End of an era

 

commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Tursiops_truncatus_01.jpg; NASA; Public Domain

Well, it’s the end of the twenty teens, and just as they’ve ended, so will this weekly blog.    If anyone has any comments, they’ll sure to be forwarded, but in general, this experiment on weekly writing is coming to an end.

If something strikes me as needing commentary, it will be posted, but there are plenty of folks who are commenting on similar topics who do it much better.

So long, and thanks for all the fish.

Collum 2019

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Organometallic_chemistry#/media/File:N-butyllithium-tetramer-3D-balls.png; public domain

When a person who is intellectually honest (or appears to be – how can one know such things?!) questions the status quo, and backs it up with a long list of references, you have to ask yourself if you’ve been backing the wrong horse, or at least not being as rigorous as you could be.  David Collum’s latest year in review (2019) is an amazing piece of work, and it makes you think a good deal about this year’s craziness, and more importantly, the complexity of the climate change debate.  Collum (professor of chemistry at Cornell) brings up a whole bunch of quotes from quite a few climate scientist types, and it may muddy a lot of the debate that you thought might have been settled.

Collum does at least quote the ever relevant Albert Bartlett, with something pretty bulletproof:

“’Sustainable growth’ is an oxymoron”

On that, I think we can all agree.

Oh, and of course, Epstein didn’t kill himself.

 

Consequences; if x then y else z

 

(If condition x is true, then consequence y, else alternative z… a basic idea, right?)

If anything that my friends from both the left and right have in common, it is the complaint that there appears to be a lack of consequences, at almost every level of society.

What will it take to make consequences happen again, on an individual and societal level?

What’s a reasonable timeframe for misbehavior and the corresponding consequence to happen?

 

97 Percent… Wrong?

97% Yes, 3% No. Public Domain, own work.

A long while ago in this space, a post “What If We Are Really Wrong?” was put up, putting forth the concept that we really could be wrong about a zillion topics.   The need to continually check one’s assumptions, and to examine one’s biases isn’t easy, but it helps keep from drifting into an echo chamber where  assumptions are reinforced, rather than challenged.

A few podcasts have tickled the ‘loyal opposition’ in my mind recently; one was from the Quoth The Raven podast #161 with David Collum, and another was from the Skeptico podcast #362 (“Why we shouldn’t trust Science”) with Dr. Henry Bauer.   David Collum, who is a sharp guy, thinks that the climate may not be going haywire due to CO2 produced by humans, and other things (natural variability) may be to blame for the changes in weather (all will be revealed in his annual review, out shortly).  The Skeptico podcast makes note that ever since WW2, Science has lost a lot of its neutrality, because money, prestige, and power have warped whatever outlook scientists have.  The trial this year of Michael Mann (which he lost), and the ClimateGate emails, might suggest that the ivory tower of Science isn’t too removed from the real world, and the folks there are just as human as the rest of us, with all the attendant human foibles.  Even the “97% of climate scientists think that climate change is real, and caused by human activity” claim has been bandied about like a pinata (in a few places), throwing up clouds of uncertainty.

A troubling part of this back-and-forth is that is hard to know who is telling the truth, and who is beating the data to conform with their own predetermined outlook.  Collum notes that he hasn’t put the 10,000 hours of analysis in (referring to the 10,000 hours needed to become proficient at something), and so even a full tenured organic chemistry professor at a prestigious university might not be qualified (!) to make any judgements on such things.  No wonder people are confused.  Trying to decipher this stuff is a full time job, and generally, most of us have other day jobs.

A third piece of data which is small, but still tickles the ‘loyal opposition’ neurons, makes me wonder what to believe myself.  A recent documentary Third Eye Spies (which delves into the psychic spying programs of the US and the USSR) brought up the biography of Russell Targ, who had been deeply involved in the topic.   Targ’s claims that his original biography on Wikipedia only referred to the paranormal work he’d done, and didn’t even discuss his weightier (and far less controversial work) in lasers.  He also claims only until Nobel prize winning Brian Josephson intervened was his biography updated to reflect those points. Brian Josephson has his own problems, of course, with Science, partly based on his investigations into the paranormal and topics such as cold fusion.

With all these elements, it appears Science, like many other institutions has become sclerotic, and unable to act ‘scientifically’, and accept claims contrary a common, business-as-usual narrative.   If climate change due to human activity is real, with an immediate threat we must address now, then the world needs to get on the stick and change.  But if lies, half-lies, and political maneuvering from the climate-change-is real side are being used to sell this worldview (and found out), then who will believe them when real data is put forth?   To sum up:

Nothing destroys good ideas or good causes, or gives more ammunition to their opponents, like lies spread in misguided attempts to defend them.

How does one stop this?  Or is this just the nature of the beast, in the stairstep decline of civilization?  Who do you trust these days?

Postscript: Serendipitously, while writing and researching this post, an article on Zero Hedge was published about biases in Wikipedia.

 

Oldie but a goodie…

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plutarch#/media/File:Plutarch_of_Chaeronea-03.jpg; (Odysses) CC-BY 3.0

Listening to a few podcasts and reading a few articles around the ‘net, this seems to be popping up in a few places of late:

“An imbalance between rich and poor is the oldest and most fatal ailment of all republics.” – Plutarch

When you read of things like this (how the wealthiest are planning to survive), you wonder if the uber-wealthy are pushing their foot to the floor to have the republic drive over the cliff even faster.  The sad part about the article above is that is appears that some of the wealthy have given up, and rather take the prescription of ‘being nice’, they think they can survive the collapse of the republic.  Seems like a pretty dicey bet, given a) the weaponry that can be controlled by one person these days, b) the fragility of the financial system,  and c) historical precedent.

 

Back in the groove…

commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:We_Can_Do_It!_NARA_535413_-_Restoration_2.jpg; Public Domain

Back to running, back to the gym, back to reasonable bedtimes.   Back to a bit more of hard work.  Perhaps it is a serendipitous combination of listening to a wide range of folks, from Henry Rollins to Mr. Rodgers, and seeing the benefits – physical and psychological – of just getting things done.

To those who are slacking off (and to my future self, who may read these words!) get back on the horse, and stay with it!

Ad astra per aspera.

 

Best ever society

The miserable reality of the exponential function, own work, Public Domain.

Joe Rogan is a comic who has a well subscribed podcast (something like 16 million downloads a month), and he’s had everyone from Bernie Sanders to Cornell West to Jordan Peterson on. The list of guests is staggering, and credit should be given to him for his open mindedness and willingness to bring folks on who he doesn’t agree with, and who certainly don’t agree with each other.

One of his recent guests was Ben Shapiro.  Agree with him or not, he’s a smart guy, and does generally try to be civil.  Ben did state something which bothered me, not from a political standpoint, but from a technological and scientific one.  Paraphrasing a bit here, but he basically said that things are good, and probably the best they’ve every been for humanity.  This may be true, but like many others who have said “things are the best they’ve ever been!”, they’ve ignored the fact that there’s a good argument to be made that the core of this state of affairs has been based extraction of cheap resources and fossil fuels.

Ben’s a sharp guy, like many other folks on the right and left.   Yet very few of them seem to pay attention that there’s a footnote to our success, in America, and in the world.   It is comparable to seeing a happy and generous family living the American dream, but living on credit, or a windfall bonanza of an inheritance.  When that credit or windfall dries up, one wonders how happy and generous that same family might be.

You can’t outrun mathematics or physics.

I’ve been trying to listen to a lot of folks lately, from all ends of the political spectrum.  Very few seem to want to discuss this reality.  Why?