An Experiment Worth Watching

Scandinavia is way ahead of the world in many ways. They’ve pretty much eliminated poverty, they all speak English, they’re not at war with anybody, Denmark is the happiest country in the world, Norway offers a free university education, even to foreigners, because they are just awesome like that, Iceland has hot springs and Bjork, and Finland, iirc, has more mobile phones per capita than anywhere else on Earth.
It sometimes seems to me that the world should look at Scandinavia, see whatever it is they’re doing, and do that, because it’s obviously working. Of course, it’s too cold, over priced and I wouldn’t actually want to live there, but still….
Now Finland is planning a new educational format, which seems to fly in the face of the old “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” rule, but nonetheless, it’s Scandinavia, so the world should pay attention.
The idea is to stop with the division of knowledge into discrete subjects, e.g. math, history, etc… and instead pick different topics and teach the old subjects across the lines. I can see how it might be fun. You have a class, say, on dragons. Math problems would be like “The evil dragon Bob kidnaps and eats a virgin maiden every night, and two on Sundays. The population of the village is 625, of whom 13% are virgin maidens. How long will it be until the dragon has to either vary his diet or move on?” You could study literature by reading books with dragons in them, art by painting dragons and so on.
I’m not 100% convinced. It sounds a bit like Montessori mollycoddling to me – which is great for the students, but they don’t learn as much.
But, even though I’m not 100% convinced, I will still be following this case and I hope it works out for them.

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Meet Martin O’Malley

Martin O’Malley is 52, which is a fine age to be president. As mayor of Baltimore, which he was for 8 years, his biggest issue was crime. That’s what he’d run on, a pledge to reduce crime.
Well, he shook things up a bit, introduced a new method of policing, got himself “America’s Most Innovative Young Mayor,” or something like that in some magazine that gives out awards like that.

Martin O'Malley

Martin O’Malley


Crime still exists in Baltimore. Crime is stubborn, but for the most part, Baltimorians gave him credit for hard work and at least reducing it a little bit, and he got elected to a second term.
Then they made him governor. Crime down, Economy up. Good combo.
So, I think he’d make a good candidate.
He’s Irish and Catholic, but those haven’t been viewed as negatives since November of 1960.
He’s from a mid-sized state, which could go either way.
Nobody’s heard of him yet, but that’s a plus, too.
He’s not as liberal as Bernie Sanders or Liz Warren, but he’s running.
He may not have quite as much experience as Joe Biden, but nobody in the world has more experience than Joe Biden, plus O’Malley’s a lot younger, and….he’s running.
But is he running? Well, he said this: The presidency is not some crown, to be passed back and forth between two families.
Zing! Zing! He zinged Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush in the short space of one sentence, zinged them with deadly zings.
You bet your ass he’s running.

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Why We are Alone (So Far) in the Galaxy

So, I was just reading this article, because the headline reeled me in. “Gaping Hole in the Solar System?” Well, with my usual over-literal interpretation of things, I thought “Bloody nonsense. How can you have a hole in space? That would be like saying a rose

Apparently, this is not the standard distribution

Apparently, this is not the standard distribution

is not just red, but red with a red spot on it or there’s a river in the ocean.” (which actually exists, so I should just shut up)
Of course, they weren’t speaking about a literal hole. The point of the article is that in a high percentage of the exoplanet systems we’ve discovered, there is a large (like Jupiter) planet very close (like closer than Mercury) to their sun; a high enough percentage that scientists are wondering why we are different. The theory in the article is that once upon a time Jupiter was closer in, but got pulled back out by Saturn. Personally, I suspect it might be because of our detection methods. If we’re looking for that little distortion of a star’s light to indicate presence of a planet, large planets in tight orbit are going to disrupt their sun’s light the most, therefore be the easiest to detect.
The article suggested an answer to another question, however, one that bothers me a lot. If extraterrestrial intelligences exist, why haven’t we been visited yet? Assuming there are 100 billion stars in our galaxy (a conservative estimate), and assuming that one out of a thousand of those solar systems has intelligent life, that means there should be 100 million different species who are potential members of the galactic federation. Puts Star Trek to shame. Surely, a couple of hundred of them should have discovered us by now.
But, if a Jupiter sized planet close to the sun is the standard pattern, then the outer planets of that system might be living in shadow, and therefore be too cold for life, or are being bombarded constantly by asteroids, thus putting a serious limitation on the L factor in the old Drake equation. Maybe we’ve only survived long enough to evolve intelligence because we are between the Sun, giver of heat and light, and our big brother Jupiter, absorbing all the asteroid hits for us.
Maybe we are a freakish case in the universe, product of a system which only occurs once in a billion solar systems – in which case there would only be about a hundred or so intelligent extraterrestrial species, and it’s entirely possible they just haven’t got around to discovering us yet.

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The Impending Demise of Christianity

Arizona State Senator Sylvia Allen is probably not the country’s greatest expert on constitutional law.
In addition to being flagrantly unconstitutional, it’s not very well thought out.
Which church? Does the Church of Satan count? How about Pastafarianism? What does Senator Allen think about Jews, Muslims and Hindus? (my guess is she hasn’t really thought about them much at all)
Also, has she considered what church would be like with a bunch of forced attendees? Apparently, she has never taught school. People would be talking, and snickering, and even heckling during the mass. They’d be writing dirty limericks in the hymnals, smoking dope in the parking lot, making out in the pews. We godless folk are, by definition, irreverent.
It does seem to me that Christians are getting loonier and loonier all the time and I have a theory about why that is: social media.
It is changing so many things in our lives. Social media allows us to speak freely, to say whatever we think. Therefore, atheists who would never bring it up in real life because we don’t want the Christians talking our ears off from now until forever with their unbelievably stupid rationalizations for the obvious contradictions in their belief system are now free to say what we think, and we have found a lot of people who think exactly the same way. As the numbers of atheists grow, the numbers of Christians shrink.
Christians are nervous. They realize that some of their own people, their own children, might slip from their grasp and they are not getting enough converts to replenish their numbers. They know, if they have read their history, that they only have the numbers they do because there have been long periods of time when not attending the church, not being a Christian, could get you killed and in fairly gruesome ways. They don’t have that kind of sway any more and they are afraid their religion will go extinct.
That will be great news for humanity, but I understand why they are nervous.
In addition to being flagrantly unconstitutional, it’s not very well thought out.
Which church? Does the Church of Satan count? How about Pastafarianism? What does Senator Allen think about Jews, Muslims and Hindus? (my guess is she hasn’t really thought about them much at all)
Also, has she considered what church would be like with a bunch of forced attendees? Apparently, she has never taught school. People would be talking, and snickering, and even heckling during the mass. They’d be writing dirty limericks in the hymnals, smoking dope in the parking lot, making out in the pews. We godless folk are, by definition, irreverent.
It does seem to me that Christians are getting loonier and loonier all the time and I have a theory about why that is: social media.
It is changing so many things in our lives. Social media allows us to speak freely, to say whatever we think. Therefore, atheists who would never bring it up in real life because we don’t want the Christians talking our ears off from now until forever with their unbelievably stupid rationalizations for the obvious contradictions in their belief system are now free to say what we think, and we have found a lot of people who think exactly the same way. As the numbers of atheists grow, the numbers of Christians shrink.
Christians are nervous. They realize that some of their own people, their own children, might slip from their grasp and they are not getting enough converts to replenish their numbers. They know, if they have read their history, that they only have the numbers they do because there have been long periods of time when not attending the church, not being a Christian, could get you killed and in fairly gruesome ways. They don’t have that kind of sway any more and they are afraid their religion will go extinct.
That will be great news for humanity, but I understand why they are nervous.

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What do Pilot Suicide and the LHC Have in Common?

So, authorities now believe that the Germanwings crash was the result of pilot suicide. As my wife pointed out, they can’t actually prove that. As far as we know, there was no suicide note anywhere, and we don’t actually know what happened inside the cockpit – except that he locked the regular pilot out when he went to the bathroom.
Lots of suggestions are being made about how to prevent this kind of thing from happening again. That a stewardess should stay in the cockpit if the pilot has to go out, stuff like that (hey, pilot! It’s a 2 hour flight, can’t you hold it? Why didn’t you go in Barcelona?)
The ultimate safety feature is just around the technological corner. We have driverless cars; can driverless planes be far behind?
The technology will probably be the easy part. There is a natural human reluctance to completely trust machines. Although I’m convinced we’ll eventually get there – we got used to elevators without elevator boys and gas stations without attendants, eventually – there may well be a significant lag between technological capability and actual implementation.
I know I find it reassuring to realize there is a well-trained, professional pilot flying the plane. I always figure he (or she) wants to get through the flight alive as much as I do, and I’ll make it as long as they do. Now, I’m a little bit less certain of that.
In other news, the good folks at the Large Hadron Collider are going to attempt to create a miniature black hole. On the one hand, I’m excited about that and it’s cool; the march of science is a stirring parade. On the other hand, I saw Flash Forward. Actually, the TV series was set in L.A., and it devolved pretty quickly into a stupid cop show, but the book was set in Geneva, and it was the LHC that caused the problem.
Back on the first hand again, I take solace in the fact that people who work at the LHC are very smart, and don’t necessarily want to destoy the universe.
At least I hope so.
So, authorities now believe that the Germanwings crash was the result of pilot suicide. As my wife pointed out, they can’t actually prove that. As far as we know, there was no suicide note anywhere, and we don’t actually know what happened inside the cockpit – except that he locked the regular pilot out when he went to the bathroom.
Lots of suggestions are being made about how to prevent this kind of thing from happening again. That a stewardess should stay in the cockpit if the pilot has to go out, stuff like that (hey, pilot! It’s a 2 hour flight, can’t you hold it? Why didn’t you go in Barcelona?)
The ultimate safety feature is just around the technological corner. We have driverless cars; can driverless planes be far behind?
The technology will probably be the easy part. There is a natural human reluctance to completely trust machines. Although I’m convinced we’ll eventually get there – we got used to elevators without elevator boys and gas stations without attendants, eventually – there may well be a significant lag between technological capability and actual implementation.
I know I find it reassuring to realize there is a well-trained, professional pilot flying the plane. I always figure he (or she) wants to get through the flight alive as much as I do, and I’ll make it as long as they do. Now, I’m a little bit less certain of that.
In other news, the good folks at the Large Hadron Collider are going to attempt to create a miniature black hole. On the one hand, I’m excited about that and it’s cool; the march of science is a stirring parade. On the other hand, I saw Flash Forward. Actually, the TV series was set in L.A., and it devolved pretty quickly into a stupid cop show, but the book was set in Geneva, and it was the LHC that caused the problem.
Back on the first hand again, I take solace in the fact that people who work at the LHC are very smart, and don’t necessarily want to destoy the universe.
At least I hope so.

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First Prediction

Of course, the American presidential election won’t begin in earnest for almost another year. Nonetheless, I’m going to make a prediction now. Why not? The professional pundits have been at it for over 3 years already. Presidential election season is stretched out worse than NBA basketball.

The World's Worst Nightmare

The World’s Worst Nightmare


I predict that the Republican nominee will be Jeb Bush. (There’s an advantage to making a prediction this early. If I turn out to be right, I get to claim to be a political genius. If I’m wrong, there will be plenty of time to make another prediction.)
The reason I believe it will be Jeb, the somewhat-less-retarded-but-probably-just-as evil-Bush brother, is that Huffington post has a big, blaring headline (the only kind they know how to do) that says: “Christian Right: Anybody but Jeb”
Shades of 2012. They came to the front one by one, grabbed their little bit of fame, and burned out. Michelle Bachmann not knowing the difference between Johyn Wayne and John Wayne Gacy cost her Iowa and she was out. John Huntsman spoke a bit of Chinese, which would have actually been a plus if he was running as a Democrat, but that was just way too high falutin’. Then Rick Perry with the famous maple syrup incident, Herman Cain with that dumb You-Becky-Becky-Beckystan comment, and Santorum did or said something Santorumish. Meanwhile, the Christian Right was saying “Anybody but Romney.”
It’s deja vu, all over again.

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1st Prediction

Ityway.

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