Wednesday, March 04, 2020

The beauty - and insights - of science

The “ten biggest science stories of the decade?  Well there’s the Higgs. And HIV can be prevented. And Ebola vaccines. And imbeciles brought back measles and blocked extinction for polio. 

How about synthetic biology - building life forms from scratch? Does anyone recall 20 years ago when religious fundamentalists called that a red line, usurping the Creator’s powers and drawing likely revenge? Okay, score one for the fundies, because they inflicted that revenge - politically-driven lobotomization - upon our nerdy civilization.  Boy did they. 

But gravitational waves are my top. Kip Thorne was a leader in that and another top ten item, his perfect prediction of what an active black hole would look like. Good decade, Kip!

One for the prediction registry. In my 1989 novel EARTH, a plot current hinges on the fact that the most plentiful mineral in the planet’s mantle is Perovskite. When gravity laser beams (another increasingly plausible Brin-vention!) crisscross those regions, lining up quasi-crystal domains, it leads to a… well… major, unexpected plot development. At the time, I knew perovskites offered some higher temperature superconductors. But apparently uses are taking off! Including the possibility of Spray-On Solar Cells

If it happens, it could be as much a game changer as LED light bulbs… or if we save civilization form science hating moron-cultists. We need game-changers.

Speaking of crystals, do you still doubt overlap between the natural and machine worlds? Look at these astonishing microscope images of snowflakes… as if constructed out of metal on a lathe and drill press. 

For an array of stunning beauty: see a collection of some of the best, award-winning science photographs of the year - and the stories behind them. Plus one hundred of the best space photographs of the year - from professionals and amateurs, with glorious images of aurora, meteors, eclipses and galaxies.

Yet.... Heinlein predicted this: Recently, The Ohio House on Wednesday passed the ‘Student Religious Liberties Act.’ Under the law, students can’t be penalized if their work is scientifically wrong as long as the reasoning is because of their religious beliefs.” Further: “Every Republican in the House supported the bill. It now moves to the Republican-controlled Senate.”  

Yes, science fiction grand master Robert Heinlein predicted this. And you liberals need to re-admit him into the circle, and Berry Goldwater and every crewcut and hairbun former military officer who stands up for fact-civilization in red & purple districts. We will only beat this insanity with a broad coalition of people who believe that facts are things. Once facts become a basis for disproof, yet again, then racism and oligarchy and environmental denialism and all the rest will collapse organically. Not just because they are immoral, but also because they are... wrong.

Oh, and astronomers identified a trio of faraway galaxies that seem to be radiating some of the earliest light ever observed, dating  to approximately 680 million years after the Big Bang (roughly 5% of the universe's current age of 13.8 billion years) and appears to be surrounded by three overlapping bubbles of plasma — meaning these pioneering galaxies may have been caught in the act of reionizing their corner of the universe and bringing the cosmic dark ages to an end.

== Reflecting on science and beauty ==

I love the web comic Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal. This particular one is fun and cool, especially if you compare it to a work I detest -- Walt Whitman’s smugly-vile and zero-sum poem “When I heard the Learn’d Astronomer.”

… or to this passage by Richard Feynman who – along with being one of the most brilliant physicists – was also a noted painter and one of the greatest bongos-players of all time. (And who I saw wearing his Nobel like a 1970s guru pendant with a hole drilled through it, at a Caltech dance.):

I have a friend who’s an artist and has sometimes taken a view which I don’t agree with very well. He’ll hold up a flower and say “look how beautiful it is,” and I’ll agree. Then he says “I as an artist can see how beautiful this is but you as a scientist take this all apart and it becomes a dull thing,” and I think that he’s kind of nutty. 

"First of all, the beauty that he sees is available to other people and to me too, I believe. Although I may not be quite as refined aesthetically as he is … I can appreciate the beauty of a flower. At the same time, I see much more about the flower than he sees. I could imagine the cells in there, the complicated actions inside, which also have a beauty. 

"I mean it’s not just beauty at this dimension, at one centimeter; there’s also beauty at smaller dimensions, the inner structure, also the processes. The fact that the colors in the flower evolved in order to attract insects to pollinate it is interesting; it means that insects can see the color. It adds a question: does this aesthetic sense also exist in the lower forms? Why is it aesthetic? All kinds of interesting questions which the science knowledge only adds to the excitement, the mystery and the awe of a flower. It only adds. I don’t understand how it subtracts.”

It doesn’t, except in the desperate perception of zero-sum fools.

On another occasion:Poets say science takes away from the beauty of the stars - mere globs of gas atoms. I too can see the stars on a desert night, and feel them. But do I see less or more? The vastness of the heavens stretches my imagination - stuck on this carousel my little eye can catch one - million - year - old light. A vast pattern - of which I am a part... What is the pattern, or the meaning, or the why? It does not do harm to the mystery to know a little about it. For far more marvelous is the truth than any artists of the past imagined it. Why do the poets of the present not speak of it? What men are poets who can speak of Jupiter if he were a man, but if he is an immense spinning sphere of methane and ammonia must be silent?"

Except not much methane, even less ammonia, and a lot more hydrogen. But then, I am a picky sci-fi poet.

Finally... combining science and creativity, watch the winners of this year's Dance Your Ph.D. contest, with inspiring entries from chemistry, biology, and physics.


Acacia H. said...

Touching on the political discussion of the previous post, I do have to say this about Biden: Biden is a comfortable candidate who brings back memories of the previous Administration (Obama) while also providing a stepping stool for the next President once Biden's administration helps settle issues caused by the Trump disadministration. And probably the absolute best ticket we could see would be Biden/Warren, and if I were in the Biden camp I would definitely be on the phone with Warren's people talking about such an alliance.

First, Warren's followers have stated outright they will support whichever candidate wins. They're not the Bernie Bro Trolls who are seeking to destroy the Democrats and ensure the Republicans win. No, they are people genuinely concerned with the nation and willing to work to set things right while hoping to have government be by the people and for the people.

Second, a Biden/Warren ticket would help unite the Moderate and Progressive branches, especially as progressives would know they just have to wait another four years and then let Warren run as President while Biden steps down, having done what he came to the White House to do - fix the damage that Trump inflicted on us all.

I've been a firm believer (as has my flatmate) that a Biden/Warren ticket would be the best ticket for the Democrats. Biden could even tap a couple of his competitors for roles like Secretary of State and Secretary of the Interior so they could get more experience and prepare to run for President themselves in eight to 12 years.

Finally, Super Tuesday has laid clean the lie of Bernie Sanders: He is no longer bringing in the youth vote like he claimed he would. If he had, he'd have swept Super Tuesday. Instead? There was a decent number of young people voting, but it was Generation X and the Boomers who really drove this part of the election cycle. And if Sanders couldn't ignite the passions of the youth vote to bring him to victory yesterday, does anyone genuinely believe he will be able to draw them out to vote against Trump if he somehow won?

As an addendum, a Sanders Presidency would just prepare us for another eight years of Republican misrule as Sanders would be very much another Jimmy Carter. And while I love Jimmy Carter and think he's a fantastic person... he wasn't a good President and didn't know how to work within (or outside of!) the system to get things done.


On a science-related note, I do hope that Boeing is forced to do another launch of their crew capsule even though it will eat into their profit margin. Seriously, people's lives are at stake and this company cut corners left and right while being paid twice as much for their services compared to SpaceX... and yet SpaceX has the working system and Boeing's is a boondoggle. Hell, if Boeing had gotten half the money and the rest went to Sierra Nevada Corp. for their Dream Chaser system? We'd likely have two working crew-capable systems at this point.

Heck, thanks to SpaceX's efforts to launch an internet satellite constellation, they're going to be able to launch a cargo mission to the ISS with minimal delay after finding a significant problem in the upper stage of one of their rockets. Now that's pretty impressive. I honestly couldn't see Boeing do something like that.


Showing how beekeeping has multiple uses, an amateur beekeeper and scientist at the Institute of Biomedicine and Biotechnology of Cantabria learned of the ability of the greater wax moth larvae in eating plastics after she plucked the larvae out of her beehives and tossed them in the garbage only to find them chewing holes in the bag. The one drawback is they excrete a toxic substance when fed plastic. -

Acacia H.

scidata said...

What do you do when Starship SN1 blows up? You accelerate work on SN2 and SN3. Is anti-sloth a cardinal virtue?

Donald Kingsbury said...

Good post.

David Brin said...

Acacia interesting. Especially interesting as an amateur beekeeper who does have problems with wax moths…

And many of you'll recall my first wish was Biden-Warren, so she could provide urgency and impetus while learning admin and political skills she proved(!) to lack so far. And the old man then gets out of the way before end of 1st term.

David Brin said...

OMG such dumbness HAS to be accompanied by feral cunning? 'Trump says Buttigieg and Klobuchar "should be impeached" for making "quid pro quo" with Biden: "They made a deal"'

Cari Burstein said...

Personally my biggest concern about Biden being the candidate is he provides a weak argument for several basic objections people have to Trump:

- Mental acuity/Age - Biden's definitely showing some signs of age and reason for concern. One of the easiest arguments to make against Trump is his questionable mental status and although I'd pick a Biden who'd surround himself with competent people over a Trump who only surrounds himself with slavering loyalists, it's a harder point to make when Biden isn't exactly a shining alternative in this category.

- Truth - It's true that all politicians lie to some extent, and that Trump still manages somehow to go to such an extent of lying/making stuff up that he makes a new category for himself. That being said, Biden certainly hasn't done any favors to himself with his Grandpa Joe quality stories of questionable accuracy. It's harder to make an argument against Trump on the basis of his inability to tell the truth when Biden isn't exactly setting a great example (also raises more questions about the mental acuity since it's not entirely clear when he's embellishing vs just plain doesn't remember properly).

- Corruption - The Ukraine stuff is clearly not valid, but a rather poor job seems to have been made of actually making what really happened with the prosecutor crystal clear (probably partly due to the hopes that it wouldn't be needed as someone else might have ended up taking over Biden's role as the moderate candidate, which didn't happen). It's unfortunately a major weak point that will be blown way out of proportion. Even if you can get fence sitters to accept that the firing of the prosecutor was clearly not related to his son, there's still the whole question of the son trading on family connections, which weakens the arguments against Trump with regards to how his family behaves.

Unfortunately we live in a political world where people don't seem to be able to deal well with the nuances of the issues and tend to treat these things as if they balance out. My great hope this election has been that a lot of folks who aren't big fans of Trump but are concerned about the Democratic party platform for policy reasons might be able to bring themselves to see that there are other very important reasons to not vote for Trump. The kinds of issues that weigh Biden down could end up being almost as problematic as some of the more serious policy reasons why those people would never vote for Sanders. I'm close to one of those people and I really honestly couldn't tell you right now who he'd vote for in the general- he's quite scared of socialism and he doesn't like Trump, but he doesn't see him as the level of problem that I do.

I really hope a good choice is made as to the VP candidate but I do not have high hopes right now. It's anyone's guess what will happen in the fall. My biggest concerns politically are reform of our voting system and getting a non-stupid medical system in this country. I personally am in favor of any approach that can be shown to work. Our current system is terrible, but I'm also willing to be practical about the realities of what can be done within the structure of our current government. The first step really has to be to stem the bleeding. I'm also greatly concerned about what can be done with regards to climate change but it feels like not much can be done outside the state level until we have a government that isn't actively trying to bring it on faster.

I feel like any democrat would be reasonably aligned with my concerns on the issues and just because some are more aggressive about it than others doesn't convince me they'd be any more successful actually getting those changes through. We need people to get more serious about down ballot candidates and not keep acting as if president is the only office that exists.

Cari Burstein said...

My apologies for the 2nd post, but I forgot I had meant to comment on the Ohio bill you mentioned- I thought it seemed a bit ridiculous so I went and actually looked up the text of the bill.

Below is the relevant portion:

Sec. 3320.03.
No school district board of education, governing authority of a community school established under Chapter 3314. of the Revised Code, governing body of a STEM school established under Chapter 3326. of the Revised Code, or board of trustees of a college-preparatory boarding school established under Chapter 3328. of the Revised Code shall prohibit a student from engaging in religious expression in the completion of homework, artwork, or other written or oral assignments. Assignment grades and scores shall be calculated using ordinary academic standards of substance and relevance, including any legitimate pedagogical concerns, and shall not penalize or reward a student based on the religious content of a student's work.

Having read that, I can see how you could maybe interpret it the way they're talking about in the articles, but that seems like it would be a stretch to do so. It seems that they are more trying to establish a policy that you can't downgrade a student for having made reference to religious material as part of their work. The part about calculating grades using ordinary academic standards would seem to imply you still can penalize grades for incorrect answers. It seems like the bill is more about throwing a sop to people who feel Christians are persecuted than solving a serious problem, but I feel like the arguments made in the articles about it are oversimplified, especially given they don't seem to include any real details. I do wonder if these people realize that rules of this sort can be just as easily applied to the other religions they seem to be so afraid of. The Satanic Temple seems to do a good job of making sure that point gets made when these sorts of things pop up.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Re Buttigieg - Klobacher 'quid pro quo' - overlooking the fact that neither of them can legally be impeached for any crime, there's the fact that making deals that don't involve abuse of office is legal unless it specifically breaks a law, or is an abuse of office.
Trump isn't that stupid. But he thinks his followers are.

Howard Brazee said...

I remember way back in my college days the observation about who attends guest lectures:

If the lecture was in the humanities, the audience contained people who studied humanities and people who studied engineering.

If the lecture was in engineering, the audience contained people who studied engineering.

So which of these groups claims to be well-rounded?

Darrell E said...

Feynman on flowers is a favorite of mine. I'd always felt the same and when I came across the story it was very satisfying. I've always found the attitude that the types of minds that like figuring stuff out and knowing more about things are somehow less capable of perceiving and being moved by beauty to be ludicrous. This attitude is merely a salve for the ego for those who are too lazy to or incapable of exerting the effort to learn more. It arises from the same underlying motivations that give rise to the attitude that educated people are somehow dumb about what really matters, which is what makes the "war on all professional clades" that Dr. Brin talks about such a successful tactic. These attitudes stem from the same behavioral characteristics that, as Dr. Brin often describes, have led to the best societies humans have ever had when properly harnessed. Competition. At base, one of the primary behavioral traits of highly social species like humans, the urge to maintain as high a degree of respect & worth in the estimation of all the other members of the group as you can. Properly harnessed you get the most productive markets ever. But the negatives can be devastating as we are experiencing presently in the US.

Larry Hart said...

Well as long as we're continuing politics anyway...

Tim Wolter:

Larry you are engaging in hyperbole. Actual Nazis are hard to find.

Metaphor and extrapolation more than pure hyperbole. It might have been more accurate of me to say "brownshirts" rather than "Nazis". Intimidation based on the bikers, the war criminals, the "tough people" being on his side. That is how fascism takes over.

And after Charlottesville, murder by car, "Jews will not replace us!", I'm not convinced that actual Nazis are as hard to find as you are.

I take your point that we don't have death camps or the Gestapo and such, but we're on the path that leads there. You're worried about Sanders' policies even though I can't see congress letting him have carte blanche to implement them. I'm afraid of Trump's fascistic leanings knowing that at least the Senate will roll over for him, and the courts will apparently stay out of the fray.

Every admin has to deal with foreign dictators.

Dealing with reality is different from the sort of sucking up to authoritarians that Trump engages in while denigrating democratic allies at the same time. A colleague of mine (not the Iranian) who supports Trump loves to hurl the epithet "communist!" at Bernie supporters, though he's somehow ok with his guy writing love letters to Kim Jung Un.

But I get your point. President Sanders would not be able to remake the nation into Venezuala.

At least that was clear. :)

Larry Hart said...

Zepp Jamieson:

Re Buttigieg - Klobacher 'quid pro quo' - overlooking the fact that neither of them can legally be impeached for any crime, there's the fact that making deals that don't involve abuse of office is legal unless it specifically breaks a law, or is an abuse of office.

That was my first thought too. He's trying to say that the very words "quid pro quo" indicate a crime, rather than the specific quid pro quo that he engaged in.

Trump isn't that stupid. But he thinks his followers are.

Well, they weren't about to vote for Klobuchar or Buttigieg anyway. Luckily, the people who would do so are not stupid.

Darrell E said...

scidata said...
"What do you do when Starship SN1 blows up? You accelerate work on SN2 and SN3. Is anti-sloth a cardinal virtue?"

Yeah, so many people just don't understand what they are seeing with SpaceX. Even, perhaps especially(?), veterans of the aerospace industry. They just aren't getting the whole iterative prototyping thing. They keep making fun of Starship development, what with outdoor construction, imperfect sheet metal, manual welding, exciting tank pressure test failures, buckling hull panels, flying water tanks and more.

But they ignore what SpaceX has already done. F9 and FH. Routinely landing and reusing F9 boosters. A human rated spaceship 99.5% approved and about to launch on its first NASA mission with astronauts on board. Development and production of an all new full flow staged combustion engine, Raptor, with record setting chamber pressure (270 bar achieved to date, 300 bar designed), and the highest thrust/weight ratio engine produced to date, Merlin 1D (194.5), all while having much lower launch costs than anyone else. And key to note, look at the pace. SpaceX is already launching more rockets per year than any other entity on the planet, except China. And let's not forget Starlink, the satellites themselves and that SpaceX launches 60 of them, so far, at a time. Successfully.

So, what has ULA done in SpaceX's relatively brief lifetime? And yet the critics still make fun and pretend like SpaceX is low class, or shysters, or something negative. To paraphrase XKCD (or whoever),

"Iterative prototyping! It works bitches!

Starship could end up being a complete failure, though it won't ever be that, and SpaceX will still have made a remarkable impact on human space endeavors.

Larry Hart said...

Legitimate question for Bernie and supporters...

Biden will probably be able to maintain a small lead going forward, as there aren't a lot of populous states that Sanders won big in 2016 left.

This will put Sanders in a predicament. At the last debate, he said that the person who came into the convention with the most delegates should be the nominee (because he expected that would be himself). If Biden comes into the convention with a hundred or two hundred more delegates, how will Sanders weasel out of that without looking like a complete hypocrite?

jim said...

David said
“Dig it, jim, And Zepp! The left has already won. The “establishment” does not dare ignore the “revolution.” It would be insanely stooopid.”

Oh boy that is funny to me, because I am quite sure “The Stooopid” is one of the most powerful forces at work in our society. I mean, come on, our collective response to the ecological crisis we are in is to double down on economic growth, the very thing causing the problem. That is just so fucking monumentally stupid – but it is our collective plan.

Another example- in response to the financial crisis Obama’s response was to keep the criminals who caused the problem in charge of the financial system and give them trillions of dollars. Stooopid and corrupt.

In response to the 911 attacks, we went to war with Iraq – people who had nothing to do with the attacks – stooopid and evil.

The Stoopid is Strong within US(A)..

Zepp Jamieson said...

First, let me note that I don't hyperventilate over supposed UFO sightings. Most are pure drivel on their face. I maintain a good healthy scepticism. But this video, shot by the ISS cameras last week, gives me pause.

It's in a lower orbit, perhaps 3 kilometers below the ISS judging from the rate it pulls ahead. I can't imagine anyone allow an object of that size within 100 kilometers of the station. It's sizeable, about the size of a shuttle. And the final seconds are exceptionally hard to explain, except for the green flash which is almost certainly a lens artefact.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Well, I'm not going to predict what Biden will do should he be the nominee (and barring an utterly chaotic convention, it's going to be either him or Sanders) but if he repeats Hillary's mistakes in dealing with the left, support will ebb. I do believe Biden is honest, but can he stand up to the same people who oppose Sanders?
The establishment do hate and fear Sanders because he MEANS to implement the same policies they pay lip service to. And they are funding the Democrats now, thanks to CU.

David Brin said...

Actually, I am going to risk jim's jhealth by saying touché... sort of. Partly. A bit. You raise arguable points. Not that I concede them all! But all of them range in the 25% to 75% validity range.

locumranch said...

Science & Morality are not connected.

Science concerns itself with the way things 'are' and morality concerns itself with the way things 'should, ought & are supposed to' be.

The first attempts to identify, acknowledge and accept observable reality, and the second invokes arbitrary preference in an attempt to alter, oppose and deny observable reality.

And, insomuch as the reality confirmed by science is most often denied by morality, it follows that the so-called 'moralist' is mostly a run-of-the-mill science denier.

As in the case of Oppenheimer, the titular scientist-father of the atom bomb, who later invoked the moral argument of 'should, ought & supposed to' in order to forbid these now 'immoral' nuclear technologies.

As in the case of Larry_H who routinely invokes 'inequality', 'racism' and 'anti-semitism' in an ill-fated & illogical attempt to repudiate these realities as 'unreal' on the basis of his false & lying morality.


David Brin said...

Vitimin-enriched tone and expression... but alas, those don't alter the fact that locum is wrong at every level, in every way.

1. most moralizing is based or grounded in assertions about fact. e.g. racist assumptions or assigned roles for subsets of humanity.

Some of these are based on assertions that are successively supported by facts: e.g. people can change and grow.

Some used to have validity but become obsolete as science changes our circumstances: e.g. Kosher laws were vitally grounded till modern food inspection/refrigeration... but pork is immoral also because science validates pigs are smart.
Any need for women to be kept under protective restriction has been rendered obsolete by modern technological society.
Scarcities that made it impossible to educate any but a few boys as scribes are long overcome. By science!

Some moralizings were convenient for the moralizers... priests and kings, and science shows that most were self-serving crap. Like inherited superiority by type, rather than slight inherited talent tilts that should have no effect on the right of a poor, racial or gendered kid to compete fairly.

Science at its root seldome "proves" things 100%, though it can and does rended 99.99% clarity for Models of the World that then experience continued critical interrogation to get more nines.

What science DOES do extemely valuably is DISPROVE BULLSHIT.

Larry Hart said...

As in the case of Larry_H who routinely invokes 'inequality', 'racism' and 'anti-semitism' in an ill-fated & illogical attempt to repudiate these realities as 'unreal' on the basis of his false & lying morality.

That's what all that was leading to? This is why, absent Lent, I avoid your posts like a coronavirus plague.

Your contention seems to be that I deny the existence of such diverse elements as inequality, racism, and anti-Semitism: that they should not be, therefore they aren't. That's diametrically opposite of what I am saying. They self-evidently do exist. My moral position is that society should not encourage or reward such traits, and in fact should oppose them.

Since you seem to disagree with that proposition, let me ask then how it is different in form from your opposition to illegal immigration? Or to street crime, for that matter? Street crime does exist, but society opposes and tries to organize itself as to discourage it. I'm putting racism and anti-Semitism in that same category. I don't understand how you can find the one proposition absurd while holding fast to the other.

As you define morality, it can't be lying. Morality doesn't make allegations of fact--that's the province of science, again as you define it. Science can investigate whether or not racism exists--morality says it shouldn't exist. If that's a lie, tell me how to perform a falsifiable test to prove it. If you mean that other people's morality does not conform to that assertion, well, that's what is being fought out in the socio-political arena. I never claimed to know that my side will win. I just know which side I'm on.

Tony Fisk said...

As I recall, the Earth's mantle perovskites were being tweaked, not by grazers, but by the actions of a passing strand of superstring emanating from a mysterious entanglement of a flying black hole ... meat... ball ... O-o-kay!

More seriously, perovskites and the related hollandites are v. stable matrices punctuated by tunnel-like intrusions which can be used to safely store radioactive waste. This is the basis of "Synroc".

Local artist Gavin Aung Than (aka "Zen Pencils") runs a line in putting famous quotes to cartoon posters. Here's his take on Feynman and the flower

I don't have a dog in the primaries pit, but am bemused by how ardently one candidate will be pushed over the others by otherwise level-headed commentators. I'm saddened but not surprised that Warren has done so poorly. She has been effectively 'blanked out' of mainstream media. Having now suspended her campaign, she's wise to keep her endorsement in reserve.

David Brin said...

Photos reveal the Italian navy's innovations on subs carrying mini-subs. The one proud series of accomplishments of the Italians in WWII was by their min-submarine corps, which terrified and damaged the Royal Navy. A flagship sub was the "Brin," by the way!

Sociotard said...

Dr. Brin, the more I read on the subject, the more I think you should redact your piece suggesting COVID-19 might have been a bio-research oopsie-doodle.

VOX: The conspiracy theories about the origins of the coronavirus, debunked

Being contrary is all well and good, but sometimes conspiracy theories can be dangerous. This is one of those times. Take down the fake news.

David Brin said...

A respect-worthy activist of the rational left - Stefan Jones - (whom some of you know) writes here with articulate passion on how our enemies, above all, seek for us to lose confidence in democracy, in our Great Experiment, in science, and ourselves. Yes, there are differences among us, typified by Biden-Bernie. And those differences can strengthen, rather than weaken us as we fight for a cause in which we share so much in common. Including the light of facts.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Is Gavin Aung Than still creating his works? I haven't seen him on MyComics in months, and he's deeply missed. Some of his work left me in tears ("What does a teacher make?") they were so beautifully done. Anyone can quote a great person: he manages to enrich the words of great people.

scidata said...

Re: Eeyore syndrome

Exactly the right term. Misanthropy has become trendy and cool. Asimovians are quickly labeled as naive Pollyannas. No need to read or learn deeper. A dismissive snort or snark is far easier than sincere historical, sociological, scientific analysis. The age-old debate in this very blog over 'zero-sum' is a prime example. It begs the obvious question: who does this syndrome benefit?

Zepp Jamieson said...

One point eight billion pixel 'movie' taken by Curiosity:

Did anyone come up with an explanation for that object near the ISS? NASA gave an official explanation on the "Rick and Bubba Show" (I shit you not) that fell far short of convincing.

Larry Hart said...

I hope the "both parties are the same" people are paying attention...

The Republicans' game plan, when it comes to federal money, has been pretty clear since at least the Newt Gingrich years (maybe even the Reagan years):

Cut taxes on the rich/corporations aggressively, triggering a budget crisis
Point out that the budget is unsustainable
Cut entitlement programs to "fix" the problem
While this has hardly been a secret, it's also been something that Republicans don't say out loud. After all, cutting entitlement programs is not a winning issue, since an awful lot of voters depend on Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, etc.

Now, it's something that Republicans don't say out loud...unless they are Donald Trump. He was on Fox News last night, and was asked what he plans to do about the ballooning deficit if he gets a second term. First, he blamed Barack Obama (a man who, last we checked, has not been president for 1,142 days). Then, Trump said that once the trade deals kick in, everything will be great. But when Martha MacCallum observed that, "[I]f you don't cut something in entitlements, you will never really deal with the debt," Trump confirmed that, "Oh, we'll be cutting."

Pretty quickly, the President realized he'd screwed up and let the cat out of the bag, and tried to fix it by declaring that there is going to be so much economic growth that it won't matter (a dubious claim, particularly after another 1,000 point one-day drop in the Dow Jones). In any case, Democrats up and down the ballot this year are going to have a lot of success pointing out that voting GOP not only means four more years of Trump, but also a conservative replacement for Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and maybe the end of Social Security and other programs as we know them. If that doesn't keep folks who are tempted to vote third-party on board, nothing will.

Keith Halperin said...

@ Dr. Brin:
IMHO we are approaching a scenario where (both through the machinations of our enemies and technological developments) we will only be able to trust what we see and hear with our eyes and ears when we are physically *present, which seems to me rather reminiscent of how I imagine life in totalitarian countries to be...


* Means of manipulating what we think we see and hear when physically present ("mass sleight-of-hand" based on strong understanding of cognitive biases) could be a further step.

David Brin said...

Zepp, that "UFO" was so lame! Ooh, a piece of debris from the station co-orbits with the station! Sorry.

Zepp Jamieson said...

That's what I though until the very end, when it suddenly powered up and accelerated to a higher orbit.

David Brin said...

I saw no such acceleration event. Were we watching the same video? Anyway, here's an interview with an astronaut explaining orbital mechanics.

A.F. Rey said...

A guy displays a Nazi flag at a Bernie Sanders rally:

The odd part is that he didn't drop the flag and run until he saw officers approaching, even though the "crowd "turned on the man."" I heard Bernie supporters were nastier than that. Maybe only on the internet... :)

Zepp Jamieson said...

Space buff since 1957 (when my dad explained that no, Sputnik wasn't suspended from a boom at the north pole, but not a bad guess for a five year old) and write SF in which accurate orbital dynamics are a must. But thanks for the offer.

I don't know how you could miss the acceleration event. finishes with a green flash which is almost certainly a lens flare.

David Brin said...

Instead of chiding me for missing it, Zepp, how about verifying the URL and then telling me a minute marker to look for?

Larry Hart said...

Zepp Jamieson:

I don't know how you could miss the acceleration event. finishes with a green flash which is almost certainly a lens flare.

I don't know about anyone else, but when I clicked the link, the video started past that point. Like Dr Brin, I watched to the end, which is where I thought the event would be, and saw nothing until I thought of going further back in the video.

Alfred Differ said...

SpaceX just landed their 50th booster and sent their 20th ISS resupply vehicle. THAT’s what an iterative design & test approach does. Dignified, liberated innovators are like a force of nature in their power to make and remake the future.

duncan cairncross said...

I suspect the "acceleration event" and the "green flare" are at the start or end of the video and are caused by the camera moving onto or off the target

Alfred Differ said...

Yeah, so many people just don't understand what they are seeing with SpaceX.

At the risk of sounding TOO self-centered, I think this line from Darrell E deserves some expansion.

Iterative prototyping has been going on in aerospace and space related start-ups for quite some time. I've witnessed about 25 years of it and been involved in two start-ups that tried to do something useful. These teams are usually small and go unnoticed by the general public. They can usually be ignored by the larger companies for multiple reasons ranging from being chronically underfunded to be management-challenged. (My two certainly qualified in a number of ways.) What they never lack, though, is enthusiasm found in engineers liberated to innovate and dignified by the founders. When done right, people work at space-related projects as if the future depended on it and they do so joyfully. I've seen this up close for at least half my life and these folks don't have to be trained engineers to contribute. In my first attempt, some of the best ideas came from a janitor who joined up with us because we had to do tests out in the parking lot due to the fact that our business space wasn't big enough and the lawyer who had childhood dreams of being and engineer but his parents forced him to do something more suitable to their vision of his future wealth status. Both learned and innovated as if the world depended on them. So did most everyone else on the team because that attitude is damn contagious. 8)

What y'all are seeing in SpaceX is more of the same, but this time funded properly. Not getting by on a shoestring like my two. Not consuming the retirement nest-egg like one of my partners. ESPECIALLY not funded by political money driven by political motives. What you are witnessing are rich people behaving ethically though perhaps not perfectly. It takes Courage to put your own money up to make purchases and potentially lose, but even the shoestring operations do that. (Mine did. I'd be a richer man otherwise.) It takes Faith in higher ideals to command the loyalty needed to hold a team together through failure and risk, but even the shoestring operations do that. (My first team excelled at it… the second team not so much.) It takes Hope in huge amounts to believe in the possibility of success, but even the shoestring operations do that. (First team was good at this… second team was hit/miss.) I can keep going down the list of virtues and show how innovators of all types and funding levels manage to do it, but I hope you'll accept that this is essentially a story of human beings being decent. The difference when it comes to SpaceX isn't any of that. The difference is that they are properly funded by wealthy people who have bought into an economically sustainable approach to breaking out to the next frontier.

I stress this because it is important. The wealthy people funding this aren't "All about the money and nothing else." If you knew where to meet them, you'd see they are as human as anyone else. If you knew how these businesses worked, you'd see there are far faster ways to get a good return on your money than in space projects. It's not all about the money, yet it is. Without the money, this doesn't happen. The guys working on a shoestring didn't get far. I know. The folks with millions of dollars got farther and developed real flight hardware. I know many of them. The ones busting down the barrier to the next frontier raised billions. Some of it was their money. Much of it came from others they could inspire. The method they use, though, is known to all of us. It's not magic. It's VERY human.

Anonymous said...

In the 17th century, Europeans build microscopes, telescopes and barometers that allow them to study nature in a way the classics never could. And they become rather cocky. There’s a French philosopher in the late 16th century, Pierre de La Ramée, who writes a book with the title “Everything Aristotle Has Said Is Wrong.” That’s chutzpah. A century earlier, he would have been strung up.

For example, Aristotle famously thought that a vacuum was impossible. Then one day, Europeans build a vacuum pump. The only conclusion they could reach is Aristotle is wrong. If he was wrong about that, could he be wrong about other things? You bet. Aristotle thought all the stars in the heavens were completely fixed; nothing is added and nothing is subtracted. In 1573, a Danish astronomer called Tycho Brahe observes a supernova. There was a star there before, and now it’s not. So people start being skeptical, and skepticism leads to what I call contestability. Arguments are decided not on authority, but on evidence, logic and mathematical proof.

That seems perfectly normal to us, but it's something that had to be learned. It's something no other society pulls off. In other places, wisdom and knowledge were revealed to our forefathers, and if you want to know the truth, you have to study their writings, whether it’s the Bible, or Confucius, or the Koran, or the Talmud.

Deuxglass said...

I briefly looked at the video and I am not going to say if it was a UFO or not but I was surprised that the people in the Space Station would just throw away a big piece like that. Something that big would take out anything it hits and it would be highly irresponsible to litter near-Earth space like that. It sounds very un-NASA like behavior.

scidata said...

Re: SpaceX

Last flight of Dragon 1 - nostalgic.
Young scientific American voices, claps, and cheers - priceless.

Larry Hart said...

Bill Maher finally pointed out the obvious (about acceptance of political donations) :

"And here's a little secret about economics. When you take money from BAD PEOPLE, it's money that they, the BAD PEOPLE, don't have."

"It's not a donation at all. It's a fine"

Ahcuah said...

Re the "UFO". Start about 0:45. I suspect the guy nails it right there: "if this is something American or Russian I think it's top secret, something new, something we've never seen." Also note the slide bar he is using to advance the frames. The reason it zooms up is because he suddenly slid the bar to the end. And it just looks to me as if its orbit took it above the ISS and we lost perspective without the Earth directly behind it.

Anonymous said...

Robert here,

Cari Burstein, I see your point about the text of the law, but I can easily see it being used to allow students citing religious authorities, as long as they are cited in APA format. Having seen the fuss made by parents about religious matters firsthand, as well as having had many school administrators whose membership in the subphylum Vertibrata was not evident, I suspect that in implementation this will be used in the way Dr. Brin eluded to.

duncan cairncross said...

Hi Alfred
That was the "Justification" for having really rich people

They would do things that the cold blooded accountants would not permit

Musk is about the ONLY example of that - 99.9% of the very rich are just rentiers

Deuxglass said...

I would say it's also obvious that if you take money from bad people they will expect you to do bad things for them. It's called bribery.

Larry Hart said...


Well, that's the theory behind not taking the money. Maher's point is there are other ways of dealing with the issue. Take the money and don't do the bad things, which one might describe as a win-win. If that means you don't get the money from them the next time, then that's how the bribery ends.

I forget which politician it was--possibly Lyndon Johnson?--who said that you take their money, f*** their women, drink their liquor, and then screw them over anyway. Sounds like a sensible way to deal with such bribery.

TCB said...

@ Alfred Differ, probably my favorite line from The Right Stuff is "No bucks, no Buck Rogers."

That UFO is Tesla's new pickup truck, you can tell by the boxy shape. The tires have a new and fascinating inner lining that traps dark energy, which is how it can drive to orbit. Remember, the batteries give a range of over 300 miles, and the return to Earth actually recharges them because you can coast. What's not yet clear is who will pick up the check for the SuperHyperloop to Mars.

On a more serious note, Joe Biden is a MUCH MUCH worse candidate than his supporters think. Here's a Current Affairs article that dissects his many deficiencies as a credible Trump challenger: Democrats, You Really Do Not Want To Nominate Joe Biden, with copious links to supporting material such as 2 truths and 31 lies Joe Biden has told about his work in the Civil Rights Movement. Biden activities in re: civil rights, mass incarceration, and the Patriot Act are part of the reason Trump found much of the machinery of a police state all ready for him to turn the key. Even if Biden defeats Trump and manages to take office, expect him to go easy on GOP criminals, try to restore the pre-Trump status quo, with all the injustice and dysfunction that led to Trump in the first place, and squander any second chance the Republic may get.

Read that stuff I linked and see if you still feel okay with Uncle Joe.

Acacia H. said...

So, TCB, what is better? A pale reflection of Obama who'll try to make peace with the Republicans but will also allow his VP selection to get experience and in four years enact the changes that they are seeking? Or four years of a Jewish Jimmy Carter who will then be followed by someone even worse than Trump who gets in for eight years and completely rewrites the nation so it's unrecognizable?

I'll be voting for whoever wins the Democratic Primary, don't get me wrong. But if you ask me, Biden is far far far far FAR less of a problem in four years for the Democratic Party than Sanders would be. And having the nation leap head-first into religious fascism in four years is not something I want to see happen.

Acacia H.

Zepp Jamieson said...

The 'acceleration event has a stable Earth behind it, so we can rule out camera movement. And as I said myself, the green flash is almost certainly a lens artefact.
Deuxglass and Achuah, you both raise valid points. I would like to see the unedited footage, including after the object is gone myself.

Alfred Differ said...

If you are going to take their money
1) Make sure the FBI knows you are so they don't think that you think you are sly enough to take a bribe unnoticed and act on it. Show them the transaction.
2) Recognize that bad people aren't above killing you for a betrayal. The one sent to kill you probably takes their money too.

TCB said...

Acacia, my point is that Biden is quite likely to be followed by someone worse than Trump. After all, Obama and he did not prevent Trump. Amid all the speculation, that is an unavoidable fact. One of my biggest complaints about Democratic centrists is that it took Trump to make them see that the republic was in danger. The 2000 election should have convinced them. It convinced me. A far-right dictatorship has, in fact, been the long term conservative goal ever since Nixon. As Dr. Brin says, 'reaching across the aisle' to the GOP has been a mug's game since Hastert and Gingrich in the mid-1990's, and I would argue longer than that.

A mug's game, that is, unless the one doing the peacemaking secretly agrees with much of their oligarchic agenda, which the Current Affairs article argues Biden does.

...incidentally, I suspect you didn't read the article... I don't see you rebutting any of its core assertions (many of which I didn't mention, for brevity).

As for Bernie Sanders being at best a "Jewish Jimmy Carter" who will get sucker-punched and turfed out by the next Republican crypto-fascist who comes along... I think he will have learned a lesson or two from history, and prove tougher than you think... IF the people will support him.

His agenda, in so many ways, is not radical; that's a gigantic smear; it's really "What if FDR lived another two years". It has taken decades and billions of dollars in right-wing and corporate propaganda to make people forget 95% of what FDR did and was planning to do. (One example: Medicare For All. Countries like Canada and Britain got their versions of it almost as soon as the Second World War ended, and FDR was going to do it too, but he died of a stroke only weeks before the German surrender.) See the Second Bill of Rights speech of 1944. Many Sanders proposals could have come right from it.

The article I linked ends by saying that Biden's electability is much more dubious than it appears; the party and the media have done a good job of whitewashing his negatives in the primary, but Trump will have a field day with them. I honestly think Sanders frightens Benedict Donald more than Biden does. Trump himself apparently felt Hillary would have beat him if she picked Bernie as veep.

Oh, I'll vote for Biden if I must. But I will not expect even one good thing to come of it. That would defy all I have learned and seen.

Alfred Differ said...


I could ask how many billionaires you know, but that would just be snarky. Besides, you might actually know some of them. The better point to make is that it doesn't take many of them to choose a non-rentier path to change the world. It takes a lot of US to keep the rentiers divided and inclined to fight with each other now and then, but we've had some success at it. (Note how much Bloomberg is willing to spend on politics. Also, those of us in CA know that money isn't enough to buy elections. Several have tried in the last 30 years.)


I met one billionaire up close (ticked him off and he came over to say so to my face) and been at one degree of separation from a couple of others. I met one guy who was probably half way there, but the encounter was brief. I've met a number of people in the $20-$50 million range and a slew of millionaires under $10M. The events I attended produced a strong selection effect, though, so I can't offer anecdotal information on whether they are representative of wealthy people. I'm pretty sure they are not. One thing about them in common, though, is they were all thinking about how to make more than 5% /year on their money AND do something socially significant.

One guy (pretty sure his wealth was a little under $50M) was quite explicit about it with a few of us when we approached him for advice. He told us to get out of what we were doing and go learn how the real world worked. In a few short words, he made it clear he thought we were starry-eyed wanna-be's and he wouldn't be willing to listen to us. Needless to say, most of us didn't take it well. Turns out he was right, though.

One of the multi-millionaires was explicit in another way. Space-related projects didn't make money. Businesses did. He made his money in software. We thought we knew how since he is pretty well known, but we really didn't. We knew of his gaming company, but the real cash came in when he licensed his code to other gaming companies. Oodles of cash. That's the neat thing about royalties and such. The income they produce has little to do with labor contributed to generate the underlying asset. He could have been sitting at home with no gaming company and he'd be about as rich. So we asked why he worked. He couldn't imagine sitting at home doing nothing. In fact, he wanted to take what he had and do something more important than make more money.

One very common thread among all of them was the impact on them of projects like Apollo and follow-on stuff that showed a wonderful vision of the future for humanity. They were just as sold on the notion that humanity has to be a multi-planet species as us wanna-be's were. Why? How? They were just as exposed as we were to all the material. The difference between us and them was they had done something to make a lot of money first and then came back toward their childhood dreams. I went to grad school first where no one gets rich… if they stay. 8)

Alfred Differ said...

After all, Obama and he did not prevent Trump.

That's not even remotely in their job description.
That's OUR job.

... A Republic if you can keep it.

David Brin said...

I agree that Sanders's proposals are simple extrapolations from FDRism and that point should be hammered. But he takes joy in SEEMING radical even though that's not helpful for November. But it fires up his young bros and such who don't display a practical bone among them... evidenced by TCB swallowing this pile of utter dreck about Biden and the entire notion of a corporatist DNC cabal of zillionaire-oligarchs-who aren't-racist-and-who-admit-science-is-a-thing-but-are-still-oligarchs. Show us any evidence of this conspiracy! And more urgently, how it affected the race this year. ALL of the things you guys complained about from 2016 have been fixed. Not a dime of Bloomberg's or Steyer's billions made a lick of difference. Never before have so many qualified candidates gone through such a clear and ongoing vetting, that's being decided by Dem voters who are adults with a power of choice.

Would I love to see a strong, articulate 60 year old like Schiff or Nadler or a younger Pelosi instead of geriatrics like Biden? sure. I doubt anyone, including Joe, thinkss of Biden as anything but a transition figure, who benefited from the weird American habit of crowning a previous VP (or wife). All of which makes his choice of running mate among the most important since Ike stuck us with Nixon.

So? If it's Warren, or similar, will you spurn the peace offering and refuse to take YES for an answer?

Did you ever bother looking at my list of 31 shared Democratic goals, telling us which ones you claim the horrible centrists oppose? Some of them, maybe they'd go incremental on. But ANY progress on that list, if it's on 30 of them, will leave an America in which YOU will then be able to come back and fight for more, in a nation where cheating and the influence of money have plummeted.

No, our biggest danger is not the flaws of Joe B. Our problem is that NONE of them, even Liz or Pete, have a clue how to NAIL the Putinists on skewers of inescapable logic. And it can be done.

Thin Spirit said...

Classical money laundering involves three stages: placement, layering, and integration. Placement is getting cash into the system. This usually involves a friendly banker who doesn't fill out reporting forms. Layering is a chain of transactions (these are often interbank transactions) at least one of which needs to be invisible in order to effectively break the monetary trail. Integration is getting the "clean" money back to the original owner. This may take many forms, including offshore "loans" which are never repaid.

A bribe is an incentive (money, gifts, a favor, etc.) offered to alter another person's behavior. Unlike a normal reward, the term "bribe" usually has negative implications and is seen as a sign of corruption. Bribes are often given to authority figures to overlook the occurrence of a crime.

PS Big and educative article on "money laundering" and thin barely informative placated "bribery". ;P

Howard Brazee said...

Many people voted for Trump because he claimed that he was too rich to be bought.
He lied.

But these people still believe that Washington has been bought by Big Money. Maybe Sanders hasn't been bought, but they don't believe Sanders is going be able to change the rest of Washington.

Does Sanders have a plan to change this? It hasn't gotten much publicity if he does.

The perception that our politicians work for Big Money contributors to pass laws written by lobbyists is not changing.

Tacitus said...

Covid-19 update.

Italy concerns me. It is far from the most organized place but it approximates Western hygene, health care systems, etc. They are calling for quarantine in place for the northern part of the country and basically cancelling public gatherings for all the rest. Italy has a very old demographic and so the mortality rate is looking to be on the high end despite what I assume is, for them, a maximal effort.

The impact on their economy is going to be gigantic. I've never wanted to visit Venice because when I go places I want to see the history not the backsides of tourist mobs. Hotel occupancy in Venice is under 2% now.

It is also starting to hit home. At our FIRST robotics tournament there were not hand shakes or high fives. Various virtual handshakes, air high fives and Spock salutes were nice alternatives. Another major FIRST tournament on the east coast just cancelled for next week.

We now have enough data to start making plausible extrapolations rather than political motivated spinning. Pending new info I am going to assume that the "look back" studies did not show much if any activity in the US before the last few weeks. And that the R0 rate, the number of people each infected person goes on to infect is around 3. And, most concerningly, that the ability to be infectious before symptoms is significant. That's what gives measles an R0 of 15. It's not as if you go near people covered in spots.

For perspective it is so far - best available data? - looking as if Covid-19 has twice the R0 and ten times the mortality of the average influenza season. And no vaccine, not even the minimal crutch of Tamiflu etc.

This week will tell the tale. Long term of course we will be fine, but a national quarantine in place could happen and would bite very hard. I'm no prepper but I think a two week stockpile of necesaries would be reasonable.

Could our mortality rate actually be worse than China/Italy? Maybe. We don't have as many people walking around with bad lungs as China....what with better air quality and less smoking. But the deaths are going to be in two major groups.

-those with all underlying health issues. And we keep a lot of people alive with transplants, severe COPD, HIV, diabetes etc that just die in other parts of the world. Also..

- when/if our health care system gets saturated, people with other conditions are going to die that would have otherwise survived. It won't count in the stats but if you have a massive heart attack or suffer severe trauma in a small rural hospital and there is no helicopter available to fly you die despite the absolute best efforts of those poor folks in the front lines. And after a while their efforts will start to falter. I remember doing long shifts in the worst of a bad influenza year. If this gets up to full Italy levels it will be much worse.

Sorry for the downer post, I really hope I'm wrong. But this is not looking like a winter seasonal bug that we can hope to ride out.

T. Wolter

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

"After all, Obama and he did not prevent Trump."

That's not even remotely in their job description.
That's OUR job.

Amen. I get frustrated with Tim W's vague fears about what a Democratic president or congress might do as an excuse for electing Republicans who do actual harm in the meantime. But the fact is that that is not mainly the fault of conservative voters like Tim. Liberals have been in the ridiculous position of penalizing our own politicians by letting them be replaced with Republicans on the grounds that our own politicians haven't done enough. The sad fact is that we never give them power enough to do what we want them to. Remember, President Obama and Nancy Pelosi had a brief window with a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate (presuming Joe Manchin and company were on board, which they weren't always), and what do we do? Freakin' Massachusetts for gosh sake votes to replace the late Senator Ted Kennedy with a Republican for the express purpose of providing the 41st Republican filibuster vote as a brake on President Obama's "excesses".

The progressive wing chides establishment Democrats for being too willing to compromise with Republicans, but the reality is that if you want to get anything done in this country, you have to have Republican sign off, because Democrats don't support their own candidates enough to empower them. There's a quote attributed to Oscar Wilde to the effect that "Women inspire us to do great things and then prevent us from doing them." I'm saying the same is true of Democratic voters. And if we're going to prevent our elected officials from doing what we want, it sure doesn't make sense to punish them for not doing those things, let alone "punish them" by allowing the very opponents we loathe most to replace them.

Larry Hart said...

Musings from overnight.

There's nothing in the Constitution that establishes the United States as a "two party system." That's kind of an emergent property of the "Largest plurality wins" way we score elections--the country almost has to sort itself into two opposing sides who battle it out for supremacy, because more candidates who align with you weakens your position.

It's becoming apparent that the Democratic Party itself has to subdivide into its own version of a two-party system: Progressive and Establishment. The contest narrowing to Bernie vs Biden is the manifestation of this. Other candidates remaining in the race would hurt their own preferred side's chances.

I'm envisioning that the primary process will eventually be more like March Madness with brackets, quarter-finals, and semi-finals before reaching a convention which decides between two opposing champions. I actually wonder if this might happen.

Larry Hart said...


I honestly think Sanders frightens Benedict Donald more than Biden does. Trump himself apparently felt Hillary would have beat him if she picked Bernie as veep.

In 2016, I thought Trump wanted to run against Bernie. But this time around, he's doing so much salivating over the thought, and encouraging his supporters to rat-f*** the Democrats and make Bernie the nominee, that I'm having a hard time reconciling the two. Yes, I know it could be a feint on Trump's part, but he doesn't seem sophisticated enough to pull that off, especially without spilling the beans to Hannity ("Biden is going to get the nomination! See how I pulled that off?")

Oh, I'll vote for Biden if I must. But I will not expect even one good thing to come of it.

The good thing to come out of it will be the end of the Trump administration, and all its treason and incompetence. Even going back to the days of W or Reagan would be a step in the right direction.

Tacitus said...


If you want a sample of my fears, see above. I have many thoughts about the two current political parties but unlike you I don't fear either. I'll save that for a political posting when it would be more germane.

T. Wolter

the hanged man said...

Going off topic here, does anyone here read Investigative journalist Marcy Wheeler’s blog, Emptywheel? Even better, sometimes, than her commentary is the comments section. One of her latest topics is COVID-19, where she also discusses Trump’s possible financial interest in this virus.

And then, on a lighter note, has anyone seen the Norwegian HBO series, The Beforeigners? The fascinating premise involves people from Norway’s past eras, Stone Age, Viking, and the nineteenth century suddenly, and without explanation, showing up in modern day Oslo. This show is definitely worth checking out.

Treebeard said...

It seems like the world is moving back toward a more normal state of affairs: problems too big for humans to solve, so much as endure and survive. For a little while there, in the age of post-Enlightenment hubris, it almost seemed plausible that we could control and fix the world like little gods. It’s not looking so plausible going forward. It will be interesting to see how this plays out culturally and politically. How useful are solutionism and progressivism compared to stoicism and conservatism when the world is out of your control? Seems like control and progress rise and fall together.

On the subject of coronavirus, living near the epicenter of the outbreak (Kirkland, WA is my home town), I find this all pretty hilarious. Surely the mind virus that produces hysteria and paranoia, spread by sensationalist media, is much more dangerous than the physical virus, which is almost no threat to younger, healthy people.

Larry Hart said...

I said...

In 2016, I thought Trump wanted to run against Bernie. But this time around,...

One of the downsides to moderated comments is that one can't self-edit as easily. I meant to say that I thought Trump was afraid of Bernie last time, but now he doesn't seem to be.
Hopefully, the rest makes more sense now.

David Brin said...

This one zeroes in on why the world’s top mafia lord has it in for America. “A unified United States, pursuing a bipartisan, pro-democracy foreign policy is Putin’s biggest fear.” And yes, Vlad has good reason to fear that, and especially if that America restores confidence in its devoted and smart fact-professions. Even disunited, America in the 90s and early 2010s fostered independence and democratization in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and finally… Ukraine, in the worst blow to Russian hegemonism in 500 years. Popular self-determination for those nations thwarted Putin’s aim to rebuild the USSR, whose fall he still openly calls “history’s greatest tragedy.” (And yes, your love of this best-pal-of-Trump makes clear that YOU are today’s ‘commies,’ you Republicans.)

Vlad’s revenge vow extended beyond bonding with bosom-buddies at Fox to malign Obama/Clinton and George Soros and all western NGOs. It goes beyond puppeting a U.S. regime that does every single thing he asks. In open speeches Putin derides the very notion of democracy and liberal rule-of-law… as does the Chinese Politburo and as-does Fox News. In this he is no different than any other Russian tyrant.

Let’s remember Alexis de Tocqueville’s DEMOCRACY IN AMERICA, in which he foretold that the final conflict over human destiny would likely someday be between tow huge continental powers - America and Russia. NOT because of superficial religions like Czarism or Leninism or today’s “traditionalist-orthodox’ Putin cult… but as a matter of much-deeper *national personalities.* From the Romanov monarchy to Stalinism to Putinist mafia skullduggery, the common themes have remained utterly unaltered, as the czarist Okrahna changed clothes into the NKVD, then KGB and now FSB, often keeping the same methods and personnel! That theme was utter paranoia and devotion to Russian imperial dominance under a ‘strong’ leader.

What they never expected was that after 70 years of failure to suborn the US left with marxist blandishments, all they had to do was flip a few symbols and the American confederate right threw themselves at Putin’s knees like eager dogs.

David Brin said...

Treebeard, we couldn't care less how 'hilarious' you find our efforts to preserve a great Enlightenment Experiment that twenty previous generations managed to preserve and extend, despite similar and often greater crises.

In fact, of course, you are a fool and dunce who has no idea how to weight the bad news vs. a huge tide of innovations, discoveries, inventions that might (or might not) counterbalance all that bad. We don't either! But, given that non one knows, and the weight of factors favoring victory is immense... including a rise in the % of educated children with fed-brains from 10% to over 90%...

we'd be fools (like you) not to lend our beacks and efforts to the cause of saving this one hope, not just for us and the Earth, but possibly the galaxy.

Your dyspeptic growls would have more import than a gnat's buzz if you knew things. You don't.

We might diagnose that buzz as enemy action, since the end goal is the same. And if we ever find it out, you had better HOPE we prevail, because then we'll just laugh and offer you a hand. But if we fail, BOY will we fact people look for those who dragged us down to hell.

But no, you're neither knowledgeable not a traitor. Just boring.

Laurence said...

The good thing to come out of it will be the end of the Trump administration, and all its treason and incompetence. Even going back to the days of W or Reagan would be a step in the right direction.

Honestly I'd actually prefer another four years of Trump to Biden. Not because Biden is as bad as Trump, he isn't, but because I think Trump has set the world on course for a major recession (likely to be exacerbated by Brexit and Coronavirus) which Biden would utterly fail to remedy. Biden would be blamed there'd be a backlash against him, and the Repblicans would hop straight back into power. With Trump still in the Whitehouse, he'd have to take the flack for his own failed policies, he'd lose the 2022 midterms by a landslide giving the Democrats a supermajority plus the presidency in 2024.

TCB said...

Accidentally deleted an even longer comment. In short:

If he gets the nomination, Biden picking Warren as veep would be a good sign. I predict he won't. Bernie's crew are still trying to get her on board, endorsement and running mate. I think she might go with him, but I dunno.

I have a hunch Biden would actually go with either Mayor Pete or Amy Klobuchar as running mates. There's scuttlebutt that Obama brokered their exits before Super Tuesday to help Biden.

I was quite incensed at Klobuchar during the last debate in South Carolina. The moderators let her talk a lot more than Sanders and she spewed outrageous falsehoods about the cost of Medicare For All. This happened about one fourth of the way through. I mean, see if her numbers resemble anything in this overview and see if any of Klobuchar's numbers resemble any of it.

KLOBUCHAR: No, the math does not add up. In fact, just on "60 Minutes" this weekend, he said he wasn't going to rattle through the nickels and the dimes. Well, let me tell you how many nickels and dimes we're talking about: nearly $60 trillion. Do you know how much that is, for all of his programs?

SANDERS: Not true.

KLOBUCHAR: That is three times the American economy -- not the federal government -- the entire American economy.

(What she's doing is talking about a 10 year budget as if it were all happening in one year, and glossing over how much of that money would be offset by what we presently pay for insurance and pharma companies. They did not let Sanders rebut. Knowing Sanders, he could have spent the next 15 minutes unpacking the details of his budget proposals without saying anything dumb. If they'd let him.)

Here's a wild idea: A Biden-Bernie ticket can defeat Trump and defend democracy... But would either of them do it?


Fun fact: Bloomberg wins a partial victory simply by helping stop Sanders. Bloomberg has spent $500 million on primaries and may spend an equal amount helping Biden and others down ticket. But a Sanders wealth tax would have cost Bloomberg over $4 billion. You can be sure Bloomberg knows that.


Here in my own neck of the woods, Cal Cunningham prevailed in the primary over Erica Smith for the chance to run against GOP Senator Thom Tillis. GOP operatives had been supporting the progressive Smith in hopes that she could lose to Tillis in the fall. Instead Tillis faces Cunningham, a major in the Army Reserve.

Similarly, the winner of the NC-11 Dem primary is Moe Davis, a retired Air Force colonel.

Both are good picks for this district.

Delenda est Mar-a-Lago.

Treebeard said...

No, what I find hilarious is that the hysteria over a relatively harmless and normal virus is causing more problems than the virus itself. It’s also pretty amusing that someone would interpret my comments as possible “enemy action”, and go on a little name-calling and threatening tirade. This is the danger of seeing everything through a Manichean ideological lens—it easily deranges the mind. Speaking of which, de Tocqueville’s idea that there is going to be a “final conflict over human destiny” is a crazy religious delusion, shared by Christian, Islamic and Progressive fanatics alike. Where do people—especially those who claim to be rational and scientific—get these ridiculous ideas? Just as we shouldn’t encourage Christian and Islamic apocalypticists, we shouldn’t encourage Progressives from trying to create a giant ideological conflict for the future of the galaxy that exists entirely in your imaginations, but could bring about real apocalypse here on earth. The great spiritual challenge for devotees of your great Enlightenment Experiment is learning to let go of this world—which you can’t take with you, save, control, or perfect, no matter how hard you try.

Howard Brazee said...

I don't see an old candidate picking an old running-mate. It's not about who they can work with this time, it's about getting votes.

Biden might want to pick a young black woman to get votes.

Sanders might want to pick a young disabled veteran woman to get votes.

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

TCB Biden must pick a woman and must offer a major concession to the left.

Harris - by offering some ethnic bonus - is a possibility though she gains him little in healing a left-right divide that's 90% psycho-somatic (as with you & jim) but still potentially devastating in November.

Klobuchar would gain him nothing. Most woman democrats don't even think of her as one of them.

Warren was obvious VP (obvious to me and to SNL) even a year ago. But she would have to negotiate with far better advice than the imbeciles she's listened to, the last month or so. If so, she'd be ideal.

But it could be that Michigan governor. There are a couple other possibles.

David Brin said...

The aim in citing de Tocqueville was not to take the teleological prediction literally - only an idiot would interpret it that way, since I am on record as among those most critical of teleology of left or right or sci fi. It was to metaphorically accentuate what anyone with a scintilla of cerebration would know, that th pattern of Russian paranoid Strongman-Subservience and spite toward all enlightenment values has been consistent and unchanged by cult-specifics across at least half a millennium, from czarism to communism to russo-mafia-ism.

Of course Treebeard knows this. And his every jeremiad shows that he would be vastly more comfortable living under and devoted to such a negative-sum despotism than this positive-sum experiment that confuses him no-end. Hypocritical ingrate.

Larry Hart said...


I think Trump has set the world on course for a major recession (likely to be exacerbated by Brexit and Coronavirus) which Biden would utterly fail to remedy. Biden would be blamed there'd be a backlash against him, and the Repblicans would hop straight back into power. With Trump still in the Whitehouse, he'd have to take the flack for his own failed policies, he'd lose the 2022 midterms by a landslide giving the Democrats a supermajority plus the presidency in 2024.

From your lips to God's ear. But I think if there's another term of Trump with a Republican Senate and a Republican supreme court, there won't be enough Democratic-leaning voters left on the rolls to every oust them again.

I'm not black, but if I were, I think I'd have to vote blue no matter who under the assumption that a Republican victory would mean the end of my voting rights.

Larry Hart said...

Tim Wolter:

I have many thoughts about the two current political parties but unlike you I don't fear either.

With all due respect and acknowledgement that I may be wrong, you sure sound like you fear Democrats every time you explain why the Trumpian/Republican alternative just isn't enough to overcome that fear.

Nevertheless, "fear" may be the wrong word. I certainly don't fear Republicans either, albeit for a draconian reason. I used to have aspirations which Republicans threatened to undermine, and I was indeed scared for the viability of that future. I no longer have any expectations. Therefore, as the Kingpin once rued after he tried to wreck Daredevil's life, but failed to deliver the coup-de-grace: "I have shown him...that a man without a man without fear!"

If that sounds bitter, I'm really not. I'm enjoying life more at almost-60 than I ever did as a nerdy teenager or an incel in my twenties. I even enjoy my work and my employer, which is more than has been true most of my working life. I'm even sociable at work, which I never was before. But I'm taking life as it comes rather than trying to plan too hard for what may or may not ever develop in the future. Trump could take away my Social Security and Medicare tomorrow, probably dooming me to bankruptcy followed by infirmity and a painful, lingering death. I'd be angry, but not fearful. I've already had more than my share of good times. "I can't complain, but sometimes I still do."

Larry Hart said...


Here's a wild idea: A Biden-Bernie ticket can defeat Trump and defend democracy...

I wouldn't necessarily object, but I'd want to be darned certain that the Speaker of the House was still going to be a Democrat. :)

TCB said...

I bungled the link on that one.

A Biden-Bernie ticket can defeat Trump and defend democracy

I wouldn't expect it, but it's not the dumbest thing I've heard.

Delenda est Mar-a-Lago.

David Brin said...

VP nom will be a woman. And perhaps on both tickets.

Tim, we've been asking for three years what your red lines would be. Is there some number of outright and provable presidential lies? (And let's pick any ten - at random - from the 18000 listed, so far.)

Is there some level of intimidation of diverse and dedicated civil servants? Some multiple of the number of Obama or Clinton officials convicted or resigned in disgrace that would get you to admit of a difference that is SYSTEMATIC? Twenty times? Forty times? SIXTY times as many?

Is there some number of Republicans proved to be abuser-perverts that you'd accept as systematic? Some multiple of the number of democrats? Twenty times? Forty times? SIXTY times as many?

Is there some level of climate change-wrought disaster - perhaps a level we haven't yet reached - that you'll avow IN ADVANCE would make you admit that Fox-pushed denialism was a deliberate crime against the very kids you so graciously and generously mentor?

Do you doubt I could go on for pages? But you get the point. It certainly seems to us that you move the goal posts. Things you'd have considered absurd cartoon notions you now take as normal, and assume Democrats do those things to.

They don't. At all. Not even a little.

David Brin said...


Luke said...

Spray-on solar cells? Hot dog! That sounds like "Black Power" from Niven's The Woman in Del Ray Crater!

Hailey said...

I would definitely prefer Bernie as the candidate, though Dr. Brin and some of my friends were bringing me around to Warren instead. Alas I don't even get to vote for her in my state's primary anymore...

It looks like Biden will eventually be the nominee. I was a little worried at first about Biden after hearing rumors he's showing signs of age-related dementia. And there is a visible contrast in videos of him from 2012 vs 2020. But the GOP has already had two presidents in similar straits, and I'm confident his VP pick (please be Warren!) will be competent if or when they have to step up to the plate.

I've only just started reading Polemical Judo, so apologies if I'm not bringing much to the discussion here right now.