Friday, October 29, 2010

Lies, Damned Lies, and Medical Science.

In 2001, rumors were circulating in Greek hospitals that surgery residents, eager to rack up scalpel time, were falsely diagnosing hapless Albanian immigrants with appendicitis. At the University of Ioannina medical school’s teaching hospital, a newly minted doctor named Athina Tatsioni was discussing the rumors with colleagues when a professor who had overheard asked her if she’d like to try to prove whether they were true—he seemed to be almost daring her.

Medicine and medical science has been really bad over the years. I mean we are a bit better than ancient Greece to the 19th century when Medical Science was actually harmful, and you'd be more likely to die if you saw a doctor than if you didn't. As well as the hugely terrible issues of hygiene and the cutting off of limbs all willy-nilly. We've gotten really good at cutting people and having them live. And medicine managed to turn the tables and become quite useful, but it's still terrible science at times, with findings of rather massive points being flatly wrong. There were hundreds of studies showing the efficacy of antidepressants. Very reciently GlaxoSmithKline was fined $750 million dollars because they made Paxil that didn't work.

Some of the antidepressant Paxil CR produced at the plant was ineffective because a layer of active ingredient split from a layer of a barrier chemical during manufacturing, the government said, and some lots contained only the barrier chemical.

But, this seems to ignore the rather interesting fact that Paxil, even when made properly, doesn't work. It makes me happy that biology is working on cures for things like vaccines for HIV and cancer. If medicine worked on it it might end up being cured by prayer. Which a couple terribly constructed studies have said is effective in limited areas (one of 20 factors they checked for with a 95% confidence (one should pass by random chance)).

Saturday, October 23, 2010

A Needle in a Haystack: preterpossible

I needed a word that didn't exist. So I made it up. Preter meaning beyond but connoting that it might be within the realm of the possible. Finding a needle in a haystack is a common idiom. Although, I think the Mythbusters should check it, because beyond magnets, reason tells me the needle being far more dense will end up at the bottom of the haystack rather easily. It might actually just be slightly hard to see the needle but not remotely hard to find it. Get a needle an inch or two long, and it might be downright easy. In any event:

Preterpossible: Impossible, with the possibility of just being really really hard.
It's preterpossible to break 4092 bit encryption.
It's preterpossible to prove an optimal solution to a 100,000 node TSP.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Theunis, Catholicism, and the history of religion.

Theunis in the Bill Donohue post has been making some claims.

Loving Jesus etc. I have repeatedly spoken of Christianity in the third person. Jesus, That wasn't even his name, never claimed to be the GOD of the Jews. It took the RCC +300 years to elevate him to that status. Even the Jews and Muslims acknowledge him as a great teacher, no more.
Well, there's certainly parts of the Bible where it clearly says that Jesus is equal to God. These are largely late Trinitarian additions.

How many times must I repeat that the RCC persecuted Christians. They started the RCC not Christianity. Who made Peter a martyr?. Who set themselves up as THE ultimate, The RCC not Christians.
Certainly the church was not kind to heretics. It doesn't make them non-Christians. You're after all selecting a group of Christians you disagree with and saying that their beliefs don't count.

Wasn't Emmanuel (Jesus) one of the greatest Psychologists/Teachers of his time ?

No. And frankly just because Isaiah says that the coming Messiah will be called Emmanuel and instead the character is name Jesus, doesn't mean the name was changed. It means the prophecy was wrong.

The Jews, downtrodden as they were, were given new hope. The Jewish Government/King actually started the persecutions because they feared they would lose power over their subjects.
There's plenty of persecution to go around in the ancient world.

The Romans in their declining years saw the power they could again grasp by controlling the people and the RCC, their official organ, did their bidding.
That's a pretty terrible understanding of the fall of the Roman empire. The Romans suffered fifty years of civil war during which all of the emperors were assassinated one after another followed by a massive economic collapse. The best way to get out of such a thing is through a totalitarian state. Much like the Nazis helped Germany recover after the fall of the Weimar Republic, the totalitarian state tried to save Rome. However after the first tyrant, the Christians took over and helped ram it into the ground again. The RCC wasn't the last ditch effort of Rome it was just mostly dumb luck. Followed by the Holy Roman Empire which was neither Holy, Roman, or an Empire. But, the Christians basically lucked into control of a dying state and helped it stay that way for the thousand years of the dark ages.

Can we as humans start again and and with an open mind read what is actually there (although this is difficult in view of the edits and distortions) and not interpret it to suit ourselves.
 We could. But why bother? Even a perfect copy of a work of fiction is a work of fiction. Even a perfectly interpreted work of fiction is a work of fiction.

Godlike beings, in comparison to the people of that time, is a fact recorded in history by many diverse cultures and peoples, sometimes couched in very esoteric language which was more appropriate to that culture and their language of the time.
There's no indication of anything. The Bible has very little real history in it, and has even less Godlike insights. It's basically the book that a bunch of bronze and iron age nomads would write.

I am a realist. I love the truth. When necessary I test for what is motivating the statement.
You're a truth loving realist and you think the Bible was written by Godlike beings? Why? 

I believe anyone can have his beliefs/opinions. To be fanatical, fight over it, is nonsensical and detrimental to inner peace.

 I believe anybody can have beliefs and opinions on account of the fact that that's basic reality. No. To be confused about what reality is can be detrimental to inner peace. The indicators suggest that Fundamentalists are the most at peace with their beliefs, followed by the atheists, and then the mainstream Christians.

I have not in any one instance defended Christianity or any other persons beliefs, I have only indicated some facts that life has presented me with.

I didn't take issue with your lack of defense. I took issue with your statement that Roman Catholics aren't Christians.

That Donahue and the RCC are fanatics is a fact, but to fight with them is only adding fuel to the fire which could engulf and destroy both parties.

Only if you were so silly as to lose. The idea that because one argues against a pompous windbag  that it's going to be somehow an even fight is absurd. When I, or many other atheists, argue with religion and religionists it's basically spearing fish in a barrel. It's really not that hard to win.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Mandelbrot died. And the world is a little dimmer.

Mandelbrot was one of the greats. He pretty much turned fractals into something math can discuss, and as it's one of the more important ideas of mathematics, it's one of the greater losses. I was just saying the other day that Mandelbrot is perhaps the most important mathematician of the 20th century.

Survivor, physics, rainbows and miracles.

So on last week's episode of Survivor one of the players revealed a touching heartwarming story about how he knew it was all okay after his father died. He was driving and looked in his rear view mirror and the back of his truck was filled with a rainbow, and he turned around and didn't see anything.

"Right there was when I knew that my dad was good."

Now, let's apply what we know from physics to unweave this story. Why would you be able to see a rainbow in your rear view mirror but not looking directly at the bed of your truck?

Well, because rainbows consist of numerous refraction and reflections of the sun among many various drops of water, within the drop themselves. And there's a bow that appears at your feet when you look down (usually with a hose you can see them down there) but they only occur when you look down at a specific angle (42°). And this is what changes dramatically between looking behind you and looking in the rear view mirror, the angle at which the light is is being reflected from the sun. Shift to less steep angle and the rainbow might not be there (and the angle seems spot on considering the angle from the truck bed to rear view mirror).. Because rainbows live in light, not in space. This is no stranger than you being able to see the sun by looking behind you but not seeing it in your rear view mirror.

Just as you can see what looks like like a wet road on a hot day quickly drying, some hundred feet ahead of you, while you're driving. But if you look straight down, you'll never see it look remotely shiny (the heat causes the light to refract and if it goes through enough atmosphere you'll see the sky where the road should be).

See, his father is just actually dead, and a rainbow doesn't change that. While the story isn't the sort of cheer you up magic one would claim, the rainbow is just as pretty as it ever was.. Science isn't cold. Rainbows are pretty and dead people are really dead. Science is about reality.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Unweave a Rainbow, Poe and Science

Keats has a rather famous line in Lamia about cold science. Note that philosophy here refers to natural philosophy which was what science was called prior to about 1900 and awful is in the sense of fills with awe and more modernly would be awesome.

...                             Do not all charms fly
At the mere touch of cold philosophy?
here was an awful rainbow once in heaven:
We know her woof, her texture; she is given
In the dull catalogue of common things.
Philosophy will clip an Angel's wings, 
Conquer all mysteries by rule and line,
Empty the haunted air, and gnomed mine—
Unweave a rainbow, as it erewhile made
The tender-person'd Lamia melt into a shade.

 Poe wrote a sonnet along these lines, To Science:
Science! true daughter of Old Time thou art!
    Who alterest all things with thy peering eyes.
Why preyest thou thus upon the poet's heart,
    Vulture, whose wings are dull realities?
How should he love thee? or how deem thee wise,
     Who wouldst not leave him in his wandering
To seek for treasure in the jewelled skies,
    Albeit he soared with an undaunted wing?
Hast thou not dragged Diana from her car?
    And driven the Hamadryad from the wood
To seek a shelter in some happier star?
    Hast thou not torn the Naiad from her flood,
The Elfin from the green grass, and from me
The summer dream beneath the tamarind tree?

And there are modern day iterations of this  line of thought, notably the Insane Clown Posse's song Miracles:

I see miracles all around me
Stop and look around, it’s all astounding
Water, fire, air and dirt
Fucking magnets, how do they work?
And I don’t wanna talk to a scientist
Y’all motherfuckers lying, and getting me pissed

And these lines of thought are simply backwards. It's one thing to be stunned by the awesomeness of nature, but it isn't surface deep. If you understand how awesome it is, there's another layer of awesome underneath and seems to be awesome all the way down. It's isn't Vultures who wings are dull realities, but rather the Wright brothers looking at the wings of turkey vultures and noticing how they curl and use the idea to make the first really functional airplane. "How should he love thee? or how deem thee wise." how can't you? It's a great solution to a hard problem and nature had a 4 billion year head start. That somehow rainbows become less magical when you understand them. There's beauty in the understanding and that's added to the beauty of the thing.

I daresay some of this is just an understanding from religion. That religion is widely held to be a mysterious and wonderful thing. but everybody knows it's hollow and if you actually look at it you'll find that the emperor's new clothes aren't as fine and elegant as you've heard. That if you think of mystery by analogy to fake mystery and beauty with analogy to fake beauty, then it seems like all charms fly at the touch of cold philosophy, but in reality only fake charms fly when put to some basic questions. Real beauty however is magnified, the beauty of a butterfly's wing gives us great wisdom as to how to make non-volatile displays for next generation devices, and something as common as a spider building a web is a source of awe.

Looking at the world, finds beauty in abundance but God in nothing. And when you cast your wonderment in terms of the supernatural that things are either magic or they shit, then you've so grossly misapprehended reality to suppose that understanding that clam shells are really super strong cold ceramic technology with cross spaced fragments to prevent cracking and built by a decentralized process that looks like half recipe and half dance with proteins in lock step with unknown partners.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The movie, The Prophecy, and Islam.

For those who never saw it (like myself) the movie the Prophecy is a religiously filled adventure sort of movie where the Angel Gabriel launched a second rebellion of heaven and started a supernatural war. Much like an extension of the Book of Enoch (which isn't in the Bible but is where the rebellion of Heaven comes from) in that the angel Gabriel becomes a free agent, in a rebellion against God.

Interestingly, if one holds this as plausible theology (a huge stretch from the ground floor, but not for religion in general) it offers a rather novel criticism of Islam. If Gabriel rebelled against God, then the cornerstone of Islam could be entirely true and the result of absolutely no bad faith by any Muslim, and yet an evil religious anti-god mockery. The central story of Islam is that the Koran is the direct, unaltered work of God, as dictated by God through the angel Gabriel. Well, if the angel Gabriel was a free agent and didn't really speak for God, then he could have just invented the Muslim faith for shits and giggles, and claimed to speak for God. Likewise couldn't the Christians just claim that all Muhammad really knew was that he was talking to an angel who claimed to be Gabriel who claimed to speak for God. There's certainly a rather ready theological foundational attack against Islam by actually claiming it was invented by the Devil and mean it quite honestly. After all, how does one verify that the angel you are talking to is really who he claims he is and is speaking for who he claims to be speaking for? Since all of Islam is predicated on this claim, can't you undermine it by noting that the angel could have been lying. Then you'd establish that all of Islam and by extension all Muslims and Muhammad himself could all be perfectly good people and simply lead astray by the Prince of Lies. Since the story at the core of the Koran demands that the Koran isn't a first hand account of God but rather a third hand account, you could claim that Islam is false but all believers are simply mislead.

Yeah, I understand that the above is blasphemy and by the Hadith the clear punishment is my death. But, is it a justifiable thing because the entire belief is predicated on whether or not a particular angel was telling the truth, and there's plenty of pre-Islamic angelology which say that some angels are less than truthful. One could perhaps say that if the Koran was dictated by God that such concerns would be moot and God doesn't lie yadda yadda, but the interjection of an Angel messenger adds a rather amusing variable to be attacked epistemologically, how do you know that the angel was really Gabriel, and that he was really talking for God?

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Bill Donahue

Bill Donahue (the above is not intended for you to watch but to reference so you know who he is) is a jackass with a computer and like ten guys in a damn room whose entire job is to go apoplectic and antidisestablishmentarianistically react to any perceived slight of the Catholic Church.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Phelps v. Snyder heard by the Supreme Court.

I thought this case would have been settled in favor of the Phelpses a long time ago. But, hopefully it will be heard by the Supreme court and they will finally give the Phelps their justice.

The Phelps were doing their regular thing and protesting the funeral of a recently dead war vet. With the typical array of "God Hate Fags" and "Thank God For Iraq" signs. The father of the deceased saw the signs later after the funeral on the news and was distraught and sued the Phelps family and won an 11 million dollar judgment.

So at hand is whether the courts as an arm of the government have the right to punish the Phelps family solely on the content of their speech. At issue is whether the dissemination of unpopular speech is permitted if it hurts somebody's feelings.  That's obviously not something that should ever stop free speech.

I get some things like when free speech causes serious danger like yelling "Fire" in a theater or with regards to volume of the speech. You can't drive around a neighborhood in the middle of the night with a megaphone, regardless of the content of the speech. Here, what is at issue is entirely the content of the speech. Can you say things that make people feel bad. I hope you can, because I do that all the time. Am I really open to a lawsuit if I mock zombie Jesus and hurt somebody feelings?

Edit: bad verbage. 

Perpetual Motion and the Singularity.

Many futurists and transhumanists tend to focus, in part, on something called the singularity. The point of intelligence explosion where the world before is qualitatively different than the world after:

A technological singularity is a hypothetical event occurring when technological progress becomes so extremely rapid, due to positive feedback, that it makes the future after the Singularity  qualitatively different and harder to predict. It has been suggested that a singularity will occur during the 21st century, and there are several mechanisms by which a singularity could occur.

That at a certain point intelligence will become self-recursive and improvements to intelligence will lead to improvements to intelligence and eventually we'll have growing infinite intelligence, and the world will be a completely different place.

This is stupid.

It's based on a flawed assumption that you can tweak up intelligence and get greater amounts of intelligence. That just isn't the case. You can't just gather more and more intelligence and reach a point where you can use intelligence to make intelligence and then make more intelligence. Because, intelligence isn't a thing, it's a process and it takes real work to do. It's equivalent to evolution (I also mean this literally) and you don't get something for nothing. You can't have something that evolves to the point where it goes into superevolution. Evolution takes real work. This is the insight of Paley and the legacy of Darwin. You can't get it for free. You don't get solutions out of the blue like gifts from on high granted by your possession of intelligence as a skyhook. Intelligence is only and can only be a crane. You can only build from the ground up, and improve upon what you've already built. And while we're building better and faster, you don't at some point turn into a rocket ship and fly to the end of the universe abandoning your foundations.

There is an older and clearly example of this idea at work with regard to the idea of perpetual motion. That at some point with growing technological improvements the work out keeps improving and the energy in keeps decreasing and at some point these lines are going to cross and the energy in is going to exceed the energy out and we'll have a brave new world. Because once that happens, even if the amount is very slight we can use that energy to make more energy and more energy and more energy and soon we'll have limitless supplies of ever increasing energy.

If you apply computer power to intelligent pursuits the increases in computer power is going to make it much faster and easier to test more and more ideas and predictions and see if they are accurate or useful, but this is just going to make intelligent faster not more intelligent. You can have an intelligent computer that knows everything I know, and give it the same problem I'm given. And it might come to a consensus answer within a few milliseconds whereas it might take me a minute. And in some distant future, it might come to the answer I would come to in microseconds and it would still take me the minute. But that isn't making it any more intelligent.

I could live in super-slow motion for and exist for a thousand years, I wouldn't be any smarter. I could get to the answers faster relative to you, but my answers wouldn't be any better. I could do more research and spend more time on the problems, but I wouldn't transcend human knowledge or intellect and I wouldn't suddenly be excluded from science to determine truth from falsehood. I could understand the entire corpus of human understanding, and arrive at answers in mere seconds, or fractions thereof. But I wouldn't become magic. And even if I could modify what I am and make time go even slower for me and my life even longer, I wouldn't suddenly become magical or stop needing to do actual work to come to actual explanations. You cannot do experiments in your own head and come to true and impressive conclusions, you need to actually do the experiment and look at the real world to figure out how things work out. And while you could do this process hugely faster relative to others, it wouldn't matter how fast your processor was. You could be know everything I know and be as intelligent as I am, but run on an old 100 megahertz processor and come to my answer that takes a minute in five minutes, but five minutes or five nanoseconds, it's the same damned answer.

How much better is a chess computer that makes the best move it can in 1 minute than one that does it in 1 second? Would it be proper to argue that a faster chess computer is a "smarter" chess computer?

Spiritualism over religion.

Spirituality is personal, but religion is all about power. Religious organizations provide the perfect habitat for psychopaths to thrive in. 

The irony then is that in the case of the Roman Empire's abandoning of science in around the 2nd century and the Muslim abandoning of science in the 11th it was spiritualism and not religion at the core. Religions certainly have their dogmas but they often end up abusing the science or making unacceptable claims that can be scientifically rebuffed, they butt heads but religion doesn't really fully undermine science. However with regard to the dark ages it was spiritualism and the associated abandoning of scientific virtues that lead to it in the West. And the embracing of Sufi Islam and the spiritualism associated there which lead to the abandoning Baghdad as the scientific capital of the world.

Religions concern themselves with power, and though they may be commiserate with the evil galactic empire of Star Wars, the Empire still built death stars and allowed for interesting technological advances. Religion is certainly no friend to science, but science has only ever been killed by spiritualism. I fear the people who say "Science doesn't have all the answers" and "you can't really know anything" far more than those who claim that the universe was created by a middle eastern war god two thousand years after the Assyrians first brewed beer.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Keep your friends close...

Somehow I think the saying "Keep your friends close and your enemies closer", is rather terrible advice. Might I advise you keep your enemies either dead or really far away from you. I know it's a novel idea, but I daresay I'd want a good amount of empirical evidence in favor of the way it's currently phrased. I've read enough Sun Tzu to know that better answers "Keep your friends close and your enemies guessing." or "Keep your friends close and your enemies misled."

I don't think the prospect of keeping an eye on somebody should put you close enough to get bit. Also, most of the time having enemies is a bummer. Keep your friends close, and your enemies non-existent. It just sounds like crap advice as it's currently given.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

In vino veritas

"You have everything in line... except for life."

A parable of drawers.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Penis deflation and college credit.

Some men demand equal treatment at college. The college is being overrun by women and it's hurting them through some sort of psychic pain of a non-zero sum economic universe where somebody doing good means you do poorly.

In the spring of 2010, a group of academics gathered at Wagner College in Staten Island, N.Y., to propose a new field of research: “Male Studies.” Not to be confused with Men’s Studies, which has been around for more than two decades, Male Studies is founded on the premise that men are now disenfranchised, and women’s success has come at their expense.

Sound counterintuitive? It may be. But those backing the proposal have some solid statistics behind them. For starters, since 2000, women have represented about 57 percent of enrollment at colleges in the United States, they consistently outperform males in high school, and are now earning more Ph.D.s. “The academic lives of men are systemically discriminated against.” said Lionel Tiger, a professor at Rutgers who spoke at the Staten Island event. “If this were happening to any other group, it would be cause for outcry.”

The problem here isn't that women are getting all the degrees, it's that women are trying to compete in the economic realities of the world.

Women need more fancy education to qualify for the same job as a man. A lot of jobs require that applicants either have a college diploma or a penis. And it some wonder that when push comes to shove the latter requirement didn't prove as useful to the company in an economic crunch (more men lost their jobs). As such, it likely isn't that odd that more women today are going to college, it does a lot more to job prospects than it does for men. Men with high school diplomas get jobs moving things and building things. Women with bachelors transition from prospects of very little pay or being a housewife to getting what men get with only high school diploma.

1 increased level of collage = 1 penis.

A decade or so ago an extra level of college was only worth half a penis. So you'd need about two extra to equal a man.

From 2002: Men with HS earn slightly more than women with BA/BS. Men with Associates earn slightly more than women with Masters. And Men with masters earned as much as women with doctorates.

Who knows, in the future, a penis might not even be worth half a college degree. And men with a high school diploma would need two penises to get paid as much a woman with a bachelors. But, there's certainly an absolutely terrible anti-men trend of penis deflation, and that just can't happen! If things continue like this, having a penis won't even be worth *ANY* college credit! You could have infinitely many penises and nobody would think you're any smarter than you are!

There's a joke somewhere here: Diploma, -oma, cancer.

A college diploma gives you cancer of the ego? Dipl cancer? There's a joke somewhere there.