Saturday, June 10, 2017

What's interesting in science & tech?

Let's take a breather to look at one thing that's still going great -- among many in our maligned and under-rated civilization -- the pace of scientific and technological discovery, for example:

Facial recognition has progressed to a point where "dysmorphology" - the diagnosis of rare diseases - can be accomplished (initially) by computer analysis of a child's or adult's features.  This could be a valuable addition to the tools that we pioneered in the Tricorder XPrize contest, enabling quicker diagnosis and care in the field. 

Of course, it also raises chilling awareness of how far facial recognition tech has come... and how utterly useless will be any vain efforts to ban or restrict the technology.  Especially when it becomes capable of some degree of lie detection.  These tools will either be monopolized by elites (leading to Big Brother forever) or else used by all of us to hold accountably lying politicians and so on (Big Brother never.)  You decide. Better yet, see these possibilities explored by brilliant authors in Chasing Shadows.

Speaking of facial recognition, how about a dinosaur that is so well preserved that it “might have been walking around a couple of weeks ago,” as revealed in this spectacular find of a nodosaur in Canada. Skin, scales and yes a face.  “As it lumbered across the landscape between 110 million and 112 million years ago, almost midway through the Cretaceous period, the 18-foot-long, nearly 3,000-pound behemoth was the rhinoceros of its day.” 

== Innovative ideas ==

Elon's latest startup - The Boring Company - wants to dig tunnels under cities that can convey you past street traffic efficiently and end congested jams. Dang. (In fact, I worked a bit on this, thirty years ago with an idea for a "resonant-frequency drill" that was impractical then... but maybe it merits a fresh look?)

Physicists at the University of Houston have discovered a low-cost, efficient, and easily available catalyst that can split water into hydrogen and oxygen, using solar to power the electrical current used to split water molecules and produce hydrogen for energy. 

Amazing innovation? Or long-ago predicted in sci fi? Introducing “hearables” that consist of two waterproof earpieces, each equipped with a speaker, microphone, gyroscope, accelerometer, 27 biometric sensors, and a 4-GB hard drive in the right earbud to store music. Okay, soon. But present day hearables can already track your body temperature and heart rate, interface with a smartphone, allowing you to answer a call with a lift of the chin and shuffle your music with a few shakes of your head. Hearables also let you search the Internet just by speaking out loud — like an Amazon Echo that follows you anywhere.

Yes, I portray something prescient and similar used in my novel Existence, interfacing with augmented reality specs. (I also posit people won’t shout commands but instead use tooth clicks and “sub-vocal” larynx signals. In fact, the latter was forecast in Earth (1989). 

In a rather shocking experiment, Chinese researchers grafted the head of a smaller rat onto a bigger one while keeping the brain safe from possible damage due to blood loss. Their technique could one day be useful for human head transplants. Just don't get too excited.  The grafted head is alive. But it does not control the host mouse's body.  Good luck with that step.

So cool! And here's the latest from Boston Dynamics. Another dazzlingly weird and impressive robot. Google just sold BD to SoftBank, a Japanese conglomerate.

ITIF president Robert Atkinson has released a paper disproving the nostrum that technology has been destroying jobs at a faster pace, recently. An interesting report.  

== Space Stuff ==

Boeing: Deep Space Gateway
Humans heading to Mars? In March, President Trump issued a mandate for NASA: get humans to Mars by 2033. NASA developed a detailed plan for reaching the Red Planet, identifying five intermediate phases -- starting with six SLS rockets to deliver components of the Deep Space Gateway (DSG), a new space station to lunar orbit.  A gateway to Mars, this cis-lunar station is a rare example of republicans actually overlapping interest with others! Many Republicans want to return to the moon (for reasons never clearly explained.) Others, including most scientists, would use the DSG to retrieve and analyze asteroidal resources that could make us all stinking rich. 

I propose a third use... offer the DSG in lunar orbit as a base to stage moon landings by all the wannabes out there who are eager to plant footprints on that (for the near future) utterly useless orb. Profitably sell services to the Chinese, Russians, Europeans, Indians and billionaires desperate to take short strolls in dust? Sure. 

Back to the NASA plan. Mars is a beacon for us, fine. Just remember. Phobos is likely a former asteroid and that Martian moon could be very important, indeed. 

Oh, but recall (indeed, never forget) that the GOP and Trump have ordered NASA to stop looking at the least interesting planet.  Earth.

More space!  Here’s a new video about the HoloLens augmented reality system being used in JPL’s rover mission:
An intriguing hypothesis that a Cold Spot in the universe - observed in the cosmic background radiation maps, cooler than the ambient average by a whopping cooler than its surroundings by around 0.00015 degrees Celsius - was caused by a collision between our universe and another bubble universe.

== Biology & Health ==

A new statistical study has found 52 genes that have at least a partial effect on human intelligence.  An interesting article on a very difficult problem. But can we please see correlations with autism and other disorders, as well? It is curious when you look at august mental-giant families, like the Huxleys, how often disorders accompany the gifts.
Memory performance decreases with increasing age. Low dose Cannabis can reverse these aging processes in the brain. Hey, stoners, that’s LOW dose. Take note, you guys, who can’t remember (wow, man) where you put the car keys. Seriously. Toke only on weekends. Any more and it's an ambition destroyer.

Sometimes an urban legend medical treatment passes scientific tests with flying colors. According to a meta-analysis of three randomized controlled trials, zinc acetate lozenges may increase the rate of recovery from the common cold three fold. On the fifth day, 70 percent of the zinc lozenge patients had recovered compared with 27 percent of the placebo patients.

Okay you want weird? “A common parasite that lives in fish eyeballs seems to be a driver behind the fish’s behaviour, pulling the strings from inside its eyes. When the parasite is young, it helps its host stay safe from predators. But once the parasite matures, it does everything it can to get that fish eaten by a bird and so continue its life cycle.”  Actually, this has been known a while.  See this SMBC cartoon that makes a biting point… with which I wholly agree.
Many parasites can change an animal’s behaviour to fit their own needs. Mice infected with the parasite Toxoplasma gondii, for example, lose their fear of cats – the animal the parasite needs to reproduce inside.  Many species of wasps lay eggs in host ants or caterpillars and the host becomes a slave. There’s been some chilling sci fi, of late. 

The dinosaur-killer asteroid may have struck at the worst place possible.. Worst, that is, except from the point of view of tiny scavenger mammals who then left to us…

Oh but we’re unleashing all sorts of stuff: “As Ice Melts, Dangerous Diseases From The Past Could Rise Again. One more serious thing to worry about as the planet warms.” 

 == Hoaxes and rationality  ==

Heh, this is a good one – another skewering of the postmodernism cult. Oh, sure, you know that I far more often rail against the much more dangerous (for now) fact-hating madness on the entire political right. But real harm is done by a much smaller caste of raving, anti-science loonies on the very far left. (Note the distinction between ‘very-far’ and ‘entire.’) This postmodernist (PM) academic cult was shredded, a decade ago, by the “Sokal Hoax,” in which a PM journal ‘peer-reviewed’ and then published a paper on critical theory that was deliberately concocted to be utter nonsense.

Alas, there is a sad side to this. Any rational view would chuckle and view this as a case of academia cleaning its own house through competitive accountability. But shills on the right will interpret it as proof "all academics are like this,” in promoting their war on all smartypants fact users. Of course, this ignores that postmodernists are allies of the mad right, in shared hatred of oppressive things called “facts.”

Okay now let me step back and be slightly more fair. The Sokal paper was written intentionally to be illogical and meaningless, and hence, its publication was scandalous. The “penis paper’ actually reads in a logical sequence, making assertions that some postmodernists might actually deem persuasive. Yes, it’s completely nuts, like most PM drivel. But this latest "hoax paper" is consistent with their worldview. And hence, I do not deem it to be anywhere near as devastating as the Sokal Affair.

(ADDENDUM: One of you pointed out: "The "Conceptual Penis" hoax was a bust, like a joke told a humorless relative. The "Conceptual Penis" paper was submitted to a third rate journal and rejected. That journal pointed them to pay-to-publish journal that doesn't publish gender studies but accepts everything and surprise, they published it!"  And yes, I deemed it inferior even as a joke hoax, before I knew this.

Still, it remains amusing as on-target satire.  In this context, ponder how, as Mike Gannis put it: “Reverence for word salad is anything but new.”

Here's Reginald Bunthorne's soliloquy from Gilbert & Sullivan's "Patience" ...

If you're anxious for to shine in the high aesthetic line as a man of culture rare,
You must get up all the germs of the transcendental terms, and plant them everywhere.
You must lie upon the daisies and discourse in novel phrases of your complicated state of mind,
The meaning doesn't matter if it's only idle chatter of a transcendental kind.
And every one will say,
As you walk your mystic way,
  "If this young man expresses himself in terms too deep for me,
  Why, what a very singularly deep young man this deep young man must be!"

 And finally....

Well, they’ve built  their Noah’s Ark theme park in Kentucky. Yeesh.  We truly are beset.


Larry C. Lyons said...

Dr. Brin,

The Nodosaur is at the Royal Tyrell Museum in Drumheller Alberta, just under an hour's drive from Calgary. It is IMNSO about the best paleontology museum in Canada, if not North America. It's well worth the drive and spending about a day at the Museum and the Alberta badlands.

(and Drumheller has a couple of great brewpubs which are a big plus).

Zepp Jamieson said...

Your Youtube video of the Hololens Reality was taken down. Here's another.

Jim Lund said...

The "Conceptual Penis" hoax was a bust, like a joke told a humorless relative. The "Conceptual Penis" paper was submitted to a third rate journal and rejected. That journal pointed them to pay-to-publish journal that doesn't publish gender studies but accepts everything and surprise, they published it!

David Brin said...

Thanks Jim. I did say it was not a valid hoax refutation for a number of reasons. STill, it remains on target as not very exaggerated and on target satire.

Alfred Differ said...

I don't think I'll be turning to cannabis. My wife is closer, cheaper, and remembers where the keys are. 8)

Yah. She'll get tired of being my spare brain after a while. I'll need more than cannabis when that happens. Aspirins at a minimum. 8)

locumranch said...

The most absurd claim made by the pseudo-scientific Conceptional Penis Hoax, by far, was its conclusion that the masculine reproductive organ was "the conceptual driver behind much of climate change".

A full report on this fraud, penned by its authors (Dr. Peter Boghossian & James A. Lindsay), was published at 'Voice for Men' on May 20, 2017, is worth a read as it reveals the credulity of those who would confuse scientific process with social confirmation bias. It is available at:

Of course, the story of pseudo-science of does not end there, but continues unabated, as evidenced by Climate Science's ongoing comedic reliance on the pseudo-scientific use of Economic Modelling as the basis for its futurological projections, despite the fact that Economics (as both a discipline & science) has an abysmal predictive record, being most useful in the construction of post-factual retrospective economic rationalisation (to explain events after-the-fact), a comedic case made over & over by cartoonist Scott Adams (below).

And, then, there's David's opener about the scientific usefulness of facial recognition in the study of "dysmorphology - the diagnosis of rare diseases - by computer analysis of a child's or adult's features", even though this new so-called science is little more than a pseudo-scientific repackaging of Phrenology, a discipline once used by the Nazis to 'prove' racial theories of honesty, criminality, superiority & inferiority.

You can read more about 'Phrenology as Pseudoscience' here:

Since pseudo-science is everywhere, pushing its own prejudicial agenda, it follows that 'science' (in general) is NOT as authoritative as your masters would have you believe.

Remember this, always, when someone tries to silence you with accusations of 'Anti-Science'.

Remember this, always, when someone tries to compel your obedience with 'bought & paid for' academic credentials.

And, always, resist 'group-think' and 'think critically'.


Daniel Duffy said...

Colonize Ceres, instead of Mars,in order to establish a logistical base for asteroid prospecting and mining.

Ceres has no significant gravity well to overcome and lots of water for life and fuel.

Jumper said...

How bad are those awful economics projections? Don't forget to follow the links.

TheMadLibrarian said...

So Pres. Trump has decreed NASA should get their ducks in a line so we can send a mission to Mars, while defunding the frack out of them? Orange Man speaks with forked tongue!

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin in the main post:

Elon's latest startup - The Boring Company - wants to dig tunnels under cities that can convey you past street traffic efficiently and end congested jams. Dang. (In fact, I worked a bit on this, thirty years ago with an idea for a "resonant-frequency drill" that was impractical then... but maybe it merits a fresh look?)

For marketing purposes, he might want to change the company name. :)

With that in mind, I can't help but think of a Superman comic from about 10 years ago--there's a version of it available on DVD as "All Star Superman"--in which Lex Luthor reveals that he can escape from his prison cell any time he feels like it with the aid of a mechanism he cobbled together from a talking library unit. He made use of the "fact" that certain frequencies emitted by the works of Herman Melville can be harnessed to drill through solid rock, (here's the punchline) "literally boring a hole through the earth."

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin in the main post:

Sometimes an urban legend medical treatment passes scientific tests with flying colors. According to a meta-analysis of three randomized controlled trials, zinc acetate lozenges may increase the rate of recovery from the common cold three fold. On the fifth day, 70 percent of the zinc lozenge patients had recovered compared with 27 percent of the placebo patients.

That's the science behind "Cold-Eeze", and I thought it was already accepted science before that product hit the market. I remember reading back in the 90s that "everyone" already knew that zinc could be beneficial in fighting a cold, but that the problem was making it palatable so that someone could actually suck on the lozenge without gagging.

Jumper said...

This likely bores many to tears but illustrates why progressives see such room for improvement. On standards of replication in heretofore sloppy social science and economics publications.

Obs said...

Since pseudo-science is everywhere, pushing its own prejudicial agenda, it follows that 'science' (in general) is NOT as authoritative as your masters would have you believe.

Pseudoscience, almost by definition, is nonsense that piggybacks on the authority and credibility of proper science. If science had no authority, there would be no pseudoscience.

Notice how some proponents of religion as well as purveyors of new age spiritualism use scientific jargon to sell their dogmas. They wouldn't resort to that if science had no credibility with the general public.

David Brin said...

Daniel D. Phobos is better than Ceres because it will placate the Mars types. But yes, Ceres is cool. How wierd that in EXPANSE they talk of *importing water* to Ceres. har.

Locumranch takes a case of mainstream scientists satirizing and criticizing lefty-postmodernist-anti-science jerks… and uses it to segue into a rant incantation on behalf of rightie-proto-feudalist-anti-science jerks.

“reliance on the pseudo-scientific use of Economic Modelling as the basis for its futurological projections”

Speaking as a widely consulted expert on the variety and limitations of predictive methods, I can tell you that (1) this is absolute drivel: the 99% of scientists who credit climate change do NOT use this and in fact half of them have never heard of it. (2) you are just reciting an incantation fed to you by your plantation lords. Yes Massa!

You are an anti-science cultist. You are an anti-science cultist. You are an anti-science cultist. You are an anti-science cultist. You are an anti-science cultist. And you are a raving, screeching anti-sciencer cultist. Repetition is not what makes it so. Glancing at your words does.

Zepp Jamieson said...

LarryHart: ""literally boring a hole through the earth.""
Did his fortunes Wayne when it didn't work?

Zepp Jamieson said...

The composition of locumranch explained:

David Brin said...

Zepp sorry, that "periodic table" while amusing, shines no light on the desperate hatred that propels the political/racist/chauvinism cults. The site veers away from mentioning any of those.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Dr. Brin wrote: Zepp sorry, that "periodic table" while amusing, shines no light on the desperate hatred that propels the political/racist/chauvinism cults. The site veers away from mentioning any of those.

No need for it to do so. Either people read it and chuckle, knowing how it will stir up the woos, or they are woos, and turn dark purple in rage reading it. I knew a guy up in Shasta who pretty much believed ALL of the "elements" listed (he had a really interesting theology that started out with the notion that the ancient pharoahs were all secretly Jewish) and every once in a while, just to get a rise out of him, I would mention the Amazing Randi. No LIKE! No like very MUCH!

A.F. Rey said...

Say, if you don't have any ambition left, does that mean you can toke more often than weekends? :)

Paul SB said...

Obs has a really good point here. I don't know how many times I have heard church nazis insist that there is scientific evidence for the existence of God out of one side of their mouths while damning those "godless scientists" an eternity of magma dancing. The fact that our faux rancher does this too only points to the roots of his hypocrisy.

Larry, I seem to remember you saying something about the Maya not performing human sacrifices in the last thread - or maybe it was the one before. That is partly true. They didn't do a whole lot of that until the Late Classic Period, when overpopulation and runaway erosion put drove them into Apocalyptic Mode. Even then, it was mostly capturing enemies in battle, flaying their wee-wees, then tying them up and rolling them down the steps of their pyramids so they would break all their downs in front of a city-full of screaming/jeering onlookers. Then again, the Aztecs were famous for human sacrifice, but they also only did this much more rarely before the population explosion, which hit the elbow of the curve about a century before Cortez. be careful about taking utopian visions of past societies at face value.

That brings to mind Elon Musks boring idea, which I thought was not up to his usual standard. How many cars are going to get to use those tunnels? Teslas only, or will Mercedes and BMWs be allowed, too? Remember when VCRs cost $800, and now people are throwing them away, and DVD and Blu-Ray players are going the same way? Eventually the cost will go down and they'll start letting Toyotas and VWs in, and at that point the gridlock will have simply gone 3d - though in a different direction than The Fifth Element's traffic problems). Just another spoon to hold back the tide with.

Paul SB said...

A return to the previous thread (which I mostly missed), if no one minds,

"In one sense, it is perfectly reasonable to be harsher on a premeditated, cold-blooded act of murder than for a heat-of-the-moment emotional act of violence. But we do have to be careful about the ethical nature of cracking down harder on "ways women tend to do things" than on "ways men tend to do the same things." Or harshly penalizing use of drugs that poor black people tend toward while looking the other way at drugs rich white people tend to use. Or kicking men and women alike off of voting rolls if their surname is different from the one on their birth certificate.”
I think Larry has it right here. A lot of our laws are designed specifically to be unfair to certain classes of people and deny them rights - though it is much better now than it was in Victorian times. The harsher punishments examples might not be deliberate so much as unconscious bias. Why, for example, should a person get a lesser sentence for murdering someone on the spur of the moment, demonstrating to the world that they are hot-headed fools who have no control of themselves? Is it because the men who write these laws feel the testosterone bubbling under their own skins, and find that impulsive behavior understandable and therefore more forgivable?

And he’s right about this one, too:
"Of course, long before that, "rape" was a property crime against the woman's husband or her family if she was as yet unmarried. The crime was that the rapist was taking something that belonged to another man.”
In our glorified and sanctified tradition, what a man “steals” when he rapes a woman is her virginity - a valuable commodity to the men who own her before marriage. If she is married already, then it becomes a crime of trespass. Either way, it’s an example of how our sacred traditions treat people as property. We no longer allow slavery as the Bible permits, but we as a society have been very slow to allow the half of humanity that are least testosterone-endowed to be treated with equal respect, dignity and legal rights. The latter has gotten a lot better, but the culture still values all things “masculine” so women have to earn respect by acting more like the traditional male role (not biological role).

Dr. Brin,
Why bother raising your blood pressure over someone who refuses to use - and this late in life is likely no longer capable of using - his frontal lobes for anything more than rationalizing his McCarthy-era social views? Humans generally have a hard time doing the thing science does so well, adapting and changing to fit newly discovered facts. Those who self-label themselves as “conservative” set up a neurological bias against doing exactly that. I assume you can see how this guy has been making token arguments against the current GOP establishment along with his rants against liberals. This is exactly the same stuff I used to hear from “Promise Keepers” 20 years ago - the right wing isn’t right wing enough! They have been compromised! They won’t go far enough to oppress people we disapprove of! I know your stated reasons, but I still think a bit of cold shoulder would be much healthier for all of us, yourself included. But then, I know I’m looking through my own lenses, so I’m not offended by disagreements.

Tony Fisk said...

Elon's subterranean machinations reminds me of an old howler: Battle Beneath the Earth, which tells of the US reaction to discovering that those sneaky Chinese have been tunneling under the country's precious, bodily metropolises. (I'm sure Mr. Musk has other plans.)

An extra for that hydrogen cracking story, CSIRO have recently discovered a way of converting ammonia into hydrogen by means of a metal catalyst. The energy density may not be the same as for petrol/diesel, but the point is that the ammonia transportation infrastructure is already on place.

David Brin said...

Paul, yesterday I donated my 86th pint. Blood pressure 114 over 68. Locom ain't gonna make me pop. Not if that's my BP in the Trump era. I iz calm. It's how we plan.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Donated blood!
I always used to do that until Maggie removed the controls on cattle feed and we got Mad Cow disease
Now because I was in the UK during that period I can't give blood!

Elron's Boring Company
I believe he simply expects to reduce the cost - which will immediately allow a lot more unobtrusive roads to be built to reduce congestion
AND in a tunnel it would be child's play to put inductive chargers
The big problem with inductive chargers is Trucks - you have to make your road strong enough for a 40 tonner - with tunnel dedicated to EV's.....
AND IC vehicles should be banned because they would smell the whole thing up

Larry C. Lyons said...

I call BS on those snarking on social sciences due to those replication study reports.

I'm going to have to get somewhat technical here. For further information on this area you can see a paper I reproduced on my site.

Essentially what individual study statistics do is provide a estimator of the actual relationship within the population. However due to a variety of factors, including sampling variation, range restriction and conjoint test reliability the individual study results will randomly vary from the actual relationship within the population

While these factors are typically taken into account in conducting Meta analysis, they also have a substantial impact on replication studies. To give an example you can do a Monte Carlo run with the population relationship arbitrarily set to mu - .50. — I'll have to set up a web demo of this one day in R. Anyhow from that constructed population, you draw 25 random samples without replacement, and calculate the relationship in each one. You will find that the results of the individual estimates will vary from .50 by a random amount, simply due to sample size.

The point is that this is exactly what these replication studies are doing. So because of the factors I mentioned, replication results randomly vary. No news, no failure of the social sciences.

locumranch said...

The accusation of 'anti-science' is of doubtful utility as it can only evoke shame & silence from those individuals who would protest their innocence. It is not even an argument. It is catechism, religiosity & magical thinking.

In fact, the mere repetition of a certain phrase over & over (as in the case of the 'You are an anti-science cultist' slur) is the act of the 'anti-science' science denier who asserts that 'logos' (words written or spoken) alter a subordinate reality.

The fact that the discipline of Economics (with it tendency to frequent 'revisions', irreproducibility, outright error & inability to predict cataclysm) is NOT a science is indisputable, so much so that 'Scientist David' does not even attempt to dispute it's 'anti-science' nature, resorting instead to distraction, redirection & ad hominem accusation.

I'll grant you that Economics, like most of the Social Studies, is 'sciency' with its pseudo-scientific infatuation with ill-defined numerology & laughably low 'N counts', but it fails to meet reproducibility requirements that would qualify it as a science.

And so it is with Climate Science. It's basic THEORY -- the correlation of atmospheric CO2 with global temperatures -- may represent 'science' assuming 'reproducibility', but it's estimates of future human CO2 production rely heavily on economic model guesstimates which have already been proven false by economic downturns.

One could just as well argue that David, by virtue of donating 86 pints of blood, has proven his 'Giving Plague' hypothesis & confirmed the presence of a blood-bourne extraterrestrial altruism virus, simply by his giving of 86 pints, assuming N=1 in the absence of a reproducibility requirement...

But that argument would be about as 'scientific' as Phrenology.


David Brin said...

Loony. You feudalists have proclaimed that your incantations on “economics” are valid despite never ever once having made a single correct prediction. That’s not just failure of evidence for a theory. It is proof that Supply side is diametrically OPPOSITE to true.

In contrast, measures of Keynsian economics show it’s right at least 70% of the time. Especially when exercised with the discipline to pay DOWN debt in good times. Many lefty or liberal administrations neglect that half, but Bill Clinton and Jerry Brown did, and their track records should sway any actual, sincere debt-hater to go Keynsian. So why doesn’t it? Because the right is insane.

Locum's chant about climate science being tentative is just lies, outright, bald-faced, knowing miserable defecatory lies.

Catfish N. Cod said...

@Dr. Brin: And you'd think that "traditionalists" would endorse the notion that you store grain in the seven good years to survive the seven lean years. I mean, this goes back to Genesis and Middle Kingdom Egypt, for cry yi yi.

They're noticing. Far-right outrage machine Kurt Schlichter: "The Democrats are out there recruiting military vets – there’s one jerky liberal everyone finds annoying in every big unit, and that’s who they pick. They’ll preen and pose and get elected and then salute General Pelosi and vote as ordered on every item of Democrat soldier-shafting liberal hackery."

What, you mean like making sure soldiers are paid, supported, equipped, not ripped off by profit-seeking educational "institutions" or war profiteers, given proper medical care during and after service, and most important of all, being sure that they are sent to wars that matter and their sacrifices make a difference to the world?

That liberal hackery? The one my grandfather, a 102-year-old veteran of the Battle of the Bulge, fought for?

Hell yes I am voting for that. And against anyone who says things like this:

"You see, you're there to represent Republicans. Some goofs and wusscons have the idea that you're there to represent all voters, but that's nonsense.

You are there to represent the people who voted for you, not the liberal whiners and welfare cheats who didn't and who hate you and us..... We're going to hurt Democrats."

In other words, he doesn't agree to the fundamental basis of a representational form of government. He thinks that losing an election equals disenfranchisement and that losing parties have no rights. If he were honest, he'd be advocating to change our election system to a party-list or endorsement or proportional representation system, so that actual popularity translated into legislative power. But I know he'd hate that sort of European fru-fru. He wants the North Carolina system, where forty-five percent of the vote translates into seventy-five percent control and dissent is to be crushed and overturned.

We have gone to great lengths to avoid hating you, Mr. Schlichter. But you hate us. We read that loud and clear. You hate us and you want to punish us.

Larry C. Lyons said...

Just posted a comment and didn't see it come through. If it has my apologies for the duplication.

Nice bit of excusing that. But most social sciences, especially my area of experimental psychology is far more hard core that most physics. We have much more to defend. The experimental designs have to be tighter and leave far less to confounding variables.

As for climate change, between 1991 and 2012 there have been just under 14,000 articles in scientific journals on climate change. 24 of the 13,950 articles, 0.17% or 1 in 581, clearly reject global warming or endorse a cause other than CO2 emissions for observed warming. The list of articles that reject global warming is here, The 24 articles have been cited a total of 113 times over the nearly 21-year period, for an average of close to 5 citations each. That compares to an average of about 19 citations for articles answering to “global warming,” for example. Four of the rejecting articles have never been cited; four have citations in the double-digits. The most-cited has 17.

As an aside my very mediocre Master's thesis to date has over double that number of citations.

Of one thing we can be certain: had any of these articles presented the magic bullet that falsifies human-caused global warming, that article would be on its way to becoming one of the most-cited in the history of science.

David Brin said...

Catfish thanks. Wow, sometimes I dip my toe into that cesspit, whose temperature is now volcanic. Those truly are monsters.

Larry, as a physicist, I understand radiative transfer and stuff like the navier stokes equations. I know enough to know that the folks who transformed the old, joke of a 4hour 'weather report' into a tend day miracle of spectacular effectiveness, saving us hundreds of billions every year, are geniuses, whose ankles the Kochs and their locum lackeys aren't worthy to lick. That is PRACTICAL PROOF of the effectiveness of vast, intricate cellular gas-dynamics models...

...which have also been used to accurately model climate on six planets. The Climate Change models are very similar. Which means the denialist cultists bear the burden of proof. It's that simple. Experts can be wrong! But amateurs who claim that expertise should not affect policy and that amateur carpers bear no such burden? That is just ass-hattery.

Oh and those hundreds of billions? The weather guys get some of that. They deserve it! Which means they don't give a fig about measly little "climate grants.."

Those who yammer about "climate grant hugging" are pure liars. They never offer any lists of grants! They are hateful, nasty, bitchy little bald-face and knowing liars.

Alfred Differ said...

Ptolemy’s astronomy had pretty good predictive power too, but it had this little problem with accuracy. In the end it also had a problem with the practitioners being able to run the calculations fast enough to perform some predictions before the events themselves arrived. Eventually, it also strained credulity. Keynesian economics shows some of the same strain. Fortunately, there are some viable options that don’t involve the old feudalist lunacies.

There ARE some climate change folks who think economic theory is more capable of making accurate predictions than it is. One of the annoyances against which I am willing to do battle is the fear they induce when they make their predictions with too much precision. There is a lot we don’t know about how the climate will change, but not because the science is wrong. Our difficulty comes from the lack of precision available in economics. Again, fortunately, there are some viable options available to us. Just because we lack strong precision in economics doesn’t mean we can’t use weak precision and go for a scatter-shot method involving a range of scenarios from conservative to optimistic. The business-as-usual scenario is one of them and it leads to some ugliness. Climate refugees and acidified oceans are just some of the features. The fix-it-now scenario is another and it too is pretty ugly. Paying for future needs now is an expensive proposition and risks the free-rider problem. How much should one pay to fix things we cannot accurately predict? How much do we pay for probabilistic projections? Well… that is what the insurance industry is all about, right? We DO know how to deal with risks, but how political should we allow it to be?

There are reasonable complaints having to do with hubris to be levied against some of the climate change folks no matter which side they take. Many of them center on treating economics as more capable than it is. Many more center on treating economics as less capable than it is. The dumbest ones focus on a belief that science is less capable than it is. It is a given that Economics is not a Science in the sense that Karl Popper defined. However, that doesn’t make it useless. We have to be careful and avoid hubris. Simple enough, right?

Alfred Differ said...

@Obs | If science had no authority, there would be no pseudoscience.

There is a whole class of pseudoscience that doesn't rest on scientific authority. The oldest example is astrology. In that historical case, astronomers had to wrest their authority away from the old nuttiness.

The more I think about this boundary, the more I think it has to do with mathematics as it is used as a formal language. Some people are mesmerized by patterns and rigor and fail to realize that the person speaking to them is speaking gibberish. We have more practice at detecting frauds transmitted in natural languages, but the pseudoscience folks try to pass off their crap in mathematics where more of us are illiterate.

locumranch said...

Nice try, Alfred, but your probabilistic quantitative logic is wasted on the qualitatively bivalent mindset.

These 'either-or' thinkers demand certainty, so much so that even in 'coin flipping', they cannot conceive of any other outcome besides 'heads' or 'tails', even when a coin is likely to land on its edge over 6000 tosses.

In the field of medicine, I deal with these probability-impaired tossers on a regular basis who demand 'either-or' certainty for every complaint, diagnosis & medical therapy, even though such demands are both immature & unreasonable.

As in the case of climate change, these qualitative tossers insist that current theory (in its totality) is either 100% correct or 100% wrong, the second option being unthinkable because 'science', meaning that they are free to label anyone who expresses less than 100% support for the official scenario as an ignorant & unthinking 'denier'.

Indeterminate Grey can simply not exist in their either-or 'Black & White' worldview.

These are the women who demand prophylactic breast removal when their life-time risk of breast cancer sky-rockets from 4% (in the general population) to 5% -- that's FIVE percent -- because of genetic predisposition.

These are the people who bang sticks together while walking city streets in order 'to prevent the possibility of tiger attacks', a highly improbable worst-case scenario, and then defend their illogical actions by citing the absence of tigers.

And, these are the same people who declare Climate Science infallibility because climate change, according to their improbable worst-case scenario, could result in an improbable life-ending apocalypse of 'tiger-ific' proportions which MUST be prevented at all costs (they say).

And, no 'denier' am I.

I accept all of these Climate Science predictions as POSSIBLE outcomes, but I consider them IMPROBABLE. Furthermore, I find it highly probable that I, our society & our planet will succumb to some other life-ending apocalypse much much sooner than 2100.


Alfred Differ said...

@locumranch | Then you underestimate David and a few other people here. They aren’t bivalent. You claim the predictions are improbable. They claim they are likely. For goodness sakes, David is a trained physicist! He knows how to construct scientific certainty out of probabilistic statements. Don’t confuse his certainty with dogmatic belief from Revealed Truth. A number of other people here are reasonably well trained too, but I don’t know how to look them up the same way. David’s science work is easily found by comparison.

I too think it is improbable that some life-ending apocalypse is going to occur before 2100. However, I AM inclined to believe some very expensive events are going to happen that our grandchildren might well wish we had taken steps to avoid. I’m more inclined to rely upon our proven ability to adapt than I am on spending lavish sums of money to fix things that might not happen, but I’m also willing to spend now to avoid certain choices that MIGHT require spending gargantuan sums of money in the future. It doesn’t matter if the economic theory behind the predictions is only capable of weak predictions. I have a rough idea of how wealthy the world will be by 2100 and that is enough to help me figure out which paths we should try to avoid.

I’ve dealt with medical odds before and the inclination of doctors to pass to patients the possibly life-or-death choices that must be made. I was sitting on a hospital bed when my kidney doctor explained that he needed a biopsy to confirm his conclusion regarding my problem and he explained the biopsy had a 1 in 10,000 chance of causing me to lose the kidney and a 1 in 100,000 chance of killing me. It was my choice to make. Go ahead with the biopsy or not. He was pretty confident without the biopsy, but we WERE talking about a therapy choice that involved a nasty chemo-drug. I would have found this all a tad bit funny if my RBC count had been high enough to grok the humor, but it wasn’t and I have the go-ahead. What’s funny is that a 1 in 10,000 chance is damn near zero and he was passing the buck to me when I was not so capable of making wise decisions. I get why he did, but my odds of death were essentially zero and my odds of losing the kidney were damn close too. They would have passed easily for ‘scientific certainty’ of survival.

Your reaction to fools who can’t comprehend health risks is understandable, but you should avoid extending it here. These folks aren’t that ignorant. If they DO screw up, you’ll find me on your side, but that is very, very unlikely with our host and most of the regulars.

Paul451 said...

From the article:
"Sometimes an urban legend medical treatment passes scientific tests with flying colors. According to a meta-analysis of three randomized controlled trials, zinc acetate lozenges may increase the rate of recovery from the common cold three fold."

It's worth noting that previous studies have showed a huge variation, which seems to be related to how the zinc ions are released. The wrong formulations increased the duration of symptoms. And the stuff on the shelf is mostly the wrong type. Worse than useless. (Cold-Eeze is a good example of a bad mix.)

So hardly "flying colours".

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Alfred
The thing that gets me about people pooh hooing the climate change stuff is that the the prediction of increased warming is almost unnecessary
The warming that we have now - already - measured not predicted - is enough to cause disasters down the road as the ice melts and the heat flows into the deep oceans

What we do about it - depends but the sooner we are properly looking at alternatives the sooner we will decide what to do and the LESS it will cost

Alfred Differ said...

@locumranch | Furthermore, I find it highly probable that I, our society & our planet will succumb to some other life-ending apocalypse much much sooner than 2100.

This deserves separate treatment, so I single it out here with a good natured raspberry blown in your direction.


People have been predicting EOW scenarios for ages and getting them wrong. They are slightly worse at predicting the future than scientists are when we claim a certain thing is impossible.

Dude. Our children's children's children will laugh at us for this apocalyptic nonsense. We aren't going to burn the world. We are more likely to take another step toward becoming demi-gods.

Paul451 said...

Main article,
"Elon's latest startup - The Boring Company "
"For marketing purposes, he might want to change the company name."

Intentional pun is intentional. He plays up the name when he talks about it.

Aside: It's interesting to contrast Musk's MO with his fans' expectations. When he first teased the idea of traffic tunnels, the interwebz went stupid with ideas of how he was going to invent fundamental new technology, like plasma or laser tunnelling. In reality, he just asked why tunnelling is so expensive, and why that needed to be done, and why that needed to be done. And then developed a design that avoided those expenses. Mainly, tunnelling costs scale exponentially with diameter. And tunnels have to be a minimum size to carry all types of vehicles, with emergency lands and adequate ventilation for fumes. So he proposed his electric skates and car-only tunnels. Small diameter, no fumes, drastically lowers the cost of tunnelling simply by digging smaller tunnels. No magic technology. (The second problem is that the TBM has to stop to allow casing to be installed. It spends only a third of its life actually working, tripling project time and associated costs and disruptions. I'm not sure how he's solved that.)

It's the same with SpaceX. No wings, no SSTOs, no scramjets, no orbital tethers. Just rockets and step-wise improvements in design and manufacturing. And, importantly, someone who looks at each cost-item and says, "Why does a tonne of rocket engines cost so many orders of magnitude more than a tonne of car?"


"That brings to mind Elon Musks boring idea, [...] Teslas only, or will Mercedes and BMWs be allowed, too?"

His electric skateboards can be fitted with passenger pods, letting them serve as 8-seat buses or a mini subway car.

He hasn't mentioned it, but the same skateboards could also be used for intracity delivery of palletised cargo, replacing trucks. You can fit 8 standard pallets on each skateboard, double stacked gives up to 16 (lightly loaded) pallets. Switch networking cargo between freight hubs throughout the city. Small trucks for last-mile delivery. High volume stores/centres paying for their own last-mile branch to the network, allowing warehouse-to-store delivery. (Like the old "futuristic" idea of large pneumatic cargo networks throughout a city.)

"Eventually [...] they'll start letting Toyotas and VWs in, and at that point the gridlock will have simply gone 3d"

The skateboards move a high speed, (over 120mph, IIRC), drastically increasing throughput rates. Being self-driving, the skateboards can also be stacked behind each other, bumper to bumper, at high speed without risking collisions. There's a lot of capacity to expand into.

" break all their downs"

I love your autocorrect, but seriously, how does it work. What misspelling of "bones" looks like "downs"?

David Brin said...

Oh, watch and circulate the videos in this article about the "weirdest US cabinet meeting, ever." In past administrations, there was a brief photo op. Then all cameras would leave and a couple of press pool reporters would discreetly take notes while the president and department heads five into crucial policy matters. In this case, the entire meeting consisted of each official taking his (in two cases her) own turn lavishly praising the boss!

Scroll down and look at the expression your president's face. Then play Sen. Schumer's brilliant satire. Ironically, I am very encouraged and optimistic! Washington DC overflows with serious adults in the civil service, the intel agencies, law professionals, the FBI, scientists and the US military officer corps. To a man or woman, they are almost all utterly appalled by this regime of cranky 4 year olds. American conservatism has been hijacked for 20 years. Now it is obvious to every adult in America.

And if it isn't obvious to you, then please accept the implication of the previous sentence. If you do, then there is some hope. But not while you imbibe swill koolaid on Fox.

Alfred Differ said...

@Duncan | The sea ice extent on both poles appears to be tracking a new norm of two standard deviations below the previous norm. That isn’t end of the world stuff. It IS interesting enough to ask if the arctic will lose enough of its old ice to remain thin enough after one winter to lose it all in a coming summer. That might just happen and then that triggers our fear of the methane releases. Apparently, though, much of the methane hydrates to be released has already been released when our interglacial period began. It’s not just the cold that holds that stuff back. Pressure worked too and that got released many, many centuries ago.

If you want to be worried about what we have now, though, I’m fine with that because you get to avoid relying upon economic projections. You are more firmly in the realm of science. So, I say to you, your only viable choice is adaptation at this point. For what has ALREADY happened, we will simply have to adapt. Build the sea walls, move the ports, rebuild the wetlands near New Orleans, and move people inland where possible. You have time, though. Encourage people to understand the risks they face and protect insurers who would charge appropriately for the risks.

I’m not a big fan of using the power of government to force our energy markets in any particular direction, but there is one thing I’d support to avoid gargantuan costs later. I see fossil carbon emissions as a negative externality. I’m willing to support a mechanism that puts a price on fossil carbon emissions. I don’t want that money being used by government to support anything fancier than basic research, though. I strongly suspect the markets will phase out fossil carbon where they can without much help once a price exists for it. If government collects the price, I want the system to be made relatively revenue neutral.

David Brin said...

jibbering loon. The most bivalent, black-white and delusional of us accuses everyone else of what he sees in the mirror.

Zepp Jamieson said...

I already posted my response to that meeting on Disqus and a few other spots where it will get read. I understand there's one or two writers here: If my feeble efforts inspire some of you to similar (and hopefully greater) efforts, I will be delighted.

"After the meeting, the Blessed Leader Trump went out and shot a perfect 18 on his magnificent golf course. He then impregnated the 50 winners of the "Make Donald my Daddy" contest that drew nearly 400 million American women. Later in the afternoon, he will order NASA to scrap any existing plans and adopt his divinely guided policy to land a team of Americans on Mars by Wednesday. Later in the day, he will launch an attack against London, which he has learned is under Muslim control. All hail Blessed Leader Trump!"

Paul451 said...

"Furthermore, I find it highly probable that I, our society & our planet will succumb to some other life-ending apocalypse much much sooner than 2100."

Life has nearly 4 billion years of apocalypses under its belt. It survived having the atmosphere poisoned with highly toxic oxygen. It survived snowball Earth, repeated giant impacts, supervolcanoes, and other "extinction" events. It's likely that life developed during the Late Heavy Bombardment, when the Earth was undergoing repeated partial resurfacing. (In the very earliest formed rock, there's signs of life.)

Likewise, since its evolution, multicellular life has survived massive global damage without ever once dying back to single-celled life. While individual species might go extinct, even in large numbers, nothing in a billion years has reset the clock back to single-celled life.

And humans, even as stone-age hunter gatherers, expanded into and thrived in every niche from deserts to swamps to the high Arctic.

We are highly adaptive. If there's oxygen in the air and anywhere on Earth with temperatures in the liquid water range, humans will likely survive pretty much anything. Asteroid impact, global warming, pandemics (natural or man-made), total nuclear war, CME's or even a nearby supernova. Multicellular life in general is even hardier.

And the only thing that might possibly end all life would be a complete resurfacing event on the scale of what happened to Venus about half a billion years ago.

Life on Earth is good for another billion years at least.

Jumper said...

We are smack dab in the middle of the greatest loss of species since Chicxulub. If you look around and don't see the disaster, it's hiding right behind your eyes.

Alfred Differ said...

I don't doubt that. It's just that I have a hard time convincing other humans that it is a disaster for us.

Regarding 400 million American women... Heh. I get that makes me a woman. Who knew!

Duncan Cairncross said...

I'm not worried about sea ice - it's the ice on land that is melting or sliding into the sea plus the deep oceans that are warming and expanding that are going to raise the sea level

The temperature rise has already happened - the ice is melting to reach a new stable state - and the deep oceans are the same - they will keep warming until they reach a new stable state

The atmosphere has little thermal inertia and changes quite fast but it takes a lot of time for the masses of ice and ocean to finish responding

LarryHart said...


And, no 'denier' am I.

So you're denying that?


Jumper said...

I used to wonder about the burning of the libraries of Alexandria. "What were they thinking?"

Of course as Wikipedia puts it "There is little consensus on when books in the actual library were destroyed. Manuscripts were probably burned in stages over eight centuries.[citation needed]"

Alfred Differ said...

@Duncan | Yah. About the deep ocean. Do you believe the evidence is solid about what is happening down there? Last I checked, I was less than convinced. It's harder to get heat down there than it is to get it up into the stratosphere below where the ozone is thickest.

Obviously it would be bad if it warmed. Much. Do you really think that what we've done so far is enough to do it? I don't. I worry about the business-as-usual scenario providing the heat to the deep ocean. BAU might not happen and isn't baked in yet.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Meant to ask, Doctor Brin: in light of today's Cabinet meeting, with the shameless, servile toadying on display, are you really SURE you want to keep him in office for purposes of political strategy? He could do a LOT of damage...

LarryHart said...


I used to wonder about the burning of the libraries of Alexandria. "What were they thinking?"

Of course as Wikipedia puts it "There is little consensus on when books in the actual library were destroyed. Manuscripts were probably burned in stages over eight centuries.[citation needed]"

Maybe the Romans fired 59 Tomahawk missiles into the library, but warned the Egyptians ahead of time so they could remove the important books and only left the ones they were going to burn anyway.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Alfred
We have warmed up the very top layer - it is possible that we have already achieved a new equilibrium - but I just don't think so

There was some data that said (1) we were warming the deeps and (2) this accounted for the very slow speed that the top layers were warming

The two pieces together plus any type of "model" of the oceans is more persuasive than any individual piece

LarryHart said...

Question for Alfred Differ...

If (see below) Trump fires Robert Mueller, the independent counsel investigating him, and the Republican Party makes sure there is no negative fallout, does that move the needle toward #IllegitimatePresident ?

WASHINGTON — A longtime friend of President Trump said on Monday that Mr. Trump was considering whether to fire Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel investigating possible ties between the president’s campaign and Russian officials.

The startling assertion comes as some of Mr. Trump’s conservative allies, who initially praised Mr. Mueller’s selection as special counsel, have begun trying to attack his credibility.

The friend, Christopher Ruddy, the chief executive of Newsmax Media, who was at the White House on Monday, said on PBS’s “NewsHour” that Mr. Trump was “considering, perhaps, terminating the special counsel.”

Alfred Differ said...

@Duncan | I remember reading about what data we had of the depths and how it appeared to suggest we had a possible explanation for the slower heating at the top. That got my attention, but not my fear. The reason for that is it was pretty obvious our evidence for what is going on down there was paltry. Worthy of more attention to gathering the data, I think, but not panic.

Models are fun, but I want to see them tested with evidence before I'll get scared.
The map is not the terrain.

Alfred Differ said...

@LarryHart | does that move the needle

Yes. It pegs the needle and wraps it around the stopping post.

I suspect such a concerted effort would lead to large protests and properties burning.

David Brin said...

Zepp it is BECAUSE of crap like the recent narcissistic Trump cabinet meeting that I grow more calm and confident daily. So few Americans realize how deep the so-called “deep state” goes… but in mostly good ways… tens of thousands of civil servants and skilled professionals and dedicated adults, trying hard to do difficult jobs, using the best tools and facts and reciprocally accountable argument that they can find. Daily, these grownups are realizing that their charge is to keep the US humming along safely while toddlers are at the official wheel.

Do I like this situation? Hell no! It means that infantile narcissists have put into the heads of those professionals something that was never, ever there before… the idea of resistance to duly constituted authority. This is dangerous over the long term! But over the span of this craziness, it will be the one thing helping us to sleep at night. Of course this is the fault of Rupert Murdoch and his neo-feudalists. They are at open war with civilization itself.

LH: Firing Mueller will be suicidally insane. What conceivable positive outcome could he hope for?

Tony Fisk said...

For Trump to dismiss Mueller would be as blatant a 'tell' as any.

"Sure, it's an obstruction of justice. What are you going to do about it? Now, if you don't mind, I've got another fawning session to attend."

(According to Rep. Adam Schiff, Congress would simply re-hire Mueller as an independent counsel. That vs fawning sessions.)

Tony Fisk said...

Mmmm... Fawning Sessions ;-)

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Alfred
I agree about models not being as convincing as data
The overall temperature HAS increased - measurement

So we know that - Know not modeled

The current mass of land ice and sea temperatures are the result of thousands of years at the previous temperatures - we know that - know not modeled

So the questions are
How long until we reach a new equilibrium
What is that equilibrium going to look like

Now we are into modeling! -
But we know that a LOT of ice is going to melt because we can measure the present vastly increased melting rate
(If we were moving to a new equilibrium then the rate of melting would be reducing)

The ocean temperatures is less definite - but again we know that the oceans represent a HUGE thermal mass and we KNOW that we have increased the temperature of the top layers

So with that sort of thermal mass what is the chance of us having already achieved the new equilibrium - Damn slim!

So if we have not achieved equilibrium then we know the average ocean temperature is going to increase

Additionally we have the data point of the last time that CO2 was as high as it is now - and the oceans were 20m higher

Additionally the sun is (a little) brighter now than it was the last time that CO2 reached modern levels

The cost of even a 1 meter rise in sea level is HUGE - surely it is worth paying a fraction of that cost now in insurance?

Tony Fisk said...

The recent modelling for the potential collapse of the Thawtes Glacier in Antarctica may be 'only modelling', but one with serious ramifications.

The glacier has depressed the underlying land into a hollow that's several hundred feet below sea level. That's fine, until warm water starts seeping in to melt from underneath. Once the sea ice has gone, the ice cliffs at the leading edge of the glacier have nothing to stabilise them and they will begin collapsing. The glacier gets thicker as you move back from the coast, and ice cliffs do not hold together above 300 feet or so. Once this point is reached, the process enters a runaway phase, and nothing will stop it until the end of the ice is reached... which, as best as can be judged, is back at the Transantarctic Ridge. The ice is about 6000 feet thick back there. This collapse alone is estimated to cause a sea level rise of 12-16 feet. The effect has already been observed in smaller ice shelfs (see eg "Chasing the Ice"), so it's not just modelling. What they can't really say is when this will happen, and how long it will take (terms like 'cascading collapse' suggest a large order of popcorn may be a good investment). I would also add some more little quirks, like how quickly the (below sea-level) land will rebound, and how much displacement it will cause? For real (admittedly alarmist*) fun, what sort of tsunamis would a collapse like this produce? (Again depends on speed, and sea level)

*Worst case scenarios, but the speculative collapse of la Palma mount in the Canary Is. would be a pebble in a pond compared to the mass we're looking at here.

Jumper said...
For goalposts just buy two!

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

LH: Firing Mueller will be suicidally insane.

Isn't that true of everything the guy has done since at least last summer?

What conceivable positive outcome could he hope for?

No finding of wrongdoing, congress moving on to the tax cuts and deregulation "that the American people really care about", and the pleasure of firing someone he doesn't like.

Paul SB said...

Paul 451,
Regarding Musk's subterranean mobile platforms, it might do cities a whole lot of good if it were used to segregate personal transportation from cargo transportation - though this could be done either way, with passenger vehicles underground and commercial above or vice versa. It could work, for awhile. But remember that the invention of the automobile, which allowed people to move out of the crowded inner cities and turn farmland into suburbs, this might just increase the population. The system will become just as gummed up as our current streets and highways in a generation or two if nothing else strongly disincentivizes overproduction (in the Darwinian sense of the word).

Regarding the survivability of life on Earth, you're right, of course, and no credible scientist is claiming that all life on Earth will end because of our pollution. Tropical diseases like malaria are already migrating to parts of the world where they were unknown, coastal properties are suffering increasing damage during storms, crop-eating pests are on the move, and the areas of the world that are warming up to levels humans would find comfortable lack developed soils to produce food to sustain human populations. Global warming is a disaster, not an apocalypse. Sure, there are some very under-educated screechers who make that claim, but we all know these are not the majority. Locum, on the other hand, only speaks in scarecrows and exaggerations. Pointing out the real challenges the human species faces because of our industrial pollution has substance, but Locum doesn't argue substance. As I have said before, he uses the same dishonest rhetorical tactics taught to Bible-bearing door-knockers. It's not about truth, it's about winning, and they find that a lot of people are persuaded by their low tactics. Probably that says as much about the human tendency to believe what they hear over and over again as it is a failure of the education system.

Paul SB said...

Dr. Brin said:

"Paul, yesterday I donated my 86th pint. Blood pressure 114 over 68."
- For years I would go to the doctor and the nurses would comment on how good my blood pressure was, at least until recently. Whatever coping mechanisms I had must have been working up to a point. Sometimes your responses don't "sound" so calm, but it could be that I'm catastrophizing. Actual face-to-face would help, but many people have commented on that limitation of on-line fora.

Then our faux rancher comes back with this:

"One could just as well argue that David, by virtue of donating 86 pints of blood, has proven his 'Giving Plague' hypothesis & confirmed the presence of a blood-bourne extraterrestrial altruism virus, simply by his giving of 86 pints, assuming N=1 in the absence of a reproducibility requirement..."
- Got straw?

Paul SB said...

That article about detecting disease through facial recognition software was remarkable. The potential this has to detect problems and get treatment before they become both deadly and a huge burden on our admittedly primitive (in Veblen terms) healthcare distribution system is pretty big. It's doubtful that all or even a majority of diseases will leave detectable marks on the human face, but hopefully this sort of system can be developed for more common ills as well. It's estimated that one third of the people who have diabetes don't know they have it. I personally know a person who died in a diabetic coma who looked very healthy, not overweight at all, and no one had a clue he had diabetes, himself included.

We live in a civilization that can do cool stuff like this, which is something to be proud of. We also live in a civilization that inflates the rates of chronic diseases to epidemic levels not seen before in human history and prehistory, which is something to be wary of. An ounce of prevention ...

Zepp Jamieson said...

I don't disagree with your comments on the "deep state" but it's unclear to me how that makes Trump less of a danger. As a rule, a tyrant who has surrounded himself with syncophants is significantly more dangerous than one who hasn't; and this untrained infant has the power to start a war anywhere, any time.

Larry: Rumors from Ruddy about Mueller being fired is a smokescreen, meant to distract. The question is what the real story is. The secret negotiations about dismantling health care, perhaps?

locumranch said...

"Sixty-two thousand four hundred repetitions make one truth. Idiots" [BNW]"

Perhaps Alfred is correct; perhaps I am over-stating the 'All-or-None' qualitative bivalency of some of our fellow participants; and perhaps I am mistaken about their Black & White 'either-or' mindset and their demand for certainty. I am quite prepared to admit my error if & when I am proven wrong.

How much of Climate Change theory is David prepared to disavow as potentially incorrect? 5, 10, 20, 30 or 50% ??

How much anthropogenic global warming does he deem environmentally acceptable in degrees Celsius? 0, 2, 5 or 10 degrees??

Is he willing to go on the record & admit that the variance of certain Climate Change projections could exceed 10% or be off by a factor of 5 ??

Could he concede that most US conservatives policies are 'sane' at least 30, 40 or 50% of the time?

Dare he admit that Trump is not the 'Worst President' ever?

Of course, David has responded to questions like these many many times by stating (in effect) that he is not merely correct but really most sincerely correct.

To him, Climate Change theory is GOSPEL, climate change deniers are heretics, conservatives are insane, Trump is the devil & progressives are the 'Angels of Our Better Nature'.

I think PaulSB puts it best:

Global warming is a disaster, not the Apocalypse, and the human population will adapt to the future environment & reach a new equilibrium as it always has, even though the odds of a life-ending apocalypse by 2100 approach absolute certainty from my personal mortal perspective.

People do have a tendency to believe what they hear over and over again, as this is both the failure & strength of our educational system: Rote repetition, over & over again, designed to instill a morally qualitative 'All-or-None' worldview & eliminate the more morally ambiguous approach of quantitative probablism.

What we've done, as a culture, is to educate ourselves into a double-bind box:

We can't risk human life because all human life is sacred; we can't travel in space because space travel risks human life; we can't fund space travel without funding food stamps, welfare, NHS & human life ad infinitum; and we can't look to Mars without looking at Earth, looking at ourselves, looking at Earth.

Our freedom depends on our confinement.


The semiautonomous service bureaucracies of the 'Deep State' exist to perpetuate the semiautonomous service bureaucracies of the 'Deep State', for once created by democratic rule to serve democratic rule, they self-perpetuate regardless of the presence or absence of democratic rule, which makes democratic rule irrelevant, unless one first dismantles the Deep State, which the Deep State can't allow.

Ergo, the Deep State protects Democratic Rule through the elimination of Democratic Rule which could jeapardise the Deep State's ability to protect democratic rule by eliminating it.

Darrell E said...

Coincidentally there is another fascinating recent study involving facial recognition.

The Code for Facial Identity in the Primate Brain

I have barely skimmed the paper myself so I will offer this quote from one of the articles about the paper that first made me aware of it. This is from this
article by Jerry Coyne, a professor (emeritus) of evolutionary biology in the Department of Ecology and Evolution at the University of Chicago.

"The monkeys were presented with images originally derived from 200 human faces, with data taken on a set of 50 landmarks involving both shape and features like eye color and skin tone. Chang and Tsao then constructed composite faces based on various combinations of these landmarks. After identifying a small patch of the macaque brain as being involved in face recognition, they then probed the firing of individual neurons in this region when macaques saw the faces. Using various statistical analyses incorporating the correlation of each neuron’s firing with the measurements used to construct the facial images, they then figured out an algorithm that best translated the firing patterns into the multidimensionally constructed face.

Once they did that, they could “reverse engineer” the firing patterns alone into facial images; that is, they could test their algorithm by using measurements of firing alone and their model to predict the appearance of new faces seen by the macaques. The remarkable thing is that they could do this with amazing accuracy monitoring only 205 neurons!"

Both the link to the paper and the article quoted have actual vs predicted pairs of pictures. This is fascinating. This study seems to clearly show that contrary to previous widely held hypotheses that individual neurons "code" for one piece of visual information associated with a face rather than all the visual information for an individual face being "coded" by one neuron.

But the most fascinating thing is that these researchers figured out how to recreate an image of a face with remarkable fidelity simply by recording the activity of 205 neurons in the visual cortex of a monkey and plugging the values into an algorithm. This is science fiction level stuff.

David Brin said...

86 pints works out to two a year since I started donating... Anyone who thinks that's often enough for a "fix" is a folt. Though it does keep me able to quick adapt to blood loss and other clear benefits.

LarryHart said...

Zepp Jamieson:

Larry: Rumors from Ruddy about Mueller being fired is a smokescreen, meant to distract. The question is what the real story is. The secret negotiations about dismantling health care, perhaps?

You are correct that for all of Trump's showmanship, the real enemy is the Republican congress. Too bad there's no way to impeach them (I know there's an election next year, but the Senators who won on Trump's coattails aren't up for election, and only 8 Republicans are).

I was fortunate enough to find a new job, but as a consultant, once COBRA from my last job runs out, I have to buy my own health insurance. The Republican party is actively trying to bankrupt, torture, and/or kill the people I love most.

Catfish N. Cod said...

I'm not David, but challenge accepted:

How much of Climate Change theory is David prepared to disavow as potentially incorrect? 5, 10, 20, 30 or 50% ??

Good Lord, man. There is only ever one answer to that, for any scientist. 100% -- as long as you have enough verifiable data to overturn the reigning paradigm.

It's the plethora of so much data, from so many sources, all giving consistent answers, that makes climate change so difficult to dislodge. You'd have to come up with a much weirder theory than "there is a vast conspiracy to lie to us all" to explain ALL the climate change data.

How much anthropogenic global warming does he deem environmentally acceptable in degrees Celsius? 0, 2, 5 or 10 degrees??

Another strawman -- one that highlights your, not his, "Black & White" bias. All of these have different costs to human civilization: in dollars (or bars of gold, if you prefer) spent to defend infrastructure; in land, cities, agricultural productivity lost; in political stability, in migrations, in lives lost to famine and war.

The correct question is how much of your species' economy -- not to mention your fellow humans' lives -- you are willing to gamble on your alternate hypotheses.

Is he willing to go on the record & admit that the variance of certain Climate Change projections could exceed 10% or be off by a factor of 5 ??

Pretty sure there's greater than 10% error bars in some of the projections I have seen, but without pointing to a specific projection, no one would commit to "factor of 5".

Could he concede that most US conservatives policies are 'sane' at least 30, 40 or 50% of the time?

It's hard to quantify policies that way, but 30-50% doesn't sound too far off. It's why we need a SANE conservative party --- they're not entirely wrong and they have valuable contributions to make.

Dare he admit that Trump is not the 'Worst President' ever?

Well, he hasn't yet set us up to have a civil war. Yet.

LarryHart said...

Catfish N. Cod quoting locumranch:

Dare he admit that Trump is not the 'Worst President' ever?

With apologies to the recently departed Adam West:

With all due modesty, if he isn't, who is?

David Brin said...

“How much of Climate Change theory is David prepared to disavow as potentially incorrect? 5, 10, 20, 30 or 50% ??”

Truly a different species, which I still find fascinating (if repulsive.) The issue is not how perfect our conviction about climate change is. The issue is madment who insist it must be perfect, before we make any public policy decisions based on the recommendations of people who know the most about a dangerous topic.

The lunatic cultists have for decades blocked reasonable precautionary measures to prepare nation and world, just in case 99% of those who understand radiative transfer, gas-vapor dynamics and meteorology and climate happen to be right. Sane people would say: “Okay, let’s get the ball rolling on efficiency and sustainables, just in case nearly all experts prove right. Meanwhile, cynics, shills and a very few knowledgable folks will keep asking questions, demanding more research and answers and trying to meet our burden of proof. The burden that rightfully falls on those claiming that nearly all scientists are wrong.”

That’s sort of what Berkeley’s Robert Muller and NYU’s Steve Koonin said, separating their skepticism from a raving denialist cult. A cult that sabotages experiments, cancels satellites and instruments, cancels studies and does everything in its power to PREVENT gathering information to settle the matter.

So no, I am not 100% certain of climate change. But I want civilization to prepare… as it has been doing with incredible success! If we had been at this point with sustainables, back in 2008, after 8 years of damned-to-hell republican obstruction, the Earth and our children might have been safe.

What I am 100% sure of is that the cultists are cheating, lying, illogical, deceitful monsters who have harmed our children.

"Could he concede that most US conservatives policies are 'sane' at least 30, 40 or 50% of the time?"

I used to. I still know many conservative "ostriches" who are at 30%, while in ludicrous denial of the rest.

But no. The movement as a whole has gone complete insane. Arizona draws most of its power from the spinning in Barry Goldwater's grave.

David Brin said...

"Well, he hasn't yet set us up to have a civil war. Yet."

There's not a lot that Buchanan could have done, to prevent it. He might have early on not appointed magistrates and marshalls who helped bands of southern irregular cavalry rampage across northing states (since 1852).) But by 58 the die was cast. Northern states were furious over this and other acts of evil and bullying. The war that began with souther aggression in 1852 was going to go hot.

It's not fair to compare that primitive era to ours. Civil servants and mass education have so far prevented the horrific damage done by both Bushes and by Trump from doing lethal things.

But where the Bushes helped the Saudis to destroy us slowly, Trump is doing Putin's will and aiming for fast work. Neither Bush dared to slash R&D as much as DT has, gutting the wellspring of our wealth and power, for example.

Silly ass leftist pubdits think Putin aims for an easing of sanction. Baloney. His stooge aims to kill, dead, what's left of political negotiation in America and slashing our strengths. The aim is nothing less than hot civil war.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Larry wrote: "You are correct that for all of Trump's showmanship, the real enemy is the Republican congress."
Speaking of that wonderful group of strutting and cringing goosesteppers, there's a report today that they are going to ban press interviews on Capitol Hill. The press would still be allowed to cover public functions, but not ask Congressionals about them.

David Brin said...



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donzelion said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
phann son said...

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