Saturday, April 27, 2019

More incredible space stuff

Today it's the Poway shooting. Each day more evidence that our crisis is not about left-vs.-right, but a mob that's been riled-up against modernity.

And so... we turn to what should be the non-political world of SPACE! Yep, let's focus this weekend on the 99.999999% of everything in the universe that may be within reach of our grandchildren, if only we leave them a positive civilization.


== Cosmology ==

Phil Plait makes the discovery of a relatively nearby and very ancient dwarf galaxy sound like the most exciting thing since Battlestar Galactica got rebooted!

A central black hole (CBH) in a galaxy half a billion light years away has a mass similar to the Milky Way’s CBH, but has recently eaten a star, making it very bright. And a sharp lump near the event horizon appears to be spinning round it at half the speed of light! Another was clocked at 84%!


Reason to believe that clumping dark matter may have led to the formation of many black holes in the earliest universe… and their numbers may be large, today.

News articles miss the point about this newly-chosen, relatively inexpensive NASA mission. Every six months, SPHEREx will survey the entire sky in 96 color bands. That won’t give you a complete, scientific spectrum of any one object. But it will provide a very telling rough spectrum of half a BILLION objects out there. That’s with a “B.” This is not a system to 'learn about universal origins.' It is one dedicated to alerting astronomers: “These 10,000 or so objects are weird. Look at them closer.” Combine this with the Zwicky Transient Facility (ZTF) at Palomar Observatory that seeks fast-changing sky events and the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope in Chile, that will deep survey an enormous area of sky, repeating every few nights, and what we’ll get is something I've long said we need - an incredible alert system to say “Huh! lookadat!.”

And see news about the OCO-3 mission below.

== Exploring our solar system ==

Cool and stunning and gorgeous. A SpaceX launch seen from the International Space Station.

Alan Stern and the New Horizons team have a great year ahead, revealing bits from the doughty space probe’s latest marvelous encounter, nine light hours from the sun. This brief image glances backward as the probe leaves the Ultima Thule realm. New Horizons scientists can confirm that the two sections (or "lobes") of Ultima Thule are not spherical after all. The larger lobe, nicknamed "Ultima," more closely resembles a giant pancake and the smaller lobe, nicknamed "Thule," is shaped like a dented walnut. 

Last year's interstellar visitor 'Oumuamua has a lot of scientists abuzz. The head of the Harvard Astronomy department suggests it was likely an artifact, perhaps a jettisoned light-sail. (Eerily like an event in my novel Existence.) Others now calculate that interstellar space may be relatively filled with rocks. "We find that there should be thousands of `Oumuamua-size interstellar objects identifiable by Centaur-like orbits at high inclinations, assuming a number density of `Oumuamua-size interstellar objects of ~10^15 per cubic parsec." That's a fair amount! Perhaps enough to make travel between the stars an obstacle course. See the sci fi flick PASSENGERS.

And...  JPL’s Young-Earth-Ocean-In-A-Glass, combines water, minerals and the molecules ammonia and pyruvate that are usually found near hydrothermal vents, heated to 158 degrees Fahrenheit (70 degrees Celsius) and decreasing the oxygen content provided them with a laboratory model of the conditions of the "primordial ocean" … “showing that in geological conditions similar to early Earth, and maybe to other planets, we can form amino acids and alpha hydroxy acids from a simple reaction under mild conditions that would have existed on the seafloor…” Kewl time lapse. 

This article on crew behavior during long space missions suggests that onboard software systems appraise word usage and even body language among crew members to track incipient problems. Um, like a crew psychological profile? Will body language appraisal include… lip-reading?

The “Dragonfly” concept for an air-mobile lander on Titan is a major candidate that NASA may choose, this year.

Fascinating evidence that Mars had an extensive ground water circulation system feeding into deep craters for a long time.  


And I'll be examining ever more cool endeavors in June, in DC, as a member of the advisory council of NASA's Innovative and Advanced Concepts program.

And this might be of interest: a deep dive into the ongoing mysteries of quantum physics: A new book released by theoretical physicist Lee Smolin: Einstein's Unfinished Revolution: The Search for What Lies Beyond the Quantum

 == Oh, no! OCO is gonna so find truth ==

There is no scientific program that has been more targeted for hate by the Anti-Science Party than OCO or Orbiting Carbon Observatory.  The Bushites sabotaged or canceled or defunded earlier versions, which finally launched over screaming objections from the Denialist Cult and absolutely verified that human civilization is filling the atmosphere with greenhouse gas that is absolutely warming the planet.

OCO-3 is about to be delivered to the ISS where it will pin down the facts even better, despite desperate Trumpist efforts to slash it. 

Why? Why the hate? Or the commands for NASA and NOAA to cancel Earth observation and even forbid use of the very word "Earth"? Do the plutocrats controlling that party truly seek to preserve coal profits in the very short term over their children's health or possibly survival? Are they so stupid they think their Patagonian ranchos offer them actual security, when the world wakes up, enraged?  (We know where the bolt-holes are. And you will never be able to trust your guards.)

Ask your nutty uncle how he justifies this. Science is the human future. And there's nothing more suicidal than the cultish hatred of smart people.

49 comments:

nja said...

Great links and stories. The video of the launch from space was very beautiful.

Ilithi Dragon said...

I wonder how much longer before we'll see DIY projects to send a cubesat with an HD camera and a transmitter out to all these outer-system objects.

They'll probably get there in time for me to gripe about not having full holographic, cross-sectional scans in the data they send back... >_>

Anonymous said...

Everyday Stalinism: Ordinary Life in Extraordinary Times: Soviet Russia in the 1930s.
Sheila Fitzpatrick
Oxford University Press.

https://books.google.com/books/about/Everyday_Stalinism.html

Stalin's Citizens: Everyday Politics in the Wake of Total War
Serhy Yekelchyk
Oxford University Press.

https://books.google.com/books/about/Stalin_s_Citizens.html

Anonymous said...

>> Alfred Differ said...
//...and we didn’t lose 20 million like the Russians.

8 millions of that was Ukrainians (for at least)... and other millions totally un-named to you kazahs, bashkirs and etc nations of Great Russia/USSR -- Stalin's Version Prison of the Nations... who fought for his whims. (And many millions of ethnic russains was killed or died because of Stalin's orders alone... like in Leningrad. To say true. But russians tend to forgot about it, in their current rage to honor Stalin.)

and WW2 came twice by territory of Ukraine -- from border to border, pillaged as by "krasnie"/red/soviets as by "korichnevie"/brown/nazis in attempt to make it "scorched earth" to enemy.

and millions was deported by Stalin(whole ethnicities like Crimea Tatars) or taken as slave-laborers to Germany.

died as "black infantry" or "shtrafniki"/(infantry with NKVD machine guns behind their backs) in "victorious" Stalin's attacks with cannon fodder alone.


But... I was talking *not* about that "war experiences" as you said it... but about victims of terror and hunger and sheer murder in USSR... not in time of war(s), but in time of countless Great Leaps Forward -- marxist's historical experiments. And was stigmatized as "loss bragger".


\\...to understand our host. Remember that he was born on one side of that change and then lived through it. In articulating what his father did...

I presume I understand it just fine... it exactly that period RFia coming trough just now.
Greatest Generation -- it's exact cliche of the modern RFia's propaganda.
And non-tolerance to other people/other nation "bragging" is exactly the same.

Well... best war-film I know. Is chinese one. Assembly (2007). About one of regiment remains alive, who returned after all wars, to the old forgotten battlefield. To dig a grave for each of deceased.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jUySM-ju4IA

Because in USSR and in modern RFia it was about propaganda always. War films.

Mike Will said...

The Bedin galaxy find is fascinating on at least three fronts.

First, in pure astronomy terms, Wow! Our 2-D view of the universe is severely distorted. I have many old astronomy books (an interest in the historical and philosophical effects of the Hubble era). All they talk about are magnitude and constellations. It's almost Ptolemaic. But with a weird, unspoken suspicion that something ain't quite right. It's like Tycho Brahe abandoning the crystal spheres. Quite poetic and romantic. My favourite is a 1911 set of encyclopaedia called "The Books of Knowledge". It was a much prettier age (apart from the colonialization and raw imperialism). For example, great distance was portrayed in train travel years !

Second, it goes to my native on the Bahamian beach narrative. Sorry, but I liked it. I wasn't really talking about the science and technology of SETI. I was talking about the toddler-level knowledge that we currently have. The Fermi paradox should not be a door slammed in our face. It should be a powerful Asimovian challenge along the lines of "that's funny...". Remember Hubble, and Laplace long before. Again, there's that urgent need for widespread scientific literacy. Those who accuse scientists of arrogance totally miss the mark. I personally have never met an arrogant scientist. They're usually hiding in a corner, fearful of being laughed at by their peers. They use more ass-covering ambiguity outside of the laboratory than lawyers do anywhere.

Third, the implications for SETI in a cosmological sense. 13 BILLION years old?? Holy macaroni. Imagine if the Wright bros had lived a billion years ago. This tiny sliver of time we call 'Enlightened' would have been a scintilla too distant past and dust-covered to even be remembered. A proverbial drop of water in the bucket. Our debates and analyses about ifs/ands/buts would be beyond quaint. I love the cover of "Foundation and Earth" where an archaeologist crouches on the shoulder of an ancient, crumbled statue on a long-forgotten planet. SF illustrators are the best. However, finding artifacts from any billions-of-years-old civilization would be child's play in comparison. Fossils maybe, but artifacts highly doubtful.

Calculemus!

Larry Hart said...

Mike Will:

My favourite is a 1911 set of encyclopaedia called "The Books of Knowledge". It was a much prettier age (apart from the colonialization and raw imperialism). For example, great distance was portrayed in train travel years !


I had a similar find cleaning out my grandmother's house when she had to move into a nursing home. A 1943 World Atlas. The world map in the front showed the countries which were occupied by Germany and Japan. A later section on "races of the world" (or something to that effect) would be considered offensive today--describing blacks and Asians in terms of how they differed from "normal" Caucasians--but already seemed to be distancing itself from the openly white-supremacist language of earlier decades. Reading between the lines, Naziism had already made white chauvinism distasteful.

Somehow, the book got lost when I moved in 2005. It's in my house somewhere, but God knows where. Still, one fact I remember noting was from the table of population of US cities--Los Angeles wasn't even third biggest at the time. New York and Chicago topped the list as expected, but Philadelphia and one more city I can't recall were third and fourth. Detroit, maybe.

There was section on the stars and planets as known at the time. I don't recall specific details--just a sense of finding it charming in its innocence and wonder.

Lorraine said...

@Ilithi Dragon, one can only hope whatever hacker ethos results in DIY space probes also includes the "share what you know" ethos of early 1990's open-source hacker ethos.

Anonymous said...

Synthetic speech generated from brain recordings
medicalxpress.com

Larry Hart said...

Sorry to retrograde to the previous post, but I hadn't actually read the post while I was busy in the comments section.

All the fuss about whether this constituted "bragging"? It was just this one short paragrpah:

My father infiltrated the 1930s Nazi-Bund. As a gangland reporter he covered Capone. The Greatest Generation came to recognize this perennial threat to our flickering freedom, that strives above all to divide us and staunch our faith in facts and negotiation and a hope for reasonableness.


That's bragging? I read that more as just an example of how the greatest generation handled threats to the country--an example we should follow today. The fact that it was "my father" only helps establish that the speaker knows whereof he speaks, despite not having been born at the time of the incident.

And infiltrating a Nazi bund would have been before the war.

Bob Neinast said...

And in other space news, LIGO (the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory) is continuing to make news in Gravitational Astronomy.

First off, a separate group has used the data provided in the second run of LIGO, and different/special signal analyzing software, to find 6 more events. Story here:
https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/04/190425122341.htm

On top of that, now that they've started their third run, they've already seen 2 new events, including another probable neutron star/neutron star collision resulting in a black hole. (Or it might be a neutron star merging with an existing black hole.)

Stories:
https://phys.org/news/2019-04-first-ever-ligo.html
http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/d-brief/2019/04/26/ligo-spots-two-gravitational-waves-in-two-days/

The other super-cool thing about this (whatta time to be alive!) is that they can use these two, and other "observatories" coming online (VIRGO in Italy) to triangulate the locations of the events, and then turn old, boring light wave (ha) observatories to look at the events. (I recall they spotted the first neutron/neutron event in visible light.)

What a species we are to be able to do this. (And then we have trouble de-Trumpisizing ourselves.)

David Brin said...

BobN. Thanks for that cheer-up message. That's what I find so compelling about our time, as we choose between spectacular success and grotesquely huge failure. There are no other options.

MikeW, vast time spans do not block all sense of empathy. A while back, a small bone was analyzed and found to have come from a woman whose dad was Neanderthal and mother was Denisovan. Sure, we knew they had mixed a little, over hundreds of thousands of years, But a wisp of DNA showed us a person who was the actual daughter of… romance? conflict? We’ll never know. But the imagination did dwell on her, across all that time.

So long as they are informative and not filled with rage, I will not bother deleting certain "anonymous" postings from an obvious source. But the instant they turn unpleasant, they are gone. And I ask you fellows not to encourage them with answers.

Treebeard said...

we choose between spectacular success and grotesquely huge failure. There are no other options.

Now there's some silly binary thinking. Of course there are other options. We could have moderate success, moderate failure, both spectacular success and huge failure at the same time, etc. When has it ever been otherwise? Extreme binaryism is a good indication that you're dealing with a fanatic, imo.

David Brin said...

"Extreme binaryism is a good indication that you're dealing with a fanatic, imo." Yes, in your op.

The sentence by itself is true, of course. (Like the equally true and utterly misleading: "There is no voting or consensus in science.") Nor would it be wrong to question my assertion of a largely binary fate. But "t" does not question, he diagnoses that I am a fanatic because that's what he sees in the mirror.

Life is filled with binaries. Life and death, successful reproduction or not. In our case, the binary is whether we tumble into obligate feudalism that dominated for 6000 years, or double down on the enlightenment experiment in openness, reciprocal accountability, delusion discover and reification of all sources of talent. And while there are intermediate states -- we are in one now -- there are several millions who can see that intermediate states are not sustainable, ecologically, sociologically, politically, psychologically.

If oligarchic elites take power, they will push for society to be 100% oligarchic, emphasising RELATIVE wealth, which means crushing lower sources of talentand narrowing the decision pool so that, free of criticism, they can proceed to make delusional errors that will kill us all.

If enlightenment systems continue strengthening one more generation, the vast rate of education worldwide will empower over a billion professional level humans, empowered by tools that shine light and criticism on every error.

Sorry, that's binary. and it is why the oligarch mafiosi know they must act now.

Larry Hart said...

@Dr Brin,

You explained it much better, of course, but I was going to say that TB perhaps willfully misinterprets your assertion about our time:

That's what I find so compelling about our time, as we choose between spectacular success and grotesquely huge failure. There are no other options.

...as if you said "We are always at a choice between two extremes." What you were describing is a tipping point--we're either going to go one way or the other, and whichever way we go, we'll go there in extremis. It wasn't a description of life in general, but of the point in history we happen to be at now.

Of course, he'd disagree with your value judgements as well, over which social system constitutes "success" and which "grotesquely huge failure".

Mike Will said...

Dr. Brin: vast time spans do not block all sense of empathy


You know, this is what I've thought for a long time. That it won't be some clear signal like Contact's 'booming voice from the heavens', observation of an obvious artificial megastructure, or any such social activity. Rather, it will be something so non-natural, so stunningly sentient, so simultaneously intellectual and visceral, so 'empathetic' that it will stare us in the face one day (or perhaps even has been doing so since the dawn of man). I just hope that we can learn enough to be able to recognize it and stare back.

yana said...


David Brin thought:

"article on crew behavior during long space missions suggests that onboard software systems appraise word usage and even body language among crew members to track incipient problems."

Testing it now, on small distance voyagers: motorists. Data from a nasty self-driving car crash last year showed that the 'driver' had fallen asleep at highway speeds. Last year's tech was all about monitoring the extravehicular environs, collision avoidance and stuff. This year's push is for monitoring what's going on inside the car. One conglom's version sounds an alarm when the driver is not paying proper attention to the road... another conglom's system simply pulls the vehicle over to the shoulder and rolls to a stop.

In both cases, it is the onboard software which makes the decision about when the operator is not competent to drive. No unseen advisory panel of recent-grad technicians from a Florida Travel & Tourism college is called up and rapidly convened, to review the tapes and make a human decision, about whether the motorist is able to resume motoring. There is no appeals process when the judge is AI.

Driving a metal bubble in a vacuum full of grains of sand zipping around at hypersonic speeds is far more serious. Zero percent chance that the driving will be left to mere people. In fact, one of the classic mis-tropes of science fiction is that, in darn near every story, a character averts peril by jerry-rigging a door's control panel which is conveniently located behind a flimsy panel right next to the door.

Heck, in some scifi all it takes is a shot from a laser blaster at that flimsy panel to open a door (or seal it to keep the Cylons out).

No. No sir-ee. Even something as simple as opening a door on a spaceship will removed from fallible slippery grubby human hands. And since the designers will all be scifi luvin' nerds, they already know that you do not put the control panel right next to the portal. Yet again, the ghost of Douglas Adams is doubled over, laughing at us.

David Brin said...

The self-driving feature that's most urgent is that drowsiness detection. I've always deemed it our worst danger.

yana said...


Mike Will thought:

"My favourite is a 1911 set of encyclopaedia called "The Books of Knowledge"."

Hey, shout-out! I've got that. Also a 1912 "Principles Of Physics" which is fun to compare to today, and extra-proud to have that one, because the signature of the first owner, on the flyleaf is... a female name. God bless America. She couldn't even vote, and she wanted to unlock the secrets of creation.

"The Fermi paradox should not be a door slammed in our face."

The SETI podcast this week mentions METI, and surprisingly not many SETI folks are upset about it. Nor me. If you're a Mesoamerican seeing Hernan Cortez's ships off the coast, then it won't matter which side floated messages in gourds or corked in bottles 50 years before.

"Imagine if the Wright bros had lived a billion years ago. This tiny sliver of time we call 'Enlightened' would have been a scintilla too distant past and dust-covered to even be remembered."

Maybe they did live, 4/5ths of a billion years ago. All of the stuff which lets cells stick together comes from viruses. Maybe there was a Wilbur amoeba and an Orville amoeba, but all the other amoebae arranged their viral remoras so that their nuclei were on the opposite ends of the bicell. To make it easier to spin of course, more than doubling the catch of tasty molecules than the pair could get on their own.

Orville and Wilbur Amoeba had a better idea. Orient whichever foot which pushes better, to be alongside the bicell partner's instead of opposite. Just a matter of attracting viruses to one side or the other. Spinning lets you catch more of what flows by, and draws a current of resources inwards. But swimming lets you go where there is more. The Wrights did the same thing the Amoeba Brothers did, just swimming in air.

Mike Will said...

yana: She couldn't even vote, and she wanted to unlock the secrets of creation

Curiosity is one of the forms of feminine bravery.
- Victor Hugo

locumranch said...


Treebeard had a valid point.

David errs when he embraces bivalent either-or logic even though it appears to support his hyperbolic arguments, and I will show you why with a basic tautology:

EITHER the vilification of Prominent Jews like Jared Kushner encourages anti-Semitism OR the vilification of Prominent Jews like Jared Kushner does not encourage anti-Semitism.

See the logic trap?

The vilification of Prominent Jews ALWAYS equals anti-Semitism by definition -- it cannot NOT be anti-Semitism -- yet even the New York Times has failed to learn this lesson as of today's international edition.


Best
____

Note also how Yana & Mike_W incessantly praise women, knowing how NOT praising women always equals misogyny & abuse. It's tragicomedy at its best & worst.

Anonymous said...

Loco again spouting neo-nazi stuff.
And you again tend to ignore it?

Jon S. said...

Wow, David has his work cut out for him this morning!

David Brin said...

I left one of them up in order to answer. While both of our trolls are sometimes nasty, locumranch does not launch into scary volcanic fury and hate over imagined personal slights. Also, I keep him around as a great example of the negative sum thinking that cripples so many fellow citizens. And his postings are short... they are not aggressive attempts to take over this community.

pbot was interesting at first. But he reliably goes into boiling rage over misunderstandings of his own making. His fury is frightening. It is personal. And it is volcanic. No resentment of his can be calmed by either facts or appeals to decency.

I have asked... earnestly and politely... for him to be a decent person and go away. Make his own blog. Announce postings here once a month! Instead, he comes into our home and shits on the rug and screams when we notice the smell.

Perhaps if each of you adds your "go away" voice, along with a pledge never to read these unwelcome shrieks....

I ask again. Please go away. But courtesy will not work. So I will erase these screeching howls until I give up and change the posting rules. (Name anyone else who still allows anon posting?) YOU ALL should make sure your blogger credentials are up to date. To be honest, I'm surprised it took so long before some maniac made this necessary.

David Brin said...

Answering locu is easy:


“See the logic trap?”

No, but the very idea that you see one is psychologically indicative that negative sum minds are really weird.


Anonymous said...

Sorry to Mike, and a little bit to TiBi...

but without yana this blog will be cleaner... for a bit. :P

David Brin said...

Every single return to screech and howl only proves obsession and utter rudeness. Someone should tell his mother.

Again, this is NOT your home. Go make your own home. No one here has said they want you here. Go.

Alfred Differ said...

I withdraw my willingness to read pbot's material even if he starts a blog elsewhere and only occasionally lures us over with messages here.

Dude. This is childish.
It's also a waste of your time.
I'm checking in here occasionally and your posts are mostly deleted before that.
Also, I skip anonymous posts most of the time. I'll go back and read them if someone else references them. In your case, that isn't likely.

Be at peace somewhere else.

Tim Wolter said...

Time to get rid of anonymous posting. And even that may not suffice.

The current environment stifles communication to the point that the number of regulars willing to play is small. And I suspect the number of newbies posting is also much reduced.

But, I'm not the barkeep. Or the bouncer.

TW/Tacitus

jim said...

Wow, it is like there is a Ukrainian Conversational Parasite,
A comment lamprey that has latched on and won't let go.

Mike Will said...

Newer trollbots run autonomously, mainly doing ELIZA-level sentence reversing, sea lioning, and canned provocation UNTIL they come close to being 'outed'. The human troll then takes over to re-establish credulity and back away from uncanny valley's cliff. These can thus greatly leverage a troll's time.

Also, many farmed trollbots often plead lack of language proficiency (as others here have noted). Humans on the other hand, when faced with a language deficit or unfamiliar surroundings, seldom flip into sustained rage and attack modes. Natural selection would squelch that trait right quick.

The replicant challenge-questioning in "Blade Runner" was a good prediction (1982!). This seems to be a particular gift of Californian writers. Maybe because of Silicon Valley? Berkeley? I don't know.

yana said...


David Brin thought:

"Name anyone else who still allows anon posting?"

I do. Then again, comments at yanablog go right into moderation until individually released into the wild. But if i had the volume you have here, would need to hire an intern for peanuts. Most of my comments are of the "generous offering for you" variety, so i would like to use captchas to curtail some of that... can i ask? Does it cost money to use a captcha service?

For me, moderation is an annoyance but censorship is a specter. As corollary, don't support laws against hate speech. Idiocy always reveals itself, better than anyone could point it out in a crowd. Just answering it with logic and good humour is a world beyond trying to bury idiocy with vitriol or squash it with forced silence.

Since hoisting the Confederate flag is waning, it's a lost opportunity in my eyes. It used to be much easier, when idiot a-holes proudly self-identified. Now we have to be familiar with what some frog images mean or in what context someone uses the word "natural" or develop the rarified ability to discern what sorts of divisive ideas are regular idiocy and which are planned idiocies to help the #putinstooge

But when speech is censored, decent people are denied the process of developing their own ability to discern.

David Brin said...

When speech is censored? Fine. But lies shouls be punishable with refutation and facts, and the internet has become a place where every trick of accountability-evasion thrives.

For a rather intense look at how "truth" is determined in science, democracy, courts and markets, see the lead article in the American Bar Association's Journal on Dispute Resolution (Ohio State University), v.15, N.3, pp 597-618, Aug. 2000, "Disputation Arenas: Harnessing Conflict and Competition." http://www.amazon.com/Disputation-Arenas-ebook/dp/B005AK2R74/?_encoding=UTF8&tag=contbrin-20

(Or else see a very condensed version, summarized at the Thinkofit site. http://just.thinkofit.com/disputation-arenas/ )

Anonymous said...

On Flickr a group I moderate had a problem with people posting off-topic pictures to the group. We tried removing them after-the-fact, but (a) that took a lot of time, and (b) often the individual involved would just repost them.

So we switched to a moderation queue. Have the picture sit unseen until a moderator OKed it removed any incentive to post off-topic images for the (brief) period they gained views (which is what the view-whores were doing – it's apparently a Flickr thing).

Possibly that would be an option for Dr. Brin? A queue for comments (or just anonymous comments) which sit invisible until they are approved? Your Ukrainian Conversational Parasite is much less likely to waste its time if no one ever sees the comments.

yana said...


Oh, forgot to mention... in your bulletin-board system here, when i click on a poster's name, that message collapses down to a single line with no content, until clicked upon again. Might it be a possible solution, to "pre click" messages where the poster uses the Anonymous option rather than the Name/URL option or the Google Account option?

That way, anon messages are tucked away from the casual eye, making the whole comment section more pleasantly readable, and anyone curious only needs 2.5 seconds to click on the nym "Anonymous", say "ok, it's that nutball again", and click again to collapse the message back to one skippable line.

If possible, this approach avoids the sinister cynicism of censorship, maintains one of the net's first principles, data wants to be free, and improves the ease of navigating the conversation.

Or extend the one-line format to the Name/URL posters too. I wouldn't mind, feel that one or two folks would be willing to invest one mouse click to read my hare-brained ideas. At present, appreciate not having to present credentials to post messages (Monsieur, your papers, please!) The alternative strikes me as a shadow of a Jim Crow literacy test.

Am under no illusion that posts here (or anywhere) are totally sub rosa. But posting with just one level of porous anonymity might be enough to coax more true feelings, from anyone who is on the verge of tenure, for example, or someone who might truly be in another nation where the political sitch is more immediately linked to personal injury.

David Brin said...

Huh. Yana I never noticed that. Clicking on the name only collapses that one comment. Of course that probably just hides it from my eyes. Hey others. I just collapsed yana's comment befor this one. I assume you all can still see it?

Alas, we're likely to keep getting drive by crap. Obsessives are like that, alack.

TCB said...

"Blogger locumranch said...

Treebeard had a valid point."

Hahahahahha

hahah...

HAHAHHAHAHAHAAAAAAAAAAA

whew lad. A comedy team worthy of vaudeville.

Alfred Differ said...

Every time I drop by, I start with all comments collapsed. The default view has them all expanded, so I scroll to the top first thing and click the option to collapse them all.

I only expand the ones I want to read.
Saves a lot of attention span.

TCB said...

In re: anonymous posting. Gee, I dunno. There have been times and places where it had real value. Benjamin Franklin used it to good effect.

But... he EARNED it.

For every Ben Franklin there must be 10,000 pretenders, trolls, gobshites and all-around flibbertygibbets who ought better have lurked and listened. If ye mean ill, shove off. And if you don't know what you want, don't be surprised if you don't get it. And that's my opinion, validated by the infallible authority of this, my third beer.

yana said...


David Brin thought:

"UCSD Professor Phil Agre has pointed out, much of the so-called “data” being bandied about on the Net these days is of incredibly poor quality, often lacking provenance or any discussion of error bars, sensitivity, dependency, or semantics."

Personally, i like it that way. The distilled idea here relies on juries of peer-reviewed peeps with lots of letters after their names. Just me, but prefer to revel in the unwashed mess of it all.

"disputants must have sufficient status in their advocacy community"

Sounds like creating heroes in the netscape and pooping out martyrs among the losers, seems like Wikipedia already does this, with far less glorification to either side. On the other hand, i've proposed a similar idea, a truthometric distillery like Snopes or Wikipedia, but with funding to support a staff able to winnow nutty netclaims in minutes, not over years. We'd need Bezos or Gates or Musk to fund it up. Even then...

"shepherded by proctors whose picky personalities"

and then...

"Distinct from the jury will be a panel of Eminent Observers"

Kinda disturbing, since these echo another phrase: "investiture of a priesthood." I don't have to draw the whole line, from this idea to a Ministry Of Truth. The dots alone are enough to see, what the future picture could turn out to be: a centralized crocodile of determination, gobbling up whatever threatens its own perpetuation.

The ability to organize is awesomely human, but the possibility of schism equals honesty. The DisputArena idea is fine, but once it becomes successful, once it's a respected institution, then it poses more danger to society than it alleviates.

I know, i know. Centralized truth-finding is a great thing, and decentralized truth-finding allows the #putinstooge method of a parallel institution claiming false equivalency. I don't have the answer to that. My philosophical fallback on such questions is, by naturalized habit, the US Constitution. It doesn't protect institutions, it protects the right to change institutions.

"incredibly poor quality, often lacking provenance or any discussion of error bars, sensitivity, dependency, or semantics."

It's the mess, itself, which bubbles truth to the top. Trickle down never works, trickle up always works. That's what the Philly White Guys did in 1787, upheld the right to fail twice. A bad idea or investment or policy does not get ya killed or jailed, as long as you didn't plan it to go bad from the start. In this way, the 'founders' dug the root of democracy on the human spirit itself. I concur, and see it being unleashed in new powerful ways all around me every day. Don't fear the mess, it's only us.

David Brin said...

"I know, i know. Centralized truth-finding is a great thing, and decentralized truth-finding allows the #putinstooge method of a parallel institution claiming false equivalency. I don't have the answer to that."

Nor do I, since I didn't say that, nor does it overlap even a little with anything that I remotely said.

yana said...


Alfred Differ thought:

"I scroll to the top first thing and click the option to collapse them all."

David Brin thought:

"Of course that probably just hides it from my eyes."

Yeah, but the fact that the reader can choose to collapse posts, and the fact that you can differentiate between types of posters, implies that there is a way to combine these superpowers. Hire an intern from CalTech and they'll figure that sh*t all out for you. Of course you don't pay the intern to do that, there's gotta be 50 kids over there who'd work for free just to osmotically sponge up pearls from a lit lumen.

ABBA thought:

"So I took advantage of the fact that I'm a star,
Shook my hair and took the cash and strolled up to the bar.
"

Mike Will said...

Computational modeling can be, should be, and is being applied to Big Data (whatever the hell that is), crowd sourcing, competing agents, Delphi consensus, and even psychohistory prediction and decision making. It's just too slow, expensive, and dangerous to experiment with this stuff in the physical world with real lives. Plus, that's the way AGIs will do it, so let's not allow a 'modeling gap' to grow. Computational thinking is becoming an educational imperative.

David Brin said...

http://www.rocketstackrank.com/2015/11/the-tell-by-david-brin.html

Mike Will said...

Noted. Thanks. I'm a bit swamped with reading right now. I was never a great reader, but stroke and age have really s-l-o-w-e-d me down. Just reading Contrary Brin every day is a task (but a happy one). I need a neural interface like Barclay's on Star Trek TNG.

Mike Will said...

Housekeeping - just a couple of replies to past slights against me :)
(I'm kidding of course, any reply to my thoughts is appreciated)

Re: Foundation is only fantasy

Even though I did read "Foundation", I too had a confused, cursory, dismissive, tinkertoy view of psychohistory.

That was 50 years ago.

I've done a bit of reading, writing, and computing since then. Good artists create. Great artists steal. Asimov was a great artist. Seeing "Foundation" as whole cloth fantasy is missing the point bigly. Fall of Empire is a familiar story. Bel Riose was based on Flavius Belisarius. Hamlet, Macbeth, and Prospero were garish, goofy characters, but they peered into Humanity's soul more deeply than the nightly news ever could. It's called literature.

-------------------------------------

Re: NOT praising women = misogyny

It's true that I praise women a lot. If you're paying attention, you'll notice that I praise men a lot too. And children. And posterity. And the GG. And a long list of personal heroes. Humanists simply choose not to 'embrace the horror'. Sorry not sorry.

raito said...

yana:

We need less Ministry of Truth than Fair Witness.

Alfred Differ said...

Heh. It's not every day I see ABBA quotes.


I'd be leary of unpaid CalTech interns. Who knows what else they'd introduce? 8)


Besides, managing our attention is really more of a personal skill to acquire and hone. I'm not for drinking from a fire hose, but that's not what's happening here. Comment roll-up is crude, but it is good enough.

What I REALLY want is a tunable gisting tool.
Gimmie, gimmie, gimmie... some AI.

David Brin said...

Alfred I have patents in human-computer-human interface that never went anywhere, perhaps because I am a lousy pitchman. They'd unleash online a dozen communications tools humans already uncosciously use with each other face-to-face. Including gisting.

Ah, alas.

now onward

Tim Wolter said...

Regards the top Republican factotum.

The Salon article you link is nebulous. A Democratic congressman holding hearings says that a low level, sometimes worker for various R campaigns since 2008 said something that sounds really stupid. If there are specifics of when, where, what context I had little luck finding them. Heck I could not even find a photo or bio of this Top Factotum. He does appear to be associated with West Virginia so saying stupid things in favor of coal mining seems plausible.

Was he saying Science generally is a Democrat thing? Or was he referring to the specific studies that were cancelled? Some of the studies mentioned further down in the Salon article do sound as if they are somewhat lacking in rigor. If a person said perhaps that use of un-rigorous science to push a political agenda was a Democrat thing you'd be equally pilloried..but with a bit more ground to stand on.

That having been said, I rather suspect Top Factotum to be the sort of idiot who would say/do lots of stuff for money. He seems to have ended up associated with shifty politics in the Balkans, never a good sign. And campaign hacks should not be hired for real jobs in gov agencies.

I'll put down a marker here....will you apply equal latitude when "some dude said" comes up in the pending Horowitz DOJ Inspector Gen report?

TW/Tacitus