Tuesday, January 31, 2012

God of the Day

I'd like to introduce a new feature into In Progress. It follows the immensely popular "Quote of the Day". I suppose it was inspired by the question "Can you define the God you believe in?" in the post "Do You Believe in God?". An "Ungod of the Day" or "False Idol of the Day" could work equally as well as "the God you don't believe in". I realize God is about as popular as a 10,000 year old earth, but, since when has In Progress ever stooped to popularity. Anyway, I was perusing old blog entries, as I am wont to do, and found this short definition by Myk in response to a James' question. It seemed pretty inspired.
…the God that destroys all gods that we might ever want to use as cover or justification for our actions.      —Michael Harvey

Quote of the Day

This is a little different from our normal 'Quote of the Day'. I found this in the credits of the film Gosford Park. As you may recall Grosford Park by Robert Altman is (IMHO) an incredibly well done cross between Upstairs/Downstairs Downton Abbey and Agatha Christie. The movie spends quite a bit of time poking fun at the British titled class as incompetent in most real life exercises with the, perhaps, singular exception of the unflinching ability to follow tradition. In the credits, after all the actors, producers, set painters and electricians are acknowledged, comes the line:

Location Filming at Syon House by kind permission of His Grace
The Duke of Northumberland

Saturday, January 28, 2012

In Progress Submission Policy

Recently, we have seen In Progress articles on taxation, hurricanes, ontology, games, music, science, politics, religion and, frankly, a little bit of everything. We can do better than that.* The In Progress editorial staff is looking for new blood—strangers, such as yourselves, who come here…well, by bad search typing.

Guidelines for In Progress submissions
SUBMISSION:
We require submission. There is no hope of being punished published if there is no submission. If you follow the blog, you most likely can submit by simply posting. This will completely circumvent our editorial staff. If you do not follow, shame on you for two weeks. For your penance, go to the top left hand corner of the blog and click "Follow". Congratulations! You have just passed the technical, intelligence, and self-reliance part of the exam for new submitters. The remainder of the exam is completed with your first submission. We check if you correctly use the subjunctive conditional (or use punctuation at the end of sentences).

LENGTH
This is left to your discretion, but think of your readers, and that ADHD has recently been shortened to ADD. As a general rule we say, "no bigger than a bread box." Any submission containing exactly 1024 words including the word "defenestration" bypasses our editorial staff and is published immediately.

FORMATTING
Forematting is always welcome to stimulate interest, but will be lost when (and if) the article is brought to fruition on the site. Enjoy your cigarette. Avoid using Comic Sans. It is not funny.

AUTHOR BIOS
Unless you have won a Pulitzer or a Nobel, don't bother. However, if your name is S. Morganstern, knock yourself out.

PAYMENT
Submission is enough, but we accept any sort of gratuities. We will actually pay the author if your submission is original and later involved in copyright litigation.

ORIGINALITY
"Good artists borrow. Great artists steal." (No attribution)

TOPICS
Lorem Ipsum
Loren Greene
Loren Eiseley
Anything on the zombie apocalypse
The comparable brightness of cleaning
Other

FINAL THOUGHT
In Progress is competing with HuffingtonPost, TMZ, and PerezHilton as the most popular blog on the Web. Your post can put us over the top.

————
*I personally know 2 followers of this blog (or they should be) who are taking creative writing courses. It takes no time, only guts, to allow a work to be seen by someone other than your professor.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Poetry Corner

So Why Be So Hard on Vermont


In August 2011, Michele Bachman said Hurricane Irene was God's warning to curb excessive government spending. --News reports


We know that God's an all-powerful God
God's actions are not nonchalant.
We know he can punish whomever he wants.
So why be so hard on Vermont?

Yes, spending increases our deficit -- sure
Vermont, though, has not been avant
The rest of the country. We all spend a lot.
So why be so hard on Vermont?

Its mountains? Its hipsters? Its accent? Or what
Might tick off the Great Commandant?
We know we're all sinners; we spend and we spend.
So why be so hard on Vermont?

--Calvin Trillin

Quote of the Day

"When kids played Red Rover, they never asked me to come over."

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Bliss of Ignorance

There's an interesting paradox that emerges in any serious inquiry today: As we come to know more, knowledge of our ignorance also increases. Nowadays, we've come to realize that we know so little that, rather than even attempt some explanation, we have started to make things up: like dark matter (to explain gravitational rotation of galaxies that don't follow Newton's laws) and dark energy (to explain why, contrary to Einstein's theory of gravity, the universe's rate of expansion is accelerating and not decelerating). You might as well say that faeries are causing the universe's rate of expansion to accelerate.

I’m moving from the idea that, not only do we not know the final truth about things, but that we can’t know it. I’m not saying that it’s all pointless, or that we can’t improve our knowledge, but that we will never come face to face with the truth.

Nicholas of Cusa (1401-1464) was a German cardinal, philosopher, and church administrator. He came up with a mathematical analogy for this phenomenon. If truth is a perfect circle, our knowledge is a polygon. As the number of sides to the polygon increases, it more closely approximates the circle. But no polygon – no matter how many sides – actually coincides with the circle. Which led Nicholas to say, “Hence reason, which is not the truth, can never grasp the truth so exactly that it could not be grasped infinitely more accurately.”




(Nicholas had a lot of other cool ideas; like, as a circle gets bigger its curvature becomes less. A circle of infinite size is a straight line: And he was able to reason years before Copernicus that, because the universe had no boundaries, it had no fixed center, which ruled out the theory that the earth occupied that center. Instead, the earth was in motion. And since the earth was in motion, all our astronomical measurements were off at least slightly because they assumed a fixed observation point.)


Nicholas also recognized – and our legal system does the same – that something that is not the whole truth is not truth at all but is in some way false, just like a witness leaving out a critical detail that changes guilt into innocence. Because we do not comprehend the totality of the universe, we, in a sense, comprehend nothing.



Of course, these ideas are not new. Way back when, Socrates said, “I know nothing except the fact of my ignorance.” Friedrich Nietzsche made Nicholas’ conclusion explicit: “Parmenides said, ‘one cannot think of what is not’; we are at the other extreme, and say what can be thought of must certainly be a fiction.” Wallace Stevens adds, “The final belief is to believe in a fiction, which you know to be a fiction, there being nothing else. The exquisite truth is to know that it is a fiction and that you believe in it willingly.” This, for Stevens, however, is not an unhappy state: “It is the unknown that excites the ardor of scholars, who, in the known alone, would shrivel up with boredom.”



* * *



Rationalists, wearing square hats,
Think, in square rooms,
Looking at the floor,
Looking at the ceiling.
They confine themselves
To right-angled triangles.
If they tried rhomboids,
Cones, waving lines, ellipses --
As, for example, the ellipse of the half-moon --
Rationalists would wear sombreros.

Wallace Stevens


Used Rock

Alabama Shakes will be releasing their first album in April.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Play

Despite the tepid response to games on In Progress, I still trust that our 'sense of play' is our signature trait. In that vein I must announce that China has apparently superseded Sardinia as the capital of Hide-and-Seek. Here are a couple of players who capture the spirit of the game.

This first boy was determined to squeeze into a great hiding place, but couldn't squeeze out.
His friends and passers-by attempted to release him but eventually, after the boy had been stuck for two hours, firefighters were called. In order to release the boy firefighters had to enter one of the buildings and break a hole in the wall near to where the youngster was trapped. He was eventually freed after three hours and was found to be uninjured. 
This boy found an even more challenging place to hide.
A seven-year-old boy is rescued by firefighters after playing hide and seek with friends on a roof in Xiamen, Fujian Province, China. Trying to find a good hiding place, the boy climbed over the edge of the seven-story building and balanced on a thin metal protuberance sticking out of the wall. However, he then found that he was unable to climb back up again and ended up stuck there for nearly an hour before being rescued by firefighters. In order to rescue the boy firefighters lowered themselves down from the roof to secure a rope around the boy. They then pulled him up to safety.
Despite their clever hiding places, both children, reportedly, did not make it to base in time and thus, sadly, were 'caught'.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The U.S. Income Tax Code is NOT too complex

President Obama delivers a State of the Union address today. He will probably mention the current inequity of tax rates among the wealthy and the not-so-wealthy. Changing that is a good thing. If he calls for tax reform, I think that is a mistake. This is a huge topic which I am going to simplify (in hope that it will be read), falling into the same error as those (smart people) who call for a less complex code.

The U.S. Income Tax Code is complex for two reasons:
1. Income is complex. Accounting translates human activity into numbers. It is practically miraculous in how well it works, indeed, that it works at all, but is understandably complex. It is not perfect as seen by the credit default swaps debacle or its difficulty to detect pyramid schemes, but generally it works. You could make income tax as simple as possible by saying that it is just a percentage of income, but you still have all the complexity of dealing with income.

2. The tax code is a low-overhead method for the federal government to encourage certain behavior. From drilling oil wells, to lowering rents, to encouraging education, the tax code does not require expensive, inefficient government agencies and services. It just offers tax benefits and presto!, people respond. (I was going to give an example with depreciation of apartment buildings, but I will save any further explanation to the comments if readers are interested.)

Throughout history, every change of income tax law has been called 'Tax Reform', and every change of income tax law has made it more complex—by spawning behavior which was unforeseen by the writers of the legislation. Loopholes had to be filled, exceptions had to be made. Another problem with 'Tax Reform' has always been special interest groups, which are not seen as beneficial behavior for the nation, but need to be satisfied in order to get the legislation passed.

As contradictory as it sounds, perhaps the best reform is to keep the code as it is. This allows taxpayers to get familiar with the law. Change is often upsetting, and this is true in tax law. However, I also understand that society changes, different behavior is wanted, and perceived inequities need to be corrected. There are times when small changes in the law are an advantage to society.

And I'm not even going to address those 'reformers' who think that reading a chart with different tax rates on it is complex. That's like saying a book is too complex because its too difficult to turn to page 53. Anyone who can't find or calculate their tax rate must be either a criminal or a child laborer.

It's not necessarily bad to tweak the tax code, but people who advocate 'Income Tax Reform' really need to know what they are proposing. Plus, the U.S. Income Tax Code is actually very simple—just file a 1040EZ.

Monday, January 23, 2012

S. Morgenstern Classic to be Remade!

http://entertainment.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2012/01/23/10217139-princess-bride-remake-inconceivable

Just kidding, but what a rumor!

It's a Little Bit of Everything

I post this in response to Jim's blog Do You Believe in God?

As the poet says: It's not some message written in the dark, Or some truth that no one's seen, It's a little bit of everything.





Dawes - A Little Bit Of Everything

With his back against the San Francisco traffic,
On the bridge's side that faces towards the jail,
Setting out to join a demographic,
He hoists his first leg up over the rail.
A phone call's made,
Police cars show up quickly.
The sergeant slams his passenger door.
He says, "Hey son why don't you talk through this with me,
Just tell me what you're doing it for."

"Oh, it's a little bit of everything,
It's the mountains,
It's the fog,
It's the news at six o'clock,
It's the death of my first dog,
It's the angels up above me,
It's the song that they don't sing,
It's a little bit of everything."

There's an older man who stands in a buffet line,
He is smiling and he's holding out his plate,
And the further he looks back into his timeline,
That hard road always led him to today.
Making up for when his bright future had left him,
Making up for the fact that his only son is gone,
And letting everything out once, His server asks him,
"Have you figured out yet, what it is you want?"

"I want a little bit of everything,
The biscuits and the beans,
Whatever helps me to forget about
The things that brought me to my knees,
So pile on those mashed potatoes,
And an extra chicken wing,
I'm having a little bit of everything."

Somewhere a pretty girl is writing invitations,
To a wedding she has scheduled for the fall,
Her man says, "Baby, can I make an observation?
You don't seem to be having any fun at all."
She said, "You just worry about your groomsmen and your shirt-size,
And rest assured that this is making me feel good,
I think that love is so much easier than you realize,
If you can give yourself to someone,
Then you should."

"Cause it's a little bit of everything,
The way you choke, the way you ache,
It is getting up before you,
So I can watch you as you wake.
So on that day in late September,
It's not some stupid little ring,
I'm gettin' a little bit of everything."

Oh, it's a little bit of everything,
It's the matador and the bull,
It's the suggested daily dosage,
It is the red moon when it's full.
All these psychics and these doctors,
They're all right and they're all wrong,
It's like trying to make out every word,
When they should simply hum along,
It's not some message written in the dark,
Or some truth that no one's seen,
It's a little bit of everything.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Do You Believe in God?

This question has perhaps caused more confusion and discord than any other. Except for those whose concept of God is unchanged since childhood, there are almost as many ideas of God as there are people. A similar question might be, "Do you believe in your favorite color?" And, more often than not, the questioner is really asking, "Do you believe in my God?" Which makes my silly analogy, "Do you believe in my favorite color?" I'm afraid the chance for a meaningful response approaches zero at this point.

Some definitions of God are amazingly insightful; some are as complex as the most sophisticated scientific concepts and can only be understood after much dedicated study; some are inspiring; some offer new philosophical ways of interpreting phenomena. All of them attempt to give meaning to the human condition. Even in the Christian, Judaic, and Islamic traditions, there are many definitions of God. Karen Armstrong wrote about those many different and changing definitions in an excellent book called The History of God.

A less confusing question may be, "Can you define the God you believe in?" or "Can you define the God you do not believe in?"

In Reason and Responsibilitywhich is a pretty good collection of introductory philosophical essays, there is a famous parable by Antony Flew, a notable atheistic philosopher of the late 20th century.
Once upon a time two explorers came upon a clearing in the jungle. In the clearing were growing many flowers and many weeds. One explorer says, 'Some gardener must tend this plot.' So they pitch their tents and set a watch. No gardener is ever seen. 'But perhaps he is an invisible gardener.' So they set up a barbed-wire fence. They electrify it. They patrol with bloodhounds. (For they remember how H. G. Wells's The Invisible Man could be both smelt and touched though he could not be seen.) But no shrieks ever suggest that some intruder has received a shock. No movements of the wire ever betray an invisible climber. The bloodhounds never give cry. Yet still the Believer is not convinced. 'But there is a gardener, invisible, intangible, insensible to electric shocks, a gardener who has no scent and makes no sound, a gardener who comes secretly to look after the garden which he loves.' At last the Skeptic despairs, 'But what remains of your original assertion? Just how does what you call an invisible, intangible, eternally elusive gardener differ from an imaginary gardener or even from no gardener at all?'
There is a not so famous response by Christian theologian John Frame which I find less interesting and am not going to lengthen this post with, but which can be read here. It's the second parable.

Flew, with much notoriety in philosophical circles, converted to a deist late in life and wrote a second parable. (He credited his move to deism to new scientific discoveries, similar to Martin's blog entry and study of the Fine-tuning question.)
He tells the story of a cell phone that washes ashore on a remote island inhabited by primitive people, who were otherwise out of touch with modern civilizations.  The natives there play with the numbers on the phone, and when they hear different voices coming out of the little box, the assumption they make is that the box itself is making all the noises.  The tribe has some clever scientists who are able to replicate this box that had washed ashore, and they hear the same voices.  They come to the conclusion that the obvious is true, namely that the voices are merely properties of the device.
Then the great sage of the tribe suggests that the voices that are similar to the tribe's own but coming in a different language were not found simply in the little box, but that they were coming from afar off, from real people, not from parts of this little box, and argued that this consideration should be explored as a real possibility.  However, the tribal "scientists" refused to consider it at all.  They remained close-minded -- as many modern thinkers have been totally close-minded to any possibility to the existence of God and are forced to argue that life on this planet has arisen spontaneously by chance, and that even the so-called laws of nature with which science works are lawless in themselves.  The examination of the nature and the properties of things, or the "what" questions have not been able to answer the "why" questions, and particularly the "how" questions of any one thing's existence or how life has come to pass. 
I'm not sure this parable is better than the first. Personally, I remember Flew's first parable slightly differently. Here is my version:
Once upon a time two explorers came upon a clearing in the jungle. In the clearing was an extraordinary garden, beautiful with incredible plants and flowers. One explorer says, 'Some gardener must tend this plot.' So they pitch their tents and set a watch. No gardener is ever seen. The two continue their discussion as detailed above about how there is no evidence that a gardener exists. As they give up and prepare to move on, they notice some weeds and dead flowers in the garden. The one says to the other, "Well, before we go why don't we just clean this up a bit.", and they do. 
Instead of asking the question, "Do you believe in God?", perhaps a more meaningful one would be, "How can we bring more justice and kindness into the world?"

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Campaign Advice from Sam Harris to Mitt Romney

I stole this from Andrew Sullivan's blog, who stole it from Sam Harris's blog. This is Harris's suggestion as to what Mitt the Mormon might say to win over Republican evangelicals:

Let me make one thing bsolutely clear to you: I believe what you believe. Your God is my God. I believe that Jesus Christ was the Messiah and the Son of God, crucified for our sins, and resurrected for our salvation. And I believe that He will return to earth to judge the living and the dead.

But my Church offers a further revelation: We believe that when Jesus Christ returns to earth, He will return, not to Jerusalem, or to Baghdad, but to this great nation—and His first stop will be Jackson County, Missouri. The LDS Church teaches that the Garden of Eden itself was in Missouri! Friends, it is a marvelous vision. Some Christians profess not to like this teaching. But I ask you, where would you rather the Garden of Eden be, in the great state of Missouri or in some hellhole in the Middle East?

Monday, January 16, 2012

Hidden in this picture

Yesterday, a few of us got together to decide mother's fate and play a few tunes. One of the tunes was "I Shall be Released." We sounded sort of like this. How many musicians can you name in the picture?

Use the comments. You get a couple of hints at the beginning.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The universe is growing mass!!!

 …or is our unit of measure shrinking?
…holding her hand on the top of her head to feel which way it was growing
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
There are real problems in living in the same universe you are trying to measure. The French Academy of Sciences in 1791 sought to put an end to the myriad standards of measurement in every other French town and set one standard "for all people, for all time." Over time these standards have been untied from a physical artifact, which the French never really wanted in the first place, to what, we hope, are constants.

For example a meter was intended to be one ten-milllionth of the distance from the North Pole to the equator. But in 1983, the relationship between the meter and the speed of light was officially inverted, with the meter being redefined as “the length of the path travelled by light in vacuum during a time interval of 1/299,792,458 of a second.” (The second, in turn, being defined by certain fundamental properties of the cesium 133 atom.)

Of the seven fundamental metric units — the kilogram, meter, second, ampere, kelvin, mole, and candela — only the kilogram is still dependent on a physical artifact.
The American prototype is one of some four dozen such national standards around the world, and each of those, in turn, is accountable to an even higher authority: a regal artifact called the international prototype kilogram. Familiarly known as Le Grand K and held in a vault just outside of Paris under three bell jars, it dates back to the 1880s, when it was forged by the British metallurgist George Matthey from an alloy of nine-tenths platinum and one-tenth iridium. As a metric unit, the kilogram is “equal to the mass of the international prototype,” according to the official definition. In other words, as metrologists like to point out, it has the remarkable property of never gaining or losing mass. By definition, any physical change to it alters the mass of everything in the cosmos. 
Aside from a yearly ceremonial peek inside its vault, which can be unlocked only with three keys held by three different officials, the prototype goes unmolested for decades. Yet every 40 years or so, protocol requires that it be washed with alcohol, dried with a chamois cloth, given a steam bath, allowed to air dry, and then weighed against the freshly scrubbed national standards, all transported to France. It is also compared to six témoins (witnesses), nominally identical cylinders that are stored in the vault alongside the prototype. The instruments used to make these comparisons are phenomenally precise, capable of measuring differences of 0.0000001 percent, or one part in 1 billion. But comparisons since the 1940s have revealed a troublesome drift. Relative to the témoins and to the national standards, Le Grand K has been losing weight — or, by the definition of mass under the metric system, the rest of the universe has been getting fatter. The most recent comparison, in 1988, found a discrepancy as large as five-hundredths of a milligram, a bit less than the weight of a dust speck, between Le Grand K and its official underlings.
Here is a fascinating history of the search for a universal, immutable standard for the kilogram.

[This is referenced on Kottke, but I wanted to spread the fascination.]

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

No New Year's resolutions, please!

Did you make your New Year's resolutions? Lose weight?… work out?… learn a new language?… spend more time with loved ones?… contribute to the blog?

Don't do it!!!

Think about it. What were last year's resolutions? the year before that? Have you ever kept even one resolution? New Year's resolutions fall under the same category as worrying about your kid being abducted, or being killed by a terrorist (unless you are an Iranian scientist). They are fantasies of a sick mind out of touch with reality. Remember what Einstein said about insanity.

As further proof of the evils of New Year's resolutions, I give you a quote offered on this blog by James (via David Foster Wallace)
...a foible of neurology that keeps us from meeting our own high standards consistently can put us in a terrible bind. Our options are to (a) try, fail, and struggle to avoid becoming utterly defeated; (b) fail to try and struggle with self-loathing; (c) try with every ounce of effort we can summon, succeed, and leave ourselves too exhausted to succeed again, or to want to try; (d) lower our standards and meet them, but struggle with the thought that we have cheated ourselves and the world of our best.
There are many reasons why you will not keep your resolution, but I'll leave that to the psychologists. But I will offer you an alternative—New Day's resolution!

A New Day's resolution has the following characteristics:
  • It is singular. No more than one resolution per day. 
  • It is specific. No french fries today… run 2 miles at lunch time… make your to-do lists in French today … visit mom/grandma… put your favorite joke on the blog. 
  • It is today. …Duh. 
  • It is doable. Unless some unforeseen tragedy happens, such as being mistaken for an Iranian scientist, you have the time, money, and ability to do it. 
  • It makes you feel good. Barring an unforeseen tragedy you will accomplish it so (a) you don't become utterly defeated; (b) you try the same day you make the resolution so there is no self loathing for lack of trying ; (c) it wasn't that hard, so you're not burnt out; (d) your standards are just as high since this was just a little boulder in that big mountain of standards. 
My New Year's resolution is 'I will make no New Year's resolution this year' which may or may not be resolved in a Hofstadter paradox. But even if I don't keep my resolution (like everyone else), I'll have my New Day(s)'s resolutions to thank.

Happy New Day!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Saturday, January 7, 2012

The Appeal of Conspiracy Theories

Over the break a friend of mine decided to return a Roethlisberger jersey because of his well-publicized character concerns, and exchanged it for a Rashard Mendenhall jersey, which then resulted in another (very minor) crisis of conscience after she remembered his controversial tweets following the assassination of Osama Bin Laden last year. The brief scandal, you may remember, involved Mendenhall's doubt that Bin Laden was responsible for 9-11, as well as his implying that the US government may have had a hand in the attacks. It will be a great day for the sport of football when players are replaced by genital-less cyborgs who are programmed to tweet only about weather forecasts.

Conspiracy theories are both fascinating and infuriating to me. I used to be shocked by how many intelligent, well-educated, and skeptical people I met who believed in various degrees of the 9-11 "truth" movement (which taught me, once again, how solipsistic it is to assume everyone agrees upon the obvious facts). But when I read that the percentage of liberals who identify with some aspects of Trutherism is similar to the percentage of conservatives who identify with the Birther movement, I began to understand that wacky conspiracy theories are dependent less on political affiliation and intelligence than they are on our pattern-seeking psychology.

Errol Morris, whose work often explores the countless interpretations of historical knowledge, directed a short piece in the Times about a popular JFK conspiracy. It features footage of a sinister man holding an open umbrella mere yards from where the president was shot. Why was his umbrella open? It was a sunny day, not a cloud in the sky. Was he a spotter? Was he wielding some sort of hidden gun? Could he have been the second gunman? His behavior seems so nefarious, the coincidences seem too astronomical, that you just can't believe this guy wasn't in some way part of the assassination. The short six-minute documentary is a tremendous meditation on why our brains are seduced by conspiracies. There's also an amazing quote by Norman Mailer in there about how history is a lot like Quantum Mechanics.

After watching it, read Errol Morris' interview with Stephen King whose latest novel, 11-23-63, was recently released.


Friday, January 6, 2012

Some fundamental changes coming our way?

I like to say (paraphrasing Richard Feynman) that science is always wrong. It's more memorable than saying science is never completely correct. Sometimes this is demonstrated dramatically as when neutrinos are measured traveling faster than the speed of light. Whether these measurements will stand up is still in question, but here is a well written, well reasoned article on the repercussions of OPERA's Gran Sasso neutrino experiment. Scientists realize we have gathered a lot of truth about the world. Let's not throw that out, but we may have to tweak it a bit.

However, says Chris Lee the author of the article, two papers, which assume the data from OPERA is correct, go on to conclude that fundamental and far reaching changes would have to be made to how we understand nature—perhaps even as deep as throwing out the law of conservation of energy and momentum. That doesn't sound like a tweak. Lee seems to be saying that OPERA's results can not be accepted by science at this time. It is just too big a leap. Anyway, the article seems pretty good.

Edit: Science, like the rest of life, is quite humorous. It was Pauli and his emphasis on the conservation of energy and momentum that led to his prediction that neutrinos exist in the first place!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

People need to play more party games

When I read news stories such as

8th-grader killed by Texas police had pellet gun

where two police officers shot and killed a 12 year old boy because he had a pellet gun in school, and
where a women shot and killed an burglar with a 12-gauge shot gun because she was afraid for her baby, I've got to believe people aren't playing enough party games like Scruples or Taboo. 

Round One: You're a police officer and are called to a school where you're told a 12 year old may have a gun. Do you: 
a. Talk to the boy until the armored SWAT team arrives with rubber bullets.
b. Use your tear gas.
c. Find out if he needs help with his homework.
d. Fire a warning shot.
e. Kill the twerp. You were enjoying coffee and donuts before the call came in. 

Round Two: You're a young mother with a 3-month old son and hear someone knock on the door and then break it in. Do you:
a. Shout out that you are a U.S. Navy Seal and have an AK-47 aimed at their naughty bits. 
b. Tell the intruder that he's going to have to pay for the door. 
c. Scare them away by making loud barking sounds.
d. Prepare boiling water on the stove and marbles on the floor.
e. Call 911 and, if they say "protect your baby", kill the first person you see by unloading a 12-gauge shot gun at them. 

Anyone with any familiarity with party games knows that in both cases choice "e" will never get you any points…well, maybe, if you're playing in Texas or Oklahoma.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Iowa results in! And the Winner is:




http://www.theonion.com/articles/600pound-butter-cow-sculpture-wins-iowa-caucus,26941/

MIT for free

Didn't get into MIT? No worries. Beginning sometime this spring MIT will offer a portfolio of courses for free. Actually, they already do this with MIT's OpenCourseWare initiative. Other schools, such as Yale and Stanford also have free online courses, many of them on iTunes. Here is one site I found which lists many of the courses available for free by colleges and universities.

MIT's new interactive online learning platform is called MITx. It differs from other online offerings as it will:
  • organize and present course material to enable students to learn at their own pace
  • feature interactivity, online laboratories and student-to-student communication
  • allow for the individual assessment of any student’s work and allow students who demonstrate their mastery of subjects to earn a certificate of completion awarded by MITx
  • operate on an open-source, scalable software infrastructure in order to make it continuously improving and readily available to other educational institutions.

The "certificate of completion" or credential will not be the same as MIT credit or degree, but will verify that the course material was mastered. There will also be a nominal fee for getting the certificate. Students at MIT may also use MITx in ways that supplement their classes.

Colleges and universities will continue to extract a huge price for their degrees, but if you are into learning, you can learn like the big boys and do it for free.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Pictures from Steve and Jo's Wedding







The Wedding

For those that missed it or had such a good time that they have misplaced it, the wedding was a stupendously successful celebration. Congratulations to Steve and Jo!

It's been implied that, in this world of Facebook and Twitter, nothing longer than a few paragraphs will be read on this blog, so I will just list some of the highlights:

  • Just like the werewolf's hair, the setting was perfect. This includes the building, the location, the decorations, and the trail. 
  • Getting everything started with the contradance was a stroke of genius. Bill, Pete and I took our turns as the opposite sex. 
  • The bride and groom were radiant. As in the Princess Bride, I'm glossing over the wedding preparations, but I must mention the next point. 
  • The food and drink were embarrassingly good. The amount of time and effort Steve and Jo made in preparation of the ceremony must have been staggering.  
  • There was a special guest appearance by Jackson, a miracle by no stretch of the imagination. 
  • Pretty much anything you could imagine that could happen on a dance floor, happened, including a taste of break dancing. 
  • I think Sean picked up a couple of eligible sweet young Maine maidens. 
  • The Rhumb Line lived up to its name, and then some, with exercise room, outdoor hot tub, and free breakfast. I mean, "included."
  • Kennebunkport was very nice as long as you kept moving. 
  • I, personally, was entertained and educated by John and Ellen during the long ride up and back from Harrisburg. We pretty much touched on every topic. I got to learn about 17th century America and England from John and enjoyed some outstanding writing by Ellen. 
  • In usual family fashion, everything was well planned and organized while mindful of play. 
  • The wedding provided moments of poignancy, camaraderie, and hilarity. Thank you Steve and Jo and everyone who brought their festive imaginations. And as far as I know, there were no injuries!