THE VIEW FROM CHAOS MANOR
View 461 April 9 - 15, 2007
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April 9, 2007
I have sent a short letter to all subscribers. If you subscribe and did not get it, please let me know under what name and email address you subscribed and where you expect such mail in case those are different. I am not the world's greatest record keeper, but I almost never lose anything.
Do any models of global temperature take into account vulcanism? Specifically heating of oceans by underseas volcanic activities? I have wondered how CO2 greenhouse heating could have a large effect on the seas: that it, trying to heat water by heating the air above it is rather difficult, but undersea volcanoes can do direct heating. I don't know the numbers here. I do know that volcanos are a significant source of greenhouse gasses. Do they heat the oceans as well?
We are having a new UN report on Global Warming while it is snowing on the Cherry Blossom Festival. I don't know if that's significant.
The conclusion of the late climate scientist Roger Revelle—Al Gore's supposed mentor—is worth pondering: the evidence for global warming thus far doesn't warrant any action unless it is justifiable on grounds that have nothing to do with climate. See Mail
Regarding data entry:
For an old book not in good shape, scanning is traumatic. It is also time consuming. It may be that scanning and OCR are now reliable enough to trust, but at the time I started this several years ago that was certainly not the case. Actually the book sat here for a couple of years while I contemplated scanning it, but I don't have a big editorial staff. There's just me and Roberta, and whatever volunteer time I can con the kids and friends into; oddly enough there are not many people who think working with a scanner is a good way to spend a day.
Proof reading is worse. It's very difficult, at least for me, and copy editors aren't cheap either. Laura Sampson is an educated lady who can do both line and copy editing, and I've always trusted her judgment on getting stuff into electronic reading format.
It may be that OCR has progressed to the point of reliability, but that 95% scares me, and taking the time to do the cleanup is intimidating.
The LA Sunday Times carried an article by Walter Isaacson, President of the Aspen Institute called "Patron saint of distracted students". I can't find a link to the LA Times copy, but http://www.themoscowtimes.com/stories/2007/04/09/006.html is the same article.
The article contains this paragraph:
Being President of the Aspen Institute sounds like nice work if you can get it, but I hope this article isn't representative of its best work. As a critique of our school system it is far more part of the problem than a solution. It's not as if the schools were already teaching the basics through drill and kill and stultifying classes that pound the creativity out of bright students while teaching little to the dull ones. It's not as if they all learn the multiplication tables or that most of them know what the periodic table are in the first place.
There are two parts to education. One is learning what one must know to get along in life. This is often fairly dull work, but necessary. Among these are the ability to read, write, and cipher; the traditional goals of the first six grades of public school at a time when fewer than half the children were expected to go beyond six grades. We can have some debate on what "read, write, and cipher" mean, but not a lot. By read one means at least read and understand newspapers, job application notices, neighborhood flyers, and most popular books: in other words, to be able to read any word one already knows or has heard often. By write one we usually mean at least the ability to write coherent letters to one's friends and families, and we usually hope for more than that. By cipher we mean being able to make change and do simple calculations: in other words, to know basic arithmetic.
Seventh and Eighth grades were traditionally where one learned something of world and national history, something of literature -- see the 6th Grade Reader for examples of what 7th Graders were expected to have been exposed to -- and more math. Eighth grade graduates were essentially considered ready to be citizens, and those who could then went on to high school.
My point here is not that we ought to allow most students to leave school at eighth grade, but that at one time we expected a lot more of those in grade school. In California in 1916 there were places where not all children went through eighth grade -- this was still predominantly a mining and agricultural state -- but not all that many. The vast majority of all students went to school, and were expected to have read all the stories in the California 6th Grade Reader. They were also expected to know the addition and multiplication tables up through 12's.
When the schools get to that point, I will worry about teaching imagination and creativity. Until then, this Aspen Institute essay, however well meant, will simply serve as another justification for teaching the student nothing at all and pretending that we're being creative.
We went through most of this back in the days when John Dewey was restructuring the education system of the United States. The results of "progressive education" were not the liberation of imagination and creativity among the bright students; it was a disastrous decline of basic knowledge. Compare the 1916 California 6th Grade Reader to today's 6th Grade Reader and you will see what I mean.
We have run the progressive education experiment that Isaacson calls for. We know the result.
A thought on polar bears: it is my understanding that the Inuit used to herd reindeer during the Medieval Warm period. When the cold came back, the Vikings tried to remain as dairy farmers and hunters. The Inuit learned to live on fish and blubber. I don't know what the polar bears did, but they seem to have survived for 600,000 years, so they have lived through both warm and cold periods.
|This week:||Tuesday, April
Adam Greenwood your mail is being returned as no such person. It is an nd.edu address. I have no other.
April 11, 2007
Jimmy D. Williams I do not have an email address for you!
Stem cell treatment may cure Type I diabetes. Of course the stem cells are not embryonic, but the thrust of most articles is that this shows we need Federal funding of embryonic stem cell research.
Perhaps such research will be better if Federally funded, but I have seen no evidence of this. My suspicion is that if we allow Federal funded embryonic stem cell research, we will soon have no other kind; the peer review process tends to drive all funding into a few popular directions with almost nothing reserved for unpopular hypotheses. If science can be consensus driven then perhaps Federal funding -- which tends to swamp all other funding and eventually swallow it whole -- is a good thing. Perhaps.
Richard Feynman was adamant that science is ruled by experiment, and the experimental evidence must trump everything. One need not wonder what he would have thought of String Theory which generates millions of untestable hypotheses and few experiments, but that's for another essay.
He also agreed with me about "Voodoo Sciences". I had not really seen the connection between government funding of science and the dearth of crucial experiments when I wrote the Voodoo Science essay. The connection is not so obvious at first, but it's there, and Dick Feynman saw it even when I didn't. With central funding and peer review as the only means of allocation of that funding, you get limited experimentation and very little actual testing of theories by crucial experiments. Science begins to look more like legal argument -- see the essay -- and there are fewer contrary experimental results that must be accomodated.
We can rejoice that they are finding a cure for Type I Diabetes; but unless you read closely you would not realize that the stem cells used in the treatment are not embryonic stem cells.
Everyone should, in tribute, read his Harrison Bergeron.
Kurt Vonnegut, RIP
Everyone should, in tribute, read his Harrison Bergeron.
The global warming debates continue, and everyone seems determined to abandon sanity and go over to the "the debate is over" school.
In other words, do something, even if it's wrong. So the search is on for what is least harmful. Like transportation security, we will go to theater rather than real security, and we will appear to be DOING SOMETHING about global warming. But if the doing something makes us poorer, that means fewer resources available when we face a real crisis.
Theater is not free. But it does appear to be what we will do.
Carnival of Space (home schooling carnivals)
REGISTRATION Warning. See Mail.
April 13, 2007
Friday the 13th Falls on Friday this Month
A new subscriber says
I would suspect that's a pretty universal belief with Chaos Manor readers. The question is, is it true? That is, just about 100% of the readers here are over on the right side of the bell curve, and thus could have read those stories and poems (do not neglect the poems! there is no better way to get a feel for language and its uses than reading good poetry that has rhyme, rhythm, and meter!) in Sixth Grade; but the more important point is that at one time all sixth graders were expected to read those stories. Not all would have come to a full understanding, perhaps, but many would.
I can say this with some confidence because my sixth grade reader in rural Tennessee contained much of the same material. In particular, Ruskin's King of the Golden River was in there. (I happen to remember the year because I was the youngest member of the class in 6th grade, but the best reader, and that was the year I had to learn to cope with being the class nerd.) Some of my classmates had problems with that story, but they all got through it; and while they may not have learned nuances of language as I did ("beat him until their arms were tired" was part of my conversational vocabulary for the rest of my life) they certainly got something from the story. The Columbus poem had some of the same effect.
Incidentally, we also learned this one: http://www.poetry-archive.com/m/opportunity.html
This is not Lake Wobegone; but the average is higher than we are assuming. Unfortunately there is a sizable section that is two sigmas down from the average. The way to assure that no child is left behind is to make sure no child gets ahead. We are doing that very well indeed.
Illegal aliens can claim dependents in Mexico or other foreign countries, and claim Earned Income Tax Credits. They don't need social security numbers.
April 14, 2007
It is time to be taught that we are subjects, not citizens, and that making money is a crime for which you will be fined.
Flash crowd party.
April 15, 2007
I went looking for a gif or jpg with a grim reaper, and ended up on an adventure. Googling grimreaper.gif takes you to a place called Mr.Free that may have a lot of stuff, but it's not obvious how to get to any of it, and I didn't stay long. Grimreaper.jpg leads to a place that starts a Java process; canceling that ends with an unstoppable process that can only be ended by closing Firefox, only you can't restart Firefox until you use Task Manager to stop a java security process. That can't be stopped without an error. All told the little fishing expedition took several minutes and wasn't worth it. I suppose I ought to learn from this.
Monday (tomorrow) we will have two important discussions prompted by mail. The mailbag will be up at Chaos Manor Reviews where you can also find a special report by Rich Heimlich on broadband experiences. Now I have to work on taxes.
However, on the theory that anyone reading this on Sunday in Tax Time is a devoted reader, I'm considering revamping the front page of this place. Design suggestions welcome but I have to say in advance that while I'll listen to (read) all suggestions I don't commit myself to taking any of them. I do want to revise things so that it's easy to see how to find things of permanent interest, as well as topical matters; and which will encourage people to go exploring in here because there really is a lot of interesting stuff accumulated over the many years this has been going.
This is a day book. It's not all that well edited. I try to keep this up daily, but sometimes I can't. I'll keep trying. See also the monthly COMPUTING AT CHAOS MANOR column, 8,000 - 12,000 words, depending. (Older columns here.) For more on what this page is about, please go to the VIEW PAGE. If you have never read the explanatory material on that page, please do so. If you got here through a link that didn't take you to the front page of this site, click here for a better explanation of what we're trying to do here. This site is run on the "public radio" model; see below.
If you have no idea what you are doing here, see the What is this place?, which tries to make order of chaos.
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