Sunday, December 04, 2011

Taking on Ambitious Projects

== Ambitious Projects: Compatible? Or Conflicting? ==

Our silly, insipid “culture war” crams people along an absurd “left-right axis” while ignoring the real fault line... It’s the chasm between those working for an ambitiously better future and those dragging us down into bitter nostalgia, yearning for a golden past that never was.  The latter dwell on both ends of the political axis. (Though the infestation is far worse on one side.)

Here are several projects that share the former goal - an eagerness to transform tomorrow! Can we look past the surface politics to see a way forward for some of them?

--The Entrepreneur Access to Capital Act. If passed, this act would allow entrepreneurs to crowdfund. That means they could raise money over the Internet through relatively small donations from people they don't know. (This model has been pioneered - for the arts - by Kickstarter, but only for "donations" not for the crowd-sourced buying of actual investment shares.) The bill removes barriers to doing business – but this time for the little guy.  

NewYorkerJuly12, 2004
--The Prevail Project is still kind of amorphous - one of many efforts to get people thinking about problem-solving and solution-generating in general, rather than obsessing over which tool to use - (e.g. market vs state). “In the Prevail Scenario, what really matters – as always – is not how many transistors we get to talk to each other, but how many ornery, imaginative, unpredictable human beings we can bring together to arrive at surprising ways to co-evolve with our challenges. Because only in this bottom-up way will humans really control their destinies, rather than have them controlled by our creations.” 

The site is worth visiting, if for no other reason, than to read the quotation from William Faulkner’s Nobel speech: "I believe that man will not merely endure: he will prevail...."

--Not incompatible! Recall the “seasteading” proposals I discussed here, a couple of months back? Pointing out many aspects that no other pundits seem to have mentioned - a few of them critical, but mostly fascinating and several quite supportive! (I portray seasteading in my next novel.)

Well, things appear to be picking up. “Blueseed” is creating a high-tech visa-free entrepreneurship and technology incubator on an ocean vessel in international waters. “Our facilities will be a short ferry ride away from Silicon Valley so that great ideas and talent from around the world can live, work, and play while having convenient access to the San Francisco Bay Area.”

Of course, this is not quite creating a new national sovereignty. A vessel at sea is still subject to many external rules. It will be within the US 200 mile economic and environmental zone, but outside the 12 mile visa/passport/commercial law reach of the US or California.  Those entities could make things hard, though, if Blueseed isn’t careful.  Blueseed will also be answerable to Panama or Liberia or wherever they register their ship.  This might help provoke a long-overdue fresh look at those flags of convenience.

In any event, I wish them luck!  It sounds like a fun experiment.  It might even make some money while stimulating productive activity. (Still I wonder. Won’t most visitors still have to transit through Bay Area airports? Who would use s ship to visit them, avoiding US customs? A pretty long voyage... to accomplish what?  Hey, just askin’.)

--Thinking Big: io9 offers a list of Ten mega construction projects that could save the environment -- and the economy.

These large-scale concepts (not all practical!!) include
- The 'Lunar Ring' of solar panels placed on the moon
- A space elevator to lift cargo into orbit
- The world's first carbon-neutral city
- Geothermal power plants that can extract lithium, zinc and manganese
- One far-out idea: coral-like chemically-engineered structures that would grow, self-repair and respond to the environment.

--Darpa’s Sci-Fi Ambitions:

A few of Darpa's long-range projects include
- Cognitive Computing ( a computer chip that mimics a brain)
- The 100-Year Starship Study
- Synthetic blood
- A Battery-powered human exoskeleton
- Insect cyborgs
- A flying submarine
- Mind-controlled prosthetic limbs.

Some of these grand-scale projects have the potential to revolutionize our world. ...

As does great science fiction! See my list of bold, future-oriented fiction -- which challenges us to cast our eyes forward toward ambitious solutions.

Add to that Joe Haldeman’s new novel  EARTHBOUND is the final volume in the trilogy that started with MARSBOUND, followed by STARBOUND. Visit Joe's website to learn more about this imaginative series.

We need an ambitious, future-oriented, scientific, problem-solving civilization filled with both creative competition and lots of heart. Believers in the positive sum game know we can have all of the above.  We had better! And fie on those zero-summers who claim we have to choose!

== Post-Modernist Hilarity ==

Finally, lest anyone imagine that I think imbecilic anti-science fanaticism exists only on the radical right, let's go back two decades and dig this hilariously apropos 1st paragraph of a book review -- by the philosopher Matthew Cartmill -- of Donna Haraway's book, Primate Visions: Gender, Race and Nature in the World of Modern Science.

This review appeared in the International Journal of Primatology (Vol. 12, No. 1, 1991):

”This is a book that contradicts itself a hundred times; but that is not a criticism of it, because its author thinks contradictions are a sign of intellectual ferment and vitality. This is a book that systematically distorts and selects historical evidence; but that is not a criticism, because its author thinks that all interpretations are biased, and she regards it as her duty to pick and choose her facts to favor her own brand of politics. This is a book full of vaporous, French-intellectual prose that makes Teilhard de Chardin sound like Ernest Hemingway by comparison; but that is not a criticism, because the author likes that sort of prose and has taken lessons in how to write it, and she thinks that plain, homely speech is part of a conspiracy to oppress the poor. This is a book that clatters around in a dark closet of irrelevancies for 450 pages before it bumps accidentally into its index and stops; but that is not a criticism, either, because its author finds it gratifying and refreshing to bang unrelated facts together as a rebuke to stuffy minds. This book infuriated me; but that is not a defect in it, because it is supposed to infuriate people like me, and the author would have been happier still if I had blown out an artery. In short, this book is flawless, because all its deficiencies are deliberate products of art. Given its assumptions, there is nothing here to criticize. The only course open to a reviewer who dislikes this book as much as I do is to question its author's fundamental assumptions-which are big-ticket items involving the nature and relationships of language, knowledge, and science.”

98 comments:

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

Best-yet candidate "life-world"?
The host star lies about 600 light-years away from us toward the constellations of Lyra and Cygnus. The star, a G5 star, has a mass and a radius only slightly smaller than that of our Sun, a G2 star. As a result, it is about 25% less luminous than the Sun. The planet orbits the G5 star with an orbital period of 290 days, compared to 365 days for the Earth, at a distance about 15% closer to its star than the Earth from the Sun. This results in the planet's balmy temperature of around 72 degrees Fahrenheit. It orbits in the middle of the star's habitable zone,

This new exoplanet is the smallest-radius planet discovered in the habitable zone of any star to date. It is about 2.4 times larger than that of the Earth, putting it in the class of exoplanets known as super-Earths.

http://www.science20.com/news_articles/habitable_zone_g5_star_planet_warm_superearth-85229

http://www.science20.com/news_articles/
habitable_zone_g5_star_planet_warm_
superearth-85229

KWillow said...

Shouldn't we colonize the moon, asteroid belt, Mars and various moons of the Gas Giants first? There's a lot of room in our Solar System, lot of material to work with.

Dr. Brin, a couple of weeks ago my house was in the path of the Reno wildfire. I packed my station-wagon with necessities: clothes, a few heirlooms, pet food & shelter, and my signed hardback copy of "Startide Rising" purchased at "Change of Hobbit" in Berkeley. In the end all was well with my house, at least.

The Vagabond said...

Great post as always (no, I really mean it. Seriously). Big ideas seem lacking these days. In a world where media assumes that we can't get enough of all things Kardashian or other insignifica, big ideas are rare, beautiful, fragile things.
But excuse my waxing rhapsodic.
I was involved in space activism for a time in the 1990's, with all of its grandiose ideas. Unlike many of my colleagues, I was more interested in trying to establish and complete smaller milestones, as opposed to their preferred, too often all-or-nothing approach. That taught me much; even within organizations with same stated goals, their comes a point where internal differences are bound to outweigh the commonalities.
In short, we stalled in our goals.
Despite all of our cheerleading, NASA did so as well, to an even greater extent.
It's hard to talk big ideas when the powers-that-be, that amorphous blend of left and right, mass media and what passes for entertainment frequently belittles them. The only big ideas that seem to matter all built around rapid ROI.
I'm old enough to remember some big ideas that were shot down, and still somewhat heartbroken over them.
In my library, I have a book, "Our Future in Space" by Isaac Asimov, illustrated (profusely) by Bob McCall. It was published in 1974, and is glorious. The first time I read it, I was a lad of 12, and it blew me away. All of those grand ideas, those notions. It really seemed to be completely sensible that we'd be on Mars in the 1990's. What I was unaware of was that by the time the book was published, the OMB and the White House had pretty much shot down most of those ideas.
Sigh.
Anyway, I'd love to see a return of big ideas, not just little ideas wrapped up in brightly colored wrappers and gussied up. Your blog reminds me that we might yet pull these off.
I apologize for the ramble, but I am new-ish here...

David Brin said...

Glad things turned out all right! Especially for someone with such excellent taste! ;-)

David Brin said...

Sorry, that was for KWillo... but thank you too, Vagabond.

The Vagabond said...

@Kwillow -
Glad that you got ahead of the conflagration. Many of the people I support at work had to evacuate; I was on the phone with them at the time!

Robert said...

Here, Dr. Brin: an article on the creation of a bacteria that produces bioluminescence similar to fireflies and runs off of methane. Though I suspect the green glow might put some people off... I have to wonder if scientists will next work to create bacterial bioluminescence that produces a whiter light. ^^;;

Robert A. Howard, Tangents Reviews

Tacitus2 said...

Not all big projects are equally worthy. The notion of "millions of shovel ready jobs" vs. "hundreds of millions of spoon ready" ones comes to mind.

But man, the Keppler probe is a sterling example of money very well spent.

With electronics getting smaller and better all the time we can hope for some even more amazing robotic probes. Could SETI be sent out of earth's orbit to reduce "noise"?

Although I suppose it would be pretty humbling to turn the sensors earthward every once in a while. It would pick up not Galaxy Quest material but, ugh, Kardashians as mentioned above.

Tacitus

Robert said...

And another little tidbit: an individual with a bachelor's in science, two Master's degrees, is working on a PhD, and who helps oversee an organization with 22,000 people in it took the standardized tests required for 10th graders. He didn't do well. The article goes on to mention that 658 principals around New York State signed a letter, 488 of them from Long Island, protesting the use of students' test scores to evaluate the performance of principals and teachers. And from the sound of it... they have valid reason to be upset. These tests are everything that Republicans sneer about with "intellectual elites" who have knowledge that isn't used in the real world. And yet this is the very education they're trying to force down students' throats and destroy the power of Teachers' Unions when the students can't live up to these standards.

New Rule: The next time legislators claim standardized testing is required for education reform, they are forced to take the exams ahead of time. If they fail, they have to resign.

Rob H.

David Brin said...

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/05/opinion/send-in-the-clueless.html?_r=4

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/05/
opinion/send-in-the-clueless.html?_r=4

Robert said...

I don't suppose you could summarize that for those of us who can't access the New York Times at home?

ROb H.

Patch said...

Hi David, Did you see this article on CNN about a planet with water? http://lightyears.blogs.cnn.com/2011/12/05/first-planet-in-habitable-zone-discovered/

sociotard said...

Okay, there is no confirmation that it has liquid water. It is in the right area, and it is close to the right size, but that is no guarantee that it has water.

sociotard said...

regarding David Brins link, try

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/05/opinion/send-in-the-clueless.html

Leaving off the last little bit seemed to make it work, and I have no subscription. It was a Krugman piece, explaining why Cain and Perry both bombed it when they led the polls. To really believe everything a Republican frontrunner has to believe, the candidate must be clueless.

David Brin said...

The new Kepler planet, 600 ly away, is the most wonderful discovery. Only Kepler could find a super-Earth that small, orbiting a nice, stable sunlike star at Goldilocks distance.

Paul451 said...

About 1 in 6 atheist-identifying scientists in the US involve their children in some kind of religious community (such as attending church.)

Video via IO9 (removed IO9's obnoxious autoplay default.)

http://io9.com/5865143/atheist-scientists-often-expose-their-children-to-religious-views-for-scientific-reasons

And of those remaining 5 in 6, only 1 (about 15%) believes that religious beliefs are fundamentally incompatible with science.

http://www.media.rice.edu/media/NewsBot.asp?MODE=VIEW&ID=16200&SnID=518811652

All the results are a bit "Well, duh!" for insiders, but it's worth repeating.

I'd be interested in seeing the numbers for the equivalent view amongst believers. How many believers deliberately expose their kids to atheist philosophies (or rival religions), how many think science and religion are fundamentally opposed?

(oxampta: Skin whitening cream for Oompa Lumpas who want to mainstream. Warning: Oxampta may reduce musical ability.)

LarryHart said...

Alan (on the previous post):

I agree that Fox News has some serious problems, but it got its viewership largely because all the other news networks failed to provide "fair and balanced" coverage. We all know Fox News isn't fair and balanced, but to pretend that the fault is all with Fox and its viewers ignores the problems with the other networks. I won't insist on perfect objectivity because I know it's impossible, and I largely respect the work done by NPR, but pretty much every other on-air news source in the USA is crap - and blaming Fox for meeting a (very large) demand for the kind of reporting that many viewers wanted is a bit of the pot calling the kettle black.


FOX provides a forum where establishment types who think that they deserve special treatment over other flavors of "Americans" can feel good about themselves. FOX is also great at supplying entertainment first and "news" a distant second.

Sure, this might appeal to more viewers than legitimate, vanilla news does. The problem is that it is harmful to society. I don't blame FOX for that part in particular, but I blame the presidents (including Clinton) and congresses who changed the rules of the game so that news has to compete for viewers in the entertainment market.

The notion that the news station preferred by more viewers is the better source for news is a false one. News is sometimes uncomfortable to hear, but that's part of having an informed electorate. The dumbing down of America is directly related to everybody thinking that it's a good idea to restrict their information sources to those that they ENJOY.

LarryHart said...

sociotard:

regarding David Brins link, try

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/05/opinion/send-in-the-clueless.html

Leaving off the last little bit seemed to make it work, and I have no subscription.


I believe that the New York Times currently lets you read some limited number of articles per month, and above that, you've got to pay. I don't know what the number is, but it might mean that the link works for some and not for others.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful post.

Apropos of nothing, I've got to wonder, when will we be seeing your Avatar review? I've been waiting for that one.

sociotard said...

Dr Brin, do you know much about Denmark? I was in an internet debate with a fellow from there who claimed that his country's privacy laws actually succeeded in stoping unlawful government snooping. It was frustrating because I didn't know enough about his country.

sociotard said...

EU eyes big fines for privacy breaches

David Brin said...

Interesting re atheist scientists. Some of it may come from cultural identity, which propels some Jewish atheists to maintain connections.

I speak a little Danish! I spoke there about privacy. I am not so arrogant as to believe that my "sousveillance" approach is the only one possible. I doubt their bureaucratic one can work robustly over the long run. But I respect it.

David Brin said...

Re the new super Earth:
Guys the REAL indicator of life is if you see oxygen and methane at the SAME TIME. That cannot happen withoug life replenishing both. Tho Oxygen alone would be a big bell-ringer.

We must understand that the "72 degreesF" is the BLACK BODY equilibrium temperature given average photon isolation at that distance from its sun. If it has an atmosphere then you must change the emissivity and include greenhouse effects... which ran away on Venus and turned it into hell.

(Had Mars been larger, its own volcanism would have created a greenhouse whose "Gaia balance" would have kept its seas intact. Earth skates the inner edge of Sol's goldilocks zone. It is why we need an almost perfectly clear atmosphere and why almost any greenhouse gas at all, even the small amounts from our industry, can prove very destabilizing.

Alas, people who thrill over planetary discoveries and use the 10 day weather report, then turn and accuse the very same experts who wrought such miracles of being clueless, timid grant-hugging liars and herd beasts. Ah, such is the hypocritical War on Science.

Anonymous said...

I do love the hypocrites.
Recently, I decided to end a friendship that has been teetering in recent years with one such person. He had no problem at all believing that humans were capable of tremendous technological feats and was a firm believer in terraforming, yet could not accept that global climate change could be caused by humans. This is a fairly intelligent guy, but due to rigid political beliefs cannot accept anything that sniffed of liberal thinking (the straw that broke the camel's back was when I posted a link to a great piece by John Scalzi about being poor, and my friend hijacked it, accused Scalzi of being preachy, and then went on a tear about OWS, lazy liberals and his own triumphs as a government employee. It bent the needle on the irony meter).
It's a fight, I must tell you. Though I suspect that everyone here is aware of that.
-The Vagabond (yeah, the same one)

Tacitus2 said...

Paul 451
It requires no extra effort whatsoever to expose young people to the concept of atheism, or at a minimum, secularism. It is the ambient atmosphere of our culture in some respects.

I am ok with that actually, all sentient Believers will on their own address the concept of "is there a God".

I am somewhat annoyed that is seems fair game to ridicule Christians, but off limits to mock other religions. But heck, Christians have a long history of persecution (as do our Jewish fellow citizens). And a state sanctioned Religion would cause no end of harm to both the Church and the State.

The atheist streak of scientists is a puzzlement to me, but seems to be genuine. Ah well, sentinent non-Believers have the things they wrestle with too one supposes.

Tacitus

sociotard said...

An Oxygen atmosphere would be a good indicator for life like ours, but the problem is that we don't know how many of the hypothetical biochemisitries might work, or how many we haven't even thought of. Lets see, wiki mentions one with a clorine atmosphere would work (although that would be just about as interesting) or perhaps some kind of sulfate or nitrate atmosphere would work. Or maybe a ocean of liquid rich in manganese, iron, cobalt, or uranium.

And there are critters that use all of the above (except clorine) just on our planet! The universe may be a strange and difficult place to hunt for life on.

Anonymous said...

A classic take on the subject...

http://www.xenology.info/Xeno/Figures/8.1.gif
-The Vagabond

LarryHart said...

Tacitus2:

...all sentient Believers will on their own address the concept of "is there a God".


It seems to me that a child raised on religious belief will some day question whether the supernatural exists just because it occurs to him that he has never actually encountered it ever. At least, that was how it worked with me.

It also seems to me (though this is pure speculation on my part) that a child NEVER exposed to religious belief will not spontaneously wonder whether there is a God.


I am somewhat annoyed that is seems fair game to ridicule Christians, but off limits to mock other religions.


That is probably because you've never had to be a second-class citizen in your own country because of your religious status.

I actually DO agree with you that the pendulum has swung too far in the "ok to mock Christianity" direction. Ideally, it would have stopped at "No mocking ANYone's faith". But understand just how far it used to be over in the other direction, and you might want to thank God that you are fortunate never to have been on the receiving end of actual discrimination based on your religious background.

I'm old enough to remember when the same Jews and Catholics whose votes the GOP now courts would not have been allowed into their country clubs. It wasn't that long ago.

And I hope you're not buying into that "War on Christmas" bunk. The reason that stores advertise "Holiday" sales is not because they're ashamed or embarrassed about Christianity. It's because they want non-Christians (as well as Christians) to come in and SPEND MONEY. If they were all in-your-face about the fact that it's all about Christmas and no other holiday, they'd lose a lot of customers. They really are being inclusive, not exclusive.

If you think about how people like Bill O'Reilly or Rush Limbaugh present an inclusive "Happy Holidays" as being an insult to Christianity, then you see what I was meant about second-class citizenship. THEY want their own religion recognized as the only one that matters, and to be able to rub everyone else's nose in the fact. That's not behavior you are defending, is it?


But heck, Christians have a long history of persecution (as do our Jewish fellow citizens). And a state sanctioned Religion would cause no end of harm to both the Church and the State.


Agreed. The point of separation of Church and State is to protect the integrity of BOTH.


The atheist streak of scientists is a puzzlement to me, but seems to be genuine.


What's so puzzling? Religion often demands as a test of faith that one does NOT test its hypotheses. Kind of opposed to the whole scientific method thing. Religion also tends to be authoritarian, whereas scientists tend not to be.

So it's not that scientists lack faith or spirituality so much as that they don't really "fit in" in the world of organized religion.

Rob Perkins said...

My religion demands tests of its hypotheses and frames the challenge in terms of experiments and proofs.

In any case, I'm religious but I was raised so without being required to closet God away in a box labeled "supernatural". Quite to the contrary I was told that God obeys all natural laws, or He's not God.

Robert said...

I actually figured out the "Happy Holidays" bit earlier this year. It's not to be inclusive to other religious denominations. It's laziness. Pure and simple laziness.

Think of it: putting up decorations costs time and money. So once you're taking down the Halloween decorations (which honestly doesn't fit in with the next couple of holidays) do you really want to put up Thanksgiving decorations... and then yank them down in a month and put up Christmas decorations?

Or do you go the path of laziness: Holiday Decorations. You have a nice autumn/early winter theme, merge the Thanksgiving and Christmas (and non-denominational) holidays... and don't have to switch out decorations once more. But you can't go and call it Thanksmas or Christgivens. No. Go for the generic "Happy Holidays" theme and you wrap everything up in a shiny bow.

I'm against it, myself. Personally I think Christmas Music should be banned until the week before Christmas. I avoid stores when possible during this time of year because it gets so bloody annoying.

So there you have it. Someone tell Hannity and crew that they're wrong about the "shunning of Christmas" and that what is going on is pure and simple Americanism at its best: Laziness. It's what's for holidays.

Rob H.

Tony Fisk said...

Fox news wakes up to Hollywood's indoctrination about distrust of authority:

Muppets want your kid's brainzzz! (I think they've already got them)

Stefan Jones said...

An essay by the guy who founded the "Prevail Project":

The Institute for Ethical Magic

He finds positive lessons in the Harry Potter books, and I think he has a point.

Harry realizes for the first time, according to Jacobs, that his confusion has been wrongheaded from the start. He has been asking the question “Who am I at heart?” when he needed to be asking the question “What should I do in order to become what I should be?”

The technologies we are developing offer powers exponentially greater than those of Dumbledore and Voldemort. Yet through these books, the young have learned very old lessons about love and community and how to be human in the face of overwhelming magic. By providing a means of coping with the inexplicable and magical, the Harry Potter books provide a code for coping with real life. The young recognize their own technological age in this magical place.


“What should I do in order to become what I should be?”

Wow.

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Paul451 said...

Tacitus2,
"atheism, or at a minimum, secularism. It is the ambient atmosphere of our culture in some respects."

"Our culture" meaning the US, or "our culture" meaning the developed world?

If the former, I would disagree. From an outsiders perspective, religiosity is the overwhelming, and aggressive, cultural default in the US.

"But heck, Christians have a long history of persecution"

As the agent of, yes, as the recipient, no. A bit at the beginning, then hardly any (except to each other). But it seems to be a popular meme amongst Christians.

"(as do our Jewish fellow citizens)."

Seriously? You compare what the Jews went through to anything Christianity suffered?

"The atheist streak of scientists is a puzzlement to me, but seems to be genuine."

Can I ask why it puzzles you? Given how many times Christianity seems to have been on the wrong side of scientific debates, why is it surprising that science turns away.

"non-Believers have the things they wrestle with too"

Yeah, believers. :)

Paul451 said...

"I am somewhat annoyed that is seems fair game to ridicule Christians, but off limits to mock other religions."

I suspect you're being over sensitive because it's your religion (I assume.) Were you Jewish or Muslim, or anything else, you would probably be aware of an undercurrent of really nasty racist humour in your country. (And in mine.)

But, if it bothers you, compare with the standard of anti-Jewish or anti-Muslim jokes?

Two google searches, first link each, and these are mild compared to some I've seen over the years...

Q. What's the hardest part about a Muslim killing his own daughter?
A. Suppressing the erection.

Q. When's the only time you should wink at a Muslim?
A. When aiming.

Q. What's the difference between ET and Muslims?
A. ET got the point and went home.

Q. Why are there only ever 2 pallbearers at Muslim funerals?
A. There's only 2 handles on a garbage can.

Q: What's the difference between Islam and yogurt?
A: Yogurt is a living culture.

Q. How was copper wire invented?
A. Two Jews fighting over the same penny.

Q. What's the difference between a truck full of dead Jews and a truck full of bowling balls?
A. The bowling bowls are hard to pick up with a pitchfork.

Q. What's the difference between a Pepperoni Pizza and a Jew?
A. Pepperoni Pizza doesn't scream when you put it in the Oven.

Q. Who was the greatest Jewish cook ever?
A. Hitler
(and about a thousand other holocaust jokes.)

Compare the venom inherent in those with anti-Christian jokes that bother you.

I did a quick search for anti-Christian jokes, and they were about the level of offensiveness of...
"I hear they're publishing a new version of the bible in ALL CAPS to make it even more true!"

(Oh, and hundreds and hundreds of Catholic sex jokes...

A little boy is standing on top of a cliff, looking down at the sea and crying his eyes out. A priest approaches and says, "My child, why are you so upset?"
The little boy turns to him and says, "My mummy and daddy were in their car -- and it just rolled over the cliff and smashed on the rocks down there."
The priest slowly looks around him while unbuttoning his cassock and says, "It's just not your day, is it son?")

Paul451 said...

Strangely, I also can't find any offensive buddhist jokes.

(Buddhist orders a soy dog from a hog dog stand. Hot dog vendor accepts payment, after a moment the Buddhist asks him "Where is my change?"
The vendor responds, "Surely you know that change must come from within?")

Robert said...

I actually found the penny joke to be amusing. None of the others, however. And I don't think I found the penny joke because of ethnicity but because of the thought of stretching a penny out into wire.

Then again, I've found myself growing to detest humor as I get older. Of late it always seems to be about pain, embarrassment, and humiliation. Why should we find these things humorous?

Rob H.

LarryHart said...

Robert:

Then again, I've found myself growing to detest humor as I get older. Of late it always seems to be about pain, embarrassment, and humiliation. Why should we find these things humorous?


You're noticing the same cultural shift I was worried about a decade ago when the popularity of "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?" was supplanted by the popularity of "The Weakest Link" and "Survivor". Metahphorically, we went from cheering for (and identifying with) a contestant we hope wins the game to cheering AGAINST a contestant we want to humiliate and discard.

LarryHart said...

Robert:

I actually figured out the "Happy Holidays" bit earlier this year. It's not to be inclusive to other religious denominations. It's laziness. Pure and simple laziness.


I think you're mixing a bunch of things into one there. The reasons that stores and advertisers have for going the "holidays" route are different from those of politicians, and it's all different from how the greeting is intended and perceived by the various individuals speaking and listening.

Most of the time, the use of the generic "holiday" instead of "Christmas" isn't done to conflate it with Thanksgiving or Halloween, but to include a bunch of different religious holidays (most obviously Chanukah) into a kind of non-demoniational celebration.

Politicians use the non-demoniational phrasing because they either want to avoid the perception of a state-sanctioned religion, or because they're afraid they'll be challenged by the ACLU and Rob Sherman. I think this is a good idea in general, but it does lead to absurdities such as Lincoln Chaffe talking about a "Holiday Tree".

As a reaction to this, the Hannity/Limbaugh crowd asserts that the liberals are trying to get rid of Christmas, and they agitate for aggressive in-your-face "Merry CHRISTMAS!" greetings and promotions in order to push back. The idea is to make the listeners they pander to feel superior while putting non-Christians on notice that we are second class citizens who live at the suffrance of our betters.

For the stores and advertisers, who really started the whole generic "holiday season" thing, it's a lot simpler. They don't wish to LIMIT their customer base to just Christians. They'd like Jews and others to feel welcome in their stores and to share in the feeling of spending lots of money on gifts. That's why even right-wing business places like Wal-Mart will not go the "Merry CHRISTMAS, damn it!" route. They really do want to be inclusive, not exclusive.

sociotard said...

I found a lot of Jew-miser jokes get funny again if I change the ethnicity to 'Scotsman'.

"What's a Scotsman do if he's cold."
"He gets a candle."

"What if he gets even colder?"
"He lights it."

sociotard said...

Oh, and it turns out that Voyager I is a 11 billion miles away and still doing science.
http://lightyears.blogs.cnn.com/2011/12/06/spacecraft-enters-cosmic-purgatory/?hpt=hp_t2

Tim H. said...

Robert, comedy is funniest when it happens to someone else and I couldn't deal with the world without it, but I don't mind leaving out vicious ethnic jokes. Two serious links,
waldo.jaquith.org/blog/2011/12/impractical-cheeseburger/

http://www.kschroeder.com/weblog/archive/2011/11/30/the-deepening-paradox

sociotard said...

As has been pointed out before, Google Autocomplete sometimes seems . . . interesting.

Why are muslims so -
Crazy
Smart
Nice
Bad
Extreme
Mean
Backward
Religious
Strict

Why are Christians so -
Mean
Annoying
Intolerant
Crazy
Ignorant
Arrogant
Unlike Christ
Close Minded
Nice

Why are Athiests so -
Mean
Angry
Angry Yahoo
Smart
Hated
Stupid
Ignorant
Annoying
Rude

Why are Buddists so -
happy
Selfish
Happy Reddit
Happy Venn Diagram
Reddit
Happy Picture

Susan's Husband said...

"It also seems to me (though this is pure speculation on my part) that a child NEVER exposed to religious belief will not spontaneously wonder whether there is a God."

If so, how did human religions originate?

David Brin said...

SH: I believe humans are built to mythologize. They'll make up grand explanatory stories. But the range? Yipe.


I know any number of scientists who profess some religious connection or faith. Some of them deeple. Most the kind that was expressed repeatedly by Franklin, Jefferson and Einstein - that the Great Designer sure did set something beautiful in motion.

In fact, I know several who have done what I do, carve out some rooms inside myself where chapel-like sensations and thoughts can be pondered... while always giving POLICY control to the parts of me dedicated to honesty and evidence and accountability.

The raging, bile-spiting part of American fundamentalism proclaims scientists to be the enemy, and indeed this is reflected by the great exodus of scientists and professionals from the Republican Party.

Sociotard "gets" what should be the core theological point of our era. Voyager is still doing science. No way it (or Opportunity) oughta be. These are miracle. It is what we were made to do.

=== re the war on Christmas ==
I will consider their case when they get the heck out of my November! And leave Thanksgiving the $$#! alone! The purest and most innocent and most truly reverent and decent American holiday.

David Brin said...

Gingrich going very very mild on Romney:

"“Look, I think Mitt Romney's a very smart man,” Gingrich said. “I think any Republican could be proud to have him as their nominee, and I think he'd be very formidable against Obama”

“I happen to think I would be a better candidate than Mitt, but that's, I mean, we are, after all, competing here,” Gingrich continued. “But I'm not going to say anything negative about him. I think he's a terrific person.”

http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Politics/The-Vote/2011/1207/Is-Newt-Gingrich-killing-Mitt-Romney-with-kindness

Two reasons to do this:
1) it is great politics for the attack dog to wag his tail

2) Newt may realize he has a fizzle phase coming. Mitt is still the likely nominee. And now that Cain has self-destructed, he may be the obvious VP choice. A seasoned campaigner and spinmeister, and his family history becomes less of a liability in the #2 slot.

At which point the fundies may have to either experience a "revelation" that Romney and Newt are okay, after all, or they go 3rd party..

SIde note. Newt is a scie fi fan and co-authored at least one sci fi novel! DOubt I'd be invited tho.


c

Robert said...

Here's a news story that's kind of sad... about how someone found a Christmas art display offensive (it was a skeleton dressed in a Santa suit and nailed to a cross) and vandalized it.

http://news.icanhascheezburger.com/2011/12/06/political-videos-2011-war-on-christmas-merry-crossbonesmas/

http://news.icanhascheezburger.com/2011/12/06/
political-videos-2011-war-on-christmas-merry-crossbonesmas/

Rob H.

sociotard said...

Or Newt may be angling for a nice Cabinet position. They get to do a lot more than the VP. I can see why a Presidential Candidate would want a good name for his VP (Brin's unifying-two-houses theory), but I can't see why anyone would angle for the job themselves.

As for Voyager, it may be time to petition congress to please let us make some fresh Pu-238. You can't do anything further out than Mars without it, and our stockpile is depleting (both from use and from normal decay). If we do start making more in 2012, there'll be about a five-year interval before enough is available to power most space missions. (Or we'll invent something else, which would be awesome)

Also, posting about Voyager, I keep wanting to sing:
This was a triumph.
I'm making a note here: HUGE SUCCESS.
It's hard to overstate my satisfaction.
Aperture Science
We do what we must
because we can.
For the good of all of us.
Except the ones who are dead.
But there's no sense crying over every mistake.
You just keep on trying till you run out of cake.
And the Science gets done.
And you make a neat gun.
For the people who are still alive.
I'm not even angry.
I'm being so sincere right now.
Even though you broke my heart.
And killed me.
And tore me to pieces.
And threw every piece into a fire.
As they burned it hurt because I was so happy for you!
Now these points of data make a beautiful line.
And we're out of beta.
We're releasing on time.
So I'm GLaD. I got burned.
Think of all the things we learned
for the people who are still alive.
Go ahead and leave me.
I think I prefer to stay inside.
Maybe you'll find someone else to help you.
Maybe Black Mesa
THAT WAS A JOKE.
HAHA. FAT CHANCE.
Anyway, this cake is great.
It's so delicious and moist.
Look at me still talking
when there's Science to do.
When I look out there, it makes me GLaD I'm not you.
I've experiments to run.
There is research to be done.
On the people who are still alive.
And believe me I am still alive.
I'm doing Science and I'm still alive.
I feel FANTASTIC and I'm still alive.
While you're dying I'll be still alive.
And when you're dead I will be still alive.
STILL ALIVE
STILL ALIVE

David Brin said...

Okay so this is weird.

"The commentator says there's "absolutely no explanation" for the nearly Mercury-size mystery object other than that it's a spaceship. "What object in space cloaks itself and doesn't appear until it gets hit by energy from the sun?" siniXster asked.

Be sure and look at the close-ups especially at the end.

Okay, in my life there have been many dozens of "what if this amazing thing were actually true?" moments. Only two of them - Dark Matter and Dark Energy - ever panned out. The rest (e.g. cold fusion) either fizzled under scientific scrutiny or were successfully squaelched by the Illuminati. (My money is on the former. But one should maintain a far corner of the mind that's open wide enough for real leakage!)

In other words, I doubt this is anything of substance. STill it is amateur science in action! Call up the smartmobs! This is EXACTLY the sort of thing that should be pounced upon, chewed by non-institution types and noise-ified till a diversity of experts show clear reason that it's nothing.

That is exactly the process for a society that blends common-sense skepticism up-top with a T-Cell approach for swarming those low-probability events... one out of a million of which might turn out to be way-huge.

David Brin said...

aw man, left out the URL

http://www.space.com/13835-cloaked-mothership-mercury-ufo.html

http://www.space.com/13835-cloaked
-mothership-mercury-ufo.html

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

I will consider their case when they get the heck out of my November! And leave Thanksgiving the $$#! alone! The purest and most innocent and most truly reverent and decent American holiday.


THANK YOU!

I thought I was a lone voice in the wilderness with my theory that the so-called "War on Christmas" is a distraction to prevent us from seeing that there is a war on Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving is the most inclusive of originally-religious holidays, and one for whom the "reason for the season" has not been overridden by extraneous baggage.

And yet, if you listen to tv and especially radio advertisements, we go straight from Labor Day into two months of Halloween Season, and then straight into Christmas (excuse me, "Holiday") Season. More and more, it's like we're supposed to forget that Thanksgiving Day exists.

Why? Two reasons. First of all, it's not a big money-making holiday the way Christmas and (increasingly) Halloween are. Two, most workplaces get an entire FOUR-DAY WEEKEND off for Thanksgiving. For both reasons, the corporatists must hate it.

Anonymous said...

Rama is a hell of a lot bigger than I was expecting it to be...
- The Vagabond

sociotard said...

First of all, it's not a big money-making holiday the way Christmas and (increasingly) Halloween are.

I don't know. There's almost as much holiday travel for Thanksgiving as Christmas, (big money), and we always spend a mint on food.

sociotard said...

Then again, there's way to many Christmas movies, and a haloween movie is basically just the whole genre of Horror. Thanksgiving really gets the media shaft.

Robert said...

That's what you need to write up, Dr. Brin: a rant on the War on Thanksgiving, including the reasons why corporatist and U.S. religious types are busy trying to destroy this last bastion of family with an attempt to extend the season of commercialism (to the point that some stores tried to stay open on Thanksgiving until their employees revolted).

Feel free to be partly tongue-in-cheek with the rant as humor is often the best weapon in this situation... especially humor laced with truth. We laugh... and go "Hmm."

Rob H.

Matt Grimaldi said...

RE: Avatar

I've heard a theory that Avatar was really the movie Ferngully repackaged as CGI, down to scene-by-scene comparisons.

Anonymous said...

Re "Avatar" a friend of mine once quipped that it should have been titled "Dances with Na'vi in Ferngully Glen".

Tacitus2 said...

Paul 451

Might I ask from what "outsider" perspective you are viewing the US? My answer to your queries might be different depending on your answer. I'm thinkin' Australia but that is just a guess. The world is so cosmopolitan these days that it is entirely possible that you are posting from a hut in Malawi with your pet baboons running a big hamsterwheel to power the generator!

Regards

Tacitus

David Brin said...

Re that "spaceship" near mercury...

on Google plus a person chimed in: "I just had a long discussion of this very thing... my conclusion is that it's almost certainly a data processing bug, especially because the opposite STEREO camera had a similar but it's-on-the-wrong-side-of-the-planet video."

Any of you have access to any documentation on that?

Robert said...

Concerning the recent comments on atheist/agnostic scientists and religion... here's an abstract from the article "Atheists and Agnostics Negotiate Religion and Family" by Elaine Howard Ecklund and Kristen Schultz Lee in "Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion" that I came across today - I thought it an amusing coincidence:

Through in-depth interviews with scientists at elite academic institutions-those particularly likely to have no firm belief in God-we provide insight into the motives scientists who are not religious have for joining a religious group and the struggle faced by these individuals in reconciling personal beliefs with what they consider the best interests of their families. Narratives stress the use of resources from identities as scientists to provide their children with religious choices consistent with science and in negotiating spousal influence and a desire for community. Findings expand the religious socialization and identities literatures by widening the range of understanding of the strategies parents utilize to interface with religious communities as well as lead to more nuanced public understanding of how atheist and agnostic scientists relate to religious communities.

sociotard said...

Some official documentation on STEREO artifacts and other flaws, though not on this particular one.

http://stereo.gsfc.nasa.gov/artifacts/artifacts_camera.shtml

David Brin said...

from:
http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/sideshow/mysterious-planet-sized-object-spotted-near-mercury-154443870.html

Head NRL group scientist Russ Howard and lead ground systems engineer Nathan Rich say the mysterious object is in fact Mercury itself. And what we're seeing in the footage is the equivalent of Mercury's wake, "where the planet was on the previous day," as it travels through the solar system on its natural gravitational path:
To make the relatively faint glow of a coronal mass ejection stand out against the bright glare of space—caused by interplanetary dust and the stellar/galactic background—the NRL scientists must remove as much background light as possible. They explained that they determine what light is background light, and thus can be subtracted out, by calculating the average amount of light that entered each camera pixel on the day of the CME event and on the previous day. Light appearing in the pixels on both days is considered to be background light and is removed from the footage of the CME. The remaining light is then enhanced.

This would explain why an elongated object appears to be aimed right AT Mercury's present position.

So far no update on the home site of the STEREO mission. I expect they will say something. Someone report in when they do?

David Brin said...

In terms of weather, 2011 has made it into the record books. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced that during this year, there have been 12 different weather disasters that cost more than $1 billion. The previous record was nine in 2008.

http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2011/12/07/143304115/2011-breaks-record-for-most-billion-dollar-weather-disasters?ft=1&f=1001

Tony Fisk said...

350 tweet (placed where someone might read it):

FRIENDS--Help stop the worst idea ever. Tell the US we need a #climate treaty now, NOT in 2020! http://350.org/durban @StateDept Pls RT :)

I thought you were joking about the mothership! Must go check...

Tony Fisk said...

A mercury-sized mothership next to... Mercury, sounds suspicious.

It looks a bit like a sun dog, and I suspect it might have something to do with the way the plasma is being deflected from the surface into the rest of the CME.

untarc - emergency de-cloaking maneuvre in a highly ionised environment.

Stefan Jones said...

Clever!

Five Science Fiction Books for Kids!



'prasers': Robot hymn-singers, introduced in 2028 to coincide with Scudder's re-election.

sociotard said...

http://www.newscientist.com/blogs/culturelab/2011/12/francis-galtons-novel-about-eugenics.html

An article about a novel that no longer exists. Francis Galton, the infamous proponent of Eugenics, wrote a sci fi novel back in the day showing his ideally eugenic society.

Paul451 said...

Rob H,
"I actually found the penny joke to be amusing. None of the others, however."

Errr, just in case it wasn't clear. I wasn't posting jokes I thought were funny. I was trying to show the difference between the level of venom directed at non-Christians, with the level of humour/criticism/cruelty directed at Christians even though they perceive it as culturally pervasive.

Google "offensive [minority] jokes" and try the top few links. Then compare that to a search for "offensive christian jokes" and see how hard it find anti-Christian jokes that are equally offensive. IMO, there's just no comparison.

So why do Christians feel "persecuted"? I wonder if it's the same reason as...

"[humor] always seems to be about pain, embarrassment, and humiliation. Why should we find these things humorous?"

I've always felt that way about practical jokes (and especially practical joke TV shows.) I think it's because it always seems to be the more powerful party that instigates the joke, the victim has to play along (ho ho, you got me) or they aren't "good sports". But whenever the "joker" gets pranked, they usually react really badly. It's not about sharing humour, it's about showing who has the power.

[...continuing: I wonder if this is why Christians seem so over-sensitive to anti-Christian humour? When you've been culturally dominant for so long, you aren't used to being made fun of.]

[Went looking for offensive anti-Atheist jokes. Not much out there either. The Atheist And The Bear, and The Atheist's Neighbour, which aren't really offensive. Does anyone know any?]

Knock knock?
Who's there?
God.
Who's there?
God.
Who'd there?
GOD!
I guess it was just the wind.

Paul451 said...

Sociotard,
"Why are Buddists so -
happy
Selfish
Happy Reddit
Happy Venn Diagram"


Had to look for the last one.

http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=12&t=6066

Susan's Husband,
Re: "a child NEVER exposed to religious belief will not spontaneously wonder whether there is a God."
"If so, how did human religions originate?"

Slowly. The child might anthropomorphise nature (and acts of nature. Trees, clouds, storms, etc.) That seems a pretty solid constant in humans. But to leap from nothing to animism to "God" in the same person, seems unlikely.

Formal religions seem to have been created to politically justify the (then) current system of rule (or to justify breaking away from the current system.) For example, monotheism to justify unified rule in Israel around the 7th or 8th century BC.

Tacitus2,
"it is entirely possible that you are posting from a hut in Malawi with your pet baboons running a big hamsterwheel to power the generator!"

Actually they type, I run.

LarryHart said...

sociotard:

"First of all, it's not a big money-making holiday the way Christmas and (increasingly) Halloween are."

I don't know. There's almost as much holiday travel for Thanksgiving as Christmas, (big money), and we always spend a mint on food.



Yes, money is spent on food and travel at Thanksgiving, but they are both one-time things. You eat one big meal and you make one trip (and that's all the people who don't just stay where they are).

Christmas, on the other hand, is a bonanza of gift-buying that has always extended for a month, and is now getting closer to two. And that's just the directly-related stuff. It also seems that people generally feel looser with spending money at Christmastime, to the benefit of non-profits like the Salvation Army and to any business using Santa Claus or elves or decorated trees in an advertisement. "Black Friday" got its name becuase it used to be the day that put a store "into the black" for the year.

Thanksgiving accrues none of this secondary benefit to the business world. In fact, it detracts FROM the whole two-month-of-Christmas thing they'd like to go for. Add in the fact that all of their employees expect a four-day weekend, and I'd say it makes a lot of sense that the powers that be would prefer Thanksgiving go away.

(And while I'm being somewhat hyperbolic here in proposing this as a real theory, I'm also doing what Al Franken refers to as "kidding on the square." I'm kidding, but I also think I have a point.)

LarryHart said...

Paul451:

I wonder if this is why Christians seem so over-sensitive to anti-Christian humour? When you've been culturally dominant for so long, you aren't used to being made fun of.


The ones who insist that the US is a "Christian nation" want to make explicit their implicit assumption that non-Christians are essentially tenants in their (Christians') house, and that only Christians have full rights of ownership.

Really, what else CAN they mean? That the country is or should be ruled by Christian Law? Is there even any such thing AS "Christian Law?". No, what they mean (ok, what it SEEMS TO ME that they mean) is that the law should be preferential to Christians the way Jim Crow law was preferential to whites. And it also seems to me that this is what is expressly PROHIBITED by the First Amendment's "establishment clause".

LarryHart said...

sociotard:

An article about a novel that no longer exists. Francis Galton, the infamous proponent of Eugenics, wrote a sci fi novel back in the day showing his ideally eugenic society.
...
"Kantsaywhere" is his attempt to sell the idea of eugenics to British society. It’s the story of Professor Donoghue, who arrives in the eugenic state of Kantsaywhere and must pass a series of tests in order to be accepted into the society and marry his love, Augusta Allfancy. The book recounts how Donoghue is tested for his strength, intelligence and aesthetic sense, and attempts to demonstrate that his ancestors had “good genes”.


Sounds like a precursor to "Atlas Shrugged". Especially since the author's name has "Galt" in it, sort of.


Too much has been removed to judge the book on its literary merits.


Just as too much of Galt's engine had been removed for Dagny to reverse-engineer it?

Robert said...

Here's a fun segment that happened in the climate meeting in South Africa as reported by the New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/09/science/earth/us-climate-envoy-seems-to-shift-position-on-timetable-for-new-international-talks.html

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/09/science/earth/us-climate-envoy-
seems-to-shift-position-on-timetable-for-new-international-talks.html

"Mr. Stern’s statement to delegates from more than 190 nations at the annual climate conference was disrupted by a 21-year-old Middlebury College junior, Abigail Borah, who told the assembly that she would speak for the United States because Mr. Stern had forfeited the right to do so.

“I am speaking on behalf of the United States of America because my negotiators cannot,” said Ms. Borah, who is attending the conference as a representative of the International Youth Climate Movement. “The obstructionist Congress has shackled justice and delayed ambition for far too long. I am scared for my future. 2020 is too late to wait. We need an urgent path to a fair, ambitious and legally binding treaty.”

Ms. Borah, who is from Princeton, N.J., added: “We need leaders who will commit to real change, not empty rhetoric. Keep your promises. Keep our hope alive.”

Scores of delegates and observers gave her a sustained ovation. Then the South African authorities threw her out of the conference. “That’s O.K.,” she said later by telephone. “I think I got my point across.”"

It's nice to see a young American willing to stand up and take a stand that our politicians are too scared to. Though no doubt she'll be arrested as a terrorist and thrown in jail forever after this "outburst" without her Constitutional rights to a trial. Though maybe that's just my cynicism speaking.

Rob H.

sociotard said...

The Abigail Borah bit was interesting. go to 1:04 to hear her

guthrie said...

I recall reading the copper wire from a penny joke in a book that would be at least 40 years old by now. (Although since I read it as a teenager I can't recall very much else) Crucially the two people involved were Aberdonians, infamous for having a reputation for miserliness since probably the 19th century or even before.

Same with the candle one, although it was a miser rather than a Scotsman. Speaking as a purebred mongrel Scot and a bit of a miser, I'm not offended by them.

Tony Fisk said...

There's something wrong with this:

30 Corporations Spend More on Lobbying Than Taxes

And this:
Jamming the #protest tweets in Russia

sociotard said...

30 Corporations Spend More on Lobbying Than Taxes

If they were just lobbying for lower taxes? Yes, that might be silly. That isn't the case.

Many companies lobby for better conditions for their operation. That could mean stricter piracy enforcement from Disney, or more lax banking regulations from Bank of America, or a change in import duties from Toyota.

David Brin said...

Check out the "ten unhappiest cities in America." The only blue city in the lot - #9 Detroit - has serious economic reasons. The others are all sunny locales, filled with Values Voters eager to proclaim that they know better how to live.

"Who wouldn’t be happy living in Birmingham, the cultural beacon of the Southeast? Most of its residents, it seems. The number of people feeling the blues all or most of the time is eighth-highest among our 100 cities.

Why? The crime rate here is the tenth-highest in the nation, and the murder rate seventh-highest.


http://health.yahoo.net/articles/depression/photos/saddest-cities-in-america#4

http://health.yahoo.net/articles/depression
/photos/saddest-cities-in-america#4

duncan cairncross said...

30 Corporations Spend More on Lobbying Than Taxes"

It was worse than that 29 of the 30 paid NO taxes - they got money back from the Government!

Total profits -163.7 Billion
Total Lobbying - 0.47 Billion
Total from the government - 10 Billion

With profits of 164 Billion they should have PAID 57 Billion in Tax - instead they got 10 Billion !!!!

The 0.47 Billion in lobbying costs is peanuts - they got 67 Billion for it a 14255% return (or 142 times as much as they spent)

Corey said...

@Sociotard:

"Also, posting about Voyager, I keep wanting to sing:
This was a triumph.
I'm making a note here: HUGE SUCCESS.
"

That's EXACTLY what I thought too :D


As soon as it was mentioned that Voyager was still out there doing science the words "I'm doing science and I'm still alive" rang through my head with the little tune.

Robert said...

Here's a couple more interesting links for people here. First, an article that makes me feel a tad guilty about poisoning the rats that invaded my house during the summer about experiments showing rats feel empathy and prosocial behavior. The rats in this study were not trained. Instead, they were put in a situation where through free will, they acted in a manner showing empathy toward their mates (in freeing trapped rats despite the lack of award for that action... and in saving and sharing food for their partners).

Now if they'd only become smart enough to realize that my house is not a good place for them to try to move into I'd not mind them. ;)

The second is a rather fascinating blog post about how the computer game Skyrim showed the writer the sense of surprise and feeling like the world's been upended and they missed it while it was happening. The author talked about how people are so interconnected via Twitter and the like and on one person who had missed the Twitter feeds on Osama bin Laden's death and felt flabbergasted they had been oblivious to a historical event.

The link with Skyrim is that the game takes place 200 years after the previous game, Oblivion. In that time, the Empire was invaded and almost conquored, worship of the God Talos was rendered illegal by the peace treaty, and a volcano central to the game before Oblivion (Morrowind) had blown its top, wiping out much of the area. He talks about slowly piecing together this information and struggling to come to terms with having missed out on historical events as they happened.

It's an interesting view into the mindset of someone linked by Twitter feeds and the like into society and news and how this has changed people and how they view events and history.

Rob H.

bleala: the general reaction of Twilight haters to the character of Bella.

David Brin said...

My colleague researcher and science fiction author Dr. Charle Gannon, has offered his own diagnosis of Culture War and why so many millions of our neighbors nod and go along with the Great Big War on Science... and teachers, doctors, journalists, cicil servants, and so on, biliously hating every American knowledge profession.

Chuc suggests that in this modern, dizzying age, people respond to that most primal of all fears: fundamental loss of control.
 
"In short, people are realizing more and more that they know less and less about almost everything in their lives. How many people understand what is going on with the euro and how that's part of a much bigger picture? How many understand ANYthing about how their smartphone works--not what it does, but how it WORKS? What are the ethics of cloning? Of copyright? Of no child left behind versus the death of rigor and excellence? 
 
"Head in hand, they feel the grey matter between their hands threatening to explode. And they want relief. And they have their eureka moment. "I know! I will adopt a stance! And so what if I can't figure out my own stance? I can BORROW one!

"I will shop amongst the bazaar (bizarre) of demagogues and choose the one that says the things I like best. And the details--well, they're only details. Someone else will think about those--and besides, I'm fed up with details. (Secretly, where they can't even hear it: "all those details I don't understand make me feel stupid....") 
 
"I suppose, at some level, it has ever been thus. However, I think the Tofflerian Waves and Culture Shocks geometrically amplify the discomfort. The distance between the haves and have nots is growing, yes--but I think the separation between the knows and know-nots is growing just as fast. It is not that they ARE stupid, but they feel that way.

"And in a culture which panders to couch-potato passive consumption of media and goods, dumbs down the critical reasoning component of schools (and life), and in which an integrated view of "reality" moves further and further beyond the reach of even the most cognitively proactive folks, they hardly have the role-models or encouragement, or preparation to FIGHT through the tides of uncertainty in their lives and set sail upon the high seas of perpetual indefinitude that is the modern world."

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

"Head in hand, they feel the grey matter between their hands threatening to explode. And they want relief. And they have their eureka moment. "I know! I will adopt a stance! And so what if I can't figure out my own stance? I can BORROW one!


This is almost the same observation that Kurt Vonnegut makes that agreeing or disagreeing with ideas has historically been more about declaring whose side you are on than about whether the idea itself had objective merit.

His notion was that throughout most of human history, this state of affairs was not much of a problem, because there was no opportunity to actually act on those ideas in ways that did too much long-term damage.

Only very recently in the timeline of humanity has our capability to act on ideas become so potentially dangerous that the objective merits of an idea really do (or at least really should) matter, and really are (or should be) worth debating, affirming, or debunking as to consequences. And yet, we still go on treating ideas as badges of tribal identity.

LarryHart said...

Credit Paul Krugman with pointing this one out:

http://hnn.us/articles/newt-gingrich-galactic-historian

http://hnn.us/articles/
newt-gingrich-galactic-historian

Apparently, Newt Gingrich fancies himself after Hari Seldon. Seriously.

Marino said...

re: Newt and Hari Seldon... by me, who both read Asimov and had been a card carrying member of the Italian Communist Party (which wasn't Leninist anymore in the '80s, btw)... psychohistory is a lot like Leninism: a cadre of professional intellectuals leading the masses to an end they cannot figure out by themselves, (iirc a basic tenet of psychohistory was that people shouldn't be aware of psychohistorical findings about their society...maybe it's an influence from quantum physics, as the act of observing would perturbate the object of the observation?). I wonder if it was a conscious allusion by the Good Doctor or just Zeitgeist.
Anyway... imho Newt and a whole bunch of rightwing ideologues are more similar to Elvira Naldorssen (the ideologue of the slaveowning Draka in SM Stirling's Domination novels) than to Hari Seldon., Or, to be very, very kind, to Bel Riose, the last Imperial general whose fights helped the collapse of the empire...

Marino said...

re: Newt and Hari Seldon... by me, who both read Asimov and had been a card carrying member of the Italian Communist Party (which wasn't Leninist anymore in the '80s, btw)... psychohistory is a lot like Leninism: a cadre of professional intellectuals leading the masses to an end they cannot figure out by themselves, (iirc a basic tenet of psychohistory was that people shouldn't be aware of psychohistorical findings about their society...maybe it's an influence from quantum physics, as the act of observing would perturbate the object of the observation?). I wonder if it was a conscious allusion by the Good Doctor or just Zeitgeist.
Anyway... imho Newt and a whole bunch of rightwing ideologues are more similar to Elvira Naldorssen (the ideologue of the slaveowning Draka in SM Stirling's Domination novels) than to Hari Seldon., Or, to be very, very kind, to Bel Riose, the last Imperial general whose fights helped the collapse of the empire...

Marino said...

re: Newt and Hari Seldon... by me, who both read Asimov and had been a card carrying member of the Italian Communist Party (which wasn't Leninist anymore in the '80s, btw)... psychohistory is a lot like Leninism: a cadre of professional intellectuals leading the masses to an end they cannot figure out by themselves, (iirc a basic tenet of psychohistory was that people shouldn't be aware of psychohistorical findings about their society...maybe it's an influence from quantum physics, as the act of observing would perturbate the object of the observation?). I wonder if it was a conscious allusion by the Good Doctor or just Zeitgeist.
Anyway... imho Newt and a whole bunch of rightwing ideologues are more similar to Elvira Naldorssen (the ideologue of the slaveowning Draka in SM Stirling's Domination novels) than to Hari Seldon., Or, to be very, very kind, to Bel Riose, the last Imperial general whose fights helped the collapse of the empire...

Tim H. said...

Even a shallow overview of the state of knowledge these days is a lot, and won't get a lot of respect, because it's a shallow overview. Either Crick or Watson cracked that you don't sufficiently understand a scientific concept until you can explain it to a cocktail waitress, but I think that ability to explain arcana to the uninitiated is somewhat rare, throw in the all to human tendency to say"STFU!, I'm an expert." and you can understand some of the hostility.

David Brin said...

A Periodic Table for swearing
http://dvice.com/archives/2011/12/periodic-table.php

David Brin said...

Oh the workmanship! It is absolute proof of the glorious skill levels attainable by an Age of Amateurs!

Proof that no achievement of the human past is beyond today's aficionados.

And proof that Sturgeon's law holds.

99% of anything is crap.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

And proof that Sturgeon's law holds.

99% of anything is crap.


Unfortunate wording in the present political climate. The 1% would seem to agree with that assessment.

The Vagabond said...

Speaking of ambitious projects and the current political climate, I present for your consideration the following, via CNN -
TRENDING: Romney jabs Gingrich over space ideas

Robert said...

And here's an oops that shows someone out there is watching out for the Mythbusters crew...

http://www.businessweek.com/ap/financialnews/D9RGDB5G0.htm

A cannonball fired at a bomb range ended up punching through a cinderblock wall, bouncing off of the hill behind it, through a house with a family sleeping in it, and into a van that had, five minutes prior, had people in it.

Here's a map of the cannonball's path: ttp://www.perceptionbuilder.com/mythbusters-cannonball-map

Just... wow.

Rob H.

Arizsun Ahola said...

Even from Rick Santorum this is mind boggling:

Should Get Out Of Politics

http://2012.talkingpointsmemo.com/2011/12/santorum-science-should-get-out-of-politics.php?ref=fpa>Science

David Brin said...

Newt wrote a historical novel about the civil war, going back to that old saw, what if Lee had won at Gettysburg.

I must share here a response I gave at Facebook.

Gettysburg. I am at a loss over how many dingbats think that Lee ever had a chance of winning there. His entire strategy was insane. It absolutely depended on the Army of the Potomac sitting in place and getting no wind of his invasion till he was all the way around behind them.

That didn't happen..

WHen Lee saw that Union forces had got themselves arrayed in front of him, tThe only conceivable path to victory was to utterly annihilate the Army of the Potomac, something he had never come close to doing, even at Chancelorsville or Fredericksburg. So long as an existing AoP - even one defeated at Gettysburg - existed on his flank, he could not march on Washington or anywhere else.

That was why he charged up the center. Only a total rout could save his campaign. No mere tactical win could get him out of his jam.

Lee was a "brilliant general" at just one thing... Aggressive Defense. Exploiting the then horrific difficulties that the Union faced in coordinating and marching and positioning a stupendous force of 100,000 men. So long as Lee could pounce on some straggler wing and demoralize the AOP, things went great for him, again and again. At a place like Gettysburg, where the AoP was positioned, solid and had clear lines of communications... and merely had to sit? No chance whatsoever.

Even aggressive-defense pouncing on an attacking army - Lee's expertise - eventually failed. He did that successfully, one last time, at the Wilderness, and Grant responded by doing what no other AOP commander ever did before him. He shrugged, licked his wounds, and marched FORWARD. Lee had no answer for that except defense, defense, defense. He never surprised the AOP again.

David Brin said...

onward...

rewinn said...

Another aspect of transforming tomorrow:

Why fight orcs online?
You may bring Alzeihmer's down
Wielding placebo!

We aren't all Einsteins;
The easy way to do science:
Human guinea pig!

Feeling unwanted?
Google "Healthy Volunteer"
Now you're popular!

The Ph.ds wait.
Their Nobel Prize depends on
Your humble fluids.

Retained Forever,
My Great Future Monument:
Small Prostate Sample.

Blindness, Cancer, AIDS;
Humble roles in their defeat -
What greater glory?

We also serve who
(Nameless, fameless and happy)
Only stand and donate.


--------------------

For maybe a decade I've participated as a healthy volunteer for one or more science projects a year. They've been fun, on the whole; I don't have the head for science but I love making my contribution. I've had my vision tested, the bones in my head MRI'd, my sensitivity to pain tested while playing SnowWorld. Currently I am taking either Simvastatin or a placebo in a test of the way proteins in my bodily fluids change over time, a finding which it is hoped will be one footstep in the journey of a thousand miles to defeat Alzheimer's.

I highly recommend everyone who can participate in projects such as these. Most of mine have been through the University of Washington's Health Volunteer page. We can't all be geniuses, but we can all make our contribution; without us, medical science stops and then where would we be?

--

P.S. Am I the only one who hears "Kardashian" and thinks "leathery green Star Trek antagonist"? What a surprise to learn they were in New Jersey!!