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Profile Information

Name: Hunter
Gender: Male
Current location: California
Member since: 2002
Number of posts: 35,751

About Me

I'm a very dangerous fellow when I don't know what I'm doing.

Journal Archives

We know how we got here and it wasn't in spaceships.

In my strange universe intelligent species who don't obliterate themselves make the leap to near-omnipotence rapidly, before they build any silly things like starships, which would be quite boring as they wouldn't go faster than light.

This big universe is very threatening to certain religious beliefs, in that aliens are more powerful than their gods.

A being like Q, who can pop out of nowhere to harass Jean-Luc Picard in a galaxy of 100-400 billion stars or more, makes humans seem very small and insignificant, which they are.

It's much more comfortable to believe humans are special enough that aliens in space ships are watching us.

The truth is harder. We each have to determine "the meaning of life" on our own, even as nearly omnipotent beings. This meaning cannot be found in science or religion, it's unique to each individual.

On a less philosophical note, funding for UFO studies is easily diverted to less savory pursuits. Suppose you are looking for aliens or rogue artificial intelligences on the internet. Sounds fun, right? You might use the same technology to identify hidden political enemies as well.

Remember the Glomar Explorer? That ship was supposedly looking for manganese nodules on the ocean floor. I remember the popular science articles. The ship was in fact built to recover a sunken Soviet submarine.

In any case, supposing some alien near-omnipotent intelligence is teasing us, then there really isn't anything we can do about it, no defenses we can muster. It's trivially easy for a star-faring people to destroy an emergent civilization that annoys it. Maybe that's what happened to the dinosaurs.

If the space aliens want to talk to us they will. Otherwise we are just monkeys screaming at the airplanes in the sky.

Thought experiment: Anyone here can disconnect from the electric grid and pour sand...

... into their car's engine. Then what?

People say all sorts of things about climate change but most are in some stage of denial.

The right wing still thinks we can burn a lot more fossil fuels without any danger to our civilization. The left wing doesn't yet realize renewable energy schemes in places like Germany, California, and Denmark have failed and further entrenched our long term dependence on natural gas.

Personally I think the human race has worked itself into a corner. There are so many humans we require high density energy sources to keep us all fed and comfortably sheltered. The only energy source capable of replacing fossil fuels entirely (which we MUST do) is nuclear power.

Fortunately nuclear power is a mature seventy year old technology. Even the worst accidents, Chernobyl and Fukushima, caused very little environmental damage in comparison to the daily horrors we are now experiencing as a direct consequence of our fossil fuel use.

The fundamental problem of our society is our economic system. This thing we now call "economic productivity" is a direct measure of the damage we our doing to the natural environment and our own human spirit. Most of us suffer jobs and lifestyles that are not making the world a better place.

The most horrible thing we learned from the accidents at Chernobyl and Fukushima is that humans going about their ordinary daily lives are worse for the natural environment than fallout from a nuclear accident.

I have a horrible love/hate relationship with car culture.

In my poverty I learned how to keep cars running.

Once upon a time I replaced the head gasket of my Toyota station wagon in a K-mart parking lot.

Late 'seventies early 'eighties I drove all over the western U.S.A. and Baja Mexico in that car.

At times I lived in that car as well. With all my tools.

I took my first driver's test in an Volkswagen van. My parents are artists. Of course they drove a Volkswagen van.

The DMV examiner looked at me like I was a freak. I don't remember for certain, but I may have been wearing violet pants. Certainly my hair was long and confusing to people who needed to know if I was a boy or a girl.

My first serious girlfriend was an engineer attracted to the heroin waif look which I naturally achieved without the heroin. She could show me off to her parents as the guy she was going to marry.

I never showed her off to my parents because I was pretty sure they would have told me I was going wrong.

Praise be to God that marriage did not happen, a match made in hell, the David Lynch version of My Big Fat Greek Wedding without the Greek.

She married someone else, a woman who had tried to kill herself in my bathtub. If I ever get some kind of gold star fast pass at the Pearly Gates it's for making that match.

My wife and I met teaching science in the big city.

Back to cars...

When I was driving all over the place gasoline was essentially free. I'd get jobs paying eight to ten dollars an hour. I could fill the tank of my car working an hour. I could get a warped engine head milled flat with a day's work.

That car culture was awesome.

As a rabid environmentalist my secret vice is Jay Leno's Garage...

He talks about Ralph Nader in this video.

Ralph Nader is an asshole.

Clocks and money were invented by the devil.

In my utopia I get up before dawn so I'm running as the sun rises. When I return from running I shower and work six hours or so, no automobile commuting involved.

I've managed to live like that for some of my life. Alas, severe arthritis now interferes with my running, but I still like to watch the sun rise.

The most hellish jobs I had involved long automobile commutes in stop-and-go traffic, leaving for work in the dark and arriving home in the dark.

There's no good reason for anyone in modern technological society to work as wage slaves except that a few powerful people profit immensely from it.

Most of us suffer work that is not making the world a happier place.

This thing we call economic productivity isn't productivity at all. It is in fact a measure of the damage we are doing to our earth's natural environment and our own human spirit.

The high technology world economy now runs on a single universal time. The local time is calculated from that.

Time zones were originally invented by the railroads. Railroads had to run by a single clock, for safety and scheduling reasons. Railroad time was set by telegraph and chronographs.

Before railroad time local communities had their own local time loosely synchronized to "high noon."

Later radio and television broadcasting followed railroad time.

If we wanted to we could go back to local time and use a single universal time only for those activities that require it.

We could even build clocks with variable hours so the day in a community would always began at dawn. That's the environment humans evolved in; that's the rhythm the internal clocks of our bodies follow.

We live on a planet glorious with many species of sentient intelligent life...

... yet some speculate we humans might be somehow unique and alone in this universe because we haven't yet met any space aliens like us.

If we can't see that spark of sentience and intelligence in our own immediate neighbors, how the hell would we recognize it in space aliens?

Maybe that's why space aliens avoid this place.

I've known many amazingly bright dogs and birds, even a few cats, and I love to watch videos of elephants, horses, and cetaceans who are clearly thoughtful and playful creatures who celebrate life.

It makes me sad there are humans who won't even respect the individuality of fellow humans beyond their own small tribes, and in the worst cases of sociopathy and narcissism, beyond their own selves.

School sports, kindergarten through college, need to be reformed.

The sole purpose of school sports should be to promote the physical well being and positive social interactions of students.

Maybe these sports once had some evolutionary value in human societies, back when raw physical prowess and testosterone poisoned comradery won wars, but none of that makes sense now, not since humans gained the ability to destroy their enemies by electronic propaganda and economic warfare, or in MAD scenarios, by throwing around nuclear weapons on missiles.

I'm thinking of my grandfather here. He was an Army Air Corp officer in World War II. He joined the Army Air Corp to escape rural Wyoming, see the world, fly planes, and woo the ladies wherever he landed. Unfortunately he was also a klutz. Watching him ride a bicycle, or swim in anything but a small surf, were some of the most terrifying things I witnessed as a kid. Grandpa is going to die! The Army, in its wisdom, did not let him fly airplanes or play with guns. I've heard he flew an airplane once. Just once. And none of his relatives would invite him hunting.

I can still hunt, I like to believe, but haven't in the 21st century. I flew an airplane once. Didn't take off or land. Didn't break anything.

My grandfather was some kind of wizard with exotic metals, and a competent intermediary between ordinary military society and brilliant people far weirder than he was. He never talked about his military service. He did a dirty job that had to be done and I suspect a lot of it was messy and secret. His knack for making impossible parts out of exotic metals is unexplained.

He would talk about bits of metal he made for the Apollo Project. He was fiercely proud of that.

I'm a klutz. School sports culture was hell on me. In sixth grade they used to leave me far out in left field picking through the grass, biologist that I am, even as the innings changed. I was always last pick, after the kid with the tremor and coke bottle bottom glasses because he was always nice. I was not always nice. I could break noses with my elbow.

I quit high school. Never attended a football game or dance. Didn't care.

In college I got to know a lot of people in co-ed recreational running and softball, and that's when I finally understood the value of sports.

Our party has a very deep bench.

I've no concerns that Biden and Harris won't appoint extraordinarily competent people, even people who are not currently political celebrities.

Personally I'd like to see more government positions filled by utterly boring technocrats.

My political utopia looks a lot like Star Trek TNG.

Make it so. Make it so. Make it so.

Some people have mistaken sarcasm for actual arguments...

... others have mistaken arguments put forth by people who are serious (but blatantly wrong) for sarcasm.

This creates a bitter storm of internet controversy.

The people who can't laugh on either side (right or wrong) are the most offended.

BTW, my own response to that thread was sarcastic.

Or maybe not. Is it possible to count the electrons in empty space?


Is it even possible to count electrons?

John Wheeler proposed all electrons and positrons are actually manifestations of a single entity moving backwards and forwards in time.

It complicates things immensely if all the electrons we count are just the faces of a single electron that's very, very busy.

Engineering electronics today, especially on the scale of modern microprocessors and computer memories, requires a fairly sophisticated understanding of quantum mechanics. Naive interpretations of electronics, most especially the "water in a pipe" analogy where voltage is analogous to water pressure, and amps are analogous to the volume of water, turn out to be fairly useless. "Counting" electrons "flowing" through a conductor gets weird.

I've seen know-it-all techs heatedly arguing uselessly with physicists, no information being transferred in either direction, because their understanding of a problem isn't even on the same plane.

When a mathematician argues 2+2=4 they have very precise understandings of objects, integers, and operations. Other interpretations, especially those based in non-rigorous languages, can be dismissed.

The scary thing about human languages such as English -- and the most wonderful thing as well -- is that we can say things that are untrue, things that might be true, and things that are close enough to the truth for everyday use.

But science requires something more precise than "everyday use" and develops its own languages, especially the languages of mathematics.

If we don't know these languages of science we can't make scientific arguments, and it's silly to argue that 2 + 2 = 5 in some alternative context. If there really is some alternative context (not likely...) then it's up to the developer or observer of that context to create the rigorous language that explains it.

Otherwise they are simply stomping on the highly developed and precise languages of others, which may be the very crime they are accusing others of doing, the equivalent of some MAGA hat wearing fool in WalMart yelling "This is America, speak English!" to shoppers speaking Spanish in the checkout line.

A Song for a New Day -- Sarah Pinsker

In this captivating science fiction novel from an award-winning author, public gatherings are illegal making concerts impossible, except for those willing to break the law for the love of music, and for one chance at human connection.

In the Before, when the government didn't prohibit large public gatherings, Luce Cannon was on top of the world. One of her songs had just taken off and she was on her way to becoming a star. Now, in the After, terror attacks and deadly viruses have led the government to ban concerts, and Luce's connection to the world--her music, her purpose--is closed off forever. She does what she has to do: she performs in illegal concerts to a small but passionate community, always evading the law.


This is an amazing book. Check it out.

I hope it's not prescient of our actual future.

Every diet "requires a lot of knowledge and effort."

People learn their culture's version of a healthy diet as children, which is why learning other sorts of diets as adults seems difficult.

Some cultures have healthier diets than others, but no culture has a traditional diet that is so unhealthy it can't sustain the population.

Human diets evolve. In human history people have created healthy diets by trial and error. They may not have had specific scientific knowledge of nutrition, they just knew which combinations of foods they needed to eat to stay healthy.

In some animals this dietary knowledge is largely instinct, in other animals such as humans, bears, sea otters, etc., specific diets are learned behaviors.

There are seven and a half billion people on this planet now. We can't all eat large quantities of meat every day without doing very significant damage to whatever is left of the earth's natural environment.

About half the people in my extended family are vegetarian, many of them nearly vegan. The reason they have chosen these diets are varied. I've seen children thrive on such a diet and grow up to be very healthy adults.

Times change. Three of my grandparents were the children of ranchers and dairy farmers. All of my great grandparents were Wild West, the meat they ate they killed themselves. As a little kid I used to watch my great grandmas cut up fish, chickens, and small mammals for dinner with awe. Their hands moved faster than I could follow.

My dad doesn't like hunting much, but he's an avid fisherman. When my siblings and I were children most of the animal protein we ate was fish he caught, followed by cheap powdered milk, bulk cheese, and ground up dairy cows.
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