Saturday, June 24, 2017

Physics and econ

RCS has a link today to a Guardian story: "Why I left physics for economics. I recently decided to abandon the rules that govern nature for the rules that govern people and markets: economics. Why would I do such a thing?"

Short version: work in physics is hard to find and unstable (which means jerking your family around--some of us value stability, contra Zuckerberg's values). Econ has interesting patterns and rules to be discovered, just like plasma physics.

Do other people remember quants on Wall Street? True, that was GIGO and most of the blame lies with screwed-up economic models the quants were given. Still, I'd look twice. Maybe three times.

It seems that the quant jobs weren't all they were cracked up to be. (One of the warnings in that last link is that living near the super-rich and seeing shops devoted to things you'll never afford makes even well-off people feel poor. Wealth is relative--who knew?)

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Baseball matches for charity

I hadn't known that there was a charity baseball game between legislators in DC. Nice idea.

I wonder if one could promote a little more amity with similar baseball charity competitions among the three letter agencies. True, some of them are large enough to support whole farm systems as well.

Can you find fitting names?

The FDA Stoners, the CIA Moles, the Dept of Education Hickory Sticks, the HUD Trogolodytes, the NSF Perpetual Motioneers, the Dept of Energy Alchemists, the DOD Atlatls, the DOJ Yardbirds, the DOS Woosters ...

Monday, June 19, 2017


We were retracing our steps along the lower level of the Lime Kiln trail at High Cliff State Park, about ready to head home for the day. (It isn't that high a cliff, but it is part of the Niagara escarpment.) We started hearing a crackling and crashing, as though rocks were starting to break loose on the slope above us. After a second or two we saw that a large tree was falling towards us--maybe a little ahead, maybe not. We went elsewhere quickly.

The falling tree snapped off another tree on the way down, and made quite a crash when it hit.

The crown sat six inches from the edge of the path.

It saps a little of the drama of the incident to realize that we could have just kept strolling along and been perfectly safe...

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Paradox Men by Charles Harness

When I was about 8 or 9 I discovered Dad's Ace Double science fiction books. He left a lot of books behind, but one of those he took with us looked fascinating, and I liked Dome Around America. The book on the other side looked a lot harder to get into, and I didn't actually read it for a few more years.

When I did tackle Charles Harness' The Paradox Men, I loved it. Williamson's Dome I reread once, but it wasn't his best work by a long shot. Paradox Men, on the other hand...

I re-read Paradox this evening, and know enough physics and physiology now to have to force a lot of suspension of disbelief, but the liberties taken aren't for scenery--they drive the plot, which is fast and neatly concluded and as enjoyable as I remembered. Who, and what, is Alar? BTW, the later slightly edited edition is cleaner than the version I remember from 40+ years ago.

Other people have done similar things since (and Frank Herbert borrowed his shields for Dune), but it's a nice un-ironic read.

So if you're willing to forget real physics and physiology for a spell, read it.

Elk learning

Elk learn not just hunting season, but what kinds of weapons they're being hunted with--and adjust accordingly.
During bow season, they used difficult terrain more – making things tricky for bow hunters, who need to get much closer to their prey than those who use rifles. And during rifle season, the elk stayed further away from roads, where hunters might spot them.

The article ends with a suggestion that this might be useful in land management--a little hunting close by farms might encourage elk to take their custom elsewhere.

I wonder if this works for deer.

Monday, June 12, 2017

ViewMaster question

Mattel has contracted out production of this classic to The Bridge Direct, which presumably means their research budget is $0.00. Unfortunately.

I sent the firm an email, but wonder if anybody has seen ViewMaster reels made of plastic instead of cardboard?

Humidity and termites are not nice to cardboard, and it turns out these things are common in some parts of Africa which might benefit from having cheap tools for displaying images of geological features (and meteorological, etc) to children who don't have access to TV or travel. (The students would have to share, obviously.)

So: has anybody seen more durable reels than the ones I remember from childhood? Or from 25 years ago when I asked them for information as part of an outreach proposal for Fermilab. It never got off the ground.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Education in Africa, one data point

I'm doing a bit of research on tools for science education in elementary school in Africa.

From the Guardian, 2012

The hypothesis In the 1990s, a Dutch development charity called International Christelijk Steunfonds decided to fund a programme to support education in Kenya. Previous research had suggested that providing African children with textbooks that they could not normally afford might improve their exam results, so the charity paid for 25 schools to receive sets of English, science and maths books. The charity, however, didn't just provide the books. It decided to run an experiment.

The experiment As Tim Harford describes in his book Adapt, ICS asked the Kenyan government not to select 25 schools that would receive the books, but to identify 100 schools that would be equally suitable. From these, 25 were selected at random. The books were delivered and exam results at the 25 intervention schools compared with those from the 75 similar schools without the extra teaching resources.

The textbooks, it turned out, made very little difference. ICS then tried another intervention – illustrated teaching flip-charts – in a similar randomised trial. Again, there was no significant effect.

=So the charity tried a third approach, funding treatment for intestinal worms. This time, the trial followed a staggered design: 25 random schools received the treatment immediately, 25 after two years, and another 25 two years after that. This time, there was clear evidence: de-worming children unequivocally improved their learning, probably thanks to improved nutrition.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

The more things change

I don't believe I can describe political discourse better than Twain.

Thursday, June 08, 2017


I caught part of an interview with a chaplain who wrote about hospice chaplains. I didn't expect the emphasis on silence.

She seemed to be saying that guests who were silent could give the patient permission to be silent also--to be silent with God and their life.

There's a time for goodbyes and making sure things aren't forgotten, and especially for trying to mend fences before it is too late.

Dave Barry wrote a moving column about his father's death, and his disappointment that the last words seemed so trivial. In the nature of things, the time of dying is generally not suited for long deep talks.

But silence means something. On the one hand we know of "the silent treatment" and the "I'm too busy to be bothered," but on the other hand there's the "The words have all been said already, and we can let their meaning echo through our time together."

It's easy to think of silence as like the empty spaces in one of the old Japanese prints. The emptiness has a shape and a meaning there,, given it by the lines. But perhaps silence can also be a positive thing in its own right, a sign of a different kind of communication. "Be still and know ...?"

It turns out silence is hard to come by. Over the years I've met several people who talked as though they feared that they would stop existing if they stopped talking. As I sit here I hear the highway, the turtle tank filter, a ball game broadcast in another room--but all these are easier to quiet than the "drunken monkey." One has to try. "Be still and know ..."

Blast from the past

I don't know why I thought of Bernard Goetz this evening, but the next thing that came to mind was "What happened to the four?"

Fortunately somebody else asked that question already, and the answer in this article matches other stories elsewhere.

Apparently the NYT report about sharpened screwdrivers was wrong--they had some for a planned theft, but not sharpened. And the claim that they were innocent panhandlers was contradicted by one of the four, who said they thought he was easy prey. And the attitude of Ramseur at the trial was so nasty that his testimony was stricken, and some think that Goetz was acquitted of most charges because of Ramseur. And though Goetz shot 5 times, one bullet missed, which was the basis for a reckless endangerment charge.

Cabey was partly paralyzed and possibly brain damaged--his family won a $43M judgment against Goetz which they have yet to collect. Ramseur went to prison for 25 years for a vicious rape, and apparently killed himself a year after getting out (on the anniversary of the shooting). Allen went to prison for a couple of robberies, and there's nothing that comes up since 1995. Canty indulged in a number of minor offenses, and was arrested but not charged for robbery and assault of his common-law wife in 1996.

I assume that Allen and Canty are still alive--either's death would be an instant and easy news story, and I didn't find one. If so, the 20 years since the last reported interaction with the law is a good sign.

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

How the mighty are fallen!

Scientific American published an article on plans to recall the brain-dead to life.
First there’s the injection of stem cells isolated from the individual’s own fat or blood. Second, there’s a peptide formula injected into the spinal cord, purported to help nurture new neurons’ growth. ... Third, there’s a regimen of nerve stimulation and laser therapy over 15 days to spur the neurons to form connections. Researchers will look to behavior and EEG for signs that the treatment is working.

The article gives voice to a number of skeptics. Count me among their number. This is too silly for words--"Your laptop's hard drive isn't working? I'll fix it with superglue!"

This isn't the same Scientific American magazine I grew up with.

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Featherless biped

Oops. T Rex skin seems cheerfully feather-free. Ditto other tyrannosaurs. They argue that large dinosaurs would, like large mammals, have lost any extra covering that might make them overheat. Or, maybe they never had any? Maybe the putative feathery ancestors were weird uncles and not grandfathers of the T Rex line.
None of the scales are as big as what you see on the back of a crocodile, but they are similar to the scales along a croc’s flank. I suppose tyrannosaur hide would make for a nice set of luggage.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Goldfish swallowing

Nearly half of American children spend at least 16 years in school.

School is a pretty artificial environment. There are fixed courses of study that don’t necessarily bear on what is going on (or will happen!) in your life, and within a course there are arbitrary projects and questions designed to make sure you master the material. When done, typically you won’t care 2 cents about them—and neither will anyone else. They aren’t intrinsically significant.

But we want to do something significant; we want to stand out from the crowd somehow. In school, there are some problems with this.

  • Athletics take lots of uncomfortable work, and in the end you may not stand out much compared to those with natural talent.
  • Math can be hard when you get beyond the elementary branches, and the advanced branches need talent.
  • Music takes practice, and the conductor usually objects to one musician in an orchestra standing out from the rest, unless the score calls for it.
  • Something dramatic and goofy, like phone booth stuffing? Problem is, people might laugh at you.
  • A job, or marriage? The system is designed to make it harder to do schooling when you work or raise a family. Twain said that he never let his schooling get in the way of his education; we need to make sure that schooling doesn't get in the way of our lives. That means some re-design...
  • Student government? The local stakes are normally dramatically lower than they are in state or national government, and that irks. But perhaps if you can expand the scope, and try out Utopian plans?
  • Being a prophet? If you’re an approved type, that can be a good gig—you get to indulge in lots of yelling and denunciation, and since you’re approved you don’t have to worry about the usual troubles real prophets have.


At Ricks by a graded road near our house lay a four foot pond. It bred mosquitoes, of course, but then tadpoles appeared, which seemed to take care of the larvae. The attraction of such a feature in the landscape should be obvious.

We tried slinging in dirt clods and rocks to see who could make the biggest splash. The tadpoles usually wriggled back to the pond, though not always—and that meant flies, which were annoying.

A couple of us tried to throw in a quite substantial quartz rock. Alas, it was so heavy that we couldn’t give it any speed, so it made more of a minor tsunami than a splash. It sank in the mud, leaving only a pyramid an inch above the water.

Next year the pond had filled in, and was now just a minor depression with a bit of quartz sticking out of the dirt.

I saw it again a few years ago. Re-grading had covered everything over, but I knew where it had been, and where the rock still was.

The quartz boulders in the field beyond that were so sharp edged when we used to jump on them were weathered and a little overgrown, and the trees and logs were long gone, but I still remembered where they had been.

Paths we explored, the field where we played 5-man football (It is hard to field two teams with only 5 players), the route the horse took around my grandfather’s house when he borrowed a placid horse so we could ride, where the persimmons that nobody really wanted grew—I can point to all these things.

I think I spent more time reading books than playing outdoors, and books are tangible too. For a while I was in another world, and then all evaporated when it ended. Almost all, there’s a residue in the imagination (what you immerse yourself in affects you). But I could still point to the book and say “I read that.”

Our Youngest Daughter dislikes e-books intensely, even when it is the only way to read some out-of-print work, saying that there is no substitute for the tangible thing in her hands. (Most of the articles and reports I deal with are never printed out, FWIW.)

I started down this path when I started wondering what difference it made for a generation to spend leisure with intangible amusements: video games in particular, though I suppose you could expand that into videos and ubiquitous music. I think the latter are more passive, though: books and the games require something from you to keep them going. It seems as though people don’t make their own music as much as they used to—maybe competing with the ubiquitous pros is too hard. I should try counting how many people seem to be singing in the car.

I have to speak only from observation about video games: I never got into them enough to get the dexterity to enjoy them, and at this stage of my life I don’t care to invest my limited time in them. But they seem especially ephemeral. Maybe you saved the game at some point, and maybe the scores are saved for a while, but close it down and where is it? Your life has fewer tangible markers for things you’ve done.

I wrote software for DAQ, hardware diagnostics, processing and filtering, and analysis—things people needed at the time. They were ephemeral too, but the fact of their service to the team remains. True, the result is a few journal articles, some of which nobody reads anymore. But the help was something real, though intangible. So maybe I should widen my question a bit, but … maybe next time.

Perhaps the best way to say it is that I feel more grounded, maybe a bit more real, when I can point to something and say “I made that,” or “I helped that person,” or “I was there.” Maybe that’s just me, and maybe very few people are as deeply into the ephemeral as advertised. But if not, I wonder how it changes you to live with fewer and fewer markers.

Then again, suppose your accomplishments themselves are focused on the ephemeral...

Saturday, May 27, 2017


If you hear that Jason has a degree in Chemistry, you figure he’s got some smarts and done some hard work. Likewise with a degree in Italian literature: Jason had to put in a lot of study to learn it. You might wonder how many jobs would be available for the latter degree, but college isn’t always a vocational school.

But a degree, or perhaps merely progress to a degree, in sociology doesn’t elicit the same respect. It gets more respect than gender studies, but that’s a pretty low bar.

Students in college tend not to have a list of accomplishments to their credit, aside from the stuff used to impress the admissions office. This is perfectly natural, but youth is often impatient.

Thinking over the list of targets of venom in the news lately: James Watson, Robert Heinlein, Charles Murray, Matt Taylor, even Bret Weinstein (and remember Larry Summers?): they all have this in common: they have accomplished things, earned respect—perhaps as a Nobel prize winner, perhaps as a ordinary professor. Their attackers generally are not in the same league. Those trying to intimidate Weinstein were students, not other professors. I didn’t hear of any Nobel prize winners in the line-up complaining about Watson at U of I. I've not heard that any of those claiming Heinlein was a terrible racist could write a tenth as well as he did.

Perhaps envy may play a big role in the noisy attacks. There's a lot of tribalism too, and of course the screamers get publicity, and often they get their way as well—something is structurally wrong there. When did it get to be carved in stone that youth are wiser and more noble than their elders?

But I get a strong smell of malicious envy from the social justice warriors.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Medicine Wheel

I was tasked with finding things to do/see in Big Horn in the summer(*), and one of the first places that popped up (as opposed to generic activities) was the Medicine Wheel. Archaeology has always been an interest of mine, so...

Stanford has a web page. There one learns that:

n 1974, an archaeoastronomer named Jack Eddy visited this Medicine Wheel and studied its alignments, that is, its arrangements of rocks, cairns, and spokes. He found the arrangements point to the rising and setting places of the Sun at summer solstice, as well as the rising places of Aldebaran in Taurus, Rigel in Orion, and Sirius in Canis Major -- all bright, important stars associated with the Solstice. Later another astronomer, Jack Robinson, found a cairn pair that marked the bright star Fomalhaut's rising point with the Sun 28 days before solstice.


The dawn or heliacal rising of a star is important because it pinpoints a date exactly. This is the day a star is first seen, just before dawn, after it has been behind the Sun for an entire season. From about 1200 AD to 1700 AD, these 4 stars would have acted as solstice markers for the Native Americans - Fomalhaut (F to D) would rise 28 days before the Summer Solstice, Aldebaran (F to A) would rise during the 2 days just before the solstice, Rigel (F to B) would rise 28 days after the solstice, and Sirius (F to C) 28 days after that, at the end of August and hence marking the end of summer and time to leave the mountain.

Which sounds quite complicated and interesting, but the diagram associated with it is not so promising

The cairns aren't exactly neat geometric points, and the resolution doesn't look much better than 5 degrees. And the cairn orientations don't seem to line up with their putative use as observation points. If Jack started with a list of stars significant to the Cheyenne and found things that lined up with each of them, I'd be OK with describing it as a rough-and-ready calendar--though not 100% convinced. If he got a list of stars that were "pointed at" and then went looking for which were significant, I'd be less convinced. "look elsewhere effect"

(*) Things that don't involve strenuous hikes, and preferably also no precipices.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Whole hog

That phrase. "I do not think it means what you think it means."

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Memorable but unremembered

On I65 one of the side roads leads to Walesboro. That name always reminds me of the line in "A man for all seasons": "Why Richard, it profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world... but for Wales?" Except, of course, that I generally only remember the last 3 words, and have to reconstruct the rest. It's a memorable line, but I can't remember it. I'm even worse at getting all the bits in order for the unforgettable passage that ends "Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake!"

I've an excuse when an earworm of Hava Nagila turns into mud (or into Halva Nagila, or into Harvey and Sheila, or just repeats like a scratched record), since I never learned the actual words and my ear isn't tuned to pick out the phonemes of Hebrew.

But English is my native language. When my mind says "This is important; stuff it in one of the quick-access slots," how come half of it falls on the floor? I summon up a teaser or key line or executive summary, but most of the details are missing.


On I74 headed east to Indianapolis, there is a billboard touting the services of a law firm that promises to help you after an injury or similar loss. What caught my eye as I drove by was that they describe themselves as "an award-winning law firm."

Not "a case-winning law firm?" Or does that not matter until validated by some awards committee?

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Two timing

Back in high school I read a book by Eddington in which he was explaining space-time. In one section, he suggested that different universes, with different numbers of space and time dimensions, would be limited in the ways they could intersect: that you could have a portal from a universe with 3 space and 1 time to one with 3 time and 1 space, but not to one with 2 time and 2 space dimensions. To this day I have no idea why he thought that.

However, it left this science fiction fan with a nagging idea for a setting: suppose we had 2 time dimensions? What sorts of things could happen?

Solving that puzzle had to wait until I got around to working out some of the dynamics, and when I finally did it turned out some other folks had already been playing with the idea. Including Sharshakavili (sp) and somebody named Bars.

To solve the dynamics you first have to decide whether you can violate causality on a macroscopic level--can somehow make your grandfather decide to become a monk before he met your grandmother? (Never mind quantum non-causality; I don't think I want to go there right now.)

I said no, and used a framework like the one Einstein used but with two time coordinates. Then you run into the question--how do you interact with a photon that's running along a slightly different timeline?

Hmm. I guessed that you would still be able to see it--but there'd be some probability that you'd miss seeing it entirely.

That was even cooler--you automatically would have trouble seeing some of the matter in the universe--it would be dark to you.

Presumably near things are mostly on the same timeline, and you'd only start to get major differences far away. OK, so what would a photon look like that came from a distant galaxy with a different timeline?

Oops. It would have the same number of "vibrations" in what would look like a shorter time--meaning it would be blue-shifted. Distant galaxies are red-shifted due to the expansion of the universe, and apparently the expansion is increasing (unless the supernova distribution is wrong somehow), which would make the redshift stronger, not bluer.

Plus, the blue shift complicates energy conservation. I think there might be a way to finesse that, but without either blue-shifted light or disappearing photons I think it safe to say we don't have macroscopic extra time dimensions. I gave up on the study. (If somebody wants to play around with a sci-fi setting in which multiple timelines interleave, feel free.)

On the other hand, if you've got 10 dimensions curled up in M-theory, Dr. Bars suggests that you can spare one for an extra time dimensions. He uses a formalism that uses position and momentum in symmetric ways, and argues from that symmetry that there should be another time dimension. (I think.) Unfortunately I don't share his optimizm about CERN discovering supersymmetry anytime soon--or anytime at all, for that matter.

Sunday, May 07, 2017

Doing good

From Sidelights:
What embitters the world is not excess of criticism, but absence of self-criticism. It is comparatively of little consequence that you occasionally break out and abuse other people, so long as you do not absolve yourself. The former is a natural collapse of human weakness; the latter is a blasphemous assumption of divine power. And in the modern world, where everybody is quarrelling about the urgent necessity of peace, nobody notices how this notion has really poisoned the relations of nations and men.

Thus the Irishman would never have minded the English saying he was mad; or even that he was murderous and slanderous and cruel. There was something to be said for the assertion; and Irishmen were often ready, if not to admit it about themselves, at least to admit it about each other. The trouble began when the Englishman advanced the obviously ludicrous proposition that he himself was sane; that he was practical and sensible and well-balanced. No wonder a whole nation went wild at so fantastic a fancy as that.

What the Prussian said about the French or the other Latins was simply ignorance: the ignorance found only among the seriously educated. It was what the Prussian said about the Prussian, that made half the world smell afar off something that stank with spiritual pride.

The moral is the same about much milder and more amiable things; indeed it is rather specially true about mild and amiable things. The trouble with the philanthropist is not that he does not love all men moderately, but rather that he generally loves one man too well. And, contemplating the sort of philanthropist who is also an egoist, I am tempted to recommend him to try being a man-hater, that men may more easily love him. I am tempted to say to him: Hate men as a sort of holiday; beat and kick them for a reasonable interval; burn down their houses, in moderation, and lay waste all civilization within reasonable limits: But do not be kind merely to exhibit your own kindness; for that is an insult that is never forgiven.

When you are helping people, pray for a spirit of humility; I had almost said, when you are helping them, pray for an appearance of helplessness. The deadly word ‘patronage’ is, like so many such, a word that has decayed from a much nobler meaning. But in this sense we may find another significance in the old conception of patron saints. It may mean that a man has jolly well got to be a saint, before he ventures to be a patron.

Chesterton nodded a bit here: he did not predict the rise of pat-your-self-on-the-back-for-being-so-observant self-criticism.

Friday, May 05, 2017

Good ideas

One of the talks concentrated on how we should try to organize analyses, and not keep re-inventing the wheel. She showed lists of related analyses, and urged us to make sure that all code was in the repository and not private sandboxes. And that students should learn how to have their code reviewed.

All noble goals. (She has led a working group, is one of the young big names in the experiment, and is a pleasure to work with.)

However, several people who've trained more students than she pointed out a few problems. Part of the apprenticeship is to do some of the exercises yourself, and there's no better way to learn how to minimize a log likelihood function on a complicated data set than to do it yourself. And, then, when you want to try a full-blown analysis, you'll tend to use what you developed and understand the best.

Another problem is validation--are you sure you don't have some subtle bugs in your code or your procedures? They do a lot of cross-checking, but often there's no substitute for an independent analysis. Sam Ting tries to make sure that two independent analysis groups don't communicate with each other. He allegedly is the only one that sees both.

On the other hand, my analyses over the years would have been improved by some better coding practices and review. I kept a record of all my coding errors over a year, and found that the plurality were cut-and-paste errors. She's quite right about that.

And private code from somebody's sandbox is hard to maintain, or re-use when the student has graduated and somebody else wants to process a couple more years' data.


One of the talks was on the possibility of seeing solar flares with the IceCube neutrino detector. That might seem a little counter-intuitive: how do big magnetic disturbances manage to make neutrinos?

A plasma with a magnetic field in it will carry that magnetic field around with it as it moves. (The magnetic field acts on the plasma and the plasma acts on the magnetic field--plasma physics is hard.) So far so good--the plasma erupts from the Sun, and carries some of the Sun's magnetic field with it. Think of it stretching those field lines further out into space.

But it turns out there's a lot of turbulence there too, so the plasma sometimes gets whirled around on itself. What happens when the magnetic field lines cross?

You get what you might think of as a magnetic short circuit. The magnetic field "lines" join and shift--quite rapidly. And this happens over a fairly sizeable chunk of space.

A rapidly changing magnetic field produces an electric field (and vice versa, of course). So out in the middle of Nowhereville-By-The-Sun, a bit of the flying plasma experiences a strong electric field. The protons move one way, the electrons another. Most of them bounce off other things and slow down and go back to balancing each other's charge eventually, but some luck out and keep getting accelerated (remember that the reconnection region can be large). Acceleration over a long distance builds up speed.

Some of those protons (electrons tend to get scattered away more easily) head out in our direction, and eventually may hit the Earth's magnetic field and spiral in to be part of an aurora.

The protons of interest here head back to the Sun, where some of them smash into another nucleus. Those kinds of smashes usually produce pions, and the charged pions eventually decay into a muon and a few neutrinos. And we can maybe see some of those neutrinos. They aren't terribly high energy, but they're higher energy than those usually produced in the Sun--maybe 10 times higher.

It's ironic--neutrinos produced in the center of the Sun are ordinary low-ish energy, but those produced on the outside during flares can be quite a bit peppier. I can't think of any everyday examples, but I notice that boiling water in a pot only really splashes you when bubbles reach the surface and pop. The pop can really fling hot water around. Remember boiling something dry too fast back in chemistry class, and getting "bumping?"

We expect similar sorts of things to happen, but on even larger scales, when the blast wave from a supernova crashes into interstellar gas. Some of the neutrinos IceCube detected were over 10,000,000 times more energetic than ordinary solar neutrinos.

Thursday, May 04, 2017


It isn't a great secret, though the latest negatives haven't been officially published. I suspect we won't have a smoking gun unless/until a Gamma Ray Burster or supernova lets loose in our galaxy. IceCube is designed to detect higher energy neutrinos than a supernova is likely to produce in its explosion, though the resulting shock wave hitting matter nearby is another matter.

Yes, I know it's odd, but the reactions that produce the supernova explosion are supposed to be the ordinary nuclear ones. When the shock wave from the blast (with magnetic field embedded) later interacts with gas (expelled from the star years before), the resulting interactions can accelerate particles to extremely high energies.

What that means, if I understand the matter correctly, is that the most likely neutrinos are too weak to ring up unless there are boat-loads of them, and we'll only get boat-loads if the source is close. And we might have to wait a while for the really high energy stuff to show up, since it isn't produced right away. And even longer for the protons and other nuclei to arrive. (If a source 50,000 light-years away produces iron nuclei whose trajectory is bent a mere three degrees, they'll arrive over three months after the light and neutrinos do. And we don't know in any detail what the magnetic field are out there, so we can't predict when.)

So we see GRBs in other detectors (SWIFT), but don't see anything out of the ordinary in IceCube. So far. Maybe there's an unnoticed glitch in the analyses: I'm not in a position to tell. I just sit through the talks, which show large p-values after unblinding.

There are plenty of things we can do, but some of the tantalizing problems are staying that way.

Tuesday, May 02, 2017


You presumably pick elders as leaders because experience has given those of them willing to learn some perspective, an understanding of what patience means, some sense of proportion, and accumulated knowledge. Not that we have a habit of doing that in this country, but think about organizations of smaller scale than the state, and you may see instances of what I mean.

You'd also hope that habits of virtue would provide some inertia against the pulls of temptations.

Maybe they do--somewhat. But I suppose that power has its own set of temptations that most of us haven't been exposed to: to listen to sycophants, to be flattered by groupies, to come to enjoy arbitrary exercise of power. But history and literature (and, sometimes, our acquaintances) are full of the theme of a worker/conqueror who builds a fortune/dominates an empire only to have the children/grandchildren (born to power) fritter it all away. (Yes, I know I'm defining virtue a bit widely when talking about warlords, but they have to have at least some self-discipline and courage.)

I'm not sure there's a simple and robust way to survey this. If, for example, you looked at the history of family businesses, you might have some difficulty, from outside the family, in distinguishing mere lack of skill from carelessness.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Google translate

I gather that Google Translate has had an upgrade. I've had a favorite text to hit it with, a narration on the subject of the use of jargon. I follow Twain's lead of turning it into French and then English again. Experience on the Feverish Hornet was written by a contemporary of Twain's. It is not even remotely a fair challenge to any automatic translation system.

Google Translate did a better job than last time. Last time the English version still had chunks of French embedded.

"Yes, that's the way it is," Woodtick Williams said carefully as he looked up the high end where the eternal snow was shining in the summer sun.

"You are eminently correct, Mr. Buckskin has stated the exact opinion of the subscriber, safely, as a death and semi-annual evaluations.

"Each trade has its own style of lead and its particular plunge towards the horizon, from the high congressman to the neglected forward agent of the eternal gospel, each trade, I allow, has its own jargon. Pork and Bean Pilgrim States that have stayed in my camp for twenty-seven years said that the miner made more professional snowshoes useless than anyone else, but that is not the case. Take people testing, From flowering to the lower level, T much difference.

"Nine years ago, I and Timberline Monroe and Katooter Lemons of Zion hit the Feverish Hornet on Slippery Ellum. First of all, we knew that the prospecting season had closed and that, The surface had dragged, We decided to sink on the Hornet, just for luck.

"Then Timberline, Katooter and I went to Huckleberry Oleson's store at the lower camp and soaked our face for chuck, tanning the valley and a blastin 'outfit for work.

"Down five feet, she showed 150 colors to a piece of rock no bigger," a bottom plug, with well-defined wall rocks on both sides and a mucous wall like a trusted game at Frisco.

"The quartz, with a slight layer of gouge, seemed to have been blocked by the formation as a Sabbath-school scholar's elbow through an English cream pie, and it had crushed the prehistoric sawdust and Pre-adamite out of the geological crust in good shape.

"Katooter," I say, "if it manifests itself this way all along the way, I will be quite dodbuttered if I do not think we have stuck the sugar finally.We will run up ten feet And see how she looks with the naked eye.

"Ten feet wide, it widens to three feet between the walls, with a solid gray quartz as pretty as a bank notebook, and then we made a five-pound mill in a half-gallon mortar and cleared A dollar of dust on the blade of a long-time hand shovel.

"The Feverish Hornet prospectus was very encouraging.

"I sat on a candle and I sang something. I always have a few notes when I feel tickled on anything.

"Katooter listened to my singing a bit and then we went down the goulash whisper something about my music and pointed out that prosperity always had its little drawbacks after all.

"He slipped to the Fresco Hell and stuck his old red-spotted skin, so full of 49 vintage horse flags that he completely fell away from the head and walked away into the poverty of Rocks he did not know Timberline nor me from A pump in the stomach.

"This is generally the case with men who raise their noses to vocal music.

"Well, he did not improve so quickly that the next day he occupied a front seat at the largest triangular matinee of delirium you have ever heard of and was the sole owner of the largest aggregation of marbled tarantula and Of imported caterpillars and centipedes which has already been exposed in the Columbia Fair Field.

"All the time, he knotted a devilish insect crawling his sleeve or gently brushing his hair, then shouting like a maniac and praying and swearing like a man hired.

"The atmosphere seemed to be full of buzz as big as a stove, and whenever they cuddled or slipped it with their little stifling gimlets, Katooter would jump and rummage like a Piute's cure trying to soften a big waste Of turbulent cucumber.

"At that time Katooter would put his wardrobe and throw me in the fireplace and Timerline under the bed, he would go out in the light of the stars, with the thermometer up to 37 degrees, and would be wrapped only in his growing thoughts.

"As Timberline and I would get up and gobble up the cobwebs and the ashes of our eyes, Katooter would be halfway to the ravine and would light up like a Greek slave hunting for a clothing store.

"First we ran after him and tried to pull him out and frame him, but he was too impenetrable, and apparently so allied to the anguish of putting as much distance as he could between him and the tarantulas Blurry and falling style of centipedes, which he made quite a long time, considering the worst trail and light air of the mountain.

"Then, another thing: when we got to him, it was so embarrassing to hang on.

"You've probably tried before, when you were little, catch the boy who tied your shirt to the upper limb of a dead tree, and you put all of your energy into the effort, but you decided after a while d 'Until he took his clothes before punishing him.

"That's how it was with Katooter, he was the smartest man I'd ever tried to collect in the fold, we think we had it, and suddenly it slipped between our legs like a yaller dog And laughed wild A little laughter that would run the thermometer down 13 degrees, and far, he would read the trail as a red right head.

"Then I finally got angry, and I chased him with a lariat and a yellow fever.

"Yellow fever was a tinnitus mule that belonged to the company. It was called yellow fever because it was so fatal.

"Well, when Yellow Fever and I followed Katooter with the lariat, we always gathered it in - [Bless my soul, how long I twist this thread.]

"Well, to make a long story, Katooter rallied after a while, and during the spell, his chilblains were convalescent, and a newer skin was becoming on his system where he had slaughtered it by the midwife and Falling into the old abandoned holes, I had an offer of $ 50,000 for my third in the Feverish Hornet and sold.

"Then I went to Truckee and bought a small house from an old railroad there, and I stopped for the winter, and I was allowed to withdraw until the Snow remained in the spring.

"One night, about half after 12 years, I judge, I heard someone walking in the window of my boudoir. When I heard that night, I counted that something twisted Passed, so I slipped out of bed and I had my Great Blood Searcher and Liver Purifier, with the new style of central fire and cartridge ejector, and slid towards the window, calculating to push a tonic In which one could be who was picnicking around my request.

"I looked so as to have a good idea of where I wanted to run over him, and then I thought that before mutilating him I asked him if he had a choice on the part of his bowels that 'He wanted to preserve, then I sang it:

"Look below, pard, for I'll call the meeting to order in a minute!" Rise your hands, please, and make the great sign of distress, or I'll have to mutilate you! "And where you would like to have the fatal wound, and be judicious, because I have my brief costume and the evening air is cold!"

"He did not understand me, apparently, for a gurgling laugh from below, and the festival reaps:

"Hullo, Fatty, is it you?" I just saw if you had shot at it again. "You know I had to bring you back if the second seven was gone." Well, I went to the old man. Three are two hours late and four are on time, there are two sevens and two sections of nine, Skinney will take out the first seven and Shorty will train him with 102. It's you and me For the second seven, with Limber Jim on the front and Frenchy to keep the caboose.The first fire is bad side in a wash on this side of Ogallalla, and the old Whatshisname who runs 258 got his Crown leaf ceded And tetrapped his headlights in the middle of New Jerusalem.You know the little Swede who used to run extra for Old Hotbox on the emigrant for a while? Well, he was shooting the 258 and he was under three Apartments and a tank of coal oil with a brake beam s Its coupler, and its system more or less relaxed. He went on to sweet then too. The rest of the boys are more or less demoralized, Follow-up for repairs. Now you do not want to do monkey too much, because if you do not mind like six bits and go out on the tick, the old man will give you a time check and the big eastern bounce. You hear the sweet trill of my bazoo?

I slowly took off the Blood Purifier and moved to the street lamps where the silver rays of the moon could touch my dazzling outlines, I said," Partner, I'm glad and grateful to have met you. I do not know the first ding I am an ordinary miner, and my house is the digestive apparatus of the earth, but for the professional chin melody, you certainly take the cake. You also take the gesture. The cake basket and the cold pie on the spill. My name is Woodtick Williams. I discovered the Feverish Hornet on Slippery Elm. I'm proud, you know. Continue to become more familiar with your profession and by and by whom, when no one can understand you, you will be promoted and respected, and you will finally be a sleepy car driver, and you will enjoy the greatest mental calm and Margin of intellectual stagnation that has never seen the world. ---- '

"But he was gone.

"Then I took a pillow shield and wiped cracked spray on the soles of my feet, and I went to bed, wrapped in a big mouth."<\P>

"Oui, c'est ainsi", a déclaré Woodtick Williams avec attention, alors qu'il regardait vers le haut de gamme où la neige éternelle brillait au soleil d'été.

"Vous êtes éminemment correct. Le monsieur de Buckskin a déclaré l'opinion exacte de l'abonné, en toute sécurité, comme une mort et des évaluations semestrielles.

"Chaque métier a son style de plomb et son plongeon particulier vers l'horizon. Du haut membre du Congrès, jusqu'à l'agent avancé négligé de l'évangile éternel, chaque métier, je le permets, a son jargon particulier. Chaque pèlerin de porc et de haricots Des États qui ont séjourné dans mon camp pendant vingt-sept ans ont dit que le mineur faisait plus de raquette professionnelle inutile que quiconque, mais ce n'est pas le cas. Prenez les gens en train de tester, de la floraison au niveau inférieur, T beaucoup de différence.

"Il y a neuf ans, I et Timberline Monroe et Katooter Lemons, de Zion, ont frappé le Feverish Hornet sur Slippery Ellum. Tout d'abord, nous savions que la saison de prospection s'est fermée et que, comme la disposition de la surface avait traînée , Nous avons décidé de couler sur le Hornet, juste pour la chance.

"Alors Timberline, Katooter et moi sommes allés au magasin de Huckleberry Oleson au camp inférieur et avons trempé notre physionomie pour le chuck, le bronzage de la vallée et une blastin 'outfit pour le travail.

"En bas de cinq pieds, elle a montré 150 couleurs à un morceau de roche pas plus grand", un bouchon de fond, avec des roches murales bien définies des deux côtés et une muqueuse murale comme un jeu de confiance à Frisco.

"Le quartz, avec une légère couche de gouge, avait l'air d'avoir été bloqué par la formation comme un coude d'érudit du sabbat-école à travers une tarte à la crème anglaise, et il avait écrasé la sciure préhistorique et pré-adamite hors de la Croûte géologique en bonne forme.

"Katooter", dis-je, "si elle se manifeste de cette façon tout au long de la voie, je serai tout à fait dodbuttered si je ne pense pas que nous avons coincé le sucre enfin. Nous allons courir jusqu'à dix pieds et voir Comment elle regarde à l'œil nu.

"Dix pieds de pied, elle s'élargit à trois pieds entre les murs, avec un quartz gris solide aussi joli qu'un carnet de banque. Ensuite, nous avons fait un moulin de cinq livres dans un mortier de demi gallon et avons dégagé un dollar de poussière sur la lame D'une pelle à main longue durée.

"Le prospectus de Feverish Hornet était très encourageant.

"Je me suis assis sur une bougie et j'ai chanté quelque chose. J'ai toujours quelques notes quand je me sens chatouillé sur n'importe quoi.

"Katooter a écouté mon chant un peu, puis nous avons descendu le goulache murmurer quelque chose au sujet de ma musique et souligné que la prospérité avait toujours ses petits inconvénients après tout.

"Il a glissé vers l'Enfer Fresco et a coincé sa vieille peau de taches de rousse, si pleine de drapeaux de cheval du millésime de 49 qu'il s'est complètement éloigné de la tête et s'est éloigné dans la pauvreté des roches qu'il ne connaissait pas Timberline ni moi de Une pompe à l'estomac.

"C'est généralement le cas avec les hommes qui montent leur nez à la musique vocale.

"Eh bien, il ne s'est pas amélioré si rapidement que le lendemain, il occupait un siège avant à la plus grande matinee triangulaire de delirium dont vous avez déjà entendu parler et était le seul propriétaire de la plus grande agrégation de tarentules marbrés et de chenilles et de mille-pattes importées Qui a déjà été exposé dans le domaine équitable de Columbia.

"Tout le temps, il nouait un insecte diabolique qui rampait sa manche ou passait doucement ses cheveux, puis il criait comme un maniaque et priait et jurait comme un homme embauché.

"L'atmosphère semblait être pleine de bourdonnements aussi grand qu'une cuisinière, et chaque fois qu'ils le câlassaient ou l'enfilaient avec leurs petits gimlets étouffants, Katooter sauterait et se fouillerait comme un remède de Piute essayant de Assouplir un gros gaspillage de concombre turbulent.

"A cette époque, Katooter mettrait sa garde-robe et me jetterait dans la cheminée et Timerline sous le lit, il sortirait dans la lumière des étoiles, avec le thermomètre jusqu'à 37 degrés, et ne serait enveloppé que dans ses pensées croissantes.

"Au moment où Timberline et moi se lèveraient et engluçaient les toiles d'araignées et les cendres de nos yeux, Katooter serait à mi-chemin du ravin et s'allumerait comme une esclave grecque sardin chasse pour un magasin de vêtements.

"Tout d'abord, nous courions après lui et essayions de l'arracher et de l'encadrer, mais il était trop impénétrable, et apparemment tellement allié à l'angoisse de mettre toute la distance qu'il pouvait entre lui et les tarentules floues et la chute Style de mille-pattes, qu'il a fait un temps assez long, compte tenu du pire sentier et de l'air léger de la montagne.

"Ensuite, une autre chose: quand on est arrivé à lui, il était tellement gênant de s'accrocher.

"Vous avez probablement essayé auparavant, lorsque vous étiez petit, attraper le garçon qui a attaché votre chemise au membre supérieur d'un arbre mort, et vous avez mis toute votre énergie dans l'effort, mais vous avez décidé après un certain temps d'attendre Jusqu'à ce qu'il ait pris ses vêtements avant de le punir.

"C'est comme ça avec Katooter. Il était l'homme le plus intelligent que j'avais déjà essayé de rassembler dans le pli. Nous pensons que nous l'avions, et tout à coup il glissait entre nos jambes comme un chien yaller et riait sauvage Un peu de rire qui courrait le thermomètre en bas de 13 degrés, et loin, il lirait le sentier comme un droit de tête rouge.

"Alors je me suis fâché enfin, et je l'ai poursuivi avec un lariat et une fièvre jaune.

"La fièvre jaune était une mule d'acouphène qui appartenait à l'entreprise. On l'appelait Fièvre jaune parce qu'il était si funeste.

"Eh bien, quand Yellow Fever et moi avons suivi Katooter avec le lariat, nous l'avons toujours rassemblé dans - [Bénis mon âme, combien de temps je tord ce fil.]

"Bien, pour faire une longue histoire, Katooter s'est rallié après un certain temps, et pendant le sortilège, ses chilblains étaient convalescents, et une peau plus nouvelle devenait sur son système où il l'avait abattu par la sage-brush et tombant dans l'ancien Des trous abandonnés, j'ai eu une offre de 50 000 $ pour mon troisième dans le Feverish Hornet et vendu.

"Puis je suis allé à Truckee et j'ai acheté une petite maison d'un vieux chemin de fer là-bas, et je me suis arrêtée pour l'hiver, et j'ai autorisé à me retirer jusqu'à ce que la neige soit restée au printemps.

"Une nuit, environ la moitié après 12 ans, je juge, j'ai entendu quelqu'un se promener dans la fenêtre de mon boudoir. En l'entendant à cette nuit-là, j'ai compté que quelque chose de tordu se passait, alors je me suis glissé du lit et j'ai eu mon Great Blood Searcher et Liver Purifier, avec le nouveau style de l'incendie central et de l'éjecteur de cartouche, et glissé vers la fenêtre, calculant pour pousser un tonique dans celui qui pourrait être qui faisait le pique-nique autour de ma demande.

"J'ai regardé de manière à avoir une bonne idée de l'endroit où je voulais couler sur lui, et alors je pensais que, avant de le mutiler, je lui demandais s'il avait le choix sur la partie de ses entrailles qu'il voulait préserver, alors Je l'ai chanté:

"Regarde ci-dessous, pard, car je vais appeler la réunion à l'ordre dans une minute! Lève-toi les mains, s'il te plaît, et fait le grand signe de détresse, ou je vais devoir te mutiler ! Montrez-moi où vous aimeriez avoir la blessure mortelle, et soyez aussi judicieux, parce que j'ai mon bref costume et que l'air du soir est froid!

"Il ne m'a pas compris, apparemment, pour un rire gargouillant venu d'en bas, et la fête récolte:

"'Hullo, Fatty, est-ce toi? Je viens de voir si tu avais encore tiré dessus. Tu sais que je devais te rapporter si le second sept était sorti. Eh bien, je suis allé au vieil homme Pour voir ce qui se passe dans le tableau. Trois sont deux heures en retard et quatre sont à l'heure. Il y a deux sevens et deux sections de neuf. Skinney va sortir les sept premières et Shorty l'entraînera avec 102. C'est toi et moi pour Le deuxième sept, avec Limber Jim sur le devant et Frenchy pour maintenir le caboose. Le premier feu est mauvais côté dans un lavage de ce côté d'Ogallalla, et le vieux Whatshisname qui exécute 258 a obtenu sa feuille de la Couronne a cédé et a tétrapé ses phares au milieu De la Nouvelle Jérusalem. Vous connaissez le petit Suédois qui avait l'habitude de courir en supplément pour Old Hotbox sur l'émigrant pendant un certain temps? Eh bien, il tirait le 258 et il était sous trois appartements et un réservoir d'huile de charbon avec un faisceau de frein sur son coupleur, Et son système plus ou moins décontracté. Il est allé au doux ensuite aussi. Le reste des garçons sont plus ou moins démoralisés, Suivi pour les réparations. Maintenant, vous ne voulez pas trop faire du singe, car si vous ne vous occupez pas comme six bits et sortez sur la tique, le vieil homme vous donnera une vérification du temps et le grand rebond oriental. Vous entendez le trille doux de mon bazoo?

"Ensuite, j'ai décollé lentement le Purificateur de sang et je me suis déplacé vers les lampadaires où les rayons de lune argentés pouvaient retoucher mes contours éblouissants, j'ai dit:" Partenaire, je suis content et gratifié de vous avoir rencontré. Je ne connais pas le premier ding Je suis un mineur ordinaire, et ma maison est l'appareil digestif de la terre, mais pour la mélodie professionnelle du menton, vous prenez certainement le gâteau. Vous prenez également le geste. Le panier de gâteau et la tarte froide sur le déversement. Je m'appelle Woodtick Williams. J'ai découvert le Feverish Hornet sur Slippery Elm. Je suis fier, vous savez. Continuez à mieux vous familiariser avec votre profession et par et Par qui, quand personne ne peut vous comprendre, vous serez promu et respecté, et vous serez finalement un conducteur de voiture endormi, et vous délecterez du plus grand calme mental et d'une grande marge de stagnation intellectuelle qui n'a jamais vu le monde. ---- '

"Ensuite, j'ai décollé lentement le Purificateur de sang et je me suis déplacé vers les lampadaires où les rayons de lune argentés pouvaient retoucher mes contours éblouissants, j'ai dit:" Partenaire, je suis content et gratifié de vous avoir rencontré. Je ne connais pas le premier ding Je suis un mineur ordinaire, et ma maison est l'appareil digestif de la terre, mais pour la mélodie professionnelle du menton, vous prenez certainement le gâteau. Vous prenez également le geste. Le panier de gâteau et la tarte froide sur le déversement. Je m'appelle Woodtick Williams. J'ai découvert le Feverish Hornet sur Slippery Elm. Je suis fier, vous savez. Continuez à mieux vous familiariser avec votre profession et par et Par qui, quand personne ne peut vous comprendre, vous serez promu et respecté, et vous serez finalement un conducteur de voiture endormi, et vous délecterez du plus grand calme mental et d'une grande marge de stagnation intellectuelle qui n'a jamais vu le monde. ---- '

"Mais il était parti.

"Ensuite, j'ai pris un cache-oreiller et essuyé des craquelins pulvérisés sur les semelles de mes pieds, et je me suis couché, enveloppé dans une grande gueule."

Heads you lose

Surgeon plans human head transplant, revival of frozen brain.

I've seen this story in several different places so far, mostly with a "headline as a question." Reports are that there are plenty of volunteers for a head transplant. The surgeon says the first human trial will be in China in about ten months. He has grand visions: "I am also performing this operation to prove or refute that our consciousness is created by the brain." The OOOM article ends with his statement " I am for life, I believe in life." This jars a bit, in light of "In a few months, we will sever a body from a head in an unprecedented medical procedure. In this phase, there is no life activity – not in the brain, not anywhere else in the body. The patient is dead, clinically dead."

In other words, the donor will die. Since this is scheduled for China, you can probably guess who's elected.

I don't know if the reporter was selective in picking objectors, but most of the objections were "This can't be done" and not "This is wrong."

Coincidentally, I ran across a Dungeons and Dragons anecdote I'd never heard before: the "Head of Vecna".

Friday, April 28, 2017

Linseed oil

I decided to try to finish a garden seat with linseed oil, just to see how well it worked. I don't think I'll be trying it again. The drying time is way too long in our garage in the spring--of order a week. So far it looks nice, though.

Used rags are supposed to be stored under water so they don't catch fire--the stuff doesn't so much dry as react, and if there's inadequate air circulation the result can be very bad. So I dumped rags in the (enclosed and freestanding) firepit on the "who cares" plan. So far no flames. Next time I'll try wadding it up.

While looking up details, I found that poor King Tut seems to have had a little run-in with the stuff--his mummy wrapping were apparently soaked in it but not allowed to dry. I'm not sure if the researchers got a positive ID on the oil in this particular case, but apparently it was one of the standard treatments. I should try their little experiment. I'll let a tight ball of soggy rags stand in for a mummy.

Thursday, April 27, 2017


I saw some kids learning how to serve the volleyball yesterday, and as two tried to hit their balls over the net (one successfully), it occurred to me that the game is misnamed. There's no volley involved.

We could fix that. Two, or maybe three, serve at once, and your side loses a point if any hit the ground--or if you knock one out of bounds. Everybody has to be on their toes, including the scorer (did serve 1 hit the ground on your side before serve 3 went out of bounds?). The servers would, of course, try to overwhelm a position on the other side, so you'd need more players. And the strategy gets a bit more complex too--do you bat one in the air a bit longer so you can followup one ball that pulls the other team to one side with a ball to the other side?

Three balls might be too many, but..

Sometimes I write and then look things up. It turns out something like this is used a drill, except that each side serves at the same time instead of one side serving twice. Or thrice.


There's a collaboration meeting next week, with some pre-meetings starting Saturday. Some of the people coming into town want to spend Friday playing board games, and others want to do rock or wall climbing. I suggested they combine the two. Imagine teams playing checkers on a climbing wall. Diagonal moves would be hard, but captures would be amusing.

Sunday, April 23, 2017


You've probably heard of Caldwell's review of Christophe Guilluy's work trying to explain what caused the fissures in French society. A crude summary is that globalization and the "information economy" left the working class un/under-employed and made the centers so expensive that they were pushed out to the "periphery," often literally. (Periphery in particular means distance from the active economy, but high housing prices mean that this is "away from Paris" as well.) The housing built for the working class now houses immigrants and second generations of immigrants, who work cheaper, but are often hostile. The successful class is essentially oblivious--everyone they know is doing fine, and they enjoy life just fine.
While rich Parisians may not miss the presence of the middle class, they do need people to bus tables, trim shrubbery, watch babies, and change bedpans. Immigrants—not native French workers—do most of these jobs. Why this should be so is an economic controversy. Perhaps migrants will do certain tasks that French people will not—at least not at the prevailing wage. Perhaps employers don’t relish paying €10 an hour to a native Frenchman who, ten years earlier, was making €20 in his old position and has resentments to match. Perhaps the current situation is an example of the economic law named after the eighteenth-century French economist Jean-Baptiste Say: a huge supply of menial labor from the developing world has created its own demand.


Upwardly mobile urbanites, observes Guilluy, call Paris “the land of possibilities,” the “ideapolis.” One is reminded of Richard Florida and other extollers of the “Creative Class.” The good fortune of Creative Class members appears (to them) to have nothing to do with any kind of capitalist struggle. Never have conditions been more favorable for deluding a class of fortunate people into thinking that they owe their privilege to being nicer, or smarter, or more honest, than everyone else. Why would they think otherwise? They never meet anyone who disagrees with them.

That may sound somewhat familiar, and the article makes the connections, but the focus is on France and its unique situation.

One line struck me: "French elites have convinced themselves that their social supremacy rests not on their economic might but on their common decency."

I hear an echo of another famous delusion current a century ago: elan, "offensive á l'outrance." I hope the consequences of this delusion are not so deadly.

Both the new and old attitude seem essentially religious, both with the volk as the god. "We are too pious and good for bad things to happen to us." Of course "common decency" can be made into an extremely low bar.

I work in one of those elite groups: an international collaboration at a world-class university: knowledge-based and cosmopolitan. The folks here are smart and honest, and by and large extremely nice people. "Nice" is not the same as "good," but from inside the bubble it is easy to make that mistake.

Saturday, April 22, 2017


A Russian does Spike Jones one better with an innovative variation on a glockenspiel.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Hunting the wild

Scott Van Zyl was hunting crocodiles by the Limpopo, and apparently they found him first. Three were killed, and DNA testing verified that one at least contained Van Zyl.

I'm sorry for him and his family. Closure is a good thing, but I wish they hadn't killed the crocs.

Not that I have any fondness for the creatures. If the last tiger on Earth were killing people in my neighborhood, I'd join the posse to go kill it. But Scott's case is a little different.

I want no wild threats to my home, and will be as thorough as I need to be to make sure of that.

A farmer who wants to harvest a steer or three wants as little fuss as possible.

A subsistence hunter needs food. If there's something dangerous out there, he would prefer that it either be elsewhere or be made incapable of harming him and his tribe. Man-eating bears interfere with the hunting he needs to do to keep his family alive.

A deer hunter wants the challenge of outwitting a deer on its native ground. He's not looking for danger, just the venison and the challenge. Similarly with geese, turkey, etc. If a pack of wolves started stalking hunters instead of just spooking deer, I think most of us would go along with relocating them--either far away or to the tanner's. Man-eating wolves would interfere with the sport.

But a crocodile hunter is hunting it precisely because it is dangerous. Likewise a lion hunter, or a grizzly hunter--only a jerk would go to a lion farm to shoot a quasi-tame lion. If the hunter has a very bad encounter with something wild, that just emphasizes the wildness and danger for the next hunter. Killing the dangerous animals to make it safe again interferes with the sport.

I wonder what Scott would have thought about it. I'm pretty sure his wife and kids wanted closure.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The peaceful sea

Some varieties of sea urchins, when disturbed, turn loose some of their stinging appendages (pedicellariae) to float around like little mines--mines that bite instead of explode. Bee-sting like.
Many people are familiar with the spiny appearance of sea urchins, but most have probably never noticed the pedicellariae that grow between the spines. Each one is less than a millimeter across, and they come in several different types, some of which are more suited to cleaning away algae than fighting off predators. Collector urchins have a particularly fearsome variety of pedicellariae consisting of stalks topped with biting jaws. The three sections of the jaws open outward like flower petals, each one ending in a venomous fang. A dense forest of these structures covers the collector urchin's shell, waving and snapping in response to touch, chemical signals and looming shadows.


Four of the urchin species kept their pedicellariae, but the collector sea urchins released a continuous stream of the biting appendages. In the original experiments, collector urchins released tens of pedicellariae per trial, but in subsequent tests, which have not yet been written up and published, they spewed hundreds over the course of 30 seconds

Apparently fighter drones aren't a new invention.

Monday, April 17, 2017


Restricting traffic is an old idea, and everything old is new again. After a container-truck accident killed a popular performer, there are calls to restrict the trucks to night-time operation in Monrovia. The article includes plenty of insinuations that the trucks are not road-worthy--an accusation I'd cheerfully believe--but includes no claims that the drivers are careless; a curious oversight. I sort of doubt the truck drivers would be better drivers at night, with mediocre street lighting and pedestrians even harder to see.

I found this hilarious: "“Has the LNP put any speed bumps to prevent unnecessary over-speeding and death at the road where the young musician Quincy B met his fate?” a young man asked." On most roads they're not necessary, and I thought one of the jobs they wanted Ellen to oversee was to fix the infrastructure.

Sunday, April 16, 2017


Peter had a confusing career. He told Jesus to go away, because he (Peter) was a sinful man. Jesus called him anyway. A little later Jesus called him Satan. When Peter swung a sword to come to His defense, Jesus rebuked him. Peter, along with the others, swore he'd never deny Jesus, and then he lied like mad when his poor spy scheme was uncovered. He had a decided tendency to fall asleep when praying (Gethsemane, Joppa): one man called napping "The Prayer of St. Peter." After the Resurrection, the angel said "Tell His disciples, and Peter." Ouch. Though maybe he already felt like an outsider. Even after the Resurrection, Peter thought the best thing to do was go fishing. And then Jesus grilled him.

He was clearly not the head honcho at Jerusalem; James was. Paul had to call him on the carpet at one point.

I'm not at all persuaded that he was appointed head of the church, but I think one might do worse than appoint a klutz who's been through the fire a time or three--somebody who's had to learn a bit of humility.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Problems and solutions

But I say to you in truth, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the sky was shut up for three years and six months, when a great famine came over all the land; and yet Elijah was sent to none of them, but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow.

they were trying to go into Bithynia, and the Spirit of Jesus did not permit them; and passing by Mysia, they came down to Troas. A vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing and appealing to him.

Our church has decided to try to help address the problem of "the achievement gap" in Madison. There's a problem there, true. And perhaps there is something we can do to help, though I seriously doubt that we'll have any grand solutions. Even a few lives are worth a lot, though.

I don't know the history of the decision, but I wonder how it evolved. It sometimes seems as though we see a problem and glom onto it, work up a plan and advertise for volunteers.

Do we wind up in a different place if, instead of looking at problems, we ask "What solutions do we have? What skills and enthusiasms do our people have?"(*) One fellow in our church wasn't very bright, and his skill set was pretty limited, but he put together a list of people to call, and when he heard that someone in church was moving, he called people on the list to assemble a team to help. That's not the sort of thing I usually hear when the church says they need people to help. (Typically they're short of child care workers.)

I tried to rouse interest in a "What I can do" list at our last church: a list of things people say they're willing to volunteer for. Ideally this would be pooled by local churches, since one church may not have a critical mass of people able to address a problem that needs a team. In practice I couldn't get ours interested. Possibly this had to do with liability issues, possibly the concept has serious flaws, and possibly I'm not very good at salesmanship.

I finished Organic Community tonight, which is about how much better the results are from collaboration and encouraging people to develop their own activities than from "cooperation" (aka do it my way) and central planning. The last time I checked a body needs both flexible flesh and solid skeletons. Still, quite a lot of the appropriate work of a church goes on through informal or almost informal networks of friends. The liturgy, whether high or low, is only part of the work.

(*) I do not mean those spiritual gift questionnaires.

Sunday, April 09, 2017


WHO Report: Over One Million Liberians Suffering From Depression.

I hope this isn't true. I expect millions are stressed and very unhappy, and that's a very big deal, but depression is more than just that.

Saturday, April 08, 2017


I gather the makeup artists for horror movies work hard to make people look suitably gruesome, without going that extra inch that makes them look silly.

Hollywood is missing a bet. They could simply hire DMV photographers.

Thursday, April 06, 2017

Days of Rage by Bryan Burrough

I will find it difficult to write a more interesting description than David did. You should definitely go read that.

It was rather disconcerting to think how close some of this was when I was in Chicago. I had read the news, but forgotten most of it, just like everyone else. This is a good reminder of what madness can lie just around the corner.

The year Several years before I first arrived at college, student riots had burned down Old Main. The main computing facility was in a limited access building that permitted defense in depth. (They opened a new and more open facility while I was there.) Iranian students did some demonstrating, but there was very little drama otherwise--a big crowd assembled on the rumor that a sorority had scheduled a streak, and the student government was dominated by a party which ran on the platform that they would bring the Grateful Dead to perform. I think there must have been a bit of a reaction against politics.

Chicago Circle had more diversity of weirdness. I had a few letters to the editor published under the pseudonym of Ho Lee, Chairman of Reeducation Committee, and cosigned by Korean War Veterans Against Admitting Hawaii as a State and others of that ilk. To give some flavor of the dialog on campus: I overheard people who thought the letters were real. Nothing was too crazy.

Some of those crazies stayed crazy.

You should read the book. A couple of things jumped out at me: the Law tended to only catch the bombers by accident, and the revolution runs on money. Friendly lawyers, ECUSA, or bank robbery--somehow revolutionaries had to get the bucks. And one other thing--no matter how weird things are, they can get worse.

Tuesday, April 04, 2017


The story read Who sold embassy in Spain for $1m? "Liberian officials say “a crook” in Spain has sold Liberia’s embassy there at over US$1m, but Spanish government have already seized proceeds of the sale and were trying to return the buyer’s money and give back Liberia its foreign mission property."

I just had to follow up on that kind of story, and found a new story from a few hours later: Govt to close embassy in Spain? In that we learn that the illegal sale was in Sweden, not Spain, and that both buildings are in such derelict condition that the Liberian government wants to sell the Spanish one in order to pay for repairs in the Swedish one.

I wonder what tomorrow's story will tell, and what the Spanish think of this type of triage. Neither story said who bought the place.

FWIW, when I wanted a visa I went to a Liberian Consulate on the south side of Chicago--and just barely caught the officer before he went out on a long lunch. The address turned out to be a back room in a rug store. It has since been closed.

Saturday, April 01, 2017

What makes you angry?

I ran across the "To learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize" line attributed to Voltaire. Since Voltaire made a fairly successful career doing just that, it didn’t sound quite his style--and apparently the line is of fairly recent coinage, and is attributed to a fellow who doesn’t like Jews.

The first time I ran across it, it seemed a little extravagant but mildly plausible—but I remembered reading about complaints in the army, and the principle started to seem less than universally accurate: more of a matter of "who are the favored ones" than "who rules." They aren’t the same people. In academia there most certainly are people who, if you criticize them, you risk your career. Mentioning some topics will kill it dead. Anybody remember Lawrence Summers?

To say it more accurately: "To find out who the favored ones are, find out who you aren’t allowed to criticize or make fun of." Zzzzz.

Still, the idea of probing the structure of something with humor or criticism might have some potential.

Who do you really worship? I know a number of people who, if you mock God, will have a very mild response. If you mock their president (current or previous, depending on their tribe) they go ape. I get it that we have an obligation to protect the honor of family and friends, and think it reasonable to rise to their defense. But realistically, the president is only your friend in abstract. Maybe you met him once, but you don't know him. If, on the other hand, he is the one you put your trust in, the symbol of all you hold dear, perhaps you are putting him in a role only another can fill.

Screwtape wrote of "God And" as a tool to pry people away from God. Do my reactions tell of my God or my And?

I often hear of some Muslims going ape when someone disses Muhammad or the Koran, but rarely hear of them getting angry when someone complains about God. (It does sometimes happen.)

Some of us get bent out of shape by lies. We often get more bent out of shape by lies about us or our tribe, of course, but insofar as we try to be even-handed this seems like a love of truth and a good thing. But when you jump to oppose some lies and not others, perhaps you've let your "And" rule.

I feel a strong urge to jump in when somebody starts munging(*) up something about physics or astronomy, but it generally doesn’t make me angry. On the other hand, when somebody starts claiming that the moon landings were faked, I find that I start with some invidious (and usually accurate) assumptions about his willingness to review evidence. It doesn’t mean that I think the moon landings are more holy than F=ma. So my reaction doesn’t map neatly onto deeply held beliefs; it’s a mix of my gut reaction to the issue and my reaction to you.

When I mentioned in one circle the rather obvious fact that Hillary was a bad candidate (**) the others assumed that I meant that I disliked her character and her politics. That is true, but not what I was talking about--their reaction was also to an assumption, that I was announcing membership in a different tribe.

So I think this probe is most useful in self-examination. It is too easy to make mistakes applying it to other people. Though one is sometimes tempted to draw conclusions from obvious cases...

(*) Mung: recursive acronym for Mung Until No Good

(**) Just count the signs up for her in Madison vs those for Obama 4 years earlier, and compare with the number for the senate candidate. Reliably Democratic Madison wasn’t very enthusiastic at all. Not a good candidate...

More tame foxes

From the fact that PBS did a story on them, I gather that interest has not subsided, and from the low price ($9000)(*) I gather that the supply end is doing OK.

The changes in behavior have been remarkably rapid--less than 60 years to effective domestication. Andrew Wagner warns that there may still be some residual issues.

"[You can be] sitting there drinking your cup of coffee and turning your head for a second, and then taking a swig and realizing, ‘Yeah, Boris came up here and peed in my coffee cup,’" said Amy Bassett, the Canid Conservation Center’s founder. "You can easily train and manage behavioral problems in dogs, but there are a lot of behaviors in foxes, regardless of if they’re Russian or U.S., that you will never be able to manage."

"Never" is a long time.

(*) That doesn't seem too crazy for an exotic. Some rare dog breeds are up there too: e.g. a saluki for $2500.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Private security firms

Richard Fernandez is an interesting and thoughtful writer. When I read the title of his latest, Nation Building by Reduction, my first thought was that this would be about creating new nations by subdividing the failed nation states into units that can think of themselves as a unit and actually function that way.

Instead he discusses the effects of private security firms taking the place of police and military forces in countries or sections of countries where the government is unable or unwilling to provide protection. Sometimes the cops or soldiers are inept, sometimes they're the problem. Since the first purpose of government is to protect its people, when it consistently fails the people are entitled to do what they can to fill the gap.

An article he links to in African Business Magazine is worth reading--sometimes the firms are effective and sometimes, such as with those Shell hires in Nigeria, you wonder. The South Africans, citing national security issues, want to make all security firms at least 51% local ownership. (That won't help a bit--it will just change the potential threat from one of external intervention to one of civil war.) A number of shipping firms have given up on local navies and hired their own protection. And so on.

Fernandez didn't deal with this part, unfortunately. Even if you have one firm supplying forces to everybody, you'll get empire-building internally, and that will eventually turn external. In other words, over time, the West Nigeria unit of Blackwater will go native, and so will the Benin unit.

When you have multiple groups, sooner or later they will conflict.

The end stage would be the division of failed/incompetent states into new "nations" defined by their security team. Does that sound familiar?

Thursday, March 30, 2017

On reflection

I put up a short post about Chinese music and hinted at the difficulty I was having with understanding it. If you followed the link, you probably noticed this:
A melody may be developed in several ways, through
  • repetition
    • the repetition of a melodic phrase or
    • of a rhythmic pattern
  • changing the beginning of the phrase

  • changing the ending of a phrase

  • repeating a snatch of a motif

  • ornamentation

  • piling on “jia duo”

  • “jia sui”

  • continuation/passing on
    • “jie zi” beginning of second phrase uses the ending note of the first phrase
    • “jie yin” using material from first phrase to develop second phrase
  • having certain motif that repeats throughout “guan chuan”

  • sequence

  • others

A couple of days later when I turned on the car radio, a complicated jazz piece came on, and it occurred to me that jazz uses some of those same techniques. And lo and behold: Shidaiqu.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

I don't know how it is at your home

But there's been some truth to this at ours. Except that we're usually reading or on computers instead of watching TV.

Friday, March 24, 2017

If it sounds good

Just for the fun of it I tried listening to some old Chinese music the other night (Youtube), and was a bit disconcerted that I typically couldn't make out anything like a melodic line. There'd be a phrase or two that seemed promising, and then everything got upended as far as my ear was concerned. I expect some rhythm or melodic logic to carry me along, but the phrasing didn't usually seem regular and I couldn't follow the logic.

Apparently the irregularity is built into the music theory. E.g. "Related to this concept, the idea of accents on regular beats of a bar is not as important as accents occurring on appropriate parts of the phrase. Accents are also influenced by note length."

So much for the universal language. Peter Schickele liked to end his show with Duke Ellington's "If it sounds good, it is good." But if you can't follow it, it may not sound good.

I read in an account of an expedition up the Amazon that the explorers brought along a phonograph with which to entertain themselves, and demonstrated it to various tribesmen--who allegedly far preferred Mozart to Beethoven. I wonder what it was in Mozart that they liked (understood?) better. I wonder if that preference is still true, given the exposure pretty much everybody has had to pop.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

An obituary

What the deceased may well have taken the most joy in.
David Rockefeller was in at the conception of many other things — Manhattan property deals including the sites for the United Nations, and the former Twin Towers; the foundation of the Trilateral Commission, and so forth. It’s all in the obituaries somewhere. But these were mere flexings of money and power. The discovery and entrapment of a new beetle throws all such accomplishments into the shade, and makes the life of a plutocrat worth living.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017


Did you ever wonder why you can't seem to balance things on your head the way so many Africans can? This article claims that as they grew up carrying burdens that way, their skeletons adapted to carry the weight directly. If I try, my neck muscles wind up handling a lot of the effort, and it hurts. The story seems plausible to me. Ouch.

Never mind exoskeleton stuff.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Book learning

One little problem with growing up in a white-collar family, and holding a white-collar job, is that when something needs fixing and the budget won't stretch to have a pro do it, you have to rely on the do-it-yourself manuals. (These days Youtube is a wonderful help!) I bless my father for having me work in the Ricks maintenance shop one summer, but there were a lot of things left to learn.

It turns out the Chinese had a proverb that describes the situation nicely: "It is when you are using what you have learned from books that you wish you had read more."

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Necronomicon, by Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray

I tend to get a bit rebellious when books are forbidden, and this one is treated like Mein Kampf in the circles I work in. (I don’t need to read that; he spelled out in blood what he meant.) And in light of the recent attack at Middlebury this seems timely.

Their Chapter 22 (A Place for All) overlaps a bit with things I’ve been worrying about, and most of their suggestions seem reasonable—though their idea that government aid for children be cut is a deserved non-starter.

Start at the beginning. (I skipped the appendices, btw.) They say society is becoming more stratified and the castes are becoming more and more isolated from each other, mediated only by pop culture which is dominated by one of the castes. This seems clear and true enough.

Then they go on to give an exposition of which social issues are and which are not highly correlated with IQ. Here I want to tear my hair. They show beautiful curves displaying how IQ correlates better with income or crime than does parental socio-economic status or education. But there are no error bars or scatter plots (like this) and I have no way of evaluating the comparisons—especially since sometimes the tails on each side have smaller statistics and are less well measured.

But let’s stipulate that the results are largely accurate (for the time being—I have 2 other books to read that are intended to refute this book).

They take a little time to worry about "dysgenics"—that with IQ (or "g", hereafter g/IQ) being strongly hereditary, when the smarter have fewer children, the overall average intelligence will drop, and the rate of really brilliant folk will drop even more. I’d think this one of the controversial sections. I think their model of society is a bit simplistic—the machine we built relies invisibly on qualities other than technological expertise—courage in battle, for example. And it relies on virtue, which I've never found to be correlated with intelligence one way or another. And I’ve often read the complaint that the engineers with the brainpower work for companies run by the guys who majored in beer and blondes--and networking.

Then H&M go into differences in g/IQ between populations. I notice that many people are unable to distinguish between statements about populations and about individuals. H&M do, and try to emphasize that point. They try.

They claim that the average measured g/IQ of Americans of African ancestry is substantially (1 standard deviation) lower than that of those of European ancestry, which in turn is lower than the average for Japanese and Han Chinese. If IQ is the measure of human worth, this is a really big deal—but I don’t believe that and H&M claim not to believe it either. Let me repeat that: human worth and dignity have nothing to do with intelligence or education or family background.

The proper first question about such a difference is not “Is this insulting” or “Will this lead to evil” but “Is this true?”

H&M cite plenty of statistics, and if I do a back of the envelope calculation using statistics from my field, I get similar numbers (restricting my sample to Americans—there was a brilliant Nigerian in our group for a while).

If this is correct, it destroys the iron rice bowl of the “disparate impact” industry. They’ve fought tooth and nail against the idea, as have a generation or 3 of education fadsters.

But it isn’t enough to have the right enemies.

H&M go on to review what has been tried, and what the results have been. Poor nutrition or early disease can stunt the brain, and great progress has already been made in dealing with these—though they think, and common sense suggests, that we hit diminishing returns long ago in this country. (Except possibly for pre-natal nutrition.) Head Start, as implemented, is worthless. (I examined Head Start’s report back in 2013 and came to the same conclusion--by grade 3 there was no effect.)

One thing that helped seriously at-risk children was adoption at birth—but this was not tested for less at-risk children, and as a policy this falls under the category of Like Hell You Will.

Some education seems to have an effect, but H&M didn’t say whether these studies were successfully replicated.

Me talking: One thing that nagged at me was the description of backwoods whites in Kingdom of Cotton. This was a seriously pathological society—feckless, uneducated, and to all appearances dull-witted. A century and a half later things didn’t look nearly so bad in that population, though drugs and lack of jobs have apparently started to make a mess of them since then.

Me talking: How g/IQ gets expressed is going to be a function of good luck (disease and environment, for example) and discipline. And if the very notion of being paper-tested is alien, you may do less well than you would with some practice (e.g. the moderate but limited increase in SAT scores with practice). And perhaps education needs to be differently structured for those at the left side, or those with chaotic families.

Me talking: Other inborn skills aren’t easy to paper-test for: musical, athletic, being able to sense what another person is feeling (as opposed to Asperger’s), and so on. Some of these matter a lot.

At any rate, they go on to worry about an increasingly stratified future in which a cognitive elite try to put the rest “on reservations”, so to speak. The Last Psychiatrist opined that prescription drugs were effectively if not intentionally used to zone out many of the underclass. Be that as it may, a “reservation” society won’t work—the inhabitants will burn it down and whatever else they can reach.

The final chapter has policy suggestions.

Chuck disparate impact but keep other parts of affirmative action; chuck civil union benefits (if you won’t commit why should we?); re-evaluate education structure; decentralize regulation so that more is decided locally—and more simply, so interactions aren't too complicated for the slower (Have you read the 1040 instructions?); simplify what you can in law and regulation; and don’t offer benefits for extra children.

The last point won’t fly, and shouldn't.

Decentralization of authority starkly opposes the principles of 1 ½ of our 2 political parties. The affirmative action industry wants to grow, not shrink, and claims that traditional morality is good are met with howls of hatred.

I can see why it raises a stir.

BTW, one of the things that complicates the field is the Flynn effect--that g/IQ scores have been rising since tests were introduced. That makes calibration difficult. Are they rising because education actually improves raw intelligence, or because people are just getting used to tests and therefore getting better at it (e.g. like practice for the SAT)?

Now for a rebuttal.

The Bell Curve Wars edited by Fraser, is a collection of essays arguing with the Bell Curve. I list the authors below.

  • Steven Gould: His description of "factor analysis" seems interesting, but his claim that the spike in g vanishes and turns into spikes in other "intelligences" if you rotate the parameter space, and that therefore the spike isn’t important, sounds backwards. He gripes about the lack of scatter plots.
  • Howard Garder: Often disingenuous—or maybe he didn’t read thoroughly.
  • Richard Nisbett: Cites lots of studies challenging the black white g/IQ gap. Hurray for Nisbett! He actually addresses some of their research!
  • Rosen and Lane: Ad hominem from the get-go. Rubbish.
  • Ramos: Addresses a few points
  • Sowell: Addresses issues of testing among white groups, questions its reliability
  • Jones: Ad hominem from the get-go and –oh look, slavery! Rubbish
  • Gates: Ad hominem, but mercifully short.
  • Andrew Hacker: Claims that tests are biased and points out the ranges in white g/IQ by ethnicity, and then indulges in mind-reading.
  • Wolfe: Questions the claim that America is developing a cognitive elite class.
  • Judis: Attacks H&M dysgenic claims
  • Kaus: Argues about the genetic vs environment, but is also disingenuous—if racial differences are prenatal, changing that would require massive and intrusive intervention.
  • Glozer: Asserts that H&M shortchange environmental effects, challenges their “utopia.”
  • Peretz: Why don’t we all get along.
  • Wiesaltier: Ad hominem, seems almost proud of his ignorance.
  • Pearson: Blacks have had it bad, and H&M will discourage them.
  • Lind: “Right wing” political history—recognizes role of religion in supporting human equality, but thinks it “ironic.”
  • Kennedy: Bell Curve is bad; people who read it are bad.
  • Patterson: H&M put in references to material which challenges their direction, and draw the reader’s attention to it—therefore the work has “self-contradictions.” His genetic argument doesn’t sound correct—he implies that intelligence is selected-for and then offers an example where propensity for violence is. If both can be, then his formula is wrong.

A few essays do deserve some followup. I’ll not spend the time myself—there are others who address this sort of detail, and I don't intend to spend what few years I have left trying to become an expert in this field. I think I'll skip the third book.

In any event, one of the thrusts of the book is barely dealt with. How to close the gap may be disputed, but the existence of the gap seems not to be. Given that gap, and given that we’re all in this together, what can we do to make sure there is a dignified role for everyone right now?

Maybe some combination of education and encouragement and pre-natal nutrition and whatever may raise the average black achievement—but if that only helps those who are children now, it doesn’t tell us how to structure things for today's adults. And Hacker points out that gaps exist among white ethnicities too—it isn’t a strictly racial divide.