Ranty Starlinks

April 15th, 2009

Robert Letson at Locus On revolutionary vs normal SF (in the pseudo-Kuhnian sense) and other matters, including a mention of Spider Star in some good company.   Not that new, but I missed it until yesterday.

Not everyone loves Strunk and White’s Elements of Stlye.   No, they do not.   I don’t think it’s all that bad at all, and most students would benefit tremendously if they just followed all its rules mindlessly.   Mindfully seems a bit much to ask of average students these days, unfortunately…

Rant on.   Sorry.   Most people aren’t that brilliant, but they’re also not so stupid.   But most students in college seem to take their classes with some level of disdain, more interested in passing and getting grades than learning much of anything.   Where is the desire to learn?   Are workloads too high?   Is it too much to ask that everyone get a “well-rounded” education when they’re not interested in half the shit, or more, that they’re asked to take?   As a prof I am forced to think about this reguarly, without great solutions.   I do the best job I can to teach, to be interesting, and save my energy for the students who care. Rant off.

I love this one…Time Travel Cheat Sheet.   It’s basically for rebuilding civilization from scratch if you get stuck in the boondocks of time.

On Bad Science, a free chapter about Matthias Rath and his evil anti-science crapfest.   Worth the read, but dismaying.   It’s about AIDS dissidents in South Africa.   Read it if you have the stomach.   It’s stuff like this that makes me cringe every time I stand up for science when it clashes with culture, being arrogantly chided that “science doesn’t tell you everything” or “you’re guilty of scientism.”   Assholes.   Science is a procedure that generates knowledge about how things work.   Where it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work.   Where it does work, you should use it.   Period.   At least if you want to save lives and accomplish goals.   Going to resist a rant.

Maybe this scholarly document is the rant I want to have: Are debatable scientific questions debatable?   By John Ziman.   It’s basically about whether or not areas of science seen as controversial (e.g., global warming, evolution, and apparently the cause of AIDS) should be publically debated in traditional fashion.   Let me say why most scientists find the idea ridiculous and tend to dismiss it, even though it might be of public benefit in some cases.   Scientists constantly debate any ideas that are actually controversial, and they do it in journals with meticulous experiments and arguments, justifying every step and trying to reach consensus on what we know and trying to figure out how to do the next experiment to further our understanding of what we don’t know.   A public debate is a dog-and-pony show that can be “won” rhetorically, or by piling on argument after argument even though none of them are compelling, or by making up shit that can’t be easily refuted in a 90 second rebuttal.   A live, face-to-face public debate may be educational and entertaining, but it is a ridiculous way at settling scientific questions.   Furthermore, it legitimizes both sides in the eyes of viewers, even though both sides may not be legitimate.   As a practical matter, anti-science IDiots (aka creationists), apologists, and deniers or anti-science folks of all types who debate regularly are good at it, and may well look convincing even when their arguments are poor.

OK, something I won’t get ranty about.   How to estimate the temperature of a planet.   Includes effects of albedo and greenhouse gas warming.   It’s more complicated than the simplest sort of estimate, but not so complicated that a good hard sf writer wouldn’t use it if necessary.   In my opinion.

Let’s mention the amazonfail thing.   I’m getting sick of the “fail” thing on the internet recently, especially as it seems that everyone getting involved deeply in them behaves badly.   The internet moves at lightning speed and people get incensed in seconds and feed off each other’s anger, whether justifiable or not.   Even when the anger is justified it seems that it grows totally out of proportion and ignores facts, explanations, or appropriateness.   So here are some links that may be of interest, although frankly I’m going to ignore this the way I think everyone should ignore it.   Amazon screwed up, apparently not with malicious intent, and fixed things within a few days.   Here’s one brief announcement of the problem.   Here’s the site where you could go sign a petition and threaten boycott.   Here’s one thoughtful early idea of what happened (which turned out to be more or less right), along with a long and torturous discussion with good and bad behaviour on display (and probably not everyone agreeing which is which), and an article here and here with some explanations from amazon.   ‘Nuff said.

Pew Polls on happiness.   Apparently I should have kids, and my cat doesn’t matter.   Is it just me, or does anyone else see “pew” and think about psychic battles on South Park?   Pew pew pew!   Pew pew pew!

And let’s finish with some superhero type stuff.

Superman artist did lurid S&M comics, too, with characters that look like Lois and Clark.   Cool.

Echo vision is real.   See like a bat, or Daredevil.   And for the sf writers out there, read this for thinking about how aliens with this sense might perceive their environment.

Who would win between Buffy the Vampire Slayer and River of Firefly? I’d watch the fight, I guess, but I don’t really care that much.

Me though?   I’m no superhero.   I seem to be in the early stages of a second bout of “frozen shoulder,” and, unfortunately, this does not give me ice powers.   Took me 9 months and physical therapy last time.   I’ve already started stretching and making sure I’m taking my thyroid medicine more regular, but I have some pain in front of me.   Not good timing for me with another three weeks in China followed by a return to Brazil in May.   Maybe I should have stocked up on the Tiger Balm in Bangkok.


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