Friday, April 29, 2011

Science, Predictions and Possibilities

Every tenth posting or so, I take care of a pile of small/cool items. Here's one you are sure to like: Scientific American interviews me in their Too Hard For Science? series. "David Brin on - Raising Animals to Human Levels of Intelligence. If we cannot find aliens in the stars, we might create new "alien" intelligences on Earth. But it won't be easy, technically, politically or ethically.

Spread the word: all of my Uplift books now available on Kindle! as well as Nook and Sony Reader.

I confess to having a few visual fetishes. One of them is bridges...I love bridges. Even "ugly" utilitarian ones have a kind of beauty, so long as they express the compelling elegance of physical equations and our ever improving materials. But some inspire and even leave one awestruck. Perhaps that is why bridges are among the things that human beings always create with panache and (almost) always with skill. (The other being weapons; we seem to be best at both connecting and separating from each other.) See some of the latest bridge concepts: Imagining bridges of the future.

Meanwhile.... We're catching up to (or bypassing) the future -- in sci fi movie timelines. Clockwork Orange was set in 1995, my post-apocalyptic novel The Postman in 2013, Soylent Green in 2022. Below that chart, a Trilogy Meter -- rating 1st, 2nd & 3rd movies in famed SF series. I mostly agree in every case! He captures "2nd movie syndrome." He's too kind to Jedi, Trek3 (blech), Alien3 (beyond evil), & Khan was great! But generally right.

=== Predictions Registry Time? ===

earthPredictive hit in my novel EARTH p. 164 "How about fighting the greenhouse effect by sending up dust to block sunlight like those volcanoes made the chill snap of '09." About this snippet-quotation, a fan writes: "Oh sure, new planets, the web, secrecy radicalism, your dead-on technology, but HOW did you know in '89 that '09 volcano dust'd do a cold snap in 2010?!"

Aw, that's nuthin' See p.206 of The Transparent Society! Far creepier! (More below.)

Oh, and now this: ”Researchers at the University of Arizona, analyzed grains that the Stardust probe scooped up from Comet Wild 2's coma on a close flyby in 2004, sending the samples to Earth in a capsule two years later. After studying the comet dust using electron microscopy and X-ray analysis, the researchers found minerals that formed in the presence of liquid water.” Suggesting the comet’s nucleus underwent a period with liquid in its interior... as suggested in my novel HEART OF THE COMET. (Based on my doctoral thesis.) Melted in the early cloud by decaying Aluminum26. Trillions of such test tubes might have made... life?

Another Predictions Registry Item:In 2010 I said we'll be sorry someday for investing too much in so-called Just In Time production and inventory methods. Now the entire world economy is suffering because events in Japan have rocked delicate "efficient" supply chains. See: “Disasters show flaws in just-in-time production, 'Earliest impact will be felt with high-cost, low-weight products'.

Now add the fact that hundreds of thousands in the afflicted area had charged cell phones they could not use, when they needed them most, because of the lack of P2P text passing capability. (Some probably died because of it, trapped in buildings with their phones in their hands.) Another area I have been railing about since before 9/11, grabbing lapels in Washington, Silicon Valley, with the most trivial fix that would make our civilization far more resilient and robust. Alas.

And don't get me started about the need to re-start Yucca Mountain.

(Come see a wiki that has been set up by some meticulous fans, attempting to track my own near-future forecasts, ranking a success-failure rate, especially when it comes to my near-future novel EARTH (1989): new helpers are welcome to join in updating the site and keeping me honest!)

=== Perceptions! ===

Great commercial. Actually, it's a mini movie!

And the survey says: 44% of Americans perceive natural disasters as signs of Biblical end times -- acts of a vengeful God. (Or karma?) Worrisome! Though I take such surveys with salt. (In fact, many people can "think several impossible contradictions before breakfast.) Ask one way and they'll say the Earth is billions of years old. Ask another and they will speak up for how dinosaurs JUST missed getting on the ark. Still moronic, but don't dismiss your neighbors as SIMPLISTICALLY simpleminded.

the-other-end-2011--- Heh. Revenge - in a literary contrivance - can be way fun. My colleague John Shirley goes overboard. Still, a cute concept in his novel, The Other End. “Veteran horror writer Shirley (Cellars) swaps gory for glory in this inventive if politically heavy-handed left-wing answer to Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins's evangelical Left Behind series. Child slavers, genocidal soldiers and corrupt statesmen have fourth-dimensional visions and abandon their wicked ways in the first part of the novel... but once the good guys ascend to a better place, most of the people left behind are Republicans, Scientologists, oil company CEOs and anyone "fundamentalist, hard-line, inflexible." By dispensing justice along party lines, Shirley limits his audience to a choir that won't mind 300 pages of very pretty preaching.”

Heh! Ever see the movie Dark Star, when the astronaut tries using phenomenology and Plato's cave to talk a bomb out of detonating? Now see this from xkcd.

While we're at it. Is humanity evolving into a superorganism? Australian scientist, environmentalist, author, and climate change activist Tim Flannery, in Here on Earth, argues that we are living in a immensely cooperative world, rather than in a survival-of-the-fittest, dog-eat-dog world. Alas, no mention of my own theme in EARTH.

=== Contacting Aliens (our kids and those other kinds) ===

Powerful electromagnets, it turns out, can do remarkable things to the brain -- in this case, prevent a volunteer from reciting "Humpty Dumpty." The carefully directed magnets temporarily disrupt the brain's speech centers; the volunteer can still sing the rhyme using different areas of the brain, but simply can't overcome a series of stammers when trying to merely recite it.

Who am I to argue with this study? Teens who spend more time reading were less likely to be depressed than those immersed in music, television or video games. (What…Spending hours staring at a screen shooting people doesn’t make you happy?) And what’s more upbeat than Science Fiction? Just don’t give them Sylvia Plath or Virginia Wolf...

Some of you will have heard of the "Bible Code" claiming that one can find all sorts of predictions about today's events encoded in the Bible. A skip code is a code where one starts at a particular letter (for the Bible, in Hebrew), and then skip ahead a specific number of characters to read the next letter in the secret message, and then keep skipping ahead by the same number of characters. Critics, however, applied the same technique to modern novels and found very similar "hidden messages". So, basically, in a rich enough body of text, you can find anything you want encoded there. For example, this link shows "predictions" of the assassination of various world leaders within the text of Moby Dick.

OpenLetterAlienLurkersRead more about this at a site by this guy I know, wherein he goes on to hilariously show how his own “alien message” - written in the early nineties as a game, now has a cult following of people who not only call it a real alien message(!) but call him a hoaxter for claiming credit!

All of which is reminiscent of my own “message to aliens” - psychoanalyzing them for a dozen possible excuses for refusing to make contact. It gets pretty recursive when I suggest they sign into the Internet and discuss their issues, using their real names... since most people will just think they are humans pretending to be aliens! (Oh it goes round n’ round.... ooog.

== A Better Trend in Hollywood? ===

Why suddenly FOUR cool sci fi movies that intelligently mess with our heads rather than screaming at us with aliens or repeated remakes of dopey cliches? Four in just a year, and all successful!

=== SCIENCE! ===

Ultra modern super-toilet.

A DARPA study found that attaching a 9volt battery to your brain enhances your gaming ability. Passing a 2mAmp buzz through the skull doubles one's gaming reflexes. (No, touching the 9v battery to your tongue won't help...)

“Three parent” in vitro embryos? Scientists seek to implant embryos with material from three genetic parents -- tiny bit seems to help prevent genetic defects. Of course it is still a long way from inserting a better mitochondria "battery" to actually replacing damaged chromosomes... and then to patching then reviving Neanderthal DNA....

That'll do for now. Next time I give in to those who have been urging "David stop being so reticent and shy and tell us what you think about society and politics!"

At last.


Acacia H. said...

Ah, but are the Uplift books available for the Nook as well? Some of us prefer not to go through Amazon. ;)

Rob H.

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

The Scientific American link appear to be broken

David Brin said...

should be fixed

Now will someone log into

And tell Penn Jillette that I do NOT hate him? WTF? I have always called him a a "paladin" for truth, justice and the whole damned Enlightenment! I like him! He's to big a force of nature not to like!

I have emailed him separately, but you never know if these things get through to famous guys. (Peter Thiel asked me to email him and I got spammed. Yeesh it is 2011.)

Stefan Jones said...

I-5 is the West Coast's big north-south Interstate.

The bridge where it crosses the Columbia, between Oregon and Washington state, is way overdue for replacement.

After a big debate, the governments settled on . . . the blandest, cheapest, least-inspiring design possible.

At least they planned for the future; it will have bicycle, pedestrian, and light-rail lanes.

Carl M. said...

Trilogy meter is seriously defective! Using a 1-10 scale, it should be Star Wars (7,10,2), Indiana Jones (10,4,7), Matrix (5,1,1), Lord of the Rings (1,1,1), Back to the Future (10,5,5), Terminator (10,7,4).

And Star Trek (3,7,2,10)! (Wrath of Khan was a pretty cool movie, but Spock and Khan acted way out of character vs. the show.)

David Brin said...

Yes they are available on Nook:

Tony Fisk said...

To be fair, Flannery was channelling earlier and more authorative commentators (Darwin and Wallace). Still, as I read I could not help but think of Nelson Graysons's responses to Jen Wolling's tutelage (and Wolling's own developing lines of inquiry). Someone ought to mention it to him.

While looking at life in comets, it's worth mentioning that Flannery also describes a process wherein life formed a lot of the concentrated metal ore bodies (like fissile masses of uranium!) found in the Earth's crust.

George Martin recently expressed a desire to be able make another Alien movie that started with the Socalo arriving at Earth and Newt waking up from a series of bad nightmares (aka A3+). I thought A3 had some interesting elements, but was a *horrible* follow-on from Aliens.

Movies that mess with the mind. People deriving more pleasure from reading books than playing video games. Still, books, happiness, and the internet are not necessarily mutually exclusive. In 'Reality is Broken' Jane McGonigal makes a strong case for using gameplay (of any sort) to re-engage people with their lives. As a sample, I suggest you check out Social Chocolate, whose objective is .. to find out. I subsequently had fun writing about a simple hack (no cheating, though!)

Anonymous said...

In reference to your request for contact. I am not an official representative of my culture but I can explain why we have not made contact. Our civilization is largely without pain, suffering or discrimination. We have however found that a life almost devoid of conflict tends to lack inspiration for some types of creative thinking. As a result we send out children to learn about the imperfections and troubles of life on worlds like yours. Worlds like yours being those that are relatively well off and yet still have myriad problems that provide the stimulation we wish for our children to receive.

David Brin said...

Anonymous sounds like he's from Banks's The Culture. Also he should read:

Carl, I agree with much in your ratings. Back to the Future was all one single -multi-episode wonderful movie. The first Matrx I thought worth a 7 and the others sub-minus. Terminator 2 was great.

But WTF? I agree ST3 sucked and was almost as awful a betrayal of the (10!) Khan movie as Aliens 3 betrayed the terrific Aliens2. (Aliens3 was just plain evil. SOmebody should be staked on an ant hill.)

But WTF ST4? Kinda cute, but...

But WTF? Jeez you don't care for tolkien and viggo?

Tony are you messin with me? "George Martin recently expressed a desire to be able make another Alien movie that started with the Socalo arriving at Earth and Newt waking up from a series of bad nightmares (aka A3+). I thought A3 had some interesting elements, but was a *horrible* follow-on from Aliens."

That was TOTALLY an idea I pitched in hwood multiple times, 20 years ago!
I will follow this with my 20+ year old elevator pitch.

David Brin said...


Alien was a gothic horor movies about RAPE.
Aliens was action adventure about MOTHERHOOD
Aliens 3 was a nightmare.

Aliens 4 should be about MOTHERS IN LAW!

True, I suggested Ripley wake up. In other contexts, it's a cheat. In this context, it's completely right on. It'd turn that rotten Aliens 3 into a good movie! It makes sense ... AS A NIGHTMARE! In no other context does that awful thing make any sense.

Ripley wakes up and lo and behold, society functions. From her testimony, the entire board of directors of The Company are promptly hanged! She is made advisor to the Grand Revenge Fleet. Meanwhile, she raises her daughter, who reaches university and has her own alien-fixation that has veered differently than Ripley's. Newt becomes an anthropologist.

Newt persuades the president to allow one teeny little ship to try to make peace while the Grand Fleet roars off to engage in garish space battles. After much whizzing and pyrotechnics, humans approach the Aliens' planet and Ripley will have the honor of pressing the Planet Buster button...

... only at that very moment, a message comes from her daughter that contact has been made! Ripley screanms NO! and dives for the button but is stopped.

Her DAUGHTER is hero of the age. Turns out the aliens are elegant, dignified beings... who had to work MUCH harder than we did in order to overcome their inherited natures. They are horrified to learn the reason for our anger... that we encountered untutored Eggs! They are ashamed that we (especially) Ripley) were put through that through their carelessness.

Peace ensues and promising exchanges. Ripley mutters to herself back home in her apartment... then her daughter phones.

Hey mom, I'm bringing a friend home to dinner. He's nice. A diplomat.

Ripley goes to the door... and you guessed it.

He's wearing glasses and carrying flowers.

He really does have good table manners... for someone whose inner jaws drip formic acid! And Newt is enthralled...

Ripley snaps. She gets out the robotic waldo unit and flame thrower and starts chasing the poor geeky little diplomat all over futuristic New York City.

Ah, mothers in law.....

Well well... I wrote the antic-romp comedy aspect just for fun. But using a "dream-wakeup" to write off the wretched sequels, restore Newt and do a reboot... well that's a cool idea.

Rob said...

Stefan, I wanted the cable-stay design, complete with light rail all the way through Hazel Dell. It would help the poor here get to work wherever that happens to be.

Our end of the river has a mild mannered and marvelously pleasant millionaire man who is opposed to bridge tolling. He and a bunch of people who will be mouldering before our kids have kids don't want to spend for the light rail line, for all the reasons typical of opponents of light rail.

What is the political environment like to the south of the Columbia with respect to that bridge?

David Brin said...

Just rented "Monsters" a 2010 super-low-budget sci fi film that's got some howlers in it (they put the Yucatan next to the Rio Grande) but it's actually kinda cool, original and sweet.

Kind of a steal from David Gerrold's WAR AGAINST THE CHTORR. But it shows what you can do with a very low budget and still do somewhat cool sci fi.

Nyctotherion said...

David: I think that Alien concept would be perfect for your first foray into Japanese anime!

I could just see in my mind the flower-holding slavering alien nerd, and Ripley going all super-deformed and INSTANTLY morphing into cargo-loader-flame-thrower Ripley for the chase!

Tony Fisk said...

There could even be a scene where the Alien diplomat/date on the run backs fearfully 'round a corner...

That it was all a dream has been the ending to many a school essay (a somewhat grade-limiting one, though)

Tim H. said...

This story annoyed me...

especially the part where the union lineman, who likely has better insurance than I've had in decades complains about the coverage of public employees. Rather than shoving folks into the gutter, a little uplift would do wonders. BTW, the Alien 4 idea is just twisted. I love it.

Unknown said...

For those of us reading on Kindle do you know which chapter page 206 of transparent society is in?

Unknown said...

Also, in reference to your ieti article what forums are you thinking of in #6? I'm sure they exist I'm just not sure how I would find them. It sounds like a fun way to spend some time.

TheMadLibrarian said...

Although I am an avid gamer, both pen-and-paper and online, I don't think I'll be giving myself amateur electroshock therapy. I don't want to efficiently kill Borg that desperately.

We are still having arguments over light rail in our neighborhood. The fights range from the usual NIMBY, to "We should spend the money on something else, rail is a boondoggle", to "Only the bums use public transit". We had this fight before, and could have done it a decade ago with matching Federal grants, for half the price. Traffic hasn't improved, the price won't get cheaper, and we still have the problem of getting masses of people around the city efficiently.


dionfert: Memorial for Lady Di, in honor of her son's nuptuals

David Brin said...

Aranittara.... p206 of The Transparent Society => Chapter 7 - a sub-section: A Need For Pragmatism

Re online Alien discussion groups... I mentioned one person to ask: "Read more about this at a site by this guy I know, wherein he goes on to hilariously show how his own “alien message” - written in the early nineties as a game, now has a cult following of people who not only call it a real alien message(!) but call him a hoaxter for claiming credit!"

You might also ask Professor Tough, who runs the IETI site, if anybody messaged him claiming to be alien and what groups he referred the person to. Or set up such a group yourself and you'll learn of others! Sounds cool. Report back!

Sorry but another Windsor wedding brought to mind a song I saw performed on the tellie years ago, when Charles and Diana were first having marital spats. The performer, a Scotsman with strong anti-monarchy sentiments, nevertheless spoke of how moved he was by the royals' sad plight and he sang urging them to just get together and get drunk! To let go and be what the country needed them to be.

"Charles and Diana, drink-up!" he sang, then with each verse the chorus grew louder.

"Drink up! Chuck and Di...
Drink up, Chuck and Di
I look at you and I remember why
Drink, upchuck and di....."

Eeep. Cognitive dissonance. laughter and pain.

David Brin said...

While I love Corvallis and the Pacific NW, this map is insane. PLACES AT LOWEST RISK OF DISASTER. It perfectly demos selective bias...

...the idiot did not include volcanoes.


Woozle said...

stabs Blogger repeatedly

Ok, let's start again...

I love the Alien V concept -- though I'd like to think that Ripley wouldn't go on a killing rampage against Newt's friend, regardless of his species. She would have learned from her experience with Bishop.

I always was an optimist about people.

And speaking of that... there are some very Transparent Society, citizen-empowerment things going on right now.

* The New York Initiative is a citizen project to provide free communication support and training to protect sex workers in NYC against the Long Island Serial Killer. (It is a subproject of the "Real Life Superheroes" movement, itself a citizen empowerment undertaking.)
* Operation Outraged Omar is composing, translating, and distributing faxable documents asserting the human rights of people in the Middle East, especially those in despotic regimes.
* Omar is loosely under the umbrella of a couple of independent (as far as I can tell) organizations, Intercom and Telecomix, who coordinate their activities largely through IRC and Twitter.

Intercom has put together a fax server network and a crowdsourced list of fax machines in gathering places in the Middle East, such as hospitals and universities, to which important documents can be transmitted even if the Internet is down.

Intercom also publishes aggregations of relevant Tweets and video footage from protest/insurgency demonstrations, counteracting official lies that there were no protesters, or that nobody got hurt/killed, or that the protesters were armed.

I'm overwhelmed with new information and somewhat eyes-glazed-over, but also very encouraged to see that this is happening.

David Brin said...

"No more time-travel dramas", China's film authority says it disrespects history. Funny thing... I suggested this trend! In 2007 at a meeting on SF at Beijing Normal University, some film producers were cynically in attendance, who opined that "science fiction has no relevance to Chinese people, who are much more interested in the past."

I responded "So? There is always time travel!" And proceeded to spin several possible scenarios or parallel world stories that soon had them nodding with eyes-glittering. Of course, I suggested "What if Cheng He's fleet met Henry the Navigator on the high seas?" Cool! But they've done nothing like that. sigh

Stefan Jones said...

Rob asks: "What is the political environment like to the south of the Columbia with respect to that bridge?"

It's dragged on so long! But the current debate seems to be over cost, rather than features like including light rail. The toll issue seemed at important at one point . . . now I think folks are resigned to it.

Sheesh . . . this bridge will be about more than Portland and Vancouver. The whole west coast depends on I-5. I think the thing should be a doozy. Built to impress, built to last.

Paul said...

Re: Alien4

(although there was an Alien4, "Resurrection", so bad it made Alien3 look good. So really you want to re-do Alien3, continuing immediately from Aliens.)

If you still want to write the script/screenplay, I'm sure Robert can point you towards an appropriate web-comic artist. While there are licensing issues, parody+webcomic should reduce the likelihood that TPTB care.

In the Alien mythology, the form of the Aliens is influenced by the host-animal. So the Nostromo/colony Aliens were part-human. Perhaps the madness of those Aliens turns out to come from us. If they use their traditional symbiotically co-evolved host-animal, they are much nicer.

Paul said...


At home, for the last few days, Blogger has been trying to force me to log into a google/Blogger account whenever I try to "Publish" a comment. I thought it was a change within Blogger, but I'm posting this while visiting my parents and it is working normally.

Does anyone know what I might have done at home to trigger the new behaviour?

(skildst: past-tense of Skillz, Mad)

Acacia H. said...

I'd recommend Amber "Glych" Greenlee. She's a very talented artist and writer, and recently graduated so she's looking for paying work. She'd also be able to hammer out what works and what doesn't work in the story scenario. (Actually, if you know anyone who wants an artist for a graphic novel or the like, I'd also recommend her for that.)

Rob H.

Paul said...

re: p2p emergency cell phones

I don't know if anyone (Tony?) has mentioned the Serval Batphone?

Episode on Catalyst, including transcript.

And the Serval Project homepage.

(traties: Agreements between nations that betray the rights of the citizens of those nations.)

Unknown said...

On the subject of "videos like the Chtorr books" a good one is the anime series "Blue Gender".

Yuji Kaido is frozen in 2009 and in 2031 thawed out in a world overrun by monsters called the "Blue".

But you probably won't like the Aesops at the end of the series.

(Avoid the movie "Blue Gender: The Warrior", which is just a very heavily edited compilation of the series.)

"ovilt" - The mental illness of feeling guilty for the sins you committed before you were born.

David Brin said...

Thanks Paul. I have many questions about serval... re robustness, agility, scalability etc. Doing this with voice seems overly ambitious and likely to break down if overloaded. Wifi also uses a lot of battery juice

I just want to do it with texts! Pass it p2p to the edge of any afflicted zone.

But if the govt won't move and the cellcos hate the idea, then these aussies are on the right track!


Remind me about the aliens comic book in the fall, hm? No time till then!

Tim H. said...

If the telcos never budge on your idea, seems like a C-47 or something else large and slow could carry appropriate antennas and electronics to provide survivors with cell phone communication immediately after a natural disaster.

David Brin said...

Scroll down and see this complete super-low budget cool sci fi flick

David Brin said...

Scary re the state of sf in china:

TwinBeam said...

5/1/2011 - Just got back from dancing in the street...

Better late than never I guess.

Brace for revenge.

Anonymous said...

Osama bin Laden is dead! Yippee!

Stefan Jones said...

Breaking news: Donald Trump is demanding to see the long form death certificate.

Paul said...

Favourite comment so far:

"R.I.P Osama Bin Laden - World Hide And Go Seek Champion (2001 - 2011)"

David Brin said...

Obama's speech is worth reading.

Tacitus2 said...

kudos to all involved in bringing bin Laden to the only sort of real justice that applies to his kind.

I salute them from the guys on the ground all the way to the Commander in Chief.

The world wide jihad seems to have been sputting of late, this development should speed their reduction to the level of spiteful brigandage from which they arose.

from the frontier of Roman Britain


Detritus of Empire

Paul said...

Obama's announcement live stream. Ahem.

David Brin said...

Thoughts on this "political axis?"

Duncan Cairncross said...

I used the political-compass site, it put me about where I expected
(bottom left hand quadrant)

I was very surprised by the locations of European politicians - up in the right hand upper quadrant with G W Bush???

I think there are problems with the algorithm used - and separation in our understanding of the language used

Paul said...

Osama's body apparently already buried at sea, to prevent his grave become a Jihadist shrine. Clever. But heard an interview with a Pakistani journalist awhile ago suggesting that conspiracy theories are already circulating the Muslim world.

Re: Political compass.
I fell about half way between the Mandela and the Dalai Lama. Well, obviously.

Seriously, while I wasn't surprised that I ended up moderate-left/moderate-libertarian, I was surprised at my response to some of the individual questions. I feel strongly about the role of mothers in the home? Where did that come from?

(Hey, Blogger has stopped insisting I log in. Cool. I'm back baby.)

Ian said...

Almost smack on with the Dalai Lama.

Tim H. said...

How merciful of our young men to put Osama out of his richly deserved misery. Don't believe in hell, but for Bin Laden, I'll make an exception.

Pat Mathews said...

Not hell. His 72 virgins -- middle-aged schoolteaching nuns with steel rulers in their hands.

LarryHart said...

I see there is some mention of Bin Laden in the comments, so I'm adding my own. Apologies for not having done more than skim the other comments or the main thread here prior to posting. I promise to go back and do both today.

Bin Laden is dead! Gotta be glad of that. If there is an afterlife, I hope he "lives" to see the world go in a much better direction than his ilk would have had it, and that will have to be Hell for him.

Someone above said "Brace for revenge". Of course, it's always a good idea to be vigilant, but I'm not feeling particularly fearful. Sure, they'd LIKE to hit us back, but they've wanted to do that for ten years now. I'd be more worried as an American abroad in (say) Yemen or Dubai than I am in Chicago. Let's be appropriately vigilant as we live well (the best revenge), but let's not be whiny-baby cowards about the possibility that someone will some day do something bad to us.

I don't watch FOX, but I'm sure they're spinning this as somehow a bad thing for Obama. Maybe Trump is taking "credit" for bin Laden as well as for forcing the President to display his birth certificate? I don't really care any more. Obama will be president until 2016 now. Who is going to seriously challenge him?

dmon said...

This really seems like the right forum to express what a righteous victory for professionalism this is! Intelligence operatives, analysts, military planning and execution - top notch all round!

LarryHart said...

Oh, and my whole reason for posting here (which I promptly forgot while I was doing it).

As a science-fiction/comics fan, I couldn't help but think "It's a cloned body designed to make everyone THINK he's dead!" No, I don't really believe that. I'm just saying, only a certain type of person would have that as his FIRST thought, and I'm one of them.

But then again, I'm the guy who watches the end of "The Godfather" where Tessio finds himself surrounded by Michael's goons about to get a one-way ride, and I always think "If he could only levitate straight up, this wouldn't be a problem."

LarryHart said...

Ok, onto Dr Brin's actual posting.

I confess to having a few visual fetishes. One of them is bridges...I love bridges. Even "ugly" utilitarian ones have a kind of beauty, so long as they express the compelling elegance of physical equations and our ever improving materials. But some inspire and even leave one awestruck...

Ghaaaah! I realize the comparison is offensive, but I'm flashing on Ayn Rand here. I guess I'd file that under "Even a stopped clock is right twice a day."

Meanwhile.... We're catching up to (or bypassing) the future -- in sci fi movie timelines. Clockwork Orange was set in 1995, The Postman in 2013, Soylent Green in 2022. Below that chart, a Trilogy Meter -- rating 1st, 2nd & 3rd movies in famed SF series. I mostly agree in every case! He captures "2nd movie syndrome." He's too kind to Jedi, Trek3 (blech), Alien3 (beyond evil), & Khan was great! But generally right.

I have a minor quibble with "The Godfather" (the first one was PERFECT, the second slightly-less so) and a MAJOR quibble with "Planet of the Apes" (the second one sucked pond water, but the third--"Escape From..."--was close to the first in story quality). But I agree that, in general, his instincts serve him well.

As to the "future" years mentioned in the movies themselves...I began to notice we were passing dates like "Escape from New York" a while back. Heck, when I was a kindergartener, there was a cartoon on a local station called "The Undersea Explorers" which was set in the far-future year of 1975. I remind my brother of that every so often. For 1970s Marvel Comics fans, we've long since passed the days of Deathlok (1990) and Killraven (2001).

Was the NOVEL "The Postman" set in a particular year, or was that just the movie?

That must be the movie of "V for Vendetta" set in 2037, because the graphic novel was much more recent. The figure 1997 is flashing in my brain--yes the same year as "Escape from New York".

Glad to see "Soylent Green" and "Logan's Run" on the list, although I don't personally remember a specific year for the latter.

I realize he's doing movies, not novels, but I would have liked a nod to Clarke's "Imperial Earth" in 2276. And of course, "1984". Hey, is there a year given for "Brave New World"? "Atlas Shrugged"?

LarryHart said...

Pat Mathews said of bin Laden:

Not hell. His 72 virgins -- middle-aged schoolteaching nuns with steel rulers in their hands.

Or more simply--hell is the realization that the 72 virgins REMAIN virgins. Forever!

Marino said...

I'm happy for bin Laden's death, period. I may find dancing in the streets somewhat too much like what they did in ME after 9/11, but then one thinks at those almost three thousand people killed and condones it.

Re: bridges: being a EU patriot, I have to point that euro notes have stylized bridges on them, exactly for the reason Dr. Brin pointed at, bridges unite.

David Brin said...

Re bin Laden's death, many layers:

(1) A welcome event that seems well-timed to coincide with the west helping the modernist youth movement in the Middle East. That makes it look like part of history's tide.

(2) It doesn't hurt for the US to look competent again. That's the top deterrent.

(3) Let's not ignore the real villains - those who wrote and financed and pushed the textbooks and TV shows and pulpit rants that made Osama what he was, and gave him a dozen other fanatic volunteers from the same country for him to send to attack us - the same villains who financed him before 9/11 and all the years since.

(4) Burial at sea according to Muslim traditions is fine. But I hope they kept a body part... "for DNA proof, in case of later doubts."*

* One that no man would part with deliberately or voluntarily (so a finger won't do.) And in case certain afterlife scenarios turn out to be true. And heck, because it would be right.

David Brin said...

Oooh... if he were as smart as he seemed, OBL would have pre-recorded a tape denouncing as "all lies these ridiculous reports of my death! You failed! I live! And I am coming!"

Heck it is what I'd've done.

Hypnos said...

While the death of Bin Laden is certainly a geopolitical positive, I wouldn't call it justice. Justice would have been a full trial, preferably at an international recognized criminal court like the ICJ,and then life inprisonment.

That might not have been practical, and I think US forces ultimately made the right choice, but this is not justice. Let us not fall to their level.

Now in a perfect world Obama would also announce the opening of a full investigation into abuses and human rights violations by the Bush administration, but as with Bin Laden, I know when justice is practical and when it is not.

LarryHart said...

Ironically combining the future-date-movie discussion of the main post with the bin Laden tangent:

Was there a specific date given for the movie "Air Force One"? I don't believe so, but it did seem set a few years into the future of whenever you're watching it. Kinda like Max Headroom's "twenty minutes into the future", only a bit moreso.

And darn but don't I feel like watching that movie again after the bin Laden thing.

Rob said...

Economic Left/Right: -4.75
Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -1.64

About where I thought I was. But, the questions are a little too facile.

David Brin said...

Was proud of my son. Scored ever so slightly left of center. (I said: "anyone with a heart will drift that way a bit, even if they are believers in market enterprise") and halfway down the bottom axis toward anarchy, libertarian belief in autonomy.

Of course my own charts (3D!) are more meticulous and well-based!

Rob said...

Yes, but you don't have a Cosmo-quiz of facile questions with which to sort people! (Or a VRML app to display results, for that matter!) Perhaps [yoda]that is why you fail[/yoda]. :-)

David Brin said...

Re- the already underway re-spinning of all this, Steve Barnes started a thread that I have gathered and recompiled thusly:

"African Illegal-immigrant and impostor sends minions to break in and brutally slay elderly dialysis patient in his home."

In order to conspiracy this, they are going to have to malign and impugn the US Navy Seals. That won't be easy

Acacia H. said...

I was ranked along with the Dalai Lama as well. Libertarian Left. Though to be honest, I'm not sure Left/Right work with economic aspects. Instead, I think we should be going into subatomic particles here. Perhaps being more pro-person and less pro-industry is Charm? =^-^=


My father has an interesting theory of heaven. He believes everyone goes to Heaven. But before you ascend, the Good in you is separated from the Evil and that which is wicked and vile of you is cast into the Pit to burn.

The better of a person you are, the more of you goes to Heaven. But if you were someone who did much evil in the world, like Osama bin Ladin or Hitler or Stalin... then there is so little that is Good about you that what goes to heaven is but a pale ghost. Meanwhile, someone like Mother Teresa ascends as pretty much a whole person.

It's an interesting concept. Far better than the "you burn because you don't believe" shtick a lot of die-hard Christians believe in. If I ever get around to making my own parody religion, I'll be sure to utilize it in my "Eternal Reward" bit.

Of course, having sacramental beer and pastries representing the blood and flesh of Christ will gain lots of converts. ;)


As for the death of Osama bin Ladin... if I had been him and was preparing for this end, I'd not create recordings saying I'm still alive. That would be expected and anticipated. No. What I'd do is congratulate the armed forces for finally, after all these years, hunting me down. And then I'd point out that I was an old man in ill health requiring dialysis, and it is absolutely spectacular of the military that they could hunt down an old man in... ten years.

In short, I'd turn this triumph into a reminder of how the nose of the American military was tweaked for a decade and to make them look utterly incompetent.

After all, why rail on about death when you can use it as a weapon of humiliation?

Then again, I'm also the chap who calculated that far more damage could have been done on 9/11 if Al Qaida had four fewer people on those four planes and instead had them waiting in two teams near elementary schools in New York City... and once the first plane hit, go into the schools and start a massacre.

The end result would likely have been Bush nuking Afghanistan until it glowed. But it would have turned the world against the U.S. at that point.

(Yes, sometimes being a writer is not such a good thing. I've come up with so many ideas along these lines that are frankly horrifying and which I'd be reluctant to tell as a story.)

Rob H.

Jonathan S. said...

Interesting quiz. My coordinates were X: -2.75; Y: -5.33.

Still absorbing data on the whole bin Laden thing, but I have to agree that it's a tribute to the professionalism of the data analysts at the CIA, and the SEAL team that went in to do the dirty work, as well as a tribute to the willingness of this President to give an order, then get out of his people's way and let them work. I understand that when the CIA had first pegged this compound as having a "high-value target", they'd recommended bombing it, and Obama vetoed that out of concern for collateral damage.

David Brin said...

Well, also to actually get the body. And also to teach the pakistanis a lesson.

Conspiracy theorists will have to include the Navy Seals as villains., Point that out.

David Brin said...

lookit this picture. The commander in chief didn't grab the best chair!

wot dozzit mean?

David Brin said...

crap. Here it is. Remove the hard returns

or google photo of situation room Obama clinton watch

Geez... just a guy in the corner... not exactly imperial

Brendan said...

According to Professor Juan Cole the Palastinians were in on it, but it was thought best dipolomatically for both countries to go with the US acting alone line.

Economic Left/Right: -5.88
Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -6.46

Rob said...

Means he walked into a room prepared for him and assumed the "my fellow Americans" seat. First Speaker among equals, and all that.

Good to see.

rewinn said...

The 2nd prize from the bin Ladn raid: his hard drives.

May we expect a *lot* more operations in the near future?

Now, a *real* evil genius would leave behind a hard drive, listing all his enemies as his friends. There's plenty of precedent, unfortunately, for our side picking up people on slim evidence and effectively recruiting them for the bad guys by abusing them. Let's hope the current administration is smarter about this (...or simply more interested in wrapping up the problem...).

P.S. may Dr. Brin live long and prosper --- but should I outlive him, I shall expect beyond-the-grave recordings mocking us for having been fooled by his phoney funeral?

David Brin said...

Now you guys are making me feel ornery. Even though I'd probably score slight-left and way-down in that chart, seeing so many other go in that same direction makes me itch to jabber some of my (heretically) libertarian views about the corrective might of market competition!

rewinn said...

Bob The Angry Flower weighs in on Atlas Shrugged.

I sort of had this same thought in words, but sequential art expresses it so much better!

David Brin said...


Paul said...

"But if you were someone who did much evil in the world, like Osama bin Ladin [...] what goes to heaven is but a pale ghost. Meanwhile, someone like Mother Teresa [...]"

This plays into the "Osama is a monster" myth. The scary thing is that he probably wasn't. Beloved spiritual leader, husband, father. Gave up a life of privilege to fight against the Russian invasion of Afghanistan, and later against the US military presence in the Holy Land.

Also, Mother Teresa was supposedly a real bitch in person. Practiced forced conversions of the dying, campaigned against birth control, against anti-poverty measures (particularly suffrage), forbid pain relief for the suffering, discouraged medical training, forbid reading secular media, etc etc.

The line between monster and messiah is probably very fine. And I suspect OBL would be present in your father's heaven in greater quantity than many small venial angry people who never caused a single death.

(And while Mother Teresa too would be nearly-complete, she'd be almost unrecognisable.)


Re: Osama's post-mortem video.

I wouldn't release a specific video to taunt the US/west, or to fan conspiracies. I'd have spent the last few years (the compound was built in 2005, apparently especially for OBL, so he's likely been there for 5-6 years) making "home movies". Him and his friends and family, him being treated by doctors, playing with kids. Plus general "life in the mansion" videos. But importantly, long talks with followers, about Islam, the Qur'an, and The Struggle against the West.

Release those on supporter sites over the next 12-24 months.

(concop: Comic book about a supercop who only patrols comicons.)

Tim H. said...

OBL /9-11 comment here:
BTW, what if OBL had a terminal condition, besides the enmity of the U. S. military, and wished to end it all in flames?

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

In order to conspiracy this, they are going to have to malign and impugn the US Navy Seals. That won't be easy

They were able to make Bush a war hero and Kerry a deserter. They were also able to smear Max Cleland. So I wouldn't put it past them. But you're right--it won't be easy. I picture a bunch of FOX viewers getting confused about why the death of bin Laden isn't a good thing after all.

Robert said...

My father has an interesting theory of heaven. He believes everyone goes to Heaven. But before you ascend, the Good in you is separated from the Evil and that which is wicked and vile of you is cast into the Pit to burn.

The better of a person you are, the more of you goes to Heaven. But if you were someone who did much evil in the world, like Osama bin Ladin or Hitler or Stalin... then there is so little that is Good about you that what goes to heaven is but a pale ghost. Meanwhile, someone like Mother Teresa ascends as pretty much a whole person.

Interesting theory that jibes a little with some of my own experimentations.

When I was in high school, I theorized a cosmology in which every human being who ever lived is the same person. When you die, you are reincarnated as someone else. You can go back or forward in time, too, so you will be EVERY person who ever lived. The better you make the world, the better your life will be in other incarnations.

I never actually BELIEVED this to be true, but I thought a religion based on this belief might have a true civilizing effect on the world.

Long story, but a few years back, I did a four-page story for a comics fanzine where I attempted to portray an afterlife that was not incompatible with atheism. The idea I tried to convey was that the afterlife was just "more of the same" of however you lived your life. You can relive your experiences, but you can't have new ones--that's what "living" is for, and you're done with that now. So: A person who has lived his life in a manner compatible with contentment--someone who knows who he is and is content with who he is--will find the afterlife to be "heaven". Someone who can't stand his own life--who betrays his own principles--will find it "hellish".

Like any good story, I think it explains a lot.

Paul said...

Cow or panda people. (Depending on the nature of the "grass".)

rewinn said...

@Paul - while I appreciate your attempt to portray the likely complexity of bin Ladn's personality, at the end, he *chose* to use one of his wives as a human shield, while committing suicide-by-cop, thus ensuring her entirely unnecessary death.

What kind of guy does that?

No doubt many other "beloved spiritual leaders" are self-centered jerks, who use spirituality as just another tool. For example, your criticism of Mother Theresa is spot-on, and with no effort I could document more such practices of my own Roman Catholic hierarchy. The vast majority of Muslims would agree than bin Ladn used Islam the way Jame "Buffalo Bill" Gumb used human skin.

"...every human being who ever lived is the same person..."

...that's kinda clever: a combination of the Universal Soul theory and a spiritual version of the Feynman/Wheeler One-electron Universe? so where's that comic now - can you scan it and post it?


Does having or not having confidence in an afterlife make one more or less peaceful? An Outsider (no afterlife) and a resurrected human (has absolute proof) discuss the ramifications in The Order of the Stick

Jonathan S. said...

Actually, rewinn, the SEAL team reports that the woman was shot accidentally while trying to keep them from their target - bin Laden didn't actually do the "human shield" routine.

imper - a dimension of poverty, due to repeatedly falling for the "great deals" offered by Deveels.

LarryHart said...


so where's that comic now - can you scan it and post it?

I'm not that adept with scanning technology, although it's possible that some of my compatriots have scanned it somewhere on the web. I'll report back if I can find anything.

The "published" comic is called "Cerebus Readers In Crisis", which was a fanzine put together by fans of "Cerebus the Aardvark" and distributed at the S.P.A.C.E. comics convention in Columbus, OH several years in a row. My story rounds out issue #2. You can actually find mention of it on some comics websites, and the "Laughing Ogre" comic shop in Columbus has issues on its shelves!

In any case, here's a brief review of the comic (which--ahem--lists my story as the "highlight of the book")

rewinn said...

@Jonathan - thanks for the correction, which I now see is being reported, e.g. "Obama aide: Bin Laden not armed when killed".

I should, of course, have learned to take such stories with a grain of salt. It is nice to be able to get corrections in a timely way.

LarryHart said...

On the two-dimensional political chart...

I scored in the lower left quadrant, which is expected, but I scored way FURTHER to the collectivist side than I would have thought.

Some of the questions weren't easy to answer accurately. I don't remember word-for-word right now, but I'm thinking that although I truthfully answered some questions like "I think there is value to the idea of X", I was scored as if I said "X is absolutely right with no exceptions!!!"

David Brin said...

I didn't actually take the test, but it would not surprise me if some questions were tendentious.


David Brin said...

Driving Directions From Osama Bin Laden's Compound to Pakistan Military Academy

Anonymous said...

I just wanted to let David know about a study done to evaluate the hit/miss ratio of the tv pundits. It is not quite your predictions registry, but it is a start.

"...A Hamilton College class and their public policy professor analyzed the predicts of 26 pundits — including Sunday morning TV talkers — and used a scale of 1 to 5 to rate their accuracy. After Paul Krugman, the most accurate pundits were Maureen Dowd, former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY), and former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. “The Bad” list includes Thomas Friedman, Clarence Page, and Bob Herbert"

The article has a link to the actual study, in case anyone is interested.

David Brin said...

Someone refer the students to:



Tony Fisk said...

Woot! The comment barrier's down.

re: OBL conspiracy spin, I have seen one local attempt to portray his killing as a breach of rule of law. It conveniently omitted the standing orders about taking him alive if possible (or what the establishment of Gitmo might represent), and thus got decisively shot down in the comments section.

Yes, I seem to have ended up next to the Dalai Lama as well! Has anyone tried to see what it takes to get into the other quadrants? I think we need Tacitus to re-emerge from his diggings and re-establish a balance. That or persuade Kevin Rudd or Angela Merkel to drop by!

Twinbeam said...

' bin Laden didn't actually do the "human shield" routine.'

I guess you might think that's true, if you're willing to discount his family and the whole city of Abbottabad - "Can't bomb me! I'm in the middle of civilians!".

And also discount the fact that he could have grabbed a gun and run out to defend his family and go out the way he preached to his followers.

By his own standards, dying WITHOUT a gun in his hand, cowering in a room on the 3rd floor, makes him a hypocrite and coward.

Tony Fisk said...

re: ops room picture

Geez... just a guy in the corner... not exactly imperial

Reminds me of the Trainman's Lament:

I'm not allowed to run the train,
the whistle I can't blow.
I'm not allowed to say how far
the railroad cars can go.
I'm not allowed to shoot off steam
or even ring the bell.
But let it jump the stupid tracks,
and see who catches hell.

bache: preferred decor colour for organ recital rooms

Tony Fisk said...

Jamais Cascio worries me sometimes.

David Brin said...

Funny how the paranoid are never as imaginative as guys like me, who think of paranoia as a vivid talent, not an obsession.

Example, I have not heard anyone speculate on the reason for the sea burial that REALLY makes sense...

...that OBL has been sent - alive - to a well-planned hole on an islet near Diego Garcia... or in some fanatically hindu part of India. Isn't that the LOGICAL conspiracy theory?

Tony Fisk said...

You got that from a James Bond movie, didn't you?

It would certainly retain some DNA for future use.

Acacia H. said...

So, Osama bin Laden is one of the only people who can pilot a 200 ft. tall biomechanical robot to fight off biomechanical monstrosities that want nothing more than to destroy all life on Earth as "alien" and unworthy of existence?

And piloting one of the TBRs is an extremely painful and fatiguing processes, with pilots able to pilot for five minutes before they start losing it?

Rob H.

Acacia H. said...

Small question: Recently an internet friend of mine bandied forth a scenario of rapidly cooling a photocopier with liquid nitrogen (seeing that water and electronics is a bad mixture). My gut impulse is to shout "NO!" and worry about materials cracking from the sudden cooling (especially as it wouldn't be evenly distributed) and the separation of metal from semiconductor (ie, circuitry separating as some components cool far quicker than others).

But I'm honestly not sure on this. This is just my supposition from what little I know about expansion, contraction, and physics. So. Um... what would happen if you poured liquid nitrogen on a hot photocopier (and I'm assuming she means the electronic parts)?

Rob H.

LarryHart said...


Concerning rapid cooling of a photocpier...

What am I missing? Why would someone WANT to do such a thing in the first place?

Tony Fisk said...

It sounds a bit like the igNobel experiments to see how quickly a steak could be cooked on a bbq (end game involved liquid oxygen...the bbq cooked pretty well too!)

phook: the sound made by a bbq cooking with liquid O2

Acacia H. said...

I honestly don't know. I suppose the photocopier could have overheated and was scorching paper or the like when putting paper through the copier, or she might have wanted to cool it rapidly so it could be used again. But all I had was the initial question on if you could use liquid nitrogen to rapidly cool it (and I assume she meant pouring liquid nitrogen onto the electronics portion or the like).

Rob H.

Tony Fisk said...

LN2 poured onto the floor acts a bit like flubber on speed (it boils vigorously).

Not being a good conductor, it wouldn't cause electrical shorts. The drops would spit around all over the place, and would take any bit of dust etc. with it.

Generally not a good idea.

There *is* a liquid insulator that can be used as a coolant. It's got a good takeup of oxygen as well, so you could immerse yourself (was even considered as a good medium for premature babies, whose lungs haven't developed fully. Not sure what happened to it)

dmon said...

OK I have to ask here; as a frequent lurker I respect this forum as a serious and thoughtful community. I've been half-eared following, with extreme skepticism, the Rossi/Focardi "reactor" experiments and recently saw this blurb:

Opinions please! I err on the side of incredulity for these sort of things (with a dash of starry-eyed "what-if" dreaming) so I defer to folks here who know much more about physics than I do.

Rob said...

@dmon, the article contains, "Theories are helpful but not necessary. We still don’t really know how permanent magnets work, yet we use them every day."

That's a red flag to me. If they bring one of these reactors to my town and show it powering a pair of Hollywood-style spotlights, I might be less skeptical.

Rob said...

If it's hot enough, the differences in energy *might* be explosive, but my best educated guess is that you'll hear a lot of really loud cracking with no flashes of light. And any fire will probably be put out.

Oh, and the copy machine will be destroyed in a way the warranty is certain not to cover

TheMadLibrarian said...

Please don't mention liquid N2 and overheated copier in the same breath to one of our techs. He's likely to say "Let's find out!" and hang the consequences; he just rolls like that.

I'm surprised that Nate Silvers didn't make the cut on accurate pundits. His predictions on the 2008 presidential race were pretty much spot on, although lately he's not received much press.


spinkeri: junior press secretary-in-training

TheMadLibrarian said...

Hmmph. As far left as Gandhi, but even farther down on the libertarian spectrum. Must be all those books I don't want to burn.


grach -- Gaelic grouch

LarryHart said...

Well, I was wrong. FOX News still is capeable of surprising me.

That Napolitano guy (aka the new Glenn Beck) is apparently all bent out of shape that a US President ignored the rule of law and used the military to "murder" Osama bin Laden.

Really, where was this guy when BUSH was the one ignoring all sorts of laws. Right-wingers only care about the rule of law when a DEMOCRAT is president?

Even more to the point, though, is this really the sort of thing that plays well with FOX viewers? Sympathy for bin Laden? If so, this is "We have always been at war with Eastasia" to the nth degree. But I find it hard to believe that's what FOX viewers want to hear.

rewinn said...

Since I credulously passed on the human shield story, I might as well continue my streak by adding the theory that bin Ladn's death is a miracle caused by the late John Paul II! The evidence is very strong: OBL's death's removed an evil from the world and happened immediately after JP2's beatification ceremony!

Of course, there are those that will argue OBL's death was the results of tax cuts for the rich, and others explain it as part of the inevitable march of historical forces leading to the triumph of the proletariat! There is no room to doubt it would have happened much earlier had not Keynesians interfered with the free market, and Pluto not been demoted from "planet" status.

ell said...

RE: mass transit

A couple of decades ago, during a gas "shortage," bus fare was lowered to 25 cents and suddenly buses were full of businessmen in suits.

Most mass transit isn't good enough for the price. When the price drops low enough, formerly unlikely riders appear because it is good enough FOR THE PRICE.

Anonymous said...

RE: Nate Silver

The class only worked with a tiny subset of pundits, specifically only those who had appeared on the Sunday shows more than 3 times. There may have been other requirements; I only read the article that I linked to.

Sorry Dr. Brin, but I have no connection to the class and study, so I cannot pass along your suggestion. I am just a long time lurker who thought you might be interested in the story.

David Brin said...

kewl story. The right will dismiss the students as biased. What's needed is a center of unimpeachable standards & neutraliity.

Unknown said...

"Since I credulously passed on the human shield story, I might as well continue my streak by adding the theory that bin Ladn's death is a miracle caused by the late John Paul II! The evidence is very strong: OBL's death's removed an evil from the world and happened immediately after JP2's beatification ceremony!"

Because of course a man who forgave his own assassin would gack someone from the afterlife.

dimpri: An Italian version of dim sum

Paul said...

My point wasn't to defend OBL, or condemn the take down. (A righteous kill of a bad dude.) It was a specific response to Robert's father's version of Heaven.

No "big" villian, however monstrous their cause or the actions of their followers, is likely to be as "monstrous" as the small hate-filled, vindictive turds you've probably dealt with in you own life.

And no famous saint, however noble their cause or wonderful their followers, is likely to be as nice as some of the people you know in person.

It's the nature of the bigness. You can't get there without being both likeable and batshit crazy.

There is a major serial paedophile in a local prison, a former Judge who ran a paedophile ring, has since been implicated in the abduction/murders of teenage boys and young men. A "monster", right? No question about it. So recently it was revealed that he practically runs his cell-block, has guards running errands for him, and has his choice of new "fish" to rape.

"How is it possible?" the media cried, "why would anyone help such a monster?!" The man was a senior judge, he seduced boys to not only commit sexual acts for him, but to recruit other boys (and possibly to abduct and kill). By definition, he's charming and urbane. By definition, he can manipulate people into liking and trusting him. But the moment we say "monster", we blind ourselves to the very nature of the monstrosity.

Paul said...

Re: the Rossi/Focardi "reactor"

Most free/magic energy machines get further away the closer you look. Rossi tripped a few bullshit-alarms at first, but now seems to be moving in the right direction.

The 3rd party testing done so far doesn't rule out a fraud (via secret input), but seems to have eliminated well-meaning self-delusional error.

(Many free-energy wanna-be's basically make a weak power transformer, measure the voltage rise, and cry "above unity power output!")

Rossi's device seems to produce more heat-out than power-in, without producing radioactive by-products. The only question left is whether it's all a giant scam.

(abricult: Spell used by Harry Potter to create a secret religion.)

Paul said...

From the BBC quotes from Middle East commentators, which David posted...

... two particular quotes struck me as, err, good.

Hasan Khadr in Palestinian Al-Ayyam
"It was a paradox that Bin Laden died at a time when millions of Arabs are taking to the streets to ask for freedoms that have no place in his personal lexicon or religious ideology... His death ended a very dark decade."

Editorial in Saudi Arabian Al-Watan
"Osama Bin Laden's killing in this way could have had a negative effect, had it taken place at the end of last year. But, today it will pass just like that, and if it has an effect, it will be very limited because the Middle East of 2011 is not like before. The Middle East today has a new vision… that is far away from the influence of al-Qaeda or any other jihadist organisation."

There's something in these two quotes that makes the back of my neck tingle. (In a good way.)

"Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that." - Martin Luther King, Jr.

Ian said...

Re: cooling a photocopier: most older photocopiers have a unit known as a fuser which heats the toner causing it to partially melt, fuse with the rest of toner and stick to the paper.

So apart from anything else, freezing a copier would probably cause it stop working.

Lowering a photocopier to liquid Nitrogen temperatures would probably cause the paper and the plastic components to become extremely brittle. The plastic would contract at a different rate to the metal components almost definitely causing extensive cracking and breakage.

Liquid toner would probably freeze, toner powder would probably clump into lumps.

All things considered, probably not a good idea.

David Brin said...

Oh well, nice to know in advance how one will go..... "Nose blowing can trigger stroke"....

Jumper said...

I had the Diego Garcia conspiracy hypothesis myself but didn't mention it to anyone. Despite my using the word "hypothesis" my friends think I'm crazy enough already, so I zipped it.

Think of the intel which could have been obtained. That's why I didn't like seeing Saddam hanged either. A few years in ICC prison at mimimum would've softened them up to some extent, surely.

rewinn said...

@Paul - I apologize if I misunderstood your comments.

I guess a lot depends on what one means by "monster". Certainly successful sociopaths have to be charming, or they won't be able to multiply their efforts with that of followers. Their capacity to understand what appeals to their listeners, and the skill to provide it to them, but without the concomitant caring as to what happens to them next, is precisely what makes them monsters.

Does Heaven wants the 1st two qualities without the last one? The mixture is not physically ugly, but positively Luciferian.

Acacia H. said...

*looks at the Spam post above*

It's times like this I wish I actually DID have an orbital laser artillery satellite. Either that or an orbital pie bombardment system (which I figure fires frozen pies cooled to an extreme temperature that then is thawed during reentry for a nice "splat" effect.)

Rob H., who is always up for some whimsy in his Spam-destruction methods

Tony Fisk said...

Wallace came up with a 'cracking' porridge gun in 'a Close Shave'.

Actually, you need to get hold of the Orbital Mind Control Lasers so you can change spammers' alignment.

cenali: long strands of martian pasta

Tim H. said...

Sounds like a job for the Howard brothers, or The Pie Assassin.

"erotando", Subject of a new spamstorm.

rewinn said...

Spammers should be made into spam.

Indeed, a delightful rumor could be invented ...

Tony Fisk said...

...about vikings?

weati: a form of sentient breakfast cereal

sociotard said...

Some old AT&T commercials saying what the future would be like. The fun part of it is, you can remember how at the time these seemed like really amazing predictions, and now most of them are trivial. Well, the medical record thing fell flat, but thats a fault of bureaucracy, not technology.

David Brin said...

Do not say the words A T n' T

Our DSL has gone from sucky to horrid


onward to next post

Tim H. said...

DSL here gets flaky about half the winter, and when the phone rings.

Jumper said...

Perhaps if everyone would send Frank the Spammer an email inquiring about his substantial sales of heroin and machine guns, he would not like the attention.