Since I've moved to the South, there's occasional guys selling confederate battle flags out of RVs by the side of the road. Georgia only took the Confederate Battle Flag off their state flag a few years ago, after all.

The other week, I noticed one of them had a bunch of Confederate flags, and a flag of the Obama HOPE image. Which made me laugh, since I doubt there's much overlap between the audience for Confederate flags and Obama voters. Maybe they're trying to get into a wider audience. They do have the Confederate flag/pot leaf flags, after all.

Then yesterday, I saw one that took it a step farther. A flag, first half Obama, second half Confederate flag. I almost went back and bought one, just for the sheer bizarreness of it. But I didn't, 'cause I'm broke. I'm trying to figure out the audience for that, besides post-post-post-post ironic hipsters.
So now I'm studying engineering, which means I'm studying more advanced math, like linear algebra and differential equations. Which are hard, or at least Diff EQ is. But then, math is a game for the young;.

But that's not the thing I'm noticing.  I'm noticing things where the different math I've learned mets and intersects, and works together.  And because this is engineering, how it works to predict and calculate the real world. Which sometimes seems really damn weird.& I can sit here with a pencil and paper and predict all sorts of physical things to decent degrees of accuracy. Why should it be that we can figure things like acceleration and stress out by putting numbers in columns and then messing with them? Take numbers and just mess with them and the answers fall out.

Now, the obvious answer to this is that math works to describe our physical universe, because it was created by people living in the physical universe, so naturally enough the rules we develop for mathematics are going to match up to the way the universe works, since we're using it to describe the universe. At least if the universe is broadly comprehensible and follows rules of cause and effect and repeatability. If it doesn't, then all our effort at trying to find rules is just us finding patterns that don't exist in chaos.

The problem with that is what about mathematics that doesn't describe things we can currently observe? Nth dimensional algebra, fractal spaces, and the most rarefied bits of math that don't seem like they have any relation to the universe? Do they represent things like strings and exotic matter bubbles? Or what?And if they represent those, how freaking weird is it we can figure out the rules before we find the things? And what about the N dimensional universes we can describe that may or may not be correct? Do they describe the non-spaces where other entities exist, which we would describe as squamous and rumose?

(Don't mind me. I've been reading Charlie Stross. But this kind of feeling does hit me every so often, it's just so WEIRD sometimes to do these complicated math to numbers and find out that yes, this reflects something that really happens)

Badasses

May. 1st, 2008 12:52 am
Humans are odd.

I've never gone hunting, and not in favor of humans wiping out species. I mean, obviously. My entire career I'm working toward involves trying to rejigger science and technology to work in partnership, or at least not against, nature.

And yet, when I was involved in a discussion about the Pleistocene megafauna extinctions today, I wasn't really upset by the discussion.

For the uninitiated, by about 17,000 years ago, the large mammals on most continents had been wiped out. But only the largest, things over a hundred pounds. Cool things, like woolly mammoths, giant ground sloths, giant "birds from hell", etcetera. They were around, and then they weren't, and nothing else moved in to take over their ecological niches. Climactic change doesn't seem likely, because the extinctions were spread out over time and continents, and some survived in isolated areas after the rest were gone. And nothing else took their place.

The most likely reason the megafauna went extinct everywhere but Africa? Clever monkeys learned how to sharpen spears, and the megafauna were tasty. That's the likeliest reason. The times of the extinctions match the times when humans arrived on the continents, remains of the critters have been found with marks from weapons on the bones, and so on. So why are there elephants in Africa still? Because elephants evolved alongside us monkeys while we were learning to hunt, and so learned how to cope, while animals elsewhere just were surprised and eaten.

And for some reason, this thought makes me feel rather smug and self-satisfied. Humans probably killed off hundreds of species, because they were tasty.

But I suppose it's not so weird. Roving bands of hunter humans were in a completely different life than we're in now. And honestly? Dudes who could go up against mammoths and hellbirds with stone spears? That's hardcore. Hunting deer with a rifle's got nothing on that. What's the quote from Snow Crash? "Descended from a long line of the biggest badasses to walk the planet."

Still, intellectually, it feels weird to cheer this. But honestly? Great-great-great-great....great-grandparents, who went faced down the biggest things on the Earth with stone spears and fire, and won? They're why I'm here. And one of these days, I'll toast them for it, then get back to making sure we don't have to live like that again.

Irony

Mar. 28th, 2008 10:06 am
Why does the Science Channel have so many commercials full of dubious science like "detoxifying" footpads?

Huh

Oct. 20th, 2007 04:55 pm
2 million Americans work on farms and ranches. 4 million people play World of Warcraft. (caution, Kung Fu Monkey swears.) He uses it as a springboard for an essay about the way rural America where hardly any people live is pretended as the "real America" as opposed to the majority of fake Americans living in cities and suburbs, I guess. Which I agree with too, but I just thought that was a nifty statistic.
Lynne Cheney, Dick Cheney's wife, was on the Daily Show.

It was rather bizarre and kind of uncomfortable, and that was just for me watching at home.

I guess it was a good reminder that everybody's human, but that doesn't prevent them from being completely wrong on just about everything.

Still. It was weird. I'm not sure what to make of it.

That's IT?

Dec. 24th, 2006 08:08 am
Okay, so I ran across something today. I knew the Catholic Church doesn't allow women to be priests, but I guess I never really thought about why. I figured it was just another of those things. Leftovers from the Middle Ages. So I found out the official reason. Because Jesus only had guys as disciples. That's pretty weak.

And apparently, there's an underground group of women priests who go around ordaining other women, who say they were ordained originally by some guy deacons and such. There's a story in that idea, I think. Especially since these women priests have made Pope Palpatine excommunicate them, which was something I'd half-thought only happened back in the middle ages. INTRIGUE!

More here and on Google

For Carp

Nov. 14th, 2006 10:07 pm
Make your own Cthulhoid monstrosities with cornstarch and sound. (all are youtube videos) And seriously freaking creepy.

Cornstarch Lifeform (turn sound down/off before playing
Cornstarch Monster 1
Cornstarch Monster 2
Amazing Liquid
I was looking back through some of the photos from my trip. And after it being a couple months, selective memory and distance made some of the pictures seem a lot more interesting than they had been at the time. And others I could completely jump back and remember what was going on. I guess that's one of the paradoxes of modern vacations, the more time you spend taking pics, the more easily you can remember, but then you're using more of your time taking pics instead of doing things to remember. It's not that much of a tradeoff, though. And I really need to travel more.
I've seen some weird things in the forest. Not creepy weird, just the kind of slightly off-kilter things that make me suspect I've wandered into somebody more interesting's imagination. There's a chain hanging from one of the trees, one of the kind they used to have on trains as the emergency stop. It's just hanging there, rusted over, waiting to be pulled. Maybe it would stop the world. And then there was the truck that disappeared. It was by the side of the road, then I looked again and it was gone when I briefly looked away. True story.
He'd been listing what he found attractive in women, and suddenly connections fell into place. Even down to hair color, he wanted out of a woman was a female version of himself.

And once he realized that, it was easy enough. All the materials for Tampering in God's Domain were readily available. A little reckless genetic tinkering created the clone in hardly any time. All that remained was the mental duplication. He strapped on the helmet, then blacked out.

Soon, they woke. Finally, it was done! Everything had worked.

"Wait, why do I have to be the girl?" she asked.
Okay, so it's REALLY bad science writing. Because the reporter has no frickin clue what the scientists are talking about. I'm not quite sure either. But it's awesome and weird and that's what the future should be.

Read the article here.

Then read the Nature article, which is less crap.
Linkdump!

Conspiracy Documents and Fringe Theory Texts for Games (I always have to chuckle at the DaVinci Code blah blah blah books at work, I mean, dudes. Gamers have known about these things for years. And known how seriously to take them.)

What is your Dangerous Idea? (A bunch of famous people are asked for their "dangerous idea". The results vary from random libertarian propaganda to the actually interesting.)

The (Broken) Triangle: Progressive Bloggers in the Wilderness

The Texas Republican Party official platform (A truly batshit insane document. Relevant because what percentage of the current Republican leadership was spawned there? Yeah. And their priorities are truly weird, because they have nearly as many paragraphs in there devoted to making sure it's legal for parents to spank their children as they do for a bunch of other stuff. More than most of their stuff about foreign policy. And these are the goals of the Republican leadership.)

Loompanics Unlimited a purveyor of fine weirdass books, who're going out of business and having a 50% off sale. There's been things I've kinda wanted to order from them, looks like if I'm going to, now's the time, if ever.


There. That's some of the things I've been holding and waiting to post about. How about you folks?
Two strange things. One, I saw a couple weeks ago, at the mall. Which made it weirder. There was a guy in bright orange Buddhist monk robes sitting at one of the little islands with benches, on a cell phone. Which when I thought about it didn't seem all that inconceivable, it was just weird.

The second weird thing is seeing professional journalists refer to "blogistan".

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