Sunday, January 30, 2011

commie monopoly

Help me urge my friend Jeannette to post photos of the Monopoly game she made in Communist-era East Germany.  Her account of fabricating an East German version of the entire game is pretty interesting.  Leave her a comment and maybe she'll get her folks to send her some photos...

don't forget our amnesia

To those who are cheering the uprisings unfolding in Tunisia and Egypt, be cautious in your celebrations.  Many cheering may be suffering from short term amnesia.  How many supporters of these popular revolts condemned Wikileaks?  Wikileaks is reportedly the oxygen that fed the fire from the spark of the self-immolation of Tunisian street vendor Mohsen Bouterfif.  Other cheerleaders may be suffering from longer term amnesia.  The theocracy of Iran began as the popular uprising against the American-supported dictatorship of the Shah of Iran Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. The revolt in Egypt could yet turn away from the secular and towards the Islamic, as occurred in Iran in 1979.  (Tunisia seems a safer case.)

In addition to being careful what we wish for, we should try to remember what it was we wished for and what we wished against.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Good vs. Evil

In the long-running battle between Good and Evil, Good seems to be gaining the upper hand.  At least, as defined by the historical frequency at which the words "good" and "evil" appear in the Google Google Labs "Books Ngram Viewer" quantitative analysis tool.

Good has increased in an absolute sense over Evil.   However, the all-important GER (Good/Evil ratio) has actually dropped from about 7 a decade ago to around 5 today.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

America dislikes democracy - a proof by ten questions

  1. why do we vote in such low numbers?
  2. why don't we want to pay for campaigns with public monies?
  3. why is "running against Washington" or "running as an outsider" such a winning strategy for public office?
  4. why are we so allergic to taxes?
  5. why are business people held in such high regard relative to politicians?
  6. why are the words "politician", "political", "public" and "government" held in such low regard?
  7. why are politicians oft assassinated in our history by ordinary citizens, but business leaders, labor leaders, educators, religious leaders, celebrities etc., are not?
  8. how can we explain the "hanging chads" of Florida and the generally poor funding of elections themselves?
  9. why do lobbyists make so much more on average than do our elected leaders?
  10. why do so many citizens think divided government is such a good idea?

Monday, January 10, 2011

video of Giffords talking about Palin "cross hairs" violent imagery

"Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords Talk Palin Cross Hairs" - and in talking about Palin, violent rhetoric and the vandalism of her own office, foreshadows her own violent fate.

At about 2:20 in the Youtube video is the bit where she specifically talks about being in Sarah Palin’s "cross hairs."  

One might say this video was chill-inducing, if one's chill had not already been induced by all the crazy rhetoric on the right.  Yes, I say on the right.  All the commentator and media talk about the troubling "tone of our politics" across the political spectrum is dishonest.  It's the right wing of America that is using violent language and engaging in the occasional act of violence, not the left.  Responsibility for that tone - if not this particular act of violence - lies squarely with the right.  Will the right and Republican leaders own up to it?  If you answered "yes" you haven't been filling out your B*I*N*G*O card properly...

Thursday, January 6, 2011

why do we remember yesterday but not tomorrow?

Time's Arrow points in a definite direction.  So we think.  Or feel anyway.

I learned in my study of physics that the fundamental laws of nature do not indicate any such thing.  Sean Carroll talks about this in his excellent lecture on the direction of time's arrow and the nature of the Universe. 

Why do we remember yesterday but not tomorrow?  In a word, tidiness.  Specifically, the extreme tidiness that existed at the beginning of the Universe.  Expressed in the language of cosmology, the extremely low entropy state of the Universe at the instant of the Big Bang meant that entropy (disorder) would always increase with time.  Put another way, the fact that the Big Bang happened and that the Big-Bang-insta-Universe was a uniquely highly ordered and organized state means that the Universe would continually evolve into a more disordered and disorganized state over time. 

One consequence of the continuous increase of the entropy of the Universe is that conscious beings (like us) perceive the future as different than the past. 

Without the Big Bang, time would not point in one direction, and we would (if we existed in such a universe) remember tomorrow as well as we could remember yesterday.