Mail 771 Saturday, April 27, 2013
A long time subscriber sends this:
Years ago, I created a knick-knack shelf in the shape of periodic table and have been putting element samples in.
I now have to move and cannot take it with me.
Since you are a scientist of some renown, I thought you might want it or know someone who does. They can have it for the cost of shipping.
I have contacted the local schools and colleges, those that have responded have said they cannot accept chemicals without a clear chain of ownership.
I will forward serious answers to him. I don’t promise he will answer, and I don’t promise answers or acknowledgments, but those seriously interested are encouraged to write.
"American academia no longer studies history[.]" <https://www.jerrypournelle.com/chaosmanor/?p=13546>
In my experience, the academics study past events and write wrong histories.
I was trained to separate chronologies, chronicles, and histories. A chronology is a list of dates and events. A chronicle is an account of events; for example, Amity Shlaes’s _The Forgotten Man_. A history is an exposition of events; that is, not just "This happened" but "This is why this happened."
I do not know if you categorize as I do, but I thought an explanation in order.
I have known professional historians who took great pains to get the details right. I have known others who were so ignorant of their chosen area of expertise that I as an undergraduate corrected them. (One speaker at a National Historical Society convention I attended criticized Julius Caesar for his lack of a general staff. I pointed out that his criticism was anachronistic, because the general staff was invented by the Prussians in the 19th century. Didn’t mean the jobs did not get done. Just meant they were not called ‘general staff’.)
I have also witnessed historians spread lies to suit their political agenda. I was told — by an arrogant young Irish socialist — that the black soldiers in the American army mutinied after Dr Martin Luther King, Jr., was shot and killed. This was history that he read. I remember when Dr King was killed. I do not recall any army-wide mutiny of blacks. Confronted with my memory, he preferred his wrong history.
At the Second Party Congress of the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party, the minority faction walked out and held its own congress. They called themselves the Bolsheviks; that is, the Majority. That was an obvious lie. If they were indeed the majority, why did they not just push their platform through the Congress or eject the Minsheviks? Yet Wikipedia <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bolshevik> insists they were majority at the Congress.
Like the Bolsheviks, historians lie. The tales they tell tell me more about them than about the events they expound.
“It isn’t so much that liberals are ignorant. It’s just that they know so many things that aren’t so.” –Ronald Reagan
Live long and prosper
h lynn keith
When Harvard, back in the 19th Century, began to allow students to graduate in science, the common bon mot was a quote from a professor of classics, who said, “No madam, it does not guarantee that they will know science, but it does guarantee that they will not know Greek and Latin.” The same could be said of the elimination of history from the basic undergraduate requirements.
A very long time ago the State University of Iowa had a “core course” requirement for everyone, whether in business administration, engineering, English, education, or any of the liberal arts. One of those requirements was two semesters of the history of Western Civilization, taught by Dr. George Mosse and a team of his graduate students. Mosse was a fascinating history lecturer, and his lectures were to the entire freshman class, held in the old Iowa State Capitol building which had been left to the University when the Capital moved to Des Moines.
Other core courses included Masterpieces of English Literature, Greeks and the Bible, Modern Literature, and that sort of thing. Everyone who graduated from SUI in those days had some exposure to what used to be thought of being an educated person.
But over time the notion of a minimum exposure to history and the intellectual arts has faded, and the idea of core courses has vanished from most universities, to make room for various racial and gender studies programs and what I have called The Voodoo Sciences. http://www.jerrypournelle.com/science/voodoo.html
The result has been the loss of any common consensus about what used to be called the good life, and the Socratic maxim that the unexamined life is not worth living and the unexamined universe is not worth living in. Philosophy, once the queen of the sciences, is now essentially redundant, and over time even the rigorous formal logic studies that came with operational philosophy have been watered down to pap. When I took Philosophy of Science from Gustav Bergmann at the University of Iowa we learned things which stood me in good stead through my career in operations research; I doubt that happens now, just as no one seems really to understand Sir Karl Popper’s notions about the limits of scientific inquiry.
Of course real philosophic inquiry, like real studies of history, are not something many should specialize in. A dose of these matters is vital to a real education, sufficiently so that I would say that those who can’t learn something from undergraduate philosophy and history ought not be in University at all, but would be better off in specialty trade schools of one kind or another. At the university level, though, those who are truly masters of philosophy and history ought to be treated differently from those whose only knowledge is in the voodoo sciences. But that’s for another time.
Subject: The Psychiatric DSM
The Psychiatric DSM
Here’s an article about the psychiatric DSM that you might find interesting:
"But it’s not entirely clear that psychiatrists want a solution to the problem, at least not to judge from what happened when the experts conducting the most recent revision of the manual, the D.S.M.-5, were offered one. "
I sent this message to Dr. Ed Hume, M.D. Psychiatrist
To: Edward Hume
Subject: FW: The Psychiatric DSM
Have you any comments on this? I am about to write something on it. It’s important. Psychiatry rejects science… I would have thought that L Ron Hubbard would have been more friendly to biological data than this.
RE: The Psychiatric DSM
I read the linked article.
The final paragraph says, "This notion—that the apparent mental condition is all that can matter—underlies not only the depression diagnosis but all of the D.S.M.’s categories. It may have been conceived as a stopgap, a way to bide time until the brain’s role in psychological suffering has been elucidated, but in the meantime, expert consensus about appearances has become the cornerstone of the profession, one that psychiatrists are reluctant to yank out, lest the entire edifice collapse." That’s about it. And really, until we know a lot lot lot more, this non-instrumental approach is probably the best approach. At least it keeps us humble, lest we think we know something. If going this way means we don’t use lab studies (are they ‘scientific’ yet?), so be it. BTW — the DST he referenced fell out of favor because it did not reliably diagnose melancholics; nor did those who had a positive test constitute a valid disorder. Besides, the test they settled on was most likely not the best test to use. From the research, I thought at the time that an index dose of 0.5mg looked better than the 1mg dose they mostly used. ‘Scientific’ in this context may be more like ‘scientism,’ the semblance of science.
In the meantime, research progresses. Hundreds of genes have been implicated in the pathogenesis of schizophrenia, for example. After all, the part of the brain and the functions involved are massively complex. We will be a long time disentangling it all. Yet I can diagnose most cases in seconds — and I am not alone. The German term ‘augenblick diagnosis’ — eyeblink diagnosis — certainly applies. And I have a man on my unit who came to us loudly complaining of suicidal depression. He was intrusive as well. It came to me a few days after he was admitted that here was not a man with depression and borderline and narcissistic personality disorders, but a man with dysphoric mania. I took him off all of his antidepressants and carefully primed him with anti-manic agents. Now the dysphoric mania is gone . . . and we still have that borderline personality disorder. And the other day he and I discovered the separation anxiety that got him into being a borderline. The narcissism has faded into his borderline disorder. What I mean to point out with this vignette is that the names change, but the old disorders are real. "In the room the ladies come and go … That is not what I meant at all; That is not it, at all.”
Meh. The DSM began in 1952, as the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. I like DSM-2, published in 1968. My copy is only 134 smallish pages long. The DSM-4, by contrast is 886 large pages long. DSM-2 simply describes the cases you are likely to see. Good stuff, that. 1980’s DSM-3 was the grandchild of the Washington University Criteria (called by us there the ‘Feigner criteria’) by way of the Research Diagnostic Criteria. Think of the landscape of mental illness as a great prairie. You put fences (the criteria) around certain fields and declare those fields to be your disorders. The locations of the fields and the placement of the fences are determined by research, and presumably contain a ‘valid’ disorder (a technical term when used this way) which can be diagnosed with ‘reliability’ (another technical term; it means that if diagnosers are all given the same manual they mostly will diagnose the fenced-in illness). You can see the immediate problems with this approach. In any case, if your fenced fields do not contain a hill or at least a hillock — one of those recognizable diseases — you have . . . an empty field.
The clinicians who built DSM’s 3, 4 and 5 did some silly things to be able to differentiate between illnesses. For example, a blistering (but civil) critique of the DSM diagnostic categories for personality disorders showed about eleven years ago that the criteria focused on the differences between disordered personalities; but the personalities overlapped greatly. But to make the manual more useful to diagnosticians, this aspect was ignored . The critique, having been done by psychologists was also ignored by the psychiatric establishment.
For DSM-5 we had a big controversy about how serious a disturbance must be before it qualifies as an illness. Please. What must our forefathers think of us if, as the poobahs of my profession would have it, 52% of Americans have a mental illness at some point in their lives? Like the plague of ‘bipolar disorder’ that has spread throughout the land, this lowering of the bar to make more people whose distress is covered by their insurance seems — well, it does — like a self-serving income-producing scam.
I’ll stop now, before I stray into such topics as the Joint Commission of A__ H____, who by their dictatorial powers have turned large numbers of Americans into unwitting opiate addicts. Or the specialty boards, who have introduced ‘recertification’ to make more business for themselves.
I managed to finish my graduate education in psychology before ever encountering the DSM. At one time my major interest in psychology was in “personality theory”, so I had many courses in psychological theory, abnormal psychology, and other clinical studies although I wasn’t trying to become a shrink. I encountered the DSM in reading psychology journals, and from the beginning I found them absurd, since the diagnoses were intended to provide a terminology for billing insurance companies, not any kind of recommendation for treatments. In proper medicine diagnostic causes are verified by concepts like Koch’s Criteria (sufficient but not necessary for a diagnosis to be accepted), but in Freudian psychiatry almost all of the evidence is theoretical or anecdotal – and it turns out that some of the anecdotes were embellished by theoretical concerns. You can prove anything if you can make up your data.
Proper medicine developed procedures for taking case histories, but they don’t really apply to psychology, and it is often difficult to distinguish the DSM from an anecdotal collection. As an example, there are clearly many variants in the behavior and backgrounds of those formally diagnosed as “having” ADSD, Asperger’s, and what is called autism, but the DSM won’t tell you much about that. Since treatment often depends on diagnosis, physicians find they are often on their own. Drug companies want to sell lots of drugs, and many of the drugs used to treat ADHD and autism produce rewarding experiences. The result of that is predictable. Bright kids aren’t stupid. Even stupid kids aren’t that stupid.
The DSM is handy for those who have to bill insurance companies or government agencies; it has never seemed very useful as a diagnostic instrument except for those who are required to have a diagnosis before they can get paid.
On the subject of diagnosis and treatment: at one time there was an accepted disorder known as dementia praecox. Most of those who received that diagnosis are now known as early onset schizophrenics. The thing about dementia praecox is that it was known, absolutely known, to be incurable. The prognosis was that the patient might temporarily have remissions, but there would be progressive deterioration. The easy deduction from that was that ‘treatment’ was a waste of scarce resources, and the proper course of action was asylum. Since the disorder was known to be incurable, that generally meant perpetual asylum, or in other words, life imprisonment in a mental hospital with no treatments. Many dementia praecox patients became fairly stable and could be trusted to perform maintenance and service tasks in the hospitals. The result of that is predictable, and there were all too many such cases. The discovery of this was one of the factors in the general emptying of the mental hospitals during the second half of the XXth Century. (Obviously psychiatric drugs had an effect on that as well.)
The DSM discourages the collection of genuine detailed case histories, and without those it is not likely that a medical science of mental health will ever be discovered. Hubbard, like Freud, apparently made up some of his cases (it is very difficult to know just when he collected some of those described in Dianetics, The Modern Science of Mental Health) but he did not in that book say that collection of evidence was unimportant. The DSM is a convenience to practitioners who must come up with formulas in order to collect their pay, but I do not think it is useful in developing a science of mental health.
‘So big business and big government are uniting to pursue their mutual interest in sticking it to the little guy.’
It is also a precursor for a national sales tax. That comes next.
We are nowhere near the end of this matter of Internet Sales Tax to be paid to states, cities, counties, commercial districts, school districts, etc.
I’m running Win 8 on my Acer tablet that came with Win 7. Touch screen mechanism works better under Win 8. Plus startup is a lot faster.
I’m using the baked-in anitvirus and malware with no problems.
However, I dislike the Metro interface. I always stay in Desktop mode that I am used to.
A bad descision on Microsoft’s part was to kill the start button. I now have the capability with this little freeware gem – Classic Start 8.
Ton of options to tweak the behavior to your liking. In addition, I now boot into the desktop.
I also replaced the Adobe reader with Foxit reader: http://www.foxitsoftware.com/downloads/
Opening PDF files snaps you into the Metro version of Adobe Reader. With Foxit, you stay in the desktop.
Bud Pritchard, retired bit-twiddler.
My other equipment will stay at Win 7. No real reason to change.
Thank you for that report. I have Windows 8 on a big desktop and sometimes I like it and sometimes it drives me mad. I do believe that it would be useful with a touchscreen, and I am contemplating getting one of those to try it with.
Brian P wrote: "Evidently the author, one Michael Matthews, leaped to the conclusion that the bombers were from Czechoslovakia and called for its nuking despite the fact that the two countries are a thousand miles apart. Somewhere a geography teacher is crying him/herself to sleep while hitting the bottle hard."
You know what’s even funnier, Brian? It’s the Czech Republic. Czechoslovakia no longer exists, and hasn’t for nearly two decades.
What’s that geography teacher doing now?
When I was in charge of the Captive Nations efforts back before the Treaty of Leningrad, our maxim was that we should try to keep the Czechs and the Slovaks from both attending any meeting: either one was helpful, the two together would fight to the detriment of any action we might try to take. It was pretty clear to us that the liberation of Czechoslovakia would quickly result in partition into two nations. I had good friend among both Czechs and Slovaks.
Little Brother and the Boston Video Militia
My daughter Hannah and I have a nickname for the camera-phone: ‘Little Brother’. The portable camera-phone means mass ‘sousveillance’; surveillance from beneath. We have seen, in Egypt and with Occupy, that Little Brother can be Big Brother’s revolutionary foe.
But Little Brother is not all rebel; in fact Little Brother can be a patriot, helping the authorities defend the nation. We have seen this in Boston, in the crowd-sourced identification of the Tsarnaev brothers. For details, see:
Tamerlan the would-be conquerer, and Dzhokhar the joker, thought themselves invisible in that crowd, but Little Brother was there, and Little Brother is the Eyes of the Web, which never forgets. The Tsarnaev naifs thought their target was unarmed; but they were fatally wrong; for the crowd had hundreds of camera-phones, each one a weapon against their cowardice.
The camera-phone is a kind of weapon; and those hundreds of videographers were a kind of militia. With the Boston Video Militia’s help, the cops got their men before the week was done. Justice is best when swift and sure.
I do not go so far as to say that privacy is dead, get used to it, but certainly technology has made much of our life a lot less private, not out of any intention but simply by expanding capabilities. The 911 dispatcher quite often knows your exact location without your telling yeye. This is good if you haven’t much time or you don’t know where you are. But the same technology makes it clear where you are to anyone who really wants to know, whether you like that or not. If you’re going to violate a separation injunction, don’t carry your cell phone. Not even a throwaway, unless you intend to throw it away while it remains anonymous. And Moore’s Law is inexorable: technology that was once highly expensive is now so cheap it can be included in throwaways…
Found this interesting link on the Drudge Report:
One giant leap for mankind: £13bn Iter project makes breakthrough in the quest for nuclear fusion, a solution to climate change and an age of clean, cheap energy – Science – News – The Independent
Which is wonderful if true. I have heard announcements like this about every five years since I wrote A Step Farther Out.
Obamacare for thee, but not for me.
Congress rules. Government employees rule. Why should they endure what they give to the subjects?
Should Science Fiction Be Mandatory for Students?
" A Republican politician from West Virginia wants to make works of science fiction compulsory reading in his state’s middle and high school curricula. The reason is, according to the pending bill, to “promote interest in and appreciation for the study of math and science among students is critical to preparing students to compete in the workforce and to assure the economic well being of the state and the nation.”
Could reading the likes of The Postman and Speed of Dark instill an interest in one of the STEM fields — science, technology, engineering, mathematics — in teenagers?
West Virginia State delegate Ray Canterbury believes the former. He has proposed the bill to the West Virginia Board of Education out of the specific wish “stimulate interest in math and science among students.” (Such educational issues seem to be one of his concerns; another bill proposed by Canterbury calls for prohibiting the use of “calculators for teaching purposes” for K-8 students).
Noting that he is himself a fan of the works of Isaac Asimov and Jules Verne, Canterbury emphasizes that he is not referring to “fantasy novels about dragons” but “things where advanced technology is a key component of the storyline, both in terms of the problems that it presents and the solutions that it offers.”
Asserting their support for Canterbury’s bill are writer David Brin and James Gunn, the founder of the Center for the Study of Science Fiction at Kansas University, who points out that
Because science fiction incorporates the one thing that is undeniably true in today’s fiction — that the world is changing — it has the capability of shaping that change as well as adjusting to it. As I say in my signature motto, “Let’s save the world through science fiction.”
Science fiction has the capability, at its best, of exercising the rational portions of the brain.
Brin also underscores the value of reading science fiction in a world full of change. Noting how works like George Orwell’s “1984” and Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451” can be seen as “self-fulfilling prophecies,” Brin emphasizes how science fiction can give us a sense of what — given predictions and trends about global warming, the melting of arctic sea ice, rising sea levels, habitat loss and more — could befall us. Like Canterbury, he is wary of some works of science fiction, especially many recently published that are “either gloomy dystopias or else fantasy tales wallowing in dreamy yearnings for a beastly way of life called feudalism.”
The latter could be a (rather cynical) reference to “The Hunger Games” or even be extended to works like Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein,” which shows the power plus the potential misuses of science, with a message warning us of our limits. Brin offers suggestions for a number of science fiction books that “wrestle with concepts at the very cutting edge” and ways to encourage the writing of “new and better” science fiction works for kids.
Brin and Gunn focus rather on science fiction’s capacity to inspire an interest in science and its use in solving the problems of the world. Canterbury, too, seems to see science and science fiction performing such a role. In his own state of West Virginia, a “bit of a Calvinistic attitude toward life” exists, he says. Science fiction imagines alternate scenarios rather than suggesting we are destined to be stuck in the same old circumstances.
Science fiction works including Orwell’s “1984” have long been on school reading curricula. Given repeated reports and statistics of the U.S.’s lack of STEM professionals, could newer science fiction titles make a real difference not only in an English class curriculum, but in math and science classes?"
“Get Science Fiction out of the classroom and back in the gutter where it belongs.” Harry Harrison had that posted as the background to a science fiction panel at a Cal Tech Symposium that included Harry, Sir Fred Hoyle, me, Poul Anderson, Phil Dick, Fred Pohl, and a number of other writer back in the 70’s. It was a great symposium.
High mass binary pulsar constrains alternatives to general relativity
Hi, Jerry. This article:
has it that observations of a particular high-mass pulsar binary system have provided the most precise verification yet of general relativity.
The piece doesn’t claim that all other theories of gravitation are excluded by these observations, but that such theories are much more tightly constrained.
Presumably we still won’t have anything that can be called ‘the real deal’ until quantum gravity is proved out, but this makes for an interesting data point.
All the best,
I will have to wait for comment by those more qualified than I am, but it is my understanding that Petr Beckmann’s ether theory makes the same predictions and with considerably simpler mathematics, while Special Relativity has a great deal of difficulty explaining how spectroscopic binaries can exist. I know of no crucial experiment with experimental results that distinguishes between relativity and the modified ether theories of entailed ether. Which is not to say relativity is wrong, but it certainly is complex.
Hilton Ratcliffe, maverick astrophysicist
Just a quick note to let you know I’ve read THE STATIC UNIVERSE by Hilton Ratcliffe. It seems to demolish Big Bang Theory (the original event, not the TV show). I don’t, however, have the scientific street cred to tell whether his arguments are entirely sound.
I enjoyed it, though the chapter on the CMWB and the WMAP data are too technical at times for the layman. I had to skirt the thorniest parts of it. The main shocker, something I’ve never heard before, is that at least 40 quasars have detectable Proper Motion. This flies in the face of the notion that quasars are at cosmological distances.
My only cavil is that he bases a lot of his objections on Halton Arp, and Arp is old hat. You’re not going to win any debates citing Arp.
Hoping to get an opinion from you and/or your pen pals on this book.
I have not read that yet. I will try to get to it. Sir Fred Hoyle never believed in the Big Bang, and there are numerous theories explaining the cosmic background radiation; while the standard theories are in more and more trouble from the whirligig galaxies, so that some theories postulated that 75% or so of the universe is made of stuff we can’t see – dark energy and dark matter. The other day upon the stair I saw a man who wasn’t there. He wasn’t there again today.. Oh how I wish he’d go away. It may be that the universe is very complex and that it is not uniform in all directions, and it mahy well be that the universe is not only queerer than you imagine, but queerer than you can imagine; but it may also be that we have ignored Occam at our peril.
I welcome comments on this one:
Space Shuttle on a treadmill
Pop quiz: place a treadmill on Earth’s equator. Set the treadmill to run opposite the Earth’s rotation. Then launch the shuttle. The question is: would it fly?
I thought the humor would be self-evident. I stand corrected. People actually argued about it.
Transporting the A-12
The interrogation of the Boston Bombing suspect was likely not terribly hostile since the objective was to prevent immediate harm if there were other devices planted and to also gather intelligence. The interrogator probably used his native language and pretended sympathy with his goals, such as they were. He may have been of the same ethnicity. It was undoubtedly recorded and analysed by forensic psychologists and other experts. Voice stress analysis would have been used. But the questions would have been put in a very friendly manner to get the kid to give it up. In other words "Good Cop" technique. When the Miranda Warning was given that’s when it went to "Bad Cop" and the kid clammed up.
It was not the time for confrontation. Too much was on the line.
One has a constitutional right not to be convicted by evidence obtained from yourself against your will. Jeremy Bentham did not agree and John Stuart Mill had his doubts; but it was fundamental to the Bill of Rights. That does not mean that one cannot be asked questions, the answers to which cannot be used as evidence. There are such matters as public safety. But then there is the matter of Tosca and Cavadadossi questioned while a judge observes…