Sunday, March 30, 2008

Doom update

Peak oil may be just the thing to counter global warming. Original research here. Doom rating: -2

Unless, of course, physicists produce a strangelet and convert the Earth to a dense smoking lump of strangeness. Via. Doom rating: -11.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Reductionist epiphanies

I sometimes troll the libertarians at Overcoming Bias, but there's a lot of insightful stuff there. A recent post on Fake Reductionism was particularly good, I thought. It dealt with the varying emotional experiences related to reductionist explanations, and it inspired me to write down this long-simmering thought.

Maybe it's peculiar to my own thinking, but I have over the years had a number of experiences which I call "reductionist epiphanies". These are moments when all of a sudden I understand some phenomenon that previously either has mystified me, or that I've simply taken for granted. Generally the answer to the mystery becomes so glaringly obvious that I can't quite remember what it was like to not have that understanding, but enough of my previous state is left around that I can at least recall the fact that I had a thunderbolt of revelation.

The suddenness of these insights seems to be a product of having large chunks of knowledge that were previously separated suddenly come together in a more powerful, unified whole. There's an almost audible feeling of pieces clicking into place.

Anyway, here are three questions which have rather simple and elegant answers. Probably you already know what they are. In case you don't, I'm not going to give it away so you can have the pleasure of revelation when you figure it out.

  • How does a computer translate instructions into action?

  • Why are there three primary colors, when light is a continous spectrum of wavelengths? How does the three-dimensional representation of color used in computer displays map to color as a one-dimensional wavelength?

  • What makes a gene dominant or recessive? 

The answer to the first question is one that anybody with a CS or EE degree learns in the classroom, but because I had a fairly broken and twisted route through higher education I managed to miss this, and instead figured it out on my own -- an entirely more satisfying experience, so I'm grateful for that.

Monday, March 17, 2008

The wheels come off

I certainly don't have anything insightful to say about the ongoing economic meltdown, but man. I could see this coming from a long way off, why couldn't the people who actually know something about economics? Too bad I didn't put more money behind my pessimism, but it took one of my crazed right-wing correspondents to wake me up and put some into gold (via the exchange-traded GLD fund). So far so good.

Jim Kunstler tries to not gloat too hard.

The Guardian says "Indeed, it is somewhat surprising that there is not already rioting in the streets, given the gigantic fraud perpetrated by the financial elite at the expense of ordinary Americans." Uh, no it's not. Americans as a group are too fat, lazy, and apolitical to do anything as constructive as riot. Besides, the ones most affected are off in the edge suburbs which don't have the population density to support a good mob.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

It's all connected

Well, here's something I didn't know. I wonder what all those losers worried about the pure bloodlines of the West being overwhelmed by the onrush of Muslim hordes think of this:

Mixed in with Queen Elizabeth's blue blood is the blood of the Moslem prophet Mohammed, according to Burke's Peerage, the geneological guide to royalty. The relation came out when Harold B. Brooks-Baker, publishing director of Burke's, wrote Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher to ask for better security for the royal family. ''The royal family's direct descent from the prophet Mohammed cannot be relied upon to protect the royal family forever from Moslem terrorists,'' he said. Probably realizing the connection would be a surprise to many, he added, ''It is little known by the British people that the blood of Mohammed flows in the veins of the queen. However, all Moslem religious leaders are proud of this fact.''

Brooks-Baker said the British royal family is descended from Mohammed through the Arab kings of Seville, who once ruled Spain. By marriage, their blood passed to the European kings of Portugal and Castille, and through them to England's 15th century King Edward IV. '

On our side of the pond, we've got our royal family of Bushies walking hand-in-hand with the Saudis, but I don't know that they've actually mixed their gene pools yet.