Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Face of Rose the Riveter dies.

My grandmother when applying for assistance after my grandfather died (in the 50s), wrote on her application that she had always been a housewife. She, for reasons that seem alien to me, left off the time she spent in San Diego working as a riveter. My grandmother died a few months back. Her mother died during the Spanish flu of 1918.

Monday, December 27, 2010

'I' before 'E' except for when 'E' is before 'I'.

QI suggested the rule was stupid and wrong. I told my sister and she thought it was absurd that the rule was wrong and that I just believed it blindly. Such things I suppose can be verified. How often do we find CIE vs. CEI?

Using OSPD (Scrabble dictionary) and running a search on words:

CEI is the way it should be after a C, because after a C the I before E rule does not apply.


37 words found

So how many exceptions are there to this rule? How often it it 'I' before 'E' regardless of 'C'?


64 words found

There are 64 exceptions to a rule that applies to 37 words. has words with CEI (the rule sanctioned version).


a heraldic wand or staff -- CADUCEAN



one that receives

24 words found.

And for CIE (the exceptions):

ABBACY [15 pts] , (ABBACIES)

the office of an abbot


the quality or state of being vibrant
167 words found. 


The rule should say I before E, 92%  (400 EI vs 5000 IE) of the time, and I before E even after a C around 85% of the time.

It gets even dumber. Consider things like I before E except after S. There's 38 examples of SEI and only 237 exceptions (SIE) which is a solid 16% correct. Which is a bit better than the rule with the C in it, which is only right 14% of the time applying to 24 words and having 167 exceptions. With 'H' you can get 39 applications with 228 exceptions for 17% application. The real clincher is 'E'. I before E except after E applies 39 times and is wrong 0 times. There are 39 'EEI' words and 0 'EIE' words.

There you go. I before E except after E.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The problems with Jesus' trial, and a modern analogy.

The biggest problem there is that the whole thing doesn't make a lick of sense. It would be like having a town in modern day America having a church arrest somebody for blasphemy and overseen by the state Governor who offers a choice between allowing a death row inmate go and punishing this person for blasphemy and having them let the inmate go. And then proceed to execute the person for blasphemy.

Really, it's exactly like the events the Bible depicts. There were actual Roman laws and they sure the hell didn't allow for insurrecters to go free or to arrest people for crimes that weren't real Roman crimes or to try them with secret Jewish cabals.

The only coherent analogy one could find is with the practice of scapegoating. Whereby a choice is made between two seemingly equal goats or in this case (sons of the father / Barabbas means "son of the father") and one is set free and the other is sacrificed, though rather than to carry away the sins of the Jews it is to condemn them and show guilt and culpability. It certainly doesn't make a lick of sense as a matter of history. (This might not even be an analogy but rather a homology if Dr. Carrier is right).

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Awesome, cold plasma sterilizing and overly optimistic.

Using cold plasmas, a state of matter where the ions are all torn up and everything is a bunch of ionizing radiation but at room temperature, allows one to use a flame at room temperature of ionizing radiation that manages to kill bacteria. So you could use such a thing on hands or directly on wounds and it'll work on antibiotic resistant bacteria quite well. However there's this odd point in the article where it somehow insists that bacteria can't evolve around it. Ahem? What? There are bacteria that can take super-lethal doses of radiation where their entire DNA is blown up into smithereens and they come out perfectly fine, slapping their DNA back together like an easy to solve jigsaw puzzle. Yes, it's a radically different way to kill bacteria, yes it is awesome. But, you could also have bacteria become ionizing radiation, some are heavily resistant to nuclear bombs worth of radiation radiation. Sure, it might work well on some branches that can't adapt, but to say that nothing could adapt is a bit silly. We have bacteria around today that would survive rather easily on a few planets or moons in this solar system.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Losing a bird by hand is worse than losing two to the bush.

There is within psychology, markets, and decision theory a sort of odd bias with loss aversion. People hate to lose things far more than they like to win things.

If you have a choice between getting $1000 bucks and then just taking another $500 bucks or flipping a coin and getting a bonus $0 or $1000 bucks a lot of people just take the $500. However if you are given $2000 dollars and asked to either give back $500 or flip a coin and lose $0 or $1000 people opt for the bet. There's a chance you can hang on to all of your money! -- But the deals are exactly the same. You get $1500 or $1000 vs. $2000 half the time. You should like both of them the same.

Now, I love poking fun at idioms, or questioning some of the merits (some are stupid and inverted between each other and whatever the outcome the idiom is just adjusted after the fact. If you acted too quickly and lost, you should have looked before you lept, if you didn't act fast enough and lost, that's what happens to "he who hesitates"). And I wonder if loss aversion would play a roll with regard to the bird in hand is worth two in the bush. If you're odds of catching a bird in a bush is 1/2 for each particular bird. Is it also loss adverse if you have two birds and have to either just let one of them go free or play a game of chance whereby you might keep them both or neither? Is losing one bird by hand worse than maybe losing or keeping both? What if by some authority I see you with two birds. And demand that you either free one or if you'd like shoot my bird in the bush accuracy game to maybe keep both birds.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

David Hume, I pencil, Markets, and Intelligence.

All these various machines, and even their most minute parts, are adjusted to each other with an accuracy which ravishes into admiration all men who have ever contemplated them. The curious adapting of means to ends, throughout all nature, resembles exactly, though it much exceeds, the productions of human contrivance; of human designs, thought, wisdom, and intelligence. Since, therefore, the effects resemble each other, we are led to infer, by all the rules of analogy, that the causes also resemble; and that the Author of Nature is somewhat similar to the mind of man...
 One should logically draw this conclusion. The author of nature is somewhat similar to the mind of man. Somehow about the time Darwin looked behind the curtain and determined  that the author of nature is nothing more than compounded dumb luck, blind chance distilled into the miraculous, where life cheats at thermodynamics and only collects on the winning bets and forgets it even made the losing ones. That design is the product evolution by natural selection sufficed to give cause for forgetting these previous conclusions. Why should we accept a logical conclusion of the sort that "the author of nature is somewhat similar to the mind of man"? When we know full well how the author of nature writes? Sure we don't have a flipping clue how the mind of man works, but certainly we can be justified to ignore the logical arguments above out of hand, without explaining it. After all when one considers the amazing nature of  human minds, it ravishes into admiration all men who have ever contemplated them. And equivalences somehow only go one way, to say that the author of nature is similar to the mind of man, certainly it true but to be disregarded because we now have Darwin to explain the authorship of nature. And why should anybody bother taking that one tiny extra step of saying that perhaps the mind of man is somewhat similar to Darwinian evolution? -- I would argue that they should because it explains the vast majority deep mysteries about intelligence. But that's just me.

There was a somewhat influential essay within Economics, which some are coming to understand  is Darwinian in nature, called I Pencil. Which argues, that the markets are such that nobody really knows how to make a pencil. That we cannot fathom how trees are made and so we conclude that it must be God. Only God can make a tree. But, nobody really knows how to make pencils. We know they are wood, graphite and brass (now aluminum for the ferrule) but who knows how to mine graphite, who knows how to make the mining equipment, who knows how to drill for oil to power the equipment, who knows how to make the lighthouse for the shipments of tin, or to power the saws. The division of labor by the markets is so profound that nobody really knows all the steps. You could set no person on a massive island filled with resources for the taking and have them make a pencil, because nobody knows how to do it.

There is a fact still more astounding: the absence of a master mind, of anyone dictating or forcibly directing these countless actions which bring me into being. No trace of such a person can be found. Instead, we find the Invisible Hand at work.
Since only God can make a tree, I insist that only God could make me. Man can no more direct these millions of know-hows to bring me into being than he can put molecules together to create a tree.
 That evolution plays a distinctive role is nothing new, to economics. It's gaining some steam but isn't a rather widely understood point. Evolution is decentralized and doesn't require that particular part know the whole. It's just not needed. And though, Read here seems to suggest that God is behind the invisible hand rather than the same blind watchmaker behind the tree. And also concludes his essay with a presumption of laissez faire faith.

The lesson I have to teach is this: Leave all creative energies uninhibited. Merely organize society to act in harmony with this lesson. Let society's legal apparatus remove all obstacles the best it can. Permit these creative know-hows freely to flow. Have faith that free men and women will respond to the Invisible Hand. This faith will be confirmed.

Neglecting that the blind watchmaker does better for humans when humans gum up the works. Everything in nature is on a knife's edge. Nature's red in tooth and claw. And filled from the foot fungus to head lice with parasites. We shouldn't have faith in the markets, we should recognize that they are the single most powerful economic tool we have but are far better off domesticated than dominating.

In any event, the invisible hand of the markets, the blind watchmaker, the homunculi that live in the pituitary gland are really just different sides of the same process. A decentralized process that doesn't require knowing anything to know everything, to design without understanding, to arrange without forethought, to create without a creator. Is it any wonder that religious people the world over have been saying intelligence is behind the designs of nature? Darwinian evolution looks exactly like intelligence, because intelligence is likely the same process at its core. Intelligent design is trying to replace the cranes (in the Dennett sense) of evolution with the skyhooks behind intelligence often wrongly attributed to God, but really if one takes the arguments seriously, the universal acid of evolution flows the other way. It doesn't save God from the clutches of evolution, it allows the universal acid of the explanatory power of evolution to explain away that meek idol of that He who made the lamb made thee. It ends up splashing acid in the face of God. Because yes, you can argue for intelligent design in nature, but the intelligence, like all intelligence, is just another face of Darwin. The illusion of design, and the thoughts of intelligence behind nature, which even Darwin noted tend to come and go, are the other side of the same coin.

Within research into intelligence, we haven't produced anything even remotely intelligent and fail to produce anything, there is an utter lack of something we could confuse for intelligence. Within biology we have gobs of intelligence, it's all over the place infecting ever facet of what biologists do, and a seeming effort to call it an illusion of design, a mirage of intelligence. On one side of intelligence, we have no intelligence and deeply want something we could confuse for intelligence and no understandable processes and on the evolution side, we have lots of intelligence and a process we understand and all the while deep in the vaults of human intellectual history we have valid arguments which say these are the same thing. It was a mistake to disregard the equivalence of the Author of Nature with the contrivances of human minds, just because Darwin fully explained nature. We should have, at the time, and in the years since, realized that Darwin also explained human minds. It isn't that intelligence in nature is an illusion or that the design is a mirage, it really is there. It's actually completely really deeply and truly a part of nature. God is the illusion. We see the intelligence in the essence of nature and claim that it must belong to somebody, but that's just not the way it works. You can worship the Author of Nature as God, the Intelligent Designer as a divine being, but really if you look behind the curtain you'll find that you're just worshiping what Darwin so aptly described. But "It's intelligent!" one  might insist, rightfully I concede, but that's not a contradiction. Darwin's process is behind that curtain as well. Intelligent Design doesn't save God from evolution, it meekly attempts to call evolution God. Somehow I don't think that even theists who find Paul Tillich's God (a theism as close to atheism as twilight is to night) palatable could manage to swallow that bitter idolatry when properly unmasked.

Properly, the argument for design has been touted as the greatest argument for God ever devised, but really, when you get down to the core, and a dollop of universal acid is splashed on it. We find that much of theological effort, has been, over the years, engaged in worshiping Darwinian Evolution. Insisting on the false distinction that because it's intelligent, it can't be evolution.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Facebook Fundies.

"BUT if you keep using the word "homophobia" and sincerely feel that this is a valid word, then you are in fact imposing and projecting terroristic acts into society where homosexuality is NOT the norm. Therefore you are infringing on the "constitutional rights of others"

Wow, disagreeing with somebody is terrorism and a violation of their constitutional rights.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Lego Antikythera Mechanism.

Building ancient Greek computers out of legos. That's pretty cool. Now somebody needs to build one of those ancient Greek robots out of them. Yes, the ancient Greeks also invented robots. But, you could do that rather nicely. Have a play put on by replica Greek robots (without cheating with electric obviously, powered by sand the traditional way).

What other cool things could be built? There's some movement to create a complete Babbage computer, there should also be a sub project to make one out of legos too.