Sunday, January 22, 2017
It’s late, and we know little since the inauguration. I have nothing I can quickly add to the discussion, so it’s a good time to catch up on mail. Most of it will get short shrift, I fear.
I’ll have a lot more of substance when we see what the President requests from Congress, what Congress does with that, and what Congress proposes. That will develop over time.
I will repeat, this is the time to subscribe if you have not renewed in a while. I can’t keep this place up without subscriptions, but it is the public radio model: it is free, and supported by your donations.
Can’t recall last time I paid so I just did.
You may find this of interest:
Ancient tree rings suggest sunspot cycles have been ongoing for 290 million years
January 20, 2017 by Bob Yirka
(Phys.org)—A pair of researchers affiliated with the Natural History Museum in Chemnitz and Technische Universität Bergakademie Freiberg, both in Germany, has found evidence in ancient tree rings of a solar sunspot cycle millions of years ago similar to the one observed in more modern times. In their paper published in the journal Geology, Ludwig Luthardt and Ronny Rößler describe how they gathered an assortment of petrified tree samples from a region in Germany and used them to count sunspot cycles.
Scientists know that the sun undergoes a sunspot cycle of approximately 11 years—some spots appear, grow cooler and then slowly move toward the equator and eventually disappear—the changes to the sun spots cause changes to the brightness level of the sun—as the level waxes and wanes, plants here on Earth respond, growing more or less in a given year—this can be seen in the width of tree rings. In this new effort, the researchers gathered petrified tree samples from a region of Germany that was covered by lava during a volcanic eruption approximately 290 million years ago (during the Permian period), offering a historical record of sun activity.
Read more at: https://phys.org/news/2017-01-ancient-tree-sunspot-ongoing-million.html#jCp
No surprises, of course. And I remind you, the Earth has clearly been warmer in historical times than it is now; the most recent was the colonization of Greenland with dairy farmers; some of the farms are just emerging from under the ice.
Subject : I paid but it is not important
Given that your column is one of my go to items whenever I can spare the time, it seemed niggardly not to contribute as you so subtly reminded us. So I splurged for platinum and find it well spent. As always.
On Gene Cernan, I hope he’s the most recent human to walk on the Moon, and not the last one, which would be sad indeed.
On politics, which seems well nigh inescapable these days, the polarization of the country can only be regretted, I realize this is by no means the first time. But the spitefulness, on both sides of the divide, is something to behold. It certainly helps no one.
In re convergence with Russia, countries have interests, they don’t have friends, no matter what people may think. If a meeting of the minds can be found with Putin so much the better as long as you don’t have to give up fundamental issues in exchange. People in Eastern Europe are deathly afraid of the Russians and do have motives to be.
My point is that it is too early to tell, we’ll just have to see how the whole tale unfolds and take note of the consequences. But as someone recently noted “si vis pacem, para bellum” no other choice.
Bringing back the draft might make people more conscious of the costs of war. And warier of what it entails.
All the best and keep on with your recovery.
The Greatest Scientific Fraud of all Time
I do not recall ever seeing a reference to the Manhattan Contrarian here at Chaos Manor. It is worth a visit if you have not already become familiar with the site….after all, how often does one come across rational discussion from the heart of deep, deep blue NYC?
There appeared a 12 part (so far) series on what is the Greatest Scientific Fraud of All Time. I most heartedly recommend your perusal of these essays. The are far too long to enclose in this email so I have consolidated links to them below:
How To Tell Who’s Lying To You: Climate Science Edition
What is the Greatest Scientific Fraud of all Time? (from the ManhattanContrarian.com)
Very warm regards and best wishes to you and your lovely bride,
An interesting subject; I hesitate to call the Global Warming debate a fraud; certainly many of its adherents are sincere, but in my judgment mistaken, particularly on how accurately we can measure temperatures now, and how much error was in prior measurements, from a few decades to centuries ago.
Smithsonian Mag 2011: 10 myths about NASA
do people want the same things
Dear Mr. Pournelle,
I just ran across an interesting article on the BBC web site:
“Until recently, scientists had largely ignored the global diversity of thinking. In 2010, an influential article in the journal Behavioral and Brain Sciences reported that the vast majority of psychological subjects had been â€œwestern, educated, industrialised, rich and democraticâ€, or â€˜Weirdâ€™ for short. Nearly 70% were American, and most were undergraduate students hoping to gain pocket money or course credits by giving up their time to take part in these experiments.
The tacit assumption had been that this select group of people could represent universal truths about human nature â€“ that all people are basically the same. …”
Allan E. Johnson
I would certainly put much of “social science” up as candidate for the greatest scientific frauds of all time. See my Voodoo Sciences essay.
AI for Conversation
This is good news. If we could make an AI as smart or smarter than I am then I would pay for it and converse with it quite frequently……
I would want it to have access to everything and I’d want to talk with it for long periods of time just for the sake of talking. The possibilities are amazing…
Computers can already hold a massive amount of instantly-retrievable data in a manner that puts most humans to shame, but getting them to actually display intelligence is an entirely different challenge. A team of researchers from Northwestern University just made a huge stride towards that goal with a computational model that actually outperforms the average American adult in a standard intelligence test.
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Joshua Jordan, KSC
We do not yet have an AI I would spend much time talking to, but look up Eliza to see how popular it can be…
rights and fairness
Dear Mr. Pournelle,
I don’t much disagree with Mr. White’s definition of “rights,” though it does occur to me that “life and liberty” are nouns. But the issue which concerns me is: how do we identify those rights? To take my earlier example: we assert a right to life and liberty, and yet concede that these rights can be abrogated by law. If they are “inalienable rights,” then we should not make that concession. Or, to take a more contentious example: the assertion is made that there is a “right” to same-gender marriages. I do not agree. The problem is: how do we make the case, on either side? Unless we can appeal to some absolute standard which is also generally *agreed* to be absolute, I’m not sure it’s doable. So I’m inclined to think that an assertion of “rights” is more of a goal than an achievement. If that’s true, I don’t see much value either in asserting a “right” to health care or in asserting a “right” not to pay for someone else’s care. We’ll have to make the decision on other grounds, since I don’t think we can make this ground stable.
The strongest case I see at present against some form of universal health care is the “States’ Rights” constitutional case you make. I’m thinking about that.
On a related issue: there was an article in the (London) Times two days ago by Daniel Finkelstein about “fairness” that I found provocative. The title was “Why the left will never understand populism.” The article summarized recent behavioral studies. Here’s a quote:
“… how we co-operate with each other and why. Their interest is not in identifying a superior idea of fairness or making judgments about what we should think is or is not fair. They are seeking to discover what we actually, right or wrong, do think. This work has led to the powerful, and increasingly widely discussed, idea of reciprocal altruism. We co-operate with people not out of some vague niceness, but because it is good evolutionary strategy. If I do a favour for you you will do me one back. The left traditionally stresses equality and the fairness of equal shares. And, indeed, people are concerned about equity and the way think are shared out. But the new thinking points beyond equality, to the idea of reciprocity.”
What I’ve seen, is that rather ordinary people are capable of great generosity within a community of mutual support; but this evaporates if people think they’re being taken advantage of. This holds true across a variety of political persuasions. Consider welfare, for example. The objection is made: why should I provide an income for someone who *refuses* to work? One of the things at issue seems indeed to be reciprocity. Or, elsewhere on the political spectrum: fury seems to be aroused, not by people who become fabulously wealthy through hard work, but by people whose “cunning plots” wreck the economy while they sail off on their yachts. Again, reciprocity.
I’m not sure how, or whether, this affects health care. But it does help me think about the question of “fairness.” And I suspect it correlates with Mr. Hackett’s observation: “rational design assumes that people in power actually care about society vs what they can extract from society for themselves and their family/tribe/mafia of supportersâ€¦” I also agree, as a matter of public policy quite apart from rights, entitlements, or fairness, that “We must always remember that we live in a thoroughly-armed and quickly-armed society, and throwing any slice of any bell curve â€˜to the wolvesâ€™ may have the most unexpectedly catastrophic consequences.”
Allan E. Johnson
Without some general on rights and obligations, the only way for a state to survive is to have an absolute ruler; the Roman Republic fell to that need. Republics, including Rome which took in all kinds and made the Citizens, survived as a Republic until its Melting Pot became overloaded. The legend of the Rape of the Sabines gave one character to the Republic, and elected officials and the Twelve Tables of the Law were enough; but when unassimilated diversity overwhelmed unity, an Emperor was needed…
Fred is at it again…
“Greater trade between Europe and the eastern part of the continent means less influence for Washington. It means potentially very much less influence. European nations have much to gain by trading with the incomprehensibly large markets, current and arriving, between Poland the the Pacific. They have nothing to gain by remaining as sepoy states under American control. Their businessmen know it.”
“The Empire can not afford to lose control of Europe’s governments, which will happen if heavy trade is allowed to develop with the Three Bugbears. Thus Washington’s hostility to all three—a hostility whose chief effect, note, has been to drive them together against America. Not good. The first rule of empires is Don’t let your enemies unite.”
“NY Professor Says Algebra Is Too Hard, Schools Should Drop It.” On fairness, America leads in safe spaces, trigger warnings, puzzled diversity, and whimpering Snowflakes. Watch out, Beijing.”
And there is more…
Universities Go Insane on God!
Alright, this is the part where we’ve lost cabin pressure and the
oxygen is about to deploy. I’ll be sure to fix my own mask before
Another day, another university’s religion program bogged down by political correctness. Earlier this week, we reported on how two top divinity schools are suggesting gender-neutral pronouns for God — and now one of the top colleges in the nation has students asking about whether God is a racist.
Specifically, Pennsylvania’s Swarthmore College is offering a religion class this semester titled, “Is God a White Supremacist?”
So, Jesus the Christ is Jewish (or Black according to a certain conspiracy theory that amuses me) but certainly not “white” — whatever that is. And Jesus the Christ serves a “white supremacist”
Is this some way for the university to make people think that white
folks are god? I can’t understand how you could even form the
question if you have even a passing familiarity with the most cursory facts related to Christianity! This is the most ridiculous thing I’ve read in my life!
I suppose the solution, then, is to worship the Devil since he must be
tolerant, inclusive, and he celebrates diversity. You know, I hate
to say it, but if I were Christian and I really believed some of the stuff that Christians say then I would likely be very unsettled by what I’m reading and writing.
I think this goes too far. I think that, in the same way that we would be concerned if a professor of Christianity were to start preaching from his academic chair that we must show some concern for this because this professor is actually advocating for a Satanic point of view. And that might be fine if you’re working with a Christian who is out of balance and needs to be brought back to center. But, this is a university; not a church.
And I do not want to see our universities become more like churches than they already became.
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Joshua Jordan, KSC
And the need for an emperor grows as agreements on rights and entitlements becomes more diverse. And we pay teachers to undermine fundamental beliefs. That has never turned out well in the past, but our academics are much wiser than our ancestors.
Iceland knows how to stop teen substance abuse but the rest of the world isn’t listening | Mosaic
Interesting how good the effects can be when parents and the community are actively involved in making things better.
Today, Iceland tops the European table for the cleanest-living teens. The percentage of 15- and 16-year-olds who had been drunk in the previous month plummeted from 42 per cent in 1998 to 5 per cent in 2016. The percentage who have ever used cannabis is down from 17 per cent to 7 per cent. Those smoking cigarettes every day fell from 23 per cent to just 3 per cent.
Scott Pruitt Provides an Opportunity to Rein in a Rogue Agency
Freedom is not free. Free men are not equal. Equal men are not free.