Friday, July 30, 2010
Thursday, July 29, 2010
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
Monday, July 26, 2010
Reminds me of the line from the Isaac Asimov story "The Feeling of Power," about "primitive man, with his stone axes and railroads."
And, presumably, terrorists will be depicted like pirates are today, roguish but honorable Disney heroes. Women will wear cheerleading uniforms to funerals. Astronauts will carry pistols designed in 1911 -- oh wait, that already happened in the original "Planet of the Apes." Gas guzzler cars will have voice-interactive -- oh wait, that already happened in the original "Knight Rider." Doctors serving in the Korean War will express attitudes entirely -- oh, wait --
Sunday, July 25, 2010
I once caught a panel discussion on the Civil War on C-SPAN. At the beginning, the moderator said that since the end of the Civil War, more than one book a day has been published with Civil War-related material. This is also true of the Napoleonic Wars. Undoubtedly true of WWII.I think it's also true of Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation.
So I avoid any book about the Civil War or Napoleon, and concentrate on falling behind with WWII.
I like Mongolian history. You can read a book every 3 or 4 years and stay current.
Saturday, July 24, 2010
Friday, July 23, 2010
I hate Monster Cable and all their ilk, and yes, it's personal.
Except for the reference to Lillian Gish, the above is all true. As God is my witness, if an audiophile got tangled in his Monster Cable and inadvertently strangled himself to death, I think I would laugh.
I did my PhD work on the high resolution Fourier Transform Spectrometer at Ohio State. This instrument took the infrared radiation off a gas-dryer lighter, bouncing it back and forth off mirrors a hundred times or so, causing the light to pass through the equivalent of a kilometer of absorbing gas, then focusing the picowatts that were left on a liquid nitrogen cooled detector. The signal from the detector went first to a liquid nitrogen cooled FET pre-preamp, then over copper cable to a preamp, then was amplified and digitized.
My professor read some of the Monster Cable propaganda and freaked. If copper wire could reduce Aerosmith to unlistenable distortion -- well, to noticeably more unlistenable distortion -- what was it doing to our delicate picowatt signals? And our method of analysis was particularly susceptible to distortion. His whole career flashed before his eyes.
SO I had to stop work, stop making progress toward a degree and gainful employment, tear down the experiment, and spend a week building a new setup to determine what grotesque nameless horrors the PLAIN OLD COPPER WIRES had wreaked on our helplessly whimpering signal, played by Lillian Gish.
And the answer was nothing. Zero, zip, nada, 0.00E00, 1/(infinity squared), the set of all sets containing no members, bupkis, the Schneid, the integrity of John Edwards multiplied by the simple human decency of Drew Rosenhaus.
AUDIOPHILES ARE HIPPIES. Plain copper wire is great. I just got a new receiver and I wired it completely with plain copper wire and banana plugs AND I LIKE IT and I'm going to turn it on and listen to Andresjz Panufnik and I won't hear any distortion. I hope your Monster Cable strangles you.
I mean that metaphorically of course. If it happened literally, well, you never know how you will react in a tragic situation like that. I feel like I would laugh, though.
Thursday, July 22, 2010
The proposed resolution to the paradox is that actions that would create paradoxes are excluded by quantum mechanics -- they have zero probability. Assuming that the proposal is valid, my comment was:
One advantage of this idea is that it is analogous to an established quantum mechanics principle, the Pauli exclusion principle.
The exclusion principle is the observation that, if you calculate the probability that two electrons will occupy the exact same quantum state, QM gives a zero probability. It doesn't matter what the state is, you always get zero.
This is why solid objects can't pass through each other, why, for example, you don't fall through the floor and keep going to the center of the earth. Solid objects are solid because almost all the available electron states are filled. If you try to push solid object A (the sole of your shoe) into the space occupied by solid object B (the floor), there are nowhere near enough empty states to accommodate all the electrons in object A. Therefore, you're trying to push many of the electrons in A into states already filled by electrons in B, and the probability of that happening is zero. So you stay above the floor.
Analogously, Lloyd et. al. propose that the probability of you preventing your own birth calculates to zero. You're trying to introduce an additional cause (a bullet in your grandfather's heart) into a sequence of events that already has 100% of the causes it needs. And like the way the floor is shoeproof, you'll find your grandfather is bulletproof.
Actually, I expect that the past is travelproof. Any travel into the past, however innocuous your intentions, will introduce paradoxes at the quantum level. And QM cares about those at least as much as it cares about you and your grandfather.
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
Monday, July 19, 2010
Saturday, July 17, 2010
Friday, July 16, 2010
After you've read enough WWII history, you start to wonder why anyone bothers to make anything up. Squid314 touches on only a few of the unlikely plot twists. You also have the most critical battle of the war, the Battle of the Atlantic, going the right way because of, not one, but two miracles. You have the Battle of Britain won, arguably, not in spite of the fact that the head of RAF Fighter Command was certifiably insane, but because he was. You have Thermopylae in the Pacific, in which the unarmored ships of Taffy 3 turned back a Japanese fleet including the two most powerful battleships ever built, battleships that were designed specifically as US Navy-killers, the Japanese admiral defending his decision to run by saying, "No one could be that brave." You have the Japanese War Cabinet voting to continue the war after the second atomic bomb, the Emperor overriding the War Cabinet, young officers staging a military coup against him, with the wax discs on which the Emperor's surrender speech had been recorded as the McGuffin. (They escaped the young officers by being hidden in the Empress's makeup cabinet.)
And that's just some of the big items off the top of my head.
Thursday, July 15, 2010
The first paragraph is all true, as far as I know. "Buccaneer" came to mean a pirate because pirates, like other sailors of the time, ate a lot of pork. Pirates who got too old to pirate any more (not a large percentage, I would guess) would settle down on some Caribbean isle and raise pigs, which they would smoke and trade to pirate ships for whatever they needed. So old pirates became baconeers, and eventually all pirates became buccaneers.
The original crackers were herding pigs, using whips to keep the pork moving. Another word derived from pigherding is “buccaneer,” a corruption of an old French word for pig farmer (i.e., “baconeer”).
So when you call someone a “cracker,” you’re accusing him of being a fan of the Tamp[a] Bay NFL team. Hence the term’s offensiveness.
The second paragraph is admittedly a stretch. But really, naming a team after murderous, thieving pirates is offensive. If someone was stealing your FedEx shipments and selling them on eBay, would you cheer for a team named after him? What next, the Toledo Taliban? The San Jose SS? The Wisconsin McCarthyites? The University of Phoenix Concern Trolls?
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
Monday, July 12, 2010
Aren’t we past this kind of prejudice against undocumented matriculators? If someone wants to come to Harvard to improve their lives, I for one don’t want petty rules or vindictive enforcement to get in their way. I support open borders at Harvard!I'm sure selfish Harvard grads will whine about devaluing their degrees, and the destruction of a great university by a flood of border-crossers from UMass-Amherst. But isn't it a palpable violation of human rights, to force a degree from UMass-Amherst on an unwilling graduate?
Besides, he just did the homework that legacies won’t do.
Sunday, July 11, 2010
Saturday, July 10, 2010
Tactics is how you win battles. Strategy is how you use battles to achieve national objectives.
Every battle should be for a militarily achievable objective. A better way to say it would be: "Tactics is how you achieve the militarily achievable. Strategy is how you use sub-objectives, including militarily achievable ones, to reach objectives that are not militarily achievable." But not as snappy.
"That government of the people, for the people, and by the people, shall not perish" is not something that can be accomplished by pure force of arms. Force of arms can surely contribute to it, when combined with malice toward none in the peace terms.
Friday, July 9, 2010
Thursday, July 8, 2010
Turn self-replicating robots loose on the moon and sell robot hunting licenses.
I'm sure the many advantages of this simple idea raced through your mind the instant you read the above sentence. But you may have been too dazzled by the sheer brilliance to recognize them. So:
An earth-to-moon transportation system and moon-base facilities will be built by private enterprise, funded by Colonel Blimps with .375 H&H Magnums, and good ol' boys with lever-action .30-30s. Cape buffalo and whitetail deer will be able to relax a little with those guys offworld, not to mention the occasional Maine housewife hanging up clothes in the backyard in a deerlike way. The license fees can go to support Homeland Security personnel surfing porn in their offices. Robot evolution will progress rapidly.
I call on the 111th Congress to act immediately. Don't read the bill, just pass it. I'll settle for 1% of the license fees in perpetuity.
People questioned the plausibility of this guy putting up the filing fee to run. It looks like his (craziness)x(egotism) product is sufficient, however.Hey, the Libertarians had Stan Jones the Human Smurf, the Senate candidate who took so much colloidal silver for his health that his skin turned blue. The Republicans have... well, I don't want to list their names for fear of attracting the wrong sort of Google searches. On the other hand, the Democrats already have... well, I can't risk listing those names either. Having Alvin Greene and Stan Jones in the same post is bad enough.
Wednesday, July 7, 2010
Tuesday, July 6, 2010
Yeah. Like "Gilligan's Island" becoming a cultural icon, that would never happen in a real universe or a properly debugged simulation. Obviously the "Head of the Space Program" routine mistakenly got a pointer to data intended for the "Deputy Assistant Undersecretary State Department drone" object.
Transterrestrial Musings has a brief post on Bolden's remark asking "What isn't wrong with Sharia law?" I commented:
Islam’s self-esteem problem is that Muslims have lots of phony self-esteem. The Koran tells them that they’re Masters of the Universe, and those other people designing computers and inventing vaccines should bow down to them. The dissonance between what they’re taught and what they see is extreme. It probably deters them from doing things that would create real self-esteem (patent offices in Islamic countries sometimes go a year or more without issuing any patents). Obama via Bolden’s contribution to the problem is very minor, but it is a contribution.
Of course the West has made phony self-esteem public policy. But it’s effects seem to have been limited. The relative ineffectiveness of public policy is widely seen as a problem, but to me it’s a safety feature.
Monday, July 5, 2010
I'm pleased to report that the citizens of my town committed massive civil disobedience on the night of the 4th. In Ohio, while it's legal to sell fireworks, it's illegal to use them, other than sparklers and "novelties."
Well, last night, many of my neighbors launched spectacular unlicensed rockets from their backyards. It was a pretty good, if uncoordinated, show, and I didn't have to move more than 40 feet from my refrigerator to see it. Scofflaws.
Made me proud to be an American and a Buckeye.
Other than some expended ordnance on my driveway, no damage.
Sunday, July 4, 2010
This is more an argument that mechs will never be dominant on the battlefield, not that they won't exist at all.
One of the painfully learned lessons of modern war is the necessity of "combined arms," of more than one type of warrior, working together. Even the most powerful, heavily armored tank has vulnerabilities -- e.g. poor vision and lack of fine-grained situational awareness -- that the humble foot soldier can cover. When you fight a combined arms team, one of the things you really really want to do is to separate their armor from their infantry, because defeating them separately is easier than defeating them together.
As long as there is some necessary task on the battlefield, for which mechs are better adapted, mechs will have a place. If history is a guide, there will be such a role.
Even in ancient times, armies combined infantry, cavalry, archers, etc. I wouldn't jump to the conclusion that it will be different in the future.
Saturday, July 3, 2010
I'm sure all your readers are familiar with the idea that the universe is actually a computer simulation. Every simulation has its glitches. The hole in space is a minor one.Not only is our "universe" a simulation, but it's running under limited resources. Take the way certain mathematical constants get reused in completely different contexts. There's an old joke about an actuary giving a presentation to the executives of an insurance company. He puts up a slide with the formula for the number of life insurance customers who will die in the next year. One of the executives interrupts. "What's that in the formula? That funny symbol?"
Some of the other obvious glitches: half the events in Spanish history happened in 1492; the Japanese and Scandinavians morphed from Samurais and Vikings into inoffensive Saab jockeys and Hello Kitty consumers; a movie about a mathematician won an Oscar; a Kenyan became President of the US; the Red Sox won a World Series; John Travolta and Mickey Rourke won't stay dead; vuvuzelas; you don't even know who Renee Olstead is; the state of Massachusetts; and the Turing word for this post is "lasouna", which is ludicrous.
The actuary looks and says, "That's pi. You know, the ratio between a circle's circumference and its diameter."
The executive explodes. "What malarkey is this! What does a circle have to do with how many people are going to die!?"
But given that it takes an infinite number of bytes to store pi, you can see where using the same constant for both, really saves on the memory.
No, I don't know if Stetson Kennedy was mild-mannered. The title of this post is a line from "Doc" Smith.
Also, the negative reaction was probably less than it would have been if the information had appeared in a more "serious" form. SF and fantasy have been useful to express ideas contrary to the zeitgeist for a long time, "1984" and "Animal Farm" being examples.
Back in the 1930s, when all "serious" writers were waving a sad farewell to weak democracy and making the best deal possible with their tough new fascist overlords, E.E. "Doc" Smith's Lensman stories subversively depicted the victory of a free, multispecies melting pot over the totalitarian Empire of Boskone.
When the original "Addams Family" TV series was on, with Carolyn Jones and John Astin, one critic noted that it was the only series with an intact family where everyone respected each other. And where but on "Smallville" do we get teenagers who are grateful to their parents.
Friday, July 2, 2010
It turns out that there is an Ulster American Folk Park, some kind of a theme park where the theme is the USA. For the 4th of July this year, they're going to re-enact the War of 1812. Apparently there are also American Revolutionary War re-enactors in Ireland. And they're importing American re-enactors to play the part of British Redcoats.
So Americans are going to Ireland to play British Redcoats so Irish playing American colonials can pretend to shoot them in the War of 1812. To quote Hermione Granger, "Please don't ask me to say it again."
[CORRECTION: The Redcoats are being played by British re-enactors (see James's comment below, thanks!) This explains why they're re-enacting the War of 1812, the British re-enactors probably like to burn the White House every chance they get.]
My only comment was:
I once ran across the website of Ukrainian Vietnam War re-enactors. They dress up in US Army uniforms.That's all I could manage. Archaeologists are going to dig this stuff up 4000 years from now and I don't know what they'll do.
Thursday, July 1, 2010
A lot of people wonder what purpose the Russians could have to be establishing sleeper cells at this late date. I commented:
The Russians inherited a whole bureaucracy devoted to running sleeper agents. You can’t expect all those bureaucrats to stop what they were doing and get real jobs.I think this really is a factor. Not that the FBI shouldn't be rounding up these S.O.B.s. Even if they have no practical effect, it's the principle of the thing.
BTW, the above link has the YouTube video of the "Telefon" trailer embedded. It sucks. I could cut a better trailer. It would have more Lee Remick, to start with.