Apocalyptic SFnal Nightmare Scenario of the Day

(with thanks to Instapundit)

Thanks to an NPR article we have a concept worthy of a Phillip K Dick novel, with Orwellian commentary that should scare the crap out of you if you have any imagination— or remember the CIA’s history dealing with other chemical substances.

The money quote:

Does Biology Affect Our Trust In Government?

Zak first got interested in trust more than a decade ago after co-authoring a study that looked at trust levels in different nations and their economic stability. The study found that the higher the level of trust, the better the economic status of the nation.

The work got Zak thinking more generally about different ways to manipulate trust, and so starting in 2001, Zak began spraying oxytocin up the noses of college students to see if the hormone would change the way they interacted with strangers.

It did. Squirt oxytocin up the nose of a college kid, and he’s 80 percent more likely to distribute his own money to perfect strangers.

Things That Happened When I Wasn’t Blogging – Part 1

While I was out, it seems we found out the science on Global Warming is a lot less settled than Al Gore would like us to believe.  At the risk of being called the moral equivalent of a Holocaust denier, I can’t say that this particularly surprises me.  When we talk about climate scientists (the people who tell us how settled the science is) we are talking about a small close-knit group of people who suffer from twin problems; an honest belief that global warming is a dire threat and it is morally impermissible to contradict it, and the fact that supporting global warming offers rewards in terms of grants and influence on public policy.

The denial now is occurring on the side of the global warming advocates who insist that there is no conspiracy, and that these are truly good scientists, and we should be really concerned about the idea that these hackers who stole these e-mails are disrupting scientific research.   To which I say; we have evidence of manipulation of the peer review process, the deleting of  raw data to avoid releasing the information to FOIA requests (or to other scientists attempting to duplicate results; it’s settled, you know) , the deliberate manipulation of data to force computer models to fit forgone conclusions, computer modeling software that is filled with buggy spaghetti code you wouldn’t trust to balance your checkbook, and an attempt to hide the fact that temperatures are actually declining at the moment.  It also seems more likely that we are dealing with a whisleblower upset about the stonewalling of FOIA requests than some hacker.  Frankly, it’s not just bad science these guys were engaged in at the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit, it was anti-science.  The “research” they did is toxic to the very idea of science.

Really, the only real defense in the end is going to be the claim that this bogus research was all confined to CRU in East Anglia.  Good luck with that.

The Trufflemobile

Truffles, our Chocolate Lab, has not had a very good couple of months. She’s been slowing down for a while, and showing some weakness in her back end that we assumed was due to age. Last July we took her down to Bow-wow beach for what was probably the last time. By the end of July, she was unable to walk for extended periods. By the beginning of August, we took her in to a neurologist for an X-Ray and an MRI. By the end of August, she was unable to stand or sit on her own. The most likely culprit at this point is degenerative myelopathy, though if so it isn’t a typical case.  So, at this point we have no definitive diagnosis. (We know it isn’t cancer, or a slipped disk.) I’ve had to carry her outside to go to the bathroom for the past month and a half.

Still, immobile as she is, she still looks up at us with the same goofy grin, and still has her tail waging for us all the time. So we’re not giving up on her yet. We can’t afford official hydrotherapy, but there’s a doggy “spa” just down the street that has a pool and a very nice staff person with experience in special needs dogs, which costs much less than having the vet do it.  So we have Truffles swimming again twice a week hopfully going to three), albeit with human assistance and a life-jacket.

And this past weekend we saw a guy who has made it his hobby building wheelchairs for dogs. Every job he does is custom work, which is good because Truffles needed some custom assistance. Unlike hip dysplasia, the strength is gone in her front so badly that she can’t support her weight, even if her back end’s supported.

With her new cart though, she actually managed to push herself along a few feet on the first try. Best case scenario, we’ll get enough muscle back on her so she can move around a bit on her own. But failing that, at least she’s happy to be out and about for even a little while.

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The stuff that really changes the world

There’s a bias in SF and its brethren such as alternate history to do world building around the big ass stuff; wars, revolutions, catastrophes. Or, for the sciencey mindset, the big ass discoveries that change our understanding of cosmology or fundamental physics, or some sort of massive engineering or computing breakthrough that has us uploading ourselves into the singularity overnight. All well and good. But it’s overlooking the less flashy and more pervasive influence of the small. It’s not the technology of the cell phone that changed the world, it was the idea of it. More than simply the internal combustion engine, it was the idea of mass production that altered everything. Most of the nature of Web 2.0 has little to do with the tech of the internet, but in how it is used.

Of course the latter type of change is harder to write about. But small incremental shifts in sciences that we thought were pretty much settled will probably have way more impact on daily life than the detection of the Higgs Boson.

Via Io9 I read about some breakthroughs in fluid mechanics and the mathematical modeling of turbulence. You may stifle a yawn, but understanding this will have impact for just about every single thing we make that moves; cars, aircraft, boats, wind turbines, jet engines. In a few years our design process may involve specifying the parameters of a vehicle, and having a computer mathematically model the body for us. (Rather than having a human come up with the initial design then testing it.)

We may have some funky looking planes in our future that use a lot less fuel.

And here is why political discourse is so cocked up

The generally used definition of othering goes along like this:

The belief/insistence that someone outside the group is somehow, “categorically, topologically, intrinsically, DIFFERENT.” Also, the use of this belief, the not-understandable “other,” to re-affirm the group’s “normalcy” and identity.

There you go, the human history of race, sex and gender identity wrapped up in a neat little package. Covers a hell of a lot of ground, that little word. I don’t think I’d get a hell of a lot of objection if I gave one of Mr. Card’s rants on teh ghays as an example of culturally-blinded othering.

Ah, but I won’t let my liberal friends off that easy. No, I have a prime example of othering that the author (and most of his readers) would not even subliminally realize is doing so: What makes people vote Republican? The title alone is problematic. Consider this quote from Jonathan Haidt’s first paragraph:

We psychologists have been examining the origins of ideology ever since Hitler sent us Germany’s best psychologists, and we long ago reported that strict parenting and a variety of personal insecurities work together to turn people against liberalism, diversity, and progress. But now that we can map the brains, genes, and unconscious attitudes of conservatives, we have refined our diagnosis: conservatism is a partially heritable personality trait that predisposes some people to be cognitively inflexible, fond of hierarchy, and inordinately afraid of uncertainty, change, and death.

I think it sort of speaks volumes all by itself. What is remarkable is that, in large part, the article in question is a self-congratulatory reflection on Mr. Haidt’s intellectual journey from the belief that conservatism should have a DSM IV code, to the realization that “Republicans” are simply an alien cultural group that use a moral value system that Democrats do not understand.

Mr. Haidt, I’m sorry, you’re a bigot. A highly intellectual, well educated bigot, but a bigot nonetheless. You lose. Just based on the fact that the entire article, and most of the responses, are written with the following implicit assumptions.

  • conservative ideology is monolithic.
  • conservative ideology shows no rational basis, so adherents must have non-rational motivations.
  • conservative ideology is purely an envelope over conservative Cristian morality.
  • conservatives are largely ignorant of the reasons they are conservatives.
  • conservatives think differently than liberals, their brains work differently.

In the end, Mr. Haidt has transformed the conservative American into the transcendent alien, someone who doesn’t act like us, doesn’t think like us, and has a fundamentally different moral core. The Republican in Mr. Haidt’s article is the same alien creature who was behind the Yellow Peril, the Red Scare, and the Zionist Conspiracy.

The sad thing is, Mr. Haidt believes himself enlightened. He thinks he has actually achieved some sort of understanding. The sadder thing is, compared to his peers, he is probably correct.