Saturday, December 03, 2011

Is Ignorance Bliss? Or is it Red?

Now for a glimpse at three disturbing scientific studies that have bearing on America’s silly, fratricidal, lobotomizing and treasonous “culture war.”

== Ignorance is Blissful Certainty? ==

The less people know about important complex issues such as the economy, energy consumption and the environment, the more they want to avoid becoming well-informed, according to new research published by the American Psychological Association.

And the more urgent the issue, the more people want to remain unaware, according to a paper published online in APA's Journal of Personality and Social Psychology: Ignorance is bliss when nit comes to challenging social issues.

"These studies were designed to help understand the so-called 'ignorance is bliss' approach to social issues," said author Steven Shepherd, a graduate student with the University of Waterloo in Ontario. "The findings can assist educators in addressing significant barriers to getting people involved and engaged in social issues."'

Sigh... Sometimes I feel we're in Stapledon's Last and First Men. Barely comprehending the range of curses, embedded in human nature that wage war against enlightenment.

Next: Read this Rolling Stone article: "How Ignorance, Greed and Ideology Are Warping Science and Hurting Democracy" by Julian Brooks.  It reviews a book we all should buy and then quote extensively to our friends."

As science writer Shawn Lawrence Otto points out, in his tough-minded Fool Me Twice: Fighting the Assault on Science in America, too many Americans are either plain ignorant of science or actively hostile to it, or both. The very thing responsible for half of U.S. economic growth in our lifetimes, putting food on their very tables. And that's as true of political leaders and journalists as it is of ordinary citizens.

After those two downers, Let's Talk About the Future We Want - a UN-related effort to "launch a global conversation to learn what people want their communities to be like in 2030. “We want everyone -- all ages, cultures, religions, genders and countries - in the conversation. If we finally confront head-on the economic, social and environmental challenges we face, and if we get busy building more just, peaceful, and sustainable communities, what would ours look like?"

It's aimed at the UN's Rio+20 international conference next June on sustainable development. Seems like people reading Contrary Brin would have thoughts to contribute to this effort.

== TEDx Brin? ==

TED style public talks are short but punchy and usually fizzing with possibilities! Watch them all!  Here are two of my 2011 performances -- idea-packed splashes in the deep end of the pool.

"The World of 2061 Re-inventing Civilization"  - from the recent TEDx Brussels conference, and

"Making Gods: Will That Bother Anyone?" a fun romp showing how scripture can - and must -be interpreted in science-friendly ways!  Amaze your friends, especially the believers! Performed for the great big Singularity Summit in New York City.

Oh, any folks following the new TV series “Prophets of Science Fiction”? I seem to be on every week. But don’t let that keep you from tuning in to shows on Asimov and Dick and Clarke and Bradbury and Heinlein!

I’ve been content to leave up-top my big, controversial posting about Ayn Rand and her novel/film Atlas Shrugged,  in part because the ferment was cool and fun.  And also because I am neck-deep in copy-editing my big new novel EXISTENCE. (Appearing in June!)

== Miscellania ==

Here’s a potpourri of science snippets and other cool stuff. Starting with…
 -- the poetry and Symphony of Science, as well as
 --  The Case for Mars.

Armed police drones? Jeez, let’s dig in our heels over this one. Surveillance is one thing. But anyone shot by a cop should at least get to see the badge, look a human in the eye, and get a chance to yell “I give up, copper!”

Breaking the Deep Space Barrier: A reusable, electrically propelled spacecraft would open up vast realms of deep space to human exploration.

Scientists have outlined which moons and planets are most likely to harbour extra-terrestrial life, via the Earth Similarity Index and Planet Habitability Index. (A big topic in Existence!)

Dolphin whistles help solve mysteries of cosmos, from black holes to supernovae. A dolphin’s variable frequency sonar helps un-muddle signals reflecting off many objects (multipath interference). Scientists are using this same technique to better design neutron detectors.

How Star Trek imagined the iPad 23 years ago. In Star Trek: The Next Generation, crewmates had widespread use of smooth, flat, touch-based control panels throughout the Enterprise. These were known as , or Personal Access Display Devices.

Eeek!  It’s the 'Brinicle' ice finger of death! Filmed in Antarctica. You've now been warned: don’t cross Brin the Eskimo!

Some are hoping to pin down the last universal common ancestor (LUCA)—not the first life, but the most recent organism from which all life on earth descended.  3 billion years ago, did there live a single mega-organism, filling the planet's oceans before splitting off into three groups: single celled bacteria & archaea and complex eukaryotes? Eerily like Chris Moore's lovely, gonzo science novel FLUKE.

Frank Herbert, in an old interview, agreeing with some things I’ve said... before I ever said them! ;-)

Worth six minutes of your time: Six Thought Experiments humorously explained in a minute apiece by David Mitchell: Zeno’s Paradox, The Grandfather’s Paradox, The Chinese Room test of Strong Artificial Intelligence, Hilbert’s Infinite Hotel, The Twin Paradox, Schrodinger’s Cat.  Way fun!

Remember this from a year or so ago? A "time traveler" tries to disrupt the Large Hadron Collider?  "Countries do not exist where I am from. The discovery of the led to limitless power, the elimination of poverty and Kit-Kats for everyone. It is a communist chocolate hellhole and I'm here to stop it ever happening."  The story sounded lovel-quasiy-plausible (with the presumption that the fellow was mental) till the very last line, when it seems sure to be a "gotcha!" practical joke. If it were true with the last line? Brrrr!  Can someone report back to us that this was definitively (instead of 99% sure) a hoax story? A sunday-afternoon investigation for our proto-smart mob.

== Of practical Use to Parents and Teachers! ==

The curse of the gifted child? This study suggests that when students are praised for their intellect (You must be really smart!) rather than their effort (You must have worked very hard!), they come to believe that such abilities are innate, unchangeable. The ‘hard-working’ kids may be more likely to persist, believing if they try hard enough, they will succeed.

See? That's a piece of wisdom you can't cram onto the stupid left-right axis. It just is.


David Brin said...

Jackson Browne has a new protest song.

Tony Fisk said...

So, Rand's off our civilisation, eh? OK Sorry!

Armed police drones. All the rage in Pakistan/Afghanistan.

This story brings to mind a couple of scenes from 'The Shootist' and 'Unforgiven'*:

- John Wayne compliments a young man's shooting skill, but observes that it's one thing to shoot straight, and quite another to shoot another man straight.

- After a gung-ho (and myopic) young bounty hunter is in shock after losing his 'gun virginity', Clint Eastwood's character (a reformed gunslinger) consoles him by saying it's a terrible thing to kill a man.

'But a video? I mean: why *not* shoot a video?' (paraphrasing English Bob's speech from 'Unforgiven')

* also a scene from Farley's Spiders reboot: featuring Capt. Miller and a bird's nest.. and a drone.


Dolphins I'll come back to in a moment. First, a voice not often heard: New Horizons just tweeted that it is now sufficiently close to its destination that its instruments can resolve Pluto and Charon. It still has over 3 years before it arrives there.

After that? Scientists are looking for other KBOs that may be visited. You can help them find a candidate at Zooniverse: specifically, Icehunters.

If you prefer to look further afield, you can also help Kepler find some exo-planets.

And closer to home and dolphins, Zooniverse now has a site for assisting in working out what whales (orcas) are saying to each other.

David Brin said...

Great dump, Tony!

Corey said...

Roddenberry certainly imagined the world very prophetically in terms of technology.

It wasn't just the PADDs, it was the way information was carried and accessed. No one used discs or cartridges, all data, everywhere, all the time, was streamed, via the ship-board wireless network, to whatever computer was convenient, be it software, a poem, a video, whatever. Even the way the majority of information was found via the computer's powerful search engine, looking up keywords, or combinations of them, and scrolling through the results, was a perfect description how we'd access information in the near future.

All he needed to complete his vision was lolcats :)

Carl M. said...

The curse of the gifted child bit is very much in the classical liberal tradition: nurture over nature and raw meritocracy. It cuts at both racism, and namby-pamby modern liberalism. If you are dumb it's your fault! Either that, or you didn't have teachers that didn't give you enough good old fashioned drill.

Either way, no self-esteem for you until you do your homework.

I've been reading several of the popular books on the subject of late -- currently in the midst of The Talent Code. I suspect a bit of overstatement...of an important truth.

Teemu said...

Brin asked for the commenting in the previous thread's post, to be moved here, so I'll do that.

David Friedman wrote:

"Leftists would be less inclined to view global warming as bad if it were natural. Part of that would be an inclination to attribute to it the death of millions if it were the work of man, and be more skeptical of the same claim for the same global warming if it were natural."

That sounds like pure assertion with no argument to me.

Stefan Jones said...


Typo in the post title. "Or is IT Red."

* * *

I've noticed that conservatives are down on unearned self-esteem, but God forbid if a GOP candidate doesn't swear up and down that he or she doesn't believe in "American Exceptionalism." The ultimate in self-esteem exercises.

Stefan Jones said...

Oh . . . I'm on a HOLY CRUSADE against an adulterated, foul product called "Sweetened Condensed Filled Milk."

"Filled" sounds innocuous, and the price seems right, but the stuff is evil crap.

A tray of fudge I cooked with the stuff leaked oil which hardened like candle wax.

Here's a picture . . . know your foe!

Stefan Jones said...

YAY! Comcast added Science Channel to my line-up. I'm watching Prophets of Science Fiction. Mary Shelly is up first. No Brin yet, but there's Kim Stanley Robinson!

Rob Perkins said...

Police drones?

Please. Float enough of them and they'll just be hacked. Or someone will defy the FCC long enough to interfere with their signals. It's a vest/bullet type of arms race and a boondoggle, since using them will still mean needing eyes on the ground anyway.

About the only use *for* them is catching otherwise law-abiders in misdemeanor acts like parking backwards. And you don't need to float a camera on blades to do that efficiently, unless... unless...

unless the retirement fund and pay obligations for unionized police forces get to Vallejo, CA levels, bankrupting the rest of the city, a trajectory every city is currently on. Hmm.

Stefan Jones said...

Larry Niven wrote a short story, "Cloak of Anarchy," about parks with no rules except a ban on physical violence.

They were patrolled with floating globes with cameras and stun guns! As I recall, a hacker disables the globes, and things get ugly.

As long as protestors are allowed to have drones, I'm not too worried about police drones. But there's a balance of power and authority to consider. Police micro-drones will likely be allowed anywhere, perhaps without warrants. Use of civilian drones will be subject to law, and lawsuits, limiting both their abuse and their ability to counter state power.

rewinn said...

The curse of the gifted child, in my case, worked via a different mechanism than that described in the article. I excelled with very little effort in my tiny, highly structured high school, and was frequently told that this meant I was really, really smart. I believed it and learned to expect to excel without working hard or in an organized way. In college this lead to disaster; unfortunately, I didn't soon enough figure out the root cause (less structure, more competition, and harder subjects) and the relatively simple solution ( more and better!!!), on the evidence not being quite as smart as I thought I was or had been told I was.
I'm not complaining; I accept responsibility and things have turned out pretty well anyway, but surely there's a lesson there somewhere ... if only I were smart enough to figure out what!


@DavidF's comments have already been pretty well addressed by others (e.g. elections are not probabilistic events but rather tallies; when monopolies lead to regulation followed by regulatory capture, you can't blame the regulatory capture for the regulations) so there's not need to reply in detail, except for a few philosophical points:

1. @DavidF
"... you have to first show that the government legitimately owns the country..."

Oh, that's easy: look at the signatures on our state and federal Constitutions. A free people set up a government; therefore that government "owns" the country. Your forebears agreed to that bargain either in 1789 or upon immigration.

2. @DavidF -
"Suppose the government decided to lock up everyone who criticized it without trial..." etc
Placing reasonable limits on the use of property has been part of our national bargain since the beginning, and cannot be compared to blatant violations of the Bill of Rights. But The Alien & Sedition Acts, and the more recent moves to lock up without trial citizens that our government declares "terrorists", rightly worries many that these powers will be abused and I welcome sincere libertarian opposition to those. It's worth noting that the champion of our Constitution in these cases has been military lawyers such as Charlie Swift, who typically are forced out of the service soon afterwards.

3. @DavidF
"...we trust ..."
This is the heart of the problem. Doctrinaire libertarians may be sincere in trusting private organizations more than the unwashed mob; de gustibus non est disputandum! The quibbling, the ducal sneering at democracy, and the reluctance to admit contrary evidence is consistent with a simple, unshakeable preference that appears as sincere and as harmless as rooting for the Cubs, except where it leads to destructive public policy.

David Brin said...

looks like we are launched into another highbrow series. Enjoy, guys.

But Carl M, while I respect your views, this time I pure & simply did not understand them. Seriously, I tried to parse the meaning of your comment and (my fault I'm sure) I simply could not grasp what you were saying.

Carl M. said...

The coddle the kids, don't spank them, don't pressure them, let them do "creative math", etc. came from the liberal left. The screams for going back to old fashioned drill and discipline came from the religious conservative right mainly. The works I am reading that claim there is no such thing as talent say that what appears to be talent is just the result of more hours of deliberate practice. That is, boring uncreative drill. Repeat the passage until you get it right.

Think football coach vs. modern art teacher.

On the other hand, talent as inborn was the foundation of the old European Right -- and of the old line Southern Democrats in this country (many who have migrated into the now dumificated Republican Party).

So this is an area where modern liberals are siding with the Old Right more than modern conservatives (which does include some conservers of classical liberalism still).

Ken Burnside said...

In the Western tradition, if a student doesn't understand the teacher, the prima facie case is that the fault lies with the teaching method. In the Eastern tradition, the prima facie case is that the fault lies with the student.

For most intellectual disciplines - science among them - the truth is somewhere in between these two polarities, but edging towards the first. For things that are amenable to training rather than education, the second is vastly more efficient.

I bring this up because a significant amount of science presentation is done with a noticeable taint of condescension. There is a communications gap that furthers the "ignorance is bliss" problem.

Telling people "There is a level of abstraction that I can comprehend, but you do not, that will require you to change your life to accommodate..." is seldom, if ever, a winning model for argumentation, unless you can show some significant benefits for using that level of abstraction. Examples of significant benefits include lawyers, doctors, and most engineering-derivable pure research.

Yet, it persists among the quasi-intelligentsia.

The dialectic that makes Fox News a thriving business, and the single most widely followed news source (52% of viewers in a four network environment!) is this:

"These people who aren't in your monkeysphere talk down to you. They think they're better than you. They want you to give up your lifestyle while they keep theirs, all in the name of the "good of society"."

You don't get to say "People who watch Fox News are all subhumans who don't count..." because they vote, and society has to serve them too.

Regardless of whether or not it's true, they've been told they're the victims of Liberal Oppression, and puffed up on the endorphins of indignation.

The mission - and I'm part of it too - is to find a way to bridge that gap and tailor a message to the people who follow Fox News - and to actually walk through the entire set of steps, going over them as needed - so that on the issue at hand it comes off as "This is a walk-through and explanation of something that exists on a higher abstraction than you're used to dealing with, and it's affecting your life."that's about to alter your life."

This subject might be international finance, it might be macroeconomics and the problem of the derivatives bubble, it may be climate science.

Jacob said...

Hi Ken Burnside,

You assert that part of the attraction to Fox is indignation endorphins. I think you've hit on a truth to nature of people that follow both Fox and MSNBC. I'd happily support you in the mission you stated. My question is 'how do you intend to deal with the drug addition aspects of indignation?' Will the new conservative message involve these voters casting their indignation at Fox or some other target? David Brin certainly is making motions on this point by pointing out that Fox is heavily influenced by Foreign Powers.

LarryHart said...

Hey, appropos nothing in particular, I just saw "Soylent Green" again. That movie now joins "Grapes of Wrath" as looking more and more relevant every time I see it.

As has been noted here before, the 1973 film was not predicting 2022 to be heading toward an ice age, but rather "the greenhouse effect" had warmed New York City to the point that 20 million unemployed people could sleep on the streets year round, male fashion included a sort of tie-like object that was used to routinely mop sweat from the brow, and characters would talk about "what winter used to be like."

But that's not what was most poignant. It really hit me when the old man played by Edward G Robinson first wept tears of joy when presented with a rare meal of actual food, and then began railing "How did we come to this?" That's (of course) the bookend to the scene toward the end when Thorne is allowed to see pictures of the world he never knew, and weeps "How could I have known? How could I have ever imagined?"

Every time I see the film, it seems more like we're further down a road that makes that particular dystopia plausible.

anne.ominous said...

Sigh. I am SO weary of seeing this reference to the iPad having been "invented" by the Start Trek crew.

The Newspad, a device that even more closely resembled the iPad, appeared prominently in the movie "2001: A Space Oddyssey", in 1968. 43 years ago, not 23.

It was not only closer in appearance to the iPad than the Start Trek version that came along 20 years later, it had features nearly identical to the iPad, including video chat and browsing capabilities.

Let's give credit where it is really due, eh?

anne.ominous said...

That is really weird... I did not write "Start Trek". There must have been some kind of spell-checking going on behind the scenes.

Eric J said...

If I were a time traveler from the future, with the intent of making as little disruption as possible if I was detected, the choice of April 1 as a target day is obvious.

If "Pretend You're a Time Traveller Day" had caught on, that would have been even better, with lots of people dressed in anachronistic clothing running around asking what day it was and saying "then there's still time" to whatever answer was given. But as far as I knew there will have been only one of those.

Eric J said...

I just did a web search. It's possible that no longer happened.

Stefan Jones said...

RE Soylent Green:

Harry Harrison, author of the book (Make Room, Make Room) on which the movie is loosely based, was on set for the movie.

He suggested things to the producer and director, such as having Shirl (?) bring her own plastic bag to the illegal butcher.

When Edward G. Robinson asked Harrison who the heck this "Sol" guy was, he told Robinson that (paraphrasing) "You're me, as a dying old man. You remember when things were good, and you've seen everything go to hell, and no one understands what has been lost."

I don't think we're headed toward the "cheek to jowl" scenario presented in the film, but yes:

Energy crisis
Global warming
The ocean ecosystem dying off

The latter . . . read up on ocean acidification. Even if you don't believe that increasing CO2 levels isn't going to mess up the climate, that should scare the hell out of you.

Sean K said...

As for the Large Hadron Collider story....

The date stamp on the story is 1 April 2010. I think that's the only real evidence we need to declare the story a hoax. C-Net regularly makes April Fools hoax posts.

David Brin said...

Sorry Carl, but I am still having trouble following you! Please be patient with me.

Sure, the extreme caricature of liberal thought on education is the ditzy-left notion of fun-fun-fun education. And of all liberal institutions, one of those who genuinely went for a lefty perspective was a lot of teachers' unions. Okay? See, I am partway there.

I just have trouble grasping whether you are saying that the lefty PC position has migrated in FAVOR of more drill, because that posits a more .... egalitarian attitude? Help me out here.

Ken B grasps the conflation going on here. Those international tests that American kids score badly on mostly measure TRAINING in memorizable facts and skills. Sure foreign students will do better at those. They spend far more hours. Many are beaten.

Even the American right won't go very far down that road. Sure they want more drill. But overall? They want charter schools so that the market can COMPETE to make learning more FUN! In other words, they buy into the overall American viewpoint.

Fact is, the US approach is vastly better at drawing the top 20% into creativity and unabashed competitive confidence... while betraying the 80% who need skills. As we shift toward drill, we are undermining the one thing we were good at.

EricJ "It's possible that no longer happened..." I love this language!!

Re soylent... c'mon guys cheer op!

Carl M. said...

Yes, we need room for creativity, but even creativity requires drill. Read a book on jazz or rock improvisation: it's all about the scales. My music teachers knew the importance of scales, including those in public schools. Visual art was another matter. I cannot think of a single art class in public school that taught anything other than how to play with a differnt medium. Not a one. And this is why American music is cultural imperialism while our modern art museums are filled with crappe.

Phonics mastery requires some boring drill -- more boring for the teacher than the student. But once you master phonics you can truly read.

Useful creativity comes from turning the basics into mindless reflexes. Yes, we should preserve the creative spirit by encouraging academic play throughout the years. But expecting useful creativity until after drill mastery is premature. The creative bits should be ungraded play for the most part.

The Chinese put too much effort into building useful reflexes; we do too little.


The recent spate of books deprecating inborn talent are in line with the old classical liberal tradition. But these same works harp on the importance of old fashioned drill. The Beatles were great in large part because they played -- a lot. They did all nighters in German strip clubs before becoming world famous.

David Brin said...

Yes I got that much. It's just that your ironic point... that liberals seem now to be veering away from "fun!" as a teaching method, toward joining conservatives in wanting "practice!" -- seemed a bit jarring.

I now get that it is based, logically, on fanatical egalitarianism. It's just hard to actually believe this shift has happened without evidence.

As for phonics, its adherents were just as dogmatically dense as the liberal "whole language" fools. Anyone with any sense could tell that both approaches had their uses. An insanely inflexible "debate."

Rob Perkins said...

The poetry is still missing from math education. Has anyone read, "Lockhart's Lament"? Just google that for the essay, a point of view from a math-loving math teacher who sees that the point of math education is (or must be) the point of any language arts or fine arts education: The subject is beautiful, and its utility is secondary to the beauty.

He makes this claim while stridently claiming that drill and memorization still have their place, just that starting with it is a way to kill human interest in it forever.

Pat Mathews said...

Re: ignorance - or rather, deliberate rejection -

Yes. A kid's movie about penguins. Because it pushes evolution and the environmentalist hysteria and the homosexual agenda, but read the comments about environmentalism being un-Christian!

rewinn said...

To be contrarian: You have to go fishing where the fish are and science has to attract kids where they are. This is is only incidentally at school anymore; if we added text messages, tweets and photos uploaded to flickr + facebook, is it not likely that The Next Generation is communicating *outside of* school vastly more than any generation in history ever did *in* school ... and that therefore that Generation may be in an important sense more intelligent, only less tightly guided?

To the extent that math and the sciences help tell the true (...or at least the provable...) from the false (...or at least the unprovable ...) there may be a huge audience awaiting in debunkery and forensics prgrams, websites etc. The role of "Experts" in such programs is not to talk down to us as the toplofty superiors so derided by the anti-intellectuals (...and justifiably disliked by everyone else...), but to help us make our own decisions using their expertise as Just Another Tool.

Congresscritters, teachers and other classical decisionmakers may be especially ill-suited to such an environment since they were raised and prospered under the old paradigm, and don't seem especially eager to surrender their hard-earned authorty (...they may also be emotionally unable to appreciate and avoid the risks, as Anthony Wiener so spectacularly demonstated.)

I'm way out of touch with popular entertainment, but a hopeful sign would be if forensics programs ("Mythbusters", "CSI") would replace shoot-m-ups and corporate shenanigans ("Dallas", "L.A. Law"), or if kids started accepting the images presented by the corporate-owned media and started promoting their own images.

Faster yer brainbelts kids - it's gonna be a bumpy ride!


P.S. @Annie ... "Start Trek" is delightful! It wasn't the first SF, but it indeed "Started" the "Trek" toward mainstreaming SF. It may be interesting to contemplate why it ultimately succeeded where its contemporaries, e.g. "Lost In Space", "The Outer Limits", ultimately failed.

LarryHart said...

Stefan Jones on "Soylent Green::

He suggested things to the producer and director, such as having Shirl (?) bring her own plastic bag to the illegal butcher.

Y'know, I've seen that movie a dozen time, but it never occured to me that the butcher was black market. I took him to be more like a diamond merchant, having the most valuable stuff in a "back room" that only wealthy regulars get to see.

Thanks for the book title. I might have to search it out.

LarryHart said...

Stefan Jones again on "Soylent Green":

I don't think we're headed toward the "cheek to jowl" scenario presented in the film

Not the "population bomb" thing so much. But the streets of NYC being filled with 20 million unemployed people? More plausible every day.

And this exchange was particularly chilling, because I don't think the political Powers That Be are so much evil as...

Sol: Why are they doing this?

Old woman at the Exchange: Because it's easier. I believe the word is "expedient."

And since you seem knowledgable about the movie--at the very end, when Thorne is ambushed by killers outside the Exchange, is the implication that the other people in there have already been killed? This was the first time I ever noticed the setting for that final gun battle.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

Re soylent... c'mon guys cheer op!

I'm not saying I expect it to come true.

I'm saying that, like a few other works of fiction (most notably "Grapes of Wrath"), it seems more plausible and more poignant each time I see it. Some of that is because I'm older, and I understand some of the old characters' point of view better than I did as a teenager. But some of it is also because the settings have gone from "fiction having no bearing on real life" (or in the case of Steinbeck, "an era of history that we are thankfully past and will never have to worry about again") to having at least metaphorical relevance to today's headlines.

Carl M. said...

Completely off the current topic, but rather interesting indeed: Antarctic ice formed when the atmosphere had more CO2 than today.

Unless oysters and coral are recent additions, this finding, if true, indicates that they can survive a bit of acidification.

Tony Fisk said...

'Start Trek' sounds like an 'eggcorn', a spelling error, with other meanings that suggests that something in your psyche thought it wasn't!

Then again, there is a book that lists some spectacular meaningfails that result from iPhone's inbuilt spell checker/correcter.

Nature vs nurture. The kindergarten my daughter went to used the Reggio Emilio technique to encourage their own reaction to and analysis of a situation. The main emphasis at that age being to teach the children for social behaviour. The results were interesting, and far from anarchic. In fact, I see a few parallels in agile methods.

At a deeper level than school performance, it was thought that the last trump for Lamarckism (inheritance of experience) was sounded a while back. Genes rule!
Only, epigenetics is finding that the methyl groups that allow/suppress their proper expression *are* effected by environment, and this packaging does get passed on.
Presumably, the expression remains open to re-configuration.

Tony Fisk said...

It's not the CO2 levels per se as the rate at which they change. I think oysters of 35 mya would be used to the prevailing conditions.* Would modern shellfish be?

Also, I think the ice would pick up the atmospheric levels rather than the ocean levels (although it seems reasonable to expect them to be higher as well)

*600ppm, which we'll be reaching by the middle of next century, on current trends.

David Brin said...

I am more worried about the methane... in tundra and in hydrates under the sea. That tipping point could be exponential.

Alan said...

@ Ken Burnside: I agree that Fox News has some serious problems, but it got its viewership largely because all the other news networks failed to provide "fair and balanced" coverage. We all know Fox News isn't fair and balanced, but to pretend that the fault is all with Fox and its viewers ignores the problems with the other networks. I won't insist on perfect objectivity because I know it's impossible, and I largely respect the work done by NPR, but pretty much every other on-air news source in the USA is crap - and blaming Fox for meeting a (very large) demand for the kind of reporting that many viewers wanted is a bit of the pot calling the kettle black.

@ Larry Hart: Funny how you mention "Soylent Green" being so accurate - I never got around to watching the movie, but I read the book it was based on in the early 1990s, and couldn't get into it because it got so many things wrong: the book was set about 1990 (which means I read the book after the date it was set in), and millions of Americans were starving due to overpopulation in the book, soylent green was a soy-lentil mix, and the population of the USA was about one and a half times the actual population of the United States in 1990. I enjoy some of Harrison's books, but this one was a dud.

Alan said...

@ Carl M.: considering that oysters and coral use carbon for their shells or structure, the effects of increased carbon in the oceans are not necessarily what alarmists think they might be.

And speaking of Antarctica - I heard some researchers from Scott Base talking about their research on how ice forms from super-cooled water a couple years ago. The water underneath the ice shelf is well below the freezing point, but is kept liquid due to the saltiness of the water and I'm guessing pressure as well, so the freezing process is not straightforward. Perhaps the most amazing thing is that they were only beginning in-depth research in 2009. I'm guessing that the recent article about the "brinicle" had something to do with this research.

rewinn said...

@Alan - you seem to be confusing Carbon and Calcium; these are not the same at all.
You'll want to read a nice article on the science

Tony Fisk said...

Alan also appears to be confusing alarmists with climatologists and oceanographers.

duncan cairncross said...

The “Rabble” the common man

First – any “Marching Morons” type of genetic change takes many many generations

In some places the people are only a couple of generations from primitive – where you really had to know your stuff or you starved!

The Roman citizen soldiers who created an empire are the same people who cheered at the circuses

Our “Rabble(UK)” are the same people who provided the armed forces in WW2 – a technical war fought by machine man

The people who provided tens of thousands of aircrew,- only three decades after the Wright brothers

The people who went from untrained labour to producing spitfire parts in weeks

The people who made precision munitions and crewed submarines and battleships to deliver them

The common man is;

Making hot-rods, building houses, messing with boats, scuba diving, rock climbing, inventing weird things, writing novels, blogs, screenplays…..

Some of the “common man” are a bit dim and lack the horsepower – how many? -5%? 10%

How many do you think?
Please reply - I am very interested in your opinions on this

I do believe a lot of the “common man” are intellectual couch potatoes preferring to let others do their thinking for them,

I just think most of them have the capability to do otherwise

Stefan Jones said...

In "Make Room, Make Room," NYC is jammed to the rafters with Taiwanese refugees! The war to reclaim the mainland didn't go well . . .

Here is the Royal Society paper "Ocean acidification due to increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide". Obviously a dodgy bunch of religious humanity-hating fantatic, right?

'extra': What an exotic, but plausible sounding word! I'll have to think hard about a meaning.

Stefan Jones said...

Wow . . .

"Participants in the study assessed, with some degree of accuracy, how outgoing, anxious or dominant people were after only taking a whiff of their clothes. The study is the first to test whether personality traits can be discerned through body odor."


'gultidge': as in "Reginald Gultidge," hero of a long-lost Charles Dickens novel.

Eric J said...

Please don't use the half dozen versions of CSI (or NCIS)as examples of shows that make science seem fun or interesting. They unquestioningly turn science into magical tools that do the impossible. The most magical of these tools are the mass spectrometer and photo-enhancement. Their take on DNA isn't much better.

David Brin said...

Alan, I agree that Soylent Green was inaccurate. What you fail to grasp is the concept of a self-preventing prophecy.We don't live inthe world of 1984. Is it possibly BECAUSE 1984 stirred and chilled and scrared millions of people into sensitivity and determination to prevent it ever from happening?

SOYLENT GREEN and Rachel Carson's SILENT SPRING helped spur us down a road that inarguably made us better at beginning the process of learning the hard art of planetary management. We have already dodged dozens of very serious bullets, because of the habit of looking ahead that they taught.

As for FOX, surely you jest? It is wholly owned and operated by the Saudi Royal House. JD Powers and several other non-partisan agencies give them "F" grades for accuracy. Whenever a republican official is caught doing something bad -- and I mean EVERY time that happens, -- their news reports put a "D" next to his name.

Please forgive me, I just got back from another site where I had to fight lefty idiots defending postmodernism. So I aim my ire in both directions. But right now, in the American phase, the huge danger comes from the other direction.

One measure of a media's honesty is the guts to have GUESTS on your show - smart opponents who will challenge you. Only one person on Fox does that. Bill O'Reilly may be a right ring jerk... but he is a stand-up confident and honest right wing jerk, who isn't afraid of a smart guest saying "Wrong Bill!"

The others at Fox are all cowards and total, relentless liars. Jon Stewart has more guests - a third of them republicans - in a year that ALL of the Fox shows have combined.

Alan, let me ask you this, can you name a caste of professional intellects - people who know a lot - that isn't demonized by Fox? Journalists, scientists, teachers, diplomats, doctors, lawyers, professors.... and you havent' noticed the pattern yet?

Recall how Beck railed against George Soros? Do you know anything about George Soros? Beck screeches: "Soros is so powerful, he toppled six governments!!!!"

Do you know what Beck conveniently left out?

David Brin said...

Beck never mentions to his nuremberg rally shouting "Kill that commie Soros!" that the 6 governments he helped topple were all...

... communist eastern European dictatorships, as Soros instrumentally helped dismantle the Iron CUrtain. Funny how Beck fails to mention that!

Ponder the depth of such monstrous dishonesty.


Wow, this was more interesting than I expected it to be. "On Debt, Democracy, and all that..."

Some of you may have heard tell of 700+ Trillion in derivatives outstanding...

Huge exaggeration. 700 trillion was artificially lent to banks so that their balance sheets would show enough capital so they would not have to be closed. They then used it to buy treasury bonds.. Most of it is not missing.

Paul451 said...

Thank you for the Symphony of Science link (I got lost there for awhile), particularly "The case for Mars".

When it comes to science popularisers (and skepticism), we seem to suffer an embarrassment of riches. But when you listen to Sagan, my god, what we lost.

Paul451 said...

Putin's ruling United Russia party saw its share of the vote drop from 64% in 2007, to less than 50% in this election. (It's still the largest party by far.)

It would be interesting to know what the genuine results would be without the notorious amount of electoral fraud. (Including a DDOS campaign against websites reporting electoral fraud.)

The (distant) second largest party is the Russian Communist Party. Last year they sent an open letter to Medvedev calling for a "re-Stalinisation" of Russia. Their version of the Tea Party?

(Conspiracy theorists claim that the (post-Soviet) Russian Communist Party was created by Putin's faction in order to absorb or destroy the genuine communist/socialist/left opposition parties, including the remnants of the Soviet Communist Party. Ensuring that they control both the Government and the major opposition. Definitely the Tea Party.)

LarryHart said...


@ Larry Hart: Funny how you mention "Soylent Green" being so accurate...

That wasn't exactly what I was saying. We've already agreed that the population explosion didn't turn out that way.

What is "accurate" is that it talkied about the greenhouse effect causing warming. And I mentioned that here not to say "Look how accurate the book was!", but more to contradict the AGW deniers who like to pretend that the climate phenomenon everyone was worried about in the 1970s was a new ice age. And no, I'm not denying that there WAS some talk of that, but this movie proves that the warming scenario was also already being given some thought. It's not as if Al Gore made "global warming" up in 1999.

My other point in talking about "Soylent Green" (and indirectly about "Grapes of Wrath") was that they seem more thematically resonant with present day concerns than they did in the 1970s when I was first exposed to them. That's not exactly the same thing as saying it got specific predictions correct. It's no "Earth" by David Brin in that regard. :)

sociotard said...

Anyone for mocking the left a bit?

(no link, this is just copying from another forum)

In her most recent remarks (last Friday) she specifically mentioned "foreign funding bills." The three above are the only three in the pipe and have been treated as a package deal - so much so that they were redrafted into one bill. In previous remarks (early last week), she mentioned bills "targeting Israel's supreme court." Aside from one bill tweaking the statutory minimum term a Chief Justice has to be able to serve to be appointed (from 3 years to 2 - Yawn!), the two above are the only ones in the pipe.

. . .

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton today took time out of her busy schedule to slam a series of Israeli legislative proposals she says are "worrying" because they are "anti-democratic."

The proposals she is concerned about include:

A bill that would institute the concept of locus standi - ergo standing - in Israel's court system. Hillary, dear, did you really graduate college with honors in political science and then attend Yale Law? Because the last time I checked locus standi was a bedrock principle of US common law. Very anti-democratic.

A bill that would require prospective supreme court justices be vetted by the Knesset judiciary committee. Hillary, dear, have you read the US Constitution? The senate does vett prospective Supreme Court justices, no? Very anti-democratic.

A bill that would require NGOs to report the source of foreign aid dollars. Hillary, dear, the US has just such a law on its own books, doesn't it? Very anti-democratic.

A bill that would tax foreign aid dollars to domestic political NGOs - and leaves categories of tax exempt NGOs. Hillary, dear, the US does not give tax-exempt status to all NGOs, most notably taxing political NGOs that receive foreign funds. Very anti-democratic.

A bill that would block foreign aid dollars to NGOs that call for Israel's destruction, incite racism, support violence against Israel, support trying Israeli soldiers or officials in international courts, call for boycotts of Israel, or issue calls for IDF personnel to disobey orders. Hillary, dear, your own terrorism, sedition, and racism laws open NGO's doing most of those things vis-a-vis the US up to prosecution. We can quibble a few finer points that need adjustment, but.... wow. Very anti-democratic.

Clinton does not apparently head a multi-billion dollar Federal Department that claims expertise in foreign affairs? Yeah. Big experts in Foggy Bottom. Big experts.

sociotard said...

An article about "citizen scientists" in the age of amateurs

sociotard said...

Contact your Congressperson to support H.J.RES.88: An ammendment to clarify what the constitution means by 'person'

Section 1. We the people who ordain and establish this Constitution intend the rights protected by this Constitution to be the rights of natural persons.

`Section 2. The words people, person, or citizen as used in this Constitution do not include corporations, limited liability companies or other corporate entities established by the laws of any State, the United States, or any foreign state, and such corporate entities are subject to such regulation as the people, through their elected State and Federal representatives, deem reasonable and are otherwise consistent with the powers of Congress and the States under this Constitution.

`Section 3. Nothing contained herein shall be construed to limit the people's rights of freedom of speech, freedom of the press, free exercise of religion, freedom of association and all such other rights of the people, which rights are inalienable.'.

David Brin said...

Onward to next posting!

Alex said...

>>>Please forgive me, I just got back from another site where I had to fight lefty idiots defending postmodernism. So I aim my ire in both directions.<<<

Please post a link. I would LOVE to see proof of your alleged bipartisan "contrarianism" (and chiding Democrats for insufficiently supporting Obama doesn't count).

Xerographica said...

Did a Google search for Hayek and Pragmatism and found your pragmatic critique of libertarianism...Essences, Orcs and Civilization...really great stuff!

Have you ever considered what the outcome would be of allowing taxpayers to directly allocate their taxes? Here's my blog entry on the topic...A Taxpayer Division of Labor. The most frequent criticism I hear regarding the idea...aka "pragmatarianism" that taxpayers are too uninformed to make sound my entry takes a fairly comprehensive look at our ignorance.

If you get a chance I'd really appreciate hearing your critique of pragmatarianism!