift. Data-ist fetishists – according to Harari - view the entire human race as a complex info-processing system. Human history distills down to a story of improving the system’s efficiency, by increasing the number of processors (humans), increasing the variety of processors (through human specialization and diversity), and improving the connections between the processors (through trade and communication). 

Now our computerized sharing and processing systems are on the verge of a new, exponential leap. If Dataists are right about this then, according to Harari, "homo sapiens is an obsolete algorithm," -- as discussed in his latest book Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow.
  
And yes, if Data-ism is the monolithic religion that our (presumably machine) heirs cherish above all else, then moving to a time and place with more efficient heat sinks might seem nerdishly attractive. To some. (I’ll be posting more about Harari, soon.)

Still, this concept has several flaws, some logical and others that might (I don’t know yet) arise from physics.

1) In his epic tome The Physics of Immortality,  the brilliant Tulane physicist Frank Tipler offered a stunning, baroque, complex and enticing (and Hugo Award-worthy) view of a far distant era when (hypothetically) the entire known universe comes back together into a Big Crunch. (This notion of an Big Anti-Bang, which for a decade had been thought extinct, is now being revived in new versions of the Cyclical Universe. Really?  My head spins.) 

Tipler posited that during the last few million years before the final crunch, all the sapient races in the universe would combine knowledge and have available near infinite computational power that would let them simulate any degree of subjective reality. Literally any degree, offering virtual immortality and the resurrection (by simulation) of most of their ancestors. (That last bit would require tens of pages for me to explain; trust me, it’s amazing.)

All of which is pertinent to the notion offered by Anders, Stuart and Milan in one way… because Tipler posited infinite computability in the very hot, collapsing universe, not in the very cold expanding one.  I await clarification of this dichotomy.

2) The aestivation hypothesis is another version of the Delay Paradox for interstellar travel (illustrated in my story “The Avalon Probes,” in INSISTENCE OF VISION.  If you are getting better at launching ever faster ships, that can out-race last year’s models, when does it make sense to actually launch one?  Likewise, while you may get better at computation in a colder universe, you are foregoing all the computation that you might accomplish, if you just kept cranking away during the warmer times. (See my short story “The Warm Space,” in OTHERNESS.)

3) Then there is the Danger Problem.  If you ignore the physical world in favor of dataism, you may be surprised by something that erupts in objective reality and bites you, while you slept in search of better (computational) times. Billions of years, during which some upstart NON-dataist race goes booming across the galaxy, building and delving and mining and making both love and war. Can you be sure they won’t find your aestivation chamber and… well.. at-best wake you up?  Or at-worst…

Not to say this isn’t clever! A number of the sub-concepts can be seen in Liu Cixin’s wonderful novel The Three Body Problem, including a species that aestivates through hard times.

== Naturally, I have a story about that ==

I mentioned wearing many hats. Well, as an astrophysicist and SETI scholar, I had not considered the aestivation possibility.  On the other hand, here’s an extract from my (Hugo winning) 1985 short story “The Crystal Spheres" (from The River of Time):

     Better, by far, to stay young until the universe finally becomes a fun place to enjoy!
To wait for that day, the races who came before us sleep at the edge of their time-stretched black hole. Within, they abide to welcome us; and we shall sit out, together, the barren early years of the galaxies.

Ah, well, sometimes art precedes science!

== And more wonders? ==

WOW SIGNAL solved? Forty years ago, astronomer Jerry Ehman using Ohio State University's Big Ear radio telescope, pointed at a group of stars called Chi Sagittarii in the constellation Sagittarius and captured a 72 second burst of radio that has puzzled SETI searchers. Now Antonio Paris, of St Petersburg College, claims to have an explanation. A pair of comets were in that general part of sky. At the time, 266P/Christensen and 335P/Gibbs, were emitting clouds of ionized hydrogen gas millions of kilometers in diameter. Paris claims this led to the radio signal.

Alas, this “explanation” is an amateur speculation by someone who doesn’t seem to have much understanding of radio astronomy.  Or of comets. This caustic response of one RA fellow (on reddit) casts plenty of shade.

I’m not quite so quick to utterly dismiss the idea. The ionized tails of comets are pretty fierce and occasionally do emit noteworthy radio. Still, radio astronomer and SETI pioneer Dan Werthimer says: “the wow signal was almost certainly RFI (Radio Frequency Interference from man-made sources) modulated in power that happens to be close to the beam pattern response of the telescope. We see these signals all the time.” 

 In other words, this widely circulated “paper” offers an initially cool idea that fails to rise to the “5% plausible” test.  Experts aren’t always right and minority-impudent theories are fun, even occasionally correct. I concoct plenty of em! But this is one that bears lots more burden of proof than is being met.

== And finally ==

On June 3, 2017, a mysterious U.S. spy satellite did a close flyby of the International Space Station.

And finally... ah, sci fi. This is tasty cover art (by Steve Stone) for The Winds of Dune by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson. But argh, can we think a little?  Commenter Mike Gannis asks:

(1) Look at the woman's shadow. Look at the illumination of the moons. Where the hell is the sun?

(2) The moons might last as long as five or six orbits before one either is ejected or crashes into the planet.

Still, there's a level where you answer... who cares? It sure am pretty.

112 comments:

locumranch said...


The concept of 'dataism' is ludicrous, on par with the attribution of nutrition value to a photographic representation of food. It's representational magic at its most absurd.

To quote Zelany's 'For a breath I tarry', "What good is a house with no one to live in it? What good is a machine with no one to serve?"

And, the “aestivation hypothesis” ?

It's analogous to suicide, the acceptance of a fake death that risks real death as an alternative to certain death. Rather than evidence of mastery, it's a 'Hail Mary' play & an act of absolute desperation.

Here's another Fermi Hypothesis for you: When the going gets tough, most alien intelligences just off themselves because they lack our perverse cultural prohibition against suicide.

Best

Jonathan Sills said...

A variant on the Aestivation Hypothesis is offered in my favorite MMO, Star Trek Online.

It's accepted as part of the background of the Star Trek universe that at some point, a billion or so years ago, the first spacegoing intelligence arose - and found itself lonely. The solution they devised was to meddle in the genomes of hundreds, possibly thousands, of worlds, trying to ensure that the descendants of those creatures could one day become humanoid sophonts whose thought patterns were similar to the Preservers (as we came to call them). (We'll ignore for now the silly TNG episode in which matching segments of Klingon, Romulan, Human, and other DNA gave Our Heroes a holographic data file that told them what had happened...)

In STO, when you go to aid the Deferi against attacks by the Breen, you'll find the Breen are hunting down ancient Preserver data dumps in Deferi space. Eventually, at the end of the mission chain, you find the largest archive of all - and within, you find thousands of Preservers, in perfect suspension. Turned out a large number of them wanted to meet their quasi-children one day, to see what sort of galaxy they developed. (Sadly, many of them were killed when the Iconians emerged from their own suspension, as the Iconians were the next starfaring sapients and rather resented the burden the Preservers stuck them with when younger races started showing up more and more.)

Paul451 said...

From the last thread,

Tony,
"A colleague and his wife were getting interested in developing a hydroponic garden for their hi-rise balcony, and went investigating hydroponics shops. They were wondering at the strange paraphernalia for darkened cupboards, and the sideways looks they were getting from the clientele and the shop assistant, and it dawned on them that these shops were catering for a very specific type of crop. They were directed to [local hardware chain store]."

Heh. I helped a friend set up a room for... the other crop. Fascinating process. I learnt so much about how damn twitchy plants are. For eg, since they breath a gas that makes up such a tiny proportion of air, they can exhaust their entire supply within a couple of hours of the lights going on. They then become dormant. You spend weeks trying every trick from every book you can find, you re-pot, you fungal disinfect, you change fertilisers and balance and rebalance the pH in the water, endlessly tweaking light, heat, humidity, nothing works. Then you increase the exchange-rate of air in the room and whoosh! off they go. Until they hit the next limit. It was a huge insight. I have an interest in human space colonisation, and barring SF-level technology, colonisation requires local food production, but damn it's hard to get right in an artificial environment. When I hear advocates talking about having a multi-layered, massively interconnected bio-system based around plants (such as: human waste treatment, air treatment/oxygen-production, crop production for food, plant-waste turned into mulch, ag run-off into algae, algae into fish-food, fish waste into fertilisers for the plants...) I think, Jesus, try getting just one of those steps reliable enough to bet your life on... but they not only stack dependencies upon dependencies, they think that once established it will pretty much run itself; minimal labour.

[I've also been involved in farming, very obliquely, but putting it in a box really shows you what you don't know.]

The other thing I learned is that once you get a handle on some of the offerings at ye olde hydro shoppe, there's stuff that works on your more regular plants that runs rings around the junk in the normal garden supply section. My parents garden never looked so good as when I could get cast-offs (various concoctions no longer optimal for... the other crop... but still way beyond anything you get in your normal garden section.)

Aside: Vertical farming? No. Outside of weird niches, no. Unless transport dominates your costs and there are people who over-pay for the gimmick of locality, no. Every efficiency gain you can get from technology works better in 2d. Even intensive farming (including augmented lighting) works better in greenhouses than high-rises.

Paul451 said...

Loco,
"Here's another Fermi Hypothesis for you: When the going gets tough, most alien intelligences"

"Most" doesn't work for a Paradox Solution, it has to be universal or it's meaningless. It doesn't matter what the species who don't expand do, hence it doesn't matter why they didn't. It only matters what the ones who expand do. It sounds tautological, but look at Earth, it doesn't matter to the rest of the galaxy why all the species that never leave Earth never developed the intelligence/etc necessary, all that matters is whether we leave Earth (either us or a future intelligence).

It doesn't matter why non-colonising alien civilisations didn't colonise, a Solution must explain why every single alien civilisation that didn't meet your criteria also didn't colonise.

(That said: Yours doesn't even come close. Evolution doesn't favour mass suicide. Therefore a strong survival instinct can be presumed in a great majority of civilisations that achieve the ability to leave their homeworld. You would need some kind of universal malfunction of instincts that inevitably causes an avoidable self-extinction. And its the "universal" and "inevitable" that you have to explain.)

LarryHart said...

On the cover of "The Winds of Dune" from the main post:

(1) Look at the woman's shadow. Look at the illumination of the moons. Where the hell is the sun?

(2) The moons might last as long as five or six orbits before one either is ejected or crashes into the planet.


1) Could the shadow be cast by moonlight? Just asking the question.

2) Is this a question about the cover image, or about something else from the book, because I'm not clear what about the image appears to show an impossible orbit for the moons. Also, what "moons"? I only see one moon on the cover (though I do remember that Arakkis had two moons in the text of the original novel).

sociotard said...

We could say that the moon is full, but the albescence is a gradient. Also the orbit might not be so bad if this picture is taken with a long Zoom rather than a close up shot. Then the moon would be much smaller to a normal ground Observer. I only saw one Moon?

locumranch said...


Paul451 appears to have some misconceptions about 'evolution', among them being that evolution favours intelligence, makes species 'better', acts for specific 'good' or knows what a species 'needs' to improve & survive.

http://evolution.berkeley.edu/evolibrary/misconceptions_teacherfaq.php#b2

Too bad, so sad, that evolution just doesn't care about either intelligence or species survival. There is also plenty of evidence to suggest that evolution often selects AGAINST intelligence in certain situations.

Evolution is so merciless as it has led to the extinction of 99.9% of all the species that have ever existed on the Earth and, most certainly, it doesn't give two shits about mass suicide.

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/evolution/extinction/massext/statement_03.html

Of course, Paul451 may be arguing that evolution isn't universal.


Best

LarryHart said...

sociotard:

Also the orbit might not be so bad if this picture is taken with a long Zoom rather than a close up shot. Then the moon would be much smaller to a normal ground Observer.


We have no idea how close we are to the woman. When the real earth moon is in the sky, I can cover it with my thumb if it's close enough to my eye. It takes a good sided building to cover it at a further distance, and sometimes even that doesn't do the trick. Even if we presume a particular actual size, I don't understand how anyone can say with any certainty how close the moon in that picture is to the planet.


I only saw one Moon?


I can't tell if you're questioning my assertion or agreeing with it. I see one moon which clearly covers part of the N and most of the E in "DUNE". If there's another moon there, I'd appreciate someone describing where it is.

David Dorais said...

I have always liked the Tipler book despite the changing fashions of cosmology's theory's current okayness. Nice to jabber about it but we will never know for sure and it boiled down to speculation only.

Jumper said...

https://s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/tabs.web.media/b/8/b8od/b8od-square-1536.jpg

Her shadow is wrong. There is only one moon. Its shading could be a result of atmospheric effects rather than position of the sun.

Paul SB said...

I'm going to come to the defense of my fellow Paul, here, as nothing he wrote in the post above suggests directionality to evolution. I'm pretty sure he's smarter than that, and also that not much of anyone here is likely to fall for yet another locum straw. of course 451 can defend himself, but there's a more subtle error in locum's spew here that I hear all the time - reification error. Evolution doesn't give one, two or any other number of shits because evolution is simply a process, not a person. This error isn't as insidious as the people ask if you "believe in" evolution, though. Few people get that one even when explained. Do you believe in respiration? Of course not. You don't need to believe in something that happens. You breath, it's as simple as that. Things change, that's what evolution means. You only need to believe something if you can't show that it's happening.

Oh, and it's not very logical to suppose that a species that has a genetic disposition toward mass suicide would last long enough to reach sapience. But once you have sapience, all bets are off, because culture can lead down some self-destructive pathways, like creating nuclear weapons. If the human species had as much testosterone now as they did 200,000 years ago, it would not have made it past the Cuban Missile Crisis.

But the fact that 99.9% of all species that ever existed are now extinct says nothing whatsoever about mass suicide. Most extinction happens when a species over specializes, reducing their genetic diversity to proliferate under one set of conditions, then the conditions change and they lack the diversity to survive in the new conditions. Yes, I know conservatives hate diversity, but diversity is survival, and genetically speaking any two humans from opposite sides of the world are more similar than any two giraffes on opposite sides of Kenya.

Paul SB said...

A question about the hypervelocity blues article, or two questions, really. Astrophysics is outside my area of expertise. They are saying that these great big Type O stars are all going in roughly the same direction and are found in the same region of the galaxy, and that they think what accelerated them to hypervelocity was their binary partners exploding. It would be pretty hard to believe that all of those big blues just happened to be in roughly the same place in their orbits when their partners became many with the Universe, launching all of them in roughly the same direction. Even accounting for the velocity of the LMG itself, you should still have these stars flying off in random directions, not all following roughly the same course.

The other question has to do with the type of these stars. Big blue giant stars are very short-lived stars, exactly the ones you would expect to have been the ones that were doing the exploding. Presumably the only way you would have a great big Type O being the survivor would be if the partner was an even bigger Type O. But if that were the case, wouldn't they have just merged as the article said, and then exploded as one yuge star?

Tony Fisk said...

Evolution is best thought of as a matter of 'that which survives'.
Intelligence may be thought of as conferring an 'obvious' advantage for a species so that it can plan ahead, but there are trade-offs eg: energy consumption, learning times.

In some ways, this idea of 'Aestivation' can be thought of as intelligence planning ahead to incorporate these trade offs. Like a lot ideas, other people have played with it. Lovecraft's elder races lying dormant. Cthulhu's dreaming encroached upon by curious simians. Straczyncki's Lorien calling on the First Ones to leave the Universe for the younger races (as Humanity ultimately does). Dowling's sleepers who may occasionally awake to sample an era (they play little part in the Rynosseros Universe, apart from being occasional sources of plunder). Hoyle's Heechee, and Brin's own Uplift Universe refer to a 'call of the tides' that cause older races to relinquish the Universe for stasis in a black hole.

Moore's Law may be hitting limits, but I don't think people other than a few Silicon Valley types are ready to go into stasis just yet. Besides, wasn't the Eschaton's final Commandment to Humanity *not* to encroach on the timelines it occupied?

Ironically, people who come up with these ideas tend to exhibit similarities with Niven's Protectors. Brilliant insights which are instinctual: presented as logical imperatives with no better alternative, and which just happen to promote the survival of the Protector's direct descendants.

Sue Bursztynski said...

Ooh, that's a pretty cover! I won't fuss about it, given the truly huge number of errors on book covers through publishing history. There was this woman who photographed herself and her husband in some of the bizarre poses on the covers of spec fic books, for her blog, and showed exactly why they didn't work. The article was hilarious, but people went right on buying those books and paying no attention to the covers, and this is before we even get to YA novels with girls in "prom" dresses completely unrelated to the subject matter.

The Preservers were a handy race that gave the Trek characters a chance to visit Earth-equivalent worlds, including one with a population of Native Americans... I also recall a novel by Arthur C Clarke and a collaborator whose name I can't recall which had a sort of Preserver race in it.

LarryHart said...

@Sue Bursztynski,

If you don't judge a book by its cover, I certainly wouldn't expect people to not buy a book simply because the cover art has errors. Spotting such things can be a fun exercise, and pointing them out is a legitimate critic's role in improving the technique, but it doesn't make the book unreadable. It doesn't even make the art itself un-enjoyable, though it does bother the trained eye.

Whether the cover "works" is somewhat in the eye of the beholder. I live in Chicago, and I once spotted a souvenir poster of some local building with a full moon in the background and realized that it bothered me because the scene had you looking due north, and I don't think a full moon ever appears that way in the sky. Someone who doesn't particularly notice the movement of the sun and moon throughout the day wouldn't care, nor would anyone who had no idea which geographical direction that particular building faced.

There was an opening page to an old 1970s (maybe even 1960s) "Avengers" comic book story that had a robotic character, The Vision, mulling over a supposedly-interesting chess problem. The chessboard had so many impossibilities on it that it was unintentionally hilarious. IIRC, the bottom right-hand corner was black, a bishop or a rook was moved out while still blocked by pawns, and I'm pretty sure two bishops of the same color were on same-colored squares. Even a rudimentary chess player would have to notice, but it wouldn't bother a non-[layer and didn't seem to bother the artist (unless it was a deliberate insult).

Speaking of comic books, an episode of M*A*S*H has Radar waking up in bed holding a comic book. The fact that it's a 1960s Marvel cover and the series takes place during the early 1950s immediately broke the fourth wall for me, but I'd gather to most viewers it was just "a comic book" and nothing more.

Way back in 1977, one of the reasons "Star Wars" worked was because it captured the excitement of Flash Gordon type space action but (unlike the old serials) the visuals most certainly did "work". When you saw a landspeeder or an X-wing fighter or a huge star destroyer or the Millenium Falcon blasting its way out of Mos Eisley, they had the look and feel of really being there.

Jumper said...

My brother is a fanatic about astronomical errors in fiction. If Joan walks the beach at midnight and the full moon is setting, he has a fit.

Duncan Cairncross said...

I am not too worried about cover art
But I do hate it when the "Blurb" is completely wrong and seems to show that the person who wrote has never read the book
This was very common back in the 80's - I've not noticed it lately

LarryHart said...

It's the calendar-related errors that I notice. Charles Harness's "Probable Cause"--a story I adore enough to have read many times--takes place in what was then the future year of 1984, specifically so a character can refer to Orwell's title. But the climactic scene in front of the Supreme Court takes place on April Fool's Day, which was a Sunday that year. It doesn't actually spoil the story for me, but it does always make me wonder why the author did that.

I've even gone so far as to try to read it as if the opening takes place at the start of the Supreme Court session in October 1984, and that the climax happens many months later on Monday April 1, 1985. But the plot doesn't really extend over that long of a period of time or change of seasons.

And I know, I know...if it hurts when I do this, don't do this!

LarryHart said...

Paul SB from the previous post:

... just like all those "George W. Bush says Miss me yet?" bumper stickers I started seeing on pick-up trucks before Obama was even sworn in.


BTW, have you ever heard W speak in the time after he left office? He can be quite intelligent and articulate, sounding nothing at all like he did when he was president. I recently saw a 2014 special about Lin-Manuel Miranda's "Hamilton" play, and there were many clips of both then-President Obama and former-president W speaking about the play and about the real-life history. When it was W speaking, I kept going, "Where was this version of yourself when we could have used it?"

Paul SB said...

Duncan, Jumper, Larry and Sue (alphabetically, not order of preference),

These kinds of errors stem from the tendency of humans brains to do things quickly rather than carefully and thus expend less energy. There's an episode of the Nat Geo show "Brain Games" where they ask a bunch of people to draw a bicycle, then they built bicycles that matched their illustrations. All but one of the bicycles were completely dysfunctional. It was a great illustration of how our brains take ordinary things for granted rather than actually remembering everything. It tells us something very important about just how feeble a thing memory is. But the best episode on that theme was the one where they faked a robbery, then asked witnesses to identify the perpetrator, and almost no one got it right. Most people would have sent the wrong guy to jail. But most were absolutely certain of their memory.

Larry, no, I haven't heard much from the Shrub since he left office. The only thing I want to know is that he has been put behind bars for crimes against humanity, but I know that will never happen. The strange change of personality isn't so strange, when you think about it. Politicians generally, but Republicans especially, often try to fake being middle-class "every men" to win votes. They are a bunch of actors (or fakers, if you prefer). The sad thing is that they feel that to appeal to the average American they have to act like morons. It doesn't say anything flattering about this nation, does it?

dennisd said...

I’ve illustrated a total of one science fiction book cover (Brin’s Earth), so here are my thoughts.

Quite often, science fiction cover art is designed to simply reflect the mood or theme of the book being illustrated. It’s not scientific illustration or astronomical art, so the artist won’t be bound by the physical laws of light, gravity or even material reality.

That said, a composition like the one under discussion would be improved if the light source and shadows were consistent. After all, it’s an Earth-like landscape with an atmosphere, a moon, and a star to illuminate the scene. Keeping these elements congruent makes the scene legible. A good Art Director would have caught this one.

LarryHart said...

Paul SB:

There's an episode of the Nat Geo show "Brain Games" where they ask a bunch of people to draw a bicycle, then they built bicycles that matched their illustrations. All but one of the bicycles were completely dysfunctional. It was a great illustration of how our brains take ordinary things for granted rather than actually remembering everything.


That just shows that there's a difference between an iconic image representing a bicycle and a technical drawing of one.

Cover art for a novel, especially a sci-fi novel, walks the line between iconic and realistic depictions. For a more realistic story, the art simply has to suggest images the reader is likely already familiar with. With a sci-fi book, the art is often producing an image of something that the reader has never seen in person. The point isn't to be 100% realistic, but realism serves the iconography, so getting it wrong isn't deadly, but getting it right is better. The important characteristic is verisimilitude--it feels right.

If you remember the opening titles of "Star Trek: Voyager", there was a shot of the ship flying by a planet with rings like Saturn with absolutely beautiful reflections off the rings as the ship went by. I have no idea if the representation was 100% correct, but it sure looked enough like how "flying by the rings of Saturn" should look to be impressive.

Paul SB said...

Larry,

The participants were asked specifically to draw a functional bicycle, if I am remembering it right, but what you say about an iconic image is kind of the point. Our brains are very good at taking things for granted, essentially making schematic memories of reality, then filling in the blanks with assumptions when asked to recall. That's why eyewitnesses in criminal cases get so much wrong, and one of the real fun tricks is that the worse people's memory of something is, the more they are convinced they got it exactly right.

I love science fiction art exactly for its juxtaposition of the imagined with that need to look real, the suspension of disbelief. Same goes with surrealism. It can be quite titillating, though not always in the same way as the figure in the center of that cover illustration ... When I was larval I loved to thumb through the old TTA series and get lost in all those images, especially the one with all the wrecked ships, imagining my own tragic tales for how they got that way or who found them.

Verisimilitude - I would think that if a ring could form a coherent reflection, given the size of the vessel and the distance it much have been from the ring for it to look as small as it did, the reflection would be too small to see. Looked cool, though. You have to wonder about the kind of anal-retentive type who would nit-pick and not just enjoy the image for what it is. Not very Zen, to be sure. But I suppose enjoying that figure on the Winds of Dune cover isn't very Zen either.

Jumper said...

Here is the art from which the cover was designed, by an artist named Steve Stone. 2 moons and all.

http://www.stevestoneartworks.com/pictures/DEFAULT/WINDS%20OF%20DUNE%2001.jpg

I had to search hard for that. People on the web need to credit the artist but they don't. Not even in tiny letters. Google finally gave it up after much scrolling down.

Duncan Cairncross said...

I really like the cover art for the Terry Pratchett books from Corgi Books - dozens of recognizable Pratchett characters - and they all appear in the book!

LarryHart said...

Jumper,

Ah, so the second moon is off to the left of the cover image. I imagine the actual book cover is a wraparound that continues the image around to the back side?

Paul SB:

But I suppose enjoying that figure on the Winds of Dune cover isn't very Zen either.


Very human, though, or at least very heterosexual male human. An aesthetic moment is well worth enjoying. I always do.



LarryHart said...

Did you ever see where someone built 3-D replicas of supposedly-impossible figures, such as that triangle where all three sides seem to twist the same way, or the Escher staircase where all of the steps appear to go down, but the four sides hook up in series?

Of course, the 3-D models make use of forced perspective and only "look like" the corresponding impossible drawings from one particular angle. Still and all, pretty impressive.

Here's a YouTube link I just found which (I think) shows how to make some of them (the sound is in French, but who cares?) :

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

And here's a Google link with more images, though the link itself is a long one:

https://www.google.com/search?q=3D+Models+of+impossible+drawings&sa=X&tbm=isch&imgil=FIsm3XICKmlrPM%253A%253BWRG4mKHz8h6zZM%253Bhttps%25253A%25252F%25252Fwww.youtube.com%25252Fwatch%25253Fv%2525253DdRxYaPnClEo&source=iu&pf=m&fir=FIsm3XICKmlrPM%253A%252CWRG4mKHz8h6zZM%252C_&usg=__Rds-RVrSyffoI3zCgxW0iSBFDJo%3D&biw=1350&bih=603&ved=0ahUKEwj5893M-cPVAhVFzoMKHTSpCaQQyjcIQQ&ei=fL-HWfnFFsWcjwS00qagCg#imgrc=FIsm3XICKmlrPM:

LarryHart said...

...sorry, I don't think that second link will work as is.

Jumper said...

It worked for me. Perhaps a tinyurl?
https://tinyurl.com/yc95gqxr

In addition, I found the bicycle-from-memory site:
https://mpora.com/road-cycling/artist-asks-strangers-draw-bicycle-memory-3d-renders-results

On re-reading Albert Speer's memoir. Long ago I found it a sneaky whitewash.
http://www.newyorker.com/books/second-read/rereading-albert-speers-inside-the-third-reich

Paul SB said...

There's an old Bill Nye the Science Guy episode with some entertaining optical illusions, including a couple 3d versions of impossible drawings. It blows teenagers' minds, probably because they think they know everything and it rubs it in their faces that they don't.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vCt508hknuU

This is just a 2-minute segment, so you don't have to wade through the whole episode.

Larry, once when I was working at the campus copy center a student showed up with a psychology text book wanting to copy some diagrams that showed what parts of the human body people find attractive as percentages. There were 4 diagrams, covering the male drools over female, female drools over male, male drools over male and female drools over female. It was interesting to see both he differences and similarities. According to that, homosexual women are just as enamored of the mammaries as heterosexual males. However, that was many years ago, and the culture has been changing here. With the wide popularity of rap, males are focusing more on posteriors. One of the criticisms anthropologists have always had of psychologists is that what ever they find in examining their own navels is assumed to true of all people everywhere and everywhen. Rarely do their claims of universality really stretch much beyond their geographical and temporal borders. In facts, antes tend to find psychs quite laughable.

In my case I seem to have always been well ahead of the curve on that one.

Treebeard said...

Back to the "we are becoming mighty gods, practicing the craft of creation" shtick? Yet the things space probes are looking at--Jupiter, the sun, the stars and rest of the cosmos--aren't our creations. It's a bizarre mentality that looks at all that and, instead of feeling some humility about our utter impotence before creation, preaches unlimited hubris and arrogance. Maybe your neighbors already see, but draw different conclusions than you?

donzelion said...

Paul451: "Vertical farming? No. Outside of weird niches, no...Every efficiency gain you can get from technology works better in 2d. Even intensive farming (including augmented lighting) works better in greenhouses than high-rises."

Seems to me that the cost and energy used to move water up into an urban high rise, or any other structure for that matter, may exceed the 'savings' of using that water outside a city. If it takes a gallon of water to make a single almond, growing food inside cities in any meaningful way will take massive infrastructure...and we all know how enthusiastic the powerful billionaires are to create public infrastructure...

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi donzelion
You need and "use" energy for growth
But water is needed but not used - in a vertical or otherwise enclosed farm you can re-claim and re-use the water
So water goes away as a limiting factor

donzelion said...

Duncan: I hear you, but then one tradeoff for a fully enclosed farm (with 100% recycling) would be weight, wouldn't it? (Not to mention cost) As weight increases, the high rise gets...harder to keep high, no? The weight of the water, sure, but the infrastructure that encloses the farm to enable reclamation - would at the very least use up a fair bit of (human) living space.

Hard for me to imagine water 'going away' as a limiting factor for anything biological. It's not that it gets 'used up' - rather, getting it to where it's 'usable' - and in a form that is useful - strikes me as a non-trivial challenge.

Jumper said...

What's the water content of food crops? Are you required to eat watermelon on the same level it's grown, and pee there too? How do you keep water vapor in without keeping CO2 out?

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Jumper
The water goes out with the crops - but that is not a high percentage of the required water

As far as the air circulation is concerned that is simple - take the air through a condenser - you probably want to do that anyway to control the temperature

locumranch said...


It's fascinating how our best & brightest confuse human intelligence with the human capacity to deny reality.

We devise shoes to deny our feet the reality of sharp surfaces, clothes to deny our skin the reality of temperature extremes, structures to deny the realities of weather, weapons to deny the reality of predation, farming to deny the reality of want, monuments to deny the reality of our own insignificance, healthcare to deny the reality of senescence & mortality, and god to deny the reality of mortality & entropic time.

We consider ourselves 'intelligent' because we deny these observable, empiric & omnipresent realities, yet never do we consider the wisdom of acceptance & resignation because that's how we choose to define 'stupidity'.

Being maladjusted, we equate Reality Denial with Intelligence & so we scan the heavens in search of other Maladjusted Species who we could call friends

Who are the 'Reality Deniers' now?


Best

LarryHart said...

locumranch:

t's fascinating how our best & brightest confuse human intelligence with the human capacity to deny reality.


Yes, it is, isn't it?


We devise shoes to deny our feet the reality of sharp surfaces...


So I take it that your preferred lifestyle is to go unclothed in the elements, eating what you can manage to find before something happens to eat you, and accepting the reality of death resulting from something as trivial as an infected scratch rather than "deny reality"?

What's stopping you? Your last words to yourself can be, "That'll show 'em!"


Who are the 'Reality Deniers' now?


Must...not...swing...at...easy...ones...

But...so...hard!

LarryHart said...

I've been trying without success to make anagrams of those weird foreign-language posts.

The best I've managed is Jacqlyn, tag me (with an embarrassing leftover "l".

Paul SB said...

Once again both the faux rancher and the sapling demonstrate that they know absolutely nothing about those they would call their enemies. Larry has already pointed out the utter ridiculousness of locum's latest spew. It reduces his own anti-progress arguments to a level of absurdity his opponents would do well to observe. What is the story of humanity but the constant striving to make our lives better, happier and meaningful? This is such a huge part of human nature that without technology, beginning with Paleolithic stone tools, the species would be extinct in a matter of weeks. Humans have neither the claws nor the dentition to even so much as break the skin of a small carcass they might manage to throttle with their bare hands.

Humility? Not coming from either of these guys. All those telescopes have shown us with certainty that Earth is a mere speck in an unimaginably vast universe, a place where uncountable worlds exist, and even if humans never manage to set foot on another inhabited world or meet up with another sapient species, they know that they are far from the biggest, most important things in existence. Religion has taught for thousands of years that Man is special, God's special creation, the Chosen Ones. Where is the humility in that? Hubris comes of unfailing certainty, whether it is the certainty of the supposed Divine or certainty of one's own immaculate perception. So there is room for hubris on both sides of that false dichotomy.

However, scientific epistemology expressly teaches humility. Every scientist knows that anything they believe to be true can be proven wrong tomorrow. What greater humility can there be? Religion, on the other hand, makes superficial gestures toward humility, encouraging humans to be humble before the supernatural, but religion talks out of both sides of its mouth. in the same breath it says that followers of the True Faith ® are so much better, smarter, more divine and perfect than all the rest of those miserable humans that don't go to the same church as the True Believers. So while religion teaches humility before entities supposed but never actually seen, it teaches arrogance toward the real, living, feeling, needing human beings around them every day.

I would suggest that these fellows need to spend some time looking in a mirror before making such wildly stupid claims, but the mirror for them shows only beauty, divine wisdom and grace. It's no surprise they support their megalomaniac ruler. Birds of a feather...

Darrell E said...

Paul SB said...

But the fact that 99.9% of all species that ever existed are now extinct says nothing whatsoever about mass suicide. Most extinction happens when a species over specializes, reducing their genetic diversity to proliferate under one set of conditions, then the conditions change and they lack the diversity to survive in the new conditions.

There is another common way that species go extinct that most people don't seem to ever mention or think about. A species doesn't necessarily go extinct because its fitness level isn't high enough to sustain a population and the population slowly reduces until it disappears, though that certainly happens. Species often simply evolve into other species. The population never disappears. It just slowly changes until at one point in time enough changes have accumulated that if you compare it to the ancestor population they are different enough that we categorize them as different species. Evolution happens to gene pools. Gene pools are longer lived than species.

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Jumper said...

Duncan, do you grow any food at all?

PaulSB said...

Darrell,

You're absolutely right. Extinction with issue is what you described. Extinction without issue is what I described. I think in most people's minds /extinction/ means dead and gone, parallel to the death of an individual, rather than merely changed. A lot of people have a hard time even imagining that kind of change, much less believing it is possible. That falls into the category of criticizing what they don't understand, or in more formal terms, the Argumentum ad ignorantum.

LarryHart said...

Darrel E:

There is another common way that species go extinct that most people don't seem to ever mention or think about. A species doesn't necessarily go extinct because its fitness level isn't high enough to sustain a population and the population slowly reduces until it disappears, though that certainly happens. Species often simply evolve into other species. The population never disappears. It just slowly changes until at one point in time enough changes have accumulated that if you compare it to the ancestor population they are different enough that we categorize them as different species. Evolution happens to gene pools. Gene pools are longer lived than species.


That is so resonant with the moral (or punchline) to a Neil Gaiman "Sandman" short feature in which a playwright is afraid to open on Broadway, not sure if he's afraid to fail or to succeed. This manifests in a recurring dream in which he is afraid of heights because if he falls and can't wake himself up in time, he'll die. At the end, he realizes a third alternative, "It's true that sometimes you wake, and sometimes you die, but sometimes...you fly!"

That was the first thing to come to mind when I read your bit above.

Catfish N. Cod said...

Iain Banks described the problems of data-ism and aestivating in his Culture novel, Excession:

It was just like some ancient electricity-powered computer; it didn't matter how fast, error-free, and tireless it was, it didn't matter how great a labor-saving boon it was, it didn't matter what it could do or how many different ways it could amaze; if you pulled its plug out, or just hit the off button, all it became was a lump of matter; all its programs became just settings, dead instructions, and all its computations vanished as quickly as they'd moved.
It was, also, like the dependency of the human-basic brain on the human-basic body; no matter how intelligent, perceptive and gifted you were, no matter how entirely you lived for the ascetic rewards of the intellect and eschewed the material world and the ignobility of the flesh, if your heart just gave out...
That was the Dependency Principle; that you could never forget where your off switches were located, even if it was somewhere tiresome.


In the Cultureverse, highly advanced civilizations 'Sublime' through an unknown process that seems to involve higher dimensions and/or energy patterns, but ultimately puts one in the same "Irreal" contemplation of one's navel. In his stories this is implied to be potentially reversible, but in practical terms is irreversible.

The Culture, being a bunch of hedonistic do-gooder post-scarcity socialists ruled by their benevolent AIs, are too meddlesome to do something like that. Which means that they are the major space power of their version of the Milky Way, and are likely to remain so. That's the problem with Aestivation as a complete Fermi Paradox solution: it only takes one long-lived exploratory civ to blow up your hypothesis.

I myself prefer multi-layered Fermi Paradox solutions, each knocking the civ number down. Some worlds don't get out of single-cell mode. Some worlds don't have enough energy to power creatures with the biomass to grow a brain. Some fraction of civilizations don't escape the Stone Age: their worlds are metal-poor or don't have readily available energy sources. Some fraction don't escape self-parasitism and the feudal trap. Some fraction aestivate or otherwise navel-gaze. Some fraction blow themselves up. Some fraction have physical or psychological barriers that mean exploration just doesn't occur to them.

Put up enough barriers and you wind up with a galaxy that has bunches of living worlds, maybe a fair number of intelligences, but with spacefaring civs appearing very rarely: up to hundreds of millions of years apart. Even on a galactic scale, that's time enough for a race to evolve and die out, and for their artifacts to become.... less easy to find, at a minimum. All we really can say with relative surety is that (a) Earth hasn't been obviously meddled with for tens of millions of years, (b) there aren't glaringly obvious sentient constructions on the major worlds of this system, and (c) there's no good evidence for Kardashev II+ constructions in the closest parts of this galaxy. That leaves a lot of room in space and time out there.

Tony Fisk said...

@catfish, in pointing out the 'Culture' novels' take on aestivism, reminds me that Gunnerkrigg Court also has a chapter that touches on the concept.

re Fermi: I'll just repeat my conjecture that the big filter is sex. When it takes one planet-sized parallel bio-processor a billion years or so of random firing to come up with an effective method of gene juggling, then it suggests a problem that takes a significant lifetime of the Universe to solve. What if the mean time for such a process is, not one, but ten billion years? Earth could just be an early outlier.

locumranch said...


Don't let Darrell_E fool you about Extinction. It is the very real final death for each & every individual in said species, whether or not some of their genetic legacy remains. Likewise, don't be taken in by Larry_H's false dichotomy equating reality denial (the rejection of both mortality & the natural order) with evolutionary progress & intelligence. The modern human brain is almost 10% SMALLER than our extinct Cro-Magnon ancestors. Suicide as a Fermi Paradox explanation is inconceivable to many because of Survivorship Bias. Paul_SB more or less admits that his progressive creed is a religion, otherwise he would admit that "anything (he) believe(s) to be true can be proven wrong tomorrow". And, on a routine basis, David disses most conservatives & confederates as toothless immoral ignorant 'hillbillies' and argues (in essence) that progressives are the "followers of the True Faith ® (and) are so much better, smarter, more divine and perfect than all the rest of those miserable humans that don't go to the same church as the True Believers".

Best

Alfred Differ said...

@Paul451 | I have an interest in human space colonisation, and barring SF-level technology, colonisation requires local food production, but damn it's hard to get right in an artificial environment. When I hear advocates talking about having a …

Thank you. 8)

In my last couple years as an advocate, this message was penetrating my thick skull. I’d seen too many years of the same starry-eyed dreamers at conferences who never made much progress or relied too much on science/technology that had not been invented yet. One money guy I made a pitch to accused me of needing unobtanium and it got me thinking… finally. He was wrong, I think, but only because he lumped notyetium in with fantasium. He didn’t see that they physics worked, but the engineers couldn’t do ‘it’ yet. The more I thought about it, though, the more I had to face the fact that humans won’t just jump out there with colonies on the Moon or Mars or anywhere else. We have tons to learn as we work our way out that. THAT got me looking more at anthropology since we HAVE colonized non-human spaces in our past. We’ve taken up living in some really, really hostile places… but not with a snap of the fingers.

I strongly suspect we will have to figure out the technological stuff you describe AND a whole bunch of adaptations to our social institutions. We didn’t expand across the Earth using just our physical innovations. I suspect the most powerfully useful ones exist only in meme-space.

Alfred Differ said...

@locumranch | And, the “aestivation hypothesis” ?

Nonsense. Go poke around in a cave to find a bear hibernating through winter and see if it has committed a form of suicide. Bring your tooth/claw-proof armor.

It's even more complicated in a social setting where the animals can rest half their brains at a time or rely on troop members to be moderately awake at various times over short spans. Human families in camping situations (all in one tent) occasionally show our old trait for this by waking up enough to be mildly drowsy, but not all at the same time over the course of the night.

donzelion said...

Jumper: "What's the water content of food crops? Are you required to eat watermelon on the same level it's grown, and pee there too? How do you keep water vapor in without keeping CO2 out?"

I like this sort of conversation as a break from political polemics, and since thinking through and reading our host's posts takes me a bit of time (I'm still mulling hibernation v. aestivation, which my mind translates into 'order v. chaos' of Moorcock or Babylon 5 - though I suppose estivation is actually a different form of 'order'...avoid that unruly heat...).

There's been a lot of interesting discussion about water quantities given the California drought - here's one of many such posts - http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/10/13/food-water-footprint_n_5952862.html

In some of the places where I've worked (again, Middle East), a few of the extravagantly wealthy people our host loves to hate on have invested many billions into hydroponics, (these folks are frequently hidden investors in the highest of the high end firms in the West building these sorts of things - bear in mind that for Muslims, paradise is a garden, and the joke about getting 40 grapes for dying as a martyr is an old one...). They may not be as skilled an engineer as our friend Duncan (but they did hire a fair number of Kiwis to run their agricultural systems, esp. their biggest ones). My sense was that if cost wasn't an issue, one could do this stuff exceptionally 'efficiently' - for maybe 4-8 people on a long range space flight - but not for a city of millions.

donzelion said...

Alfred, Paul451: Interesting exchange, and thoughts about food. To me, perhaps the saddest phase has been the anti-scientific fear of 'Frankenfruits' by well-meaning members of the Left, who hate/fear the corporate control (but don't know just how challenging farmers have it, and are seldom actually helping them by opposing these things on whatever grounds, esp. certain unfounded claims about how these hybrids and gene modifications are harmful).

"but only because he lumped notyetium in with fantasium....humans won’t just jump out there with colonies on the Moon or Mars or anywhere else. We have tons to learn as we work our way out that."
Hence why I'm cautious in sharing our host's hostility towards moon colonization. We have tons to learn, and had best start in our own back yard. The lessons learned will surely prove more valuable than the resources potentially extracted.

"I strongly suspect we will have to figure out the technological stuff you describe AND a whole bunch of adaptations to our social institutions."

A great reason for science-types and policy/legal types to meet and confer, and ally together against the pure exploitation types who lack any ounce of creative ingenuity (except new ways to fleece other people).

LarryHart said...

locumranch:

Likewise, don't be taken in by Larry_H's false dichotomy equating reality denial (the rejection of both mortality & the natural order) with evolutionary progress & intelligence.


Whosa what now?

Seriously, all I did was point out that manipulation of reality is not denial of reality (it's a different thing, in fact the opposite thing). Also, how much of a hypocrite you are unless you denounce technology and civilization as the denial of reality you claim it to be.

I said nothing about evolution, progress, or intelligence. But we're used to you making shit up, so no biggie.


The modern human brain is almost 10% SMALLER than our extinct Cro-Magnon ancestors.


Like the iPhone relative to those car-phones of the 80s?


Suicide as a Fermi Paradox explanation is inconceivable to many because of Survivorship Bias.


Yeah, but in the case of evolution, isn't "survivorship bias" the whole game? Animals which have survived to this day all have some sort of self-preservation and procreative drive. Does it really make sense to go, "Yeah, but on other planets, maybe they don't"? I mean, it could be true, but there's good reason to be skeptical other than "I expect every species to be like me."


Paul_SB more or less admits that his progressive creed is a religion, otherwise he would admit that "anything (he) believe(s) to be true can be proven wrong tomorrow".


He does, actually.


And, on a routine basis, David disses most conservatives & confederates as toothless immoral ignorant 'hillbillies' and argues (in essence) that progressives are the "followers of the True Faith ® (and) are so much better, smarter, more divine and perfect than all the rest of those miserable humans that don't go to the same church as the True Believers".


No, he doesn't.

You're talking about the man in the mirror.

Paul SB said...

It's kind of sad to see a person who is so accustomed to lying that he doesn't even seem to realize he is doing it anymore. Our faux rancher is as twisted as the logic he uses to try to twist others to his way of thinking. As is often the case, Larry beat me to shooting his latest down, but I'll put the full quotes here so people can plainly see how he takes things out of context and flat out lies. So locum spewed:

"Paul_SB more or less admits that his progressive creed is a religion, otherwise he would admit that "anything (he) believe(s) to be true can be proven wrong tomorrow"."

What I actually wrote was:

"However, scientific epistemology expressly teaches humility. Every scientist knows that anything they believe to be true can be proven wrong tomorrow. What greater humility can there be?"

Larry loves to quote that line from 1984 about the opposite thing, and that is clearly the case here. Exactly where is scientific epistemology equated to religion, besides in his rancid little brain? Precisely nowhere. His efforts are getting that desperate.

On the Cro-Magnon cranial capacity, don't assume that bigger is better. Hominids did not evolve in Texas. Much of the size difference is directly attributable to climate change via Bergmann's Rule. Mammals tend to be bigger in cold climates to retain body heat, and smaller in warm climates to vent body heat. And it's not the absolute size of the brain that matters so much as the proportion of brain to body (since most of the brain is busy controlling the body - whales have quite huge brains, but aren't running the planet). There are other factors to consider. Here's a very brief article on the subject:

https://phys.org/news/2010-03-cro-magnon-skull-brains-shrunk.html

And an even more brief explanation of Bergman's Rule:

https://www.britannica.com/science/Bergmanns-Rule

Darrell's discussion of extinction with issue (a.k.a. pseudoextinction or phyletic extinction), as Larry missed that one:

"Pseudoextinction (or phyletic extinction) of a species occurs when all members of the species are extinct, but members of a daughter species remain alive. The term pseudoextinction refers to the evolution of a species into a new form, with the resultant disappearance of the ancestral form."

This from the wikipedia:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pseudoextinction

What can we say but Same Shit, Different Post?

David Brin said...

The ent raves again. I do not claim we “made Jupiter.” What I claim is that going forth and appreciating the glories of such skillful and artistic creation is marvelously sacred, whether or not the Creator was a hairy male thunder god with a navel, or else a dazzling accident. Either way, there is no greater prayer than our leaps out there (and through microscopes) to “name every beast” which is exactly what we were commanded to do. And I am not responsible for the ent’s shriveled, myopic, angry and artless heart.

Oh, and demanding we shrink back from such challenges… THAT is hubris! We were made to be co-creators. It is there in Genesis. It is there also, blatantly, in the way we are so spectacularly GOOD at it! The incredibly hard things that we accomplish almost daily. God is very, very good to and cooperative with the scientists who are doing this. Try noticing the blatantly obvious. These are miracles and your spitting in the eyes of miracle workers… (many of whom are atheists and hence NOT doing it for selfish “salvation)… is just dumb, let alone an effrontery to the Creator.

locu, har! It’s liberals who are out there exercising, going barefoot, striving not to get obese, and treating the marvelous natural world with respect.

His later attempt at (inaccurate) strawmanning deserves only : “blah blah blah-do-blah…”

David Brin said...

BTW I have a large vegetable garden. Been amending the soil with bullsh… um… manure for 23 years.

Catfish gets post of the day with: “I myself prefer multi-layered Fermi Paradox solutions, each knocking the civ number down. Some worlds don't get out of single-cell mode. Some worlds don't have enough energy to power creatures with the biomass to grow a brain. Some fraction of civilizations don't escape the Stone Age: their worlds are metal-poor or don't have readily available energy sources. Some fraction don't escape self-parasitism and the feudal trap. Some fraction aestivate or otherwise navel-gaze. Some fraction blow themselves up. Some fraction have physical or psychological barriers that mean exploration just doesn't occur to them. “

There’s half a dozen or 20 more that I would slip in there.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

BTW I have a large vegetable garden. Been amending the soil with bullsh… um… manure for 23 years.


That explains your high tolerance for certain posters on this blog. :)

Jumper said...

On "ultimate truth" and not knowing stuff:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bcXwgY7vXTg

Jumper said...

Neural density and total connections is also a factor we surpass the whales and elephants. Neanderthal and early Cro Magnon, we don't know.

Alfred Differ said...

@donzelion | I love the space advocacy side of the work I do. It feels like a mission in life in an almost spiritual sense. So whenever someone comes across (after serious consideration) with a conclusion similar to what I’ve sweated out of my own skull, I’m deeply grateful. I don’t feel so alone. In this case, I was going off in a direction my fellow advocates found disagreeable. Intellectual isolation was a risk. They don’t like hearing that their dreams aren’t going to happen in their lifetimes… oh… and here is exactly why. It makes one sound like a cynic who prefers to trash the efforts of others rather than work to make a better world.

[I was part of the Space Frontier Foundation and helped run it for a while. I’ve also been part of two space-related start-ups, so this stuff matters to me. It even matters more to me than politics. 8) ]

I suspect our host is (only) partially correct about the Moon, though. I have a friend who strongly disagrees and has the street creds to credibly debate anyone who says otherwise, however, I think the ‘right’ answer must involve the realization that ‘neighborhood’ is less about spatial proximity and more about energy and cost proximity. Many NEO’s are energetically closer than the Moon’s surface, thus they are potentially cheaper to reach. Costs and technical risks matter a LOT if one wants to talk to private money, so proximity measures that must be considered are ‘time cost of money’ and ‘technical readiness’. Paul451 correctly points out that our readiness to support enclosed biological spaces needs a whole lot more work to do long duration missions. The realization I came to a while back is that humanity’s migration history across the face of the Earth provides examples of these other measures, so we really should be inviting a broader range of talent to our teams if we want to be space-faring any time soon.

Getting out there is not just an engineering problem… and we’ve solved it dozens of times over thousands of generations. It can’t hurt to learn a thing or two from our ancestors.

Tim H. said...

The Voyagers @ 40
http://www.pbs.org/thr-farthest/home/
Good they've done this when most of the people involved can comment.

locumranch said...


Nice trick of Alfred's, comparing aestivation of a hundred generations to a bear's seasonal hibernation or a seed's prolonged dormancy period, almost as slick as Larry_H comparing non-upgradable organic brain tissue to (first) a 1980's transistor mobile phone and (second) a modern I-phone reliant on integrated chip technology.

My analogy of aestivation with suicide is much less forced, considering that our graveyards are full of mouldering corpses that await Resurrection come some mythical Judgment Day. Similarly, my presumption of Alien Suicide merely parallels how many intelligent earth people invoke hospice & the 'Right to Die' when existence becomes too trying for them.

And, of course, David makes Larry_H's "No, he doesn't" into a lie so quickly by claiming that "It’s LIBERALS who are out there exercising, going barefoot, striving not to get obese, and treating the marvelous natural world with respect" as OPPOSED to all of those implied fat indolent disrespectful hillbilly conservatives out there.

That said, I'm full of nice warm fuzzies now that I know that the Universe is full of aestivating alien super-races who may Rise from the Dead upon the arrival of their scientific/non-religious/technological Messiah, much in the same way that the prophesied Singularity promises to Rapture the progressive nerd.

All of this faith implies a parallel between history's great Religious Charlatans & our modern 'Prophets of Tomorrow'. Just promise them singularity, climatic perfection, aestivation, an afterlife or 72 virgins and most fools will do anything you say. Now, drink your progressive Koolaid because the Prophet of Jonestown says it's good for you.


Best

Jumper said...

Look, it puked. Ug.

LarryHart said...

@loc,

You see no difference between a hypothesis (maybe they're hibernating?) and a certain belief (No! They killed themselves. I know because I want to kill myself). And so in your usual way, you accuse everyone else of an unfounded unshakable belief while practicing the same yourself.

No one here "know[s] that the Universe is full of aestivating alien super-races who may Rise from the Dead upon the arrival of their scientific/non-religious/technological Messiah". Considering a possibility and imagining implications is not "knowing". It is...well, everyone here already knows what I'd say about that.

As to brain sizes and phone sizes, it's called "invoking of things analogous". Or at least it's called that if one has read "Cerebus". It's how humans think and communicate. In this case, it only makes the point "Smaller isn't always worse." "Maybe something shaped like a bird could fly like one." You'd be the one pointing out that a 747 doesn't look anything like a bird and how Messrs. Boeing and Hughes were wasting their time denying reality.

Your world really does suck, doesn't it?

Darrell E said...

LarryHart said...

That is so resonant with the moral (or punchline) to a Neil Gaiman "Sandman" short feature in which a playwright is afraid to open on Broadway, not sure if he's afraid to fail or to succeed.

Interesting. I know of "Sandman" but haven't read it. I'll have to see if I can pick up a copy.

Tony Fisk said...

My understanding is that much of the vaunted size matters in Cro-Magnon/Neanderthal vs the Modern Saps comes down to increased motor skills rather than enhanced brow lamps. Anyway, most bird brains exhibit a lot more nous than their noodle cavities would suggest, which leads to some interesting speculations about what might have been before that date with an asteroid.

@Darrell E, "Sandman" has some truly epic moments, but be warned: there are between 8-10 volumes, and when they call them "graphic novels", they mean it!

Darrell E said...

Paul SB said...

On the Cro-Magnon cranial capacity, don't assume that bigger is better. Hominids did not evolve in Texas.

Literally LOL. Thanks for that.


locumranch,

I can't tell if you just have a habit of knowingly misrepresenting people or if you are just that bad at interpreting what other people write or say. I've known people that are that bad at interpreting others, but they are rare.

Darrell E said...

Tony Fisk said...
"My understanding is that much of the vaunted size matters in Cro-Magnon/Neanderthal vs the Modern Saps comes down to increased motor skills rather than enhanced brow lamps. Anyway, most bird brains exhibit a lot more nous than their noodle cavities would suggest, which leads to some interesting speculations about what might have been before that date with an asteroid.

Yeah, one thing is for sure. We don't have a good handle on what brain size means for cognitive abilities. We used to think we did because there are some pretty strong correlations, but in the past 20 or so years we've learned a lot more. A lot of it from the study of birds but also other critters.

A really cool example I like is that of jumping spiders. Not too long ago (10 years or so?) some researches were working with jumping spiders and found something amazing that generated advancements in other fields. They discovered that jumping spiders can plan a complex route to distant prey and then accurately follow that route even though the destination and prey are no longer in its field of view. The reason this was amazing is because the size of the brain is so small that according to modeling there weren't nearly enough neurons in the entire brain to perform the calculations necessary for such a task and no such capability had ever been discovered in an organism with such a small brain. This led to new ideas for robotic visual navigation systems.

So in a nutshell, we got a lot to learn yet and anyone who thinks they know what the significance (if any) of brain size differences between Cro-Magnon and modern humans is is almost certainly wrong.



"@Darrell E, "Sandman" has some truly epic moments, but be warned: there are between 8-10 volumes, and when they call them "graphic novels", they mean it!

Unnhhh. I had forgotten it was a graphic novel. That might be hard for me to get motivated for. While I accept that graphic novels are a legitimate art form they have never appealed to me. Even as a kid I wasn't much into comic books. I remember reading Turok Son Of Stone but that's about it. Oh, and Asterix & Obelix.

locumranch said...



Larry_H finally nails it. Every hypothesis is perspective-based & speculative; every hypothesis represents intrinsic bias; and NO hypothesis can be said to reflect certainty. Why is it, then, that my various hypotheses meet with such concerted opposition?

In the absence of supportive fact or arguable certainty, what makes one hypothesis preferable to any other? What makes the worst case scenarios that I tend to prefer so inconceivable?

How do you justify your hypothesis that intelligence (and/or knowledge) is an end in itself? And, with the exception of some words in a hoary old book, what makes you hypothesize that humanity has been 'commanded' to do anything of note?


Best

LarryHart said...

Darrel E:

Interesting. I know of "Sandman" but haven't read it. I'll have to see if I can pick up a copy.


"A copy" is ten trade paperbacks which were 76 comic books (including a Special) in original form. It's an investment, but if you are a fan of Neil Gaiman, well worth the effort. The kind you re-read and keep spotting new connections you didn't notice before.

LarryHart said...

locumranch:

In the absence of supportive fact or arguable certainty, what makes one hypothesis preferable to any other?


You seem to be asking a sincere question, so I'll return the courtesy.

Plausibility plays a big role.

A plausible hypothesis is not necessarily true, but an implausible one is most likely false.

We've never had a 100% accurate model of the shape of the earth, for example (flat? round? ovoid? pear-shaped ovoid?), but we know with certainty that it is not a cube or a pyramid. What we tend to object to is when you jump from "It may not be a sphere" to "It's just as likely to be a cube or a pyramid."

Not knowing everything does not imply knowing nothing.


What makes the worst case scenarios that I tend to prefer so inconceivable?


Not "inconceivable", but not worth acting upon until better options are ruled out. And by "better", I don't mean more likely, but more pleasant.

If you begin at "maybe suicide is the best option", then the suggested course of action prevents you from reaching a better outcome if it turns out that you were wrong. If it turns out that suicide is the best option, that option is always available. My preferred method would be a guillotine.

Paul SB said...

Darrell,

That spider story is pretty cool stuff. Where it comes to intelligence, one thing we know is that absolute size is far from a certain indicator. Back in the 19th Century people were filling human skulls with lead shot, pouring it out into graduated cylinders, and claiming that their measurements proved that men were smarter than women. The scientific world moved beyond that kind of simplistic thinking a long time ago, but too much of the general public is still a century behind the science in so many ways. Think about the big stink over that Google engineer who got his ass fired for writing a 10-page screed against women. His claim was basically the same claim sexist pigs have been making for millennia - that women are "naturally" so different from men that none can be allowed into the domains of real men. He was making claims about human biology and genetics, but did he actually know anything about human biology or genetics? Clearly not enough to know what the hell he was talking about. Yet right-wing conservatives are holding him up as a hero and martyr, because he came out and flaunted the same ignorance they embrace.

I don't remember when I first started seeing your posts here. For all I know you might have been hanging around BrinBlog longer than I have. But in the years I have been part of the conversation, it has become quite plain that locumranch does it deliberately. I've mentioned before that the rhetorical dishonesty he uses are exactly the same techniques that were taught to me in Sunday School to score brownie points against the Heathens. Once in awhile he says something that is actually true, but then he twists its meaning around to make it fit into locumworld, world all right-wing talking points are sacrosanct.

Look at his little screed about hypotheses. Every trained scientist - and pretty much any kind who paid attention in their high school science classes - knows that a hypothesis is nothing more than the idea that gets someone to do experiments to test whether it is right or wrong. Of course every hypothesis is speculative, and since they are made by human beings, they reflect a certain level of intrinsic bias. Hypotheses are never considered to be certain, because they have not been tested yet. Duh!

There are two deliberate distortions here. The most obvious is that he is implying that anyone who disagrees with him is asserting the certainty of their own hypotheses. Everyone knows that no hypothesis is certain, so this is flat out bovine excrement. The other deliberate distortion is his suggestion that bile he spews actually counts as hypotheses. They simply aren't. His endless ranting doesn't reach that level of vigor. By definition a hypothesis has to be testable - there has to be some conceivable way that it can falsified. But all his statements are either mere opinions, cultural values, logical fallacies or just expressions of blind hatred. The hostility he meets here to his "hypotheses" is mostly a reaction to the level of blatant human ugliness and throwback prejudice. Trying to grace his witless rants by claiming they are on the same level as scientific hypotheses is dishonest. But, like those Sunday School partizans I grew up with, he assumes that everyone who disagrees with him is stupid, so they won't notice his dishonesty and meet him on his own level.

LarryHart said...

From today's www.electoral-vote.com :

Officially, [Peter] Thiel is still on board the S.S. Trump, and issued a statement to that effect on Monday, declaring that, "We still need change. I support President Trump in his ongoing fight to achieve it." However, it is reportedly a different story behind the scenes. Friends say that Thiel has described the administration as "incompetent" and has said that, "there is a 50 percent chance this whole thing ends in disaster."


See, what mystifies me is how any of this is a surprise to someone as smart as Thiel is supposed to be.

I can understand someone having a different value judgement of Trump from my own, but it boggles my mind that anyone is surprised by Trump--that they thought he'd be different from what he is and always has been and always said he'd be.


Bill_in_the Middle said...

Food for thought
https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2017/09/how-america-lost-its-mind/534231

LarryHart said...

From that Atlantic article above:

President George W. Bush’s political mastermind, Karl Rove, came up with the remarkable phrase
reality-based community. People in “the reality-based community,” he told a reporter, “believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality … That’s not the way the world really works anymore.”


Thanks for the reminder that it's not primarily the blue-state progressives who deny reality. And this wasn't "denying reality" out of ignorance or confusion, but as a desired goal.

Darrell E said...

Paul SB said...
"Darrell,

I don't remember when I first started seeing your posts here."


I've mostly kept a very low profile but I've been reading Contrary Brin or its predecessor(s) since sometime around the middle of Bush Jr's presidency. I have to admit I usually skip over locumranch's comments these days unless a response to him from someone else prompts me to read his comment for reference. He seems to have deteriorated noticeably over the past year or so.

LarryHart said...

"See, what mystifies me is how any of this is a surprise to someone as smart as Thiel is supposed to be."

I know this is cliche as hell but, I've come to the opinion that Thiel isn't really all that smart. To clarify and expand a bit, he ain't too smart in certain categories that are at least as important as the categories he is undeniably smart in.

"I can understand someone having a different value judgement of Trump from my own, but it boggles my mind that anyone is surprised by Trump--that they thought he'd be different from what he is and always has been and always said he'd be."

I really try hard to be equitable and tolerant but when it comes to Trump supporters I may, admittedly, fail a bit in that. My considered opinion is that Trump supporters fall into three major categories and that there is much overlap. 1) Those that are indoctrinated by their upbringing, 2) those that are willfully ignorant and 3) those that just aren't very nice people. Perhaps I should add 4) those that are delusional. I think all of these apply to Thiel to one degree or another. Other things about him have had me wondering about him for a while and his more recent support of Trump has clarified things a bit for me.

Despite any other metric you might care to debate regarding Trump's suitability for POTUS, there is one that trumps all the others. That one is character. His is so low it should have precluded him from ever being considered for POTUS or any position of significant authority in any context, and it immediately brings in to question the ethical standards of anyone who supports him. And I'm not exaggerating or joking about that, not even a little bit. The ancient idea that sometimes you need a despicable, immoral asshole to make the tough calls or do what needs done is, in my opinion, asinine and immoral.

LarryHart said...

Darrell E:

My considered opinion is that Trump supporters fall into three major categories and that there is much overlap. 1) Those that are indoctrinated by their upbringing, 2) those that are willfully ignorant and 3) those that just aren't very nice people. Perhaps I should add 4) those that are delusional. I think all of these apply to Thiel to one degree or another.


Another alternative which might actually overlap with yours is the one portrayed on "The Simpsons" by Krusty the Clown voting for Sideshow Bob for mayor. "Well, he did try to frame me for armed robbery...but I'm itching for that upper class tax cut!"

That maybe doesn't apply to Peter Thiel so much as to Caitlyn (nee Bruce) Jenner. I mean, what was she thinking??? Trump's policies would be friendly to transgender people? But she's apparently a Republican first and everything else (including transgender) a distant second.

Jumper said...

Bill-in-the-middle's Atlantic story had a line in it, "Before the internet, crackpots were mostly isolated, and surely had a harder time remaining convinced of their alternate realities. Now their devoutly believed opinions are all over the airwaves and the web, just like actual news. Now all of the fantasies look real."

That's what I think. None of these ideas were completely isolated, obviously. Or even much more prevalent today.

Check out this phenomenon, though. I'd say it's very much transformed by the internet:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Morgellons
This is basically what happens to speed freaks when they stay up without sleep for over 50 hours, or a rare form of psychosis. It very much reminds me of some of the stuff circulating all over the right-wing-o-sphere and some of the rest, too.

Paul451 said...

Re: Locumranch's difficulty with brain size.

Biologists find a better correlation with intelligence is the encephalization quotient, which is a ratio of brain to body-mass, regardless of overall body size. The larger the body, the more nerves have to be processed and re-processed, before the information can be acted on, hence brains scale more with body-size rather than intelligence. It explains a small raven-brain can easily out-think the giant baleen whale-brain (the raven has nearly twice the EQ, closer to chimps.)

Using one typical scale: Humans typically measure around 5.4 EQ. Neanderthals found so far measure around 4.8 EQ. (Or >7 vs 6 on another common scale.)

One of the flaws in simple EQ measures is that they overestimate EQ for animals with large eyes. Neanderthals had large eyes (relative to their skull-size), requiring a larger proportion of their brains spent on image processing, leaving less for higher brain functions, so their EQ is probably slightly over-stated. (Same thing happens due to the neural cost of echolocation in bats.) Still, it's likely that Neanderthals were smart, just not as smart; verbal but not as much; tool-using and symbolic thinking, but not as creative or flexible; and probably lived in smaller social groups/tribes due to a smaller Dunbar's number.

Darrell E,
Jumping spiders have amongst of the highest EQ of the invertebrates, similar to octopuses. (IIRC, there's one species of ant which exceeds both.)

--

Larry,
"My preferred method would be a guillotine."

Me, I'd go with rocket-sled.

Paul451 said...

Target of choice: Moon, Mars, NEOs, Ceres/MBAs, L4/5 habitats, etc.

I disagree with David that the moon is worthless. But I also disagree with those advocating for the moon (or Mars, or wherever), because I find that once people settle on a location, their brains pretty much turn to soup on everything else. Hence when NASA was directed "back to the moon", they went full retard with an Apollo-like, hyper-expensive "giant rocket" program. (Strictly, even after Obama ruled out returning to the moon, SLS/Orion has also been a purely lunar program in everything but name, it had no other capability. Too big, too expensive to be useful for anything else, but paradoxically too small for anything beyond the moon.)

The path of humans to permanent settlement of space doesn't lie in the moon or Mars or asteroids or free-flying colonies. It passes through a) lowering the cost of getting off the planet, b) lowering the cost of operating and supporting humans in space. Anything that isn't solving those problems isn't advancing humanity into space. And once you do that, all destinations become available.

Scientifically, think the moon's supposed polar ices make the best target inside of Europa and Titan. A clean coring sample could be worth its weight in unobtainium.

Alfred,
"Many NEO's are energetically closer than the Moon's surface, thus they are potentially cheaper to reach."

However, the "closer" they are to us, the rarer the periods of close approach and hence the less often those low-energy trajectories are available. Objects like Mars and beyond will have launch windows every 2 years or better (the further out, the closer to annual.) Objects that come energetically close to Earth typically have launch windows in the decade range or worse. The problem with that is, when you do find a good site on a good low Delta_V object, you can't exploit it again for a decade or more. So the cycles of survey, sample analysis, first cut, ore-return & sale might take fifty years.

(The moon, of course, has a launch window every two weeks and a trip time of a few days.)

Zepp Jamieson said...

Larry Hart wrote: "See, what mystifies me is how any of this is a surprise to someone as smart as Thiel is supposed to be."

I think Thiel is one of those people who think change is always for the good. He's wrong, of course: if that were true there wouldn't be any point in reading past the first chapter of any novel. But he clearly thinks the system that made him a multi-billionaire is gravely flawed and must be changed. There's an obvious disconnect there.

LarryHart said...

For whoever that was who was skeptical about "The American Conservative" defending Trump...

http://www.theamericanconservative.com/buchanan/after-the-coup-what-then/


That the Trump presidency is bedeviled is undeniable.

As President Donald Trump flew off for August at his Jersey club, there came word that Special Counsel Robert Mueller III had impaneled a grand jury and subpoenas were going out to Trump family and campaign associates.

The jurors will be drawn from a pool of citizens in a city Hillary Clinton swept with 91 percent of the vote. Trump got 4 percent.

Whatever indictments Mueller wants, Mueller gets.

Thanks to a media that savages him ceaselessly, Trump is down to 33 percent approval in a Quinnipiac University poll and below 40 percent in most of the rest.

Before Trump departed D.C., The Washington Post ran transcripts of his phone conversations with the leaders of Mexico and Australia.

Even Obama administration veterans were stunned.

So, it is time to ask: If this city brings Trump down, will the rest of America rejoice?

What will be the reaction out there in fly-over country, that land where the “deplorables” dwell who produce the soldiers to fight our wars? Will they toast the “free press” that brought down the president they elected, and in whom they had placed so much hope?

My guess: The reaction will be one of bitterness, cynicism, despair, a sense that the fix is in, that no matter what we do, they will not let us win. If Trump is brought down, American democracy will take a pasting. It will be seen as a fraud. And the backlash will poison our politics to where only an attack from abroad, like 9/11, will reunite us.
...

LarryHart said...

Words fail me.

LarryHart said...

It's even worse further down.

Basically, the country loves, respects, and places their hope in Trump, but a small-but-powerful cabal in Washington conspiring with failed Hillary is intent on bringing him down. And the newspapers don't rat out their sources, not because doing so would prevent them from getting more information from sources, but because they're all in the grand conspiracy together.

So yeah, "defending Trump" fits. Wear it.

LarryHart said...

Paul SB:

Larry loves to quote that line from 1984 about the opposite thing, ...


It occurs to me that it might be useful to explain the Secret Origin of that line. It is indeed from 1984 when O'Brien is asserting the concept that reality is whatever society as a whole accepts as being real. As Winston struggles to recall the name of a fallacy to ascribe this belief to, O'Brien practically reads his mind and says (from memory) :

The word you are looking for is 'solipsism'. But you're wrong. This is not solipsism. Collective solipsism perhaps, but that's a different thing, in fact the opposite thing."


I resuse the line not to be tedious, but to point out that many of our own conceptual arguments reduce to the same form. Whether it be "Socialism vs National Socialism" or "A hypothesis vs a near-religious certainty", the same distinction holds. And using an allusion allows us not to have to redefine the concept each time. It's a way of reducing it to a problem that has previously been solved.

Also, it's funny. Comedy relies on a character who can always be counted on to do the same thing no matter the circumstances. I'm happy to fill the role, with the caveat that I don't use the line just to use the line. I use it when appropriate. The fact that it is appropriate so often is not my fault.

donzelion said...

LarryHart: re Thiel, I cannot get over the Gawker battle. Whatever else he does in his life, the ability to shut down the media that hounded him (via Hulk Hogan) suggests precisely how sousveillance may fail when actually deployed against the powerful.

Friend of 'change'? Not exactly. Shutting down Gawker is more a reversion to a world in which media outlets must serve the rich and powerful, primarily as PR devices under their control, and only crossing lines or testing limits when backed by deep pockets of their own.

That he could climb into bed with Bratbrick News tells me everything else there is to know about his intentions.

donzelion said...

Alfred: "Getting out there is not just an engineering problem… and we’ve solved it dozens of times over thousands of generations. It can’t hurt to learn a thing or two from our ancestors."

Concur. And that sentiment is the ultimate protection from this risk -

"They don’t like hearing that their dreams aren’t going to happen in their lifetimes… oh… and here is exactly why. It makes one sound like a cynic who prefers to trash the efforts of others rather than work to make a better world."

A strident dogmatist cannot abide questioning, as most of them expend so much energy reinforcing their own dogma from their own internal attack that anyone else chiming in becomes annoying at best, a threat at worst. But without questions and challenges, what are we? The cynic shrugs, the rest of us learn.

locumranch said...


Larry_H admits to his intrinsic bias for "more pleasant" hypotheses, believing as he does that unpleasant hypotheses are "not worth acting upon until better (more pleasant) options are ruled out". This I understand as it is the prevalent bias of the pleasant apex society in which he resides. His bias is extremely common, some would even say 'Emblematic of the Progressive West', but it is problematic in terms of risk assessment, risk modification or risk attenuation strategies.

His intrinsic bias represents his 'blindspot', one that he shares with other progressive optimists, as he reflexively discounts the unpleasant (and therefore 'improbable') opinions of naysayers & 'Negative Nellies', leaving he & his cohort unprepared for the various 'inconceivable' unpleasantries for which the pessimistic conservative prepares.

Unpleasantness he relegates to various (pessimistic; conservative) Protector Castes in the expectation that THEIR professional pessimism & conservatism will somehow immunise him against his very own philosophical capriciousness, yet he cannot help but discount their unpleasant naysaying vigilance as 'improbable' so, in reflexive fashion, he handicaps those Negative Nellies who would otherwise protect him.

And so, our conservatives are mocked, our pessimists villanised, our futures mortgaged, our infrastructure neglected, our borders lay open to invaders & our protectors martyred to the Great God Pleasantness in order to 'laissez les bons temps rouler'. His intrinsic bias contaminates & distorts even those issues that he cares about deeply -- as in 'climate change' -- leading his happy-go-lucky cohort to discount their very own hobby-horses with overly optimistic 'dodgy data' (1).

And an optimistic take on diminishing brain size? Meat eaters tend to have larger brains than vegetarians, and you can read all about the Encephalisation Quotient hypothesis here (2), including a detailed list of rationalisations in regard to inherent race & gender biases which simultaneously 'prove' that superior intelligence may be associated with a larger brain size, except when it is not.


Best
(1) http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-40669449
(2) http://philipperushton.net/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/iq-race-brain-size-gender-rushton-intelligence-1994.pdf

LarryHart said...

locumranch:

Larry_H admits to his intrinsic bias for "more pleasant" hypotheses,


I do.

His intrinsic bias represents his 'blindspot', one that he shares with other progressive optimists, as he reflexively discounts the unpleasant (and therefore 'improbable') opinions of naysayers & 'Negative Nellies', leaving he & his cohort unprepared for the various 'inconceivable' unpleasantries for which the pessimistic conservative prepares.


That's neither true nor what I said. My bias is to consider pleasant outcomes first before resigning myself to unpleasant ones. Intrinsic in that is the realization that the unpleasant option might be the only one. I just want convincing before I give up. It sounds to me (though I may be wrong) that what you want to do is give up immediately because life might suck.


Unpleasantness he relegates to various (pessimistic; conservative) Protector Castes in the expectation that THEIR professional pessimism & conservatism will somehow immunise him against his very own philosophical capriciousness, yet he cannot help but discount their unpleasant naysaying vigilance as 'improbable' so, in reflexive fashion, he handicaps those Negative Nellies who would otherwise protect him.


I'd like to see where I said any of that.


And so, our conservatives are mocked, our pessimists villanised, our futures mortgaged, our infrastructure neglected,


Conservatives are (rightly) mocked because they mortgage our futures and neglect our infrastructure. Pessimists are not villanized--they're just asked to make a convincing argument instead of just a hypothesis.

After that, you just go off the rails.

Paul SB said...

The Philippe Ruston article locum references is one that we actually read for a biological anthropology class in grad school. The article is so fundamentally flawed that it demonstrates not just he obvious hatred of the author, but his incompetence to discuss anything regarding human intelligence. Unfortunately my notes from that class are buried in my garage somewhere or I would be able to offer specifics, but Ruston lost all credibility as a scientist back in the 90s, amid loud calls for the removal of his license to practice medicine. At the time the jury was still out on whether or not he would have a job, but it wasn't looking good for him.

Big surprise, of course, that he was adored by the right wing, the same way Hernnstein and Murray's deeply flawed "The Bell Curve" (which basically said the same crap and was proven wrong 10 years before it was even published by Gould) was a best seller on ever-so-white-male Wall Street. Not locum's rural reds by any stretch, but the urban red overlords he shills for.

Beast

Daniel Duffy said...

I hate to interrupt your reality based musing, Dr. Brin. But you should stop everything you are doing and read this brilliant article:

https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2017/09/how-america-lost-its-mind/534231/

Little by little for centuries, then more and more and faster and faster during the past half century, we Americans have given ourselves over to all kinds of magical thinking, anything-goes relativism, and belief in fanciful explanation—small and large fantasies that console or thrill or terrify us. And most of us haven’t realized how far-reaching our strange new normal has become.

Much more than the other billion or so people in the developed world, we Americans believe—really believe—in the supernatural and the miraculous, in Satan on Earth, in reports of recent trips to and from heaven, and in a story of life’s instantaneous creation several thousand years ago.

We believe that the government and its co-conspirators are hiding all sorts of monstrous and shocking truths from us, concerning assassinations, extraterrestrials, the genesis of aids, the 9/11 attacks, the dangers of vaccines, and so much more.

And this was all true before we became familiar with the terms post-factual and post-truth, before we elected a president with an astoundingly open mind about conspiracy theories, what’s true and what’s false, the nature of reality.

We have passed through the looking glass and down the rabbit hole. America has mutated into Fantasyland.

Tony Fisk said...

@Darrell E don't be turned off Sandman for being a graphic novel. Gaiman's ideas, and turns of phrase are quite remarkable. It's just that the ideas are presented ...graphically, and it can be a pretty strong mix. Here's a pretty good sampling.

Slim Moldie said...

LarryHart,

Patrick Buchanan and I have something in common. Yesterday both of us hung and baited our wasp traps. I used raw bacon and honey--and the little buggers are all pissed off an buzzing around with fervor. Nineteen have already succumbed. If I can piss off the whole nest, maybe someone will get stung and I can be just like PB and be on the news to incite war and make even more people angry. Do you think an angry wasp would like to buy an autographed copy of my new book about Nixon?

Darrell E,
I think there's a kind of quasi intelligent Trump supporter in terms of IQ (although lacking in emotional maturity) who vicariously enjoys seeing an authority figure flout rules that they couldn't get away with breaking at their own job or home. If POTUS had to answer to the same job accountability at work as most of us, he would have been fired, or HR would have assigned him to anger management group, sexual sensitivity training, prohibited him from using twitter on the job--or maybe if he was in a good enough union just paid him to stop showing up to work.

Regarding the science fiction cover art discussion from earlier.

I am a snobby hypocrite because although I love campy cover art as long as the publishing date is earlier than 1970--I squirm at any attempts to realistically portray a detailed face of any fictional characters on the cover unless it involves Fabio. I assume my job as the reader is to visualize the characters based on what the writer gave me and I don't care to see another person's vision before I even start. Some covers are the equivalent of drinking malt liquor out of a brown paper bag. If I had the means I would only read hardcovers and just remove all the jackets.


Viking said...

@PaulSB

Sam Harris used to think the same about Charles Murray as you do, until he actually researched the topic.

https://www.samharris.org/podcast/item/forbidden-knowledge

Harris is also among the foremost critics of Trump, and has devoted several podcasts to the thorough discussion of Trump's rotten morals and lack of ethics and lies.

I would like to understand which claims made in "The Bell Curve" that you are referring to when you say the book was disproved 10 years before it was written.

LarryHart said...

Tony Fisk:

don't be turned off Sandman for being a graphic novel. Gaiman's ideas, and turns of phrase are quite remarkable. It's just that the ideas are presented ...graphically, and it can be a pretty strong mix. Here's a pretty good sampling.


Well, Darrell sounded pretty set against reading comics, so that may be a lost cause. For anyone interested in "Sandman" who hasn't read it yet, I'd caution not to read closely the text in Tony's link (above) unless you don't care about plot spoilers.

LarryHart said...

Slim Moldie:

If I had the means I would only read hardcovers and just remove all the jackets.


A fellow poster on the old "Cerebus" list used to complain about how he hated the very concept of dust jackets on books, but he wouldn't do the obvious and simply remove them. I believe "The books would get dusty" was the reason he gave. There's no pleasing some people.

LarryHart said...

case in point from the Sandman link:

...The residents of one woman’s dreams call him ************.


That actually gives away something you're not supposed to know until the end of one of the story arcs.

LarryHart said...

Ok, never mind the specifics. The whole article is spoilers. It's actually not bad if you've already read "Sandman", but if you're interested in seeking it out for the first time, I'd stop reading NOW.

Tony Fisk said...

Well, I suppose I could have put up a spoiler alert, but Sandman is well over twenty years old.* I think the plot's as much of a secret as Luke Skywalker's ancestry.

*The link barely mentions "Overture"

LarryHart said...

@Tony Fisk,

"Star Wars" is pretty well known in the culture at large. Someone trying out "Sandman" for the first time probably doesn't know the surprises going in.

I did say the article wasn't bad if you've already read the story.

Alfred Differ said...

@locumranch | ...considering that our graveyards are full of mouldering corpses that await Resurrection come some mythical Judgment Day

Heh. Okay. Regarding corpses I'm inclined to agree. I suppose one person's aestivation is another's wishful thinking. I feel roughly similar about some folks who are trying for a cryogenic path to the future. I'm highly skeptical they will get there as I have a hard time imagining that our descendants will want to awaken them. Seriously. If someone had frozen George Washington, would anyone here want to wake him up? We might have some questions to ask, but reviving him would come with a moral obligation to help him adapt to us, wouldn't it? (No doubt Larry would vote Yes for Hamilton, though. People might actually name their tomcats after him this time around.)

I'm a non-believer. That means I see a lot of wishful thinking all around me. However, I CAN see how a race might want to wait for a later time. Seems risky, but I suspect one can do it. I wouldn't pick black holes, though. Intergalactic regions don't change much in difficult to predict ways... I think. Sounds much safer.

Alfred Differ said...

Paul451,

I'm with you on the brain-to-soup perception. People love their dogmas.

As for the synodic period, that's why I include the time-cost-of-money as a proximity measure. No private money source will take a meeting if one pitches very long duration projects with no returns until the ship returns to port.

That's also why I was interested in technologies that delivered low thrust over long durations like sails. One could potentially pick up a package from a location with a long synodic period, dip down to a higher eccentricity orbit, and then come back from it as though one had been elsewhere with a short synodic period. It only works if the energy source doesn't have to be carried. The lesson I tried to express is that there was more than one fitness function when talking to private money, therefore we should be getting other technologies ready to lure them.

It wasn't until later (unfortunately) that someone got it through my thick skull that private money still won't take your meetings unless you are solving someone else's BUSINESS problem. I still have the bruises. 8)

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

Seriously. If someone had frozen George Washington, would anyone here want to wake him up? We might have some questions to ask, but reviving him would come with a moral obligation to help him adapt to us, wouldn't it?


Awakening someone like Washington would probably mean we're in some sort of crisis that we need his help to get out of. That sort of thing would get tiring fast for the one being awakened.


(No doubt Larry would vote Yes for Hamilton, though. People might actually name their tomcats after him this time around.)


I'd probably be disappointed in the real Hamilton, plus I don't think you can use cryogenics on someone who died of a gunshot wound.

I'd be willing to preserve Lin-Manuel Miranda for future generations, though.

The science behind cryogenic freezing at or after death seems more like fantasy to me. I can almost imagine a young healthy person having himself frozen for revival in a (presumably better) future time. But if you're already dead, or are just about to die, wouldn't you just thaw into the same condition?


I'm a non-believer. That means I see a lot of wishful thinking all around me. However, I CAN see how a race might want to wait for a later time. Seems risky, but I suspect one can do it. I wouldn't pick black holes, though. Intergalactic regions don't change much in difficult to predict ways... I think. Sounds much safer.


I've heard that The Shallow Cluster is a good place to hide. Don't let any pesky dolphins find you, though. :)

Jumper said...

If various small numbers of a species are on generation ships or at significant relativistic velocities, and anticipate to at some point travel back to the solar system in another few thousands of years, then that achieves the same sort of estivation.

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


“Larry_H admits to his intrinsic bias for "more pleasant" hypotheses, believing as he does that unpleasant hypotheses are "not worth acting upon until better (more pleasant) options are ruled out". This I understand as it is the prevalent bias of the pleasant apex society in which he resides.” This doesn’t even parse logically. Jiminy.


“And so, our conservatives are mocked, our pessimists villanised, our futures mortgaged, our infrastructure neglected…”

Bull puckey. Your cult is not conservatism, it is reactionary troglodytism and treasonous sabotage. The worst victims of your sabotage have been competitive capitalism, constructive skepticism and alert attentiveness to possible failure modes, all of which you claim to support, but which you stab in the back, and in front, every chance your cult gets.

I have written extensively about the value of adversarial criticism and self-preventative warnings. I have participated in countless red team exercises seeking failure modes and gleefully pouncing on supposedly well-planned assumptions. I know what that kind of criticism is like and you do the diametric opposite. You encourage nescience and the ignoring of looming problems. Kindergarteners clutching their knees in a corner with eyes scrunched shut, rocking and saying “meanie old know-it-alls!”

Oh BTW... I have cut way-down on my meat intake. I'd compare brain size, encephalization and functional intelligence with you any day of the week, fellah.


Larry & Alfred: the guy I’d wake up in Benjamin Franklin. Give him a TV talk show so he can be amazed and ask questions while we watch and have our assumptions grilled.

locumranch said...



Alfred gets it. Plus Larry_H, Paul_SB & I agree on some things. And Jumper channels Joe Haldeman.

Larry_H says that he prepares expectantly for the unpleasant outcomes. If so, I'd like to hear about his contingency plans & preparations: Has he stockpiled water, food & medicines in advance of shortages? Is he prepared to defend himself, his family & loved ones from incivility? Is he well armed? Does he possess basic medical training? Or, does he intend, like Blanche Dubois, to rely on the 'kindness of strangers'?

Neither Paul_SB nor I have any use for this Ruston character: His so-called 'science' is awful, his rationalisations unreasonable & his conclusions laughable. Paul may disagree, but I also conclude that the entire 'encephalisation quotient' theory is as absurd & non-falsifiable as the belief that the IQ test reflects quantifiable intelligence.

Is a spider or dolphin more or less intelligent than a human once we correct for the 'encephalisation quotient'? Nobody knows UNLESS they possess the intellectual equivalent of a Scientology 'E-meter' designed to measure and compare intellectual quanta across all species & phyla.

"This here E-meter says beep-boop-bop", says L. Ron Hubbard, "which means that you're a Class 3 intellect".

And, if you believe that, then here's your sign.


Best
_____
Murray says socially unacceptable things about intelligence, race & gender which are inarguably 'true' if you accept the IQ test as a valid measure of intelligence. Paul objects to Murray's findings because he rejects IQ as a valid measure of intelligence, even though he accepts IQ as a valid measure of intelligence in order to validate his acceptance of 'encephalisation quotient' theory. This is what I call hypocrisy.

David Brin said...

Bah, Murray never understood nor expressed the fundamental of our revolutionary morality. Hence, it swiftly grew clear that he had an agenda and a nasty one.

Only fools say that high-end progressivism claims that all people are equal in all ways. Indeed, it is silently admitted that there may be variations in averages among certain classifications of people. But we do not shout the latter, and shy away from the discussion. Sure, that self-censorship has a bad reason and a very good one.

The bad reason... but a powerful one... is that a large fraction on the left and nearly all of the right are dummies who cannot parse what a slight difference of averages means. It... means.... nothing. Or nothing that is remotely useful. But stupid people interpret it to mean "this slight difference in averages says group A is superior to group B!'

I repeat. People who interpret it that way are racist pigs as well as extremely stupid. Take height. Sure the average male is taller than the average female. But unless you are on a pro basketball team, I will easily find a woman who is taller than you.

Alas, because there are a lot of racist/stupid pigs... and a fair number of irrationally short-tempered leftists... we find it best simply to change the subject when bell-curves come up. Yes it is self-censorship. If there were ANY positive policy benefits to be gained by it, I might put up a fight. There are none.

The good reason lies in the ACTUAL justification for progressive tights campaigns... and that reason is the end to wasting human talent.

NO PERSON SHOULD HAVE HER OR HIS OPPORTUNITIES PRE-RESTRICTED, BECAUSE OF REAL OR IMAGINED TRAITS OF SOME CLASSIFICATION TO WHICH SHE OR HE BELONGS. ESPECIALLY IF SHE OR HE HAD NO CHOICE IN THAT AFFILIATION.

No woman should be excluded from trying out for a basketball team, just because the average woman is shorter than the average man.

The military knows that the average person who wants to be a skilled warrior will be male. They also now know that there are a great many -- hundreds of thousands -- women who are capable of being really magnificent at that ancient and modern art. Indeed thousands are vastly better than the average male, at such tasks. And it is insanely stupid not to use that talent.

Heck, see how we're learning to appreciate dese mighty-gals: http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/2017/06/a-time-for-colonels-part-two-working.html

The crux: If we were mature enough, as a nation and people, to parse this well, then we'd ensure that all individuals can capably and freely compete or cooperate as individuals free of prejudice -- or pre-judice -- based on any involuntary category. But we aren't that mature, yet. We're moving rapidly in that direction! But for now, we need a shorthand to help us get there. And that shorthand is to proclaim that differences of averages either don't exist or we-don't-talk-about-that.

Locumranch will shriek "gotcha!" over that self censorship. But I'll yawn. His agenda is vile and we'll defeat it. His motive is not scientific but racist hatred. And we'll defeat it. We will stop wasting talent.

--

PS... most women will still want to be Moms, duh? And guess what. They're the ones who will have descendants. So chill, dummy.

David Brin said...

onward

onward

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IssacNewton said...

Love most of your writing. Alas, I am on the conservative/liberterain end of the spectrum so I disagree with most of your politics. I agree that there are 10,000 or so "Elite" corporate members who allocate capital and want to lower their taxes. They confuse the current set of owners with capitalism. The US has gone a long-way towards a Crony-Capitalist system that is focused on protecting the status quo. That is why productivity growth has shifted from around 3% to -.2 percent and when financial capital crashes the system the loses are socialized. They use imports and immigration to lower US wages. However, I put the supporters of Welfare, Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare in the same boat. To me the Corporate and Government elite (Davos Men) are increasingly incompetant. This stupidity is based on the need to maintain their special interests are points out by Mancur Olsen in his Rise and Decline of Nations. On the Government side:

Welfare is a transfer of a Trillion dollars/year to buy votes and support social pathology. Social Security is not actuarially stable, another program to buy votes (augments individual savings would be better). Medicaid and Medicare are systems to transfer revenue to Heathcare providers. There is almost no evidence that they save lives (e.g., Oregon experiment, people with and without medicare has same health outcomes). Costa Rica gets similar mortality results as the US and spends maybe 8% of what we do per capita. It is akin to the subsidies given to the Agricultural Interests.

Healthcare is like the Military Industrial complex where the cost of an fighter grow exponentially, F-5 cost $2.2M, the F-16 around $16M (thanks to Major Boyd), F-15 $30M, the F-18 $60M, F-22A $362M, F-35 ballpark $200M (varies by model). The later fighter plane models require more hours of maintenance support per flight hour. The F-16 is a better dog fighter than the F-35; although the F-35 is supposed to avoid dog fights and do distance kills via better sensors and senor integration. Most of these extra-costs are due to much better electronics. However, in the civilian sector unit IT costs are dropping like a stone. The miliary cannot match these lower price trends.

You see the same trends in Education. We spent 2X (real dollars) more per K-12 student since 1970 and the results are worse. A lower percentage graduate, they have lower test scores and a lower ability to find jobs. The jobs they do find pay less. College Tution costs have grown almost 10X and currently 45% of graduates to not need a degree for the jobs they get. ur Managerial class is the best educated in history and every 5 years they economic results they achieve decline. Educational spending is mainly a revenue source for providers.

There are also some 20 Million govt. workers who try and maintain ths failing status quo while allocating benefits/revenue. Each 10% of GNP spent by the Govt. lowers economic growth by 1%. See: https://journalistsresource.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/Govt-Size-and-Growth.pdf

I would love see your comments include the government side of the Ledger. Also, they need a lot of supporting data .

IssacNewton said...

I like Charles Murray's writing, but love your statement:
NO PERSON SHOULD HAVE HER OR HIS OPPORTUNITIES PRE-RESTRICTED, BECAUSE OF REAL OR IMAGINED TRAITS OF SOME CLASSIFICATION TO WHICH SHE OR HE BELONGS. ESPECIALLY IF SHE OR HE HAD NO CHOICE IN THAT AFFILIATION.

If a gang-banger wants to learn astro-physics God Speed; with newer educational technology (e.g, Kahn Academy) the costs of providing educational opportunities decreases every few years. I am a product of the Andrew Carnegy's Libraries...

That said Progressives often state there are no differences in the Mean, Median or Distribution of skills across Racial and Sexual groups. Hence college attendance, and labor marketing hiring/firing decisions should be made on the basis of membership in selected Racial and/or Sex groups. This should continue until these groups are equally represented in each occupation, pay-grade, and firm. As you note equality of distributions is not the case. For example, Males have a higher variation in most traits including IQ. If Google wants to hire top technologists, on the tails there will be a lot more males.

Hence, I think it useful to proclaim that differences in averages (means), medians, and variaiton do exist and should be accounted for in hiring decisions.

Although, I tend to think the Elites are going the way of the Chinese bureacracies. The texts were hard, but being an expert in knowing poetry was not a useful skill in maintaining the Empire as the world was changing. My sense is being highly credentialed means you increasingly cannot accomplish tasks. The credentials are a way to signal group membership not skills that produce useful outcomes.