She's a Beautiful Mystery

Tragedy strategy

So everyone agrees that selective breeding works, right? So isn't it easy to realize that the selection process doesn't require a conscious selector (e.g., farmer)? Farmers carry out an artificial selection, when choosing mates, individuals are performing sexual selection, and when the cold cruel world's limited resources put a strain on the number of creatures that can survive in a given environment, it is nature that is doing the selecting, thus natural selection. We might call genetic engineering yet another form of selection, perhaps direct genetic selection(?). And maybe other methods of selection apply as well. But where is the controversy in this idea? (Keep in mind, I am not a biologist, these ideas simply aren't complicated on the face of it. A real biologist however might take offense to some of my language, and know better the appropriate terminology.)

"Can you hear me hear you now?"

Ugh, puke guns?
Here is some evidence that we're all screwed.

I went surfing once, with my cousin's husband, who's pretty passionate about surfing and I think probably pretty good, he taught me what to do, but after catching two waves, and failing to pop up both times, I was too exhausted to continue. The waves were sort of big for me (they weren't huge, but bigger than the typical east coast waves I've encountered), maybe 3 or 4 feet at the most (maybe even smaller, am I exaggerating?). And yet, they really push you around. I can't imagine what it's like when a wave the size of a building falls on you.

My apparent discomfort with ambiguity is in direct contradiction to the great degree of ambiguity with which I tend to express myself typically.

"Whoa, this is wrinkling my brain!" Somewhere I read about a drug that induces a sort of mild, trait-specific amnesia, and interestingly enough it was being used to treat a post-traumatic-stress sort of problem. If I remember correctly, the experiment involved the patient taking the drug, and then recalling the memory and focusing on it. I think the hypothesis was that when your brain recalled a memory, it actually cuts it out of memory and "thinks" about it. Then afterwards it re-records the information back into memory. This drug prevented your brain from re-recording the fear aspect, I think. Or at least that was idea. So now I'm thinking about deja vu again, and I'm wondering, if your brain cuts something out of memory, and holds it in consciousness, and then puts it back in memory, it must be at some point also be storing information about the context of that memory (related memories, especially memories indicating some historical context, like year or day or week or event). If this is the case, then deja vu could very easily be the mechanism that contains the context, malfunctioning. It even seems likely that a very simple mechanism (and corresponding failure) could result in these conditions. For instance, imagine a very simple archival system, where whenever a document is removed from the archive, a switch is flipped on, to indicate that the file was taken from archives. When it is replaced back into archives, the switch is flipped off again. When new files are introduced to the archive, the switch is normally off. But in deja vu, the switch is accidentally switched on (especially easy to imagine when you consider our brain, our feelings, indeed our entire conscious experience is dictated by extremely fragile electrochemical reactions—a tiny bit of one neurotransmitter or another released in the wrong place or at the wrong time, or not taken up correctly, and BAM! your switch is flipped. And what is perception besides these chemicals? As A.C. Grayling pointed out in that debate, "if you want to investigate the relationship of consciousness to matter, and in particular the brain, just take a heavy blunt instrument and bash yourself over the head and see which bits of thinking you can no longer do."

"It sure is hard, to dance across, the room when you've got, one foot on the floor …and one foot, outside the door.
I want nothing more, than to dance with you. I want nothing more, than to float with you." —Laura Veirs (is awesome).

"The unconsidered life, is not worth living."
"Logic is new and necessary reasoning [—Aristotle]. New because you learn what you don't know, and necessary because conclusions are inescapable!"
If the flower's petals could only betray his emotion.
"There is an old german saying: 'if you want to learn something go on a journey.' "
She is empty. She won't give more.

I should aim to be a logician of sorts. Except how does my interest in the general notion of phase transitions mesh with that? I am interested in the criteria that define the kind of state a collection of elements forms. That is, under some conditions, fluids like water will flow smoothly (laminar flow), and beyond those conditions, it becomes chaotic (turbulent flow). Interestingly, the general notion of a problems seems to follow this form. If I give you 1000 songs, and each song is exactly 2, 3, 4 or 5 minutes long, then you can split the playlist into two equal length playlists. But if I just took 1000 real songs, at random, with lengths defined down to say a 100th of a second, chances are overwhelming that you could not tell me if there were a way to split them into two equal playlists or not, even if you converted the whole universe into a computer and ran it for billions of years. Because the number of ways to split 1000 songs into two sub-lists is inconceivably enormous. So ridiculously unimaginably enormous that there aren't even good ways of describing how enormous it is. If every atom in the whole universe was given an equal number of these sub-playlists, the number each atom contains would still be too large to imagine! Now isn't it interesting that water (or any fluid) will transition from this smooth to chaotic flow, and likewise the playlist problem transitions at some point (depending on how 'nice' the songs are), between easy and entirely intractable?! It is a beautiful mystery, one which could occupy my life, provided the opportunity.

I'm pretty much indifferent to whether or not they find the Higgs Boson, but recently a dark matter experiment failed to find a significant result supporting DM. It certainly doesn't qualify as falsifying DM, but it also failed to support it, and I do have a slight vested interest in the failure of DM experiments.

"I'd much rather be a rising monkey, than a fallen angel."
-Terry Pratchett

Well, my internet has been disconnected. 649 GB transferred in November. Thats 109 GB more than we went over last time we got in trouble, and 399 GB more than we were allotted. Well, screw you Comcast. It seems mighty dumb of you to track your customer's usage, but not disconnect it when they exceed your limit. We can't track our usage, how do you expect us to have any clue? It seems a little bit unfair that you expect us to obey some limit but give us no tools to monitor that limit.

"Can I call you mine? You can call me yours."

Or are you as cold as you seem?

"Cause it's bad to do what's easy, just cause it's easy, and I want to do what pleases me, but I can't."

"Your body still remembers things you told it to forget."
"Why must we return to this place?"

"And it turned out to be Julia."

"Before I pine away."

If you plug the temperature of the CMB into the Hawking-radiation temperature equation for black holes, you get about one order of magnitude less than the sun. Unfortunately, this isn't clearly meaningful in any way (at least not that I can tell).


XX Spukhafte Fernwirkung

"Metaphysical bagage."

The only reason to do anything ever is because it pleases you. (Or because some extended effect of it will please you.)
I pay the price in ill-conceived laughter.
Flowers it is.

How does one go about confronting a delusion? If someone suffers from a delusion, how might someone else confront them? What if the are delusional about everything? How might one recognize self delusion?

How does one differentiate between the sensation of deja vu, versus actually experiencing something they have experienced before? Does AJ ever experience deja vu? My own interpretation of deja vu is that it is a simple dating error in our brain.

REM dreaming may be simulations.
Clearly dreaming (both REM and non-REM) must be evolutionary selected. (Otherwise it wouldn't persist both throughout our species and throughout many species.)

"knowing, that you don't know, is the most, essential step, to knowing, you know?"

La terre est bleu comme une orange Jamais une erreur, les mots ne mentent pas
(The Earth is blue like an orange, never a mistake words do not lie.)

Science is a tool, method, or process, or collection of these things, that distill information out of the noise. It's a system of doubting. Science is a system of doubting information, and testing it, validating it, always trying as hard as possible to invalidate information, to disprove it. In this way, it is a reliable process for distilling truth out of the nonsense of noise that pervades human thinking.

A good amount to think about.
Short-circuited compassion unit.
Do double contractions exist? E.g., might'ven't, instead of might have not, might've not, or might haven't? Is one of these more correct than the others?

You prove it's true.
You prove it's not true.
You prove it can't be proven.
you prove it can't be disproven.
You prove it's ill-defined.

It's sufficient to happen.
It's necessary to happen.
It's both sufficient and necessary.
It's neither sufficient nor necessary.

Immediately he recognized only four possibilities: either he was mistaken, or everyone else was. Or they were liars, or, most dreadfully, it was hallucination, and he was therefore mad.

It is necessary and not sufficient.
It is sufficient and not necessary.
A and B
Not A and not B
A and not B
Not A and B
It is either sufficient or necessary.
It is either sufficient or necessary, but not both.
It is sufficient or it is not necessary.
It is necessary or it is not sufficient.
Porch on cat a is there.

Reason is the only path to reality.
Science is our only hope.
The only road leading to absolute certainty.

Of course it appeals to my self nature, being an overtly cautious fellow.

"My curiosity barely exceeded the fear of getting caught."
"This moment marked a terrible disappointment. …but ignited the rest of my life."

The greatest nightmare, of madness, threatens the considerate.
"Were it not for the hope of reason. …The vision of a totally logical world I had glimpsed in mathematics."

Hot, three-way oval action. Oval on oval action.

Privacy is such a strange issue to me; I tend to think I might be an intensely private person, but I believe that is largely due to me not knowing where other people's barriers lie, and fearing that overstepping barriers of personal privacy would be highly offensive to most people. This is severe hypocrisy for me, since I tend to be very difficult to offend, and would not find personal questions offensive in any way imaginable. (Does it count that if I don't want to reveal something asked of me, I would simply explain I don't want to reveal that? Or does that count as taking offense?).

I tend to have a real fear of girls that I am very attracted to. And this isn't always the case, I'm fairly certain the fear is directly related to how interested in me they seem; if it is very obvious that a girl is interested in me, and I actually notice, (a hugely improbable qualifier), then I am much more able to interact meaningfully, or express my own feelings. If, alternatively, a girl is at all ambiguous about her feelings towards me, I tend to actively suppress all expression of feelings, not just towards her, but towards anything, probably in an attempt to not offend. (Should that be "possibly in an attempt..."?)

I am constantly consciously cautious with respect to offending other's opinions, what a tragedy.

There is a lot of debate among various types of atheists (and critics of atheism), about how honest we should be, or how vocal we should be, or how "offensive" we should be. I am a "new atheist", which means I think we should be as honest and vocal as possible, and I believe the charge of offensiveness is misguided—the consequence of the privileged position that religion has enjoyed for far too long. As has been said with increasing frequency lately, criticizing another person's beliefs, or questioning their reasons for those beliefs, is not considered offensive in politics, or science, or most other areas of our lives (e.g. movies, music, books). The religious however are excused to get all riled up simply if an atheist mentions god might not exist, or that one can be good without god (google "atheist bus campaign" for more info). The tragedy of this situation is that atheists (like many theists, and apologists from both sides, I imagine), are so vocal precisely because they are convinced this is the most effective strategy to improving the world. My own experience with this originated in learning some history of science, specifically about Giardano Bruno, a contemporary of Galileo.
Bruno was burned alive at the stake, for merely suggested that the earth might not be the center of the solar system. They cut his tongue out as a sign of mercy. They probably would have spared his life, if he had only recanted. 22 years later they banned Galileo's book (placing it on the list of books that if read, would damn you to hell for eternity). Later they forced Galileo to recant, but he remained under house arrest in the later years of his life. His book was not taken off the "burn in hell" list for 200 years. An apology from the church only came in 1992! This institution, the catholic church, has done incalculable harm to the human race, and it is unforgivable. We can forgive the individuals, we can help them recover, we can free the masses, but the institution itself, the traditions and doctrines, should not be celebrated, but abhorred. It was this history specifically that motivated me to vocalize my criticisms of religion. Imagine, this is only the tip of the iceberg, we don't know how many geniuses were murdered over the eons by self-proclaimed authorities suffering from the same superstitions as nearly everyone else of their time. People cite all the great art and music created in the name of music over the last millennia. Though there are many good, valid arguments to describe why religion cannot take sole credit, we must ask, what might humanity have accomplished if religious authorities had not murdered the most creative, most insightful and most bold thinkers of any given era? And although this is a bit off topic, can anyone give a compelling argument why we, the new atheists, should not speak the truth? The reality of this situation is that we are not being mean, we are not going out of our way to offend, we are most definitely not violent, not on a personal, physically threading level, nor on a terrorist level (as many religious groups are). Given that we are merely asserting the truth, why should we stop again?

This is so sad. And scary.
Seems like a good idea.

Atheist nations are more peaceful.
Might atheists be distrusted because they are simply unknown, as this article suggests? Or is there more to it?
"Home is wherever I'm with you."

"Hey Goldman Sachs, put down the crack pipe!"

"Love of color sound and words, is it a blessing or a curse."

What is it about humans that causes us to side on sets of issues? I can understand religious influences, for instance, as in-group behavior. And I can understand scientific consensus as a set of convergent opinions arrived at through independent lines of reasoning. But how is it that someone who isn't very religious, sides with the typical base set of religious beliefs? Case in point, Joe G, who buys both the intelligent design argument and the global-warming is a hoax conspiracy theory.

Why is it that the uniformed feel so justified in faking their qualifications as if it will convince the informed? For instance, creationists will sometimes claim they were formerly atheists, and then were convinced. Don't they understand how frequently atheists originated from some sort of religion? That it is the non-believers who have typically considered both sides in detail, not the believers?

"Science flies you to the moon. Religion flies you into buildings."
—Victor Stenger

"I respect you too much to respect your ridiculous ideas."
—Johann Hari

A.C. Grayling is so awesome. If you want to watch the whole thing, you can wander through that list on youtube, or you can see it here as well.


Kissed and Often

The realization that an innate optimism frequently overpowers my rationality has triggered a re-evaluation of certain conclusions. I have often wondered how much modern disease is a result of our vastly modified life styles, could it be that bodies evolved walking on soft ground living in trees or caves and spending nearly all their time securing meals perhaps struggle in a world filled will hard surfaces, beds and supermarkets? Could depression be so common because we're breathing different air, walking on different surfaces, eating different organisms, and spending our time differently than we did 50,000 years ago? 500,000 years ago? 5,000,000? There are a lot of zeros there... But now I'm realizing, we have toppled natural selection (thank goodness!), and while that is an important accomplishment (most of us would not be here otherwise), it also means we may carry many detrimental traits (this is actually true of any organism). Furthermore, is there a reason to expect evolution to select for happy creatures in general? Happiness certainly is a useful trait to have, but steady and unwavering happiness? Probably not, since unhappiness becomes a motivator often times. Actually, could the issue be that we live in a world where when unhappy, there is no clear direction for improvement? That is, if I am depressed, there is no clear cause (like say losing someone important, which would naturally depress anyone), and without a clear cause, the mechanism "motivate -> do something -> achieve happiness" can't work, since there is no clear middle step "do something" to re-obtain happiness. Maybe this is why people think drugs are such a great solution; they are such an easy path home, especially if some fancy drug company or fancy doctor tell you it'll solve the problem. Or maybe I'm totally wrong again, please, no one should take my thoughts too seriously. Maybe I should put that disclaimer at the top.

"I'm being told there's no one talking to me right now."

Someone out there is awesome.

We are all related.

Sarah Silverman figured out how to feed the world!

What makes this feel good is that I don't know where it goes.

"I'm not the enemy." — "Then who are you?"
So you're calling god a liar.
We've made a mess of it.
On the floor, listening to Beethoven.
per bit: ∆S ≥ k_b ln(2)

Did Mary commit adultery with god? Or was it nonconsensual? In which case, did god rape Mary? I guess adultery makes less sense than rape, since there is a commandment forbidding the former, but none pertaining to the latter. Jesus was a bastard! And god was a deadbeat dad!

Because you stood still.

"Don't act so innocent—I've seen you pound your fist into the earth."

The Dose Makes the Poison.

I was thinking about any adult who stands out as an expert, has practiced their field more than most non-experts can imagine. I was first thinking about how this applies to mathematics and science, but then it became clear that this really does apply to any area of expertise.

It's always your friends that hate you the most.

I've mentioned before that I don't believe egalitarianism nor meritocracy to be the ultimate solution, but that rather a mix of the two is required. I should have listed the benefits and drawbacks to the two viewpoints also. Egalitarianism satisfies one's sense of compassion for their fellow humankind (or even animal, or life-kind), but it makes one susceptible to fraud; egalitarianism on the other hand resolves the fraud issue (assuming an infallible testing procedure), but leaves the least-qualified, the most unfortunate with nothing to hope for. In fact, the very idea of inherited fortune, or more broadly, the idea that one can be born into certain advantages or disadvantages (which vary wildly: money, fame, resources, societal pressures/expectations/leniencies, cultural bias, etc.), generates much discomfort with the idea that one will be judged by merits alone—it may even be direct inspiration for many egalitarian feelings.


Deluded in each other's favor.

Q: can we think of a method to add up the world lines of a gluon in such a way as to explain why gluons are always bound to one another or to quarks? Then that would be very analogous to the proposal that the Higgs is interfering with it's creation. The difficulty we have is it is too easy to think about it being some future event that is "traveling backwards in time" to cause trouble. But what we should be thinking is that the creation of such a particle (a free Higgs that is), generates world lines with the property that when added up, they destructively interfere in such a way as to destroy the world lines that lead to the creation of the free Higgs. Is the idea that the phenomena spans time any more counter-intuitive than the idea that a phenomena can span space? After all, entanglement was impossibly counter-intuitive when it was first hypothesized, but it has become a well-established phenomena. The challenge we face with proposing a "temporally-non-local" mechanism is that it is by it's very nature, exceedingly difficult to verify. (Also, intuitively, it offends our sense of causality even more than entanglement did, though ultimately we can now see how entanglement does not violate causality, as it first appeared to—it may be that this temporal mechanism is resolved similarly, through deeper understanding.)

What is the link between one-way functions and the halting problem? and entropy? and Laplace's Demon? and NP? (11·21·09 update: Seth mentioned that if P=NP you can commit wholesale macroscopic violations of the Second Law, therefore we can interpret the lack of a bacterium that does this to be further evidence of P \neq NP.)

How could he send her away?
"It's... inhuman, to be so cold."
"Today you don't mean it."
She can tell.
There is more than one part to each of us.
A mind divided.
"We should start from the top, and look at what we've got."
"Some, are mothers. And some people, dance."
Everybody feels that way.

I want to teach useful things, whereby we adopt the definition of useful to be something which increases total joy, rather than something which has practical application.

Delere Auctorem Rerum Ut Universum Infinitum Noscas.
(Destroy the author of things in order to understand the infinite universe.)

Get doomed.
"Suck on my sweet tooth til I'm sore."
"People do things right now all the time."
Is it impossible to make a computer curious?
"Just say what you're thinking."

"Information wants to be free"
Don't be the only one left without a chair when the music stops.


Do you think as cameras become more and more common, the difficulty in looking at the camera, rather than at the person holding the camera, will lessen? Will people who look at the camera be naturally selected? (More likely sexually selected.)

A Moment of Stillness
Thought & imagination into gift giving.
Brace for impact.
"I'm pulling back the curtain. I want to meet the wizard."
"Discovering the object of the game, is, the object of the game."
"Crystals of appetite."

"And it was perfect. Until the phone started ringing ringing ringing ringing ringing off."
I just realized suddenly, that the opposition to nuclear remains steadfast, and although I (and many others) consider it an extremely viable alternative to coal, (perhaps even the most viable), the resistance may simply be too great for it to ever come back.
Fight for it.

"Because you like to remember her."

How does layering change information content? For instance alphabet => words => sentences => paragraphs => chapters. Or DNA => amino acids => proteins (is that right? or is it DNA => genes => proteins? or am I even more wrong?)
a-z = 26
so 26 1 letter words
26^2 2 letter words
and so on.
Let's assume we don't often see words more than 8 letters long.
I looked up the average number of words per sentence, found this interesting article, and will take the number 18 as as an average for words per sentence. Assuming a uniform distribution for the length of words (we could improve by researching the actual distribution of word lengths), how many different sentences does that give us?

"Move beyond your need for unmoldy dishes."
Germ cells.

Time hates art.
"Something remarkable happens."
"It doesn't confirm your goosebumps."
I think I need to construct positive reinforcement in my life to alter my behavior. That would be clever.
"There is no pattern to find."
A parallax measurement of the galactic black hole puts it at about 7800 light years from here.
We're definitely all screwed.

"Shoot first, and then check to see if it's was one of your friends or a bird."
-Dick Cheney.

Squeeky clean.

Look no further.

So I was thinking: CMB = black body. Black holes -> Hawking radiation = black body. Olber's paradox = in an infinite universe, all lines of sight end on the surface of a star, thus no night sky thus universe is not infinite. But with black holes… some lines of sight could end on a black body radiator… which would look like the CMB! To go further, wouldn't gravitational effects redshift the light?

It seems to me that somewhere between redshift, dark matter, dark energy, inflation, quantum vacuum fluctuations, black holes & Hawking radiation, the CMB, Olber's paradox, galaxy rotation curves and the large scale structure of the universe, there is a better answer than big bang. But it seems that I need to know way more physics and mathematics to convince anyone.

"We all need mirrors to remind ourselves who we are."
Hubba hubba hubba.

"The slightest lapse of judgement."
eleven ten nine, it's like a countdown!

Well, which is it? Are you the typical American? Or the oppressed minority? You can't have it both ways.
"Science is interesting, and if you disagree you can fuck off."
NPR story about you have no right not to be framed?
How awesome, right?
Wait, what is the moral?

Arguments that morality owes it's existence to religion are easily dismissed by simply empathizing with Abraham during that time in which he believed god had commanded him to sacrifice Isaac—if upon considering such a situation one realizes that no plan, no king, no supreme being can give a good reason to murder one's own child (indeed because no such reason exists), then one is moral; if, on the other hand, one agrees to blindly follow the voices in their head, one is certifiably insane, and would best avoid harming society or themselves by seeking external, REAL people who want to help.


Wilson want's a foundation for relative morality. So I will provide it to him. I will describe it in the narrative of how I resolved it for myself. You already understand that the view holds that there is no supreme power in the universe that "cares" about humans (or any other creature). I asked myself at some point, several years ago, what does morals mean to the moon? (The question was sort of a natural extension to environmentalist statements about what was good and bad for the earth.) The question can further be extended to even less important objects, as the moon does play a role in life as we know it (though it may be that life was and is possible without it.) What if Andromeda didn't exist? It would likely have no influence on humans (at least not for a few billion more years.) Okay, off track, sorry. So, I began thinking that a more correct statement would be to talk about what is good and bad for the earth (or moon, or andromeda) in terms of Me, or Us, or My Family, or My Neighbors, or My Country, or My Species, or the Animal Kingdom, or Life in general. Of course, depending on which one of these we choose we get different answers, radically different answers in some cases. Especially in the case of countries, where the impression of limited resources generates a kind of anxiety that frequently interferes with clear thinking. Now we might ask, why should I choose one basis of concern rather than another? Why choose to care about anyone other than me, or maybe family or country? (Sadly, many people, religious or not, seem to extend it no further than country.) Let's first establish natural reasons why you might choose to care about your extended society (that is, everyone to which you directly depend on; allow for an protectionism view of society for the time being.) It's related to your question: "why would an atheist care" about the genocide of the Amalekites? Because humans are one of many species that have developed social structures, and have evolved to become entirely reliant upon them. Individuals that lack the traits required to maintain a stable social structure would either destroy the society, or be ejected from it (the latter occurring if the society has developed the tools to find and expel those individuals.) So we need our society to exist, and even more to prosper. Obviously this can be extended through global trade to include all of the developed world—can we extend it to include the countries without goods or resources we want? Yes. First note that our prosperity is not a zero-sum game. No one need lose for others to win—you can build me a house while I grow your food, we don't need one of us to end up on the streets. Second, note that teamwork has a beneficial effect, as do technological advancement and education. The more highly educated we are, the more productive and prosperous we can be. The more people you can get to help with your work, the more you can get done. There is also the argument that compassion, a natural product of the aforementioned societal dependencies, can be extended beyond it's natural origins. This leads into the explanation of how we can expand our moral concerns beyond that of all humans, to include all animals or even all life. I'm not arguing that humans and animals have the same rights (I don't agree with that, but some people do), but I would argue that there are two obvious paths to concerning ourselves with animal well-being. The first is utility, we have the foresight to understand that taking care of our environment is of utmost importance to our long-term survival as a species, (this foresight is a uniquely human trait.) Second is again compassion—we have a strong sense of empathy, one that has probably outgrown it's natural causes. It is these principles that allow us to make moral decisions, and acknowledging that is of paramount importance to resolve new moral questions for which we have no precedent, that we now face due to the increases in our population and technology. Stem cells, global warming, genetic engineering and screening, gene therapy are some of the most recent moral questions we have been faced with, some of which may have no clear resolution yet. But what we DON'T need are allegorical stories and superstition from the desert goat herders of millennia past, who knew nothing of the world or all of it's boundless beauty. We need rational, thought-out discourse and debate. A well informed and educated public (if we want to preserve democracy), not bound to the morals of ancient ancestors but free to understand morality through their hearts and minds. And will everyone agree on what base to use? No. Of course not. There are the PETA activists who seem to think that animals deserve perfectly equal (sometimes even more) rights than humans, there are the patriots (read: nationalists) who seem to think this or that country needs to do what is in it's own best interest, and there are sociopaths who lack the notion of societal concerns all together. But with Religious claims masking all those natural feelings and developed thoughts on morality, you end up with a lot of people claiming (and believing themselves) to be morally right, correct, perfect, generating a false confidence (an arrogance) in their actions, and that has lead to untold suffering throughout history (see: catholic sexual abuse settlements, inquisition, and ongoing african AIDS epidemic.) Weinberg said it best, "with or without religion, you'd have good people doing good things and bad people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion."

And fine tuning is a terrible argument, because our understanding of the universe is so enormously incomplete, and the result of an arbitrary universe so entirely intractable, we simply can't claim that this universe is …wait, I'm getting off track.
For two reasons.
First we don't know what the underlying rules that make this universe the way it is. Much like the properties of numbers, the universe may simply be necessarily this way (this I believe is what Einstein meant when he asked "if god had a choice in making the world").
Second, if we assume that this universe could have been different, we don't know what effect that has on the likelihood that intelligent life (such as ourselves) would emerge. That is, we have no clue how changing the rules would affect the resulting universe. This is in part due to the unclarity of the rules (that is, we don't know if we've got the right rules yet, or how right the ones we have are, or even if there is a real set of rules. Worse still, we'll never really be sure if we've got the right rules or not.) But also because given a set of rules, computing the outcome is practically impossible (at least as far as human computing power is concerned.)
Because we can't know the rules of the universe with certainty, nor can we ever really know the likelihood or unlikelihood of them occurring in the way they did, we really can't make statements about how probable or improbable the tuning of the universe is. All we can really say is that if these rules we believe are valid, were changed, that these basic consequences would result (such as stars would not work the way we know them to.) This does not exclude them giving rise to life in a way alternative to the way we know.

My personal hunch is that we will find laws of the universe that will be very similar to the the laws of numbers—that indeed the universe did not have a choice in it's properties.

Oh no, don't tell me what comes next.
Oh no, let me make up the rest.

While in the shower, moments ago, intending to expand upon my hypothesis of consciousness, I stumbled across something else: a hypothesis of imagination. I had been thinking that the concept of consciousness should include some ability to simulate (basically hijack our audio/visual/etc. "feelings" without those senses actually being triggered), thus you can imagine what this might sound like if read by me, or someone with a british accent, or something else. (Or maybe you can't, it's unclear why/how we develop the ability to do such things, or whether or not we all develop all these abilities). You might be able to imagine what a pink elephant would look like, (maybe you can't even help thinking about it when it's mentioned here). But half way through this reasoning it started to seem as if simulation was more the domain of imagination than consciousness. Now, I don't know where the popular concepts of imagination and consciousness might overlap (or not), I'm slightly inclined to label imagination as a subset of consciousness, but it really doesn't matter. All I want to assert is that consciousness consists of the ability to observe computation as it occurs, and imagination consists of the ability to simulate something representative of reality. I suppose the interesting part of this idea might be that imagination doesn't require consciousness to exist, but the two are intimately linked—if a creature developed the neural circuitry required to simulate it's environment (which would be very useful for survival, to help predict which actions to take, based on the simulation, to produce the most favorable outcome in reality, based on which simulation produced the most favorable outcome.)

"Yes doctor, I'll get the tools from the shed."
"Scallops musta got 'em."
"Commencing intestinal flash flood."

After learning more about closed time like curves today, a new question comes to light: how would one differentiate between time travel and not?

"You should be kissed and often. And by someone who knows how."


Thus Contemptible

Noma Bar has awesome negative space artwork.
"Now he's left to pine on an island, wracked with grief"
I'd like to know more about how we calculate the decay time for positronium.
Normal heart sounds. Auscultation.
"You have corrupted your purpose... and so yourself. And you did hide away what should always have been mine."
I don't like how easily I find significance in simple words phrases and sentences. It makes me feel cheap.

So I guess on the one hand I have an abnormally weak sense of dedication to friends and family, but an abnormally strong dedication to humankind in general. In which case it becomes unclear why I care about who. And how does one express affection, or appreciation or concern or support or caring, for friends and family, or romance for specific individuals, when they cannot differentiate between why they concern themselves with friends and family verses with humans in general? I'm all for saving animals, for avoiding inhuman treatment, maybe even, when I really think about it, for vegetarianism, I'm not entirely sure. But at least for a minimizing of animal suffering. However, I cannot imagine placing animal suffering on an equal plane as human suffering. And plenty of humans are. Beyond starvation and unsanitary issues, beyond preventable disease (which motivated Bill Gates to spend more than 30 billion dollars fighting diseases in Africa that have essentially been eradicated in the industrialized world), we just simply don't get along! And I see this as hugely influential in the rest of the problems. If we all took this attitude, we could eradicate virtually all human suffering in just a few years. The resources are unbelievably abundant. But instead we concern ourselves with cable TV and riding lawn mowers, or private jets or vacation homes or all sorts of other unbelievably lavish luxuries. There is another way to get there though. If we can push ourselves far enough forward, it seems inevitable that the result will be a vast entitlement to the whole world. I've said this before, I see nothing to prevent us from replacing all human work with robotics, and in fact I see nothing to prevent this from happening naturally, as capitalism forces increased automation. Which implies forced unemployment. Which isn't a problem if everything is automated. But the transition would require some consideration. So why do we each pick different paths in attempting to improve the world? Because we each have different interpretations of what is best, what is achievable, what is realistic...
An update (10·12): this is bound to happen as computers become ever more ubiquitous; modern computers are mostly machine made as is, since most of the parts are too small to be seen (modern processors actually have billions of transistors which are too small to be seen with light! So you need an electron microscope or atomic force microscope, or one of many other types of non-optical microscopes.) Indeed, humans cannot get involved in building computers, we simply cannot be skilled enough (of course, for at least a while longer we'll be designing them and assembling the bigger parts maybe, but those jobs too will benefit from automation eventually.)

The question is, after you've allowed your imagination to run amok, is anyone very interesting? Skeletons in a closet, could they beat out the realities in the papers? Like the Fritzl case? Or the kidnapping of Jaycee Lee Dugard? Or how about voluntary cannibal victims? Like Armin Meiwes's victim? Or how about Issei Sagawa? No, truth is probably stranger than fiction. Dammit, now I'm freaked out by how weird this world is.

"Send out a battalion, to find her."
Beauty abounds.
The process of fragmenting one's mind is no fools errand.
Do people respect me so much because I respect them so much? Can they really see that in me? I'm not saying I don't, I just wouldn't have thought it would be any more observable than the rest of my feelings.
Stupid wiring! Stupid brain!
Negotiations and arguments and secrets, and compromises.
I don't want to cross such a flimsy concept as "meaning" with something so permanent.

The idea that aliens might immigrate from their own planet to our solar system, in search of resources, such as is portrayed in the movie Independence Day, doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me. Considering the amount of resources required to move anyone from one planet to another, let alone one star to another, it seems highly unlikely that anyone would make such a journey in search of new resources. It's sort of like getting in your car and driving around the planet a few thousand times, in hopes of reaching a gas station. I could do the numbers... figure the closest star, Proxima Centuri, is about 4.2 light years away, which is in the ball park of 24-25 trillion miles (a trillion being a thousand million). It's a bit disappointing that no comparisons really help us to comprehend that distance; driving around the earth about a billion times doesn't mean anything to us. How about this... if you got in a plane, and flew at 500 miles per hour (maybe a little slow for an airline? I dunno...), it'd take... about 5.5 million years. Or how about this, if you had kids at aged 35 (admittedly, a little bit older than average), and they had kids at the same exact age, and so on, it'd take about 157 thousand generations to get there. Granted, 500 mph is very slow for space travel. So lets assume 1,000,000 mph, (~278 miles per second, still pretty slow compared to c), then it would only take ~78 generations! (At 35 again for reproduction.) The vastness of space is very difficult to relate to. Probably downright impossible, for all of us. Because we just didn't evolve to deal with such huge ranges in scale. But back to the point. Can you imagine setting off on a voyage with the goal of "invading" a foreign enemy, trillions of miles away, so you could get... what, oil? gold? It'd be cheaper to make it in a nuclear reactor (it'd be cheaper still to dig it out of the ground.) What, to get energy? Until our star dies, that doesn't matter (~5 billion years, estimated?). And if you have the means of surviving a 24 trillion mile trip, you must have some damn good methods of storing and transporting energy, in which case the destination star can't be that important. I'll bet you can find enough of any given resource in interstellar space to make a trip to another star completely useless. Why is it so easy for people to make such miscalculations of scale? Or do I overestimate people's ability to do so?

"What'd you make of that?"

It's funny how I deal with mathematics. It's not that I change from not understanding to understanding, it's more like I change from unable to remember to remembering/accepting. As if progress were mostly attributable to my ability to remember definitions rather than something more commonly interpreted as comprehension.

Wait a second, why don't they just put a second laser on the mouse? One for the normal mouse movements, and one for the 'wheel/ball'. If apple mice get dirty and need cleaning out (EXACTLY like older ball-based mice had problems with), then isn't it logical to switch to a "laser" system? (That never needs cleaning.)

People sometimes reject my efforts to combat creationism, asserting that such people will not be swayed. But watching this video with Kirk Cameron and Ray Comfort, in which Kirk suggests you help by getting a bunch of copies of their mutated version of On the Origin of Species for your church, I realized, while we mostly pan to our own audience, and they mostly pan to their own audience, we are both fighting over the small middle ground, and I believe we have much better odds of swaying them than the opponents, since we have actual evidence and reason and logic on our sides, and all they really have is an old book that essentially knows nothing of the reality we live in.

I can identify with the outrage people are expressing over this, but only a little bit. It's too silly for me to be seriously concerned with. Maybe I'm just smug, but it seems that they cannot win this battle. Beyond reason and evidence (and faulty reasoning and a lack of evidence on their side), we have a whole heap of useful results. It's simply untenable. Even if an anti-evolution movement could succeed in displacing evolution in america, all it means is that another country would outpace progress that depends on evolutionary theory (maybe not, considering the shear size of the american education system, even if there were strong sentiment against evolution there would remain limited strong support, which would result in intelligent and successful researchers). But what I mean is "the cat is out of the bag", and our global society is one big capitalist free market, and if we don't accept the most useful and accurate hypothesis, someone else will, and it'll pay off. And why should I care if it is us or them that improve my life? Certainly it would be easier to relate to an Iraqi or Iranian or Palestinian or North Korean evolutionary biologist than it would be to identify with an American creationist (ID "theorist", ha!).
Martians are from Mars, Venusians are from Venus.

"What I was trying to do is not smile and not scowl... I was sort of trying to look like an empty suit." -Bill Clinton

I will take your fury.
"I wouldn't pick me."
People seem to fear the idea of having no memory, as portrayed by EP in this article. I'm not sure I relate entirely. When you consider things people are typically saddened/frightened/anxious about (or any other rough interpretation of negatively disturbed), they seem more often to rely on memory than not. People seem to remember past mistakes, and previous traumatic experiences, and grudges and regrets. Fears seem more situational, and limited. I suppose if you have an overwhelming fear of something in ever day life, then the loss of your long-term memory may generate much anxiety, but more typical fears seem limited to situations and seem less persistent.
"Would you love me, if I was anything but what I am?"
So I thought this was kind of interesting, and I wonder: if it turns out that turbulence is only really well-modeled (i.e., completely/accurately/under a wide range of conditions) when based at the particle level, and if we could further prove that any model which does not attempt to simulate the particle level must sacrifice accuracy for the sake of tractability, would that imply that economic systems suffer from the same tradeoff?
Do a good job of bringing me back from incredulous, and I'll be happy.

Thus contemptible.

The Laws of Physics are such that they simply cannot be violated—any verified violation would simply result in a reformulation of the Laws. There are no requirements beyond absolute agreement with evidence. This is the basic reason why Physics supersedes god: it abandons all traditions and dogmas, favors no opinions, no beliefs, and no books. This is really true of all science, physics just happens to be the science of finding the base laws of the universe, and as such, provides the foundation for what is and is not possible. This is also the basic reason why religion encounters so much trouble, by declaring truths prematurely (or really, at all). To be fair, we are all guilty of this from time to time (especially the cosmologists! You're going to make us all look stupid! I say it with love.)

In what interpretation is this seen as fiscally conservative? If you consider yourself fiscally conservative, then who the hell voted for W.?

Press button, wait for signal.

There can be such supremely pleasant emotion invoked by music; I wish I could write it down here to express it and record it. (I think both rapture and ecstasy are better descriptions, but both words seem to have more common meanings that have grown distant from my intent.)

Learn you. I'd be ruined.

Wandering in a room pitch black, without knowing where the obstacles lie, and a constant keen anxiousness that at any moment you might meet an object that refuses to give way to you—table, chair, wall—invoking that seemingly absurd sensation of abruptly halting when you have scarcely moved!
This is the most familiar meaning of social relationships to me.
Of course, after all these years I remember that people typically keep the center of their rooms clear of obstruction, and if I can get to and remain in the center, physical conflict will cease.
But if I spend enough time with someone, my eyes do adjust a little bit, and I can begin to make out the dim silhouettes of their furnishings, and I can begin to navigate and avoid the violent impacts with their lives.
Unless we discuss science of course, which is a well lit room that I've spent most of my life in.
Interestingly enough, conflict avoidance is probably not the optimal solution. Just as overconfidence has unexpected benefits.

Hold in your breath.

Ha ha, I just found the website for a college radio station I've been listening to (91.5 WUML Lowell), and at the bottom of their webpage it says this:"Unfortunately and ironically, the opinions expressed by WUML
do not necessarily reflect the opinions held by UMass Lowell."

I just found this in an email I wrote to myself on 8·14·06, but never sent:
I am beginning to realize that creationists distrust the empirical methods of scientific investigation. And I am wondering, just what sort of alternatives are there to empirical evidence?
Immediately I think of the human mind, and intuition. I suppose inner thought, intuition, divine inspiration, are all somewhat lumpable together, since they all occur within the observers mind and are by definition excluded from any other observer's view.
I am aware that I may be overlooking alternate sources of knowledge, so if you think of any, let me know.
For now, I'll focus on these inner thought methods.
If inner thought is a reliable source of knowledge/information about the material world, how is it that we should differentiate between true and false conclusions? After all, inner thought has lead to a great many miscalculations, both personal and public, among every single human being in all of history.
How is it that the non-agreeing inner thought of two individuals can be reconciled? Obviously 'god' reveals different messages to both christians and satanists, or christians and judaists, or protestants and catholics, or virtually any two religious denominations.
How is it that we may personally trust our inner thought?
How is it that other people cannot see how absurd this whole idea is?
How does one differentiate between premature enlightenment, and the real thing? Simple, one does not. One assumes that what one knows is as much as one can know until one knows more. There is no use fretting over knowledge unknown.

This is fun:
Every invalid syllogism breaks at least one rule.
This syllogism breaks at least one rule.
Therefore, this syllogism is invalid.
Someone posted that in a jokes forum, and pointed out that both the premises and conclusion are true. Hence the joke.

State of calamity.

I'm not all for egalitarianism, nor am I all for meritocracy, but rather somewhere in between. I'm egalitarian about a basic set of human needs (food, shelter, clothing, education, health), and merit based for most else. Does that make me a socialist? I don't think so, but if it does, then so be it. How can so many people have said/heard/believed that actions speak louder than words, and yet so many people be hung up on words so easily?

"Love is little, love is low,
Love will make our spirits grow:
Grow in peace, grow in light.
Love will do the thing that's right."

Simple solution: stop worrying about it!
So this is kind of crazy:permanent infant. So if you barter your soul to the devil in exchange for immortality or extreme longevity or eternal youth, be sure to specify what age you mean by youth.
"We never seem to get a break, do we."

This is enjoyable.
Am I an early socialist?

People have far less compassion for one another than I previously believed. Even now, this fact remains so counter-intuitive to me that I have to remind myself of it and force my own processing of it to remember, and to see how that fact affects my own view of the world. It is a real wake up call. It has even now revealed that my optimism often overpowers my rationality, which, as a scientist, is a little bit worrisome. Though at least now I can be more aware of my biases.

"It seemed like a good idea at the time."
If only; sans religion would internet in the 1600s have been possible?

Whoa, clearly I have much to learn.
I believe I spend more time calibrating my judgement than I do judging things.
I don't exactly think that nothing is sacred, I merely reserve the right to reject other individual's claims to something being sacred.

"...hence, like one who is afraid, he spoke as loudly as he could."
"All religions bear traces of the fact that they owe their origin to an early im-mature intellectuality of men—they all make very light of the obligation to speak the truth: they know nothing of a duty to God to be truthful and clear in his communications to mankind."
-Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche, The Dawn of Day, p81

Dry run you might say.
Oh, it's so obvious in retrospect (isn't it always?), if we are to define scientific statements as falsifiable, then we immediately know where religion can survive: in the un-falsifiable. (Perhaps we should define retrospect as the process in which a problem transforms from difficult to trivial.)

"In science 'fact' can only mean 'confirmed to such a degree that it would be perverse to withhold provisional consent.' I suppose that apples might start to rise tomorrow, but the possibility does not merit equal time in physics classrooms."
-Stephen J. Gould

Very well said Stephen! (Another Dead Hero)

Whoever wrote the the bible stories about genesis and Noah's ark didn't know anything about inbreeding did they?
Oh wait, I guess whoever wrote the story of Noah the second time did know better, since they said seven, not two, of every thing.

Meet me half way, because I'll never cross this gap alone.
Please let me be blown away.

What I want is nothing.

I need this as much as you do.
So when did I become the serious and solemn one?

Bernard just sent me this. On the one hand, it's too bad I didn't have a large poster of that when I was little, because if I did, I'd probably know the periodic table very well now. On the other hand, I'd probably be a chemist, so it's better that I didn't!

Oh, and a while back he sent me this, an interesting news article about some recovered work by Archimedes, from 2,200 years ago. (It appears he was much closer to discovering & understanding calculus than we previously imagined, something europeans repeated in the 1700s). Why did it go unnoticed so long? Because some religious asshole at some point recovered the paper for some religious nonsense. The harm that religion has inflicted upon humankind is without equal. Small pox may have killed 300-500 million people between 1900 and 1979, but it was (and continues to be) religion that interferes with the scientific and technological progress that frees mankind from such scourge. Calculus before christianity? Why is the latter so widespread, when the former is so incredibly powerful? One provides a kind of internal comfort, the other unravels the mysteries of nature, brings the horribly complex phenomena surrounding us into focus, translates the universe into a language that actually fits into our tiny little heads.



She's Uncomputable

Holly Walsh vs The Smoking Ban.
Ah, thats right, I've been emailing myself links like mad.

Don't you take the blame.

The better angels of our nature.

When a swindler swindles the swindled, who should we blame? Obviously in many circumstances, "blaming the victim" is a cold, compassionless stance, certainly rejected by a large majority of civilization. (Very few people would blame the burgled (not a word) over the burglar.) But simultaneously there are clear instances in which sympathy is very difficult to sustain, because the victim has displayed such supreme ignorance, such negligence that "blame the victim" might seem acceptable. This is the sentiment captured in the saying "fool me once, shame on you, fool me 8 or more times, shame on me."

I have no need for that hypothesis.

What exactly happens when an element (or molecule) reflects a photon? How does that work? And how is it that we can make a surface smooth enough to reflect light in a nice clear way? After all, every mirror is made up of a bunch of little atoms, which at some level would be bumpy. Why is it that photons can end up so uniformly reflected that we can see a clear image?

We draw all these lines, pushing us around, us and them. We put everyone and ourselves in little boxes that are easy to categorize and then it is easy to know what we think and mean and want and dislike. And there is some use to this all, it does help to be able to generalize; without generalization problems can rapidly become

So if Lisi is right, the only remaining question may be... why is the universe built on E8? Maybe he, or someone else, already has an answer for that, but I don't know it yet. And if he were proven correct, that'd be my first question. Also, it's exciting that his model appears to be making predictions, it appears falsifiable, which is a nice change of pace from string theory, which seems maybe too flexible to be invalidated. Or would the specific values still be open questions? (I.e. masses, constants, etc.)

NEVER stand still.

Matt sent me this video of Jack Conte at something called Wonderfest. It's very enjoyable.

Bunt, hunt, runt, punt, dunt, aunt! (I only found dunt because I was looking.)

Robert Wright talking about optimism at TED.

Robert Wright interviewing Daniel Dennett. Dennett is so wonderfully well thought out.
"Well it seemed like a good idea at the time."
"After all the reason we die is that our parts break."

OK Go on treadmills. How'd I miss this before?

I never got it working, some day I'll get back to it. It's pretty awesome:Droste effect video 1. Droste effect video 2. Some Droste-effect photos.

My kind of wedding.
and skateboarder fail. I kept this because it is an excellent example of an elastic collision, probably in part due to his body reflexively recoiling from the collison.

Movies like The Mist and Knowing have far darker endings than I ever would have imagined (certainly The Mist blows Knowing out of the water in this sense), especially given that they are major studio films (and major genres). Makes me wonder if we can expect our society to take a darker turn in entertainment, at least as a genre, and as far as acceptability is concerned.

This question made me laugh audibly (I think because the last option fits me so well):
"Your 3-year old son is extremely timid, and has been hypersensitive about- and a bit fearful of- new places and people virtually since he was born. What do you do?
-Accept that he has a shy temperament and think of ways to shelter him from situations that would upset him
-Take him to a child psychologist for help
-Purposely expose him to lots of new people and places so he can get over his fear
-Engineer an ongoing series of challenging but manageable experiences that will teach him that he can handle new people and places

Bill Hicks on war and freedom
Bernard sent me this 8-bit trip. It's pretty awesome.

We can't help but tell ourselves the truth.

Heads will roll.

Bernard sent me this hilarious story.

Integrate and fire.


I know it's a lot more complicated than this, but for a moment it seemed as though conservatives were people who had a cynical outlook about the future, and liberals were people with an optimistic outlook. But I know there is a lot more going on.

So I was just watching some match moving software do it's thing (holy crap!) and I was thinking about how easily our brains do what appears to take the computer a lot of effort. And probably this is largely due to the algorithm we use, as well as the fact that our brain has evolved around this sort of purpose, whereas computers have not. Which got me thinking, there might be some insight to be gained by understanding how the brain performs this task, which might be possible by imaging the brain as it performs this sort of task. The same would be true of Go. But maybe brain imaging, such as MRIs are difficult in such circumstances, I don't know.

Haven't watched this but it sounds fun.
This is sort of bizarre to see...

I love Weinberg's quote, "with or without religion, good people can behave well and bad people can do evil; but for good people to do evil—that takes religion" but I think it overlooks a few things... for instance, religion seems to distort our sense of right and wrong not just to allow good people to do evil, but also to label good work as evil; that is, religion causes people to perceive good things as evil things (pretty much anything related to sex being the archetypical example, the condom being a particularly brutal example of the catholic church's criminal offense).

How awesome does this sound?

Stein's movie claims that the Nazi's work was based on Darwin's ideas. Which, even if true, is no more indicting than saying nuclear intercontinental ballistic missiles are based on Newton's work regarding gravity.

The Great Rift.
Practice random kindness.
Demand more joy.
Cut to ribbons.
Thems fightin' words!

An engineer, a physicist, and a mathematician find themselves in an anecdote,
indeed an anecdote quite similar to many that you have no doubt already
heard. After some observations and rough calculations the engineer realizes
the situation and starts laughing. A few minutes later the physicist understands
too and chuckles to himself happily, as he now has enough experimental evidence
to publish a paper. This leaves the mathematician somewhat perplexed, as he had observed right away that he was the subject of an anecdote and deduced quite rapidly the presence of humor from similar anecdotes, but considers this anecdote to be too trivial a corollary to be significant, let alone funny.

So "one-way functions exist" implies P ≠ NP, but I would guess that "one-way functions do not exist" does not imply that P=NP, right?

I should finish watching this lecture on the physics of computation at some point, but probably won't.

If I ever found myself on the run, and needed to communicate with informed colleagues, I'm confident I could write in some pretty obscure math and to prevent law enforcement from intercepting my communications. Though I suppose they'd just search around for someone capable of translating it.
It'd probably be very interesting, and exciting, to try to evade law enforcement on a national scale. Granted, the likelihood of finding yourself in a situation both where national law enforcement is pursuing you, and it is in your best interest to not cooperate, but to evade them, is vanishingly small.

Slay the dreamer.
"What I cannot create, I do not understand"
written on Richard Feynman's chalkboard at the time of his death.
I only learn in light of feedback indicating where I went wrong.

This was superb.

9·9·09 Oooh, 9-9-9! It's the devils number upside down! As if the arbitrary symbols and timing we assigned actually meant something!

It always amazes me when famous people turn out to be surprisingly talented, though it shouldn't really be surprising—they are, after all, successful, famous, people.

"You can be as mad as a mad dog at the way things went. You can swear, curse the fates. But when it comes to the end you have to let go."

"A vile promise I have absolutely no intention of keeping."
"Dig, once you get used to it, insanity can be the most normal thing in the world, you know?"

Brilliant idea: introduce periodic cataclysm to genetic programming. Just like in the history of the world, where periodic mass extinctions have opened the door to new classes of animals dominating the environment. Better idea:

Based on a discussion with Matt: could depression be the result of a more fundamental behavioral tendency to sacrifice oneself for group benefit?

People are fond of saying, "I am willing to follow the evidence wherever it leads." I would like to encourage some introspection about that statement; if the evidence leads to a definitive answer that god does not exist, are you willing to follow? If the evidence were to lead to something truly sinister, like a complete lack of purpose in our existence, can you accept that? I am. And I'd argue that you should too, though I doubt most people are for the most part. Those defenses people provide, "you can't be moral without god", "a purposeless existence would mean rape and murder aren't wrong", etc., and also stances such as belief in belief, all boil down to a fear of the unknown, (in my opinion). Most people haven't considered what a world without purpose, or a world without belief, or a world without a creator, really truly implies. All that it implies, is that the properties of the world we live in are entirely dependent on US. That there is no grand authority, there are no rules, and whether we live a happy life, or a miserable one, whether we live a guilt free or burdened existence, whether we treat each other with respect, or take advantage of one another, is entirely dependent on us.

If we visualize the solution landscape as being populated by our solutions, and that breeding solutions connects distant solutions to one another, creating offspring at some midpoint, (maybe not the real midpoint), plus an offset due to mutation. Then is it useful to ask the program what extrapolating between two solutions is as well, rather than just interpolating? In other words, look at offspring both between two healthy solutions, and offspring that lies adjacent to the healthy solutions. Also, what about perturbing the solutions and using the difference between very near solutions to specify the direction of mutation?
The subtitles mentioned how too much mutation and too little mutation both lead to sub-optimal results, and how natural selection tunes mutation for maximum competitiveness, right? How great is that idea?!

Ha, maybe the uncertainty principle, and probabilistic nature of the universe, is equivalent to the sort of decimal to binary to decimal conversion errors we have with computers!

So I'll want to make some assumption about the distribution of energies the vacuum is able to produce, and based on that give some prediction about the distribution of H, He, Li, D that would be created over long periods of time.

Wait, could the attraction of gravity be interpreted as the borrowed energy? So the vacuum has some energy fluctuation, producing a positive energy and a negative energy in some limited vicinity; the positive energy becomes a massive particle, and the negative energy becomes the attractive quality of gravity? Am I just going completely insane? I need a mathematical framework to describe this and make predictions. I must learn more about spin, and what a spin 2 particle really means...

It has always bothered me when people say we don't understand gravity yet, or that Newton explained how gravity behaved, but not what it was. It bothers me because at a fundamental level, you are not familiar with anything. Why does gravity mystify people anymore than the electromagnetic force? Or so called "mechanical" forces in general? Do you know why your arm moves? Because your muscles contract, and how does that happen? Because there are molecules making up the muscle cells that can actually change shape in response to stimuli (e.g. a signal from your brain, hopefully), and how are those molecules working? They're all the electromagnetic force! For some reason people think that they understand, say, scissors, or a seesaw, or a wheelbarrow or hammer or pulley system or ramp, simply because these simple machines are all mechanistic. But the atoms never touch one another! When I shove you, the atoms in my hands are getting so close to the atoms in your body that the electromagnetic force is transferring force! So all of mechanics (as well as chemistry that makes all those molecules; remember, atoms keep their hands to themselves), is really the result of the electromagnetic force! And the electromagnetic force is awfully similar to the force of gravity (at least on the macroscopic scale; the main difference being that EM has positive and negative charge, leading to both attractive and repulsive forces, whereas gravity is always attractive ;-) So why is it that everyone is always complaining about gravity but not EM? Okay, enough complaining for one day.

As Russell is quoted, "[electricity] is not a thing, like St. Paul's Cathedral; it is a way in which things behave. When we have told how things behave when there are electrified and under what circumstances they are electrified we have told all there is to tell... Electricity is not like red paint, a substance that can be put on to the electron and taken off again; it is merely a convenient name for certain physical laws".

Is there an explanation for the fundamental quantities of H, He, Li and Deuterium, (and the nature of the spectrum), based on the idea that the CMB is random noise? (My cosmology!) Also, why are we more comfortable postulating these strange distributions of matter and energy most of which cannot be seen, instead of postulating that conservation of energy doesn't quite hold on cosmic scales?

Amorous (like in polyamory), and don't forget reification!

Oh crap, you screwed up the differentiation of the Lagrangian. When you take (d/dt) make sure to correctly differentiate! (I.e., xdot*thetadot becomes xdotdot*thetadot + xdot*thetadotdot.)

Okay, and a ton of links:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buckingham_%CF%80_theorem#Significance AMAZING!
http://michaelnielsen.org/blog/a-modest-proposal/ reminds me: should we make a "religion" of science? It's only dogma could be anti-dogmatism!
http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/reify This this the problem I have with our concept of self?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Myelin (innovative electronics in our nervous system)
(dimensionality, august 2nd)

Of course there are another 50 in my browser right now. I think maybe the part of my brain that recognizes whether something is valuable or not, is completely broken.


Complimentarily Dysfunctional

It seems that we have emotions with no good use. Jealousy seems to be the most obvious; what could possibly be the benefit of being envious? Or resentful? Why must our brains (bodies?) adhere to such useless, counterproductive, unhappy rules?

It is taboo to notice this.
Invitations to hesitate too.

I just realized, much better than a box fan trying to exchange air in your home/apartment, would be to convert your entire home into a pump, which would be relatively easy. First, put "one-way-valves" on both the place you want an inlet and outlet (e.g. a window in the room you want to cool and a window in the attic, respectively). These one way valves could be very simple, just a big flap that hinges to allow air in but not out, or out but not in. Then, somewhere else in the home, we place a large bladder, that "breathes". Really a big balloon would work well, anything that can displace a large volume of air repeatedly. When the balloon/bladder inflates, the (attic) valve allows the air to be forced out, while (say bedroom) valve prevents air from escaping, when the balloon deflates, the volume of air in the home decreases, sucking the attic valve shut and the bedroom valve open. This is only real useful when it is cooler outside than inside, but I'll bet it'd be far more effective & efficient than box fans. I suspect that box fans experience a great deal of something akin to cavitation.

Reasons are contagious.
Transcend your content.
Our paths crossed. Thats about it.

As far as information collection and retention is concerned, sometimes I feel morbidly obese.

Panting appetite.
"Now if you'll excuse me South Carolina, I've got to go see a man about a horse... that he's been fucking."
"Keep it stupid, simple"


How can one fear that government run healthcare would be
too competitive for the private sector, and yet simultaneously believe that free markets are optimal solutions? (Obviously we can just constrain the government plan to require that it pays for itself, to prevent the unfair advantage of operating on a deficit.)

Everything happens. Thats sort of a good way to view QM.

Heres a calculation I ought to do, for my own curiosity. Take the most powerful laser we have. Or better yet, the total amount of power available to humankind, and convert it all into a brief laser pulse. How much would it disperse by the time it reached the nearest star? Can we aim it accurately enough to expect to hit the nearest star? How intense would it be a that distance? (I would imagine "not very".)

"Everything about you is a menace."
"Remember when it was new."

This page has an audio clip of an Arizona pastor giving a wholly vile, despicable sermon, about both president Obama and the homosexual community, and I think the hypothesis that "gays are recruiting" is actually really funny, because it sort of says something about this mans understanding of his own sexuality. Does he think that he could be convinced (through whatever evil he imagines) to like men? I would estimate that I have been smitten with women for about 20 years now, I'm pretty sure no force in the universe could possibly change that (though I suppose chemicals could probably do a lot more than I'd care to know). Certainly no human is going to convince me.
This is exactly why Isaac Asimov said, "Properly read, the Bible is the most potent force for atheism ever conceived."
How is it that he both hates Obama and yet wouldn't salt a slug because "he loves all gods creatures?" Why is it that the most righteous humans are always the most damnable, hateful, evil humans. How is it that this book remains so potent after so long? Why aren't we praying to Isaac Newton's PhilosophiƦ Naturalis Principia Mathematica, or James Clerk Maxwell's A Dynamical Theory of the Electromagnetic Field, or Albert Einstein's On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies, or Euclid's Elements, or Euler's complete works, or Gauss's work, or Riemann's paper On the Number of Primes Less Than a Given Magnitude, or Russell & Whitehead's Principia Mathematica, or Archimedes legacy, or Charles Darwin's On the Origin of the Species, or any of the uncountable other humans that helped us all so much. I've only include mathematicians and physicists (for the most part), when you include all the other scientists, all the other discoveries, all the other work that has pulled us up out of the mud, afforded us the comforts of modern life, removed the toil of disease and weather and the host of other struggles that we've all forgotten so quickly. Did you know that more than twice as many people died of smallpox in the 20th century than in all of the wars of the 20th century combined? And what was it that ultimately eliminated that suffering? A bible verse? The torah or qur'an or new testament? Was it the pope or a preacher or mother Teresa? No. NO! It was science. And why is it that I, as an atheist, seem to have more compassion than this all mighty, all wonderful god that the majority of the developed world (apparently) believe in? I wouldn't wish hell on my worst enemy. Or on anyone. Prison I suppose, but not torture. What is wrong with everyone!

If You Repeat it, I Will Deny.

The NonStampCollector has some good questions. And some good points. And some funny analogies.

"...there's something very special about the scientific mindset which is that it is prepared to live with open-endedness."
-A.C. Grayling (Why is Science Important?)

Joe Scarborough is an idiot.

Constant forms.

Wow, Robert Wright mentions in this video that the thoughts that someone is judging him still hangs over his conscious. "I have not lost, I never lost the sense, that I'm being judged, by, a being."

Could we artificially generate rings for a planet (probably a bad idea for our own planet, or any planet we want to land on), that could increase the visibility of the planet outside the solar system? (That is, for other ET civilizations to detect us more easily.) I suppose it probably wouldn't increase the visibility any more than Earth's intrinsic visibility (and life signature based on the atmospheric composition).

I just want the most clever, intelligent, irrational girl I can find.

I really want to put the effort into memorizing this poem:
"P is right when it's wrong and is false when it's true!"

I feel like there are a lot more notes to put here, but I don't know where they would be if they exist.


Nothing = Everything

Wow, I went a whole month with no post. Though, in my defense (who am I arguing with?), I didn't have internet access this last week or two or so. Anyway, on with the pasting!

Wait, that isn't true. Okay, sort of. Why does the last post say "6·27·09", but include notes from July? I suppose I must have started it in June?

No matter:

I'm happy to be the root of the problem, but it would be awfully nice to be the flower of the problem too.
"How's your wife?" — "Compared to what?"
My computer, it's not learning from it's mistakes. ...yet.
Scoundrel, I like the sound of that too.

one more such victory would utterly undo him

Denis Diderot said "the god of the christians is a father who makes much of his apples, and very little of his children", in 1746, and I would like to modernize it with some recent events. Like, the pope of the catholics is a psychotic delusional who makes much of his crackers and very little of his fellow humankind.

On the Unscientific America matter, I'd like to make two points. First, is the large degree of intolerance in our society, much of which can be attributed to religious dogma (intolerance for gays in america, intolerance for science in america, intolerance for any violation of orthodox belief in israel, as we've heard lately, intolerance for anything non-orthdox in many more orthodox islamic societies), and the immense pain and suffering this intolerance has caused throughout time, and continues to cause. Now, you might be thinking, "but the New Atheists are just intolerant of the religiously devout!" And that is true, but as the philosopher of science Karl Popper pointed out, an open society must reserve the right to be intolerant of the intolerant. In his words, from volume 1 of The Open Society and Its Enemies:
The so-called paradox of freedom is the argument that freedom in the sense of absence of any constraining control must lead to very great restraint, since it makes the bully free to enslave the meek. The idea is, in a slightly different form, and with very different tendency, clearly expressed in Plato.
Less well known is the paradox of tolerance: Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them. — In this formulation, I do not imply, for instance, that we should always suppress the utterance of intolerant philosophies; as long as we can counter them by rational argument and keep them in check by public opinion, suppression would certainly be unwise. But we should claim the right to suppress them if necessary even by force; for it may easily turn out that they are not prepared to meet us on the level of rational argument, but begin by denouncing all argument; they may forbid their followers to listen to rational argument, because it is deceptive, and teach them to answer arguments by the use of their fists or pistols. We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant. We should claim that any movement preaching intolerance places itself outside the law, and we should consider incitement to intolerance and persecution as criminal, in the same way as we should consider incitement to murder, or to kidnapping, or to the revival of the slave trade, as criminal.
[Notes to the Chapters: Ch.7, Note 4]

"Science is interesting, and if you don't agree you can fuck off."

"Also, I'm given to understand your mother is overweight."

Ha ha ha ha ha:
Posted by: Matt Penfold | July 15, 2009 1:24 PM
Brilliant Stu.
Do you reckon M & K have to buy cucumbers pre-sliced ? Only if they saw a whole they might be reminded of male genitalia and go all faint and giddy. And if they both did it, who would be around to loosen their corsets ?

Secret secretion.

Something less personal.
"Your uncle Floyd died." "What happened?!" "His heart stopped beating."
"Your unwillingness to accept empirical evidence suggests an attempt at flattery."

Caught between a rock and a crazy place.

When I, as a New Atheist, describe religions as viruses, I am not referring so much to the parasitic nature of a virus but more the pattern of propagation throughout a population, and the detrimental effects it has on the infected, and the aftereffects. Like many viruses that run their course without killing the inflicted, those who recover from religious infection often bear scars of the struggle, scars which they will typically carry for the rest of their lives.

Deftly daft.

Is this my weakness? I need someone there?

"Come on baby, don't say maybe. I gotta know if you're sweet love is gonna save me."
(Should I have attempted to replicate the duration?)

Honestly, just getting "christians" discussing their beliefs with one another would go a long way to dismantling the institution(s).

Who the hell hit the chicken switch?
Between the click of the light, and the start of the dream.

Wait a minute, is the water mark of Benjamin Franklin on a one hundred dollar bill supposed to be grinning? Is it normally showing teeth?

Objective: to understand the relationship between the physical world & computability, with emphasis on the physical world.

"I wanna give you the world if you stay with me tonight.
I wanna give you the world if you just hold me tight."

You know, if I were god, I'd make the world a lot less shitty for a lot of people. And maybe slightly more shitty for a few people too.

Why is it that some people find strength in hardship, while others find only despair? And how dependent on the type of hardship is the type of emotion invoked?

"I like you so much better when you're naked. I like me so much better when you're naked."
"And my career came down to operating this impossible device, while people were judging me."

Living in infamy.

On my drive home from work on Wednesday, I got very tired, and so I pulled over and took a nap, shortly before reaching route 2. This is fairly normal for me, I've stopped many times over the last few weeks, both on my way to and from work (in fact, one day this week on the way to work I was woken up and told by a young woman that I could not take a nap in that parking space, I think she worked at a cafe or something nearby). A few weeks ago while napping on the way home with my windows completely down, I got bitten a lot by mosquitos, so on Wednesday, I was sure to not leave my windows very far down (it was also drizzling kind of, and a very wooded area). So since it was very humid outside, it was even more humid in the parked car, and sleeping was fairly uncomfortable, I probably got 20 or 30 minutes of rest, (oddly, twice I started to snore and woke myself, as it was uncomfortable). Oh, another note, someone called me while I was falling asleep, but I answered too late, calling back I got a busy signal (later that night I called back again and it turned out to be Movie Scene in Derry! Which I do not have an account with! So apparently it was just a random misdial? Because they looked my number up and didn't find anything (I was a little worried that for whatever reason there was an account for my number, and expecting fees to dispute!) Also, I think the day before I locked myself out of my car I got stung by a bee on the way home, and just a few seconds after pulling over an unmarked state trooper was pulled over behind me, which is weird cause I speed a lot on route 2, and so do the cops, but I didn't see him at all, so I'm not sure if he was catching up to me or just behind me or what. Anyway, after telling him I'd been stung he asked if I wanted an ambulance or if I were allergic, and I said no, I'd be fine, "it'll just suck", and he said okay and left.

I do not understand people's fears of enemy nations getting nuclear weapons. Notice, for instance, that America is not... I should finish this, but instead, do your own damn research! America isn't on the list of countries with a no first strike policy, apparently because we openly reserve the right to use nuclear weapons in retaliation for certain offensives against us (and maybe even our allies?). Which is pretty ridiculous, when you consider that China has specified that they will not use them unless as an equal response.

Dammit! John Bolton, while on The Daily Show, said, "there's not that much difference between me and the people who want a world where no government has nuclear weapons. There's not much difference, I only want one government to have nuclear weapons." ...WHAT?!?! Does he not understand there is an ENORMOUS difference between someone who wants the governments of the world to interact as a global democracy, and someone who wants the governments of the world to interact as a global monarchy? He is endorsing a holier-than-thou position for the United States? Who the fuck are we? Seeing as how we are the only country to have ever used nuclear weapons against an enemy (and we did it twice), on what authority do we claim to deserve such a unique position of responsibility? And on what evidence do we justify denying everyone else such a responsibility? And if you want to defend our actions, I need an acceptable answer to why we couldn't have demonstrated the weapon to the Japanese in a non-populated area, such as the ocean, instead of killing more than 220,000 people (mostly citizens, including 3,200 Japanese American citizens). Sorry, that was a bit of a rant. Bill Kristol was on two nights before, and Stewart got him in quite a bind, when Kristol affirmed that the government provides the best healthcare money can buy to our troops, and yet (along normal conservative lines) remain steadfast in his opinion that government should not be involved in health care because it cannot be efficient. Granted, I am not certain that the military healthcare plan is really what Kristol seems to think it is, and more generally, I think healthcare is far too complicated to... eh, I never finish these thoughts. Maybe if I thought anyone were reading, or more cared, or if these things seemed important in the least bit, I would, but otherwise no.
(as if reiterating his support for Sarah Palin wasn't enough)


Not even a little.

You cannot stop what you did not start.

You'd have to be completely out of your mind to give either america or russia any excuse to use nuclear weapons. You'd have to be far more crazy than a typical suicidal person, or even a suicide bomber; such little regard for your citizens' well being would run opposed to most public service motivations for political power, and suicidal tendencies would run opposite to those seeking power (since it would rapidly quench any power, by killing large numbers of citizens and government officials).

Antitheism, anti-dogmatism, post-theism, maltheism, misotheism; wait, is Richard Dawkins intolerant of religious people? Am I? Is the fact that I am willing to criticize other's belief vocally, is that intolerance?

If you're suggesting that the type of pencil I practice doing the work with has no influence whatsoever on my ability to use the prescribed pencil during the actual test, you're absolutely right. But are you also suggesting I risk it?

"If you can find it in your heart to forgive me, your tiny little heart, would you consider a scientific collaboration?"

With the invention of the equals sign it was realized that everything was equal to nothing.

"If there's one thing Nixon is known for, it's class. Let's cut this turd loose!" —President Richard Nixon

I just watched an episode of 30 days, in which Morgan Spurlock (host) lives on a Navajo reservation for a month, and I can't help but think that their extreme poverty is in part due to their strong respect for tradition. In fact, they even mention in the show that Americans in general do not have much in the way of traditions, and I can't help but wonder if America's success is in part due to our more progressive nature, which was the direct result of being a country almost entirely of immigrants, which certainly destroyed much of the tradition that would exist in a culture that remains in one place over a very long period of time. I'm not saying people can't or shouldn't have a strong sense of culture or preserve tradition, but it might just be that you cannot simultaneously preserve your traditions and succeed in an ever more rapidly evolving world of technology and information.

"If someone figures out what you're up to they can sacrifice, and hold onto a heart." — "And then you lose."

Wow, in India, night shifts at call centers are considered better than day shifts, since night shifts correspond to American daytime, and they've begun taking christmas break, since their demographic (Americans)

You can read my mind if you'd like. (It isn't that hard really.)

Besides, isn't it more exciting when you don't have permission?

"Genocidal stupidity", is how Sam Harris described the effect of the vatican AIDS riddled villages in sub-Saharan African. When the atheist-agnostic community, such as the National Academy of Science, takes an apologist point of view and says something equivalent to "science and religion study different things", they are viewing religion in a much more reasonable way than many people do, or, they are assuming that most people will eventually buy the spirituality view of religion and trash the ridiculous, inane ancient dogmas.

Sam Harris says it is possible for someone to be so well educated that they can build a nuclear bomb, and yet still believe they will get the 72 virgins in paradise, which I have in the past assumed to be not possible. In fact, for many years I've thought specifically that those intelligent enough to create a nuclear weapon are not crazy enough to do so in a rogue manner, and those crazy enough to do so are not intelligent enough to do it. It is a somewhat scary thought that he may be correct.

So needlessly horrible.

Harris mentioned that scientists tend to say "I don't know", and can be hard pressed to give an answer on something they are not expert about. I can identify with that to a degree, and I know many people will say, "but cody, you tend to act like a know-it-all", and I can agree with that statement wholeheartedly, but on the other hand, those who know me well will recall I am very fond of saying, "I don't know", "I'm not sure", and most recognizably, "it's mixed", all of which are simple methods of avoiding actual answers, on my part. Though I wonder if my language is too subtle for most people to realize I am simply dodging their questions.

All so sweet.
Also sweet.
I need to find a new problem.

There are a group of people who hypothesize that the human brain has a functional foundation in quantum processes, and it seems to me that the only reason for claiming so is the mysteriousness generally attributed to consciousness, and a corresponding mysteriousness (as well as a very specific increase in computational power) of quantum mechanics. This appears very unnecessary to me, in part because I do not find consciousness to be very mysterious, and in part because the brain is an incomprehensibly complex structure, our largest super computers only recently rivaling the vast complexity of the structure that every developed human carries atop their head. There also seem to be many objections regarding free will and determinism, suggesting that the probabilistic nature of quantum mechanics could resolve the dilemma between a strictly mechanistic (classical computer) model of our brain and the seemingly "free" will we all (or most) would like to believe we have. But an obvious resolution to the problem requires nothing more than noting that reality is a very large, complex set of data, and that the human brain, no matter how mechanistic, has extremely limited access to that data set. Furthermore, the software (and likely much of the hardware) is in constant development; none of it was created out of infallible theory (or intelligence), it was all developed through approximation techniques, heuristics, and "good enough" solutions can certainly be more valuable than global optimums if they can be calculated in shorter time. For a concrete example, a brain capable of calculating the most efficient path through rough and uneven terrain while fleeing a predator (or pursuing prey), is useless if it takes a few hundredths of a second longer to do so than a brain that accepts an approximate solution and begins fleeing a few hundredths of a second later. I've ranted often enough about consciousness that I probably needn't bother doing so again now. I should probably split this into separate criticisms of the quantum mechanics-abled brains and determinism/free will arguments.

Dammit, I took a few hundred photos of the sky tonight, each 5 seconds long, with ~7 seconds between them, and yet only two or three even have lightning lighting up the clouds, not a single one has an actual bolt in it. Such a disappointment. I ought to move west where I can see summer lightning for months. Though I suppose I could just visit instead probably...

Ha ha ha, I just saw a cab crash into the newspaper stands. It wasn't all out, like you'd seen in a movie, just a slight brushing, but still entertaining for 12·41 am.

Ooo, and now the moon is peaking out between the clouds. Maybe I should download all these wasted photos so I can capture that, though it doesn't look like it will last.

When patience ferments (stagnates? no, that'd be incorrect), the virtue sours into complacency.