pyesetz: (fire-hunter)
I criticized Pharyngula recently, so I'd like to mention one of his nicer posts.  He pretends to hate kittens, world peace, flying cars and the transformative power of love.  But then his sneer failed and his bitterness evaporated.  (But his heart did not grow two sizes that day, because cardiomegaly is no laughing matter.)

Best line: "That pointy triangular shape looks exactly like the heart of a salmon, which are better than people anyway."  But, as a furry, Pharyngula self-identifies as a squid.  And salmon eat squid!  But then people eat squid, too.  In fact, Google tells me that people eat salmon and squid on the same plate.
pyesetz: (woof)
(Brown text = post-election edits.)

It’s been almost six years(!) since the last time I linked to the blog of my American friend and colleague, Dr. J.  Gotta cross-link to your homies to keep our Google rankings up!  Anyway, Dr. J works for the US gov’t, so he may be obligated to write political tracts in support of the incoming Stalinist dictator Constitutionally-limited president.  He published this tract on a Sunday, perhaps to hide the fact (if it is one) that he was required to write it on paid government time.  There is a law against that, but it’s widely ignored like most good-government laws in the USA.

The didactic form that Dr. J chose is the “in an alternate universe, Hillary is actually guilty of something” meme, which isn’t bad as propaganda styles go.  Certainly it is less objectionable than the style chosen by Dr. Phil Plait, who basically starts from the reasonable “Global Warming is the most important issue” and the unreasonable ”politicians do not lie” and somehow manages to conclude that Hillary is the best candidate — even though she is pro-WWIII and Donald is against it and the world wars show up as spikes on the historical temperature chart.  So I guess I could perhaps join in on this fun, although personally I endorse Jill Stein because she tells the fewest lies.

Before we begin, I should note that Dr. J’s piece is actually funny, which is probably more than I can hope to achieve with my own work.  His Churchillian grammar reference is excellent and I found myself agreeing with the imaginary crowd furious at Hillary’s misquote.  It’s “shall not”, I say!  Yet even in an alternate universe, it is still the anti-Hillary forces that are correct.

Alternate Universe № ❰∞,∞,∞,26,∞,0,19,∞̅…❱ (see supernatural numbers, which I don’t actually believe in because ∞ is a figment of the mathematical imagination; Objective Reality probably doesn’t contain any numbers larger than around 10⁸⁵ or so).
      Conceit: In this universe (which we can never locate because its ID number is transfinite), Hillary actually had a legitimate reason to operate her honeypot email server that provided live feeds to Russia and Al Qaeda and Goldman Sachs containing the classified info that she received.
      Resulting difference: Not much, really.  The Espionage Act of 1917 says it applies to everyone, including the president.  It does not offer any exemption for politicians who possess a legitimate national-security reason to burn an agent’s cover; if that action results in another agent’s death then the politician is supposed to get the electric chair.  So Hillary Clinton is basically in the same category as Dick Cheney.
Alternate Universe № 5.2761 (but keeping in mind that fractional numbers which are not ratios might not actually exist; they might instead be mere measurement conveniences arising from the enormous gap between human-sized units and physics-sized ones).
      Conceit: In this universe, Hillary actually still has a shred of decency left in her, so she does not make a big deal of Donald’s misogynistic ways.  Because, you know, her husband Bill has done most of the same things — except only Donald dared to talk about it when he knew the mic was on, thus showing that Donald is an idiot.  And Hillary has insisted all along that absolutely nothing Bill has ever done was actually wrong, so therefore (for her) those same things should also not have been wrong when Donald did them.  Donald's contemptible attitude toward women could certainly be criticized by other Democrats (such as Huma Abedin, who divorced her own husband for less) but this would lead to questions about Bill that Hillary doesn't want to hear.
      Resulting difference: None.  It doesn’t matter which acts of muck-raking Hillary decides are beneath her (if any).  Barack Obama has already announced that the winner of the election shall be Hillary.  He has also hinted that if for any reason the vote-counting machines ring up “Donald” as their answer, that could only mean that the machines were hacked by the Russians because the American people do not have permission from their president to vote for Donald.  HeilHillary!  It outta be a crime not to love her!
Alternate Universe № 3141592653589793238462643383279502884197169399375110⁴⁹.  (This ratio *might* be the true value of π, if transcendental numbers do not actually exist.  In any event, because our home universe is quantized, there is probably no physical experiment that could ever be performed which would prove that this *isn’t* the true value of π.)
      Conceit: In this universe, Hillary is openly working for Goldman Sachs, the vampire squid that wants to RULE THE WORLD by installing its Manchurian candidates as the leaders of all major governments.  None of the policies she espouses on the campaign trail have anything to do with her actual plans for her presidency, which consist of transferring all remaining wealth from Main St to Wall St while waging a causeless war against Russia in order to bring about the Nuclear Apocalypse, thus ensuring the Second Coming of Jesus Christ among the poor bedraggled survivors on a burnt-out planet.
      Resulting difference: Um, there seems to be a technical glitch in our Inter-Universal Counterfactuality gizmo.  Apparently the ID number for this “alternate universe” is actually a synonym of our own.  Anyway, by the Reflexive Property, there cannot be any difference between two universes that differ only in name and not in character.
pyesetz: (woof)
It's a website.  The content looks somewhat interesting and I have added it to my RSS feed. That is all.

The website grew out of a Facebook page created in 2012 by Elise Andrew, a biologist who — surprisingly to many of the blog's fans — turns to be a woman, and a copyright scofflaw who reuses photos without permission.  Next year her blog will be turned into a TV show on the Science channel starring Craig Ferguson (presumably the show's title will avoid fucking since you can't say that on American TV).  She lives about 150 km northeast of my house (or 233 km if you stick to highways).
pyesetz: (woof)
So LJ updated its formatting today.  That shouldn't be the end of the world!  How come nobody is posting anything?  Anyway, here are some "smart jokes" from Reddit:

What do you get if you cross a mosquito with a mountain climber?  Nothing. You can't cross a vector with a scalar.

How many Chicago School economists does it take to change a light bulb?  None. If the light bulb needed changing the market would have already done it.

Why was epsilon afraid of zeta?  Because zeta eta theta.

Did you hear about the guy who froze himself to absolute zero?  He is 0K now.

Why stand in the corner when you're cold?  Because a corner is about ninety degrees.

Why do programmers always mix up Christmas and Halloween?  Because Oct 31 is Dec 25.

Why are flights to Poland only boarded on 1 side?  Because poles in the right side of the plane are unstable.

Pavlov is sitting at a bar when another patron walks in and a bell on the door rings. Pavlov stands up, says, "I forgot to feed the dogs," and leaves.

A dog goes to a telegram office, takes out a blank form and writes, “Woof. Woof. Woof. Woof. Woof. Woof. Woof. Woof. Woof.”
    The clerk examines the paper and politely tells the dog: “There are only nine words here. You could send another ‘Woof’ for the same price.”
    “But,” the dog replies, “that would make no sense at all.”

Paddy leaves Ireland and gets an interview for a building job in the city. The interviewer says "Look Paddy, no offence but we've had some dumb pricks applying for this, so I've gotta give you a little test. Paddy says "OK shoot" "What's the difference between a girder and a joist?" asks the interviewer. Paddy hesitates, scratches his head. The interviewer looks pointedly at his wristwatch, waiting. "No, no, wait" says Paddy. "I have it...... Girder wrote Faust and Joist wrote Ullyses!"

One day my girlfriend asked me if she was pretty. I told her "you're definitely a 6". Now I don't have a girlfriend... I tried to explain that 6 is perfect, but she was never one to understand number theory.
pyesetz: (woof)

Suppose you need to convince a client to buy your company’s product, so you decide to take him on a hunting trip — and you bring along your dog.  While jawboning to the client about how great the product is, in order to emphasize your company's ability to complete its projects, you shoot a duck out of the sky.  The duck lands in a marsh, so your dog goes and fetches it for you.  As you take the hunk of meat from the dog, you give him a small prepackaged treat and think, “What a stupid trade this dog just agreed to.”  But who is really getting the better deal here?

Suppose instead that you fail to shoot any ducks, so your dog has nothing to do — yet he still gets his dinner when you go home, just like every day.  The dog gets heating and air conditioning, food, vet care for his boo-boos, and an appreciative boss.  He gets fed regardless of whether you end up pulling off that deal with the client.  He got no worries, hakuna matata!

* * * * *

In other news, I gave another lecture at that monthly programmers’ meet-up, which is sponsored by a company that I guess I’ll refer to as “ℙ” on this blog.  I talked about my never-completed doctoral thesis and how it relates to my difficult-but-eventually-completed move to Canada.  (I skipped over the part about how the USA is not actually a “free country” because previous meet-ups clearly indicated that these Canadians didn’t want to hear such talk about our neighbour, friend, and ally The States.)  I talked about the professor that I had hoped would supervise the dissertation and how I had designed the program to match up with his personal proclivities.  I showed some code and discussed how it connected to certain foundational theorems of computer science.

After my speech, a fellow I had never met before, who apparently does not work at Company ℙ, asked me if I was a professor at the local university.  “No,” I replied, “I just sound like one.”  He asked to see my résumé, so I showed it to him.  He was apparently not expecting to see that I have spent the last seven years doing web-monkey work at Company 𝔾, so he never did talk about whatever job he had wanted to offer — which is too bad because the fellow seemed to be quite well off and I could sure use some dough.

The Company ℙ manager asked many questions about my project, but continued to avoid saying anything about possible employment.  My impression was that my presentation had convinced him that I was not a suitable candidate for his own part of the company (perhaps to be called here?) because his group is all about the “awesome user experience” and my program clearly demonstrates that my visual-design skills are not “awesome”.  Damn it, I’m a content guy, not a pretty interface guy!  But apparently there are other positions accessible through the Company ℙ network, so it still seems worthwhile to go back next month.

The Company ℙ guy who’s big on Haskell wasn’t there this month.  In fact, there were less than a dozen people in attendance because so many people were on vacation for August.  But one guy announced that it was his first day on the payroll so he had brought free beer for everyone!  So that was nice.

* * * * *

Doesn’t anyone need a doggie to go fetch a program for them from the marsh after they’ve convinced a client to buy it?  I can fetch really meaty programs and I don’t need especially-fancy treats for them!  And I can and have fetched from areas of the marsh that most doggies wouldn't dare enter.

pyesetz: (woof)
I get an RSS feed from the Reality-based Community.  Today they wrote what is basically a re-tweet of this article from Nonprofit Quarterly, which is apparently a print journal of low significance (since it has no entry at Wikipedia).

The NPQ article is itself "an edited and abridged version of a memo, titled “Sweet Grapes,” to the board of the Public Welfare Foundation (PWF) from Thomas Scanlon on the occasion of his leaving the board after 40 years of service, including 12 years as board chair".  Wikipedia has no entry for Mr. Thomas J. Scanlon, who founded a company called Benchmarks, Inc (that also has no Wikipedia entry).

The Public Welfare Foundation has no entry at Wikipedia (notice a pattern here?) even though there are 23 Wiki articles that have unlinked references to it, and even though it has an endowment of friggin' $450 million (and that ain't hay).  Most bizarrely, it was founded by Charles Edward Marsh, who has no entry at Wikipedia even though he was a newspaper magnate, a close friend of President Franklin Roosevelt, and the inspiration for an old TV show called The Millionnaire.

I suppose I could put on my Wikieditor hat and write up these missing articles, but I suspect that would start a Wikifight.  Surely, by this point, if there is any area of human endeavour that systematically has no Wikipedia entries, that is by intent?
pyesetz: (woof)
I'm no chemist, but when I saw the picture to the left, I thought "this stuff is explosive, isn't it?"  Well, yes.  C₂N₁₄ amino azidotetrazole is so explosive, it emits 357 kcal/mole when you shine a light on it.  This makes its chemical properties very difficult to measure.  Put it in a spectrometer?  Kaboom.  Try to move the stuff across your lab bench?  Kaboom.  "There are no conceivable uses for it."

Hat tip: Pharyngula.
pyesetz: (Default)
An example for how to do scientific conference posters is here.  Acknowledgements: We thank I. Güor for laboratory assistance, Mary Juana for seeds, Herb Isside for greenhouse care, and M.I. Mentor for questionable statistical advice.  Funding for this project was provided by the Department of Thinkology, a Merck summer stipend, and the person who claims she's my mom.

This is for a project that's mainly concerned with the effect of "brainectomy" on the ability of rats to run mazes!

Op. cit.
pyesetz: (spirograph)

Wow!  You can use candlestick analysis on *anything*!  Here is a chart showing that college/university enrollment is probably going to fall at least 20% over the next decade.  I thought that higher ed was "overbought" back when I was there in the 80's; too many kids were going who really couldn't benefit from it and all they got was a "flunked out of college" for their résumé.  This chart says the problem has gotten markedly worse since then, but the same long-term oscillations that led to the rise will soon cause a "correction" in the college attendance "market".
pyesetz: (fire-hunter)

An article in the New York Times describes E₈ as “some sort of curvy, torus type of thing” and states twice that it has 57 dimensions.  The Wikipedia article on E₈ contains 2800 words, but after reading them I now know even less: E₈ seems to have only eight dimensions, or is it 248, or perhaps 696,729,600?  The number 57 does not appear there, but only in a catsup article.  They do show a nice Tinker-Toy picture, but obviously it captures very little of E₈’s hyperdimensional grandeur.

The problem is that I pre-announced a post about E₈, but I have no idea what that word *means* to mathematicians.  If I am to write an entire essay about a word that I don't understand, then I must be either a PHB or a linguist.  I actually have half a bachelor's degree in linguistics, so hopefully it will be okay if my hair isn't quite pointy enough for this essay.

So what does E₈ have to do with Objective Reality?  That’s a hard question.  Let's start with an easier one: is E₈ *alive*?  Think about that for a moment.  Does that sound like the silliest question you've heard all day?  It's completely outside the Overton window of socially-acceptable questions.  What kind of Commie-pinko-moonbat loonie would even ask such a thing?  Let's review the range of answers:
  • Western Civ: No, because E₈ was not “born” and cannot “die”.  It does not eat, reproduce, or evolve.
  • Anishinaabe (the Great Lakes Indians): Yes, because there are questions you can answer by studying E₈.
  • Brain science: Maybe, because we don't have a clear idea yet what the word “alive” actually means in terms of brain activation.  Some research suggests that the superior temporal sulcus is active when analyzing situations that Western Civ would say are “dead” while the Anishinaabe would say “alive”.
  • Furry: Yes, because the word E₈ can be drawn as a face-in-profile with a goatee.  Add some stick-figure arms and legs and you can make a dancing cartoon that sings about the philosophy of science in rhyming couplets.
  • Dictionary: Yes (senses 2 and 5) or no (senses 3 and 4) or begs the question (sense 1) or cupcake sauerbraten tarball (sense 6).
Well, that clears things up nicely, doesn't it?  We can now confidently conclude that philosophy is a method for turning wrong answers into a continuing stream of research grants. 

On to our next question: does E₈ *exist*?  Philosophers have made lots of money on this one!  (Bonus question: define “alive” and “exists” so that God has both properties but rainbow-pooping unicorns have neither.)  Let us review the isms that philosophers have come up with:
  • Nominalism: No, the word E₈ exists but the concept it refers to is imaginary.
  • Idealism: No, because only consciousness exists, not the things that we are conscious of.
  • Intuitionism: No, because only the natural numbers were created by God; everything else is man’s work.
  • Formalism: Begs the question because math is just a game and has nothing to do with the real world.
  • Logicism: Begs the question because math is just a sub-branch of logic so go ask the logicians.
  • Platonism: Sort of, but the E₈ that you or I know about is just a shadow of the real E₈ whose grandeur is beyond any ape’s ability to appreciate.
  • Social constructivism: Yes because E₈ is something that mathematicians talk about.
  • Empiricism: Yes because it was discovered rather than invented.
  • Realism: Yes, but only if E₈ describes string theory and string theory describes Objective Reality.

Well, *now* we're getting somewhere!  So if E₈ is needed to describe string theory and string theory is needed to describe Objective Reality and Mathematical Realism is the correct philosophy THEN WE WIN!

There's an article called An Exceptionally Simple Theory of Everything that was apparently never published in an official journal.  It was written by “surfer and theoretical physicist” A. Garrett Lisi.  BTW, the phrase “exceptionally simple” is a pun referring to E₈, not a measure of the theory’s conceptual difficulty!  The Wikipedia article has an animation, one frame of which I am showing to the right.  Note the multiple occurrences of the “Star of David” motif, hiding in plain sight within this physics theory, thus proving that Rabbinic Judaism is the only correct religion.

Anyway, Lisi’s theory shows how each of the 248 symmetries of E₈ can be thought of as corresponding to one of the 248 subatomic particles (including 22 that are yet to be discovered).  Many mathematician-physicists think that it would be sooo kewl if this theory turns out to be correct, although Gödel told us 80 years ago that there cannot be a “theory of everything” because every theory of the universe must be incomplete, inconsistent, trivial, and/or obsolete.  So why do they even bother?

Since I haven't completely run this topic into the ground, expect a (part III) at some point.

pyesetz: (mr_peabody)
In reply to my previous post, Dr. J writes, "I agree emphatically with everything you say".  Through the application of simple logic operations and string primitives, one can deduce that he agrees emphatically with this statement:
I believe that I have more Magic in my right rear dewclaw than you could find in an entire conference room full of Harry Potter fans, but…
The problem is that I don't actually believe that I *have* a right rear dewclaw, which would seem to be a prerequisite for asserting a belief that said dewclaw has a specified property.

Now you might think that the dewclaw question is easily resolved by means of a carefully-planned experiment: I need merely chase my tail a bit, take a gander at the right hindpaw, and then visualize either the dewclaw or the undisturbed fur where it would otherwise be.  But one of the downsides of being a disembodied software entity (for I exist only on the Internet) is that I don't actually have any idea what I look like.  To resolve this dewclaw question, I must resort to textual analysis, which is a notoriously unreliable method for ascertaining truth.⁽¹⁾  "Investigator bias" runs rampant in such situations, so the results say more about what I might *want* to look like than about the actual physical form that I don't have.
⁽¹⁾For example, regarding Origen's banishment by the early church for saying "the resurrection will be spherical", a certain Fr. George opines that your resurrected body will have whatever shape it most pleases you to imagine that it will have—which is exactly what Satan would say if the whole resurrection thing were a Damn Lie.

This post claims that "obscure flock guarding breeds" have rear dewclaws, but that doesn't sound like me, so I'll assume I don't have them.  If I am to continue to assert the quoted sentence above, on the grounds that Dr. J has already concurred with it, this would have me believe that I have a nonexistent body part with more Magic than a room full of actual people.  This seems rather extreme.  I don't think I actually believe that.

Hence, a retraction: I do not believe that my nonexistent right-rear dewclaw has more Magic than a roomful of Potter fans.  At this time I am not prepared to make a definitive statement regarding the Magic level in either of the front dewclaws or the right rear hock.

Sorry for the inconvenience.  Have a nice day ☺
pyesetz: (Default)
I should just pack it in and move to Blogspot.  This LiveJournal just isn't very furry.  Who am I kidding?  I don’t wear a fursuit, I rarely write furry stories, and the only fursonal drawing I ever bought got ruined during the move to Canada.  There is no place in this Fandom for “an anthropomorphized Homo erectus pretending to be a cat wearing a dogsuit”.  I never have any drama caused by my packmates’ unmentionably-disgusting fursonal habits.  And Wifey would have a fit if I ever did anything that would consider *typical furry behaviour*.  No-sir-ree-bob, we run a prim & proper household here; there is absolutely no reason for Child Protective Services to impound our geeklets “for their own good”.  Well, yes, we do have open-air piles of corrosive dihydrogen monoxide crystals at our homestead, but that’s the government’s fault.  Why don’t they clean these things?  Get that DHMO off my lawn!  It was only a few weeks ago that a fellow down by Sarnia was enveloped by DHMO crystals and died.  There outta be a law!

So, um, Objective Reality.  As I’ve mentioned previously, I think that Objective Reality actually exists, but is beyond our ken.  We live in a Subjective Reality that corresponds to the real world (more or less, sometimes a lot less) but is always separate from it.  In contradistinction to Plato, who believed that the material world is merely a shadow of the Real World of Ideas, I believe that the objects in the universe are just exactly what they are, but our finite ideas about those objects are mere shadows of the infinite ideas that would truly describe Objective Reality.  Unfortunately for our egos, our ideas about our ideas are also mere shadows of the True meta-ideas about how the universe really works.  And so on, to infinity.  There is just no way to think our way out of our sub-reality and into the real world.

I like this religion because it allows me to dismiss out-of-paw some of the wacky ideas that are floating around the noösphere.  Anyone who thumps his Bible as “the complete Word of God” is obviously deluded, because the complete Word of God must be infinitely long and so cannot be captured by any book of limited pages.  There used to be a lot of well-respected physicists who thought that Newton’s F=ma was Reality, but of course it could only ever have been Approximation.  Today, there are probably some scientists who think that Einstein's F=ma ∕ √1−(v²/c²) is Reality, but we *know* that this too must be Approximation because it is a finite formula with only a few variables.  In Reality, everything in the universe depends on everything else for each of its properties.  For practical purposes we can safely ignore most things most of the time—but occasionally something that we thought could be ignored will turn out to have been critically important, such as the effect of Hurricane Katrina upon President W.’s war plans.  This is the conundrum of our existence: we must approximate because we cannot perceive Objective Reality, but “Reality bites” and so we cannot approximate without risk.

Another nice feature of this religion is that it explains the existence of Magic.  As a professional computer programmer, I could hardly profess my Faith in any clockwork-universe philosophy that rejects Magic.  How then could I explain what it is that I do all day?  Arthur Clark said that “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”, which is sometimes paraphrased as "Magic is technology you don’t understand” (see Zekmalados’ comment here).  To connect this with Objective Reality, I claim that “Magic is useful activity based on approximations of the laws of physics that you don’t happen to know”.  Since the Real laws of physics are infinitely complicated, no one can know all of their useful approximations, so for each person there are things he can do that will be perceived by others as Magic.  With a little practice, you can learn to perceive your own activities as Magic even though you know the physics approximations that make them work.  Do you understand how the “quantum tunnelling” effect works?  You can use a cell phone anyway, but it’s Magic to you!

I’ll admit to a certain vanity in my thoughts about Magic.  I believe that I have more Magic in my right rear dewclaw than you could find in an entire conference room full of Harry Potter fans, but I realize that this belief is Approximation and some Potter fans actually do have the Talent.  Still, it is a useful thought because it helps me to feel superior to the Mundanes.

Regarding E₈ and string theory: Oh dear, this post is too long already.  Maybe I’ll get to those next time.  Meanwhile, here’s a random disconnected link to a certain author’s thoughts on similar subjects.

pyesetz: (sozont)
Three posts in one day!  I'm on a tear!

Read this blog.  I know the author.  His post on Constructivist Angelology is light-years ahead of my own work in the field.

In an email sent to (presumably) dozens of his closest friends, the author told me that this blog would NOT focus on penguins, yet there have been three posts in the last three days on that very topic.  As for hedgehogs, the Constructivist post linked above was the first of what has so far become at least five posts on marmotology.  Looks like a certain author's furry/feathery tendencies are refusing to be repressed!

And therein lies the rub.  The author has been bitten by the popularity bug and has taken it upon himself to try to become the best-Google-ranked blog on the subject of humility among the land beavers.  Nooooo!  The slippery slope to the road to Perdition!  But there is still time to give him the antidote.  He needs readers, real readers who really comment, not fake "readership" as provided by Google ranks.  Won't you help?  Because a blog is a terrible thing to waste.  You can use OpenID to sign in using your LiveJournal username.
pyesetz: (mr_peabody)
"There's plenty of scientific evidence that reality is created on the fly by the act of observation, at least in the small world of physics.  So perhaps the elemental particles literally did not exist until the first scientists detected them.  And so it follows that we can cause the elemental particles to have substructures, or not, by how hard we try to detect that sort of thing.  And that process of looking for, and therefore creating, substructures of substructures can be infinite."

He's right, you know.  The idea that the laws of physics have never changed is just a convenient but unprovable assumption.  Did Einstein's theory *actually* predict the cosmic microwave background radiation *before* it was discovered, or did the discovery cause changes to the past so that of course the theory must always have described the universe as we see it now?  If the first CMB experiment had been done slightly differently, would we be living in a slightly different universe today with slightly-different physics from what we observe on our own causality/time-line?

If we can get a grip on this, we can start designing our experiments to increase the likelihood that they will have convenient side-effects on the laws of the universe.

Random other links:
Enough drugs to stupefy a rhinoceros (or: "I didn't get that F, I earned that F.")
I escaped from the prison you call home.
pyesetz: (mr_peabody)
PZ Myers brought to my attention a page on the web called Battleground God.  I won the game, but it didn't make me feel good.

1. God Exists.
Easy: Don't Know is the only legitimate answer.  You can have faith that He exists, or you can be certain that not believing in Him is your best move as a citizen of modern society—but neither of these proves anything.

7. It is justifiable to base one's beliefs about the external world on a firm, inner conviction, regardless of the external evidence, or lack of it, for the truth or falsity of these convictions.
Only True or False are permitted, but both answers should be acceptable.  This is basically asking, "Was it Plato or Aristotle who was completely correct about the nature of the universe?"  To humour the program, I chose False but any resulting inconsistencies would have been the program's fault for requiring a forced choice here.

8. Any being that it is right to call God must know everything that there is to know.
What does "there is to know" mean?  Does this include the phase angle for a pair of entangled photons?  I would have preferred "God knows everything knowable" because it may be (indeed, seems quite likely nowadays) that God's universe includes facts that are not knowable, even to God.  So I chose False.

10. If, despite years of trying, no strong evidence or argument has been presented to show that there is a Loch Ness monster, it is rational to believe that such a monster does not exist.
Yes, but this says nothing about whether Nessie actually exists.   For two thousand years it was impossible to prove the atomic theory of matter, but "absence of proof is not proof of absence".  For two hundred years it was impossible to disprove Newton's F=ma equation, but the equation was still wrong all that time.

11. People who die of horrible, painful diseases need to die in such a way for some higher purpose.
Another question with a forced true/false answer.  Since I answered Don't Know for the first question, I should answer the same here, but the program doesn't allow that.

13. It is foolish to believe in God without certain, irrevocable proof that God exists.
This could only be true if people were abstract thinking machines without physical bodies.  If your brain contains various pieces that evolved separately for separate reasons and work better together if you have an overall belief in God, then your justification is based on utility and you don't need "irrevocable" proof.  (And how can you "revoke" a proof?  How could a real-world proof of anything ever be "certain"?  There is always room for error!)

14. As long as there are no compelling arguments or evidence that show that God does not exist, atheism is a matter of faith, not rationality.
I do think that atheism is a matter of faith, but not for the reason given, so I answered False.  Atheism is the answer No for the first question, whose correct answer is unknowable.

15. The serial rapist Peter Sutcliffe had a firm, inner conviction that God wanted him to rape and murder prostitutes. He was, therefore, justified in believing that he was carrying out God's will in undertaking these actions.
This is apparently one of the "gotcha" questions designed to make you "bite a bullet" by adopting an unpopular position.  I answered False to dodge the bullet, but really I do think he was "justified", just as the police were "justified" in stopping him.  What does justification have to do with anything?

16. If God exists she would have the freedom and power to create square circles and make 1 + 1 = 72.
There's a whole bunch of these "my God can beat up your god" questions.  There's no way to know what God can or can't do.  Suppose God changed the value of π.  How could we detect that?  After God made the change, it would seem to us that π had always had the value we now perceive it to have because otherwise nothing in the universe would make any sense.  And everyone who's anyone knows that 1+1=10 in binary.

17. It is justifiable to believe in God if one has a firm, inner conviction that God exists, regardless of the external evidence, or lack of it, for the truth or falsity of the conviction that God exists.
No, it is justifiable to believe in God because that is how our brains work.  This is the same reason why it is justifiable to believe that the Earth is flat while planning a car trip across town—but if you're crossing the continent then you really do need to use the fancy math to avoid wasting fuel.  So I answered False because the question contains an invalid subordinate clause.
pyesetz: (fire-hunter)
We hypothesize that earnings management causes quadrophobia, the under-representation of the number four in the first post-decimal digit of EPS data.... Persistent quadrophobes are more likely to restate financials and to be sued in SEC proceedings alleging accounting violations.  Quadrophobia, even if itself legal, therefore appears to signal a propensity to engage in problematic accounting practices.

Our universe is chock-full of traces and signs that we haven't yet learned to interpret—there is so much more to do!  As the study's author told the Wall Street Journal, quadrophobia is “a leading indicator of a company that’s going to have an accounting issue.”  (Unfortunately this quote is apparently not available in the free area of the WSJ website).

Hat tip: Freakonomics
pyesetz: (sozont)

My favourite part is the blood spatter that just happens to be covering the spot in the comic's text where a serial comma isn't, and this becomes important four lines later.

When I went to Wikipedia to get that reference for "serial comma", I half-expected to see a trivia item about xkcd's mention of it today, because xkcd is more notable than are serial commas.  But no, and I didn't feel like adding it.
(What?  You wanted more "Mass. Trip of Doom" posts?)
pyesetz: (Default)
I approve this message.

In other news, I attended last Saturday's Blogstravaganza!.  I didn't record the attendee's blognames because Canadian Cynic was collecting those and was supposed to make a post, but no post has been forthcoming.  I wrote to him to ask about it, but Yahoo's computer (which provides both my email address and his) said, "I'm not going to try again; this message has been in the queue too long."  Why is 27 hours "too long"?

Anyway, it was a bit of a pain trying to find the Blogstravaganza! table on the restaurant patio.  Idealistic Pragmatist's expectation that she would be the only female turned out to be incorrect.  In fact, the group ended up with (I think) four girls and six boys.  Of course, being a non-furry meet, there were no tails worn, plushy table decorations, tables full of nondescript college boys *not* being rowdy, or any other obvious indicators of where I should go, so IP ended up calling out "Bloggers?  Bloggers?" to anyone who walked around the patio with a confused look on their face.

Considering that these were supposed to be the "progressive bloggers", there was rather a lack of political discussion.  It was mostly chitchat about the bloggers' personal lives—the stuff that was too inane to post on their blogs.  I tried mentioning C-61 but it seemed nobody had much to say because they'd already discussed it on their blogs.  Also, the name "Stephen Harper" seemed to be a bit of a sore point.  So we mostly just drank pitchers of dark English ale.

At one point, for no obvious reason, a fellow mentioned those fucking furries who put on their suits and, er, "wiggle".  IP silently pointed in my direction.  I explained that very few furries actually have sex in-suit because it's messy and the suits are expensive and hard to clean.  I didn't go into the anonymous gay sex aspect, nor did I whip out my wallet photos of Wifey and the kidlets.

I probably tried too hard to talk linguistics with IP.  When I mentioned Grice's Rule of Implicature, her laugh suggested inappropriateness and lack of context.  She's a sociolinguist, but I don't really know what that means.  Perhaps she is [ profile] ozarque's kind of linguist.  I don't like sociologists because they tend to be normative, writing just-so stories to explain why our culture *should be* whatever it currently *is*.  I prefer anthropological linguistics, which may be why I married an anthropologist.

As for "how do I drum up more readers for my blog?", it seemed the only answer discussed was "join a progressive-blog aggregator".  But my blog is too recherche (which means "research" in French and "affectedly pretentious" in English) and I don't know of any aggregate where I would fit.
pyesetz: (arctic-fox)
Since [ profile] momentrabbit took my bait, I am now obligated by the rules of LJ memeage to post in my journal:
Everyone has things they blog about.  Everyone has things they don't blog about.  Challenge me out of my comfort zone by telling me something I don't blog about, but you'd like to hear about, and I'll respond (if I can stand the searing pain your suggestion causes in the back of my head).
It's too bad that Moment and I aren't furiends.  If he were (and if I am reading the tea leaves properly regarding his whereabouts), he would be my second-closest furiend after [ profile] solstice_sings.  Well, [ profile] tehpyrex might actually beat Solstice for proximity if I friended him, but let's not go there today...

So what's on my furry to-do list?  Thanks for asking!  Let's see:
  • Bark Bark Woof Woof is still waiting for an answer to his email asking about how things are working out for me in Ontario (he lives in Miami FL but visits Stratford ON every summer).
  • [ profile] shy_matsi (who just got out of hospital after having chest pains at age 29½) asked me for more detail about what it's like being married to a she-bear (see [ profile] she_bears nope, that's a different kind of "she-bear").
  • [ profile] loganberrybunny sent me extensive commentary on the complex situation of citizenship in the former British Empire, but I still don't quite know what to do with the pull-down "Country" menu at my employer's website, so I should reply to him again.
  • [ profile] giza wrote a comment on my journal.  I need to find some way to respond that defends my point (because I still believe in it) without denigrating his much-greater experience in website design and maintenance.
  • [ profile] tgeller wrote an entire post (last December!) in reply to one of my off-the-cuff comments.  I still haven't dared to look at the links he found.  BTW, on BoingBoing recently they showed a clip of zit porn.  I don't know about you, but somehow my zits just never look as *voluptuous* as those!
I also have non-furry to-do items, but you probably wouldn't want to hear about those.  Oh, you would?  Super!
  • "Mr. Bear" keeps asking when I'm going to hire some local college kids and start a little software-for-export business.  That's because I keep complaining about the "bodies" he hires who produce too little work for too much money.  But running a business is such a pain!  I could then join the local Chamber of Commerce, where I could hear all the town gossip myself instead of getting it second-paw from my dentist who is a member.
  • The government of Ontario hands out money to academics in April.  I really should apply 'cause it's free gravy.  And time is running out!
  • Most of the sewage pipes inside my house are clogged and they probably all need a good hard reaming.  Does that make you think of buttsex?  Enjoy your laugh if so.  But I would like to officially announce at this point that no human male has ever inserted any original-equipment piece of his body into my anus while thinking of me as being a creature named "Pyesetz".  Of course, the preceding pronouncement says nothing about my lurid (and nonexistent) life as a Topman.  As for frottage, my equipment is just not shaped properly for that activity (though I suspect it might be possible in a zero-g environment?)
[ profile] swift_fox got some good responses when he posted this meme.  But of course I won't.
pyesetz: (Default)
Q. If you paddle up a canoe, and a tire falls off, how many pancakes can fit in a doghouse?
A.None. Ice cream doesn't have bones!

From here.

BTW, did you know that the "elephant joke" was invented in 1962?  It's true!  On a related note, I once passed by a gaggle of Comp. Sci. grad students who were with a visiting professor from Israel.  They asked me to provide a joke for some reason, so I said "What's the difference between a cow?"  The students thought the joke was not acceptable for a visiting professor (although there's no actual drug abuse *in* the joke), so I gave them another one: "Q. Why does the elephant wear red sneakers?  A. Because his blue ones are in the dryer!"  A student asked why such jokes tend to mention an elephant.  I guessed that the elephant class of jokes was very old and predated the discovery of Tyrannosaurex Rex, which would have been used instead if available.  Boy was I wrong!


pyesetz: (Default)

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