Thursday, November 20, 2008

Why we should ban the undergraduate business major...

===Ban the Business Major?===

Death-innovationMy friend, venture capitalist Bart Stuck, wrote an article called “The Death of Innovation?” questioning the continuing ability of the US electronics high tech industry to innovate. The article was prompted by the October 1996 spin-off of Lucent from AT&T, and with it, Bell Labs – an organization that was funded by cash flow from the telephone monopoly.

”Bell Labs used that money to invent the traveling wave tube, the transistor, lasers, UNIX, as well as 800/700/900 services. It also was a major innovator in loading coils, the coaxial cable, millimeter waveguide, fiber optics and cellular telephony. In the absence of monopolist cashflow, we wondered where new innovation was going to come from – particularly since our review of the top 20 telecom innovations of the previous 25 years suggested that many of them originated from these labs.”

Bart recently reviewed and updated that article and found even more reasons to be depressed over the rate of innovation in America. See: The Death of Innovation (Revisited)

Fundamentally, he believes (and I agree) is the fact that so many bright US students go directly into “business majors” in college, believing that they will thereupon have the skill and the experience and right to manage the engineers and professionals and skilled workers who actually create the products and deliver the services that their companies must try to sell in a competitive marketplace. We have seen the calamity that this kind of thinking has caused.

More than a decade ago, Citi Bank was led by Walter Wriston - a banker - who surrounded himself with bankers, and Citi soared by delivering... well... high quality banking. But with a new century, this changed rapidly, not only at Citi but throughout Wall Street, the London financial centers and corporate boardrooms around the world. I suspect that a careful analysis would show that a 21st Century putsch by business majors -- yes, I mean those guys you knew in college who too a major in “business” or “management” -- spreading like a swarm of locusts, displacing people who actually cared about the company’s core business -- was probably the greatest single factor directly correlatable with corporate mismanagement and demise.

According the Bart Stuck: “Another issue: manufacturing matters! Recall the Brits and the Industrial Revolution: they safeguarded the machinery and plans and techniques For making machinery, eventually some eidetic memory types came to the US and spilled all this, Brits never recovered. Today the conventional thinking is that manufacturing should be outsourced; that is fine, but outsourcing, especially to Asia and to India, coupled with US grad schools in science and engineering filled with Asians/Indians, will lead to these countries matching and then surpassing the US. Our holographic drive play, InPhase, see this In spades: all the partners are in Japan, Korea, China and India. InPhase has unique manufacturing knowhow, won the hard way, by pounding heads on the wall over and over to crack problems. Myriad contract manufacturers Now, with the largest being in China (no small numbers in China), but still the US has lots of manufacturers, but with the drive to look at quarterly results, finance types will cut all the manufacturing out, and this is where the REAL intellectual property lives in products.”

Just-in-time-economicsAlso there’s a matter of Just In Time...I recently wrote an article for the CIA describing "just in time" manufacturing as another example of the same kind of thinking that brought us hyper-leveraged debt instruments. Squeezing every last drop of efficiency without ever considering that squeezing out the last tenth of a percent is not the only consideration. Indeed, that kind of thinking assumes that the conditions of the present will continue, perfectly predictably, for the indefinite future... exactly the kind of thinking that created today’s catastrophe.

Completely lacking in anything remotely resembling a sense of history or imagination, these business types blithely ignored the possibility that a day might come when change and instability would strike, as they did our ancestors... the kind of time when robustness is needed.

Today we tax the hell out of warehoused goods and supplies. Idiocy! Warehoused reserves should get tax BENEFITS since they make companies and society more resilient.

There is a simple reform: ban the undergraduate “business major.” Continue to teach all of the same subjects, but push them all into either:

(1) MBA programs -- which refuse entry to anyone who has not spent at least two years delivering either a product or a service -- or

(2) into professional development courses that do not offer fancy-sounding credentials.

Either way, hammer home the point that the purpose of “management” is not to lord over the mere engineers and lowly service providers. Nor is it to create “innovative credit instruments” that squeeze leverage out of every last drop of fictitious, imaginary debt-wagers. Rather, management is supposed to empower and smooth the way for innovators! So that companies striving to compete with one another can thrive - ultimately - by offering better goods, better services.

This is not a recent quandary. If you want to see how far back it goes, try watching “Executive Suite,” a 1954 Robert Wise film starring William Holden and Barbara Stanwyck. A bit slow as cinema, the movie hammers home the vital importance of product vs. red tape, in a tribute to the better side of capitalism.

There is another metaphor from fiction that would seem to apply, from the Douglas Adams series The Hitchiker’s Guide to the GalaxyIn book #3 (I think), our heroes find themselves on the “C Ark” from Golgafrincham, carrying the entire planet’s supply of “middle-men, managers, account executives and factotums” who had been tricked aboard and sent away by the two-thirds of the home population, who, thereupon, ended their long dark era and entered a golden age.

It’s not that bad here on Earth. Not yet. But stay tuned.

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The New Scientist Magazine asked six leading writers for their thoughts on the future of science fiction. It special feature also covers the latest science-fiction novels, writers to watch, and results a poll of all-time favorite sci-fi films and novels. Catch Margaret Atwood (implicitly) admitting she is an SF author. And genuine wisdom from that wise-guy, Kim Stanley Robinson.

See an absolutely stunning “Edge” course and discussion of human psychology, behavioral economics and the sudden renewal of interest in what use to be called “subliminal perception.”

imagesSee a new book: Generation We: How Millennial Youth are Taking Over America And Changing Our World Forever By Eric Greenberg and Karl Weber. It makes the point -- that we may be emerging, at last, from the shadow of the Boomers, who may be best known for one accomplishment – raising a super next generation.

The Singularity Summit - held recently near the Googleplex - had some interesting riffs. Here’s a summary.

“J. Storrs Hall suggested that instead of fixed moral rules (which a super smart AI with access to its own source code could change later anyway) progenitors should try to inculcate something like a conscience into the AIs they foster. A conscience allows humans to extend and apply moral rules flexibly in new and different contexts. One rule of thumb that Hall would like to see implemented in AIs is: "Ideas should compete; bodies should cooperate." He also suggested that AIs (robots) should be open source. Hall said that his friend economist Robin Hanson pointed out to him that we already live with superhuman psychopaths—modern corporations—and we're not all dead. Part of what reins in corporations is transparency, e.g., the requirement that outsiders audit their books. Indeed, governments are also superhuman psychopaths, and generally the less transparent a government the more likely it is to commit atrocities. So the idea here is that more AI source code is inspected, the more likely we are to trust them. Finally, Hall also suggested that AIs also be instilled with the Boy Scout Law.”

So many thoughts, so little time....

The Planetary Society will be rolling out "Beyond the Moon: A Roadmap to Space" on Thursday (Nov 13) at the National Press Club in Washington. Have a look.

exorariumMy partner in crime on the Exorarium Project -- Professor and world renowned tech artist Sheldon Brown, if showing installations of his vivid and way-cool/fun SCALABLE CITY project at a number of locales. Drop in if you can! In Los Angeles at the (Hollywood) LA Municipal Art Gallery. Sheldon is giving a talk there in the CONVERSATIONS WITH ARTISTS SERIESThe Scalable City will also open at the Beall Center for Art and Technology in January, and in Rio de Janeiro in February, and at EPCOT center in March.

Is this one for the predictions registry? Somewhat reminiscent of my short story “The Giving Plague” or Greg Bear’s VITALS -- SEED Magazine is citing evidence “... that a significant factor in why some countries exhibit higher levels of neuroticism than others may be the prevalence of the parasite Toxoplasma gondii. The study also indicates that it may influence a society's preference for strict laws, an expression of uncertainty avoidance, and its valuation of 'masculine' priorities such as competitiveness and financial success over 'feminine' values like relationship-building.” Infected men tended to have lower levels of intelligence, superego strength and novelty-seeking, while infected women exhibited higher levels of intelligence, superego strength and warmth. Infected people of both sexes tend to be susceptible to feelings of guilt.

In 2000, Webster reported that rats infected with Toxoplasma are less fearful of and, in some cases, can even be attracted to their feline predators. She surmised that the parasite subtly manipulates a rat's behavior to increase the rodent's chances of being eaten by a cat—the only animal in which it can reproduce—thereby upping the odds of the parasite reproducing. But the human “mutualist or commensal” relationship seems to be far more complex.

A search for Dyson Spheres has been carried out using the 250,000 source database of the IRAS infrared satellite which covered 96% of the sky. The search has used the Calgary data collection of the IRAS Low Resolution Spectrometer (LRS) to look for fits to blackbody spectra. Searches have been conducted for both pure (fully cloaked) and partial Dyson Spheres in the blackbody temperature region 100 < T < 600 deg K. Other stellar signatures that resemble a Dyson Sphere are reviewed. When these signatures are used to eliminate sources that mimic Dyson Spheres very few candidates remain and even these are ambiguous.

Previously unknown work by Stanislaw Lem discovered. An anti-Stalin opera that he hid between the pages of a ‘botched crime novel’ and never showed anyone....

If the topic interests you, a moving documentary by a lovely husband and wife film company near me -- "The Invisible Ones: Homeless Combat Veterans," by a pair of local San Diego film makers.

Well worth a closer look, David Price and his partners have developed their “debate graph” concept a bit farther. Very vivid. Drop by, explore and offer feedback?

Now that the famed Clarion science fiction writers’ workshop has moved to UCSD (San Diego), there are fascinating upshots. One is the publication of some thoughts by Jim Shea including an interview with National Endowment for the Arts director Dana Gioia. It may be the first time that anyone from NEA has made statements like this about science fiction and fantasy.

“Twentieth century critics misunderstood and marginalized both science fiction and fantasy. The celebration of the novel’s “great tradition” of social and psychological realism treated romance as a mode of children’s literature. If it was considered at all, it was mocked or dismissed. Probably only George Orwell and Aldous Huxley escaped censure because their dystopian novels had enormous political and social impact. (And they demonstrated their bona fides by writing realist novels earlier.)

... Modernism celebrated realism above all other modes of fiction. I understand the bias of Modernist critics, but their critical monomania marginalized some of the best fiction. There have always been great fiction writers like Poe, Kipling, Stevenson, Borges, Calvino, Kafka, and Tolkien for whom realism was not the chosen mode. To exclude them from any survey of modern literature is to mischaracterize the last two centuries.... I’ve seen a bit of change lately. Very slowly the literary establishment has grudgingly accepted fantasy and science fiction—mostly because of the continuing popularity of those genres in an era in which traditional literary reading has declined.”

See a cool blog by my collaborator Jeff Carlson, author of PLAGUE YEAR!

Remember when I mused that Sauron might the real good guy, or at least have a point, as opposed to hose haughty, oppressive elf-lords? Well, Stan Nicholls has run with the idea...

There are still attempts to unify science with metaphysics. Most have been dumb. A few have been charming. On rare occasions, they have even offered insights that rise above the level of cliches. Here is one that might deserve a glimpse. In any event, the summary contains some interesting (and somewhat informed) imagery. (Note, I say this as one who has repeatedly indulged himself in speculative metaphysics! As all of you well know.)

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Trying desperately to finish that story in time for part II to run in Baen's Universe Magazine... I have to make this a quick post of misc wonders the have piled up.

Tune in to the History Channel on December 1st (9-11pm) for “The Next Nostrodamus?”... featuring some skeptical riffs by yours truly, trying to hold up a candle in the wind.


sociotard said...

I don't think Golgafrincham's plan worked out so well. They all died from a plague spread by unsanitized public telephones. (the telephone sanitizers were on ship C)

Anonymous said...

As an engineer I have always had issues with "Business Majors", I once had an intern who was studying "Engineering Management" - Totally useless he had not been taught any of the basic engineering.
On the financial excesses I believe that along with the "Pay peanuts and get Monkeys" there needs to be "Pay a fortune and get Loonies" - If sensible and sane people get paid too much for a stressful job then they take the money and run, people who have been paid millions and continue in a high stress position have made a very strange choice - why would you expect their other decisions to be any more sensible?
PS - I really enjoy your books and your Blog

Anonymous said...

Frankly, I'd dump the MBAs too. One of the biggest problems with the whole business school approach is that it attempts to reduce all business to a single paradigm. In essence, they operate on the principle that there is no difference between selling computers and selling soft drinks. John Scully proved that wrong 20 years ago. They also reduce people to processes. And the processes, no matter how ridiculous or time-wasting, rule. When you get right down to it, it's all very Platonic.

matthew said...

I think we should consider running more manufacturing concerns as not for profit organizations.

Where in the great rulebook of business does it say that manufacturing cannot be for the benefit of our nation (e.g. regional employment, reserve capacity on hand for crisis conditions, expanding technical capability) instead of the enrichment of a few institutional investors?

With all the dubious moral and legal issues in corporate behavior isn't it time to review some basic assumptions? Just as the big winners out of the banking crisis are turning out to be credit unions, we can find a silver lining in the decline of regional manufacturing.

Acacia H. said...

Quick question for those who actually can understand the math behind stellar mechanics... how quickly once a core collapse occurs does a supernova manifest destructive effects? Say if you were in a spaceship in the system.

And if a decent-sized black hole were to pass through the center of a star (at a slow enough speed), would that initiate a supernova in stars of sufficient mass?

(I'd love to see a timeline on the physical manifestations that happen during a supernova, but I've not been able to find anything online. For some reason, the thought of an advanced-enough stellar civilization using induced gravity-wells and induced supernova to destroy enemies with better weapons technology intrigues me as a potential plot point in a short story.)

Robert A. Howard, Tangents Reviews

Acacia H. said...

They found a macroscopic single cell organism that can actually leave trails in sediments. Scientists believe this may rewrite views on early evolutionary theory.

Personally? It's kind of disturbing and cool at the same time that something this big (up to a little more than an inch long) can exist and yet be a single-celled organism. All I can think of is that classic movie "The Blob" (though they could always claim that the Blob was multi-cellular in nature).

Rob H.

Anonymous said...

The movie Star Trek:Generations had something about blowing up stars I think. Been a while since I watched it, so I can't remember the particulars.

Dwight Williams said...

The Blob was almost certainly multicellular, if nothing else besides merely lethal.

As for father would agree to some extent. He started out actually working with job-seekers before being elevated to any kind of supervisory capacity over his colleagues in that work.

Anonymous said...

A perceptive friend of mine observed that "America was once a nation of tinkerers and inventors. Now we have become a nation of....psychology majors."

My part in countering this is the middle school robotics class I do annually.

The only rules for design are:
No flamethrowers
No hand grenades
No live animals.
Oh, and try to make weight, but I specifically tell them that if they can find a way to cheat Sir Isaac I am ok with that.
It will not be said that Tacitus discouraged the future inventor of the Graviton Distortion Device just because she showed up with a combat robot that weighed three pounds and had the mass of a Sherman tank.


Dwight Williams said...

Starkillers? Nova bombs? Diane Duane was dealing with that in her Trek novels first, I believe.

Although the current iteration of Brainiac was caught playing with such devices this past month or two in the Superman comic books.

Anonymous said...

Robert said, "Personally? It's kind of disturbing and cool at the same time that something this big (up to a little more than an inch long) can exist and yet be a single-celled organism."

That's nothing:

Acacia H. said...

Okay. Technically bird eggs are single-celled. However, they are not a viable organism on their own and go through multiple cell divisions in creating a new ostrich. You don't see them running off and eating other things now, do you? ;)

Though this could explain Republican Ostriches. ^^

Ilithi Dragon said...

Trilithium, a waste product of warp engines, is a fusion inhibitor, and could be refined into a weaponized form that, when detonated inside of a star, caused the star's fusion cycle to rapidly and catostrophically shut down, effectively sparking a supernova. Dr. Soran 'acquired' a small but significant quantity of the material from the Romulans, in exchange for doing research to refine the weapon, with the real purpose of using it to collapse several stars so he could return to the 'Nexus.'

Also, who'd'a thunk that Voyager's macrovirus originated on Earth?

Acacia H. said...

Well, it's easy to come up with a technobabble method of blowing up stars. What I'm looking into is more scientifically-sound methods and the timing involved in detonating a star (as you don't want to be at ground zero when it blows).

Indeed, a few blogs back on Contrary Brin, we did go into some specifics on detonating stars and super-science methods of doing just that.

Personally, I feel that if you're writing science fiction and there is an existing method of doing something (like blowing up a planet or a star), then it's better to use that method than just wave a magic wand, call it science, and make it happen. Some of the better Star Trek episodes did just that. The sloppier episodes just used magical thinking and transporter antics to cure everything from paralysis to diseases. Hell, I'm surprised they didn't do an episode of someone using a Transporter to bring back the recently deceased. *rolls eyes*

Relying on technomagical deus ex machina to bring about results (or even cause them) is a sign of laziness and sloppy writing and should be avoided when possible. When science fiction shows do their research, it shows with the quality of the episode. When they "make it so" with magical thinking, the episode will most often end up a failure.

Rob H.

B. Dewhirst said...

MBAs are doing little more than buying a badge of (upper) class status, particularly the ones which get them from the Ivy League schools.

[Insert rant about democratic worker control here.]

Matt Metcalf said...

Just to play devil's advocate... if you get rid of all of the managers, you'll have to put engineers and technical people into management positions (not that I disagree with that strategy, as a programming manager who came up through the ranks). But at some point that means that you're promoting people into jobs where they are managing other people being innovative, rather than themselves innovating.

I think there is some value in business majors... I just think that schools should require at least 2-4 years of real-world experience before granting such a major, and that companies should realize that somebody fresh out of school with no knowledge of engineering should not be making decisions about engineering projects.

Ilithi Dragon said...

An interesting look at how social networking is help building an 'age of amateurs', to use Dr. Brin's term, in our new generations.

@Rob H: I definitely agree with you - plots based on real science (or reasonable extrapolations of real science) tend to be better than the out-of-the-hat plot devices - the same goes for carefully developed limitations to those devices ('magic' or otherwise) to prevent them from becoming too powerful 'cure-alls', and carefully developing the plot to remain consistent with the lore created by past episodes/chapters/volumes/books/etc. I'm just an uber Trek geek. ^_^

Acacia H. said...

As a brief aside, one interesting thing about the computer game "Dreamfall: The Longest Journey" (set in the year 2219) was that the primary protagonist's father was a manager of a biotechnology firm who longed for the days when he could do actual research. In short, he was a bioscientist who was promoted into a management position because of his knowledge in the biotechnology field rather than having an MBA.

Rob H.

Jumper said...

I recall something recent about neutronium coming in several "flavors," not just one... seed a star with the right flavor of neutronium, maybe?

Lots to comment on here today. I, too, have been leery of "just in time" extremes. There seems to be close to zero food reserves in the US these days. I call that a national security issue.

I also think more open source philosophy should be adapted here. I might be wrong, but I am under the impression that the US has produced zero open-source drug research lately. I read a while back about all the universities patenting their discoveries for funds to flow back to the university, which has a certain amount of sense, but ALL discoveries, especially useful treatments? It should be questioned.

Some of the respondents to the "future of SF" question did not do well, in my view. I have one direction mostly unexplored in mind, and David named it near the end of the post: speculative theology. The genre such as it is has been represented most recently by the dreaded "Left Behind" junk, but there is room, oh yes. Years ago, for example, there was one tale, and I can't remember particulars, wherein it is found that Jehovah was basically a real entity, but with a backstory somewhat amusing, as the "lowest bidder" for the construction project. I was never able to track down the rest of the serialized story. And of course Adams and Vonnegut approached if not claimed similar territory...

Rob Perkins said...

A couple of notes:

-- The phone sanitizers were on the B ark right along with the filmmakers and MBA's.
-- Trilithium is useless for imploding a star. What you need is to open thousands of jump points into hyperspace at the core of the star. Alternatively, you could merely suppress the charge of the electrons in the star with a ray gun, at which point Speaker to Animals will confiscate the ray gun and declare that he is the leader of the expedition.

Jumper said...

'Scuse me, "speculative metaphysics."

Futuristic SF is always caught in a trap, Mandelbrot et al made it clear, post-Asimov, that there will always be a completely unforseen shift which will to us in our present, seem the defining character of that age. The future will be "rough." This appears to frustrate LeGuinn and others. One solution is to just play, as in Kiln People, but for those who want to be Seriously Right it is a conundrum (and no, I didn't miss the very serious subtext of Kiln People - in fact, it's what stays with me)

That's why SF authors do it well, and others seem a bit lost (I'm thinking Roth, although I confess I didn't read The Plot Against America - and strictly speaking it's alternate-world fiction)

True, all futurist fiction is seen by necessity as at least somewhat always SF. Not all SF is futurist. Simak and many others did lots of in-the-present stuff. Of course that involved science, usually. Or something like it.

Jumper said...

And to think I once knew pretty much all there was to know about superhero comics. Sigh.

That is all. Carry on!

Fake_William_Shatner said...

I'd like to add my own fictional matter/energy term to the fray here;

Fictons are radiated by the function of brains. In small quantities, they are harmless and unnoticeable. However, if many minds come together to try to solve a problem -- the accumulative increase in mental energy is mitigated by the build-up of fictons. Popularity and politics might also be factors, but leave it to fictons to make a room full of intelligent people become attracted to the dumbest ideas.

Consequently, the most commonly held beliefs are usually wrong, due to Ficton buildup. The longer an idea is around, the more full of Ficton radiation it becomes.

>> At a guess -- I don't think a Black Hole would cause a supernova. The gravity from the black hole would draw off the matter from the star, even before they connected.

The slamming of all that matter into the gravity well of the black hole, would probably release really hard neutrino, gamma and x-ray radiation. So you'd be WORSE off than being in a supernova, as far as beams of energy that could cook you. The energy would probably pulse, due to the unequal distribution of mass. And of course, you have those matter streams at the poles of the black hole, where some stuff actually does escape, but only because it is being forced up by a very huge magnetic field caused by the matter going at very high speeds.

>> It is a real concern for me the wrist slap that Liebermann got. Whatever votes he will or won't be helping with, will not make up for all the DNC democrats leaping for Lobbyist money, without a concern for reprisal. If you don't set an example for people who backstab you now and again -- you only encourage more of it.

The Dems are going to need all ores in the water to move against the financial currents that are sucking us down into the worldpool called the "Ecopalypse" (I liked Greater Depression, but apparently, that wasn't over the top enough). Already, I've learned from Republican radio, that the stock market is going down because of the threat that Barrack Obama "might" raise capital gains taxes, and this will signal the apocalypse or something, for Trust Fund kids hanging out at the pool. Silly me, I was thinking it was a breakdown in the ratings system to valuate companies, huge masses of debt, reduced consumer confidence, over a Quadrillion in fantasy dollars in the derivatives market, two wars draining our economy and productivity, offshoring of manufacturing and a reliance on intellectual property to maintain a balance of trade, etcetera, etcetera.

Well, I guess no actual Conservative failures can ever equal the speculative future deeds of Liberals to ruin the country. Pay not attention to the better and more stable economies when taxes were higher -- we need to just know that things were better under Bush with no oversight and no impediments to the free market. All the problems with the market, can be attributed to stupid consumers, and the greed of Union members. By giving financial incentives to the poor and middle class, you are reducing the incentive to the extremely wealthy. If rich people are confined to only one Bentley, and one Leer Jet, this country will hit the plumbing.

parSec said...

Commenting on the "Orcs" book David linked to, this seems like a huge departure from the author's intent. Unlike Eoin Colfer's new Hitchhiker's book which, good or bad, at least has the fact that Adams himself is on record as unsatisfied at the downer ending of Mostly Harmless. Tolkien was pretty straightforward about the origins and motivations (or lack thereof) of orcs. They were there so Gimli and Legolas could have something to count. I now want to read the book just to be angry with it. I'm all for relativism and understanding when there's real ambiguity, but if you read the other LotR material it's pretty clear that Middle Earth is unabashedly Manichean, and frankly it's old and respected enough that that should be okay. Let's at least leave good and evil the reservations, can't we?

Fake_William_Shatner said...

E=MC2 finally proven.

According to the conventional model of particle physics, protons and neutrons comprise smaller particles known as quarks, which in turn are bound by gluons.
The odd thing is this: the mass of gluons is zero and the mass of quarks is only five percent. Where, therefore, is the missing 95 percent?
The answer, according to the study published in the US journal Science on Thursday, comes from the energy from the movements and interactions of quarks and gluons.
In other words, energy and mass are equivalent, as Einstein proposed in his Special Theory of Relativity in 1905.
The e=mc2 formula shows that mass can be converted into energy, and energy can be converted into mass

I ponder sometimes how we are all Phantoms. The electron is as far from the proton by scale, as Jupiter is from the sun. Or, if you had a pixel on a screen that represented a proton -- the electron would be another pixel at the other end -- of a screen that was 3 miles wide. That is Hi-Def.

Then consider, that the quarks that make up that proton, are only 5% of the mass we think they are, and it is only due to their relative speed.

No wonder after a super-nova or a collapsed neutron star, it is theorized that there is some matter at the center that is a thousand times more dense than anything we've come across -- there certainly is room for denser matter.

My own theory is that Quarks are made of folds in space-time, that open up to a higher dimension -- so everything, is merely wave forms and the "quantum packets" are a byproduct of energy only exchanging on peaks.

We truly are phantoms. Yet empty space isn't empty at all.

Cliff said...

I agree with what Duncan Cairncross said up there at the top - I see people in the engineering world who not only work 80 hours a week but feel I should, too. My major paranoia is that the thumbscrews will come down and I will be forced to sacrifice my life to technical writing.

Also, william_shatner, I agree with you on Liebermann. I keep hearing rumors that he's actually been neutralized, or that he'll get his over the long run, but I'm pessimistic on this matter.

Jumper said...

I sort of promised to shut up. But it's because of David I yesterday recognized this gem I found over at Wictionary in the section on "protologisms":

"Angertainment" - It's pretty self-explanatory. It's on the radio. And elsewhere too.

sociotard said...

Oh, how I hate portmanteaux. IhatethemIhatethemIhatethem.

Sure, some are useful and arguably needed (like Cyborg), but most are just crap.

Jumper said...

It's a joke word. It's a frankenword. It's Lettermany.

Anonymous said...

I remember being impressed by the bas-relief decor on the facade of Carnegie Mellon's Graduate School of Industrial Administration. Images of all sorts of heavy-muscle Industry at Work stuff. Gears, trains, fields of grain, dams. (NB: 11 year old memories.)

Inside, lots of guys and girls trying to impress their profs by dressing in suits and putting just the right buzzwords in their papers. And desperately trying to get into the hot new finance course. Run a factory? Create a product? Blah! Making money but juggling money is where it is at.

The professors of the management and marketing courses I took quietly told us engineers that they liked us better.

* * *

I wouldn't ban MBAs or undergrad business degrees. I would just require applicants to be neutered.

* * *

Bruce Sterling has shuttered his "Viridian Design Project" to go into even more esoteric frankly-I-don't-get-it realms of product Design. But his final Viridian Note has some very interesting thoughts on ridding one's life of clutter.

Fake_William_Shatner said...

>> Dyson Spheres: This sounds like a great idea -- if you are stuck with technology like we humans currently enjoy.

However, I think that we will discover new energy sources, that are relatively limitless. Things like Zero Point Energy and such, where we use a few quantum level tricks to get something for nothing.

I also think that our population will peak, and if we ever get beyond our current "competitive" streak, and the creation of need and want in order to profit from fulfilling the basics, humans are going to get a lot more thoughtful. We already have a lot of interesting advances in life extension -- couple that with cyber enhancements, and re-growing organs from your own stem cells, and I think we will have humans able to triple their lifespan in 50 years. Maybe go to a thousand years in another few generations. So, I think we will reduce our growth to "maintenance" levels in the not so far future.

I think the Universe is teeming with alien races, and a few Older races, who maintain a total lack of warfare. It is only through a few absolute laws; like hands off on primitive cultures, that we don't see any. We won't find radio traces unless really lucky, because we've only had them a little over 50 years, and all of ours are going to become compressed and encrypted and will probably resemble static background in a few more years.

--- net result; Dyson Spheres are huge projects, and the level of advancement of a race would required would happen AFTER such a race would lose interest in them. Races at this level, don't need to reproduce because they would rarely die. Novelty and "gardening" on a planet scale would be an interest, if they don't just become a total cyber-culture, find a dead planet and build their own Matrix.

So, many of the sci-fi novels probably get it wrong, where they just perpetuate the ideas of how humans form societies and just add laser beams. Star Trek had a lot of interesting themes -- but underneath it all, humans were humans. If you look at our own society, 300 and to 400 years ago, there are fundamental changes to marriage, government, and human interaction. If you get rid of NEEDS, you fundamentally change society. If you get rid of disease and death -- you change it fundamentally. We will probably have much longer lifespans, before we get a working teleportation device.

Case in point is your link to this article on parasites. Good stuff. Humans are affected by parasites -- even in America. They are so ubiquitous, that doctors and coroners ignore them, except for forensic purposes. In a recent survey of bacteria on hands; they found about 4,500 species on 50+ individuals. The number of "common" bacteria was only 5%, and only 15% between left and right hands of the same person. That's kind of mind-blowing to me. I thought you'd see something like an adapted symbiotic bacteria like e-coli and lactobacillus. But there HAS TO BE an effect by all this bacteria and parasites. We think of history of deterministic and based upon ideals, technology and such.

However, I think of the grad histories and leaders as merely explanations of an epidemiological battle. Cortez captured the Aztek and Incan empire, because the Spanish had more developed immune systems and were far dirtier people from a bacteria point of view. Even the English, used Yellow Fever and Alcohol to conquer much of America. In the war between the North and South; twice as many people died from disease as died from bullets. The North might have developed rifled guns -- but the real decider in the outcome may have been that they had drier, clean socks. Make the other side ill, and keep up your immune system. At least in more primitive times, without good provisions and medicine, you might have won more battles by sending out the village idiot to bleed on the other side and ignored weapons altogether.

In 2000, Webster reported that rats infected with Toxoplasma are less fearful of and, in some cases, can even be attracted to their feline predators. She surmised that the parasite subtly manipulates a rat's behavior to increase the rodent's chances of being eaten by a cat—the only animal in which it can reproduce—thereby upping the odds of the parasite reproducing.

We've wondered about the "lemming like" behavior of NeoCons and Ostriches. Maybe a parasite explains their ideals of protecting the wealth of only the most parasitic Americans at the top. Of course, trying to change minds by calling someone a "rat with toxoyplasmosis" is kind of a harder sell than calling them an Ostrich. I'd say that it would have been easier calling them "Romaantics" which almost sounds like a compliment.

>> Other people have thought that American behavior could be explained by all the toxic waste we put in the water supply in the form of Fluoride (derived from Aluminum production -- we don't use the organic version).

Lafferty hints that it may be sexual attraction that gives the aggressive parasite infected men an advantage socially. Well, this would explain my teen years, and that I couldn't get a date, even while I looked almost exactly like the guy from Princess bride, with the physique of Barishnikoff. I just smelled wrong.

While I've always suspected that most people are missing something indefinable, that makes them "not all there" -- it may be that I just wasn't infected in the right way. I could use some more aggression, and my IQ seems to have always stood in the way of advancement and coping with other people. So, sign me up for the Toxoplasma and a few tape worms to thin my midsection while you are at it.

Fake_William_Shatner said...

Stephen Jones said;
I wouldn't ban MBAs or undergrad business degrees. I would just require applicants to be neutered.

Thanks. I'm almost crying with laughter right now...

NoOne said...

Sorry to nitpick, but when I see headlines like E=mc^2 "proven by experiment", I have to protest.

What these scientists have shown is that the interactions of gluons with quarks sets up the masses of light hadrons. (Protons are hadrons with a baryon number of one.) In other words, they carried out a quantum chromodynamics (QCD) simulation and used the results to explain the origin of proton mass. This is very different from what the sensationalist title says since QCD (as far as I know) ought to have Lorentz invariance built in.

A better summary with a link to the original paper is here.

Fake_William_Shatner said...

If anyone could give me feedback on my "11 reasons why we shouldn't bail out the automakers" I'd appreciate it. I spent about 15 minutes on making that, and I'd like a return on that investment.

However, I could come up with 11 reasons why we should -- but the reasons to do it, would hinge on getting a good buyout deal. Something we are not going to get if this happens before January 20th.

>> I have an idea to CURE all our economic problems in America. We can keep our regressive tax structure, our millionaire bailout policy, and even save the Derivatives market.

Merely print up and give every American in the country $250 Million dollars. Then crooks like Karl Rove, will only be 3% richer than you are as a reward for all their evil deeds.

We could even pay off the Quadrillion in derivatives for the fat-cats. Of course, you would spread that out over three easy payments -- we don't want to do something outlandish, after all.

>> Get rid of all your debts ASAP. If we go into a mega-recession, then whatever debts you have will be paid for by very dear dollars. The Robber Barons, would enjoy a recession, because it means that all the money they stole, becomes more valuable. Printing up money for debts -- means paying THEM with worthless money after all.

Greenspan and the PTB have been fighting inflation more than any disease in the history of mankind for the past 3 decades. We all worry about Zimbabwe-style hyperinflation but it isn't the WORST thing.

The worst is high inflation followed by extreme recession. It's almost as if George Bush will magically get his tri-fecta again. Isn't that a hat-trick on lucky coincidences that help him out?

David Brin said...

Matt, the aim is not to eliminate all MBAs but to either offer training to engineer (or goods/services oriented) managers or else to make the business guys remember that they serve a company that makes or does stuff. The stuff does not serve their paper-pushing.

Stefan, I never really understood what Bruce was hoping to accomplish with Viridian. I liked all the stated goals, and figured the attempt to lead a "follow me!" mass movement would fail in persuasiveness due to pomposity.

OTOH, this design thing seems much more suitable, since pretentiousness is not a drawback to "design" but a feature!

Yes, Wright and Gehry and LeCorbusier let it rule over any thought of useful functionality. But Bruce really is addicted to coolness is the sense of stuff actually working. I think he'll do well and I wish him well.

Me, I have dozens of design sketches for things like alternative cell phone designs. But just as with Holocene, I never had it in me to grab lapels, As, I am told, one has to do. Alas.

Laurie said...

Re: Business Majors

Read this and weep:

Carl M. said...

Regarding business majors, here's a better idea: put some of the business school courses into the core curriculum! Instead of taking a course in how to please a Marxist literature professor, or doing Freudian analysis of Shakespeare plays, how about learning enough about the nuts and bolts of our society to be able to understand the world we live in.

Accounting: yes, you can theoretically do business without formal accounting. But you cannot comply with the IRS if you do so.

Finance: with 401(k)s, we are all investors.

Management: if we are going to have the worker control of the ownership of production that aforementioned Marxist literature professor wants, the the workers damn well better know how to manage themselves.

Statistics: far more useful to the average person than calculus.

Law: would be kind of nice if people knew the laws they lived under.

First level courses in these subjects could start in grade school.

Tony Fisk said...

Is this a good time to confess I possess half an MBA?

I don't think Stefan's solution will work as a half measure!

(I did a postgraduate diploma some years ago. Maybe my preceding education inoculated me?)

Just in Time processing is, like any way of looking at something, a tool. Very useful in improving matters by certain measures of efficiency, but it's not the whole story (I sometimes joke that those Catbert folks who were once Personnel Officers, who became Human Resource Managers will ultimately morph into Organic Asset Facilitators)

Speaking of stories, Daniel Goldratt's 'The Goal' is an OK novel whose main point is to describe his ideas on how to improve manufacturing processes. The main difference from a textbook is that it's told from the viewpoint of people who *do* care about the company and the people that comprise it. It's worth a read if you can find one in the library. You will recognise a 'just in time' flavour, although he describes it in terms of identifying and dealing with bottlenecks. I have expanded on JIT to suggest that workers should be free to migrate up and down the line in response to bottlenecks (I even suggested that people migrate between companies to fix the cash flow bottlenecks cureently plaguing us, but a half degree only has so much voice.)

Ricardo Semler can't abide MBAs either.


Final note, was the chap discussing AI consciences *really* called 'Hall'??

'flaming': supernovae? what can I say?

Fake_William_Shatner said...

NoOne said...
Sorry to nitpick, but when I see headlines like E=mc^2 "proven by experiment", I have to protest.

Well, I got excited by Neal Boortz this morning trying to blame the exit of the stock market because people were afraid of capital gains. Listen you NeoCon cheerleading nimrod, I'll trade a 30% tax on gains in a market like we had in the 90's over the 15% tax on the falling market we have with your free market fat cats any day of the week.

But, I knew that hackneyed summary that didn't include Lorentz invariance was going to piss off someone. Thanks for almost clearing that up -- but your link requires a subscription.

I think it's misleading to call a Proton a "Protons are hadrons with a baryon number of one." by the way -- because they've only named these things to sound like they know what hit the gold wall in their little super collider. You could just as well call a Hadron an Angel. The Chromodynamics should be renamed "a light show." More people would get into high energy physics if they were just a little more honest with it. "OK, this entire math thing we've got and these particles, they are assumptions based upon the mass and energy of something we can only estimate after doing the same thing a hundred times, and it went 'splat' in a way we could detect, when we gave a proton the energy of a Toyota Camry moving at 70 miles per hour."

"What is one Goo? Two well polished Goops." Hopefully, by this point, the person asking you to explain has gone away after nodding their head and pretending to understand.

According to the quark model[1], the properties of hadrons are primarily determined by their so-called valence quarks. For example, a proton is composed of two up quarks (each with electric charge +2/3) and one down quark (with electric charge -1/3).

I have to wonder with this new idea that the motion of quarks adds to their mass -- that perhaps Electrons might be even less massive at rest. The relative zippy motion of electrons orbiting around protons has to add mass, so this must be conferred to the Quark, or Hadron, or dancing Angel inside. Does this change the relative makeup or number of quarks in the model, or does everything gain a few shoe sizes equally?

I'm guessing that the number of particles in a proton, were assumed based upon the number of sparks that get blown off when you collide two protons, and working back to the weight of that proton. Since the electron is close to the weight of one of these divisible units, they assume it is one unit. Well, if 95% of the mass is due to motion, then the extra motion of the electron, has to effect the mass of the unit making up the electron. So either this is a different particle than the one in the Proton, or there are more particles in the proton -- that make sense? The electron has a lighter particle moving fast, or the Proton has a larger number of particles moving relatively slower. I'm sure we will get a "weight-it-on" particle, that does nothing else but sit in a Proton and making it heavier.

And, we don't know if it is particles or how many there are that get blown out of a proton, because when they strike the detector -- the act of interacting with other atoms, might force a wave form to release its energy as an "all or nothing deal" -- hence, once again, a wave looks like a particle. Until we use some sort of "quantum smasher" to inspect what a Proton looks like, we may not ever know this answer for certain.

We don't even know if the Quarks aren't the same ones in the Proton and Electron and we are just catching them in two different states because they are there when we shoot a particle into the atom. A neutron could be a small-orbit quantum grouping, and electron -- protons the larger orbit groupings. How could anyone prove that wrong? We have some very useful and consistent assumptions -- and we need to have some way to separate absolute stone cold "observations" from the speculation. And that is pretty hard when we get this small.

Fake_William_Shatner said...

Tony Fisk said...
Is this a good time to confess I possess half an MBA?

I don't think Stefan's solution will work as a half measure!

Half a nut or half an ovary....

should make procreation like Russian Roulette.

>> I suspect that the MBA process, is to give corporate structures people who "think the right way" and preserve the status quo -- much more than any sort of enhanced charisma when dealing with people.

Have you SEEN some of the management training? "This person is an introvert/extrovert..." -- if you are uncomfortable and don't know what you are talking about, this tends to make people introverted. Like, you might be shy, or you might not be impressive naked -- is THIS some matrix that will give someone a personality and allow them to deal with an employee? No. But hey, its something we can put on a test and make you think about people more as units of labor.

I used one of those Microsoft packages once to plan a project. You estimated the number of units of labor and hours of work, and got critical paths for executing the task -- I mean project.

What I discovered was, that if I didn't use the project management software, I had twice as much time to do something useful.

>> Why do we not have more CEOs if the pay is so great? Under market theory, we are told, that the supply of people willing and able to become CEOs would go up, lowering prices.

Here's what I think; You knew Mr. X as a pledge in his fraternity at Harvard. Now, you go to the same Country Club as Mr. X. Mr. Y and Z are also at the country club -- that's why the membership costs $500,000, it certainly isn't for the down-payment on a Steak every Thursday. So, you get on a board with Mr. X company, and vote him pay raises. You get put as CEO of Mr. Y's company, because you have great contacts -- that helps Mr. Y's company behind the scenes gain more influence. Mr. Z then puts someone from your Company, on his Board of Directors. Why? Because that person has been vetted by you, and everyone is going to do just fine.

That's also why Joe Lieberman got a spank on the wrist. It's all one big club, and we see the floor show once a year -- no hard feelings between cast members and King Duncan is dating Lady McBeth when they aren't doing curtain calls.

An MBA gets looked at for Executive Positions for Three Reasons:
1) They have enough money to waste on an MBA degree.
2) The training of an MBA, teaches you about Supply and Demand, humans as labor units, and makes you spend hours and hours stuffing your head with the "right answers" about crap that cannot possibly have a right answer because everyone is competing with each other. Do you always move the knight to Queen's 4? No. But that might be on the test, so you learn it.
3) The Mob needs people it can trust. And you have been part-way through the vetting process. The other part of the "successful MBA equation" is if you or someone you know is in the Country Club -- or maybe you know some important people? Then you can add to a companies "sphere of influence." Other people might call this the "lucky sperm club."

If we follow Stefan's solution, we will at least give future sperm from the unlucky ones a fighting chance.

If you want to be successful in business; learn the catch phrases, repeat them often, only choose interesting anecdotes that you've heard the other successful people use. If you want to be an entrepreneur -- forget everything I just said -- but eventually you are going to have to hire some smuck like this to get money from his dad to get your company off the ground.

-- anyway, that's my two cents. I could be wrong.

Tony Fisk said... went 'splat' in a way we could detect, when we gave a proton the energy of a Toyota Camry moving at 70 miles per hour.

The highest energy cosmic rays (~ 1E20 eV) detected have been described as having the same amount of energy as a well-hit tennis ball. Since the LHC can impart only 1Tev (barely 0.000001% of this energy) to its particles, I don't see it as being recycled as a tennis ball server.

As for electrons adding mass by whizzing around protons, I think they're actually doing Rolf Harris impersonations as they wobble around in a standing wave orbital.

('Tie me bar-y-on down, sport, tie me bar-y-on down...' who needs strange matter? This is enough to make anything implode!)

I can see that a lot of people suspect MBAs as weighing as much as duck. Like the guy in one of Larson's cartoon, I think I forgot mine! It would explain why I never rose in the corporate ranks.

Tony Fisk said...

...Oh yes, angels aren't protons, they're composed of dark matter (ref: 'His Dark Materials', by Philip Pulman)

Protons are 'Goodies' who gather all those Rolf Harrises to them.

'phythir': the curse of a lisping nobleman

Tony Fisk said...

On a more serious note:

New world order has US sharing centre stage

THE leading American intelligence organisation has warned that the world is entering an unstable and unpredictable period in which the advance of Western-style democracy cannot be taken for granted.

Competition for dwindling natural resources, particularly fossil fuels, could lead to a criminal syndicate gaining control of a European country. Eurasian organised crime groups could use the power and wealth gained from their involvement in the oil and gas industry to influence or take over several European countries, it said.


David Brin said...

Tony... vhy a duck?


I dunno? viaduct?

Fake_William_Shatner said...

Tony Fisk....

No, I distinctly remember that the LHC will be imparting about the force of a mid-size sedan moving at 60 or 70 MPH. The smaller, speed up loop might be imparting the energy of a well-hit Tennis ball.

>> I'm kind of lost with some of the allusions and allegory on AquaDucks. Maybe we need a few more references, without me needing to read more books I have no time for. LOL.

"As for electrons adding mass by whizzing around protons, I think they're actually doing Rolf Harris impersonations as they wobble around in a standing wave orbital.

If going back and forth in a standing wave, does not impart acceleration that adds to mass -- then how can the Quarks be gaining mass INSIDE of the standing wave?

I'm going back to my theory; that the Electron is the "future" potential of the proton.

If someone can tag a proton with "catch and release" then I can read it later if I find it on an electron. OK, wait, I will see it on the electron first, and then you will tag the Proton and it will disappear. No, that's not right either....

Anonymous said...

Perhaps what we could use is a more "liberal studies" style undergrad program for would be captains of industry. Perhaps call it "conservative studies" or something. ;0)

They could touch on the many of the applied sciences which are commonly needed in the world. Have them study psychology and physics, programming and statistics, and so on. Perhaps have a few focuses where they concentrate on whatever industry fascinates them (along with common advanced skills which apply across the board).

I remember in my previous life as a computer tech, one of the easiest clients to work with had gone through a business program that required him to learn basic programming. He recognized the sizable changes that were often required to make even externally small seeming changes.

I also knew the company was doomed when the sales guys got too much control over writing the specs. Decisions were made on what 'looks good' rather than on functionality or usefulness.

I think the major problem here is that there is too much specialization too early. Perhaps Heinlein had a point when he said that "specialization is for insects". Although a division of labor is a key component to our economic system (see Smith, Adam), for those making the decisions the interrelatedness of different types of knowledge demands that the decision maker be familiar with the potential consequences of their decision and the way it will affect the different parts of their organization (at least as much as possible - there are always some unforeseen consequences).

Failing this, it would be nice if such programs could at least encourage humility and an openness to listen and consider the positions of others. One of the things I am hopeful about with President-elect Obama is that he seems to have that very willingness. It is a trait that should be encouraged in the next generation of leaders.

David Brin said...

In fact, such "breadth requirements" are already the chief feature that distinguishes the US baucalaureate degree from the European version. Instead of 3 years of specialization, our undergraduates have an entire added year's worth of requirement to study fields far from their own.

Interestingly, when I was a grad student I taught breadth courses from both directions. For the physics dept I taught "Astronomy for Poets" (for arts etc majors) and for the English dept I taught "Science Fiction Creative Writing."

There's actual money for the departments, so they are competitive to draw breadth students. Otherwise, most university Lit depts (infested with anti-future crypto Marxists) would never teach SF. (As is, they never give the Sci Fi instructor tenure.) It draws in the nerds.

Meanwhile, the astronomy course is popular to draw in the arts kids... but always comes in 2nd to "Human Sexuality". Who'd a figured?

Anonymous said...

I have just read the New Scientist Science Fiction features.
Not impressed, but that may be because the writers were all people that I have learned to avoid purchasing.
They may write well but not entertainingly,
I Much prefer Brin.
If the selection was UK writers then P F Hamilton, Alastair Reynolds and Ken Macleod are all much more entertaining (The late Charles Sheffield was even better!)
On the subject of educational "Breadth" my engineering degree was very broad but all "scientific" subjects - I did not miss not having to do an arts subject.
But I am very concerned about sport in American education, at Glasgow University there were 10,000 - jocks but no JOCKS
In the main sport (Rugby) an important game would be watched by fifty people - mostly related to the players - University was for education, when I lived in the USA the local High Schools had superb sporting facilities and no science equipment.
Comercial level sport appears to me to be a major interfrence with education.

daveawayfromhome said...


1) My experience with "just in time" systems is that it's mostly just an accounting game, giving short-term paper gain, but actually costing more overall long-term, usually incurred through rush charges when unexpected shortages occur that would have been avoided with prudent extra inventory or production. But it looks good on paper.

2) Solid matter only feels solid because of nuclear forces and looks solid because of billions of overlapping circles of confusion.

3) The problem with management is that it is controlled by other management, and so is self-perpetuating, without any real way for outside influences to control it (except total failure, which doesnt really do anything but disperse the problem). Perhaps they'd manage better if there were some sort of rule that allowed a yearly "keep or fire" vote by employees, rather than the usual sort of lame "rate your boss" evaluation sheet.

4) Lieberman may have kept his seat, but you know he's on a tight leash now. They need him to end filibusters, and the day he fails to end one will be the day he's out of a chairmanship. He knows it, and you can bet everyone else does, too.

5) Sorry Shatner, but Heinlein's already claimed "ficton". It was a reality particle that traversed between universes and somehow carried information which was translated into stories (or something like that, it's been a couple of decades). See "Number of the Beast".

"ockle" = an eight-dimensional particle useful in story-telling

Anonymous said...

Another article about the future of SF

Genre at the End of Time

Anonymous said...

People are discussing "Just in Time".
I have a heretical view on JIT,
JIT is sold on reducing inventory and WIP (work in progress)

I believe that the manufacturing mindset is immovably set in "make scrap faster" quality gets lip service only.
The devious orientals then went to JIT - this will ONLY work if quality is high.
The inventory reduction steals all of the "safety stocks" then if quality is low - the line stops
This forces high quality - any cost advantages of reduced WIP or inventory are secondary
Consistent high quality is a lot cheaper than poor quality
"There is always time to do it again but no time to do it right"
On the other hand - Quality consultants can do a superb job of ripping you off.

David Brin said...

Duncan, glad you are here. Though I think KS Robinson is readable! ;-)

I do believe the breadth requirement is a good thing. On the other hand, I agree that much of America is to sport mad (when you mention it, so is much of the world.) But ponder the vast open spaces in the US. Most small towns are FAR from cities. The ONLY cultural center they have is the high school. Friday night football games aren't just events. They are the only thing holding some communities together.

Dave, solid matter FEELS that way because of the electric force, not the nuclear force. The electron shells are what makes silicon act like silicon and neon like neon, as far as their neighbors are concerned, or your hand.

The nuclear & weak force actually MAKE silicon and neon nuclei, of course.

Actually, Just In Time is a wonderful practice! The Japanese used it in order to make every stopping of the assembly line an Event requiring Study. And those studies aimed to prevent each stoppage mode from happening again. JIT is a great way to force best practices.

BUT that does not mean we have to take it to a fetish of insisting on no warehousing! Animals - even efficient ones - carry fat reserves. Stuff happens. Tax laws that punish warehousing are vile inducements for fragility.

Acacia H. said...

From what I understand (and Dr. Brin may very well have said this in language my caffeine-deprived mind didn't pick up), Just-In-Time manufacturing was meant to keep industries from building up an inventory of products and then shutting down its factory and continuing to build products while all of its factory workers are out of work. Thus factories continue to stay in production, workers continue to collect paychecks, and there are no cyclical periods of work and no-work.


Perhaps electrons lack mass because they don't move. Instead, I seem to recall reading somewhere that electrons teleport through short distances. Thus they may not have true motion imparted to them and do not gain in mass.


So... no one knows the timing of supernova (as in how quickly the star goes from the neutrino burst, which would be probably the main warning someone outside the star has before it blows and the actual detonation)?


Lieberman got a slap on the wrist because President-Elect Obama said "we don't want to encourage partisan idiocy by starting purges of the Democratic party. Let the voters take care of him in four years" and the Democratic leadership whispered in some ears and calmed people down. If Lieberman starts moving against the Democratic party's will, and if the Republicans start pulling partisan bullshit to keep Obama's initiatives from occurring, then you'll likely see Lieberman given the boot.

Rob H.

Anonymous said...

But ponder the vast open spaces in the US. Most small towns are FAR from cities. The ONLY cultural center they have is the high school. Friday night football games aren't just events. They are the only thing holding some communities together.

In Canada, football and high school sports aren't nearly the fetish they are in the US. Yet we still have small towns that manage to hold together quite nicely :-)

Dwight Williams said...

Partly because we have the hockey and curling rinks - sometimes in the same facility - as alternative options, as well as the odd softball diamond for the warmer months. Multiple options help.

noelenergy said...

Business Majors are a symptom, not the cause.

Go back 50 years...most top executives came up through the ranks. But companies compete for managerial talent just like any other resource. Eventually the default career path for executives wasn't so much becoming CEO after 30 years with the same company-- top management was simply part of a free-floating "management caste" that wasn't tied to any particular company. Which all "business majors" aspire to join.

This also had the negative effect of transforming exectives' views of the companies they worked for from a community to whom they owed their loyalty to a mere stepping stone to the next job. Which in turn meant that they were focused only on short term profits and not the long term health of the company.

The way to solve this is to have businesses promote to the very top levels from within, but given the entrenchment of "MBA culture" I doubt this is possible.


Unknown said...


I'd like to add my own fictional matter/energy term to the fray here; "Fictons"... leave it to fictons to make a room full of intelligent people become attracted to the dumbest ideas.

HA! Fictons must be the anti-particle of "dust" from Pullman's "His Dark Materials" trilogy, which interact with all conscious matter and supposedly guide its development.

WRT the power of the LHC, wikipedia states it accelerates protons to a kinetic energy of 7 TeV, and lead nuclei to 1,150 TeV.
The highest energy cosmic rays observed are many orders of magnitude more energetic, around 100,000,000 TeV.
A car at 60 MPH has even more kinetic energy, at 1 trillion TeV.

So maybe something else was being likened to the kinetic energy of a car on the freeway, but it wasn't individual particles in the accelerator. (maybe the whole beam?)

Anonymous said...

Dr. Brin -

A duck, because ducks float.

Monty Python reference, not *that* obscure. What kind of nerd guru are you?


David Brin said...

Jester, MP's Holy Grail is my son's favorite movie.

(And yes, I have promised him that someday the curtains will be his.)

No... YOU are missing the comic reference... to a scene in COCOANUTS by the Marx Brothers.

Never take on an old-fart master nerd trivia junky....

Alex Tolley said...

Regarding "bus graduates" as the cause of loss of innovation.

I think you are aiming at the wrong target here.

Firstly, management by non-technical people has been going on for much longer than there have even been business degrees. First the sales people took on the top jobs, then the marketers, then the bean counters and now the lawyers. All these cases are examples of management by people unfamiliar with the basic technical aspects of the products their companies made.

Many companies today are run for financial reasons, not for making products, which are merely vehicles for the finance. management guru, Peter Drucker had something to say about this before his death.

As an MBA with a Masters in Biology too, I can say that I have also sat through decision making meetings where technical managers with no understanding of business have been making business decisions, some of them just plain idiotic. Business is like politics, everyone feels they have a right to make an opinion that they believe is informed, even when it is not.

If there is a problem with business degree majors, is that business has become perceived as a way to get ahead and this attracts the marginal sociopaths who want a quick and easy way to make their way. It is not the degree that is the issue, just the people it attracts. But make no mistake, ban the degree and these types will emerge in a different way. The political ladder is now the new way, and we will see the "apparachniks" with political science degrees emerge as the next wave of problem managers.

The Stuck paper on innovation was not particularly convincing, especially as the time periods were very short and the 2nd (1997-2003) encompassed the 2000 dot com bust and recession.

Some good points are made, of which I think the outsourcing issue of manufacturing and the flow of expertise abroad is most on the mark. Of course the success of Apple Inc is currently based on this model of smart people in the US designing a product for manufacture abroad. Today the focus is on where the value added is (finance, design, etc) but tomorrow will may find that true innovation migrated with the manufacturing expertise and that this is where the true value added will reside in teh future.

ThoughtCriminal said...

IN the TV series Stargate, in order to induce a super(?)nova they dialed a stargate to connect a wormhole to a planet close to a black hole, and launched the gate into the star, protected by a force field. When the stargate entered the star in question, the shield collapsed, and a good deal of stellar matter was sucked through the gate, disrupting the star and forcing it to nova.

rewinn said...

E. E. "Doc" Smith pretty much explored the (fictional) options for inducing supernovae, from (IIRC) ramming a star with an inertialess planet hypertubed in from a dimension where matter can't travel slower than light ( in the last Lensman book ) to the conceptually simpler method of teleporting every star in Galaxy A next to a star in Galaxy B (in the last Skylark book).

But as for methods currently within our understanding of the Law, I can only think of this two-step process:

A) Find a big enough star

B) Wait a sufficient time.

Tony Fisk said...

Pratchett also describes 'inspiratons' ('Wyrd Sisters') that sleet through the universe, interacting with cortical cross-sections to produce ideas.

But does he like the curtains? Sorry if my references are obscure (the Larson one, if not the MP) It's no fun explaining jokes... so I won't!

Duncan, I would have said that WIP *is* inventory. It's true that current business practice emphasises a reduction in inventory. This reduces the amount you have tied up in stuff you haven't sold yet, or which needs scrapping due to a quality problem.

'Zero Inventory Management' is a way of handling budgets that can have some potentially interesting outcomes.

However, David is right in pointing out there's other factors in play, and that a balance needs to be struck. These theories, while very elegant, are also very cold and soulless. I half-jokingly referred to 'organic assets' earlier, but the fact is that they are classified as 'overhead', which also needs to be kept to a minimum.

Acacia H. said...

But I'm not looking into methods of blowing stars up. What I'm looking into is timing of the supernova. (I've several stellar destruction methods in mind, though I was curious if "dropping" a black hole into the heart of a star might cause one to happen due to photodisintegration, though the math there is more about the core of an existing star collapsing into a black hole rather than a black hole being "dropped" into the star).

Basically, every time we see a star "blow up" in poorly thought out science fiction (Andromeda, Star Trek: Generations, etc.) the detonation occurs almost simultaneously. However, stars are huge. Stars that are large enough to detonate make our own Sol look like a dwarf.

With that much mass, and considering how long it takes the energy generated from the fusion of four hydrogen atoms in the heart of a star to emerge from the surface, I have a suspicion (but insufficient math skills or talent to verify that suspicion) that when pair-instability occurs in a star (or when the core collapses directly into a black hole or even when it just finally has built up sufficient iron that the star collapses, starting the supernova process) that the results are not immediately seen. Except through a neutrino burst, if memory serves me right.

So then... how long do you have from that initial neutrino burst to the star detonating in the largest fireworks display the universe has seen since the Big Bang?

That's what I'm trying to figure out. ^^

After all, blowing up stars is all well and fun goodness, but not if you end up with a blackened face when the star you were detonating goes off with you at ground zero. ;)

Rob H.

Alex Tolley said...

Rob H.

Here is a reference that might help:

Looks like in this white dwarf model, the wavefront of the detonation is 1200 miles/sec = < 1% c.

If this was maintained, a star with a radius of 10x the sun (sun's radius ~ 0.5E6 miles) would take about 1 hour from start to the point the wavefront would hit the surface.

Soes that help?

rewinn said...

Sorry, Robert, I got distracted by the bright shiny light of space opera. I commend your commitment to getting your star to blow up at an actual speed, instead of the traditional "speed of plot".

While I don't have any actual knowledge, this link suggests something like two hours ... as the climax of a very exciting process:
"...It is believed that a small fraction of these neutrinos revived the stalled shock and powered the great explosion of the star. By heating and expanding the star and triggering a new flurry of nuclear reactions in its layered interior, the revived shock was responsible for the supernova's optical display. The effect was delayed by about two hours however: the shock had to traverse the entire star before any light leaked out. The neutrinos from the collapsing core easily outraced the shock. Passing through the rest of the star very close to the speed of light, they were the first signal to leave the supernova...."
The whole process seems pretty exciting, with each layer of the stellar onion forming more quickly than the last (imagine the smell as a fraction of the stellar mass turns to sulfur!)

Dave Hardwick said...

re: Killing the B.S. in Business Degree.

First, yes, probably smart to remove this from the Bachelor's level curriculum. Along with Economics. It would be better for us all if these students majored in other fields that either required more rigor or more creativity.

Second, I disagree on one supporting structure of your argument: That the people w/the B.S. degree caused these problems. If you look close, it's the MBA degree-ed folks who lead us into this mess. Along with the mathematicians/quants who were more interested in solving the problem at hand.

Besides, many, many people with very advanced degrees and post-doc work failed us. Our current situation is not because we lacked smart, educated people, it's because these people did not assess the risks in the system properly.

Did I hear anybody say, President George W. Bush?

My degree: Guess. Or look it up on LinkedIn.

Unknown said...

The business management economics major provides students who are interested in careers in business or management with a foundation in economics and a selection of applied fields related to business management.However, they are encouraged to develop a strong background in mathematics.

Enterik said...

A quibble, despite having not read the primary literature...

One should be cautious in ascribing causation to a mere correlation.

In the case of Toxoplasma , perhaps it is precisely lower intelligence and "masculine"-stereotyped behavior that increases ones likelyhood of being infested. Perhaps, it is the neurotic behavior of a particular culture that exascerbates the prevalence of dessicated cat scat wafting through the countryside and the populations exposure to such?

Anonymous said...

Surpassing U.S. is not the agenda of outsourcing companies in Asia, but to give assistance to companies in their business endeavors. Outsourcing has created a way for foreign companies to earn more profit, which benefits them and their clients.

receive large files said...

Relying on technomagical deus ex machina to bring about results (or even cause them) is a sign of laziness and sloppy writing and should be avoided when possible. When science fiction shows do their research, it shows with the quality of the episode. When they "make it so" with magical thinking, the episode will most often end up a failure.