Saturday, November 19, 2011
Snips of Science, Tech and Politics
Think I'm kidding about "sousveillance" and people-power vision? Now citizen protesters have drones!
This video shows the view from a Polish RoboKopter with video camera. Getting an aerial view is the next step in compelling DIY citizen video.
== Antimatter and FTL Neutrinos? ==
The world's largest atom smasher, designed as a portal to a new view of physics, has produced its first peek at the unexpected: bits of matter that don't mirror the behavior of their antimatter counterparts. This could alter our understanding of matter and anti-matter...or provide a clue to why our cosmos is only made (largely) of one kind.
And yes, there’s been a lot of interest in the recent neutrino experiments in Italy. Does a recent result that replicates the “faster-than-light finding” actually prove it??
Well, I remain skeptical.
1- this new result comes from the same pair of facilities in the alps and Italy; it's not a confirmation.
2- it's very hard to synch the clocks. Show me you’ve done that and measured the distance properly.
3- if neutrinos traveled FTL with any consistency they would have arrived months before the light from supernova 1987a, instead of right on time. A hundred thousand light-year journey. Any systematic exceeding of the speed of light would be noticed!
One suggestion that would explain the 1987a results, yet allow something anomalous over the very short, initial distance from Switzerland to Italy? It’s been suggested that perhaps some neutrinos bump out of our "brane" just after being made, then settle back in and travel normally. Very sci fi-ish idea.
== Tax Evasion and the IRS ==
The IRS has opened new enforcement offices overseas, beefed up staffing and expanded cooperation with foreign governments. A similar disclosure program in 2009 has so far netted $2.2 billion in back taxes, penalties and fines, from people with accounts in 140 countries.
Between the two disclosure programs, a total of 30,000 tax cheats have come clean. "The world has clearly changed," IRS Commissioner Shulman said. "We have pierced international bank secrecy laws, and we're making a serious dent in offshore tax evasion... Unlike a few years ago, it's very clear now that there's a real price to be paid for people who think they can hide offshore and not pay their taxes."
You’ll be hearing the “class war” refrain for years. Gather some capsule, one-sentence answers:
* Across 6000 years, 99% of human cultures were pyramid-shaped, and the owner-lords were the ones who oppressed both freedom and competitive markets. Try reading Adam Smith! So why this effort to demonize every elite EXCEPT the lords?
* Only one generation of human beings did not know “class warfare” - the Post-World War II generation that lived in the miracle that FDR built - a vigorous capitalist-entrepreneurial market and booming middle class... amid the flattest non-pyramidal social order ever seen. The first time ever that self-made millionaires outnumbered the inheritance brats.
Sure, some FDR regulations were excessive. But just try to argue with those results. The crux: as the anti-FDR cult grew ever-more vituperative and bitter toward America's most popular president ever, it tore down everything he built... all three of those vital metrics of US national health have diametrically reversed. And this is good for America... how?
* Ask your "ostrich" friends: "Tell us how to avoid “class war” now that 400 families own a greater share of our wealth than 50% of Americans. Is there some disparity that would finally make you worry? When they own more than 75%...Perhaps more than 90%? WHEN will you admit that we’ve returned to the normal condition that reigned in 99% of human cultures? Then will you admit that Franklin Delano Roosevelt wasn’t Satan, or that our parents in the "greatest generation" weren't complete idiots, after all?"
All right, some of that sounds “liberal.” I guess I’ll be accused of that leaning even more, after my next posting about Ayn Rand. But I promise, I’ll skewer some on the other side, soon!
Also remember this. Libertarians - especially Ayn Rand followers - are not "right-wingers." They have their own perspective and I'll show that it is a very close cousin of ... Marxism.
== The Abortion fight ... and the Bible ==
Mississippi voters recently defeated a ballot initiative proclaiming that life begins at conception. Here's an eye-opening letter in the LA Times by Sandy Smith... and one wonders why this wasn't brought up till now!
"I don't know what Bible the folks in Mississippi are reading, but it's not one I'm familiar with. The New Testament has no references at all to a fetus, but the Old Testament is very specific. If a man kills another man, he must pay with his life; if he kills an animal, he must offer restitution. But, according to Exodus 21:22: "If men who are fighting hit a pregnant woman and she gives birth prematurely but there is no serious injury, the offender must be fined whatever the woman's husband demands and the court allows." A fetus was considered potential property."
I say again, the whole and entire purpose of the anti-abortion crusade was to give the right a "moral high ground" against foes who seem much more giving and Jesus-like. It lets them say "saving babies trumps all other things that would've made that hippie Jesus side with the left! That one issue makes Jesus side with us!" An extremely effective polemical trick.
See more in my posting: Abortion and the "Jesus Effect."
== A Bit of History ==
An interesting word introduced to our comments section blogmunity by a new member: Seisachtheia was a set of laws instituted by the Athenian lawmaker Solon (c. 638 BC–558 BC) in order to rectify the widespread serfdom and slaves that had run rampant in Athens by the 6th century BC, by debit relief.
Under the pre-existing legal status, according to the account of the Constitution of the Athenians attributed to Aristotle, debtors unable to repay their creditors would surrender their land to them, then becoming hektemoroi, i.e. serfs who cultivated what used to be their own land and gave one sixth of produce to their creditors. Should the debt exceed the perceived value of debtor's total assets, then the debtor and his family would become the creditor's slaves as well. The same would result if a man defaulted on a debt whose collateral was the debtor's personal freedom.
Solon's law changed all that. Forbidding slavery due to debt and freeing those who had been so enslaved. Athenian slavery still existed, but under terms more gentle than Sparta, by far.