Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Quotations from critical thinkers

Whoso neglects learning in his youth, loses the past and is dead to the future.
Euripides 485 - 406 BC

These really deep truisms like Aesop’s Morals, and fairy tales and nursery rhymes are so ingrained that they are not so much information themselves but actually systems of thought. Once you’ve proven 1 + 1 = 2, you can apply it in thousands of situations. It becomes a mental short cut.

This only is denied to God: the power to change the past.
Agathon 448 - 400 BC

I know nothing except the fact of my ignorance.
Socrates 469 - 400 BC

Life is short, art is long, timing is exact, experience treacherous, judgment difficult.
Hippocrates 460 - 400 BC

The life that is unexamined is not worth living.
Plato 428 - 348 BC

There is nothing so absurd but some philosopher has said it.
Cicero 106 - 43 BC

I have to paraphrase Cicero here. Last Sunday in the Washington Post Fashion section there were some "haute couture" examples that beg the statement: "There is no dress so ridiculous that some designer won't show it, and some woman won't buy it." A few years back I predicted that a misshapen asymetrical hunchback prosthesis will be proposed as high fashion; sure enough, that exact thing turned up in Paris. At least it didn't become a mainstream fad.

I had to jump 250 years and insert Cicero here because Plato also said:

Seeing that the human race falls into the same classification as the feathered creatures, we must divide the biped class into featherless and feathered. (Hold this thought, it will become important later). Bartlett also quoted a rambling discourse on memory using an analogy of waxen impressions... It’s not very succinct but I think the discussion of memory (and by implication, our collective memory: History) is central to any consideration of “quotes”. Quotes may also be viewed as a distillation of the “AH HA!” moment. That “I SEE!” feeling we get on occasion. So someone else said it first, but when we hear it, it seems like we’re remembering it because it seems so true, obvious, profound, so right. Does anybody collect quotes that they hate? Try to think of one. I’d have to search my brain for something a bigot might say to come up with one.... Maybe Pat Robertson’s statement about equal rights for women:

Feminism encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians.

Other than that, I don’t believe that he thinks it’s so bad... I have the feeling that it’s the capitalism part that bothers him the most. Like the Church of the middle ages, he’s been implying for years on TV that he has the power to sell you an indulgence. Or another stinker, the paragon of democratic logic and virtue that said:

America: love it or leave it. (This is actually a misquote; the real thing suggests the very opposite.)

I have gained this by philosophy: that I do without being commanded what others do only from fear of the Law.
Aristotle 384 - 322 BC

And we could add “fear of Religion”, but of course, the religion of his day didn’t have that Judeo-Christian Heaven and Hell and sin and punishment in the afterlife dogma we have today. I also have these from Aristotle:

One swallow does not a summer make.
Man is by nature a political animal.
Well begun is half done.

More statements that have become clichés. That’s not too surprising. I am, after all, trying to remember things well said. If they’ve been said well enough, lots of people will have remembered them and they’ll have become clichés. The other thing about Aristotle is that he was the first systematic compiler of knowledge and facts. Apparently, prior to Alexander’s death, Aristotle had all the research grant money he could use. H. G. Wells says that at one time he had a thousand field representatives spread out over the known world collecting information. So, it’s likely that many of the things Aristotle said were recycled from others. This is not to belittle him in any way. After all, the about face he made from Plato’s armchair dreams of constructed utopias (not to mention feathered bipeds) to studying the real world as it existed, is an immense revolution. And the epithet “compiler” is inadequate. He organized. And with his mastery of logic, his organization of anything was instructive of the subject matter and the most useful system of thought at the same time. Mental onmonopoa again. We need only look at what passes for debate these days to see how much our modern hoipoloi don’t know about rational discriminating thought. Most of our arguments aren’t about apples versus oranges, they’re about apples versus orange trees, or orange groves, or the state of Florida. If man is a political animal, why have the demagogues seized the platform? Because the listeners can’t think straight. More later.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Near earth objects

Tunguska-sized explosions occur on Earth about once per century, and larger explosions the size of the largest H-bombs, occur about once per millennium. Many of these explode in the atmosphere and cause devastation over tens of kilometers, but don't leave long-lasting craters. If we want to imagine the effect of impacts we need to calculate the energy release of an A-bomb and compare it to the energy of a NEO impact.
First, we have to know the energy liberated by an A-bomb. The Hiroshima bomb expended the energy of roughly ten thousand tons of TNT, or 18 "kilotons" in military parlance. One kiloton (1 KT) is about 4.2 x 1012 joules (the joule is the unit of energy in the Standard International, or "SI," set of scientific units). The Hiroshima bomb thus represented roughly 8 x 1013 joules of energy.
Now all we have to do is calculate the energy of the meteoroid. In freshman physics courses, you learn that the kinetic energy of a moving object is 1/2mV2.
The trick in using any equation like this is to be sure to use the correct units. In SI, the units are meters, kilograms, and seconds, so that mass m must be in kilograms and velocity V must be in meters/second.
Thus, right away we can say that V in the equation will be V = 15 km/s or 1.5 x 104 m/s.
To get the mass, we have to figure out the mass of a 30-meter wide rock. Rock has a density of about 3000 kg per cubic meter, so we need to calculate the volume of the rock and multiply times this density. Thus we have,
m = (4/3) PI R3 (3000 kg/m3) = (4/3) PI (15 m)3 (3000) = 4.2 x 107 kg.
For a two kilometer asteroid going 28 km/sec:
m = (4/3) PI R3 (3000 kg/m3) = (4/3) PI (1000 m)3 (3000) = 1.3 x 1013 kg.
Thus the total energy is,
E=1/2 ( 1.3 x 1013 kg) (2.8 x 104 m/s)2 = 5.1 x 1021 joules.
To be safe, let's imagine that half the kinetic energy is lost to noise, heat, slowing, and fragmentation of the meteoroid before it explodes. That still leaves about 2 x 1021 joules for the Asteroid 2002 NT7 explosion, compared to about 3 x 1013 joules for the Hiroshima A-bomb.
Thus, my estimate is that the NT7 had an explosive energy roughly on order of 6.6 x 107 TIMES the A-bomb. That’s 66,000,000 Hiroshima bombs. All at once, all in the same place.
By the way, all those Sci-fi shows where folks look up and see the incoming? The speed of light electro magnetic output of the object in the atmosphere will instantly crisp all line of sight organic matter (you). You won’t see it because you won’t be, anymore, instantly, forever or for billions of years which ever is longer.

Vote with your wallet

Dear Sirs: (Add the company of your choice) August 21, 2009

It has often occurred to me that many people in the media who have been given a platform will say the most outrageous things just to stir things up and get attention (and therefore exposure), even though many of these things are demonstrably false, or slanderous, or just plain mean and hurtful: O'Reilly screaming at the son of a 9-11 victim "that I'm [O'Reilly] going to punch you out..." Lou Dobbs saying that the "Birthers" opinions "certainly ...are...views... that can't be discounted." Saying that "These questions will not go away." And then his CEO saying the same day:. "This... story is dead." Ann Coulter saying that she is being abused by the mothers of the dead in Iraq because the mothers have a "hidden" agenda. Then there's Glenn Beck, saying that Obama is a racist and that he hates white people (and then 30 seconds later saying that the President doesn't hate white people, but that he's a fascist). But, (he) Beck is a true patriot, and Democrats are fascists. Beck just opens his mouth to see what comes out. Free speech, yes, but maybe with consequences. It is my opinion that Beck is screaming "FIRE" in a crowded theater.
I have always wondered, who is paying these people? Why, it's YOU, Mr.Advertiser.

So the other night when I happen to catch Beck making one of his ridiculously inciteful (not to be confused with insightful) pronouncements; I thought that I'd make a list of his sponsors so that I wouldn't make the mistake of ever patronizing any of their products. I recorded every advertiser during his program (I didn't have to watch and listen to the crap; isn't Tevo grand?). You Mr. Advertizer are on that list.

I am sharing these observations and the information I have recorded with as many people as I can; as often as I can. I am establishing a Blog as well. You keep up the good work and maybe we'll see whether the likes of Glenn Beck and Lou Dobbs really speak for the majority of Americans. But you're not getting any of my money.

Sincerely, (READACTED; feel free to copy any part, print and send to your favorite. A hand written name after "Sirs:" and a note added after "Sincerely," adds weight to any communication. P.S. I signed my letters, you should too.) The following are the sponsors of the Glen Beck program:

Jos. A. Bank, P.O. Box 1000, Hampstead, MD 21074-4000.
Charles Binder, Binder & Binder® National Headquarters, 33-00 Northern Blvd., Suite 7A, Long Island City, New York 11101, Telephone: 800.742.9696, Fax: 718.512.2424
Carbonite, 334 Boylston St - 3rd floor, Boston, MA 02116, 617-587-1100, Toll Free: 877-665-4466
Direct TV, (this was almost impossible to get: (1 800 531 5000) I get the feeling that they don't want to hear from you unless you're going to give them money.
Goldline International, 1601 Cloverfield Boulevard, 100 South Tower, Santa Monica, CA 90404
Lear Capital, Inc., 1990 S. Bundy Dr., Suite 600, Los Angeles, CA 90025 Phone: (800) 576-9355
Phone: (310) 571-0190 Fax: (310) 571-0194
Lend America, 520 Broadhollow Rd, Melville, NY 11747
Liberty Medical, Medco, Inc., (I could only find a web site e-mail address
Merit Financial, 1300 4th Street, Suite 303, Santa Monica, CA 90401, Phone 310.394.7577
Metastock, Equis International, 90 South 400 West, Suite 620, Salt Lake City, UT 84101
New Max Magazine, P.O. Box 20989, West Palm Beach, Florida, 33416
Pearle Vision Luxottica Retail, 4000 Luxottica Place, Mason, OH 45040 1-800-732-7531
Sears Holdings Corp., Edward Lampert
Regions, 1-800-734-4667
Roseland Capital, 429 Santa Monica Blvd., Suite 450, Santa Monica, CA 90401
Target, Corporate Info. # 1.800.440.0680
Wall St. Journal, 200 Burnett Road, Chicopee, MA 01020
Zero Technologies, LLC., 4510 Adams Circle, Unit G, Bensalem PA 19020

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Heloise Part 3

Dear (deer) Heloise;

Each year after a successful deer hunt, my brother Davis and I always make every effort to utilize every part of the animal, including the deer hide. Butchering is a big job and just like you, Heloise, we sometimes find ourselves hard pressed to do an adequate job of stretching and flensing the hide. After all, the priority work is the meat butchering job. When I shot my deer this last Thanksgiving Day, Davis wasn't here and I was sorely pressed for time (I still had the turkey to prepare).

After stripping the hide off I spread it out "butter side down" on the concrete floor of my workshop. An hour later you would have sworn that the deer skin had been carefully stretched and tacked down to the floor.

The action of the deer blood and the rough concrete was akin to an effective glue. The hide partially dried flat and smooth and I was able to remove the tail as if I had an extra pair of helping hands holding the hide flat. What a time saver! Next year I hope you and your readers get to try out this trick; it works great!

Well all that talk of butchering put me in the mind of another trick I learned at the doctor's office. I guess you could say that I'm a little accident prone because I tend to cut myself fairly often and I have a lot of experience bandaging those cuts. Well the other day I really laid myself open across the top of my index finger. Every time I bent my finger it pulled open and bled like a stuck pig. What to do? I didn't want to waste the day in the emergency room, not to mention the three or four hundred bucks they'd charge for a few stitches. So I improvised what 'Ole Doc Gamin did for me a few years back. I got out my bottle of skin glue and tore the plastic and gauze pad off a nice new cloth Band-Aid, TM. By holding the finger straight with a splint and squeezing hard I was able to get the blood stopped long enough to lay down a coat of glue. I quick slapped the thin "saran wrap" part of the bandage pad onto the wet glue and then applied a few more coats as it dried (all the while holding my hand way above my head. Well you wouldn't believe how nice that rig held everything together until it healed. Less than a week later I'm completely back in business. Doc Gamin had special glue and special sterile cloth material. He told me that I couldn't buy them for myself due to abuse of medications regulations. I guess that somebody knows how to have too much fun with stuff like that; you know, like prescription drugs. The government just has to regulate these things and protect us. My version will work just as good as the Doc's just as long has you don't get it infected. I guess the Government would prefer that you get infected while they complain about rising medical costs (emergency room). The good news is that lots of bleeding cleans out a cut pretty good. It made a real neat scar too.

That sounds about right. Part 1

If and apple a day keeps the doctor away, certainly a quote a day is as salutary for the mind. I’ve been thinking about memory and learning and what we think of as knowledge. What I’ve come up with is that we have these little pieces of what we’re pretty sure we know… somewhere in our minds. We use our direct memories to substantiate them whenever possible. But, we’ve got too much “processed” information in our heads to rely on our own experiences only (and we’d be cutting ourselves short of a huge resource if we tried). So we’ve “distilled” large volumes of stuff into fairly neat little packages; adages that are Internal Truisms. And this has all been done before by others, and they’ve done it better than we can, so we quote their truisms (even when they happen to be false). Or, we come across the quote that makes us see something that we haven’t thought about before. We may have thought all around it, or even been puzzled by it, then a quote explains it all in a flash. I wish I’d said that! The trick of making it into this document is to have said it the first time.

Right timing is in all things the most important factor.
Hesiod 700 BC

That’s well said, but Solon, who follows not only said:

I grow old ever learning many things.
Solon 638 - 559 BC

He also said:

Hesiod might as well have kept his breath to cool his pottage.
I don’t think that he was responding to that particular adage. You don’t have to agree with everything a guy says. Solon was among the “Seven Sages” to whom all adages were attributed back in the old days (pre 500 BC). So there’s some envy and competition among the sages, what’s new? These wise guys are all still human, and to err is human (I wish I’d said that). And later we’ll see what Jonathan Swift has to say about competing poets (wordsmiths). So you learn something new everyday. Writing this up has led me step by step through some wonderful moebius spirals back to the beginning. While focusing on these truisms, I keep finding myself back at where I started.

We shall not cease from exploration and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.
T. S. Eliot 1888 – 1965 AD,

Back to the really old stuff:
It takes a wise man to recognize a wise man.
Xenophanes 570 - 475 BC

There’s something else about Internal Truisms. Many, like the one above not only have been internalized, but they also contain an internal truth; they not only define themselves, they illustrate themselves as well. It’s a “good tautology”, like mental onomonopea. It takes a wise man to recognize a wise man and a wise man to write the adage that may be wasted on a man who isn’t wise. If you haven’t thought about Xenophanes’ adage before, doing so now helps you to be wise. And this gets back to the way our minds work. We feel we understand best when we hear something we already believe to be true, it is positive feedback. So these deeply planted truisms reinforce themselves every time we hear them. There needs to be a word for “good tautology”: “the internal truth that defines and illustrates itself”, that works on more than one level at a time. How about “eudox”, or “unparadox”, or “antiparadox”? I like the sound of the adjectival forms: eudoxal and eudoxic.

When I read Bartlett’s, I learned something about Diogenes Laertius. A lot of quotes appear with the footnote “from Diogenes Laertius, ca. 200 AD” (not to be confused with Diogenes the Cynic, ca. 375 BC). I’ve discovered that he did what I’m doing here (and Bartlett did it after him). He compiled his favorite quotes. So here I am distilling the distillate of the distilled, like nested Russian dolls.

What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others.
Confucius 551 - 479 BC

How many versions of the Golden Rule are there? Which one was first and why can’t we actually adhere to it? I seem to recall finding about a dozen variations of it (Matthew, Aristotle, and many others ).

I am sure the grapes were sour.
Aesop 550 BC

Oh boy! There is a wealth of human nature to be mined here, all from Aesop:

Don’t count your chickens...
Slow and steady...
Familiarity Breeds...
Cry Wolf...
God helps those who...
Who shall bell the cat...
Blow hot and cold...
Kill the goose that laid...

All so well known that you don’t have to finish the phrase, everybody has heard them. They’re in the special class of quotes that we can remember. So good they’re not quotes but part of the collective wisdom we take for granted. This will happen again. When an adage distills a Truth so evident to all, it gets a special place in the culture. Then, we’re surprised when someone can ignore it. It creates that sentiment; “what were you thinking?” Well, that will happen over and over again too.

It is not possible to step twice into the same river.
Heraclitus 540 - 480 BC

Nothing endures but change.

But how do we reconcile this with the following?

There is no new thing under the sun.
Ecclesiastes (ca. 950 BC? This is the time of Solomon, reported to be the author of 3,000 proverbs and a thousand songs. There were likely a few things worth quoting in there somewhere.)

Talk sense to a fool and he calls you foolish.
Euripides 485 - 406 BC
(Remember the wise man?)

Monday, October 5, 2009

Heloise, part two

It's me again, Heloise:
Timely maintenance of good tools is always an important consideration so when I was changing the oil in my lovely new tractor, Myrtle, I thought of you, Heloise. It was that all important first 50 hour service and I really wanted it to be perfect. Well wouldn't you know it? I couldn't get the old oil filter off? I tried everything in the book. I've got all the tools, filter wrenches and everything but because of its location, I couldn't get it loose without resorting to the old "pound a screwdriver through it" last messy resort. I wasn't prepared to do that because I wasn't sure that my replacement filter was the right one (with new vehicles, parts don't always look the same as their replacements...) So if the filter was wrong, I might have been stuck with a lot of spilt oil and an unmovable tractor instead of a perfectly serviced one. So I tried a trick that has saved me several times before.

I wrapped a piece of rope around the filter counter clock wise about five times being sure to overlap the first few loops (I used parachute cord but any strong but slim rope will do, even a long belt in an emergency). Leaving enough cord to hold onto, I aligned myself perpendicularly to the threaded shaft of the filter and pulled firmly. The filter turned right off easily. I've used this trick on my pickup truck which has the filter in a spot where you can't get a good grip on it. So far this has never failed me no matter how stuck the filter has been. You know, I think that the dealership maintenance folks put 'em on too tight on purpose. They get to charge a $25 labor fee for twenty seconds of work that way.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

So you rue the loss of religion in our schools?

If you think that the belief in God should be taught in school, consider the following:
A few years back Martin Luther had a little problem with the Catholic (only) religion of the "Holy Roman Empire" His problem had to do with the "teaching" of this particular religion and its absolute, government sanction (remember there was no such thing as separation of Church and State) in all the schools (well, there were only "Sunday schools" then) Even though Martin would be the first to admit that religion was overall a good thing; he still had some reservations about exactly how it was being promoted among the relatively powerless masses (imposed, taught?, indoctrinated? Just how powerful are our children in school?) So he questioned just what kind of dogma should be taught. He didn't like what was being imposed so he nailed 49 "Theses" on the cathedral door.

So you may not like the "removal of religion from school"? Following is an exercise in the removal of the concept of the separation of church and state and an argument for the teaching of religion in the United States of America's government (taxpayer) supported schools (Ah, but which religion, you ask?):

Exactly how much more (and/or better) evidence is there for the existence of Jesus or the Judeo-Christian God (or any other gods or elements of faith for that matter) than there is for the existence of the Galactic Spaghetti Monster? None. You say that TGSM is not a REAL religion? Please consider what would happen were you to convene a meeting of one representative of each of the approximately 15,000 religions of the world (there are thousands of "Protestant Christian" sects in the USA alone. That would be a harmonious meeting wouldn't it?) So TGSM religion is as real to its adherents as are other faiths of those who see Mary on toast, handle snakes, or swing chickens around (actually, some fundamentalist Hebrew sects do this, among others) So it should also be taught in schools, right? Well think again! Some religions (gasp! I bet you never thought of this) are opposed to one another. I heard from a Priest recently, he sent me the following screed:

The pejorative "monster part" of TGSM will be dropped shortly after Jesus has been declared to be the new "Satan" and the new Galactic Spaghetti God religion reigns supreme (unless other people who are even more certain of the "TRUTH" get there first. At that point no one will know who will be the new "Satan"). But wait! The Galactic Spaghetti Monster (God) has a new challenge. He will be the new, new "Satan" of the...

Newer Religion! THE COSMIC RAVIOLI BEING!!!! trumpets blare: TA DA!!!!
The CRB is the only true God. All other beliefs are nothing but the base, disgusting, blathering of the evil, wicked, stupid and unclean spewers of falsehood and filth. CRB brooks no dissent or disrespect. Those who do not believe in SHim (please; gender in a god?) deserve only death.
The Prophet of TCRB, Blessed be his name, Timnar Thuler speaks the only truth. He tells us: The GSM is the apostate Devil and TCRB is the one true GOD:
The priesthood of the galactic spaghetti monster (note lower case; from now on tgsm will be referred to as "pastafarians") has become corrupt, engaging in the following:
1) pastafarian authoritarian priests declaim dogma that is false with many arbitrary rules.
2) pastafarain authoritarian priests' rules are inconsistent and change the path(s) to salvation at the whim of each new head priest.
3) pastafarian authoritarian priests sell promises of salvation for cash and salacious services.
4) pastafarian authoritarian priests are militant and self-serving, supporting the subjugation of the weak, the poor, and all nonbelievers. Priests claim salvation alone for themselves and those of whom they approve.
5) pastafarian authoritarian priests are hyper militant and support violence and WAR. They believe that God's will is the end that justifies all means. If it is for the glory of God; it cannot be wrong.
6) pastafarian authoritarian priests are arrogant and falsely assume the mantle of omnipotence.
7) pastafarian authoritarian priests absolve the rich of burdensome responsibilities imposed on the poor, the powerless, and the weak.
8) pastafarain authoritarian priests wear sumptuous clothing and surround themselves with gold and luxurious things (some have jet planes!). They eat expensive and rare foods unavailable to the people. They live in palaces and are driven in limousines and are flown in luxurious jet planes (they really have their own jet planes!). They have many body guards and sychopantic servants, concubines, and unlimited access to your daughters and sons. They are hypocrites. Did I mention the jet planes?
(For the full list of the 49 false pastas see our web site: www://http: )
The Cosmic Ravioli Being, in contrast, is perfect in every way. HIS priests are all... ALL! paragons of virtue and pure intelligent truth. Every single one of the prophets of The Cosmic Ravioli Being have been lifted directly into the glittering Cosmos and are presently stars in the firmament for all to see. Can there be any doubt? That's PROOF! Only true believers will ascend thusly. Do you doubt the stars?
Only the wicked would object to the strict instruction of The Cosmic Ravioli Being's religion in all schools everywhere. People everywhere would be greatly improved by the experience of knowing SHIM. If you doubt it, you are evil. Your are an instrument of the Devil (I forget which one is current).
If you disagree with any of this; it PROVES that you are evil. All those who teach the truth will receive magnificent rewards. If you don't accede to the CRB truth, you are not even human and I and any of my servants may treat with you as if you were a worm. Nothing done to you can count as any sin or be subject to any secular Law.
Why do you persist in your false beliefs?